Frugal Farming because who doesn’t love to save money

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When I first started my homesteading journey with chickens I will be the first to tell you I was NOT a handy person (I’m barely handy now but I’m learning). I didn’t trust myself to put together a toilet paper holder let alone something an animal would have to call home. So we went out and bought everything BRAND NEW. A new coop, feeders, waters and food. I wanted to get them off to the best start,after all I’d been waiting years to get to raise chickens.

But the BEST doesn’t have to translate to the newest and most expensive. Since adding to my homestead (mostly out of necessity) we have learned how to come WAY down on the cost of raising animals. And for the most part the animals pay for themselves!

Getting a Deal and Free Stuff

Facebook Market Place, Craig’s List and the like is your new friend, get chummy.  If you need an animal crate (and when DON’T you need a crate on a homestead) instead of heading to the store to buy one ALWAYS check Facebook market place.  I have gotten all of my animal crates for free. Today I scored a ton of free straw to use as bedding for the goats.  I’ve even found FREE cable spools to make my goats’ playground (Goat Playground).  NEVER turn down FREE PALLETS, that’s one of my top pieces of advice NEVER EVER EVER turn down free pallets.

Do it Yourself

Unless you absolutely have to don’t hire people to do work on your homestead.  It’s not hard to put up animal fencing and there are tons of YouTube videos to teach you how to do it.  You can save tons of money by buying the material and renting the tools and making a family experience out of it. If you don’t teach your child the proper way to hammer their thumb with a rubber mallet who will? That being said if you really don’t feel like you are capable of doing the work don’t try and mess it up and waste time, money, and materials and then still have to hire it to be done.  Weigh the options and choose which decision is right for your situation.

Put those animals to work

Homestead animals aren’t pets they need to work to earn their keep. You aren’t there to wait on them hand and foot they work for you. A foreign concept for me because I’m a spoiler, all of my animals are very spoiled and that’s ok, BUT these animals have a purpose and they are meant to provide . My chickens work the compost that’s their job (Click Here to see how I put them to work) and that’s how they earn their food–LITERALLY.  I feed my chickens from a feeder, but they get a large amount of their food from the compost pile.  I encourage my chickens to forage as well.

I also use the chickens to provide their own feed.  The money I save by not having to buy eggs and selling eggs pays for their feed and bedding for the month.

With the goats we calculate their yearly feed costs and take that into account when we sell off their babies.  The cost of the babies should more than cover their feed costs.  Surprisingly it costs LESS to feed the goats than it does the chickens because they are able to provide so much of their own food by browsing.

Saving NOT Hoarding

When you’re done a project save your left over and scrap materials.  You never know when you’re going to need a small piece of wood, a random screw, a 14″ x 7′ scrap of chicken wire.  When you take down a fence (even if you’re 1000% sure you’re never getting that particular animal back and don’t need a fence) roll the fencing back up and store it and the T-posts for your next fencing project…you know all too well that there WILL be another fencing project…there is ALWAYS a fencing project.  You’re going to go to a homestead swap and see an adorable little sheep and wouldn’t you rather just go in your shed and already have the materials on hand.  No one can resist baby farm animals, those are just the facts Jack (yes I know you’re name really isn’t Jack)!  BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND HOLY DON’T BECOME A HOARDER!  That can cause frugality problems all it’s own.  If you have so much stuff that you don’t even know what you have, chances are you can’t find it any way and when you need an eye hook you’re going to run out to the hardware store and purchase one, when you have a bucket with precisely 421 eye hooks buried under your small mountain of burlap squares that you thought sure you would have used by now.  So keep your materials semi organized and don’t get carried away.

Re-Purposing

FREE PALLETS.  You can always find free pallets…break them down and use them for wood.  Our goat shelter (Building a Goat House) and milk stand (Building a Milking Stand) is built from pallets and re-purposed wood.  That’s a country mile away from a brand new chicken coop but it looks great and serves the purpose.

Improvising when it’s safe

You don’t always have to have the exact tool for the job (although sometimes you really really truly do need specific tools) sometimes there is a similar item laying around that will work just fine.  Case and point, an old fashioned potato masher makes and excellent little garden rake when you’re potting plants and cooking spoons make excellent trowels. A dog crate wrapped in blankets works well when you don’t have a Dogloo for baby goats.

