Sitting With My Chickens

To some people chicken are a means to an end… eggs…meat…fertilizer.

Three Rhodies 11-11-15 USE

The girls are curious why I am sitting with them in their covered run.

But to me that are much more. They are my friends. They trust me. I have learned this by sitting with them nearly every day.

It doesn’t take much work or much time. I just sit on the ground and be with them. I watch them, talk to them and caress them when they let me into the flock.

Pcking pants compost bin in rear USE

The come up and peck off bits of dirt from my jeans just like do each other.

I find that they love this activity and come right up to me; they talk to me, look me right in the eye, tell me their mysteries and generally treat me as one of their own.

We connect.

You need only think of a flock of birds flying together or a school of fish swimming together to understand the beauty of connection.

This has become a time of stress reduction for me, a time of peace. I find I am happy and at my most relaxed when I am sitting with my chickens.

Rhodie in leaves nice light USE

Our evening free range time together.

It’s pretty simple really; my chickens make me a more patient, living in the moment person.

I invite you to try it and report back.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Sprouting Barley Seeds in my Laundry Room

Gene and I are still fighting the nasty flu bug that had been going around our area so our homesteading efforts this week are minimal. I made a big pot of homemade chicken and vegetable soup today and I am hoping that this natural medicine can help us to feel a bit better and soon. On to today’s post.

It is sprouting greens season again.

Rhoide prancing USE

Sprouts are simply whole grains or seeds that are grown with water before being fed to the chickens. Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.

Chickens need a mix of protein with an adequate source of energy vitamins and minerals as well as water. These requirements are met by feeding them while grains in addition to the protein source. Sprouting grains is one way to stretch a feed budget for the average backyard flock as a supplement to their diet but not as their primary feed source.

In addition, I am always looking for ways to give my more chicken live greens, especially in the winter months. Sometimes I sprout mung beans in a quart jar in my kitchen and in warm sunny weather I plant barley seeds right in the soil of their chicken run. This makes greens available to them anytime they are outside pecking and scratching.

Thinking ahead to winter, when it will be too cold to grow the barley seeds out-of-doors, I am experimenting with sprouting barley seeds in a plastic dish washing tub in my laundry room right now.

Barley green and frame USE

I like to have live green sprouts available for my chickens.

Sprouting can be done on your kitchen counter or in your laundry room. No special lights are needed just a room temperature around 45 degrees F and 69 degrees F.

Rhodie run and barey frame USE

This winter I am using an old black metal shelving unit that has been used in both of my homes and more recently in my art gallery. I set this stand up in my laundry/mechanical room near the sink for rinsing near the natural sunlight shines in from a south-facing window. Our laundry/mechanical room is the warmest room in our home due to winter use of our clothes dryer, our hot water boiler heating unit and the south-facing sunshine…so it’s the perfect place in our home for sprouting.

I bought my barley seeds from the Amish feed store in our area. I requested untreated seeds and they were able to order them from an Amish farmer in Indiana. This is the closest I can get to organic whole grain seeds. Barley is a cover crop that is high in nutrients when sprouted because the nutrition then become more bioavailable.  My chickens love seeds of all types and sprouted barley seeds are no exception.

There are several ways to make sprouts but this is the one I use.

  1. Put the grains in a bucket and let them soak for 12 hours.
  2. Pour off extra water and smooth the grain out to a thin and even layer.
  3. Put trays on my food shelving rack.
  4. I rinse and water my trays of barley seeds twice a day. I do not reuse the water.
  5. I grow these sprouts for around 5-8 days and when they are sprouted, I grab two handfuls and toss them into the chicken run.

I make my barley sprouts in a newly bought plastic paper holder I purchased  from the Dollar Store and an old retired white dish pan that became available when I bought my new metal dish pan this summer from Lehman’s, I always love to repurpose things when I can and not add to the landfill problem.

I love Lehman’s because all the wares they sell are solid made and they have been providing non-electric alternatives since 1955. They offer homestead needs from oil lamps, wood stoves, off grid necessities to kitchen ware that will last a lifetime and still be passed on. I recently splurged and bought a solid blue graniteware washing tub, an Amish made tack cloth clothes pin holder for my clothesline and a study, metal dust pan. None of these items will ever have to be replaced, not in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children either..

Sprouts can be fed to the chickens at any time but the nutrition benefits max out at around day six.

There is a lot if information on sprouting on the internet if you need more details, of free to contact me and I’ll help you any way I can.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna


New Chicken Coop Addition Update

We have made some real progress on the new chicken coop this week. I have started thinking of it as a chicken condo with attached sunroom, now that the complex has two freestanding coops with an adjoining covered run.

Gene stapling lono in new coop USE

We opened up the south side of the covered run and slid the new coop 2 X 4 frame into place. late this week Gene started adding the completed side panels, hardware cloth and one set of double doors. We really like double doors design that open out on our coops so I can get in them to clean out the poop, add sand, change the sand out or hose the coop out in mid-summer.

Lino edge caulked USE

The lInoleum a friend gave us is down and the corners are caulked.

Most of the coops painting is complete. Though we did run into a snag with our chosen paint color.  We found out last week that the dark base of our Pittsburg Paint  brand (that we use as house trim/barn trim/coop paint) has been discontinued.  UG! this necessitated many phone calls to locate more, a long drive to another town to buy up the last four remaining quarts of dark base to have on hand and a $90.00 expenditure we had not planned on.

Sand and cart of sand USE

Early this morning I shovel sand and hauled to the coop and filled it.

Because both coops are within a few feet of one another, we planned to paint both the same brown tone.  Granted, dark brown is not a “pretty” color choice, but we have discovered that browns, tans and gray are the most practical colors for the country between chicken-made dust and gravel road dirt floating around.

Rhodies in sand USE

Within five minutes of the sand being down the Rhodies were in it, exploring.

Yesterday we put the floor board in and Gene stapled the linoleum into place. This morning I hauled over 12 half buckets of sand and spread the sand out on the coops floor. The Rhodies were in the sand within five minutes cooing, scratching and eating it. These birds absolutely adore a pile of fresh sand. Nothing makes them happier!

Chicken scratch close USE

They left their chicken scratch foot prints too!

One of the chicken ladders is made, on went both coop sides as well. After weeks of daily construction and painting and the feeling that the project is never going to end, progress is finally being made.

These birds are now three months old and very ready to be out of the dog kennel sleeping quarters into their own coop. Soon babies soon!

Gene just popped into the house and told me that thinks he the coop will be just completed enough or them to sleep in tonight. Horray!

Barn side flag in center nice

Our pole barn. Freshly laid bark chips and field stones make a garden.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna