Saturday, July 31, 2010

Broody Hens

Definition: broody |ˈbroōdē|
adjective ( broodier , broodiest )
1 (of a hen) wishing or inclined to incubate eggs.

I briefly mentioned this little problem in yesterday's post. And right now, I have two of them, both French Marans, who are suddenly so inclined. If you ever wondered if your hen was broody, no need to doubt. You'll definitely know it.

First, the two girls are hogging the favorite nesting boxes and causing my overall egg production to decrease. They are constantly in the boxes, won't get out to eat, and want to sit and sleep there all day and night. Second, whenever I go near them, the fluff up all their feathers to look large and foreboding, while making a strange, rapid fire, but somewhat quiet clucking sound.

If you reach for them, most are going to get loud and mad while shaking and fluffing their feathers a bit. And they'll probably go for you in an aggressive manner. Fortunately for me, the French are a bit more refined and have allowed me to gently reach in and pick them up. But not without their claws clinging to any part of the nesting box they can get ahold of! They do not want to come out!

Earlier I had placed some golf balls in each box because one of the Amarecanas continually pecked at the eggs. This worked fabulously and after about 2 weeks, we no longer lost eggs due to her pecking them. But the French Marans have found that they always have an egg to sit on (uhhh... golf ball) and they seem to be pleased as punch about it. So I've removed all the golf balls until they are needed again.

Just getting the girls out into the fresh air has not been enough. And this is likely to last for quite a while. Some can be broody for up to two months! I'm so glad that we built the chicken coop with two rooms! Last night, I decided it was time to separate them from the flock. 

This extra room has roosts, a chicken door, and plenty of space for two birds, their water, and feed. What it doesn't have is a private run. It's in the plans to add one, but since it wasn't a high priority need, we moved it down the list. However, I could really use it now that I have the two hens over there. Every time open the door for them, they rush around to the other side and into the nesting boxes. {Sigh}...

In the old days, to break the hen of her broodiness, one would dunk the hen in water, only to have the chicken fly "mad as a wet hen" (thus the saying that you've all heard!). I do not recommend this. Nor do I recommend that you withhold food or water, as some might suggest. Broodiness is actually a good thing. God gave them this instinct in order for them to sit on a nest of eggs for days on end. And if you have a rooster and wish to have a hen hatch a clutch, be thankful for broody mommas! Many breeds have had this tendency bred out of them.

For those of us who don't have roosters and are more interested in egg production, we must learn to live with this part of chicken life, just as we do other things, such as pecking eggs. 

How can you break up broodiness in a hen?
• Isolate the hen without a nesting box or material of any kind, but providing roosts, food, and water.
• Isolate the hen and bring in a rooster with her so that she has little time to sit or use a nesting box. 
• Give her a box without nesting material in it, one that has a wire bottom, and is elevated so that a fan or cool air can circulate underneath making it less than ideal for her
• Place her in a wire cage that is reasonable in size so that she can move around and elevate it so that cool air can circulate underneath.

How will you know when she's ready to go back with the flock? 
When she lays an egg and signs of broodiness are gone. Don't be surprised if she molts after broodiness though. 

What can you do to discourage broodiness?
• Don't allow eggs to accumulate in the nesting box. Try to collect them as often as possible.
• Remove any plastic eggs or golf balls as soon as chickens have been trained not to peck at them.
• If you notice a hen sitting all day, immediately remove her, check for illness or distress, and if she is fine, move her outdoors for a while. Hopefully, if her instinct isn't too strong, she'll move on with life, scratching around in the dirt.

Thankfully, broodiness won't last forever. It too will pass in time. However, if you've had to help things along in your own coop, please share your tips and ideas for discouraging a hen's mothering instinct.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Keeping A Record Of Egg Production

I know... keeping records takes the fun out of it all, right? Perhaps a bit, but having a record of your layers really isn't too difficult and can teach kids some basic business skills. Besides, how else are you going to know how many eggs you can sell, or give away, or when the hens went broody last year, or how much those precious eggs are costing you... that kind of thing. If you can just keep it all in your head and remember, well, you're a better woman than I am! My brain is maxed out already!

A few months ago I decided to create a record sheet to contain most of the information that I wanted to know about my chickens. Things like when I let them free range, when I gave away eggs, sold some, or used a dozen. I wanted information about when I bought feed and how much I paid so I knew what my eggs were costing me. And I wanted to remember when a hen pecked an egg, went broody or molted. 

Okay, I'm a bit fanatical about it. But seriously, this information has been really helpful to have at my fingertips. The other day a gal wanted to know if she could be one of my regular customers. All I had to do was look at my production and I knew immediately if it was possible to add her. I'm hoping that it will remind me to watch the French Marans next July for broodiness!

And since I'm the 4H Poultry leader this coming fall, I guess I'd better set a good example. You think?

Here's a free download so you can use my new chart for your own hens. I need to make any corrections before I start teaching the kids this year so let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shrink Your Grocery Bill And Win A Give-Away!

I'm so thrilled to introduce you to one of my new friends in blogland... Angela, who blogs over at Grocery Shrink. Her story of how she paid off a huge debt incredibly fast is not only inspiring, but motivating! I've already downloaded her eBook and putting into practice some of her fabulous tips. And can I mention how thrilled I am that her methods don't focus on coupon clippings although she mentions using them correctly! What she does concentrate on are real solutions. Be sure to read to the end and find out about her generous give-away!

Photo Credit: Bonita Sarita

It's such an honor to be a guest poster for Amy at Homestead Revival! I love that Amy is encouraging women in making and keeping a home and it's a joy to be in your company.
Being a homemaker is such an important job. A woman with a little knowledge and a willingness to enjoy her work, can save a lot of money for her family. I've always tried to be frugal, but about 5 years ago, my husband and I were in $89,000 of debt! We didn't think anything of it until we heard a radio program about debt free living. What the man had to say really hit home, and it helped that he was offering a contest. The 10 families who paid off the most debt or saved the most money as a percentage of their income would win a trip to the Bahamas!

We jumped in with both feet and cut our food budget from $400 to $185 a month (family of 5). We cut back expenses in other areas too. We turned off our heat (March) and cut and hauled wood for an indoor fireplace. It was cold but we were happy.

We temporarily eliminated our clothing budget and made do with our growing family by refashioning cast off adult clothes to fit our little ones. We sold everything that wasn't nailed down, including a rental house. And emptied our small savings except for $1,000 for emergencies. We were debt free in 4 months and spent the next few months stashing cash. (To get the whole story, sign up for my newsletter and it will be emailed to you on day 3 after the cleaning recipes.)
While we were in the Bahamas with the radio celebrity, I mentioned that I would like to start a home business making sewing patterns. He said, “You need to start a business teaching others to be you!” Soon after the Grocery Shrink was born.

With the Grocery Shrink method, it is possible for families to work their food budget down to $50 per person per month or $200 for the average 4 person family. We don’t use a lot of coupons but focus on savvy shopping and using what we have. I encourage eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and naturally raised meats. I don't tell you what to buy or what to cook, just how to do it to maximize your dollar. So if you are vegetarian, gluten free, or have other special diet needs, this method will still work for you.

I'm a busy mama too, with 5 homeschooled children and 3 home businesses, I've streamlined this method to work with our schedule. I believe anyone can do what I do, and a lot of you will do it better!
If your grocery budget is too high, try some of these simple ideas:

1. The first month keep your grocery budget the same. Practice by spending $50 per person per month on the items you will eat right away this month. Then take the rest of the money and hunt for super awesome grocery deals. Buy these items, as much as you can, and store them in your pantry to use later. The next month, reduce your budget by 20% and do the same thing. Continue reducing each month until your budget is $50 per person. By now you will have a pantry full of low cost, high quality food items, and you will have practice eating only $50 per person. Now you can use part of your money for fresh items to eat right away while you eat out of your pantry, and use the rest of the money to replace items in your pantry as you find great deals.

