Friday, October 29, 2010

Give Away: Creative Kates

If you've read my blog for a while, you know I love to see kids who have a great work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit! (See my post Small Homestead Businesses For Kids and Created For Work). Today, I want to encourage you to support 14-year old Kate who has started a darling business: Creative Kates. This is a real business and with the help of her mother, she is doing an excellent job crafting both a shop and beautiful products. Don't you just love all the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 stuff oozing from a mother/daughter project like this?

Please visit Kate's site and look around. Then come back and leave a comment telling her what you like and perhaps give her an encouraging word. If you do, you'll be in the drawing to win this darling Purple Pizzaz ring! How neat is that?

The drawing will end Sunday night at 11:59 PM PST, so get on it friends! And think Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poultry Basics: Outdoor Safety

Chickens were created to be outdoor birds and they need time to scratch in the dirt, find bugs, take dirt baths, and warm themselves in the sun. But, they are also domesticated and need to be protected from wild predators and sometimes even the family pets. How are you going to keep them safe while allowing them time to be outdoors? Your choice will depend on:

1. Your environment - whether it's urban, rural, surrounded by wildlife, etc.
2. Your philosophy - how important free-ranging is for you compared to keeping them in a run.
3. Your finances - how much money you are willing to invest in predator protection.
4. Your tenacity and ingenuity - how much time and effort as well as creative ideas can you bring to the table.

Options For The Outdoors

• Free-Ranging. Allowing poultry to free-range all over the place is a popular option, but it could mean a shorter life if a predator decides to have chicken for lunch! You'll need to know your area and the wild animals so that you can provide protection while they are out and about. And honestly, there just aren't a lot of viable options for free-ranging safely because the birds could wander just about anywhere! If you have a trusted dog, you could rely on your canine friend, but even the best dogs have suddenly turned on a chicken after months or years and for no apparent reason.

Photo Credit: markhsal
I admit, I've used the dog option, but I never was completely at ease despite my golden retriever's loyalty and protective spirit. Because she is a bird dog and not a herd dog, I constantly was checking in on the "girls" and counting to make sure everyone was still there. And I looked pretty funny running around and calling for a chicken that had left the group (use your imagination!)

A tall fence that covers a large area could offer some protection, but that would depend upon the type of fence. And if you have hawks in the area... well, this just won't do the job. You can try keeping some items in the area that they can run under, such as bushes or a picnic table, but they would have to have some kind of warning or sense that the hawk was about to attack. 

Keep in mind that besides worrying about predators, if you're using your own large backyard to allow your birds to free-range, you're going to have droppings everywhere, including your patio furniture! They'll think they're on vacation at a spa, bathing in your pot plants and eating a bite or two while they're getting all cozy on the porch! 

•Tractors. This is the option for those who want to pasture their chickens, allowing them fresh grass and bugs daily, but with extra security for peace of mind. A chicken tractor is basically a large cage with or without wheels and no bottom. It usually includes a cover for shade, a way to collect eggs or access feed, and if they are layers, a roost or two. Some people leave their hens in the tractor overnight if they have built in shelter, but others put their hens in the coop come twilight. 

Photo Credit: negro gato

The benefit of a tractor is that you can move it to a new area every single day where fresh grass awaits, allowing the birds to fertilize the space, but preventing them from wearing the area out completely. Everyone is usually happy with this arrangement, but you need plenty of pasture. And depending on how many birds you have and the size of your tractor, you may need help moving it around each day.

Photo Credit: Egan Snow

This option is especially suited for meat hens and new chicks of all kinds. But don't stop there if they are layers. A good, secure chicken coop is a must if you plan to keep birds long term!

• Exercise Yard. This is my current option. Sort of a modified free-ranging situation. I have created a smaller fenced yard around the chicken coop which gives the birds plenty of room, but they are limited in how far they can go. They have access all day long to the hen house for laying and safety. 

I haven't done this part yet, but wire can be run from the top of the hen house to each post of your fence to make it difficult for hawks to swoop down on a chicken. A friend has found it to be very successful, however, his exercise yard was rather large, so he put some tall polls (about 12 feet high) in various places where it was too far to run wire all the way to the coop (see diagram below).

