Small Houses’ Tiny Role in Preserving the Savanna Forest

We spent as much time outside as possible during our recent February thaw. The sunshine felt wonderful on my skin and the warm weather made a partial clean-up of the yard possible.

Oak tree close with chickens USE

Our small parcel of the Oak Savannas forest with compost bins in the distance.

When you live under the shelter of forty-seven White Oak trees you end up with a lot of sticks blown down in the yard that need to be picked up come spring. One record spring I collected twelve garden carts full of sticks and twigs!

Rhoide close comb backlit USE

One of our Rhodies enjoying her time in the forest edge.

So I am always happy to have the opportunity to get outside during the winter months and do a bit of pre-spring yard clean up.

Snowball close

Snowball the Bantam Cochin like all chickens loves to scratch in the leaves.

Have I recently  mentioned that our land was once part of the Oak Savanna Forest?

This italics piece below was written by the author of the Lillie House Blog. Lillie House is an urban permaculture garden in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can see the post about the history of the savannah in its entirety at Lillie House : How We Save the Savannas

And most magnificent of all the ecosystems in the new Americas was the savannas. These large parcels of land were once common across the region where the Eastern Woodland receded into western prairie.Chickens in wood compost in background

Our chickens free ranging along the path into the forest.

Just as we call the prairies “grasslands,” these savannas were “flowerlands,” glorious with a great bounty of broadleaf plants that provide medicine, food and forage. These special ecosystems are the preferred environment of many species, the only place where some can thrive. No doubt it was also home to undiscovered, lost soil communities that we had not yet begun to understand when we brought with us a vast, yet tiny army of invisible conquistadors to colonize the kingdom under foot. 

Oak Savvanah with flowers underneath
 Photo credit: Lillie House Blog Spot.
Within ten years of “settlement” by Europeans, these ecosystems were transformed. The open woodlands filled in to thick forest, prairies and savannas turned to cane thickets and old field, and eventually forest. This once open, park-like continent transformed to just another dense European thicket, and the North American miracle was never to be seen again.


One of the remaining stands of native lupines in the State Game Area.

One large 50,000 acre parcel the Allegan State game Area was preserved by officials for its recreational use for campers, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, horse trail riders and hunters and due to the prevalent native lupines that grow there. These beautiful lupines are the host plant for the protected Karner blue butterflies.


Spring in the forest with native Lupines providing the color.

The chickens had a blast being out of their run. They walked, scratch and pecked for hours every day.  We feel most comfortable supervising the chickens when they free range outside of their fenced in runs.

Rhodie head up studio in rear USE

The forest edge creates a lovely back-drop to our property as well as wind break.

I have tried to preserve the trees on our land and to plant native plantings as well as the many native Lupines as I could plant. I have maintained and played steward on this property as best that I can in the fifteen years we have lived here. We have work hard to preserve and protect this unique ecosystem and add to it as we can.

The weather report indicated that a big storm is headed our way later this week and predicting 5″ to 8″ of fresh snow. So I have been picking up as many sticks as I could and letting the chicken out for several hours a day. Apparently this lovely thaw is about to end!

Oh and the bluebird are coming back…we saw two males looking for their breeding territories earlier this week! I’ll keep you posted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

A Late Summer Night Stroll with the Rhodies

We’ve started a new homestead tradition this summer and that is letting the chickens out of their run every night for a bit of an evening stroll. It’s been so hot this past week that they pretty much lay under the raspberries during the heat of the day as even walking around in the shade take too much energy. But by early evening when the temperatures cool off a bit they come alive again. I want them to have some exercise and this evening walkabout strategy has seemed to interest them greatly.

Prcking foot cute                           Chicken pecking on Gene’s shoes. Such funny birds!

I chose to not let them truly free-range, fulltime on our property for several reasons but they have been enjoying a little free time stroll around the vegetable garden and yard each evening.

3 Rhodies outside the fence USE

The Rhodies find an area of moss and enjoy munching it.

Our Cochin’s who have lived within their fence in pastures for the past year are not comfortable coming out with us yet and run right back into their run area for an apparent feeling of security. To bad girls!

Snowballoutide gate USE    Snowball the Cochin won’t come further out of her pen than the gate.  

But the adventuresome four-month-old Rhodies seem to adore their nightly stroll with us. It is really fun to watch them walk around, explore, looking for and finding bugs and running to catch up with one another.

Sometimes I sit on the grass and they come up to me and peck at my clothing and shoes. This gives me the perfect opportunity to observe their legs and feet looking for mites, to peek at their bottom to make sure we have no pasty butt issues going on. They won’t let me hold them to do a thorough check over but as long as I can “observe” their health every day, I am comfortable.

Chickens outside of run with white roof USE The Rhodies like to walk along the fence row of their run looking for bugs.

Two chickens at barn

Two Rhodies boldly venture over towards the pole barn.

I hope you enjoy today’s photo diary!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna


New Outdoor Chickenwire Playpen

Checking out the garden USE

It’s a big new world for a chicken that has only known an indoor brooder.

My chickie babies and I took a little sun bath in the lovely 70+ degree sunshine today. We all sat in the newly built chicken wire and stake enclosure Gene made for us within our vegetable garden. This was their first outdoor adventure so we kept it short, we were outside maybe 15-20 minutes max.

Marching RIR USE

Hey you guys, come on out its pretty out here.

Gene built a this temporary “playpen” for us today for this very purpose. I carried the chicks out in a cardboard box and turned it on its side so they had a place to be with plenty of shade and no breeze and where they felt safe and secure.

Chicken wire playpen

The new, temporary and movable chicken wire playpen.

They tentatively moved in and out of the box, testing the feeling of grass on their feet and the taste of fresh grass then they scurried back inside. They are just beginning to get use to the feel of the sunshine and the out-of-doors. They had their organic growers feed sprinkled on the floor of their box and fresh water in a chicken waterer nearby.

Food shelter water and mom what more could a chick need

Food, sunshine, water and mom nearby….what more could you ask for?

They acted like they had a great time. As soon as they started to act the least bit tired I took them back into their brooder and fed them their fermented grower feed, and dandelion greens tea w/ garlic which they love. They were back up on their little mountain of grass and dirt in a few minutes playing king of the mountain!

This was a positive experience I think!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna