Saturday, February 25, 2012

Easy ways to supplement feed your chickens

In this post I am going to share with you some of the easy and cheap ways that I supplement my hens especially during the winter when bugs are in low supply!

 1-  Grow Chard. My hens love to eat the chard leaves and it is very easy to grow in your garden, plus if you get the rainbow chard, it is very pretty too! We pick the bad looking leaves to give the chickens when we are picking for ourselves or to sell. The chickens are our garbage disposal!

2- Grow earthworms. Well, you don't actually "grow" them but keeping an earthworm bin for all the extra scraps that the chickens don't eat is a huge bonus in more ways than one! You can use the earthworm casting for your garden and of course the chickens love the worms if you can bear to spare some.

3- Sprouts. When we don't have anything green to feed them or we want to give them a boost we make a batch of sprouts and throw them out for the hens. They love them and it seems to really help their egg production as well, especially in the winter. If you don't know how to make sprouts either look it up or ask the advice of someone who knows. I will try to post an article here about sprouts in the near future.

4 - Keep rabbits. My hens are happy to scratch under the rabbit hutches and they end up cleaning up the spilled rabbit pellets as well as keeping the fly population low by eating up the little fly maggots. They keep the smell from the rabbits down by airing out the manure piles and they benefit from what the rabbit drops too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Treat

Ok, I was going to post something completely NON-Valentines but I decided that would be too depressing since I'm already saddened by my state of aloneness. So I looked in my grandmothers box of recipes that I inherited and found one that I haven't made yet but sure am going to try it. My family has always loved popcorn and I couldn't resist this recipe.

Chocolate Snackin' Corn

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn, unpopped
1 and 1/2 cups salted peanuts
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup butter or margarine

Pop the popcorn in oil. Pour popcorn immediately into a buttered 9x13 inch pan; add peanuts and stir thoroughly, removing any unpopped corn. Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, cocoa and margarine in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture reaches a full boil; boil one minute. Drizzle mixture immediately over popcorn and peanuts; quickly stir mixture to blend well. Cool, uncovered, for several hours or overnight; break into pieces. Makes about 3 quarts.

Enjoy, as I'm sure I will whenever I find a reason to make this :) Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Backyard Chickens

Most of you have cracked open a store bought chicken egg to find the yolk a pasty pukey pale color and the white so thin it spreads over the whole frying pan. The taste is worse than the appearance. And yet for most people this is their only option, they think. However, I'm going to share with you some tips for you to raise a few hens of your own and enjoy the benefits of eggs that are like nothing you ever dreamed.

First, if you live in the city, you must make sure that your city ordinances allow you to keep a few backyard hens. Most cities will not allow you to have roosters but most don't mind a few quiet hens.

Second you need a place to keep your hens. The ideal number of hens for a family of 4 is 6 hens.  They will provide more than enough eggs for your family and maybe enough to share with your neighbors too. This is always helpful to maintain neighborly happiness! If you are handy with building things you can whip up a simple coop in a short amount of time. There are lots of plans on the internet for small chicken coops that are easy to make. If you aren't handy, then get a huge dog crate from craigslist.org, garage sale, friend or from your garage if you happen to have big dogs. Put some hay in it and they will be happy to lay their eggs in that. Put it under some sort of shelter and let them free-range your yard. This is the easiest solution. However, if you are like most homesteaders you also have a garden, and chickens love fresh garden produce as much as we do, so you probably are going to want some sort of fence for them. You can pick up some chicken wire and fence off a corner of your yard for them and throw them the extras from your garden and they will be happy and lay the best eggs you have ever eaten.

You need to feed your hens. If you just let them scratch for their food they will eat up the bugs, grasshoppers and plants but normally this isn't quite enough for hard-working hens and they need some sort of chicken food. Laying hen food is the best but you can also feed them hen scratch or cracked corn.

If you start with chicks you need a whole different system for raising them up to adulthood, or they probably won't make it. Chicks are rather fragile. We will talk about them in a future post. I suggest starting with pullets (young adult hens) or full grown hens.  Hens will lay eggs without a rooster. You only need a rooster if you would like to hatch out the eggs at some point, or if you enjoy being woken up early in the morning by the crowing. I personally find that a very peaceful sound and enjoy hearing them crow.

With good feed, a good laying hen will lay almost an egg per day, sometimes a little less. They each have different times of day that they lay their eggs but most will lay before mid-afternoon. Sometimes they don't like it when they see you gather the eggs and will try to hide their next day's egg. It can be quite an adventure especially for younger children, going on the daily chicken egg hunt!

More info coming soon.

About me

I have been homesteading pretty much all my life. I love everything about country living and being able to provide my own food. I have learned a lot through trial and error, the natives we lived with growing up in the Amazon jungle, reading as many books as I could get my hands on and various other ways. I currently live at our small farm in Texas that we are trying to live as sustainable as possible. We teach classes on everything from chicken raising, to goat milking, to butchering, to gardening, to alternative cooking methods and so much more. In this blog I will attempt to share some of my homesteading knowledge and advice and hopefully help out others that desire to live off the land!
Please join me in this adventure in living!