Another option is to place your exercise yard within a larger fenced area so your dog can run all the way around the chickens to protect them without actually being in their yard.

• Runs. With chicken wire covering the top and sides, this differs from a tractor in that it's not moveable and is almost always attached directly to the chicken coop itself. It's usually more spacious as well. The advantage is that your hens can get outside anytime they want, including early in the morning before you really want to crawl out of that warm bed! I still have a small run attached to my coop despite the exercise yard just so they can get outside before I do! 

Photo Credit: kusine

You can see that these are typically taller as well. Tall enough to walk inside. This is a huge deal when you're no longer 30-something years old and bending down and crawling inside to clean is ridiculously impossible! Seriously, you need to think long term here.

Photo Credit: Woodenart

If you are concerned that an animal could dig it's way under, consider running an electrified wire around the outside base or dig down several inches and sink the chicken wire down in the ground. Another option would to use a spray like Repells-All around the perimeter every 2 weeks (I use this around my garden fence and my roses, too - works great!). 

I hope this information will help you plan ahead so that your poultry is safe and your mind at ease. I've been very grateful for my husband's excellent building skills and perfectionism many a night when the coyotes were howling right in our back yard!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poultry Basics: Shelter, Roosts, and Nesting Boxes

Today is my first day leading the Poultry Group for our local 4H. As you can see by the title of this post, we're going to start with their basic needs and I thought it might be helpful to post here for anyone who is new to raising chickens and thinking about it in the future! (Because of the volume of information, I'll be breaking it up into several posts.)

Just like any living thing, chickens need food, water, and shelter. but to be happy and healthy, they need a few more things as well: roosts, nesting boxes, a place to range (or roam), and protection from predators. Each of these items will insure that your chickens are safe and productive. After all, we certainly want to see them laying a lot of eggs or getting nice and fat with meat, right?

Chickens are really very easy to keep and maintain once you get them set. For the most part, they are happy just to scratch, eat, lay, and sun bathe. But a word of wisdom here... don't bring a chicken home until you are completely set up with the basics. Don't start out with chicks in a brooder with the plan to build a coop as they grow. From personal experience, I can assure you that this will cause tension in your home and a lot of headache and unnecessary stress. Since most feed stores don't carry chicks until spring, now is the perfect time to get the basics set up so you're ready when the time comes and they arrive at the feed store. (You can order on-line year 'round, but consider your climate and the chicks needs before doing so.)

Shelter - The Coop

Chickens need a place to be out of the weather and safe at night, but it does not need to be especially warm or insulated unless it's very large and you have just a few chickens. I've talked to people up in Canada who just keep them in a wood structure and the chickens do fine since the birds create some warmth themselves if the space isn't too big. However, you may wish to select a breed that is cold hardy if your climate is extreme. (See Henderson's Breed Chart). 

Cleaning.You need to think about how you will access the coop to clean it. Coops come in all sizes and shapes, but you must be able to easily get to eggs, feed your birds, and clean it out on a regular basis. So definitely think about this a lot! I had a small coop, much like a dog house and the lid lifted up so I could clean inside. The problem was that the lid was so heavy I couldn't lift it myself, which meant my husband had to be home when I got a notion to clean! Then, because I had to reach over and inside, I couldn't really get it cleaned out like it needed. Thus, my man ended up doing all the work - NOT the original plan! Now I have a coop where we can walk in and do whatever needs to be done.

Outdoor Access. How are your chickens going to get from inside the coop to their exercise yard or run? This is fairly easily solved, but they need a little door and if it is elevated off the ground, a ramp down. We are in a Zone 7 for the general area, but closer to a Zone 5 or 6 in terms of a microclimate and we have never put anything over this door (heat rises). It just stays open all year long. However, there is a run attached that is secure from predators so raccoons and such can't enter through this door.

