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Faithful Homesteader

Things I Learned as a Chicken Mama

Faithful HomesteaderI am a bit of a reflective person, and this week I was thinking about all the things that I have learned since I started raising chickens. I didn’t know anything when we ended up adopting a stray chicken that had wandered into our yard. Now it is almost seven years later, and we still have that same chicken. Her name is Buster, and today she started her spring laying cycle. 

Our little Buster

Photo By Faithful Homesteader

When my husband decided to keep her, he bought a rabbit hutch that he ended up converting into a coop, but it did not even have a roost, because we didn’t know anything about that. He eventually built another coop, and by then I stressed to him that we needed a roost. The first time a chicken went broody, I was clueless. I just noticed that of the two chickens that we had, only one was out and about and no one was laying. I didn’t know what broodiness was. Of course, now I know that it is when a chicken wants to sit on eggs with the goal of hatching baby chicks. We do not have a rooster, so there is no possibility of that happening. 

I have learned just how much drama a broody chicken can cause. I even ended up with a chicken on the roof of the house after chasing her out of the nesting box. I can’t get over how moody those broody broads can be. Right now we have one broody chicken, Nailie, and since I was gone most of the day, I wasn’t able to keep her out of the nesting box. 

I noticed that one of the other chickens, Katana, was fussy, and I guessed she was trying to lay even though it was so late in the day. Everyone else kept the other nesting box occupied, so she had no where to go. I managed to get Nailie out and Katana went into the box. When I checked on things, Nailie was in with her. Katana did manage to lay. I noticed she came out, and sure enough, the broody miss wasted no time sitting on her egg. I like that I have learned to understand at least some chicken speak.

I have learned when my chickens are getting close to starting their laying cycles. I pay attention to the color and size of their combs. Our little Buster has had an increasingly brighter red comb, and it has become bigger. That, and the fact that she would give us the submissive squat, told us she was getting close to laying. We also notice when the girls get a bit fidgety going in and out of the coop.

I learned about dirt baths for chickens. I never noticed that the wild, birds do the same thing. Now I notice the little spots in the yard that they use for bathing. I think it’s cute. I have learned so much since having chickens. They also just provide so much entertainment and joy. I never tire of seeing them run or fly across the yard in anticipation of a treat. I learned that they make great pets.

Winter Homestead Happenings in North Texas

Faithful HomesteaderThe temperatures have been up and down here in North Texas this winter. We have had some beautiful and warm days. However, we have also had some pretty cold days. We have had too much rain at times, but when I see how the weather is in other places, I know that we have actually had it pretty good. There are some signs that spring is just around the corner, such as buds on our peach tree, but the forecast is turning cold with multiple freezes expected in the coming days. 

Three of our chickens
Photo by Faithful Homesteader.

I try to take advantage of the good days by going on hikes with my dog when I have a chance. I know I need more time in the fresh air, and I want to get into better shape. The chickens seem to be doing well. They are quite active these days, and most of them are laying. I do love seeing them active. My girls bring a lot of joy into my life. Our girl Nailie had quit laying for several months, so I am so glad to see her laying again. I always worry about her, because she is never quite as active as the rest. 

Our original chicken Buster has been with us for seven years, and we don’t even know how old she really is. We are wondering if she has another season in her. We are fine if she doesn’t lay again. She has been a productive girl over the years. I don’t know if we would have ended up with chickens had she not wandered into our yard and chose to stay. 

We have started the garden preparations. Most of our seeds are ordered. We have a new fig tree and will be growing a lot of fruit along with our vegetables. We will be growing wild plum, gooseberry, Nanking cherry, and Jostaberry this year. I am not familiar with Jostaberry. I read that it is a cross between a gooseberry and black currant. 

We love our trees and continue to add more, but we had one tree that had roots growing too close to our septic system, so we had to cut it down. My husband had everything planned perfectly, and he said it fell in the exact right spot. He started cutting up part of it with our chainsaw. I decided that I wanted to give it a try. I had never used a chainsaw in my life. It was challenging, but I did it. We don’t have a heavy duty chainsaw, so we were not able to cut up the whole tree. 

