Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Questions & Answers about Chickens from Sharon

Sharon and I have been emailing each other the past few days and I asked her permission to share our conversation - she said yes :)

Hi, Anita in Canada! Sharon in Nevada here, again. I saw that beautiful picture on your blog and now I have a ton of questions... How did you get started with your laying hens? Did you start with chicks or full-grown hens? And then I've heard that we need at least one rooster if we want eggs... is that true? We used to have chickens when I was a child, but I have forgotten the answers to all of these questions, so I hope you don't mind me pestering you about them.

I love your enthusiasm Sharon! Oh what an adventure you have awaiting you with chickens! So much fun!

We got “18 weekers” the first time we got chickens – that means they are almost ready to lay. They cost more of course but if you calculate the feed required and babysitting of chicks you might find as we did that it was worth it to have some success right off the bat. They were laying eggs regularly after the first week or two. We got ours at the local feed store/coop and honestly unless you can order easily from a hatchery it’s the best way to go. Later on we did buy from people on kijiji/craigs list but we haven’t always bought healthy birds that way and you can risk your whole flock if they bring disease with them. Better safe than sorry until you get the hang of it.

You do NOT need a rooster to make eggs – only to make baby chicks. I didn’t know that either J If you think about the birds and the bees it makes sense. The kids and I watched Magic School bus in hopes of finding out the answer and we DIDN’T – hee hee - so someone had to explain it to me.  Roosters are handy for protection as well but they are unnecessary FOR EGG PRODUCTION and the crow all day long some days not just in the morning. I rather like the sound but the kids have been known to groan and roll over and go back to sleep with visions of shooting the rooster right out the bedroom window J
I think she means this one!
The photo you have on your blog page of the big bowl full of eggs looks like a little piece of heaven to me!

Even though we live on an acre here in Nevada, we are not allowed to have chickens because we are inside the "city" limits. The good news is, we are moving to the "country" soon, where we CAN have chickens, and are kind of excited about setting up a coop. Any hints you can give me? Do you turn them out to scratch? Or is your hen yard big enough that they don't care? If you do turn them out, how do you convince them to come back into the coop? Do they come when called? Or is there a food motivator? (My horse has a food motivator!) Where we'll be going there are coyotes and raccoons, both of which love chickens, but in the wrong sort of way, so I really do want them locked inside their coop at night where it will be safe and they can at least make it to Day Two.
Any hints you can give me would be greatly appreciated. We go through a lot of eggs at our house, and recently the grocery store topped $2 a DOZEN for large eggs. UNREAL! I know there are reciprocal costs involved in growing your own, but still, I am looking forward to it.
Thank you! I hope all is going well in the frozen north. We are finally getting a little bit of snow here (but it is LATE).
~ Sharon in Nevada

Our chickens are locked up tight in their coop for the night and let out later in the morning.  We wait till 10am or later in the winter so they lay their eggs in the nesting boxes or else they will lay them all over the farm!  We let ours free range during the day and they look after themselves really well.  They get into the kitty food sometimes – actually they race to the back door to see if there is any left and then fight over it J  Night time is easy – once they know where home is they will go back there every night at dusk.  When you first get them lock them in for a few days so they get the idea that THIS-IS-HOME.  Trying to get them to come in earlier than dusk is a bit of a challenge and shaking a feed bucket works after they learn that the sound means food.  They will learn quickly so having a pail of kitchen scraps and leaving them in the same place – preferable near the coop –will train them quite well.  Problem of course if you free range is they will follow you everywhere – to the mailbox, in the garden, for a walk down the road – unless you can distract them first and then sneak away.

We have coyotes and racoons here too. We have a donkey and some sheep as well and we think just the smell of the donkey has kept the coyotes away from the barn.  We have lost a few to foxes though and several to racoons too.  The key is making their indoor coop predator proof.  You can find lots of info online about how to do that.  We have a big-old-bank-barn so we made an old cow pen into a coop.  It works great and most of the walls and the floor are made of concrete – once they are in there – they are safe.

I can’t honestly say you are going to save money raising chickens – it will depend on the feed situation.  I am still working on a LT solution of growing some of the feed myself but it looks like it will be many years before I get the hang of that! One step at a time!

Eggs for $2.00 is a good deal J  I sell mine for $4.75 a dozen and that just covers the costs.  Of course once you eat a farm fresh free range egg you will never want the grocery store version again!  YUM!

Hi, again!  Thank you so much for writing me back right away.  Yes, it's true:  For the first time in probably six or seven years, I find that I am VERY excited about the future and looking forward to things to come, and I have you to thank for helping me realize that.  :D big grinThat actually makes me feel better about the current "space" that I'm in.

The $2 a dozen price is for store-bought eggs, large size (not XL), and that are most definitely not free range, and I totally understand that part about once you have a "home grown" you won't want to go back.  The same can be said for tomatoes. :)
 happy  I know that there is an expense to feeding them (the chickens, not the tomatoes), but I am also looking forward to my own fresh eggs.

 (I can't wait for fresh tomatoes!!)

Good news about the rooster.  I was not looking forward to the cock-a-doodle-doo's at the crack of dawn and beyond.  I DO remember the annoying crowing that (you're right) seemed to go on at all hours and not just at sun-up.  But then, we had a screwy rooster, and as I recall, he ended up in a pot of dumplings.  Not sure if the excessive crowing had anything to do with that, though, or not, but the end result was the same. Yum!  I LOVE dumplings!

Here is a link to a website I used to study-study-study, back in the day.  I guess I need to study some more.  My son, who's been asking to raise chickens since he was 7 years old (he's just turned 15) wants to help build the coop and chicken run, and there are several fun designs in this website.  You can go from beyond simple enclosures, to chicken tractors (a concept that struck me as hilarious), to creating your own chicken princess castle, to an entire western frontier of buildings.  In addition to the plans, most of the coop designs have many, many pictures of step-by-step construction, so you can actually see progressive photographs of how they were built.  I just pulled up the website after eons of not looking, and see that they've expanded to include chicken breeds and many more interesting bits of information.  Feel free to share with whomever.  Oh, and yes, you can use my question in your blog.  :-))  I didn't realize I HAD so many questions until I started writing them down.

The backyard chickens website is definitely the place to check out for more information on raising small flocks of chickens.  There are some very creative people sharing their ideas for chickens tractors and coops that will make you laugh!

Thank you again, Anita, for taking time to write to me.  You are always so refreshing to read, and you make me feel uplifted when you write.  You sound like a very happy person.  I will keep you posted as we progress.  It's still one day at a time, but the target timeframe is early this summer.
Oh, wow!  and oh-em-gee!  all at the same time!!
Thanks more than you know,
~ Sharon  :-))
You are MORE-THAN-WELCOME!  Hope that helps!  Congratulations on the upcoming move – I know how the excitement can be.  I am still amazed I live here! 


Bless you as you make your own adventure in country living!

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vacation and Lehman's part 2

We're just back from a two week vacation to the US.  It was a wonderful and warm vacation for the body, mind and soul. I don't think we realised how tired we were until we got there. It was a wonderful time to rest and rejuvenate. We will definitely go back at Our Father's Haven Bed & Breakfast near Bushnell, Florida! We loved it! 

Our family of 5 - including 3 young adults stayed at Our Father's Haven. It was Florida in it's natural state as opposed to the crazy busyness of the big attractions and fancy hotels.  We found the location to be close enough to all the major places like Disney and Busch Gardens yet far enough to be able to enjoy Florida up close and personal. 

The 4 suites are HUGE and beautiful. Each has it's own separate bedroom and living space with more closet space than I have at home!  I especially liked the quilts on the oh-so-comfortable beds - the decor was really nice and comfortable. 

Innkeepers Gary and Joanne Macintosh were wonderful hosts and they cooked us amazing humungous breakfasts with lots of (maybe too many) choices each morning.  They were able to make adjustments for some special dietary needs and gave us the recipe for our favorite breakfast casserole - yum!

We enjoyed staying on a farm and visiting with their dogs Georgia Blue and Rosie and the horses in the barn or in the field.  It felt like home but better - NO DISHES and no chores!

The facilities include a games room with a pool table, lots of books, magazines and movies to borrow.  The spacious screened porch was a great place to relax and read or just enjoy the view.

My favorite attraction was the Webster Flea Market.
It's a very old outdoor Flea Market and it's so big you couldn't get through it all in one day - we sure didn't.  We walkedaround for several hours looking through the stalls.  I found a basket for carrying fresh picked vegetables and some really nice enameled spoons. 

I already wrote about a stop we made in Kidron, Ohio at the Lehman's store - the first visit was great and the second one was even better.  The store is full of overwhelmingly wonderful items that are completely unavailable or very difficult to get here in Canada.  We decided that we were going to take advantage of the customs limit and purchase many items I had been wanting to get for awhile but didn't because of the cost of shipping and duty.

I took a catalog with me on vacation and worked on my list.   DH - silly guy - said GET WHATEVER YOU NEED!  Really??  It ended up being a very long list!

The items I am most excited about are the All American pressure canners - I got two 920's - the second largest one.  They each hold 14 quarts at a time - double the Presto canner I've used in the past. I can't wait to be canning up a storm this summer!

