Friday, February 5, 2016

Yes, I Went There.

We collected egg #3 today! And then, we sat like creeps for 20min waiting to see if any of the girls were going to lay some more... it made me feel like such a peeping-Tom; and weirdly enough... I am OK with that? Sitting down for a while watching the chickens eat, roost, and nest is quite calming.... especially when they're wearing sweaters. Yes, I went there.

It got below 25 last night, and I was worried that with the combination of minimal feathers and not knowing if they were cold weather hardy, they might get too cold. The last thing I wanted, was to wake up to frozen chickens ... I prefer them roasted, with a nice rosemary-lemon glaze... Haha, just kidding... (or am I?) Seriously, though. I have no idea if they were kept outside or indoors... and it IS February... I am hoping by next winter their feathers will have grown in, and they will no longer need a little extra help.

See how bare their necks are? I just feel awful... The poor little..small things... AH! I think after this sweater episode, I might just be one of those weird chicken ladies... I said MIGHT. Not that I am... or that I intend to be... you know, it's not like my kitchen and dinning-room is decorated with roosters and chickens... everywhere....

MOVING ON!!!!!!!!!!

I am excited by the third egg this morning. I took a picture of eggs #2 & #3 in the carton ... you can see from egg #1 (which we lost tragically after 5min) the gradual differences! The shells are getting thicker and stronger, the color is getting darker... They love their new feed, and I think are quite happy. I can open the roof in the morning and tell them to wake up, and they go out to the run, one by one, and have breakfast... we're forming quite the little routine! I want to collect at least 3 more eggs before we eat them. I want all of us to be able to enjoy our eggs together...

I am very encouraged and excited. I love these girls! I am already starting to be able to tell the difference between them (even without the sweaters and tags) - but seriously... who doesn't love a chicken in a sweater?
'Pollo', looking fierce!
Ginger in her Pink Fleece Vest
How did I make chicken sweaters in one afternoon? Trial and error of course! I went to our local Thrift Shop, and bought 4 stocking caps & 2 newborn sweater vests... in coordinating colors to their tags. I cut up the vests and tried them on Nugget a few times, until I was able to get the general measurements I would need. I then took those measurements and transferred the idea to the stocking caps. With a few cuts here, and a few stitches there... I made make-shift chicken sweater vests and took advantage of their lethargic nature in the dead of night (thanks for the tip, Lia!)! They woke up to wearing vests, and surprisingly were pretty cool with it; as cool as they could be with a giant snatching them in the middle of the night and playing dress up... See, I told you these chickens were making me creepy....  The vests aren't gorgeous, and Meatloaf has tried to unravel hers, but considering I didnt know what the heck I was doing, and considering this was my first time making anything for a chicken - I think I did pretty well! It saved me time knitting them, and it saved me money from placing an order from someone else doing them.... so... all in all, I think it was successful.

Yes, I went there ; but I'm cool with it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Homemade Chicken Feed; The Okie Campbell Clan Way

My husband and I are part of a co-op... we ordered 380# of grains/seeds/nuts to make our chicken feed. We researched several types of feed... varying from fermented, mash, sprouted, cracked, wet, dry, organic, pellets... etc.

It was cheaper to make our own.... by a long shot. While a large investment upfront, we're going to save in the long run. There is also, of course, the added bonus of knowing exactly what is going in your chicken's feed. Now, most people I've spoken to, do not recommend buying and making the feed in such large quantities - since different grains require different kinds of storage and also have different shelf lives... however, this feed mixture is not only for our chickens, it is also to sell. With that in mind, we decided to go ahead and order such large amounts...

Below is the recipe we used, along with the nutritional contents of each grain/seed/nut. We put the amount of pounds we bought, as well as "parts" so if you decide to make it, you do not have to buy 50# of this and 50# of that... Just as long as the ratios are the same, you should be fine!
And yes... that is a shovel, mixing the feed, inside a giant wheelbarrow. A lady uses only the best possible tools to accomplish her task! If you look closely, you will also see a 55 gallon drum with an air tight seal where we will be storing the bulk of the feed.

Okie Campbell Clan: Chicken Feed

- 2 part golden wheat berries (50#) $40.50
- 2 part white wheat berries (50#) $40.50
Carbohydrates 32g 11% - 44%
Dietary Fiber 24% - 96%
Protein 11% - 44%
Calcium 2% - 8%
Iron 8% - 32%
- 2 part sunflower seeds (50#) $62.16
Fat 110% - 220%
Potassium 25% - 50%
Carbs 9% - 18%
Fiber 48% - 96%
Protein 58% - 116%
Vitamin 1% - 2%
Calcium 10% - 20%
Vitamin C 3% - 6%
Iron 41% - 82%
Vitamin B-6 95% - 190%
Magnesium 113%
- 2 part oat groats (50#) $19.38
Fat 1%
Potassium 4%
Carbs 11%
Fiber 18%
Protein 12%
Calcium 1%
Iron 7%
Vitamin B-6 5%
Magnesium 21%
-3 part yellow split peas (75#) $50.37
Fat 2.3% - 4.6%
Potassium 55% - 110%
Carbs 39% - 78%
Fiber 200% - 400%
Protein 96% - 192%
Vitamin A 5% - 10%
Calcium 10% - 20%
Vitamin C 5% - 10%
Iron 48% - 96%
Vitamin B-6 15% - 30%
Magnesium 56% - 112%
- 2 part whole corn (50#) $31.08
Fat 12% - 24%
Sodium 2% - 4%
Potassium 13% - 26%
Carbs 41% - 82%
Protein 32% - 64%
Calcium 1% - 2%
Iron 25% - 50%
Vitamin B-6 50% - 100%
Magnesium 52% - 104%
- 1 part hulled barley (25#) $15.20
Fat 6%
Potassium 23%
Carbs 45%
Fiber 128%
Protein 46%
Calcium 6%
Iron 36%
Vitamin B-6 30%
Magnesium 61%
- 1 part raw peanuts (30#) $39.64
Fat 110%
Potassium 29%
Carbs 8%
Fiber 48%
Protein 76%
Calcium 13%
Iron 37%
Vitamin B-6 25%
Magnesium 61%
- 0.2 parts food grade diatomaceous earth (5#) $10
silicon, calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals (this supports healthy heart, liver, bone function, as well as a natural pesticide/cleanse)

Weight: 385#
Total Cost: $308.83
Price Per Pound: $0.80
Our hens will eat, on average, 4oz a day.... that averages out to $0.20 per day to feed them.

I should also point out, that we will be offering free-choice oyster shell and free-choice grit weekly, and at the hens discretion... I will be more familiar with the amount they will need/want once they start a regular routine and diet.

Chickens need calcium galore in order to produce eggs! Why? Because it takes calcium to make egg shells! In fact, picture this... for every egg shell created, the chicken would have to have consumed the calcium equivalent of 2 1/2 egg shells; just to produce the one! So if you do end up making your own homemade feed (like mine, or one similar) make sure you substitute or add oyster shell in a bowl or a pile on the ground... something/somehow they're able to access it easily and eat it at will! Some people even crush the left-over egg shells that most would throw away, and feed their chickens the left-over egg shells, instead of oyster shell. I know several people who do this, and it works for them! Just make sure you crush it in small enough pieces the chickens won't recognize it's an egg shell, but large enough pieces they can peck and eat it... about the size of a pea or corn kernel should do it.

Did you also know that chickens don't have teeth? They need a type a special type of gravel-ish looking thing, tiny stones that they eat; called "Grit". (Grit and Sand are not the same thing!!!! Gravel and Grit are NOT the same thing!!) This is especially important if you are feeding them whole grains and seeds. The 'grit' grinds their food down into small enough pieces for them to digest. If your chickens forage and roam your farm or backyard freely, they usually don't need grit as often as some others might. Take mine for example... since they are new to us, and we to them, I want them to associate their run & coop with safety - so that by time we do let them out to forage and roam our yard, they will be accustomed to going back in at night time.... but until this time happens, and until they are free to roam for natural grit themselves - they will need me to supply the grit for them. So please keep this in mind, as you assess whether homemade feed is right for you, and right for your chickens.

