Homestead

Raising Chickens In The Backyard For The Beginner

Raising Chickens In The Backyard For The Beginner

Raising chickens for beginners

Chickens are great for people that are looking to get back to nature. My family and I love nature and we love living in small town USA in the heart of central Florida. Chickens can be great pets, supply you with an ample supply of eggs, can be a great source of meat when need be, and can add a little extra income to the family if you decide to sell the eggs.

At our home we have nine chickens at the present time. They range from two months old to five months old. We started this batch of chickens from when they were one week old. We built our own coop and chicken run from scratch and it cost us about $150.00 and then I put on another chicken run to give the hens more room to move around when we are not home. This cost about another $50.00. So for $200.00 we have a large hen house and two chicken runs for them to play around in.

Disclaimer: I am not a chicken expert; my family and I am novice at raising chickens.

Raising chicken from babies

When we purchase our chicks I waited until I could purchase then when they were sexed. This means that there is a very good chance that I will not be purchasing a rooster. Where I live my neighbors probably would not enjoy hearing a rooster at sun up or any other time of the day. I have been fortunate so far that I have not brought home a rooster yet. Where I purchase my chicks I always ask to make sure that they feel confident that there are no roosters in the mix.

Chickens first few weeks

For the first three to four weeks after they come home we keep the chicks in a large rubber made storage container, depending how many you bring home will determine how large of a container you will need. They are way too young to put in the coop when they first arrive at home. While in the storage container I have a bed of pine shavings or shredded newspaper about two to three inches thick for them to run around on and to sleep on at night. Being here in Florida we do not need any heat lamp for them to stay warm but depending where you live you may need to purchase one to help keep them warm till they are a couple months old.

Chicken feed

For the first three months chickens need what is called chicken starter food or sometimes called starter crumbles. I personally purchase starter crumbles that has additional nutrients mixed in for healthier chickens. Most starter crumbles contain about twenty percent protein. Starter crumbles can be purchased in both medicated and unmediated varieties; I personally use the medicated formula. Chickens can get an intestinal disease very easily that can be deadly and this is where the medicated feed comes in to help protect the chicks from catching this deadly disease.

When chicks get about eight weeks old then I switch them to grower chicken feed which contains less protein usually around 16 – 18 percent protein. I will keep them on this till they reach about 18 weeks old, this chicken feed is not medicated.

When the chickens reach about 18 plus weeks old I will switch them to layer feed. Layer feed is 16 – 18 percent protein but it also contains calcium the calcium is for helping with eggshell production.

I may catch some flak from some of you readers out there but I do give my girls cracked corn with their feed, about a 50/50 mixture. I have done this with all my hens from the time they reach about four weeks old till present. We also give them treats like meal worms and food scraps from the dinner table. We are not production farmers and we do have good solid and healthy chickens that are spoiled.

Chicken treats

You will see all over the internet about giving your chickens treats. Some people are in favor of giving them treats and others will say that it is not good for their diet. In our home we do give treats to our girls. Treats can range from various items but we give ours insects that we come across in the yard or we give them dried meal worms that we purchase at our feed supplier.

Chicken eggs

There is a question that I get asked all the time, “do I need to have a rooster in order to have eggs”? The answer is simple – NO! If you are wanting to increase your flock by having baby chicks from eggs then you will need to have a rooster, but No rooster is needed for just having eggs. The first time that I went to cook an egg from one of my chickens I could not believe how much richer and tastier it was than the eggs that I use to purchase at the store. You will really love the eggs that your girls will leave you when you start raising your own chickens.

You’re yard

If your families are the type that have a manicured lawn you may think twice about having chickens. Chickens will destroy a yard in no time if they are left free to run around. Chickens love to dig, just like dogs. Chickens will scratch and dig everywhere looking for insects they love to take dust baths. Now don’t let this discourage you from raising chickens, there are ways to keep them contained from ripping apart your lawn.

Now if you are like us and don’t care as much about our backyard as we do our front then chickens can be your best friend. You see chickens eat anything and everything, our back yard has a tremendous amount of weeds, ants and other insects. Our girls feel like they are in heaven when we let them out to run around, they love eating the weeds, and digging up any hills but we do have to be careful because they will eat other things that are not has healthy for them like trash.

My babies

Many of you may think that I am a little crazy but you will see if you decide to raise chickens you will get attached to them like your own children. You will find yourself naming them and talking to them just like your children and of course you will spoil them.

Raising chickens is not rocket science but it does take a little trial and error before you figure out what is best for your girls. Just like having children, you can read books and get advice from people but the best way to find out what to do is just jump right in and go for it. Here are some good resources for getting started raising your first flock of chickens.