Photo Credit: BHG.com

2. Switch over to cash only for groceries. Decide what you can afford to spend every month and put that amount in cash in an envelope. When the cash is gone, you are done shopping until next month. Studies show using cash reduces spending by 30%! And you will always know when you are near the end of your budget. I keep my cash in a couon organizer like thss one (a sewing pattern available on etsy from isew.) This allows me to easily get money from several budget categories in one store.

Photo Credit: isew

3. Look at the Grocery Ads and evaluate what the good deals are. Just because it’s in the ad doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Just because it’s a good deal for that item, doesn’t mean you should buy it. For example, I’ve seen a local chain advertise a “low price guarantee” on an item and noticed that the same item was less expensive a few weeks ago. It was the lowest price in the area for that day, but another day you will find a much better price. Buy as much as you can afford of the items that are their lowest price ever.

4. Before hitting the stores, check www.becentsable.net and see if there are any coupons available to match with the sale items you are planning to purchase. They will tell you what coupons match up with the sales and where to find the coupon in your paper or where to print it online.

5. Make a menu plan centered on what you have on hand and incorporate the sale items. Click here for detailed instructions on how to make a menu plan and printable sheets to write your plan on.

6. Cook from scratch as much as possible. Cooking from scratch doesn't have to take more time than using a frozen meal or mix. But it does take more thinking power. Your menu plan will help do the thinking for you. If you love mixes, try making your own. Make-A-Mix
is a good resource to help you get started. (Look for it at your local library or click on the title to read more about it at Amazon.)

7. Pack leftovers for the working spouse’s lunch. Taking a lunch instead of buying it saves about $2,000 a year! I pack my husband’s lunch before serving the meal. That way I am guaranteed to have enough for him.

8. Take food with you when you run errands. Then eat your picnic lunch instead of stopping for fast food. Look how easy it is!

9. Consider planting a small garden. I have herbs and salad vegetables in my flower beds because my yard is very small. It's such a treat to have fresh organic produce right outside my door.

At the Grocery Shrink we have several e-books available to help families slash their grocery costs. The main e-book , The Grocery Shrink, is over 100 pages of my step by step method and recipes with planning charts and worksheets to help you squeeze the most out of your grocery dollar. Our latest e-book, Slow and Savory Suppers, is only $3 and a collection of 31 all natural slow cooked dinner meals, one for every day of the month.

This is just the tip of what we do over at the Grocery Shrink. You’ll find our blog which daily posts new money saving ideas and projects; a forum where you can talk to other frugal folks; and a weekly newsletter that reports reader tips and questions, encouragement for you on your frugal journey, recipes, and highlights from the blog and forum. I can’t wait to see you over there!

Thanks, Angela! And for those of you who would like to win a free download of BOTH Grocery Shrink and Slow and Savory Suppers, visit Angela over at her website, check out each area, and come back and tell me what tip helped you the most. If you purchase her eBook, you will also receive periodic emails with additional tips. And don't forget her blog where you can sign up for her free newsletter and free cleaning recipes! 

This give-away is open to Homestead Revival™ followers (see right sidebar to join) and will close Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 10:00 p.m. PST. I must have a way to contact you as well (a link to your blog or email address)!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

If you have children then you probably use a lot of Ranch Dressing. Kids love it and will eat just about anything if it has this treat poured over it or on the side for dipping. When I was a kid my mom used Thousand Island Dressing in the same way. It was most effective for disguising the taste of peas! 

Now that I'm a mom, the problem I have serving Ranch Dressing is all the junk added to it that I don't want my kids ingesting: preservatives, additives, and sugar.

Here's a recipe for a quick powdered mix that you can make and keep on hand for whipping up your own batch of dressing or dip.

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

1 T. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper, ground 

Combine all ingredients either by hand or in a blender on low speed. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place until ready to use.

