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Faithful Homesteader

Broodiness and Other Chicken Drama

Faithful HomesteaderMy life as a chicken mama has had its challenges lately. There is a lot of chicken drama on the homestead. It wasn’t that long ago that we brought home four new Serama chickens. We were enjoying getting to know them and spending quality time with them. Then Barbie went broody. Overnight, she was not the same chicken that we brought home. She was definitely mean and aggressive.

Our broody Barbie

I did my best to break the broodiness, but she is a stubborn one. I had always heard that broodiness could be a bit contagious, so I was worried about that. Even when I was able to keep Barbie out of the nesting boxes, she started just hanging out on the roost. I would throw her out often so that she could eat, drink, and forage some. Barbie even ended up on the roof of the house.

Barbie on the roof

It wasn’t long until our original hen, Buster, went broody. Once again, I did my best to break her, but she too can be stubborn. When she is able to get in the coop she will lay right outside the blocked nesting boxes. Next, our little Lilah started to act broody. I could not believe that I had three broody chickens on my hands. It has been a challenge for me.

We had one other chicken, Kota, that was laying, and I thought she might be going broody. She was not herself, and I was worried about her. She did quit laying, but it turned out that she had worms. That was the last thing that I needed. It put me in high-strung chicken-mama mode. When I got the diagnosis from the vet, we brought home the dewormer ready to take on the fun task of trying to give all the girls the medicine.

It was not fun, and we still have to give another round of treatment. Barbie was pecking at me while my husband held her. After my husband put Lilah back in the coop and grabbed one of the other hens, she attacked him. None of the girls are used to us handling them, but the broody ones are easier to catch. Lilah has even flown onto our shoulders and hung out. That was a new one for us.

I am worried about Kota because her poo still has a bit of yellow in it, but it is much better than it was. She does seem to be doing the normal chicken things other than laying eggs. I think she is more active than earlier in the week. Our other hen, Nailie, has not been laying, so she and Kota hang out together while the other chicks continue their broody ways.

It seems like the broodiness is never going to end. Since nobody is laying we have been locking out the broody girls for much of the day. I hope that will help at some point. They can’t stand it. I am ready for everyone to get back to normal and back to being productive. I want all my girls to be happy and healthy.

New Garden, New Technique

Faithful HomesteaderOnce again, my husband is changing things up for the garden this year. He always likes trying new methods. He seems more excited and committed to the garden this year. The past few years he has been more lax about it. This season, he is using ground level beds. The garden is already producing well.

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My husband put together the beds using three 2"x8”x8’ pieces of untreated wood. We certainly don’t want any chemicals leaching into the soil. One plank was cut in half to use for the end pieces. He just nailed everything together. He dug trenches where the beds were going, set the beds in them, and filled it back in.

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The ground level beds are supposed to help with a particular weed that has plagued us since we moved to our humble homestead. The weed shoots long runners underground deep into the soil. It kills the plants. The beds are housing the majority of our crops this year, and my husband is tilling around the external perimeter of the garden trying to keep the runners from coming up.

The ground level beds allow us to put down a thick layer of mulch for the health of the plants. As it decomposes over the season, it will provide beneficial nutrients to the plants. It also keeps the soil temperature down and keeps moisture in the soil. The boxes are also helping us keep things organized and compartmentalized. In addition, my husband is planting grass in between the boxes. This is to provide a ground cover. Like the mulch, it will also keep the soil temperature down and help maintain moisture in the soil.

The in-ground beds are better for us here in North Texas. Raised beds are not ideal because the soil gets too hot being elevated and exposed, and it shortens the growing season. We have had success in the past with lowered beds when we were dealing with drought conditions. They did not work so well the year we had excessive rain.

We have a lot to look forward to in the garden this year. Our asparagus has been doing so well that we got tired of eating it. We planted six varieties of tomatoes and four varieties of peppers. We also have corn, zucchini, straight neck squash, flat squash, okra, marigolds, and Asian beans. As always, I am hoping for a successful garden!

Trimming Our Chicken's Nails

Faithful HomesteaderWhen we bought four laying hens from a local hobby farm, my husband noticed that one of the hens had extra long nails. He had read that could happen for different reasons, like sometimes they don’t have enough room to scratch. Our girl, Nailie, walked funny, and she was not scratching when we first got her. We named her Nailie because of her long nails. My husband was determined to get her nails trimmed. Since the girls were skittish around us, I wasn’t sure how well that would go over with her.

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My Baby

My husband asked me to pick up some small clippers from a pet store. I went straight to the bird section and found just what I needed. We decided to grab her from the roost when she went in for the evening. My husband had read that if you hold a chicken upside down, it would calm them. He had me hold our little girl just like a baby. She was just so adorable and definitely calm.

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The Long of It.

We sterilized the clippers with alcohol. My husband used a flashlight to see the difference between the living and the dead nail. He cut the nails between 1/8 and 1/4 inch past the living spot, being careful not to cut into the vein. We definitely didn’t want to make our girl bleed. He had general knowledge about cutting the nails, but he also verified the process online.

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The Short of It.

Now that we have her nails trimmed, she is walking better and scratching. We are happy to see her doing well. We suspect that we won’t have to trim her nails again, but we will certainly keep an eye on things. In the past, I had trimmed cat nails, but this was the first time that I was involved with trimming a chicken’s nails. Trimming nails does make me a bit nervous. I was glad to have my husband involved in the process.

A New Flock on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderAfter the loss of one of our two pet chickens, it was time to get some new friends for our little chicken Buster. We certainly were not anticipating getting new chickens at this point in time, but Buster was lonely and needy. She did well when we were with her, but obviously we could not be around 24/7.

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We ended up getting four Serama chickens. We had read a little bit about this breed and ended up getting the larger class D hens. We were looking for healthy, laying hens. They certainly are adding some variety to the homestead! Our little Buster has always been the smallest chicken with the cutest and smallest eggs. This is no longer the case. It is crazy to me how quickly she became the big one.

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Our girl Lilah (Hebrew for night)

She has definitely been taking the bullying to a completely new level and letting everyone know she’s the boss. Initially, she didn’t want to let the other hens into the coop at night. She can be aggressive when they are trying to use the nesting boxes. We have had to separate her several times.

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Our girl Barbie (Already broody)

Things are starting to settle down some, though, and now she will hang out with the rest of the flock. I know it could not have been the easiest thing for her to fit in with the other four when they were already used to each other. I have experience with being the outsider, too. I know she will overcome. I believe in her.

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Our girl Nailie (named for her crazy long nails)

Getting four new chickens has definitely shaken up my routine. The most I have had at one time was three, but for most of my chicken mama career, it has only been two. There is so much more for me to keep up with now. I can take being a high-strung chicken mama to a new level. It hasn’t been that long, and I already have one broody hen to contend with.

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Our girl Kota (Greek for hen)

I do think all the new hens are adorable. They are still a little skittish around us; I will be happy when they are comfortable. They do like that we give them treats. We finally have them all named. It is hard for my husband and me to agree on names. I am looking forward to new adventures, and I hope they will stay happy and healthy for a long time.

Death of My Pet Chicken

Faithful HomesteaderI was so sad to lose another beloved pet chicken recently. I only had two, so I think that made it even harder. I have become so attached to my girls. My Keypone was just a little over two years old. I thought she was a bit of a diva, and she was a fancy-looking chicken, but she had more of a deep sounding yell. It did not match her looks.

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When we got her, my husband thought she looked like she had a mullet. I couldn’t really deal with that name, but we compromised and went with the Hebrew word for mullet, "Keypone." I thought it sounded a little better. Most often, we just called her Key.

She was a productive girl when it came to laying eggs, but she had quit laying in recent months. I wasn’t sure if it was just a seasonal thing or not. My husband thought she had become skittish. On occasion she would forgo treats, but for the most part she was still doing the normal chicken things. I wonder what I should have done differently for her. I am always learning how to be the best chicken mama.

One day I was gone for most of the day, but the thing that struck me was that she skipped treats for water. I mentioned to my husband that she seemed to be drinking more. When my husband came home he found her on the roost, as we would expect at the end of the day. Our other chicken did come out and hang out with my husband for a while, but Keypone did not. That happened on occasion, though, so I certainly was not expecting what I found the next morning.

When the coop door opened, she was on the bottom of the coop. She was a bit limp and lifeless. I tried to give her something to drink, but she wasn’t interested. I brought her inside to try to figure out what to do for her. I actually had her on a towel on my lap when she started having the death throes. I think it was less than 15 minutes from the time I found her and the time she passed.

I was shook up with her loss. I cried many tears for my little one. I don't know why she died. I took a sample of her poo to the vet for examination, but it did not provide answers. In the past, I was able to get answers for another chicken by doing the same thing.