       

 

 

Posted by Tom in chickens, Homestead
Skills and Tools Needed To Survive While Homesteading

Skills and Tools Needed To Survive While Homesteading

Homesteading Skills

The family that homesteads together stays together. Homesteading tasks go from sun up to sun down and there are many chores that need to be completed every day. From checking the chickens to pulling weeds in the garden to mowing the pasture there are always things that need to be done. I find in today culture kids don’t know how to do anything manually. If it comes to technology they are great but when it comes to checking air in a tire or the oil on a car they don’t have a clue what to do. This is so sad to see in our young people today….

Chores and Task

Chores around a homestead can turn into larger jobs that require more skill and talent then many of us have. Also some of these jobs require tools and equipment that we may not be familiar with. If that is the case we need to tackle these jobs with a positive attitude and get the job done. Many of these jobs require us to get a little greasy or dirty but if you cannot find money in the budget to get the work done by a professional then you will have to do some research and figure out how to repair whatever is broken. What you don’t want to do is leave the job or task for another day, that day may never come and the repair could lead into creating other issues.

Be Proactive

If you are a homesteader you should have some working knowledge of tools, equipment and be a self-thinker. For example when my hot water heater died, I did not call the plumber to come and replace it, I googled how to repair and replace the heating elements myself. This task saved me several hundred dollars. When I needed to run electric out to my pole barn that I built I did some more research and did the work myself and again it saved me several hundred of dollars.

Mechanical Skills

There may be a day when we wake up and clock has changed back to the 1800’s. The power grid may be down, technology may be fried and we may have to fend for ourselves. Now would be a good time for the fathers in the homes take some time and teach your kids how to do simple things around the house and garage like changing the oil on the car, check the air in the tires of the car, change a tire and put on a spare, tune up a car, do some gardening, and so on. Since today we still have electric and technology no time is better than the present to teach your children some mechanical skills.

Sewing

What happen to the days when mothers taught their children how to sew and knit? I remember on cold winter days my mother taught me how to run a sewing machine, how to quilt, how to make clothes, how to fix holes in jeans, and how to replace buttons on a shirt.

Sewing takes some basic skills and the right tools but it can be a world of fun and when need be it could be a dire survival skill that everyone will wish they knew how to do.

Cooking

Everyone knows how to eat! But does everyone know how to make or cook a meal? I remember when my daughter got married she had no idea how to cook. I worked all the time so I did not have the time to teach her and her mother was too lazy to teach her.

Cooking Together

When push comes to shove you will need to know some cooking basics, you may even have to know how to go catch a live rabbit or live chicken and dress it and cook it with some vegetables from the garden. If you don’t know how to cook, you may want to pick up some recipe books and start practicing.

These are just a few of the skills that you will need to know in order to survive homesteading or worse living off the grid. We will be talking about more of these task’s and chores in later articles and if you have other ideas please pass them along in the comments section.

Posted by Tom in Homestead
Setup Your Finances In Order To Homestead Properly

Setup Your Finances In Order To Homestead Properly

How to finance your homestead

Many people have asked me over the years how I went about setting up my finances in order to homestead properly? For our family we work very hard to live on half of the income that comes into the home. This is not easy for us but we do our best in order save as much money as possible. We pour in a lot of blood sweat and tears into our work instead of hiring things done and this helps us to save money. The other thing that we did that most people hate to think or talk about is budgeting. We will discuss budgeting in more detail in a later episode. Today we will just touch on a few key points of a budget.

The cost housing

Like I have mentioned in another post we live in the nature coast of Central Florida. The housing cost here is much much less than living in other areas of the country and even in the State of Florida. Many people would rather live in a more city type areas like Orlando or Tampa in order to enjoy all the fun and materialistic lifestyle that city life can give them. But living closer to these cities the housing cost would be three to five times higher than where I live now. In order to keep our housing cost down we choose to live here and by doing so we were able to pay off our house and property and live mortgage free. I will admit that there are days when my materialistic mind says let’s sell everything and build a new fancy home, but then I think what would happen if the economy tanks and the banks call in all their mortgages, we would be homeless. Since our home is paid off I don’t have to worry if the country falls back into a depression my family will have a roof over our heads.

Think before you buy

One of the main problems with our country today is the economy. From our government leaders all the way down to the blue collar worker we purchase things on credit. People need to stop pulling out their plastic credit cards and start paying for items in CASH ONLY. If for any reason you need to finance something do some real soul searching and decide if the item is really a need or a want, and if it is a need then try to work out some creative financing in order to keep the interest payments to a bare minimum. Many young people today finance everything that they own, credit card companies play these games with travel points to cash back deals and so on. Don’t fall for these scams, they sound great but they sucker you in with these scams and the next thing you know your credit is maxed out and you will be paying thousands of dollars in interest fees.

