Ranch life…and chickens in my future!

I’m a little afraid to say it aloud, but I think, maybe, Spring is actually here to stay this time.

Not two days after my “Spring!” post, Central Illinois fell back into another round of winter with temps in the 20s and near an inch of snow.  I got cranky.  While I’m not usually a winter hater, I am fully sick of the cold this year.  When the snow came back–I’m fairly convinced in was actually the same snow as before that just refused to die–I wanted to crawl under my heated blanket and wait there for summer.

But the sun triumphed!  It’s sunny and beautiful today.  Temps should reach mid-sixties.  The ten day forecast is showing 60s and 70s for the foreseeable future.  *Giant sigh of relief*

Things have been progressing, albeit slowly, at the farm.  After my riding drama last week  ( with Cinco ) we decided that we would have to put in an outdoor arena.  L picked a spot for us, and Jeremiah has been busy clearing trees and brush from the area since.  I stopped in and checked on him earlier, and I found him covered in brush and sweat, with a four foot pile of woodchips and a plethora of firewood to show for his effort.  Full construction on the arena will have to wait until we complete financing for the rest of the property, but we do plan to have it in this summer.

With three weeks left in the semester, I’m feeling increasingly anxious to finish grading and teaching and move into ranch life.  Jeremiah has promised to till up my garden patch and spread compost this week.  I probably won’t start really planting until after finals, but it will be good to let it sit a bit.

Looks like we will order our chicks in about two weeks.  I’ve researched chicken breeds for the last few months, and, just when I thought I’d settled on something, I found out that mypetchicken.com offers sexed rare breed assortments.  Sold.  Since we don’t have to have everyday layers, and we don’t intend to show chickens ever (llama shows…horse shows, maybe…), I think the surprise mix could be a lot of fun.  I can’t wait for my little chickens.  And it will be so exciting to get a mix.  I think Katie–my cousin who will be moving into the guest house (if you don’t regularly follow this blog)–and I will order a dozen rare breed assortment chicks.

To my readers who have chickens, what is your best advice for starting chicks?  What do you wish you had known?


5 thoughts on “Ranch life…and chickens in my future!

  1. I wish I had known about pasty butt ahead of time, that red lights can keep babies from pecking each other, that a kiddie pool and a chicken wire frame lid works better that darn near anything expensive for peeps, that chickens poop IN EVERYTHING and land on EVERYTHING, and YES they can fly.

    I wish I had known that you should NEVER visit another persons coop, then walk in your own without changing clothes and bathing first.

    I wish I had seen the plans for hanging water buckets and pedal triggered feeders, to save expense and frustration from the crappy stuff at farm stores.

    Have more than one water source.

    They love fresh from the cow poop.

    Figure out a way to heat the coop in winter now, before you are freezing your tail off trying to make a system work that you didn’t test first.

    Find a way too cool your chickens in summer, we lost several in the 100+ temps. Shade is a must, and an area for them to dust bathe, it prevents mites.

    Excessive nats are not only irritating, they can suffocate your chickens by crawling in the vents on their beaks.

    Trimming one wing does NOT keep them in the chicken yard.

    Mix different seeds in their food, they love variety. Recycle egg shells by drying and crushing them, and then adding them back into their food for calcium.

    Dont feed anything to them that you do not want your eggs to taste like. Colored foods can color the eggs, so dont panic. Blood spots in the yolk are normal.

    If you DONT wash your eggs, you dont have to refrigerate them.

    Chicken wire isnt enough to keep out little songbirds that get in your coop, poop EVEN more than the chickens, and carry disease that can decimate your flock.

    Wood floor coops SUCK to keep clean, laminate flooring is a miracle.

    Fertilizer sprayers cut the time it takes to sanitize the coop in the every other month cleaning. Use pine shavings. Miraculous stuff. Straw is too dusty, shredded paper does NOT absorb odors. AT ALL.

    Also, there is NO vet care for chickens. YOU are the vet.

    Frostbite is a real problem in winter, the coop yard needs shoveled to prevent feet from freezing, and Vaseline really does work wonders for combs and waddles.

    Bury at least a foot of fence in the ground for their yard. Otherwise you will be replacing chickens from weasels, opossums, raccoon and fox.

    Watch for hawks now. If you have them, you wont have chickens long. Deer fencing hung over the yard can prevent chicken napping hawks from getting your girls.

    No, you really DONT need a roo.

    Have a plan for after they are dont laying. A hen has a pre determined set of eggs she can lay in her lifetime, and almost all of them before she is 3. A healthy chicken can live to b\be 9. After the eggs are gone, what will you do woth them? Process them, or let them grow old? Chicken feed gets expensive for chickens that dont lay eggs.

    One bag of feed is anout 13$, and that wont last a week with 20 chickens. Thats aklong with a supplement like cracked corn.

    Chickens are great foor compactors. They love kitchen scraps. NO raw potatoes.

    There is a whole list of plants that are toxic to chickens, like 4 o’clocks.

    They wont eat Japanese beetles,but will eat the grubs.

    They are great bug getters, but will DESTROY a garden.

    This is just what I can think of off the top of my head…


  2. Enjoy them 🙂 I’m excited for you! Getting a breed like an Orpington would be good if you want to hatch chicks in the future. Orpingtons are really, really broody and will hatch chicks like champs! Make sure an get some water electrolytes to add to their water from the hatchery you order them. It helps the chicks get going quickly after a stressful trip through the mail. Also, once you get them, only give them water with the electrolytes/vitamins and a splash of apple cider vinegar until they’re all drinking well (this helps prevent pasty butt). Best of luck, I’m sure you’ll do great … I think your next step is getting some guineas now!


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