Now that we are half way through November, it seems the weather is going to insist on reminding us that cold and flu season is actually part of the same time period that starts with Thanksgiving and ends with Easter. Not that I needed that reminder, but, apparently the fact that I have avoided having a bad head cold for so many years has insulted whichever magical being is in charge of phlegm because this past weekend I was hit by the worst cold I've had in a very long time. So, I spent the past four days basically coughing up a lung day and night.
I wouldn't mind really, if I could stay home, in my PJ's curled up with a hot drink just watching the weather blow in and out. The fact that I have to work for a living, even when I'm sick just makes me crabby. I took all of one day off, hoping to get it behind me and then schlepped my way into the office for a day that I hope is not busy, and doesn't require me to talk too much. I'm a dispatcher. That's not going to be an easy expectation to fulfill.
Still, the days I have had at home were certainly filled with their fair share of PJ's and hot drinks. Heck, I didn't even bother to put on makeup. Not once. It was great.
One week from now I will be feverishly trying to get on top of the holiday cooking for Thanksgiving dinner. For now, my preps involve taking the turkeys out for at least one hour a day. With an early snowfall on Monday the grass in the turkey pen is non existent. Even after the snow melted, the pen was not much more than mud. Hank has taken to pacing back and forth waiting for me to come out and take them on walk-about, so his feet are always muddy. I don't think he minds as long as Kris still finds him attractive.
I decided this year to slow down the decorating pace a bit, and just soak up the Fall experience a bit this year, so, most of the Christmas decorations are still in boxes. It's feeling kind of nice having some extra time this month to deep clean a little more. I've been purging quite a bit this summer. I liken it to squeezing the house like a toothpaste tube. Most of the time when I deep clean it's more like squeezing a tube from the middle. Some goes out the end like I want it to, but, some stays at the bottom where it just collects. I'm so done with all the junk we have accumulated over the years, and if we keep putting it back and never touch it except to move it out of the way then it just needs to go. I'm being ruthless and not letting anyone make emotional decisions or keeping things just because they "paid good money" for it. I want peace, I want serenity. It's not going to happen if we keep squeezing the tube from the middle. So, the basement is well on it's way to where I want it to be, and many of the other rooms in the house are as well.
As I bring my Christmas boxes up from the basement or down from the attic, they are getting the toothpaste tube treatment,, too. If I don't use an item this year, it really needs to have a good reason to be put back in a box and stored until next year.
We're slowly moving forward with the Super Coop, which will become the storage shed for my Christmas stuff, so, if I want to have room to move around, and to be able to share the shed area with chicken supplies, then I really need to be honest with myself about what I want to keep. Today Tim is picking up the wood for the rafters. I'm starting to get antsy to move my girls into a bigger space. The littles are having a harder and harder time finding a spot at night to roost without being picked on by some of the bigger girls. Then you add to that the weather turning wet and cold, and I really want to have a big indoor area for them to stay in when it's wet and stormy, and the run attached with tarps to give them an outdoor area that is dry and protected from the weather when they want to get out and scratch in the dirt. At least the turkeys have an end in sight to living in the winter weather. I set up a large piece of plywood to shelter the side of the playhouse they live in. It gives them a dry place outside the playhouse to scratch around or lay down if they want, and the playhouse itself is nice and dry with a big roost to sleep on. Kris likes to lay in the door way and watch the world go by, while Hank keeps up his all day vigil pacing back and forth like a palace guard. This time next week Kris will be in freezer camp and Hank will be brining in the fridge in the garage. I know, I know, that sounds very macabre. I just have to keep my head in the practical so I don't get attached to those big brown eyes.
The coop is shaping up nicely, thanks to the man I was smart enough to marry. For anyone that is a fan of the Red Green show, you will probably remember him always saying, "if she doesn't find you handsome, at least she'll find you handy". Well, my favorite was one episode where he said, "if she finds you handsome and handy, marry her". True words. Tim is willing to take on building a solid, and functional chicken coop that doubles as a shed, when he has never built anything like this before. It's looking amazing, too.
With the bird flu raging all Spring of 2015, and news of potential impacts on the turkey populations, it just felt like a good idea to hedge against the possibility of a shortage by raising our own Thanksgiving turkey this year.
Have I ever raised turkeys, you ask? Nope and I didn't know thing one about it either. I had only been raising my chickens for a few months, so, it isn't as if I was an expert poultry farmer or anything. All I could do is read what I could find on the internet and just jump in with both feet. Sort of what I do with most things in life.
First thing was to find turkeys, no wait, first things was to figure out how to house and feed them. That's right. What I learned about housing is that they aren't any different than chickens. They need more space, chickens use about 2 to 3 square feet per bird inside the coop, while turkeys need 4 to 6 square feet per bird, but, the type of housing is pretty similar. The one difference is the roosting. Turkeys like to be as high as possible. Well, chickens like to be up high too, but, turkeys will insist upon it, and will even look for nearby roofs and trees if their housing isn't to their liking.