I also found a carpet sweeper...I KNOW - who wants one of those??  Well - me. I've been looking and hoping to find one at a yard sale for several years.  I was able to get one at the Lehman's outlet store for $25.00.  Yeah!

Over the next few months I'll tell you about some of the other items I purchased after I get a chance to try them out and I've recuperated from my vacation.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

A visit to Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio

My DH and I have an ongoing joke about where heaven on earth is - he thinks it's Wal-Mart and I of course think it's HOME at Shalom Engedi Farm.  Well - I may have a runner up - Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio. I've been wanting to visit Lehman's for several years and this week we did.

Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio
Lehman's promotes itself as the non-electric store.  The store that Amish people shop at - and they do - we saw some folks there.  (Would it terribly politically incorrect to say I saw the cutest little Amish girl in the store with a black bonnet and a black cape - too bad - I did it anyway!) They have everything you can imagine for life without electricity - beautiful Elmira cookstoves, woodstoves of every kind, tools, kerosene lights, kitchen equipment and other ABSOLUTELY-NECESSARY kitchen gadgets, canning and gardening items, toys and on and on. 

I went with the express purpose of checking out the manual grain grinders.  A Country Living Grain Mill has been on my list for several years but shipping from the States is expensive and only recently have I found a Canadian supplier.  Buying something THAT expensive (over $500.00) having never seen it or used it was ONE of the reasons we went - I wanted to try them all out. They had every make I had ever heard about...and that was the problem...someone else had mentioned awhile back that if I ever had the chance to try out the Dimant Hand Mill that nothing-else-would-do.

It's fully cast iron and very heavy - and it's gonna-look-great in my kitchen!!  I've woke up thinking about it the last few days - tells you how far gone I am! 

An article on Squidoo has this to say: Scientists have revealed some shocking truth about packaged flour ... Reports say that 50% of the nutritional value of grain is lost within first 24 hours of making flour, and of the remaining; another 50% is lost within the next three days.  (

That's why storing flour long term doesn't make sense.  It may not go rancid for 4 months - the estimated shelf life I was given from Grain Process in Toronto - but 3/4 of the nutritional quality is basically missing after the first week!  Something to think about huh?  That's why I store wheat kernels, spelt and kamut kernels and other grains in their whole and natural form.  God made them with a protective coating so the would stay fresh - the same protective coating I talked about in my fermenting post.

I also purchased some Tattler canning lids.  I've been wanting to try these for a few years.  Most people I've talked to about them seem to think they're great - their biggest feature is that they are re-usable - no more throw away lids!  I can't wait to try them out.

I added a few more pieces to my spatterware collection - in RED - of course!

My daughter found a great kit for making oil lamps out of canning jars and olive oil that we're excited to try - a great way to use up old oil.  I'll post some pictures when we get it set up.

We spent almost 2 hours in the store just looking and planning the list for the next visit.  I need to save a serious chunk of money first. (or rather again!)

You can join me and drool here:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lady Bug Moments

I love to explore new ideas and learn things that I didn't even know I wanted to know. Learning and DOING new things is what makes life -LIFE.  Life is fantastically-amazing in all of it's richness and STORED-UP-WONDER.

Sometimes I forget that.  I get so busy worrying about things or busting-my brain trying to figure out people who simply don't make sense or I get caught up in every-day-crisis or my own self-centeredness that I lose sight of those simple things in life that are meant to bring us JOY...

by Ravich's photostream on flickr
Yesterday I saw a ladybug climbing up the door trim INSIDE the house.  My first thought was Ack - bugs!  But remember when you were a kid and you let the ladybug crawl around on your hand so you could examine it in detail.  Do you remember counting the spots and watching it's wings open and close?  Ladybugs are tiny amazing little reminders that God put in the world just so we could experience WONDER.

When I start to worry and stress about things I miss the LADYBUG-MOMENTS.  What is life but a series of moments in time?? 

Stop and smell the roses - do it for me - I don't have a sense of smell!
Enjoy a cat nestled on the window sill in the sun or a dog running with wild abandon. 
Appreciate a quiet drive down a country road or a moment over tea with someone you love.
Feel the wind in your hair, letting it get messy and not caring what it looks like!
Eat a cupcake-with-icing.
Read a book that makes you cry.

A little vacation for the soul...

Watch for a LADY-BUG-MOMENT today and stop long enough to enjoy it.

Feel free to make me some cupcakes too!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shopping 1934 style: catalogue pages from Wards

I received this in an email this morning!  Don't you wish you could shop at these prices!  I would like a few pressure canners for $1.49 and some batteries at 2/.13 cents, 500 chicks for under $50.00 and an icebox please.  What would you buy??

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