To make ranch dressing:  
Combine one tablespoon mix with one cup of mayonnaise and one cup milk.

To make ranch dip: 
Combine one tablespoon mix with one cup of mayonnaise and thin with just enough milk to make desired consistency.

For cooking recipes
Use one tablespoon mix per envelope of commercial Ranch Dressing.

Hint: For long term storage, seal in a vacuum pac such as a Food Saver or Seal-A-Meal bag.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The French Basketeer Give-Away

I had such a wonderful response to my post on the French market baskets that I thought you might be interested in meeting The French Basketeer. Owner Andrea Drexelius has a very extensive line of colors that are bright and cheery as well as styles that range from sophisticated to casual. I have spent quite some time just looking and drooling over these fun bags on her website!

Here's what she has to say about the French and their trademark baskets:

"The French have a special love affair with the basket.  Over the centuries, the basket has been used by households rich and poor, in the city and country, carried by men and women:  a simple, universal, utilitarian item.  The trade of basket making is recorded since the late 11th century in France, and over the ages it became highly specialized within different regions of France and by intended use, including: harvesting  grapes (each wine region has their own unique basket shape and name), picking olives and gathering lavender, carrying glasses and bottles, making bread (in baskets with canvas lining); carrying eggs or freshly caught fish (various fish have unique baskets); raising chickens, storing wine (in glass jars covered with basketry to keep the light out);  carrying firemen’s water (in a zinc-lined basket); carrying clean or soiled laundry…you get the idea."

Andrea's baskets are mostly made by women from Madagascar, the 13th poorest country in the world, and each is constructed from renewable resources. So purchasing a basket makes really good sense in terms of Fair Trade. And apparently it is the French way to always have a basket on hand. Several in fact. This is something I could really get into!

Keep in mind that these baskets are made almost entirely by hand. So by nature, they are a bit "rustic". It really adds to the authenticity of the item in my opinion. Each basket has either brown leather handles or black high quality simulated leather. In talking with Andrea, she mentioned that she has been careful in making sure the baskets are "just right". They need to be able to sit up, the corners protected, and she does not use steel rivets (a common practice) because the steel tends to rust. She's really tried to think of everything to make the perfect market basket.

Some of the baskets have a liner that can be closed with a drawstring. This is great if you are nervous about having your contents so open.

And each bag comes in three sizes, allowing you to get just the right fit for whatever you will be using the baskets for. Notice how nicely the three sizes stack? Very convenient!

I've been using mine all week and I must say, I love it! I'm particularly fond of how everything fits inside and looks so fashionable. The smallest is perfect as a purse and the medium is great for errands and picking up a few groceries. I went into several stores for a purchase or two and there was no need for a plastic bag. I just dropped the item in the basket and went on my stylish way! The large bag is just right for the pool, large projects (like quilting), or corralling everything behind the driver's seat while in the car.

Andrea has now added one other additional item: produce bags! I'm still giving these mesh bags a whirl, but I love the fact that they are made from 100% organic cotton and come in two sizes.

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Win A French Market Basket!

1. Visit French Basketeer and look around. There is lots to see! 
2. Come back to Homestead Revival™ and leave your comment telling me which bag is your favorite, what color, and what you would use it for. 

This give-away is open to followers of Homestead Revival™ (to become a follower, see the right side bar). I must have a way to contact you as well (a link to your blog or email address)! Drawing closes Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:00 pm PST.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Must Have A Clothes Pin Bag!

Check out these darling clothes pin bags! So many styles and colors. You really need one of these if you're going to use a clothesline. And the options are endless... 

Be sure to mention Homestead Revival™ if you purchase from 
Micro Mops and you'll receive a 10% discount! Check out their 
clothespins, too! Amy and Dee say that more are on the way!

Kind of makes me want to go out and hang laundry!

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Blessing

"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, 
bless His holy name...

Bless the LORD, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the LORD, O my soul!"
~ Psalm 103:1,22

May your worship today glorify and bless the Lord of heaven and earth!


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