Photo Credit: Dry Creek Mini Barns

Security. Usually when I hear about someone loosing a chicken to a predator during the night, it's almost always because the coop was not secured. No joke... we actually lock our coop doors at night. No, I'm not worried the neighbors are going to snatch a bird, but raccoons are notorious creatures for figuring out latches and such. Why risk your investment? Keep it secure! And that includes a well constructed roof, flooring, and windows with wire over them in case you want to leave the open for a breeze during warmer weather.

Ventilation. Yes, you want a secure coop,but you need some kind of safe ventilation as well. If your coop is kept clean and you put down some kind of liter on the floor, you shouldn't have a smelly coop. But sometimes life happens and you just can't get it cleaned out on schedule. Add heat and you have a foul (not fowl!) condition for a build up of ammonia! This is not healthy and should be avoided by venting either by opening a window or small vent up in the rafters and roof.

Photo Credit: Dry Creek Mini Barns

Location. You can help regulate the temperature in your chicken coop just by selecting the right location. Building your structure under a deciduous tree provides shade in the summer and sun in the winter. If this same tree covers their yard as well, then they can stay out of the sun in the summer without going indoors where it might be too warm. If your coop is already in place, consider planting a fast growing tree nearby.

Light. A hen's laying cycle is determined somewhat by light, therefore, you don't want your coop to be too dark. Yes, their nesting boxes should be in the darkest part of the coop, but you'll want some windows to bring in as much natural light as possible. Depending on your philosophy of chicken care, you may or may not wish to add a lightbulb during the shorter days of winter to encourage laying. But having electricity in your coop will give you this option, so I highly recommend it... just in case.

Space. Inside the coop,you will need 4 square feet per grown bird as long as you plan to let them out during the day. Also, chickens need roosts and nesting boxes to fulfill their natural inclinations. This will encourage a sense of security and a desire to lay. Be sure your coop has adequate space for these two items as well as a place to feed them inside during inclement weather and storage for extra feed and supplies.

Photo Credit: Dry Creek Mini Barns

Roosts. Chickens feel safe at night when they are at least two feet off the ground on a roost of some kind. It can be as simple as a thick branch you've cut from a tree or a dowel rod from the hardware store, but chickens will do best on a square bar about 2 inches thick. some people put these at different heights (starting at 2 feet and stair stepping up), but if you put them all at the same height, they will all feel "equal" and not fight as much over the top roost (ever heard of a pecking order?). Be sure to allow 10 inches of roost per bird and place them 18 inches apart. And there should be a pit underneath with plenty of liter to catch excess droppings that accumulate during the night.

Nesting Boxes. Hens will lay eggs anyplace they desire, but if you give them a nesting box, they will be happier and so will you! And keep your boxes filled with plenty of fresh cedar pine shavings (my preference) daily and your eggs will almost always be clean (poop-free!). 

Chickens are very particular about nesting boxes. You should have one for every 4 hens, but don't be surprised if you have 10 hens and they all want to use the same box! They definitely have preferences! The easiest measurements for these boxes is 14" x 14" x 14", but you can go a bit smaller if you do not raise the larger dual breeds. If you get the boxes too small or too short, they'll step on the eggs and break them. Each box should be placed about 18-20 inches off the ground and have a roost on the front so they can jump up and walk in the box easily. A slanted roof on top will keep hens from getting on top where they will want to leave droppings and possibly get the eggs dirty. Remember, you want clean eggs!

Whew! I know that's a lot of information, but trust me, some forethought and planning ahead of time will make a world of difference whether your chickens thrive or not. And since this is your biggest investment in keeping chickens, you'll want to get it right the first time. If you plan to build it yourself, books on coop plans can be found at most local libraries or search for plans on line. Otherwise, check out local sources by asking around or looking in the yellow pages. Keep in mind, most sheds can be adapted with a few basic carpentry skills. 

Have fun planning!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Power In Prayer

There is definitely power in prayer! And you all have so faithfully lifted me and my family up before the throne of Grace. Thank you! 

