How To Find the Right Chicken Coop While On a Budget

Since we’ve moved into the house, I’ve been pretty anxious to get my farm life started. Matt and I decided it would be easiest to start off with getting some chickens, so I’ve spent the past few weeks researching and pricing coops like crazy.

Whenever I want to buy anything, I usually start off with Amazon. They had some fairly cheap coops at around $250 or so, but once I started to read the comments, I realized they were all cheap for a reason. This was pretty much the case for any affordable pre-fabricated chicken coop I looked up.

According to various message boards, a handmade coops seem to be the way to go. Except we can’t really afford one of those sturdy looking Amish coops that go for around $1,000. We found some pretty good used ones on Craig’s List, at good prices, but since we don’t have a truck to transport them, that caused a whole other set of problems.

We were referred to this Amish guy, who I was told makes really good coops and his pricing is half the cost you would see them at the store and even better, he would deliver to our area (for a large fee).

I was pretty excited about finally getting a good, quality, coop, but I still wasn’t too thrilled at the price. I tried to convince Matt that I could build one myself, but he didn’t seem too confident in my skills.

Eventually I came across a used shed on Craig’s List that was previously used for chickens. It was going for just a few hundred and even better he would deliver to us for free!

IMG_0286It didn’t come with a roost or nest boxes, but it’s big enough to fit around 15 or so chickens (just in case I get chicken crazy). It still need’s a lot of work and isn’t chicken ready yet, but I think it was a pretty good deal for the price.

IMG_0287It needs a new floor, we’re planning to use some cheap Linoleum so it’s easy to clean and we won’t have to worry about the wood rotting.

IMG_0289There’s also some gaps that need to be covered to prevent predators from marching in. Matt also wants to paint it and give it a new roof. But all in all, he seems confident that we’ll be ready to get some chickens by next weekend. Yay!

Adventures in Fermentation

I love garlic… A lot. So, a few months ago, when I came across a recipe for fermenting garlic, I was all over it.

Following the recipe, I used a regular canning jar (metal lid). Except a few days after the garlic had been sitting on my counter for a few days, I did some extra research on fermenting vegetables. (cue dramatic music)

Using anything other than an air-locked lid can be dangerous as it allows the wrong types of bacteria to flourish. Good to know for next time, but not so great for the current batch. Now I’m paranoid of getting sick, but not enough to scrap a whole jar of garlic and start from scratch! I mean Learning and Yearning manged not to get botulism right?

Well the recipe suggested leaving it on the counter for two weeks and then moving it to the refrigerator. I ended up leaving it on the counter for three weeks, since I kind of forgot about it. I came home one day to the whole house smelling of garlic and in the fridge it went.

So the garlic should be ready and fully fermented after about a month in fridge, but I figured I’d leave it until I had the time and energy to do something with it. Well that was in April, so yesterday I decided now was the time to open it up and give it a taste.

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Easier said than done! Neither me nor Matt could do anything to get the lid off. I punctured a hole in the top, hoping to relieve the pressure. All the brine fizzed out, but the lid was still stuck in place! After about an hour of prying, I managed to get the rusted lid off, but was now more concerned than ever about the safety of eating this garlic.

I gave it some thought and figured I can honestly say I’ve eaten more suspicious stuff while backpacking, so I decided to dive right in! And It tasted really good! Like a garlicky pickle almost. And I can’t wait to throw them in my salad tonight.

Matt, being ever cautious, won’t even try one until after 24 hours to make sure I don’t get sick. Well it’s close to a full day and I’m feeling pretty normal so fingers crossed.

How to Prepare for Pet Chickens

Over the weekend, Matt was kind enough to do some weed whacking in our future chicken enclosure. The goal was to get enough weeds to be able to check that the fence was intact on all sides of the enclosure and to also make room for us to set up the coop.

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It might be a bit hard to tell, but there was definite progress! He wasn’t able to check the fence all around, but I’m pretty confident that it’s all intact. The only problem is a gap in the chicken wire by the entrance gate, which is something that can easily be fixed.

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And good news, under all those weeds, we found what could be used as a goat shed!

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It’s really small, but I think it might be just enough room for two Nigerian Dwarf goats for now. It’ll need a lot of work before we actually get a goat, but it’s definitely better than having to build one from scratch!

Keeping Chicken Safe From Predators – How To Set Up A Safe And Secure Chicken Run

11249152_10100361429185118_5187180756282608667_nHome Sweet Home

The past few weeks has been a blur pf packing and unpacking and we’re not even close to settled in yet. But that hasn’t stopped me from doing some major chicken coop shopping.

Matt thinks we should keep any chickens in a run to keep them safe from predators, but we have two huge enclosures already set up, so I think our future chickens should be able to free range as much as they want during the day.

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From what I read, one of the ways to keep free range chickens safe, is to have a rooster in your flock. But being as we’re so new to the neighborhood, I think keeping a rooster right away might be pushing it.

So, my initial plan was to use some sort of baseball netting to cover the enclosure, so we wouldn’t have to worry about hawk attacks. However, I do think, at least for now, that there’s probably enough bushes and tree cover to sufficiently protect the chickens from hawks.

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Being that I’m so lazy, I’m hoping the chickens will clear most of the weeds in the enclosure,so I don’t have to do it. Once that happens though, we might need to make sure they have some overhead protections, like the baseball netting.

Other than hawks, my main concern is that we have is a large number of feral cats that like to hang out in our backyard. Because of this, I’m considering making sure the enclosure is covered in Hardware Cloth that’s more likely to keep predators out. Since cat’s are sneaky, it won’t be able to keep them out, but it might make it a big enough hassle for the cats to deter them. Also, it’s probably better to get larger chickens that small cats are less likely to attack, which means no more Bantams.

What Should You Do When You Need Your Compost Ready In a Hurry?

As we’re packing up all of our things around the house to get ready to move, one thing occurred to me. We have two compost tumblers and both were completely full and way too heavy to even consider moving. So I’m going to need to empty out all the compost, before we can take them to the new house (such a waste!).

So one tumbler I was hoping to have ready by fall, and the other one I was stopped adding to when we found out we would be moving, and was nowhere close to being ready.

Now, the reason why I bought these tumblers is because we have a huge bear problem in our neighborhood and I needed something secure enough to withstand frequent bear attacks. And that’s something this tumbler has been really great at. But the problem with such a narrow opening, is that it’s hard to get the compost out, especially if it’s not ready.

IMG_0243So, in desperation, I moved the tumblers over to one my garden beds and flipped it over, so the opening was over the ground. My hope was that there would be more access to earth worms and other bugs that would help it break down more quickly.

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I was pretty surprised by the results. Within a week, the one that was closer to being done, was just about done (only two weeks earlier that one was filled with maggots).

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And within two weeks the other tumbler was just loose enough for me to empty. There were still large chunks of leaves and other organic matter, but it was broken down enough that there wasn’t a smell, which I was worried about since that would definitely attract bears. Also, I think looked okay raked over the garden bed.

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So all in all, I think it was a success. I got my bins empty in time for the big move! I’m just sad that I won’t be around next year to see what springs up from all this unfinished compost!

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Is Your Makeup Giving You Cancer?

I came across this article by Jezebel about the possible toxic effect of makeup and thought it was really interesting. The headline asks “Is Your Makeup Giving You Cancer” and the conclusion of the story seems to be no. But my takeaway from the article was that makeup is fine. Not because the chemicals are safe, but because there are so many other carcinogens or cancer causing chemicals in every day products that it’s impossible to avoid (Fire Retardants being a good example) and there’s just no sense in only replacing your makeup with organic makeup.

That being said, while it is nearly impossible to live a completely organic or carcinogen free lifestyle in this day and age, I don’t think it means you should just give up. I think it’s important to mindful of what we put in or on our bodies, but at the same time, stressing over it can be just as harmful.

I don’t eat organic foods all the time (and probably not even half the time), but I do make sure to buy organic baby food for my daughter. I never used to put much thought into tampons, but now I only use organic, all cotton tampons because of the lower risk to Toxic Shock Syndrome (I thought about the Diva Cup, but I’m just not there yet).

I was never into wearing much makeup, but because of my recent skin allergies, I have to be super careful of what I put on my skin, which is why I’m super jazzed about making my own skin care products so I have one less thing to worry about.

I know there are a lot of people who will only buy organic (which is super expensive) and some people who think I can’t afford it, so why bother, but I like to think of it more as triaging. Like if I’ve spent too much at the grocery store, I’ll skip the organic eggs and vegetables but I’ll spend extra on the all natural soap and lotion.

Which Chicken Breeds are the Best?

As I’ve mentioned before, I have done a fair amount of research on how to raise chickens. I even attended a poultry rearing workshop at Midsummer Farms. I just haven’t done much research on the different types of chicken breeds. The only thing I really care about, is that any chickens be kid friendly and also hardy enough to survive harsh winters. But since there are so many breeds to choose from, it’s pretty difficult to narrow down

The winters here can get pretty bad, and also we plan to use the Deep Litter Method to keep our chicken coop warm. Even though the deep litter method requires ventilation in the chicken coop, I’m sure it’s pretty effective if done correctly, but since we’re newbies, it’s probably best to err on the side of us not knowing what we’re doing. Which is why it’s important that our chickens be cold hardy.

The chicken raising workshop I took at Midsummer Farm was 2 years ago. While I still have my notes, all it says is “Blue Laced Red and Winnebago” and for the life of me, I can’t remember why those two breeds were particularly good. My Pet Chicken also has a chicken breed selector tool, but my answers came up with 26 different types of breeds! Way too many for me to choose from.

So My takeaway is that it doesn’t really matter what breed I end up getting, especially if I buy them locally. I might pick Bantam Chickens, just because they sound cute. But I’ll most likely end up adopting chickens from our local animal sanctuary.

How Do I Know Which Goat Breeds Are Good For Me?

Over the years, I’ve done a fair amount of research on raising chickens, so I’m feeling pretty confident about that, but raising goats is something Matt and I decided to just a few weeks ago, so lately I’ve been trying to do as much research as possible.

Since I plan on using the goats for milk, the milk breeds available are: Nubian, La Mancha, Alpine, Oberhasli, Toggenburg, Saanen, Sable, and Nigerian Dwarf goats.

At first, I was planning to adopt a rescue goat, but since my husband is extremely wary about drinking goats milk, and I also want to make sure our goats will be friendly for toddlers, I think a pure bred kid might be better. According to Weed em and Reap, Nigerian Dwarf’s milk has been bred to taste more like cow’s milk, which Matt seems happy with, and I like the idea of having a smaller goat (cuter and less scary for my daughter and eats less).

On the other hand, I was a bit worried that restricting myself to one breed of goat, might make it hard for me to find a kid to buy. So I looked on the America Goat Society for members located in my state. The American Goat Society, only lists goat breeders that use pure bred goats, so I know that any farms listed should be on the up and up.

For NJ, there was only one farm listed, Aisling Farm, but lucky for me, it looks like they’re located nearby. From browsing theire website, they also seem to be the type of farm I was looking for, so I’ll probably contact them in a few months when we’re all set up to see when they expect to have any does for sale.