As far as what they eat, at first it will be just a combination of chick starter and game bird feed. Turkeys apparently need more protein than chickens, so, anything I can do to up the protein content of their daily intake is a good thing. The one thing I was so glad I researched was the fact that turkeys can have a tendency to starve themselves when they are stressed. It isn't enough to just lay down some feed and water and wait for them to get hungry. They will literally refuse to eat even to the point of death.
The next thing to know is what breed of turkey I wanted to raise. There are tons out there, some heritage breeds, some rare breeds and the standard cross bred turkeys that are what most mass produced turkeys are.
So my goal was set, and the plans were in motion. Let the journey begin.
I can't believe it's been almost nine months since I started my little flock of laying hens. While that doesn't seem like a long time, it has taken me that long to really feel like I know what I'm doing.
Living in a semi rural area in Utah makes having chickens seem almost a requirement just to fit in with the neighborhood. So many of my neighbors either have now or have had in the past raised a flock of backyard chickens. Still, I didn't want to seem like a newb. I have my pride ya know. Having been the daughter of a former farmer's son, and with relatives that are all about farming, I have always figured I would be a natural at raising any kind of barnyard animal. Well....the learning curve was pretty steep given the fact that none of these farming relatives live anywhere near me.
And for that matter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Bloggers everywhere.
So, this is what I learned that hopefully will save you the stress and confusion I have had to go through in my first few months of raising chickens, and turkeys, too.
First, and this is the most important in my book, you have to know your local ordinances.
If you live in a city, a suburb, or a rural community, the rules may surprise you. There is no rhyme or reason to the way each area constructs their rules. You could find yourself just as likely to be able to have eight chickens in a big city as you are to be able to have only a few or none in a suburb. It can be dependent on your lot size, or any city covenants, or just because. Many groups have been formed to lobby their city councils to allow backyard chickens and have had great success. The number of backyard flocks has grown quite a bit in recent years as the popularity of raising chickens has become more and more popular.
This article on the WorldWide Institute website published on November 3, 2015, details some of the figures and statistics.
So, find out your particular city ordinances, and then make your plans. Either you will be able to forge ahead with your plans, or you may find yourself attending your next city council meeting to work towards changing that ordinance. If you find yourself facing a battle, you may want to search sites like backyardchickens.com to find other like minded people in your area that may be more than anxious to help with the battle.
Second, research chicken breeds.
I was actually in the middle of doing just that when my husband called home from an errand run that took him into one of our local feed stores. It was March, and of course there were bins full of cheeping baby chicks of the usual assortments, and he made the mistake of telling me to come up and see them. I was actually surprised that he took such a huge leap when he had been reserved about the whole idea before that day. Suddenly he was on board in a big way. I can't tell you why. I still don't know.
So, trying to be logical and intelligent in the whole process, knowing another feed store, on the way to where my husband was, had baby chicks, too, I told him I would stop there first and see if they had a better price. You know, a little comparison shopping. As soon as I could hear the cheeping of those little fuzzy babies I was hooked. Yes, the price was better, but, I was determined to go to the other feed store before I made my final selections. I knew I wanted egg laying hens, no roosters. I knew a little about Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds, and a few others, but, the breed I was eager about was the blue egg layers, the Ameracaunas. I thought I was educated enough to know what I was doing, and then I was faced with a new challenge when I arrived at the second feed store. Bins after bins of a much larger variety of breeds than I understood.
I figured I would just tell the sales person that I wanted egg layers, and they would make sure that is what I got. I trusted them. Relied on their "expertise" in the industry. Bad Idea!
We left the second feed store with what I thought were two Ameracauna hen chicks, one grey and one black and brown.
We named the grey one Hazel, and she was mine, all mine. You see, she "chose" me. Or so I thought. Whenever I put my finger up to the glass of the aquarium she was in, all the others ran away, but, not her. She would follow my finger and peck at it as if she knew me and wanted me to take her home. I spent many an hour sitting holding Hazel, bonding with her, and making her my pet. I told everyone that she was a blue egg layer and that even after she was old and didn't lay eggs anymore, we would still keep her because she was special. Oh she was special alright. She was a he.
The black and brown one we named Chief Running Fluff, or should I say my twenty-three year old daughter did. Her thinking was that the markings around her eyes looked like war paint, and that girls can be Chiefs, too. Chief was a hen, so, we were at a 50% accuracy rate for the "expertise" of the employees. I should actually be clearer. The employees really didn't do anything that helped us choose, and in hindsight, I don't think they really cared that much. It was more just "tell me which one you want and I'll grab it for you". No real guidance involved, plus, even in the most experienced hands the accuracy rate of chick sexing is only about 90% at best. It's mostly a crap shoot unless you get a breed called Sex Links, where the color of the chick is indicative of whether it is a hen or a rooster.
I'm a mother of eleven children, wife of 32 years, Latter Day Saint, and 911 Dispatcher and a budding homesteader. Come along with me as I journey toward self sufficiency, one baby step at a time.
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