Weigh out your needs versus your wants

Do I need a new car or do I want a new car? These are questions that we all need to sit down and decide. The car I am driving has 228,346 miles and it runs great plus I get fifty miles to a gallon. But would I love to have a new car or truck, of course. But what comes with a new car or truck, a payment. I love so much not having any car payments, this money I save in car payments goes directly into the bank. I have friends that have three or four car payments, according to bankrate.com the average car payment in the U.S. is $479.00. Three to four car payments in a household like this would wipe out some families finances if one of the family members lost their job.

Take television, here in Central Florida we have one maybe two cable companies that supply cable television to the homes. The average cable bill according to USA News is $124.00 a month. In our home I purchased a high definition cable antenna and I pay nothing for television. I pull in over thirty television stations even though I live over sixty miles from a big city. That $124.00 a month can purchase a lot of other items that are needs not luxury items.

Eating out is another area that you can save a lot of money. Food is one of my downfalls, I love food and I love to eat out. I have friends and family that eat out for every meal, can you imagine what their food expense is every month. When I go to places like Outback, Olive Garden or etc my dinner bill for my wife and I comes to around $50 – $60 each time. This is such a waste of hard earned money. When I go to the grocery store and figure the cost of the same meal I could save more than half the cost of eating out.

These are just a few things that you need to sit down and decide for you and your family. If you truly want to be homesteaders and put cash away you may need to adjust your family expenses and get rid of some luxury items in order to live on much less and have additional funds for your homesteading projects.

Get the family involved

Homesteading is a family lifestyle. It takes hard work by everyone in the family. When it comes to finances the entire household needs to be on the same page. There needs to be family conversations and open communication with everyone in order to have everyone working towards the same goals.

Budgets

Like I said in the beginning living on half of a family’s income is hard. It takes serious discipline and special planning. If you put your mind to it you can make anything happen as long as you have a plan and stick to it. The key elements that led us to be able to live on half was making wise choices, work to cut out all debt, and being creative. In some future articles we will take a much closer look at budgeting and setting some financial goals.

Related Links:

5 Budgeting Tips

Budgeting ideas for mom’s

Helpful tips for family budget

 

 


Posted by Tom in Budgeting, Homestead
How To Live Without Electricity

How To Live Without Electricity

How To Get By Without Electricity

In today’s age of technology it is hard to imagine that people live without electricity but many do. One of these people is my sister and brother-in law. The power lines stop about fifteen miles from their home so the cost to deliver power out to their home would totally out of this world.

Life Without Electric For Lights

Home in Guatemala with no electricity is not uncommon.

In my travels through Central and South America it is amazing how many people live with just one light bulb burning in their home or they have no electricity at all. According to some there are over one billion people that do not have electricity in the world. Now us here in the United States and over in Japan and Europe almost everyone has electric and most of us would not know what to do without it. Most of the electric that the world uses are controlled by powerful countries like the United States and a few other major players. We call this the power grid.

Cooking Without Power

Cooking in many homes in Central and South America is done with an open fire and no ventilation inside the home.

Many people around the world do not even have the capabilities to cook there meals on a stove like we do here in the U.S.A. Many of the places I have been in countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and etc. wish they could have an opportunity to cook on an electric or gas stove. Most of these people have to cook on an open fire or on some sort of make shift wood burning stove. There are many injuries or illnesses from cooking this way, everything from lung cancer to repertory problems to death. If you think life is rough when the burner does not work right on your cook stove, just imagine what life will be like when the power goes out.

No Communication

Most of our communication and technology depends on electricity. Most homes today rely on cellular communication to be our lifeline to the world. The days of picking up a handset and dialing a landline phone is a thing of the past. If the power grid goes down are we going to be prepared to use some sort of other communication?

What Will Cause Us To Lose Electricity

Power blackouts can be caused by many things, such as thunderstorms, natural disasters, solar flares, EMP attacks, and so on. In some situations a backup generator is all you’re going to need to get by on for a short time without electric. But what if some huge natural disaster or an EMP takes out the power grid for a long period of time, will you be ready. For additional information on EMP click here.

Lighting Ideas

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this article my sister and family have been living without electricity for close to forty years. I have learnt a lot from them in how to live off the grid. When it comes to lighting it really is not hard to adapt to using candles and oil lamps to get by on. Since my family and I live in Florida we are always losing power do to storms and hurricanes so we make sure that we always have a good stock of batteries and flashlights for when the power goes off. Some other alternatives for lighting that are available today is hand crank flashlights, these are great because they never need batteries. Solar powered lights are great for having light during the night and they re-charge during the day. With today’s solar powered led lighting you can light a whole house with just a few of these lights. Our security lighting on our home and land is done by solar powered motion controlled lighting.
                