So if you haven’t started homesteading or have been hesitant to expand your homestead because of financial constraints you may want to try some of these tips. Now hang on there a second Nancy (I also know your name isn’t Nancy), I’m not saying you can toss your budget out of the window and go whole hog and buy an emu (so please no emails from angry spouses because you’re broke and being chased by an emu…I did not authorize that). I’m saying that with some careful adjustments you may be able to save some money and then use that to buy an emu.

And I’d emus aren’t your thing have you ever seen a baby goat?

Happy (FRUGAL) Flocking!

Are we Really Going there?!

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MEAT BIRDS! Cornish Cross.

I know I can’t believe it either.  My how times have changed.

When  I first started with chickens I couldn’t imagine harming a feather on their cute little heads.  No matter what we would NEVER eat my babies.

So what happened?

I became a HOMESTEADER!  I went from being a person who owned chickens as pets to someone who was raising animals and “farming” to care for and nourish her family.  I was so ecstatic that we were getting all of these fresh wonderful eggs that were such excellent quality and then eating chicken meat that was subpar and it just didn’t seem right.

So the wheels started turning.  Did I really want to raise up animals for SLAUGHTER?  I wanted desperately to be someone who got to say without guilt “Oh yes I eat meat, but I don’t care to know where it comes from” but it didn’t feel right and it felt disrespectful to my birds.

So I tried to think of ways around it.  “Well I will just raise them, but then we will send them off to be butchered”,  but there are two problems with that:

  1. Why pay extra to have them butchered?  At that point is it really cost effective?
  2. It still felt disrespectful to send them away for their final moment.  I recently watched a VLOG from Justin Rhodes where he talked about it being the farmers job to make sure the animal being butchered only had one bad day in their beautiful life.

So then we were in it to win it.  Jumping in head first and learning how to farm our own protein.  We are working hard to give our chickens the most humane and respectful life possible.  It is important to us that they just experience one bad moment in their beautiful lives.  We will dispatch the in the quickest most humane way.  They will be thanked for their contribution and they will not be wasted.

Stay tuned to see our journey with the meat birds and whether or not we like it enough to do again.

 

***Disclaimer***

We know that not everyone agrees with killing animals for food, but it is our intention to be humane and respectful along the process.  We understand if you do not want to read these blogs and watch these videos and chose to skip this portion of our homesteading journey.

No Freeloaders Here—How I Make my Chickens Earn Their Feed and How I Can Feed Them Less

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If given the opportunity chickens will eat and eat and eat. If their feeders are full and you throw scraps in the run they’ll act like it’s their first time seeing food…EVER! So I decided to put my chickens to work! If you don’t work you don’t eat. So what kind of job hires a chicken?

Now my Polish girls with their fancy hair would be excellent secretaries, actually I believe the appropriate term is administrative assistant, but we couldn’t find a company that wanted to pay in whole corn or oats so we went with something more suited for their pay grade.

So I turned them into live composters. Not only do they work/turn the compost for me to help break it down faster (while adding the green nitrogen material–manure) but they get a generous amount of food from the pile–in turn decreasing the amount I have to feed them (even though they pretend that I’m starving them).

Watch here to see how our compost is coming along and how it provides for our poultry.

Best Milking Advice Ever

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Watch the Video–Best Milking Advice EVER

Are you training a first time goat to milk? Well I am and it’s a learning curve for both of us and although Capri is much more patient than Millie she has her limit. I think by the end of the first few sessions we were both ready to cry. In fact maybe we both did. But then I heard the BEST milk training advice ever.

DITCH THE BUCKETimg_6272

The bucket is your weakness and the goats know it!

I know that sounds insane but think about it. You and the goat have been fighting for days to learn how to milk. She thinks you’re trying to steal her babies food and you are desperate to get just a few drops. You’re not asking for quarts just a swallow for your morning coffee. So you cling tight to your bucket anytime she kicks you hang on to that bucket for dear life trying to preserve those few precious drops that you have! So they kick and you let go of the teat to grab your bucket. AHA! Now they know your weakness.

So for the first week of training ditch the bucket and milk onto the ground or a towel. That way if they kick you hang on and keep on milking. There is no bucket to try to save. They will learn that kicking doesn’t get you to let go and then you can introduce your bucket after the hooves stop flying.

Homesteading with a Toddler

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A word of warning…DON’T DO IT!!  If you are thinking about starting a homestead throw your toddler out…the whole toddler, just throw them out.  If you clicked on this because you were hoping for advice on how to make homesteading with a toddler easier, you clicked on the wrong post because I DO NOT have the answers.

Every morning I go out to check on my chickens and collect eggs.  I have to take my three year old with me because I don’t want her to burn down our home.  That means she needs boots and a coat (because this never ending winter keeps assaulting us).  Not just any boots will do so she has to try on a few pair.  Just when you are about ready to burn every pair of boots she owns in the fireplace she will pick the first pair she tried on and INSIST on putting them on herself…very very slowly.  WRONG FOOT.  You think surely this is fine since her shoes are always on the wrong foot…guess again.  Now that her shoes are on and three months has passed you can go to the coop and check for eggs.

Your precious angel will insist on carrying the eggs she finds.  She’ll happily tuck a green egg in her pocket and ask you to use it to make her scrambled eggs.  On the way in she will trip and crush said egg.  She will cry because her coat is “ruined”.  After you get her cleaned up she will remember that she wanted eggs, but no other eggs will suffice.  She only wants the one that was crushed, never mind that you have a dozen green eggs.  She NEEDS the one that was crushed in her pocket.  You’re now sure your child will starve because she will be on a green egg hunger strike all day.

Luckily there are tasks that I can give her to do all by herself that not only teach her responsibility and make her feel helpful, but that also give me little bursts of time when I can get other chores done.

  • Dumping the compost bucket
  • Filling water buckets with the hose (and soaking surrounding areas)
  • Giving treats to chickens
  • Searching for ducks eggs
  • Giving the goats fresh veggies through the fence

Other “tricks that I try to make homesteading with a toddler more manageable:

  • Waking up and getting things that CANNOT be done with a toddler done (like milking)–*disclaimer*  this only works if your child doesn’t have a sixth sense that alerts them as soon as you go from deep sleep breathing to awake breathing.  My kids eyes fly open as soon as my feet hit the floor.
  • Doing chores during a time when your toddler is distracted-screen time.
  • Doing chores during nap time (if such a things exists at your house)

None of those tips will actually work, but those are the little tidbits of advice that I’m supposed to give you.  Those tried and true tips that everyone will tell you.  You’ll try them for a little while and feel a little smug when they work and then the next week it all goes out of the window because that’s what having a toddler is…CHAOS.  No two hours are the same let alone two days or two weeks.

Don’t get me wrong having a tiny helper following you around learning from you and vice versa is wonderful.  I wouldn’t want to raise my kids any other way.  This post was simply me laughing about how much “extra” toddlers are to have around when you already have so many chores to tend to.

When Delivery is Scary—The Difference Between an Easy and Difficult Delivery

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Well kidding season 2018 has come to a close! I’m so happy to announce that we have three beautiful healthy kids. We went with a Retro Snack naming theme

Now that it’s all over I want to reflect on the kidding experience…and boy were they different. Capri had an easy text book delivery and Millie’s experience was a little more complicated.

Click here to see Capri’s Smooth Delivery

Click here to see Millie’s INTENSE Delivery

As you could see in the video Millie’s singleton buckling was quite large and we needed to go in and help her by pulling him out! It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I felt like both of their lives were in my hands and I was helpless to do anything.

As Millie started laboring and pushing I got a gut feeling that something was wrong. She seemed to be in more pain than Capri was. I understand that everyone is different so I just kept praying that Millie was a drama queen. But she kept trying to position the kids and didn’t seem to be progressing and even before she started truly pushing I knew that I was going to have to go in this birth (that’s what I get for joking after Capri’s babies that I wanted to use my birthing kit–Millie sure gave me that opportunity). As she began to actively push the bubble emerged but there was no baby in sight I figured the kid might be stuck. After screaming, straining and starting to get exhausted we decided it was time to go in. The baby’s big head was stuck. It took two of us, me and my wonderful neighbor who happens to be a nurse, to reposition the baby and pull him out with contractions. Everyone cheered when he emerged. We just knew he was going to be hurt from the pulling but he was perfect.

