Chickens at Eight Weeks: An Update

Our first experience at raising chickens continues to go well. These ladies are about halfway to early adulthood and should be laying in a couple months.

Our chickens are now eight weeks old and still growing rapidly.  They were fuzzy balls with legs and beaks when we got them, they grew to look like badly feathered miniature dinosaurs, and finally  became recognizable as birds when they were about the size of a pigeon.  Today, they are obviously chickens.  Half size, yes, but clearly identifiable as chickens.  They are also developing distinct personalities. Happily, all 17 have survived.

At this stage, they have little red nubs where their combs will be, and the nubs are more prominent on the bird we assume are the males.  One roosters goes around chest bumping other birds.  I don’t think they are celebrating touchdowns, so I have to assume he is trying to establish his dominance and position in the “pecking order.”

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In Search of Meat for my Survival Stores

I don’t want to live on grains an greens alone. I am a omnivore unless given the opportunity to be a carnivore. But that’s difficult to accommodate when prepping.

I priced rabbits today at Rural King and they were about $42 each.  Yikes!  After buying chicks for just a few dollars each, I was shocked at the higher cost.  Of course, rabbit pens would be cheaper and easier to construct than the chicken coop and run.  I think three does and a buck should generate enough bunnies to butcher eat at least one per week.  I figure my start-up costs would maybe $300 plus food. 

I’m not ready to take that step yet.  I want to get the chickens laying and butcher and eat a few birds first.  They are my proof of concept, so to speak.  Can we breed and raise enough chickens to help feed us during a collapse or food crisis?  Will my chickens survive the weather and the predators long enough to lay eggs?  Will they become broody enough to hatch their own eggs and raise their own chicks?  Can we feed them if there is no commercial feed available? 

Maybe I will consider rabbits next year.  In the meantime, a dog is probably ahead of them on the list. (Don’t worry, the dog is not for eating. If I want to eat dog meat, I’ll just kill a coyote.)

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How to Prepare for Drought and Changing Weather Patterns

The Western U.S. is experiencing a record-setting drought. How can you survive if your water source dries up? What options are there?

Note: The purpose of this article is not to debate the science or the politics of climate change or global warming; its purpose is to help preppers prepare for weather-related natural disaster, including drought. 

Unprecedented Natural Disasters

This year the Western states are experiencing what is or will probably become the worst drought on record. The snow pack in California is almost non existent. Reservoirs are at record lows, and hydropower generation may come to a halt as water levels sink lower. Farmers have had to let fields lie fallow because there is no water to grow crops.

The West is also seeing some of the highest temperatures on record with temperatures over 100 in places like Montana and Washington State. These high temperatures cause evaporation, which means even less water in those reservoirs, lakes and rivers.

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The Chickens Graduate from their Brooder to their Coop

After a month, the garage had started to smell, well, like chickens. Or maybe chicken poop. The time had come to move them into their permanent home.

We moved the chickens from their brooder into the coop yesterday. We did this by carrying the brooder (a large dog crate) out to the coop and trying to coax the chickens to move from the brooder into the coop. The change of scenery scared them, and they cowered at the back of the brooder, refusing to go into the coop.

You’d think they would want more room, but perhaps that much space was intimidating. We had to drive them from the back of the box until they ran into the coop in a panic. Once there, they quickly adapted to their new environment and immediately started scratching and searching for edibles in the straw we use as bedding.

One of the nice things about the move is that we can now give them larger food and water containers. I was filling the old food container three times per day and the waterer twice per day. The chicks found the food right away. Because it is larger, there are more feeding stations, so less crowding.

We also gave the pieces of zucchini, along with plenty of grass and clover. They like their greens.

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The Chicken Coop is Complete, but the Chicks aren’t Quite Ready for Outdoor Life

We got off to a slow start back in mid-March and the weather wasn’t the most cooperative, but we’ve finally finished building the chicken coop.

The chicken coop is complete! All the doors are in place; I trimmed and screened all the windows with hardware cloth; the locks are installed; the door has tested just fine; and I built the roosts.

Now all we have to do is wait for our chickens to get at least another 10 days older.

Homemade garden gate
This garden gate is five feet wide, which gives plenty of room for a wheelbarrow or a garden tractor to get through.

I am continuing to improve the fencing as well. I have used 6-inch landscaping staples to anchor the welded wire fencing to the ground. Then I started to install the half-inch hardware cloth on the fence that goes around the coop. This is four feet high and I am installing 18 to 24-inches on the ground to keep predators from digging in and the balance above to keep small rodents out. We also installed the garden gate.

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Feeding the Bees and Cleaning the Chickens

We may have small stock, but its keeping us busy! From feeding the bees to cleaning chicks with pasty butt, it’s all part of a day in the life of a homseteader.

Five or six days after transferring my bees from their nucs into a full-size hive, I inspected the three beehives. All of them were doing well. Plenty of yellow and orange pollen is being brought in by the foragers and I could see the bees storing it away.

Hive 1

I switched hive bodies in the first hive, which came on medium frames, putting a medium box on the bottom and adding a new deep hive on top of it. The bees had built comb below one of the medium frames, so I moved it to the larger box, along with a full-size frame on which they had drawn comb. I hope the queen will gradually move to top box and lay her eggs there. I prefer to use my large hive bodies for brood and the mediums for honey, but sometimes things don’t always go as planned. I’ll remain flexible and will wait and see what the bees do.

There were three or four frames with brood which had pollen and wet, uncapped nectar around it with some capped honey at the top. There was also a frame full of bee bread and honey. These bees were in the midst of drawing out a couple frames and are in good shape. I expect the hive to keep growing.

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Another Busy Week on the Homestead

With spring giving way to summer and summer storms rolling through, we have to plan our work around the weather. There always seems to be more to be done.

We tackled multiple projects this week, some inside and some outside as we received more than 2.5 inches of rain and plenty of mountain fog over the past few days.

I built a new desktop computer for my wife, after ordering all the components online, moving her from her creaky Windows 7 box to a new Windows 10 computer. Transition was pretty seamless and all her old peripherals and her wireless network card worked just fine, which was a relief. That filled a rainy day and then it took part of the night for Windows to update repeatedly.

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It’s Finally Time to Install our Welded Wire Fence

Now that the beehives are set up, we need to get our fencing up before the bears sniff them out and come for a visit.

After spending a good part of the day installing our fence, I feel like I need a horse and a cowboy hat.

There are seven sections of fence to pull. First, to surround the garden and the beehives. Then I will subdivide the big rectangular area to create a chicken run around the chicken coop. I’ve pulled three of the seven sections and I have at least another day’s worth of work before we even get to the electric fence. But it’s going faster as I gain experience. The biggest challenge is pulling fence in the area where the ground is uneven, and since our lot slopes, there are multiple areas where it is uneven.

Right now, I am pulling a 5-foot-high 2” x 4” welded wire fence. Around the chicken coop we are adding half-inch welded wire with a foot or two lying on the ground to prevent predators from digging under the fence. After I finish installing the welded wire fence, I’ll pull a multiple single-strand wires for the electric fence. I will cover the electric fence design and install in a future post.

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A Forging we Will Go; Building the Perfect Fixed Blade Knife

I never worked a forge or done any blacksmithing, but that’s all going to change. Now I just have to decide what to make.

I have three hours booked on a forge this coming week.  I’m going to forge—or at least start forging—a fixed blade knife that may become my new field knife.

I probably have at least 18 or 20 knives, both fixed and folding, but I only carry three different blades on a regular basis. Most of them sit in a box or are tucked into a bug out bag or vehicle emergency kit. I think every young man has bought a knife that they thought was cool, only to realize some years later that it was foolish. I kept mine around along with some inexpensive blades. They may have little value now, but in a post-SHTF situation, I can trade, give, or lend them out to someone who realizes any knife is better than no knife.

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Wow, Talk About a Busy Day

They say that when it rains it pours. That was the case today when all the livestock we had ordered months ago showed up on the same day.

We were expecting the baby chicks to show up today on either the 6:30 a.m. mail truck of the 8:30 a.m. truck. Both deadlines pass, so I take a shower, grab the garbage, and head out to pick up my two additional hives of bees.

I dropped the garbage off at the waste disposal and management site and was heading toward a breakfast biscuit when the phone rang. It was the post office. The chicks had arrived—more than an hour later than expected. By now, I’m half an hour away, so they would have to wait. I figure, they’ve been in the post offices hands for 36 hours, another one or two won’t matter. So I get breakfast, stop by the ATM so I can pay for my bees, and then visit the bee lady.

We had a friendly chat about pollen flow, her queen breeding business, and other bee-related matters. Then we bundled the two hives into the back of my truck, and I headed to the post office, which was about 45 minutes away. As soon as I walked in the door, I could hear the chicks peeping.

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