Photo Credit: Samantha Celera

On that note, I thought I'd share what I'm up to these days while I've been quietly off line... praying POWERFULLY for my husband. Not just an SOS prayer, or an quick word lifted up for him, but intense prayer. Perhaps I should have been doing this all along... yes, I'm a pastor's wife. But can I humbly confess that I'm just a girl like you and intense praying doesn't come easy for me? No surprise here, but I tend to be a do-er. I dare say it comes easily only for a precious few. Satan looks for ways to thwart believers and I'm sure he works overtime sending distractions our way to keep us from really doing business on our knees.

I'm speaking to the gals that read this blog for a moment (guys, apply this however it's appropriate for you)... If you consider yourself a homesteader or a homemaker, as the wife and helpmeet, you are most likely the manager of your home. And this is Biblical. 

       "So I counsel younger widows to marry, 
        to have children, 
        to manage their homes 
        and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander."
            ~ I Timothy 5:14

As I see it, one of the first steps in managing your home, is praying for your family. Anyone agree? But home many of us make this our first priority in management? 

I'm not talking about praying to manipulate our spouses and children. I'm talking about praying that we would be willing servants of Christ, walking in the Fruit of the Spirit, and wise in our decisions. I'm talking about being a the best helpmeet we can be and lifting our spouse up to the Lord for Him to work in their life as He (The Lord) sees fit, not how we as wives think our spouses need changing.

Anyone still with me?

I'm working my way through Stormie Omartian's book, The Power of The Praying Wife. There are 30 chapters and prayers so that you can pray one each and every day of the month (the 31st excluded). I figure each month I'll just start over again and keep repeating this until it becomes a habit. And of course, I can always add specific things God places on my heart at anytime, but the point is to make it a habit to pray intensively for my husband. (Guys, there is a book for me called The Power of the Praying Husband, just in case you want to do this, too.)

       "The effective prayer of a righteous man 
       can accomplish much."
          ~ James 5:16

Please share if you've been doing this and what the Lord has done as a result. We'd all love to hear and be encouraged. And if you want to join me, click the link for the book above, get a copy and get praying!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Next For Homestead Revival™?

I've lost track of time this month, but if my guess is right, it's been about 3 weeks since I've posted on a regular basis. The time off has certainly allowed me the opportunity to pray and listen to the Lord as to what I need to do with Homestead Revival™. 

Photo Credit: DeaPeaJay

So many of you have not only encouraged me, but prayed as well, and for that I'm so very thankful! What a sweet gift of love for someone whom you only know through writing on a screen! I'm sure you've come to realize, as I have, that behind each and every pen name or blog ID, there's a real person with a real life and real events and circumstances within that life. 

And it's no different on this end either. I have a real life with a real situation going on as well as a real family. And because the Lord has called me first and foremost to this role, that is where I will devote the majority of my time. Although my husband and I had originally agreed that blogging might meet some of the goals we had set, things change and so the need to adapt to those needs must be met. Researching and blogging on a daily basis is very time consuming and this just isn't the season for me to write so intensively.  

Rather than shutting off the blog entirely, I plan to leave it open and post only when I have plenty of free time and a real need for a creative outlet! (You can probably already imagine how sporadic that will be!) Hopefully, my archive of posts will help fill a need for someone and allow those who are new to the blog to get caught up. 

I just want to express once again how grateful I am for everyone's concern and patience during this last month. Thank you! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bless You!

"I am with you always, 
even to the end of the age."
~ Matthew 28:20

Photo Credit: gem fountain

God is so good to always walk with us and never leave our side! 

Thank you for walking with me by praying for my family during this time. The prayers of the saints are precious in His eyes... and mine!

"Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand."
~ Revelations 8:3-4

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Life On "Pause"...

There has been an obvious lapse in my posting the past few days and I apologize for not writing anything sooner. We are currently dealing with some side effects from my husband's Parkinson's medication and as a result, some aspects of life are on "pause" right now.

I'd like to thank those who've been so kind to notice my absence and have sent emails to check on me. If you think of it, we'd appreciate any extra prayer you could send up on our behalf. I hope to update you as soon as I know what my plans will be in regards to future blogging. 

Thank you for understanding.
Many blessings,


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