Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Tag: chickens (page 1 of 3)

2016 Homestead Management Printables

***This is a review for the 2016 Homestead Management Printables that Quinn over at Reformation Acres put together. I was not paid for this review and all of the thoughts are my own. If you just want the meat of the review scroll down until you see stars.***

For those that have been following from the beginning you know that the beginning wasn’t that long ago. October 2015 (the end to be honest) was when our blog started. Before that we only had chickens for a couple of months and a somewhat of a sad garden and now we have dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, better plans for a garden and the pigs will get here in a couple of months.
With the chickens there was not much record keeping to do. They were little, had no eggs and I knew about how much feed I would need a month and I just budgeted accordingly. Now there is production flowing out our ears. Baby goats due in a month which means milk coming in, almost every chicken is laying, half the ducks are sitting on eggs, and it seems that I have been really bad about record keeping.

Now in my defense I really was trying but using a pen and lined paper was just not cutting it. I felt like things were missing, everything was getting put together when it should be separate, there was no direction to my unorganized chaos and there needed to be. That is when I stumbled upon a heaven-sent printable package over at Reformation Acres Quinn has made a full scope homesteading printables package. When I first saw it I thought it would have the basics, chickens, goats, pigs and cows. Then upon further investigation it also has gardening printables and my FAVORITE PART……..

a seed sowing calendar!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last years garden was so sad even though I tried to plan well for it. I believe that if I had these printable and sowing calendars then things would have gone a lot smoother. Knowing the exact dates of when to soak seeds and start them indoors and harden off and transplant them is such a load off of my mind that I don’t have to figure it all out I feel really confident that this year we will be a much happier garden and gardener. If you want to know about our garden adventures click over here to read about that.  Otherwise I will keep going.

****the meat of the review****

There are pages for all of the animals we have, so we are able to document expenses and production with no hassles and there are even pages that make the Hubby not too happy….there are ones for meat chickens… cows…. rabbits…. and bees….Oh those pages are just calling to me “Please start raising us so you can write down all the expenses and production” haha yes I know I am a bit crazy and I am trying really hard to just stick with what we have now and get good at it then expand but these printables are so cute and fun and I really love beef and honey…I’ve only had rabbit once out on the trail but I want to start them anyways!

 

So long story short 2016 is going to be an organized year thanks to these fun and clear printables that Quinn put together. Now I know that I am all about penny-pinching and spending money is not something I like to do but when it comes to something that will truly help the homestead out and is very reasonably priced I just can’t say no. For the time and effort that Quinn at Reformation Acres put into these printables I gladly paid the high price (just kidding) of $5.99. I would pay that price just for the seed sowing calendar that is included.

Now I know that not everyone has all the crazy amount of animals that I do, or the amount that Quinn has, but even if you are starting out with a garden or a few chickens these printables can work for you and maybe even encourage you to start adding more ways to help you get back to the basics of living.

Building the Compost Pile

Calling all pallet lovers! This compost pile is for you. Gather up those pallets, look behind stores and Craigslist. They are out there and ready to be found. Thankfully we have great neighbors who lent me their tools and coached me on using them. Five pallets, long screws, a power screw driver, and helpful neighbors is a recipe for success.

all set up

all set up, as you can see I was not concerned about them being different sizes

We made a three sided square with three pallets standing up so the slats were horizontal, screwed the corners together. Then added the other two pallets to make two, three sided squares that shared a side. Look at the picture and it will all make sense. Once we attached them, that was that, the next step was to add material that needed to be composted.

this is the back of the pallets where the screws were put

this is the back of the pallets where the screws were put

Now there are two compartments to work with. All of our compostable material goes in one side and when we are ready to stir it, the compost gets moved from one side to the other. Added benefits are that it’s on concrete so I know I’m getting just compost when digging it out and the chickens get immediate access to all of the food scraps and bugs. But dirt is always good to because its easier for the bugs to just crawl straight from the ground into the pile.

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Remember…NO PROTEIN or DAIRY! We keep a bin on the kitchen counter for scraps and take it out every morning when we let the chickens out. I found this awesome picture on pinterest, the link is in the description.

great list of what is and isn’t compostable

Now with all the compostable materials the chickens LOVE the compost area. My only problem is the spread it out super fast. IMG_3752

The next addition to the compost structure will be a board at the front blocking the chickens from spreading the waste everywhere. For now though this is them enjoying their compost heap.

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she does looked peeved though haha she is the only one who really sits still for a picture

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Also if you do not have much waste in your house ask for friends and relatives to help out. Make them buckets for them to keep outside with a list on the top saying what can and can’t be put inside. Then once a week stop by their house and collect all of the scraps. Then offer them a share of the compost when spring comes around. There are always ways to find stuff for the compost bin.  Have fun making black gold and saving the landfills from our excess.

What does your compost pile look like? Or what plans do you have for making one? Even people in an apartment can have a compost bin. More on that in another post though 🙂

Our (Wannabe) Livestock Guardian Dogs

Upon coming to the homestead I got introduced to the concept of a livestock guardian dog (LGD). Seeing as we had nothing but chickens we weren’t ready to invest in a real purebred LGD. Instead we went to an event in the Mall by the Humane Society and found ourselves the cutest most adorablest had to have …….. PUPPY!

She was an 8 week old, German shepherd, Australian shepherd, border collie mix, (or so they think from her looks). Her name was given by the shelter, Ellie, and she practically trained herself.

Apparently chickens use the bell system too!

We used a bell system to let us know when she had to use the outdoors and she only ever had a couple of accidents in the house. She became like our chickens, Free Range. But there was something missing, a partner. Ellie got a bit lonely so two weeks later we picked her up a buddy, Bella the Newfoundland.

she slept all the time!

