Raising Chicks- Everything beginners need to know

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3 day old chicks

We are officially Chicken people.

We bought 8 chicks! There are 4 golden sex links, 2 dark Brahmas, and 2 Egyptian Fayoumi’s. They are pretty adorable, and my kids are absolutely obsessed with them.

My husband and I just decided to take the plunge one day, even though we had not prepared or even done very much research on what we needed, how much things cost, or anything like that. We had a basic idea, but there was a LOT we didn’t know going into it. So I decided to make a concise list for others like me who want to get chicks, but don’t know what they’re doing.

3 day old chicks

Ask for help!

I think this is probably the most important step. As helpful as posts like this one are, there is nothing like having face-to-face interactions with people who really know what they’re doing.

Do you know someone who has raised chicks? Ask them questions!! Don’t know anyone personally who knows about chickens? That’s ok. Go to your local feed store (some place like Tractor Supply Co.) and ask an employee your questions.  The lady who helped us get our chicks was very friendly and knowledgeable, and you could tell she genuinely loved the chicks and cared about their well being. She took us around the store and helped us get all of the supplies we needed. I was grateful that we were able to leave the store without worrying that we didn’t have something essential to the lives of our chicks.

I also highly recommend joining some Facebook groups. There are tons of homesteading groups out there, but if you’re looking to have chickens, I recommend Chickens Chickens Chickens, which will soon be changing its name to Yard Bird Central. It is a really awesome, engaged group of people. Everyone is super friendly and helpful and willing to answer any questions you might have, and they are all super supportive.

Side note:

We went to Tractor Supply Co. to get our chicks. I have since heard a few horror stories about chicks at Tractor Supply, but I think this is a very case-by-case issue. Some stores seem to have better standards than others. The store we went to had a great selection of very healthy, happy looking chicks. A week or so later, we went to a different Tractor Supply store, and the chicks there all looked sickly. There was one that I’m not even sure was still alive. So if you go to a store where the chicks don’t look like they’re doing well, try to find a different store.

golden sex link chick

How much do chicks really cost?

I was actually really surprised by the low cost of getting chicks. Granted, if you’re going to get large amounts of them, the price will be significantly higher, but if you only want a few, the start up cost is not that bad. Here’s what we have spent so far:

1 enormous bag of shavings-$5                                                                                                    8 chicks at $3 each- $24                                                                                                                    A 2pack of heating bulbs- $8                                                                                                          1 brooder lamp- $8                                                                                                                               3pack electrolytes- $2                                                                                                                        3pack probiotic- $3                                                                                                                               1 bag chick food- $7                                                                                                                              5 quart drinker- $7                                                                                                                                 7 lb Chicken feeder- $12                                                                                                                    50 lb bag chick food- $17                                                                                                                  5 lb bag chick grit- $7

That comes out to exactly $100, not counting tax. We decided to DIY the brooding box, but they sell really nice metal tubs for about $70. This $100 has lasted us the last three weeks, and we are still good on wood shavings and chick food.

Our chicks at almost 3 weeks old

How hard is raising chicks?

Honestly? Not very. Chicks are very low maintenance babies. As long as they have enough room in the breeder, they self regulate their temperature really well. They sit under the light when they’re cold, and they move away from it if they’re too hot.

If they are all huddled together underneath the lamp, they are too cold. Try moving the lamp closer or away from any cold drafts of air. If they are as far from the lamp as they can possibly get, move the lamp farther away.

Make sure they always have clean, dry food and clean water. Don’t let them go without. Just like human babies, they need almost constant nourishment. It is also a good idea to by electrolytes and probiotics for them. We were told to put one packet of each in each of the first three gallons of water they drank.

Keep them somewhere protected. We had them in our garage, but some people keep them in the house. I think those people are a little crazy, but hey. To each his own. Chicks need to be protected from the weather but also from predators. Make sure wherever you decide to put them is secure and warm.

Around 2-3 weeks you can start letting them spend time in the yard, and the will love you for it! They are adventuresome little things and it’s good for them to stretch their wings and learn to begin foraging.

Chicks' first time in the yard

More to come

Our chicks are only three weeks old, so that’s all I know for certain at this point. I’m excited for what the future holds and can’t wait to share more of our journey with you. If you’re considering getting chicks, I say GO FOR IT! It’s not crazy expensive, it’s not super time consuming, it’s a lot of fun, and you get delicious ultra fresh eggs out of it. What could be better than that?

 

Homesteading from scratch

The current state of our homestead

Homesteading, farming, insanity, whatever you want to call it, this is what it looks like at first. A whole bunch of nothing and a crap ton of work. I continue to be freshly overwhelmed by the amount of work we have ahead of us. It seems like more and more work appears every time I think about it. Just take a look at this to see what I’m talking about. So why are we doing it? And more importantly, why are we EXCITED about it? And just how do you go about homesteading if you have no idea what you’re doing?

Why Homesteading?

Why would anyone want to do this craziness?? There are tons of different reasons, and they are probably a little different for everyone. But here are a few that I think are universal reasons why everyone should consider at LEAST doing a small backyard or porch garden, or whatever your circumstances allow.