Well, that's all for now! I am hoping to spend a good amount of time with our hens tomorrow (today I spent most of the morning and afternoon running errands and completing different tasks). I am tired, sore... and excited for what tomorrow may bring... Shalom, from The Okie Campbell Clan!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting Our Urban Homestead Adventure

Over the past few years, I have tried to develop homesteading skills.... anything and everything from making yogurt, gardening, canning/preserving food.... making my own soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, lotions/balms...

My desire for 2016, is to put these skills I've learned into more every day practice. I want to can more this year, concentrate on the garden... stop buying toothpaste all together. Lotions and balms (and chapstick) take minutes! I just have to set aside the time to do them... so that is my personal goal and challenge for our family... to become more self-sustaining  - and the next chapter for this adventure.... is livestock.

Yesterday, we purchased chickens! We are now the proud owners of, six Bovan Browns! We assembled the coop and run a few weeks ago, anxiously awaiting their arrival! Here is the coop and run we purchased on Amazon:

We added a tarp over the rabbit cage (which we are using as a run) so their food will be protected from getting wet, and also allow them a little shade.... since putting this together, we also added bales of hay all around the outside of the coop, so they can have a little more insulation in the colder weather. The inside bottom of the coop has pull out drawers, so we can scoop the droppings out, similarly to a catbox.... and the nesting boxes are filled with fresh hay to keep them warm, and the eggs dry. The coop also has three levels of wood for them to roost (the ladies love it!) and I can access the coop from the roof, or nesting boxes, on either side... Over all - I am very satisfied with the coop & run... the run is actually quite roomy. I can fit in it (if I have to) to clean and replenish food, and for the six hens, it provides plenty of room to romp and explore.

Nesting boxes... with ceramic eggs
Tri-level roosts

Ceramic eggs (encourages egg laying)
Our lovely rescue chickens (Day 2)

Spinnie (L) and Ginger (R)
We debated for a while whether to buy chicks and hand raise them... or to buy adult hens from someone. We ended up purchasing six 15month old hens, from a guy on Craigslist. Now, I know Craigslist isn't always reliable... and the guy kept changing the dates the hens would be here; but he did so because of the weather and seemed genuinely concerned with their health. While he would not be delivering them personally (his co-worker/associate would); I did seem fairly confident the chickens were legit - he kept me updated on their progress, guaranteed the breed, and age... and called me several times to confirm pick-up times, location, and pricing.

When the lovely ladies, finally did make their way here, via a truck carrying hundreds from Arkansas... I was so saddened to see just how many were stuffed in the cages... hundreds and hundreds of them... piled all together, being taken out by a hook/prod, held by their feet, dangling ... and thrown into whatever crates and cages that belonged to their new owners... My hens were put into two cat carriers... three in each for the drive home.

When we got home, the hens in the first carrier were alert, awake and squawking. The second carrier, were all huddled together, asleep..... I think they may have fainted? Can chickens faint? Either way, they were exhausted.... We put the carriers in the backyard, on the porch... and I got some yarn, and scissors. I decided, JUST in case they escaped, I better trim their wings, so they can't fly away... so I had to take them out, and that's when I got a good look at the poor darlings... Wherever they came from... their life hadn't been pleasant. They're missing the majority of their feathers... one has a cracked beak, another has a wounded wing... they are bald on their back, most of the back of their necks and a few have bald necks -  so much in fact you can see the pouch where they store their food at the base of their throat. They were also; absolutely filthy. I grabbed them by the feet to coax them out, and once I did, I tried to sooth them, and hold them gently... but the three in the first crate, were just terrified.

So, one at a time... I tied a piece of colored yarn on the right ankle. They each got a different color, so I could identify them, until we get to know one another better. After that, I had the kids help me hold their wings up and out, so I could trim them. That's when I started seeing some with a few more injuries... needless to say, this process was difficult; they did not want to hold still. But we got it done one at a time - and placed them in the run, with the door to the coop open.

