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.



  1. Aww! Love the girls. It's so satisfying when their new, healthy feathers grow out and you have fat, happy hens. We had a rooster named Meatball. He was a huge white thing we debated was a turkey for awhile, and not the brightest. He was a very "Kramer" type character, hillarious. Enjoy your new gaggle!

    1. I am very excited to see their personalities develop... as well as growing a relationship with them! I can't wait until they're really fat... is that a weird thing to say? A weird thing to wish for? Haha. I want fat, happy hens, and eggs. I really want eggs. I feel like a child, about to burst with impatience awaiting the arrival of eggs... and I especially feel like a creep, constantly sneaking to the nesting boxes like a peeping-Tom.... and it's only Day 3....