Now this breed is on the LGD breed scale but the question arose “Was Bella from a working dog line?” So we called up the original owners and found out she came from a working farm!!! But her parents were the laziest dogs…..NOOOO!!!!!

It all started going down hill from there. Chewing, nibbling the Littles, chasing the chickens, peeing everywhere, this all continued until the unfortunate happened. Two thirds of the chickens died from the neighbors dog and Bella’s rampage. I know there is a chance I could have trained it all out of her, but with three Littles under the age of four I mentally was not there. If it was during any other season of life I would have considered keeping her, but it wasn’t so we found Bella a home (without chickens) and continued on with just the one dog, Ellie, and things calmed back down.

she hated the car

When considering a Livestock Guardian Dog know that BREED matters, PARENTS matters, and your willingness to TRAIN them matters. Even though breed does play a big role in all of it, know that personality trumps it all. Eventually we will acquire a real LGD but until that time comes, a good farm dog will have to do.

helping dig the new tree holes

Ellie quickly became an excellent farm dog, she kept coyotes away and only bothered the chickens when she wanted to eat the scraps I gave them or drink out of their waterer. The turkeys would climb all over her, the feral cat kept her company, and the newest kittens learned that she was their friend and only wanted to play. Unfortunately our fence was not up to par, our entrance gate didn’t work, and Ellie had discovered she could get out.

On the morning she figured out there was a way out she tried to follow me out of our driveway, I stopped and put her back and the Hubby kept her from running. Later on that day as we picked the fruit on our fence line my heart dropped. I heard a huge thud and ran to find that Ellie had been ran over by a car and the car didn’t even stop. She died on impact. We promptly buried her, said our goodbyes and spent the rest of the night crying (ok I was the only one crying), and talking about how good of a girl Ellie was and how she was in Heaven with Jesus, if you are not a believer that is OK, but we are and like the eldest Little likes to say, “Great Grandpa is taking care of Ellie until we get up there ourselves”. We will miss her dearly and I miss having that security she brought us.

She is even more behaved then the chickens 😛

One day another dog will come to live on the homestead, but until that day we will be fixing the fence, making sure the gate will shut, and saving up to be prepared financially.

Have you ever had a farm dog or Livestock Guardian Dog? I hope your story ended better than ours, do tell 🙂

 

Butchering A Chicken

Taking a class for butchering a chicken and having the instructor walk you through the whole process makes you feel invincible.  Give me a hundred chickens, no problem! Processing a chicken at home with three Littles under five years old…well that feeling has no words.

I decided that today was going to be the day no matter what. Three Littles, an ax and a stump were all we needed.

****Disclaimer: This does get a little graphic, the chicken was treated with respect, killed humanely, and no kids were harmed or handled sharp objects during the whole process****

Step 1: Watch YouTube videos on how people do it to refresh your memory on the exact science of it all. Personally I loved this video and found it very helpful since we were butchering a two-year old chicken.  jnull0’s awesome descriptions and how to

Good Bye BIg Mama

Good Bye BIg Mama

Step 2: Have everyone say Thank you and Good Bye. This step is mainly if you are doing it with little kids, spiritual or connected with the animal.

Step 3: End the life of the chicken in a humane way. We chose to chop its head off. Other ways are snapping the neck and slicing the throat. Quick and to the point.

sharp ax and a stump

sharp ax and a stump (don’t mind the grungy clothes and flip-flops)

Having the eldest Little help hold while stringing up the twine

Having the eldest Little help hold while stringing up the twine

helping clean up and totally grossed out

middle Little helping clean up and totally grossed out

Step 4: Drain the blood. Hang the chicken upside down and get out as much blood into a bucket for the compost pile or cooking. I did not cook with it, but I know it can be done. If you don’t want to use it in the compost then there is not much blood, just let it go into the ground and put some dirt on it.

make a noose with twine to hang the feet

make a knot with twine to hang the feet

2015.09.04 butchering the first chicken 15

Step 5: Skin or pluck the feathers. With young chickens, the boiling method is great. Boil some water in a big pan and dip the bird in for about  15 seconds getting the water between all the feathers. Then sit and pluck the feathers out, pretty simple. With an old hen the feathers are SUPER hard to pull out. the boiling method can work but pliers will still be needed to pull out most of them. If you don’t mind not having any skin on the bird just start at  the feet, make a slit all the way down to the neck and then pull the skin down. Be careful near the vent because you do not want to break what I call the poop pipe. This is where are the waste/poop comes out and is attached at the vent.

start with the feet and move down

start with the feet and move down

Step 6: Cut off the feet and neck and proceed to pulling out the insides without cutting the poop pipe! Just reach in and start grabbing all the organs. Pull gently to not break any of them. The intestine is long so make sure you pull slowly and get all the organs that come out with it. Then when the poop pipe is being pulled on (part of the intestine that connects to the vent) just cut off the vent and throw it away. Sorry but anatomy is not my strong suit.

Gorss! A farmer's gotta do what a farmer's gotta do!

Gross! A farmer’s gotta do what a farmer’s gotta do!

Step 7: Cover and let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge.

I love the press n seal wrap! Saran wrap and I are not friends.

I love the press n seal wrap! Saran wrap and I are not friends.

Step 8: Cook and Enjoy! An old hen should be boiled and slow cooked ALL DAY, the meat will be very tough. A young chicken can be used just like normal.

Step 9: Remember a bit of bleach and warm water goes a long way in cleaning up raw meat. Just don’t do what I did…drop the iPhone in the cleaner.

Don't forget to have the bag of rice ready for when the phone goes plunging into a bowl of bleach water for cleaning up.

Don’t forget to have the bag of rice ready for when the phone goes plunging into a bowl of bleach water.

Did this help you know how to butcher a chicken? Any questions please let me know.

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