Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping Chickens Healthy

I recently had a bout with Fowl Pox in my flock of chickens. I had never had this problem and wasn't sure what was going on with them! Most of them came down with strange black spots on their combs, wattles and even a few of them had it on their legs. They looked droopy and their egg production went down by about 70%. This is very horrible when you depend on the eggs to pay for their feed bills and your egg customers don't get very many eggs!

I did a lot of research and didn't want to give them any antibiotics or medicine that would carry through to the eggs so I started putting a little simple medicine called Vet RX in their waterer and on their combs. It smells like Eucalyptus and mint and seemed to give them some relief, especially the ones that were having stuffed up noses and a hard time breathing. I also added Colloquial Silver to their waterer and that seemed to help them as well.

There are other natural remedies that could be used but those worked well for me.
My other tips to keeping chickens healthy are of course keeping their coops clean. Chickens are very messy birds who poop a lot! Adding clean bedding to their coop and cleaning it on a regular basis helps to keep them healthy. Keeping their food and water containers clean and free from poop also helps a lot!

Fresh food and fresh green treats and proper nutrition help to keep them healthy and laying well and growing well for the young birds. If they have access to be able to free range safely in a yard or area, they are going to be much happier and healthier than birds who are locked up in a small pen every day.

Chickens are also very prone to external parasites such as chicken mites. These will literally suck the life out of your flock. One natural way to combat these are to dust the chickens with sulfur powder. I like to do this at night when they are all tucked in bed. I dust each of them with the powder and make sure to dust the coop too. You might end up smelling a little like sulfur too but it is worth it to keep the birds happy and healthy.
You can also provide them with clean sand to dust in. This helps with the mite problem too. And it's quite entertaining to watch a chicken take a dust bath! One neat way to give them a dust bath is with an old tire. Fill it with play sand and watch them have at it. You could also add a little Diatomaceous earth to the sand which will help with any external parasites.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep your chickens healthy and happy and laying lots of eggs!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter Ice in Texas

Now if you've read my blog for any while you will already know that I grew up in the lush tropical jungle where ice was just something you really wanted to have in your glass of water. However, now living in Texas ice is something that falls from the sky about once or twice a year, usually at about the time when all the fruit trees have started to think that it's spring and the blossoms have begun to bloom.
At the exact moment, that is exactly what has happened in the area where I live. The schools have all shut down, there are very few cars on the road and everything is frozen.
Growing up in a jungle, I never really knew what to expect in a situation like this, but having lived here long enough I have come up with a few tips for keeping animals safe and well cared for even in an ice storm.
I consider the most important part keeping them warm, enough food and water they can actually drink (as opposed to a block of ice). The food part is pretty obvious and when it's cold they can warm up by having enough hay or food. Make sure they have plenty and it's edible.
Water part is also pretty self explanatory. The best option is to have heaters in your water tanks. If you are like me and haven't gotten that far yet then make sure you crack the ice enough for them to be able to get a drink. A lot of times animals won't drink as much if the water is cold. I like to give mine warm water to drink if possible and usually end up carrying about 20 buckets of hot water to thaw out their tanks. They do appreciate it and give me happy looks in reward for my slave labor.
The shelter is very important too especially if you have old animals, or young animals. Sometimes the really old or young can't regulate their body temperatures very well and if they are out in the cold wind or rain they are unable to get warm. A roof and 3 walls are adequate in most situations, depending on the animals.
Chickens sometimes get frost bite on their combs if they can't get warm. One way if you only have a few chickens is to put a thin layer of petroleum jelly on their combs to form a protective layer against the cold. Heat lamps also work to help keep the edge off the cold. Of course when using a heat lamp, make sure the animals can't actually touch it and that it can't be knocked down to cause a fire. Plenty of hay, straw, shavings or other bedding can also help keep the animals warm and they will appreciate and dry place to stand.
Of course always stock up on extra feed and hay before an oncoming storm system!

Hope this helps give you a few ideas to keep your animals safe and warm.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Song for you!

I can listen to this song over and over again so I thought I'd share it here for you to enjoy too!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Milk goats

I have been raising milk goats for a few years now. I started out with mutt goats and have since upgraded to registered Nubian goats. I'm no expert by any means but I've learned a few ways to help keep my milk goats happy and productive.

General health. If you want your goats to produce they must be healthy. Some of the ways to keep them healthy are just basic good husbandry including:

Provide adequate shelter from cold, sun and rain. Goats do not like to get wet. They think they are made of sugar and will melt. Also, if they have to stand in wet or mud they are prone to foot rot, which is a horrible problem to have. They need a dry and warm (or cool in summer) place to rest and chew their cud.