Propane Cooking

Most of us have done some sort of camping in our lives. Cooking over a camp fire is nice for a short period of time, but eventually you will run out of firewood to keep cooking. For not to much money pick yourself up a two or two burner camp stove that uses small propane tanks. These come in handy when you want to boil some water for coffee, or soup, or make spaghetti or any other kind of cooking you need to do.
                                       

Life Without Electric Using An Alternative Source Of Power

There is a constantly new source of solar energy coming on the market every time I do any research on solar. They claim this next year we will be able to purchase shingles that will be a solar source. There are other forms of alternative energy that is becoming more and more accessible to the general public. One source is wind power, or wind turbines that produce electric for the home owner. Another source which also uses wind is the old fashion wind mill connected to a generator system that stores power like solar in batteries.

Life without electric can be daunting and uncomfortable especially for us that depend on electric for everything we do. But if you are like me and plan ahead for the day when the lights go out you and your family could be fully prepared.  Being prepared is the key to this situation and what better time than the present to get your family ready for that dark day that lies in front of us when the grid goes down.

Posted by Tom in Homestead, Off The Grid
Surviving a EMP Strike Even If It Is A Natural Disaster

Surviving a EMP Strike Even If It Is A Natural Disaster

A few years ago when I started my prepping it was because of a book that a friend of mine loaned me called the “One Second After” written by William R. Forstchen . After reading this amazing book I knew that I needed to start getting ready for whatever event would take place on this planet from a minor inconvenience like loosing power do to some sort of natural storm or a major catastrophic event.

Every day I read the news to see what is happening in this crazy world that we live in.  If you are not living under a rock you can see for yourself that things around the world are spinning totally out of control.  Everyday there are articles about how our enemies like Russia, China, Iran  and etc. are ready to take us on head to head in war. The one country that has my interest peeked at the moment is North Korea. The unstable radical President  seems to be putting on the finishing touches on a ballistic missile or some sort of satellite nuclear bomb.  This crazy person has only one intention in life it seems and it is to wipe the United States off the map. 

Additional reading: “Link”.

More Reading: “Link

Why Should We Prep?

Most of us prep for various reasons and it is by all means great to be ready for whatever comes our way. A household should have about twelve months of supplies on hand for whatever disaster comes our way. When I talk about disasters I just don’t mean war or being taken over by zombies or aliens, what I am talking about could just be a natural disaster like tornadoes, hurricanes, solar flares or etc. Whatever the risk you need to be prepared and have the basic understanding and supplies on hand for whatever comes our way.

Most people that have been prepping for a while may have head of “EMP” or Electromagnetic Pulse. If you read the articles that I have linked above or read the book “The One Second After” you will see that this is one of the number one threats to our country and our way of life.

What is an EMP?

Again an EMP is just an Electromagnetic Pulse and these pulses do happen periodically all around the world. So what is the big deal, let’s look deeper and you will see what the big deal really is.

When dealing with an EMP an EMP can be caused by either man made device like a nuclear explosion or it can happen by a natural disaster like a thunderstorm or a solar storm. Many of us have experienced an EMP on a small scale already and many of you have not even known it. Small EMP’s happen during lightning storms or major thunderstorms. Living here in Florida we have thunderstorms all year long and we lose our power with just about every thunderstorm. What happens is lightning hits a transformer in the neighborhood and it sends a large surge of electricity through the electric lines blowing other transformers or sends the energy down the lines to the homes. When this energy enters the home it blows out devices that are not connected to surge suppressors. These devices would be televisions, computers, dvd players, just about anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet. This would be a low-level EMP which just causes us to be inconvenienced and annoyed.

Now let’s take a look at an EMP which occurs on a much larger scale. An EMP could occur by either a foreign nuclear explosion or by a major solar storm which either of these could take place at any time. Now if a disaster like this was to take place we would be a lot more than inconvenienced it would a disaster that would cripple a nation or cripple the world. When this does take place it would not just leave us without power for a few days like a thunderstorm it would crash our whole way of life for many years.

Additional Reading:  Gauging the Threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

Like I mentioned above, this threat is knocking on our door as we speak. The two articles that I linked above came this week when I was scanning my news that I read about what is happening in our enemy’s countries. The article satellite bomb talks about North Korea arming a satellite that would cause an EMP to go off over the United States. So the threat is real and if you are not preparing I would suggest start doing your homework and get started immediately.

