A Week in Photos Small House Homestead

We had a bit of the January thaw this week. Our weather rose to around 40’s degrees and the sun shone brightly for a few days. We were happy to be able to get our snowbound chickens out of the chicken run for a stroll and a munch on patches of grass that popped up as the snow melted.

Hey lady where are my worms

Crystal says, ‘Hey lady where is the food?’

Our winter has been relatively mild this year with small amounts of snow interspersed with a warmish week in-between. This week the animals certainly enjoyed enjoy our old-fashioned January thaw.

Sunrise hprzontal most pink

A beautiful winter sunrise one day this week on the Small House homestead.

And, I enjoyed a rare opportunity to photographs very pretty sunrise on Saturday morning. I am usually up and at em’ early as our retriever Sassy gets up very early to go outside to the bathroom. My day often begins with the sound of her nails clicking on our linoleum floor and her head pressing down on my arm as her signal, ‘Okay mom its time!’

Sassy 11-18-14

Miss Sassy the snow dog.

Everyday the sun rises but most days I am preoccupied with animals needs or cooking breakfast to actually walk out and concentrate on taking a good a photograph. But luck was with me that day.

Sunrise tree in half interesting for textGreeting The Dawn.

Elsa the fluffy butt

Do these feathers make my butt look big?

After the animals are fed and our breakfast eaten we do our yoga stretches. On this day Sassy was determined to get into the act.

Sassy doing yoga stretches

Sassy and Gene do their yoga stretches.

Circling the fire

The Rhodies circle the wagons.

Crystal bithbat head up USE

Crystal scratching for sunflower seeds under the bird bath

Sassy run three

Sassy gets a good walk everyday.

The chicken monitor

The chicken monitor.

I hope your week was a good one too.

Small House homesteader, Donna

The Small House Homestead Winter – Photo Diary

Pole barn crystal gene USE

Crystal the Rhode Island Red likes to follow us around the homestead.

Our winter thus far has been spent, cooking new gluten-free recipes, doing some deep cleaning inside our home, letting the chickens out to free range with supervision and shoveling snow. Welcome to winter in Michigan!!

This is our week of January 15, 2016. I hope you enjoy the view!

Rhodies and Cochins in dirt USE

Rhodies and Cochin’s alike want to get out of the run no matter the weather.

We shoveled snow away from the door to the covered run so the chicks could scratch and peck. Our girls love their dirt!

Rhodie at pole barn USE

Elsa found a tiny bit of open ground in front of the pole barn door.

We are challenged to find open areas of dirt or leaves to keep the chickens occupied during the long, cold days and out of trouble. Too much time in the coop means chicken squabbles and the lowest chickens in the pecking order seem to be the one who suffer, especially poor Freckles.

If there is a tiny patch of dirt USE

The wondering buddies, Crystal and Elsa.

This was a tiny melted area about the size of a plate near the front of the pole and the girls found it and scratched around satisfying the Rhodies intense drive to dig, scratch and peck.

Crystal and Elsa are wondering buddies. Even when no one else will venture outside in the snow and cold these two avian friends find a way to occupy themselves.

Rhodie at pole barn USE

Posing at the pole barn!

Gene and two chickens USE

Gene and his girls!

Unless there is a terrible snowstorm, we try to get the chickens outside every day, if even for just an hour. Sunlight, fresh air and exercise are good for the girls and helps to keep them busy and occupied too.

Rhoide under forge at buckets USE

When the chicken run gate is open for our morning chores they invariably find their way to the overhand of the forge where there is open dirt and leaves. THIs winter we have stored buckets of bark chips under the forge overhang that we use from time in the chicken coop.

Chicken tracks use

Chickens tracks lead the way to where the girls have been traveling.

I hope you have been having some enjoyable travels too!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Elsa’s First Egg – A Red Letter Day!

It’s always a red-letter day when your chicken lays her fist egg. It doesn’t matter how many flocks you have had in the past but the flocks first egg is always a treasure – a golden egg so to speak. Especially when you have waited five months (five month and one day) for it to happen.

RIR are known for being great egg layers and each bird lays up to 300 lovely, large brown eggs per year. That and their easy-going, hardy natures are the reason I chose them this time around.

Egg alone in a bowl USE

Elsa’s first egg. Big, brown, beautiful and organic!

Elsa is the most mature of our four Rhode Island Red chickens. Elsa is a beautiful Rhodie with a deeply burnished dark neck ruff and black tail feathers. She is the one whose comb got red first, who squatted in submission first and now she is the first of the flock to lay her egg. I also think she is the head chicken of that small Rhode Island Red flock.

RIR circling the food dish

Yesterday she started a kind of “I’m uncomfortable” squawking and I suspected her egg was coming soon. Coincidentally the nest boxes were all full of empty jugs and jars to make it uncomfortable for the three Cochin broodies who has been brooding in the next box for almost 6 weeks. It was time for them to rejoin the flock and while I didn’t want to punish them for their own natural hormones, I wanted to make their time in the box uncomfortable. So I piled on the old Kiefer jugs, lemonade jars and milk cartons I had saved for this purpose.

This morning while I was opening and cleaning out the coop Elsa looked into the nest box (which was full) and started to squawk again loudly so I quickly removed the jugs. Within two hours she had laid. Her egg song was joyous and loud! Good girl Elsa!

And yes she is named Elsa after the character in Frozen. Our North Carolina granddaughter named her that.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Hawk in the Chicken Coop – Lesson Learned

We experienced our first hawk in the chicken run today on the Small House Homestead.