I am looking forward to the end of the cold weather and the start of spring. I am hoping that as we are approaching our severe storm season, that it won’t be so bad. We are supposed to have an awesome wildflower season here in North Texas. I am looking forward to that. I also look forward to the flowers that we are planting, like my favorite sunflowers and marigolds. 

Spring and Summer Garden Preparations

Faithful HomesteaderIt is that time of year when we start preparing for our spring and summer garden. We have already started some of the dirt work. Sometimes my husband talks about not having a garden, but I can’t imagine that. It is great for us to get fresh vegetables, and I also love seeing beautiful flowers. I love anything that attracts pollinators. I also like sharing the garden with our chickens. 

chickens in garden
Photo by Faithful Homesteader.

This year we will need to do things a little differently because of now having a dog. We certainly don’t need him digging up the garden or doing his business all over the place. Like last year, we are doing in-ground beds, but we will surround each bed with chicken wire. We plan to make it where the dog can’t get in, but the chickens can. Doing dense planting, our tomatoes bushes always provide nice shade and refuge for the girls in the hot summer. 

We will be growing our usual vegetables of tomatoes, zucchini, squash, watermelon, and peppers. We also plan to have beans and corn. I am hoping we grow giant sunflowers again. They are my favorite flower. We will likely have marigolds. I notice they attract a lot of butterflies, and I love that. 

We are planning on growing kohlrabi. We grew it several years ago. The chickens loved it, and we liked it. I am hoping for some new vegetables this year. I try to follow a mostly paleo diet and I am preparing to go keto. I would like a great variety of good vegetables to eat. Currently I eat the same thing over and over again. 

My husband was looking through the Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. catalog and will soon order some seeds. We are trying a different type of cauliflower called Veronica Hybrid. They are said to have good heat tolerance, and we certainly need that in North Texas. We are also going to plant a couple different types of carrots. One is the Purple Haze Hybrid and the other is the Envy Hybrid.

More kale is certainly going in the garden. We actually still have some in the garden. It has survived multiple hard freezes. It is called Beira Seed Kale, and it is heat tolerant as well, surviving our triple digit summer temps. We are going to try some artichoke even though neither of us knows if we will like it. I don’t think I have ever had it. 

I always look forward to the garden each year, but we never know if it will be successful or not. Sometimes it is too hot or too wet. We have had losses because of hail. We do always manage to have at least one thing that makes it through no matter what. It is an adventure for sure. 

I love that the garden always seems to attract the birds and the bees. I am hoping that the Painted Bunting will make an appearance again this year. That adds a lot of joy to my life.  

We will do our best to prepare a successful garden, but we will have to see what the spring and summer weather holds for us. I certainly hope it will not be too hot or too wet. I want the chickens to enjoy the garden, but not too much. 

A Day in the Life with My Chickens

Faithful HomesteaderMy average day with my chickens is fairly quiet and routine. I make sure the girls come out of the coop just fine. I give them food and water and just check that all is well. They spend time digging around the yard, dirt bathing, and begging for treats. Or course they give me eggs. I love to just watch them. They all have their own cute personalities. 

picture of chickens

Occasionally, the routine is messed up and things are not so quiet and easy going on the homestead. After a mostly sleepless night while trying to nap, our usually quiet Katana just would not shut up, and I figured it had to do with the nesting box situation. But I did have to make sure it wasn’t something else like a cat or other predator. Once I did that, I moved Sage out of what Katana thought was her nesting box to try to smooth things over, but it did not work for long. I was definitely not a happy camper. I was glad when both girls finally laid their eggs and it was quiet again. 

I decided to give the girls some treats, but noticed that our sweet Andie was not coming around for the food. This is most unlike her. I looked up and noticed she was on the other side of the fence in our neighbors yard. I wasn’t sure if she flew over or found a hole in the fence. She was not figuring out how to get back over so it was up to me to help her.