Additional Reading:  What Happens When the Lights Go Out for Good?

When we talk about a major EMP taking place we are not just talking about not being able to watch television or running your electric hair dryer we are talking about everything that is plugged in to the power grid or anything that has electronic circuits will be fried and made unusable for good. If your car is newer than 20 years old then it will be fried and you will not be able to use it either. Now if you have a generator and you think you will be ok think again, generators have electrical parts in them so your generator will not work either.

What Do We Do

Now I am not saying all this to cause you to think like a mad person and you have to go out and purchase everything off the shelves at the store and start hording everything in your home. I want to scare you enough to start thinking like a prepper and get you to start preparing for the day that an EMP will take place. Whether an EMP by our enemy’s or an EMP by a solar storm you need to be ready. Solar storms that can cause an EMP take place about every 11 years. A major solar flare will take less than five minutes to cause major catastrophic destruction. Just like in the book “One Second After” planes fell out of the sky, transportation came to a halt, the power grid shut down, the nuclear power plants had major melt down, fires erupted all over the place, and so on. Life as we know it would be turned back in time to the 1800’s.

Here is Florida when a hurricane comes knocking on our door we see people running to the stores several days before the storm is to take place and wiping everything off the shelves that they can put in their carts. Gas stations have lines at the pumps, lumber yards selling all the building material as fast as it comes in. This is just for a possible storm, what will happen when disaster happens?

I remember back to the day of Y2K, we were supposed to lose everything and time was going to be turned back to 1900 and life was going to be over. Again people horded everything and there was panic on the streets. We were lucky back then and the threat was taken care of. But this kind of threat, either man made or natural cannot be contained. Get prepared and get your family ready for whatever happens, because it is going to happen one day we just don’t know when or how.

Posted by Tom in Homestead
Water-Bath Canning At Home To Preserve Food

Water-Bath Canning At Home To Preserve Food

Canning for a lot of people may seem like a lot of hard messy work or just sometimes extremely overwhelming. In reality it is fun, safe, a great way to save money and canning can be a great family

hobby.

I remember as a child my parents would do a lot of canning, my parents grew up in the depression so they learnt a lot of essential ways to make things last and one of them was canning.
When people think of canning they think that they will be needing to purchase a pressure cooker for canning, but in reality there is a
very simple way of canning called water-bath canning where you do not need a pressure cooker, all you will need is a large stock pot and some mason jars.
Water-bath canning is nothing new, it has been around for
years. A person can water-bath can for almost any food that is acidic foods. If the food group is low in acid then it is best to use a pressure cooker.

 

Items
Needed To Start Canning
  • To get started you will need a large tall pot, something on
    the order of a stock pot. After you put in your jars of fruit you will want to be able to fill the pot with water about 2 inches above the top of the jars.

 

    • You will also want another pot for boiling water in order to
    • sterilize the rings and lids of the jars.
    • Having a simple canning tool set makes things very handy for
      handling the jars and lids and the hot boiling water during the canning process.
    • Now check all the jars for cracks, nicks, sharp edges, be
      careful but run your finger along the top edge of the jar. Now check the rings and the lids that will be screwing onto the jars. Check them for dents, rust, bent, it is best to use only perfect jars and lids in order to get a good airtight seal. Wash the jars and lids, dishwashers are the best to make them as
      clean as possible, some recipes call for the jars and lids to be sterile.

    • Fill your pot about half full with clean warm water and put
      the pot on the stove centering the pot in the middle of the burner. Preheat the water to just simmering for raw canned foods and if the food is hot to be canned heat the water to just barely boiling.
    • While the water is preheating fill your jars with the food
      to be canned and work out any air using a nonmetallic spatula. Wipe the edge of the canning jars and lids with a clean dry cloth and install the lids on the filled jars. Adjust the band so the lids are snug on the jars so they do not leak.
  • Load the filled jars with the lids installed into the pot
    one at a time until you cannot get no other jars into the pot. Add more boiling water so that the water level is at least one to two inches above the tops of the jars. Then cover the pot.

  • Check the recipe that you are using to see how long the jars
    need to stay in the boiling water. If the water drops add more water to keep the jars covered. No need to have the jars in a rapid boiling bath, just make sure that the water continues to boil during the entire process. Once the recipe says the time is finished, turn off the heat to the burner and leave the jars in the water for an additional five minutes. Then lift the jars out of the water one at a time being careful not to tilt the jars.
  • After the jars are cooled and have rested for about six
    hours check the seals on the jars to make sure they are all fully sealed. If the seal did not hold, try the process again or use this jar first.

 

 


Posted by Tom in Homestead