It was interesting to see that the two carriers of chickens, had formed two little groups... The Meanies (the alert hens) and The Niceys (the exhausted ones). The Meanies (White, Dark Red, & Green) were tagged and put into the run first... and by time I got The Niceys (Pink, Orange, & Purple) tagged and placed inside, The Meanies had went inside the coop, and The Niceys were too afraid to go inside... so I had the kids help me fill the feeders.... one with egg-laying mash (I am waiting on my co-op order, so we can make our own feed).... one with water... one with grit... and one with oyster shell. I don't think I saw any of them eat... they were so scared... and eventually, by sunset, they were all inside the coop; asleep... except for one... the one with the Pink tag. She was alert, awake, and trying everything she could think of to trot around the run and find an escape. I had my seven year old son climb in the run and try and corner her, so he could get her in the coop for the night... but she was relentless! He finally cornered her and got her inside the coop... and closed the door with a vengeance! She would stay put; whether she liked it or not! A few hours later, my husband and I went outside, and as I was telling him of our would be escapee... I turned on the flashlight, and looked inside... all of the hens were huddled and asleep in a nesting box, except one.. THE one with the pink tag... who was asleep on the floor, almost as if she had a good pout and put herself to bed unwillingly. We decided to name the one with the Pink tag: Ginger... from the movie 'Chicken Run'. If anyone has seen that movie, you will recall, how Ginger is the ring leader and helps instigate the escape of the chickens, from the farm...  And so ended Day 1 of our Urban Homestead Adventure... we had bought, tagged, and sorted six chickens... and even had to chase one and put it to bed.

Day 2: I woke up to get my daughter ready for school. As she was dressing, I went and opened the door to the coop. While the hens were awake enough at 7:15am... they wouldn't leave the coop! So I left them be, until around 10am... they were still inside... I decided to open the roof and shew them out, from the inside. Well it worked! They all ran for it! I closed the door behind them, so they were forced to explore the run.... and then they found the food! We let them eat and drink for about an hour... and then I sent my seven year old son in the run... he caught them all today... and one by one... we held and petted, and assessed each hen.

Pink: She was the escapee... She is now called Ginger. She is gentle, but feisty - when she wants down, put her down... otherwise, very nice

Red: My three year old boy named her Spinnie (I guess he has it in his mind she likes to spin, or maybe he wants to spin with her?) She is feisty - but tolerated being held - don't touch her comb or neck, that's when she looses it

White: My eldest son (the seven year old) named her Charlie..... Charlie is one of The Meanies... she finally gave in to being captured and held... but she was a pecker... she kept pecking everything - eventually settled down... but still liked to peck at anything new

Purple: Her name is Meatloaf... my daughter (6) wanted to name her some princessy thing, but made a joke about a chicken being called Meatloaf... so the name stuck. Everyone thinks its hilarious, not so much my daughter, though... Meatloaf is a flapper... has to flap, all the time... she got out of my son's hands and winged him in the face with her wings, kinda like a kitten scratch - she's nice enough, doesnt like being held much

Green: The one with the green tag is like, one of the sweetest ones ever.... her beak is broken, and it was hard for her to peck at mealworms, but she got the hang of it... My husband loves her. Her name is Nugget... My three year old broke the bag of mealworms so we just said what the heck, and dumped the bag in a bowl... we left it in the run and Nugget saw it and went to chow down! Broken beak or not, she liked the treat and was the first one in the bowl!

Orange: Gosh... she is speedy! My eldest couldnt catch her... and she is scrawny. She has almost no feathers on her neck.... We finally caught her and she was a doll, just kinda freaks out at the idea of humans. I suggested we call her Speedy or Flash... but my husband said he wants to name one. He thought of Ponyo... Chocobo... but we finally settled on 'Grande Pollo' or 'Pollo' for short... "Grande Pollo" is a family joke, and it's especially funny since Pollo is the scrawniest of them all!

We played with the girls today... got them used to us, and us used to them... it was nice. We even got a surprise... one of them laid an egg!

I am not sure which hen laid it... and while it was a nice surprise... it was at the same time sad... The shell was so very thin... so fragile. These girls were not getting the proper nutrition or care; but that is going to change. I am excited about our rescue chickens. The gentleman on Craigslist, got them from someone... and paid someone else to deliver them... I have no idea where they originate; but I know now ... they will have a happy home, and we'll take good care of them! So stay tuned for future adventures; staring: The Okie Campbell Clan, Ginger, Spinnie, Charlie, Nugget, Meatloaf, & Pollo.