Tag Archives: Backyard Chickens

What’s New at the Honeysuckle Homestead

New baby goat
One of our new girls…she’s a sweetie! (still coming up with a name though!)

We sort of slacked off on this site–there just weren’t enough hours in the day to keep it updated! But we’re back now and ready to update everyone on what’s going on at our little homestead, as well as the exciting things we have planned for the future!

First of all, Stephanie (our Nigerian Dwarf Doe) is pregnant and should be having kids sometime in June (if our calculations are correct). That is great news–last year she had twin bucks who were sold before they were even born! Dexter and Rocky are their names now and thankfully their new owners share pics of them on Facebook.

We’ve also got some new additions–4 new does and 1 buck, although only one has arrived on the farm. The other 4 will be ready to come home with us in April. We’re expanding our goat breeding because next year we  plan to have goat milk, cheese, and ice cream. (we’ve heard it’s outstanding!)

new boy goat
This sweet boy will be coming to our farm in April!

So be on the lookout for some cute goat photos in the future, as well as the adventure we go on as we learn about milking goats. We will be selling the offspring next Spring, so if you’re in the market for goats, be on the lookout for that announcement as well.

eggs to incubate
These eggs are in the incubator now!

We’re hatching less chicken breeds this year, but we will still have a good selection. Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers are in the incubator now, and next we’ll be hatching Marans and Welsummers. We’ll likely hatch a few Buff Orpingtons as well, but for now we’re focusing mainly on the colored egg layers. If you’re in the market for chicks, keep checking our Facebook page and this site–we’ll list availability as we have it.

We’ll be posting here and on Facebook frequently, so stay tuned! Like our new Facebook page to see farm photos and meet some of our favorite animals!

 

5 Things We’ve Learned About Hatching Chicks

The other day I told my husband that hatching and raising chickens is kind of like raising children–there are a million different opinions about the best way, and everyone thinks theirs is right.

First signs of a hatch
First signs of a hatch

For us, we’re figuring it out as we go. We read a lot about raising chickens, but really actually incubating and hatching is the best way to learn the process. We’ve had a few successful hatches now, and each time have made some tweaks to the process. Our goal is that by spring, we’ll have it down to a science. There are 17 eggs in our incubator right now…we are expecting a Christmas Day hatch! (Merry Christmas to us!)

Here are 5 things we’ve learned so far:

1. Some chicks just don’t hatch. They aren’t strong enough for whatever reason. This doesn’t necessarily mean there was user error during the incubation process. We are quick to blame ourselves when a chick doesn’t make it out, but really that is just nature.

2. Resist the urge to help the chick out of the shell. We want to help them SO BADLY. Once I can hear them chirping inside the egg (which in and of itself is so miraculous!) I’m leaning over the incubator, giving them words of encouragement. But when we see one having trouble, it is so hard not to help it along. Once they’ve hatched if they need help walking, I use a small tea-cup in the incubator and place the chick inside for 30 minute stretches until it’s able to stand and walk on its own.

Beginning to unzip
Beginning to unzip

3. Regulating humidity and temperature in the incubator is tough. We have constantly monitored and kept track of this, and are still working on being able to keep those things regulated. (FYI, we use basic Little Giant incubators with an automatic egg turner. For now, we use still air, but are seriously considering switching to forced air soon)

Made it out!
Made it out!

4. Hatching chicks can be a little addicting. Seriously. We were hooked from the first hatch. From the first little pip in the egg, to hearing the chirps before they’re born, to watching them zip themselves out of the egg–it is such an amazing process.

Four stages of a hatch
Four stages of a hatch

5. The chicks can stay in the incubator for up to two days depending on how many are left to hatch out. We typically leave them for at least 24 hours post-hatch, and not much longer, but we’ve had small hatches. Once we are hatching more eggs that might take a little longer to all hatch out, we’ll leave them in for up to 48 hours. They are still absorbing the yolk during that time so they are fine.

I could keep going, and may elaborate  on the process later, particularly as our hatches get bigger and we switch to a different incubator.

How about you? Does anyone have any incubating/hatching tips to share? We are always looking for those!

Moving From the Brooder to the Coop

Our Marans and Welsummers have been upgraded to a new spot in the barn! We’ve had an exciting few days, planning an addition to our existing barn and building a new roosting area and play area.

They started out living in our bathroom (yikes) and then moved to what we call the “baby pen” in the barn–a snake and critter proof stall with heat lamps and plenty of room for them to grow. They were happy there, but at 2 months old, it was time to let them out into the barnyard…except that we already have a yard full of grown hens and roosters.

We are a little protective of these chicks, and they aren’t quite ready to mix in with the “big guys” just yet. So we came up with a new plan–give them their very own roosting area in the barn, and an exit into their very own fenced in section of the barnyard.

The Marans and Welsummers explore their new yard.
The Marans and Welsummers explore their new yard.

Our grown flock was very curious about this new addition and helped us by inspecting each section. They were NOT happy when we had the audacity to put a wire cover over the top. They can’t even fly over! Our turkey has taken to expressing his displeasure by roosting on TOP of said cover. Not sure how we’ll break him of that…

We moved the Marans, Welsummers, and our 2 chicks from our very first incubator hatch–an Easter Egger and a something else (mixed breed, but we don’t know what mix!) from the brooder pen to their very own fenced in spot yesterday. It was really their first taste of “freedom” and the first time they’d been outside for any length of time. They were confused at first, and then ecstatic.