Provide adequate health care. This means make sure they are wormed regularly and properly. Do your research or ask a vet or other goat expert. Do fecal exams. Make sure they aren't carrying internal parasites. That is one of the most frequent and deadly problems in goat herds. They are chemical wormers and herbal wormers that can be used to keep them free from internal parasites. Sometimes they get external parasites like lice. Make sure you get rid of those too. If you want to go natural, use DE (diatomateous earth) or there are plenty or chemicals to put on the goats to get ride of the lice.
Another aspect of health care is keep their fee trimmed. Goats feet, like all hooved animals grow constantly. They need to be trimmed unless you have plenty of rocky ground for them to roam on. If their hooves get too long they start to curl up or under and cause pain for the goat when walking. If the goat is in pain they will not produce as much milk.
Another aspect is to give them their vaccinations. There are several different vaccines that can be given to goats and you can ask your vet for recommendations. If there are lots of skunks, opossums, or raccoon, then it's a good idea to vaccinate them at the minimum for rabies.

Provide them with adequate food. Goats are browsers not grazers. This means that they prefer the leafy hay. And in my observation of goats, the certainly don't eat everything. In fact they really are quite picky. If they don't like the hay, they just won't eat it. Same goes for the brand of grain! However for our purposes of milk goats here my suggestion is to feed your milking girls the best feed and hay possible. It's a good idea to feed alfalfa hay, or sudan hay or if you have a good source of another type of leafy hay then go for it. The feed you give them should contain plenty of oats. Provide a source of mineral and baking soda free choice is helpful to the goats digestive system. The milking girls are putting out a lot of energy producing that milk. If you don't feed them enough or correctly they will drop weight and production.

These are the basic suggestions for getting your milk goats to produce lots of milk. I'm sure there are more but these will get you started. Use common sense and take the best care possible and you will have happy goats that provide you with lots of excellent milk!

Secrets of the Rich

Just about a mile down the road from me is one of the most beautiful properties I've seen. It's on a quiet country road and has a pristine white board fence, a winding driveway up through the trees and at the top of the hill sits my dream house (sort of). It is white stone with that real rich looking decor and design. The barn is beautiful and it has the largest lake in the local area. I look longingly at it every time I happen to drive past and wonder what those people did to get that much money.

The other day I was piddling around looking at real estate for sale, dreaming of a larger farm than the current one, and happened to notice that this particular one I just described was for sale! I clicked on it and sure enough, for 7.2 million dollars you could purchase it. That got me to thinking even more about how in the world people accumulate that much money.
I'm sure I don't have all the answers but I might have a few ideas..
Here's what I came up with:
3 ways to accumulate tons of money:
First way is to inherit it. Unfortunately in my family I won't be inheriting any that I know of, at least not currently.
Second way is to have a great idea, market it, be unique and make lots of money on your idea, work hard and invest wisely. This is great but not everyone comes up with great ideas that are original. So.... back to the drawing board.
Third way is one that I personally am attempting and know lots of people who have made lots of money doing and that is network marketing. It this method you have the potential to earn unlimited amount of money. My advice is to find a reputable company with a solid background, do your research and find one that sells a product that you have seen works, that you like to use and that you are excited about. If you are excited about it and it is working for you then you will make money at it. I would love to share my network marketing company with you. It has allowed members of my family to lose a lot LOT of weight, look years younger and have tons more energy and is healthy for you. If you are interested check out this website and contact me for more info.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Some good homesteading books to check out.

Old Wives Tales

I have never believed in Old Wives Tales.... except maybe one or two. But I have a funny story (I guess it's funny) about an old woman who had a strange old wive's tale.

As you know I grew up in Brazil, in the heart of the Amazon jungle. And as you might also know if you've read this blog, I also am a horse crazy person! I've always loved horses from the day I can remember anything. This story takes place when I was around 18 or 19 years old.

My third (I think) horse was a gaited Appaloosa stallion. He was really pretty and spotted. I saw him at the yearly fair and had always liked the colorful horses and of course immediately fell in love. Now let me explain before you get all upset that an 18 year old was in love with a stallion. I was already fairly well known in our small town as being the "horse woman" and in Brazil at the time, if you didn't own a stallion you were a nobody in the horse industry. So, back to the story, I had no idea if he was for sale or not but I soon found out that he indeed was for sale and somehow I was able to afford him (I can't exactly remember how that happened) but I ended up with a beautiful 3 year old barely trained Appaloosa stallion.  I took him home to our ranch after the fair but after a short time decided that I should board him for a few months at the fairgrounds. That was really the only place in town that you could board a horse and they had a nice arena there for riding. I arranged the details and soon he was happy there in his new home.