Chicken complex w tree slight mist

Our netted chicken pasture is made using greenhouse hoop and deer netting.

We had been gone to a presentation in town this morning and we returned home around noon. I headed into the house to pull lunch together that was cooking in the Crockpot and Gene heard a loud chicken ruckus. When he investigated he saw an immature Red tail Hawk on the ground in the raspberry chicken pasture area and some black feathers on the ground as well.

The girls were making an awful racket and had scattered and hid under the thorny and thick raspberries bushes that we had fenced in. We do see Red tail Hawks flying in the skies here and hear them calling to one another quite often. This was our first on the ground hawk sighting here in over a year of the new Cochin coop due to our property being surrounded by thick woods.

Raccoons have always been our main chicken predator confirming Gene belief that”A large hawk would not come down here due to the woods…. there is not enough space for a big hawk to fly in and around.” Today we learned otherwise.

We did a head count and we were very lucky that no chicken was hurt. We learned a valuable lesson today…never say NEVER. This was an immature bird and likely learning to hunt, smelled chicken and came to investigate.

Proud Rhodie greets the day

One of the Rhodies playing around the new run.

We also learned that we can no longer leave the chickens out in the pasture while we are gone from home. We had been lulled into complacency. We will now have to make sure they are in the netted small run area.  I am grateful we have this netted run area up and ready to use.

main gate in shot from inside the run

The gate to the netted and covered run.

The moral of this story is that no matter how prepared one is; nature is going to throw you a curve ball.

On the positive side of this lesson; the Cochin’s had been taught by their momma to be afraid of large birds (I observed this many times.) Now the Cochin’s have taught the 4-month-old Rhodies to be aware as well. I am just thankful this lesson ended up working in our favor!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Chicken Run Roof Going Up

In spite of being in the upper 80’s on the homestead today, the chicken run roof is going up.

White roof on run USE

The two roof lines will meet when the roof is completed.

We selected white plastic corrugated roofing panels to match those given to us by a friend used previously on coop number 1. These will also reflect the heat in the winter months and provide more light and warmth in the run during the bitter winter cold that we typically experience here.

Run chiekens ans sunflowers USE FIRST

The run frame as seen from the west. This is tall enough to walk in.

We decided to build a covered outdoor run for our birds to enjoy the fresh air. During the nice weather months the feeders and waterers can be placed in the covered runs so the coops stay dry and clean. During the cold and snowy months, the birds can get out of their coop and move around without walking in the deep snow, which most chickens do not like to do.

This will eventually have chicken wire with plastic panels over it for winter use.

Sunflower edge of run and Rhodies USE

The 4 month old Rhodies scratching around in there outside run area.

This large, covered walk in run area is important for chickens for a number of reasons including:

  1. To provides shelter from weather and direct sunlight.
  2. To provide security from predators.
  3. To provide a measure of biosecurity by not allowing droppings from wild birds to land.

One Rhodie USE

Happy chickens lay happy and tasty eggs!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

 

The Heat is On: Photo Diary week of July 6 – July 13

The heat is on in SW Michigan and on the Small House homestead too.

House and barn under the Oak Trees USE

I’ve been hauling hoses to water the garden beds and the vegetables. I put down another truck load of bark chips this week though I am not sure how many more loads I’ll be doing this summer due to the rising heat and humidity…perhaps more come fall.  The mosquitoes have been very thick here on the homestead this summer from all the spring rains which means gearing up in mosquitoes mask, long sleeves and pants.

Herb garden studio in distance USE

I am still working every morning painting the chicken coop pieces and parts though the bulk of it is now painted. I have been teaching the three-month old RIR chicks to go up the ramp into their new coop.

IBarn front-side close view

The garden is growing slow this year due to the cool nights though I’ve started harvesting more lettuce greens, a few cherry tomatoes and a single yellow pepper. I did fertilize the tomatoes this week with my bath of comfrey tea I made a few weeks ago.

Vegetable garden  7 11 15

Album holder flower pot for 2015

July and August are lighter outdoor work months for us because it’s just too hot to take on new large projects and we are also pretty fried by July as well. I have a long list of projects I want to accomplish in the house during the hot months anyway. I need to file, find a replacement door handle for the three season porch and research a new pole barn door as our old one is showing signs of failing. And at some point this summer we have to have the river rock floor in our porch cleaned, repaired and resealed but that project has been waiting for real hot weather and no rain.

Garden view out backporch slider

We are hoping for rain and cooler days ahead.

Working area

 

Gene holding snowball USE

Small House homesteader, Donna

Photo Diary: Enjoying the Simple Life Today

USE FIRST

Playing with the chicksMy almost two-week old Rhode Island Red chicks enjoying the out-of-doors.

We spent our day just enjoying the simple life today…playing with the chicks in the outside pen…

Playing in the grass USE

 

It's a bird..its a plane...oh no its sassy! Gene is smiling

Taking Sassy swimming at the SW Michigan Land Conservancy land, Wau-kee-nau…

Row of yellow waukeena

Enjoying the lovely warm and sunny day as well as the bright yellow and cheerful forsythia in full bloom…

Put my roadside rescue treasures up on the pool shack…

IMG_8484

Photographing my violets in the garden path and picking out my flowers for our summer pots…

Patch of violets USE

Who can ask for more than a home centered life, beautiful sunny weather and spending it together.

Small House Big Sky Homesteader, Donna