After this experience I realized that no matter how much you prepare something can come along and throw a wrench in your plans. This little buckling threw the whole tool box.

We all know that you should have a birthing kit prepared and available weeks before kidding. But here are some things that I learned (the hard way) that you should think of:

  • A charged cell phone: both births my phone was near dead (and ended up dying). If I had to call a vet or ask a question in a group we could’ve been up the creek without a paddle.
  • A charged camera: you are going to be rushed and busy but you WILL want the footage of the exciting moment later.
  • Restock: I had my birthing kit perfect for my first kidding. But when it came time to take care of Millie for my second kidding I realized that I hadn’t restocked my gloves. And I spent valuable time looking for a fresh pair. It’s also important to re-sterilize your tools (I remembered to do this)
  • Vet: I mention in this video how important it is to get established with a livestock vet BEFORE you bring home livestock animals. I had literally gotten established with one the day before Millie kidded. Praise the Lord we didn’t need her, but we had one to call had we needed to.
  • Help: I am so grateful for my incredible neighbor who happened to be outside. You don’t always need help when you have to assist in a delivery but in this case 4 hands were definitely necessary.
  • Support Community: during the kidding process I had a lot of questions (I am a first timer after all) and I am so blessed to belong to an online community that has no shortage of people wanting to help you.
  • Self Care: Don’t forget about yourself. Millie kidded on a super cold windy day. I had to spend a few hours out side so I needed to be comfortable so that I wouldn’t be itching to get back inside (don’t worry the adrenaline helps). Wear weather appropriate comfortable clothes. I also had blankets and a hot drink for myself.

All in all Millie’s birth could have been way more traumatic than it was so I’m grateful that we just got a small taste of what could go wrong, but from now on I will be *that* much more prepared and I will expect the unexpected.

Choosing Chicks–Which to Order When you Can Only Have a Few

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Do you want pretty birds?  Prolific layers?  Colorful eggs?  All of these are important questions to ponder when choosing your chicks.  It’s even more important if you’re only allowed to have a few.  If you have to be selective you need to know your “WHY”.  Why do you want chickens?  Is it because they’re cute and you just want some pets?  If yes then go with pretty birds.  Is it because you want to make money and start and egg selling business?  If so go with prolific layers. Is it because you want fresh eggs for your family?  In that case you can really choose any bird.  Knowing your WHY when getting started is key.

Don’t let all of the options get you intimidated.  Write down your why and stick it to your computer screen so that when you’re geeking out over the dozens of choices for baby chicks you can try to keep your wits about you–and it won’t be easy–I get chick drunk by merely opening the website. Polish hens are beautiful and super friendly and make great pets, but if you want to start an egg business 6 Polish hens aren’t going to serve you that well.  So try to be practical (trust me this is NOT a strength for me, just ask my husband).

So here are my top picks in EACH category.

Pretty Birds: Birds that are fun or funky to look at. May not be great layers but make great pets.

Polish

Silkies

Frizzles

Naked Necks

Prolific Layers: Lay lots of nice quality eggs.

White Leghorn (although they are not my favorite chickens 🐔 they WILL lay like machines)

My PERSONAL favorite prolific layers:<<<<
er Egger

Australorps

Colored Egg Layers: Any color other than white <<
ster Egger

Blue Favaucana

Cream Legbar

Black Copper Marans

So choose your why and then pick the birds that are best for you. My other advice to you would be to order two of each type of chick because sometimes chicks die but you can’t just call in and order one (they can’t ship alone) so you’ll either have to make another minimum order or go without that breed that you wanted.

My favorite place to order from is My Pet Chicken. They have an excellent selection of birds and great customer service!

If you want a closer look at my flock you can check them out here in this video.

Happy Flocking!