I went every day to ride him. There were two ways to get to the fair grounds from my house: by public bus or by bicycle. Either way it took about a half hour.  Every day I would go ride. The horse only knew how to go forward and barely how to stop when I got him. To his credit though he never ever bucked with me. I started teaching him how to turn and yield his hindquarters and forehand, how to back, spin and roll back, how to pick up the correct lead and much more. Pretty soon all the old cowboy type men who thought they knew it all but sat at the bar drinking and gossiping, took notice of the young shy girl who had the horse much better trained than any of their horses. I was pretty proud of what I managed to train my guy to do.

Eventually I took him back to our ranch. He sired 2 foals with my Quarter horse mare. I continued to ride him frequently but not every day. Now however we would go on very long exploration rides down the roads and jungle trails. And here's actually where the story begins...

Our ranch was 300 acres. It was a half a kilometer wide and two and a half kilometers deep. There was a trail that went from the front to the very back of the property. You had to cross a small river twice (or four times in the rainy season) to get to the back of the property. You could then go through the neighbor's land, through some more jungle, open a barbed wire gate and get to the next neighbor's property. He had something like a logging road with puddles as big as a small pond (probably had an alligator or two in some of them) You could follow that logging road down for a long ways, probably a couple of miles and come to another smallish trail. It wound around, up and down and through the deep jungle and eventually it opened up into the most amazing beautiful meadow and a picturesque little palm leaf roof cabin. It took several hours of riding, not at the walk, to get there.

One fine and hot day, I decided to ride there. A little old lady who I had met in the past lived there and I really enjoyed the view. I forgot to mention that her house was right up on the bank of one of the most beautiful rivers in the area. The swan river. Even the name is beautiful. It had cool, clear green water and we always enjoyed swimming in it at other areas of that river.
I finally made it to her house that particular day and she was delighted to have a visitor. I'm sure she didn't get many living hours away from anyone else in a place that you couldn't even drive a car to. The only way to get there was by horse, foot or probably by boat up the river. She graciously invited me to get off my horse and take a swim in the river. It was so tempting and I was hot, but I remembered that I would have to ride several hours back home with wet jeans and decided to decline her offer. She seemed so offended that I almost changed my mind. She started to tell me how horses would lose their condition if we rode them in our condition. I thought to myself: "what in the world?" Then I finally realized that she thought I must have been on my monthly time and that would be the only logical reason to her that I would not want to enjoy the beautiful cool river and she was telling me her old wives tale that if I rode my horse like that then he would wither away and get skinny! I was horrified that anyone would think that that would be the reason for my not wanting to swim! But it didn't change my mind. I still didn't want to ride for 3 hours in wet jeans!

I never forgot the little old lady and her old wive's tale. My horse never got skinny and I still rode him every day or every time that I possibly could! We had many more adventures and when I finally sold him years later the person who bought him was very impressed with his abilities. He never acted studly and was always so obedient and such a good boy. He was my first of many stallions. The little old lady eventually moved back to town and the beautiful little house by the river eventually rotted away and was abandoned, as things do in the middle of the Amazon jungle

3 Ways to Help Chickens Keep Laying in Winter

I've been raising chickens for a while now, first in Brazil where I grew up, now here in Texas where the winters are much colder than where I grew up but certainly not as cold as the more northern states.
The first few years I had to adjust to keeping my hens happy in the winter time. I learned a few tricks that I'm going to share with you that have worked for me in my chicken flock.

1. Extra bedding. Chickens won't lay as many eggs in the winter due to cold and less light. First problem we can help solve is the cold. With extra bedding in their coop it will help them stay warm. The manure will heat up and as long as you have plenty of bedding, hay or shavings, it will absorb the moisture caused by the chickens and will heat up and help keep the temperature warmer. If you give them hay or straw, sometimes they like to scratch in that and find seeds or bugs that they can enjoy as a special treat.

2. Extra light. Hens lay more eggs when the days are longer. I've found that adding a light to the coop helps them lay more eggs. What has worked best for me is to turn the light on in the coop right before dark and leave it on until bedtime. This does involve an extra trip outside in the cold and dark but it causes the chickens to eat more, be awake longer and think they ought to be laying more.

3. Extra green feed. Part of the reason hens lay so well in the spring and summer is all the green treats they can pick at and the extra protein. One way that I've found that makes them happy and helps them lay more eggs is to feed them green scraps. We grow sprouts especially for the hens in the winter time and they love it. They always seem to lay better a few days after their sprout treats. We also continue to give them the scraps from what we cook in the kitchen and anything green from the garden. (Yes we do grow things in the winter!)

Summary: Keep them as warm as you can, give them extra light, feed them extra greens and protein and they should keep laying eggs even through the winter!