She was my baby and my pet. I don’t have human babies, so my animals are it for me. Keypone was a unique little girl, and I think she was good company for my other chicken, Buster. We originally bought her and another chicken to keep our little Buster company. Buster seems to miss her, too. Now we have to get Buster new friends, but Keypone did leave her mark on my heart for sure.

My 30-Day Paleo Challenge

Faithful HomesteaderI never thought that I would go on a Paleo diet. When I read about it, I found it to be way too restrictive for my taste. However, now I have become convinced that it is worth a try.

For as long as I can remember, I have had major digestive issues with daily bloating. I read that a Paleo diet is a good anti-inflammatory diet. It is also a good elimination diet, since so many things have to be excluded.

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I have needed to do an elimination diet for at least 20 years. I did do a diet that eliminated bread, dairy, nuts, and sugar in the past. I didn’t feel so great on it that I continued with it, and while I did lose some weight on it, I easily found it again. Now I am giving up bread, grains, sugar, dairy, and legumes.

The basic premise of Paleo seems to be going back to the diet of the cavemen. It is about eating what they could readily find for food. Eating real and unprocessed food is an important aspect of the plan. I am not so convinced that I will give up all these things forever, but I hope to be able to get a better handle on what is causing my digestive issues. If certain foods really are causing my problems, it will be good to know which ones.

So far, I have been on the plan for nine days. I don’t feel better at this point, but people say it takes time. I have lost five pounds, and that is enough motivation to stick with it at least for the 30 days that I have committed to doing. I will assess things at the end and possibly add back certain foods one food at a time.

For now, I am trying not to focus on what I cannot have, but focus on eating good food. This is a good time for me to experiment with different things. I have discovered that I like plantains. I found a recipe to make bread from them, and it is yummy. The recipe can be found at http://purelytwins.com/2014/06/04/5-ingredient-almond-butter-no-sugar-jelly-sandwich-paleo/.

For a long time I have wanted to try cauliflower rice and finally did. I liked it. I just cut it up and put it into my food processor, and it came out great. Next, I sautéed the rice with onions and peppers. I used Coco Aminos in place of soy sauce. It worked well. I like that it has much less sodium than even the lower sodium soy sauce.

I tried using Portobello mushrooms in place of hamburger buns. I still need to experiment more with that, but it wasn’t bad if I used a knife and a fork. I am finding it difficult to eat out if I want to be strict during the 30 days. I have wanted to eat out less, so that actually works out except for when I want to be social.

I like that I am eating more whole foods. I am definitely eating more fruits and vegetables. I even got my husband to try spaghetti squash, finally. It is a good thing that I have plenty of asparagus from the garden to help me with the veggie intake. I sure hope that after the 30 days I really do feel better and have more energy.

My First MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair

Faithful HomesteaderThis year I attended my first MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair in Belton, Texas. I went with my husband and a few friends. It was definitely a different experience for me, but a good one. It sure fits in with my new learning mindset. I am always up for gaining new knowledge!

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Because I am a blogger for GRIT, I was able to receive two free passes. That certainly helped this frugal person make the decision to go. My husband was also a big reason, because when he looked at the schedule he saw many classes that piqued his interest. He would have even gone without me.

I didn’t realize that this was only the second time that the fair has been in Texas. Since it was about three hours from where I live, we left home very early on Saturday and stayed just one night before driving back Sunday evening. It was certainly a full and exhausting weekend, but it was fun.

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I was excited to see the magazine that had my published article in it.

I liked the setup for the fair. There were hourly classes on a variety of subjects. Plenty of vendors and yummy food were on hand. I attended some classes on chickens and poultry, of course. I also attended classes that had to do with health and pain management. Those classes gave me the push I needed finally to go on a strict, anti-inflammatory/elimination diet. I have now started a 30-day Paleo program with the intention of adding back foods one at a time at the end of the 30 days. I think it was worth going for that alone.

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I found that I didn’t always want to be sitting through a class. It was nice sometimes just to walk around and take in everything. I spent much time hanging out with the animals; I just couldn’t stay away from all the critters.

I found it interesting to see that there was a variety of people at the fair. Liberals and conservatives were able to come together at one event where common ground could be found.  There were also people of different faiths.

Overall, it was a fun adventure. My husband and I had not done anything like that together. We went to different classes, so we doubled our learning. He was certainly motivated about things that he wants to do for our humble homestead. My friends enjoyed it as well. I definitely would recommend attending a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair if you get the chance!