Our Black Copper Marans rooster enjoying his time in the sun.
Our Blue Copper Marans rooster enjoying his time in the sun.

We put them inside the new coop last night and helped them onto the roost. (quite comical, but most of them got the hang of it)

The coop has a super cool door that we can open from the outside by a pulley system. That’s what allows them into their fenced in section of the barnyard during the day. This morning I went out and opened it up–and only the 2 oldest (my first hatch babies) ventured out. Little heads poked out of the door though, and pretty soon the Marans and Welsummers ventured outside. They had a fabulous day running, playing and scratching around. The fence they are in borders one of our goat pens, and they quickly got acquainted with Stephanie, our doe.

Making friends with Stephanie, a Nigerian Dwarf Goat.
Making friends with Stephanie, a Nigerian Dwarf Goat.

Tonight we put them back in the coop through the door and helped them back on the roost. (My husband says I worry too much and should just let them figure it out, but I can’t help myself) In a few days, they should have the hang of everything, but for now I’m going to help out.

Checking out the new place.
Checking out the new place.

Our next decision will be how long to keep them in what we’re calling “the teenage pen” and when to let them into the whole barnyard with the others. At this point, I know I won’t put them into the mix until they are as big as the other hens and roosters, so I guess it just depends on how fast they grow!

Raising Marans Chickens

Marans and Welsummer Chicks
Black Copper Marans, Welsummer, Blue Copper Marans

 

We’re working to expand our breed selections for Spring, and are really focusing on dark egg layers. Marans are quickly becoming one of our favorite breeds, and we’ve also added some Welsummers! We love the dark-colored eggs they lay (we have 2 Marans laying now) and many of the people who purchase farm fresh eggs from us tell us those are the best tasting as well.

We currently have several young Marans, both Blue Copper and Black Copper, and Welsummers  that should be “of age” come Spring! We are so excited about breeding Blue, Black, and Splash Marans, and are also looking forward to adding more delicious dark-colored eggs to our daily collection.

I hate to play favorites, but the good temperament and friendly nature of Marans is quickly turning them into one of my favorite breeds. We have a few cockerels in the mix though–I’m holding out judgment on them until they are a little older. For now, they’re super friendly and will sit on my lap every time I visit their area.

If you’re in the market for Marans chicks (Blue Copper, Black Copper, or Splash) check back with us in February! We should be ready to ship by mid-Spring.

What’s the Point?

20140317-194838.jpg
Cutting wire for the baby chicken pen.

When we first started talking about having a web presence for the Honeysuckle Homestead, we first thought it would just be a place to show our goats so that when we have baby goats for sale, people could view them.

I thought that was kind of boring though, and decided maybe we should also document some of our adventures as we navigate life as newlyweds and amateur farmers.

We’ve had quite a few adventures already, and our little  homestead isn’t even a year old. There have been run ins with various critters, like snakes, possums, foxes and hawks. There have been gardening disasters and chickens who escaped. There have been ice storms that caused limbs to fall all over the property, not to mention the whole “building a barn from scratch” saga.

Overall, we’ve laughed a lot and learned a lot. I don’t want to let more time go by without documenting our progress, so that’s kind of the point of this site.

Right  now we’re anxiously awaiting our new baby chicks–set to arrive here in April. We’re getting two roosters in the bunch, so that will be a new (and probably challenging experience). In the meantime, we’re transforming one of our barn stalls into a home for the baby chicks. Fun times!

My clippers were originally bought to make a Christmas wreath...little did I know they'd mostly be used for chicken wire...
My clippers were originally bought to make a Christmas wreath…little did I know they’d mostly be used for chicken wire…also, notice my cute muck boots!
Johnny works on a snake-proof screen so the baby chicks will be safe.
Johnny works on a snake-proof screen so the baby chicks will be safe.
Top of the cage is good and critter-proof!
Top of the cage is good and critter-proof!
Rambo keeps an eye on our progress.
Rambo keeps an eye on our progress.

 

Expect the Unexpected

goat and watermelon

I never intended to have a farm. I assure you that when I bought my pink, flowery muck boots a couple of years ago, I totally thought they’d look cute on a rainy day. I didn’t envision they’d be needed while I went out to feed the chickens or get fresh water for the goats.

But such is life. You never know what might lurk just around the corner.

The same thing applies to this blog. I’m not sure what all we might cover here. I know that Johnny and I have a fun and often funny life as we work together to be more self-sufficient.

How, you might ask? Here are a few ways:

Our chickens have layed more than 2 dozen eggs since the beginning of the month.

We’re learning about goats so that in a few months when our girl goat (Stephanie is her name) is ready, we can breed goats and have goat milk and cheese.

We’re planning a large garden so that our meals can truly be farm fresh.

I’m slightly obsessed with home remedies, especially apple cider vinegar and garlic. Thankfully Johnny is willing to try most of these, even if it means going to bed with freshly chopped garlic and olive oil on his feet. He smelled like a pizza, but his chest congestion was clearer the next day…

All in all, life on the Honeysuckle Homestead is pretty sweet. We hope you’ll check back to see what we’ve been up to!