I tried just encouraging her to come to me, but that was not working. She kept trying to come through the fence, but of course that was not an idea that was going to work. Lately she had given me the submissive squat, so I hoped she would be easy to catch, but the way my day was going, it could never be that easy. I finally did manage to catch her and put her back where she belonged. I made sure to give her a treat since she had missed out while she was on her adventure.

I would like to know what she was thinking when she went over to the other side. Was she bullied? Did she think there was something better over there? I hope she learned her lesson and will not be visiting again any time soon. It has been a long time since we had a chicken make its way over to the neighbors. Another neighbor’s dog has also been making the trip into their yard too. There must be some attraction. 

I really appreciate the easy going days with the chickens. I never tire of them at the back door looking up at me with begging in their eyes. I love seeing them just doing their chicken thing. I like when they follow me around and act like they want to spend time with me. I love all their noises, and I usually can tell from inside who is speaking. They bring me much joy, but occasionally they bring a bit of chaos. 

Photos courtesy Faithful Homesteader

Self Sufficiency on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderI have really become so appreciative that my husband is able to fix things around the homestead and save us money. I have been inspired myself to learn how to do things like changing my own oil and working on our tiny home bus when we can afford to do so. 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that our heating/air conditioning unit was not working as it should. It is always a stressful thing because if we need a new unit, that is so expensive. We have replaced several parts and done other maintenance over the years to prolong the life of the unit, but my husband is losing faith that we can hold off much longer. 

Of course the heat would have to act up as we were getting the colder weather coming through. Thankfully, when my husband did get a chance to look at everything, he noticed some wires on the main power switch that were loose and burnt. I was so glad we could catch the problem before it became a real fire hazard. He was able to fix the wires, and now the heater is working great. 

transmission for my husband's truck

The latest project is working on my husband’s 4x4 truck. He went out of town for a weekend, and a few hours away from home, his transmission blew up. He had our dog with him as the inside of the truck filled up with smoke from the transmission. Our dog was climbing on my husband’s head trying to get out of the truck causing a serious hazard. 

The tow alone put a real dent in our pocket book. The parts are expensive as well, but we are saving money on labor since my husband is doing all the work. We have spent some time getting all the parts together to work on the truck and to upgrade to a heavier duty set up. Finally, this weekend the work has begun. 

It is a big project, but it helps me learn more about cars and trucks and how everything works. I am glad we have older vehicles so that we can work on all the maintenance ourselves. I am looking forward to actually getting my hands dirty and learning to do more things with my truck especially. 

I haven’t helped as much on his truck as I might like. He did a lot of work while I was away, and then the weather is so cold. I don’t do well in the cold and we only have one warm jump suit;my husband uses that one. I am hoping for a warmer day and an opportunity to help more. I have done some random things like: holding down the brake while he tried to loosen a bolt, and working the jack. 

It is interesting to me how I have changed over the years. It was nothing to think about paying someone to do whatever needed to be done. Now I find a real sense of accomplishment if I am able to do something for myself. I still have so much to learn, but I am grateful that my husband can do what I cannot. I am also glad that he is willing to teach me what he knows. 

Photos Courtesy of The Faithful Homesteader

Chicken Illness and a Hawk Scare

Faithful HomesteaderThere has been a bit of chicken drama the last couple of months. Our three youngest chickens are still settling in and we have dealt with worms and what we believe was fowl pox. We think all the chickens should be laying, but only one seems to be doing so. We also had a scare when a hawk was chasing down one of the chickens. 

We are trying to get in the habit of de-worming twice a year, but before we had the chance to do the fall rounds, there was evidence of worms in the flock. Since we had some Panacur leftover from the vet, we used that. I would like to find another option, but haven’t figured out what would be best for our girls. 

chicken fowl pox

It seemed we had gotten rid of the worms, but soon we started seeing black spots on some of the girls. From what we read, it seemed like fowl pox. We understood that there really wasn’t a cure for it and that flocks had a good chance at survival if it was the dry kind over the wet kind. Thankfully, we did not see any indication of respiratory issues, but I was quite nervous over the whole situation.

We did however want to help the girls out with their immune systems. We worried about secondary issues. We immediately started giving them colloidal silver in the water and giving them vitamins. Our Serama Nailie never did show any symptoms, and our Andalusian Andie, had just one small spot on her. We put balm on the girls spots to facilitate healing.  We were happy to see that they all improved and they remained active. 

Our one layer Katana did seem to stop laying for a short time, but started back up after not too long a time; she is a Blue Rosecomb bantam. Everything I read says that she should be laying once a week, but she lays more than that. She is super productive. The other two girls that we brought home at the same time should be laying, but we see no indication of it. 

chicken hawk attack

Our puppy, Nudnik, likes to run at the girls. When he does they disperse and holler. One day I heard the girls yelling as if he was coming after them, but he was in the house with me. I looked out and saw what looked like Nailie fly across the yard. She ended up under a camper top, but quickly flew back out, but I noticed she was not alone. 

At first I thought it was our Beared D’anver Sage, but soon realized it was not her and it was actually a hawk. It could not figure out how to get out from under the camper. This was the closest that I had been to a hawk. I was unsure the best way to handle it because I know they are protected, but of course I want my girls protected as well.

We are wanting to train our dog to protect the chickens, but I worry he is too young to distinguish between the hawk and the chickens. I tried to get the hawk out and I hope that it was traumatized enough that it would not want to return to our homestead. It was definitely scary. 

It took a little time to find all the girls and make sure that they were okay. I am so thankful that they were. We quit feeding birds so that we were less likely to attract hawks, but birds still do visit. I guess I had let my guard down some and need to get more vigilant again. I am hoping no more hawks any time soon. I want all the girls to be healthy and to give us eggs. 

Images Property of Faithful Homesteader

Adjusting to My Husband's Hearing Gain

Faithful HomesteaderFor most of his life my husband had the understanding that his severe hearing loss was mostly caused by otosclerosis of the round window. At the time of the diagnosis the technology was lacking to fix it. With today’s technology, he found out, it is something that could be fixed. He decided this was the year he wanted to look into getting the surgery. It turned out that he did not have otosclerosis of the round window, but of the stapes bone. Years ago he could have had that fixed. Otosclerosis of the stapes bone runs in his family.

The problem was in both ears. Over the summer he had a stapedectomy to remove the stapes bone in the ear with the worst hearing loss. The stapes was replaced with a prosthesis. He just recently had the surgery for the second ear. I was concerned about my husband having the surgeries only because I know the world is such a loud place and it would be a major adjustment. It has actually been an adjustment for both of us.

I am sensitive to a lot of noises and previously my husband did not understand this. Now he has had to apologize for his insensitivity.Now he feels my pain. One of the biggest complaints I have about where we live is just how loud the train is and now he knows too. If he is outside when the train blows through, he has to cover up his ears. I also complained about how loud his truck is and now he complains about it too. It is so loud for him that he wears earplugs or headphones when he drives.

Previously, he never heard our cat’s purrs, but now he does. That makes me happy. I always felt he was robbed before when he couldn’t hear it.Her purrs are quite loud, but also soothing. In the past, if I was in the shower and forgot something, I could not count on yelling for him to help me out, but now I can. I am glad for that since lately I am so forgetful that I keep forgetting my towel.

One thing that I did not anticipate with the surgeries was that he would now be the one complaining about things being too loud. Now he thinks I am always yelling or he will complain about the television or radio being too loud. He always carries ear plugs with him. That is one thing we now have in common.

It has been interesting to go through the process with my husband. So many things are new. People sound different. He actually hears the dialogue on television. In the past he always relied on the closed captioning. Even though he is realizing just how loud the world really is, he is thankful to have the improved hearing. He loves that he does not need to wear his hearing aids anymore.

His hearing should still continue to improve on the ear that had the most recent surgery. The sounds of the homestead are different. We can both suffer the loudness of our dog’s high pitched barking. He can be more alert to sounds out in nature or possible threats around the home. Even though there are some adjustments, it is all a blessing.

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