  1. Cut down on grocery bills.                                                                                                                     Everyone likes lower bills, right? Well, for about the price you pay for a few tomatoes, you can grow your own endless supply at home, and possibly even produce enough to sell a few to neighbors or friends and family to make a little extra cash. It’s really kind of a no-brainer once you do the math.
  2. Quality family time                                                                                                                              I have three kids and they all LOVE to help with planting. They’re pretty horrible at it, but the sure do love to help. It is so much fun to watch them learning a new skill, working together, and spending time in nature instead of sitting around staring at screens and fighting. They are always in a better mood after they go outside and help me with something. My  husband and I also enjoy being able to work together toward a common goal and spend time together as we do it.
  3. Healthier, yummier food                                                                                                                 This is one you hear all the time because it’s true. The things that happen to fruits, veggies, and eggs in order to get them to a store intact and ripe strip them of both nutrients and flavor. Did you know that fresh eggs taste different than the eggs you buy in the store? This is due to the eggs being aggressively washed before they are sent to the store. Weird, right?

How to begin homesteading when you have no idea what you’re doing

Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. Which makes writing this blog both daunting and funny. We have barely started! But here are some things that we have done, are doing, or plan to do in the near future as we continue our homesteading journey.

homesteading from scratch

What we have done

We started by making lots of lists. What do we want to grow for ourselves? What should we grow to sell? What kids of animals do we want? How many of each kind? What do we want our farm to look like in ten years? What are our goals?

Once we decided that our goal was to have a working farm that will eventually sell all sorts of fruits and vegetables as well as animal products and bee products, we looked at all our lists and pared them down to the essentials we need right now to get started.

We also made a plan for the timing. This is tricky for us. The property we have is too far away to visit every day, so we can’t just go and plant things all willy-nilly because we won’t be out there to take care of them. And we have to build a house, and that is going to take time. So, although we really want to start planting right now and move out there this summer, that is just not going to be possible.

Every situation is unique, so figure out the timing that works for you. If you’re going to grow inside or on your porch, you could probably start tomorrow, regardless of the season.

What we are doing

Even though we can’t plant much out on our property right now, we CAN plant on our porch, and that is what we’re doing. My mother-in-law had a whole huge thing of seeds, so we got some seed starting stuff (That’s the “technical term”, in case you were wondering) and planted a whole bunch of seeds, from tomatoes to beans to cabbage to broccoli. We also got a few seedlings. I got strawberries, cilantro, basil, and parsley. I have never grown anything, so this is a great learning opportunity for me.

a baby strawberry plant Basil! cilantro

We are looking into tractors and other homesteading tools we will need, trying to find good deals.

We are learning more about bee and chicken keeping.

We are trying to figure out house plans and find a builder who will build it for a reasonable price- more to come on this front for sure.

What we are going to do this year

My mother-in-law really wants to keep bees, and although this kind of freaks me out, I’m excited about the fresh honey and the different products we could make if we have bees. A friend of hers keeps bees, so we’re going to go learn from her and begin attending meetings with other local bee keepers.

We will probably be purchasing some hens here pretty soon so we can start having delicious fresh eggs.

We will hopefully keep our plants alive and be able to harvest our own produce this year.

We will begin construction on our house and other structures.

We also want to begin planting some things in the fall, such as fruit trees.

homesteading from scratch pin to pinterest

What a year we have ahead of us!

I am very excited about all of the changes this year will bring. Slightly terrified, but excited too. I’m excited to document all of it and take you all on the ride with us. If you’re a beginning homesteader, I would love to hear from you about the things you’re doing! And if you’re an established homesteader, I’d love your advice! And if you’re not a homesteader and you think I’m insane, let me know in the comments!

3 Parenting Secrets Most Moms Won’t Tell You

Three parenting secrets other mom's won't tell you

I began my parenting journey like most parents do- bright eyed and bushy tailed, believing I would have angelic children who never did the horrible things other children do, and would be brilliant and talented and would grow up to be concert pianist surgeons who speak ten languages. You know, the standard stuff.

I believed (well, most of the time) that I would be the perfect parent who was nothing but loving and attentive all the time, no matter what. The kind of parent who had wonderful relationships with all of her equally wonderful children. In short, we all start off being embarrassingly naïve and having no clue what we’re doing.

My kids are now 6, 4, and 2 so I’ve had a little time to reflect and laugh at myself and be honest about where I started and how far I’ve come and, of course, how incredibly far I still have to go. Now, this is NOT going to be one of those sappy posts that end with the tear jerking “my kids make it all worth it. I love them so much!”

Let’s get real for a second.

I love my kids. They’re beautiful and funny and smart. They’re wonderful and YES, they are worth it.                                          Aren't my kids adorable?

BUT

Parenting is SUPER hard, y’all! I mean, like ridiculously hard. Before you have kids, you hear people say that and you believe them. You know it will be hard. But the word “hard” is kind of inadequate when talking about parenting. And don’t even get me started on the pregnancy and labor part… Sheesh.

Yes, we love our kids, but some days you just want to curl up in the fetal position and disappear.

I do not drink alcohol. At all. It is a personal and religious choice that I do not regret. But I have a lot of mom friends who do, and they all tell me the only way they survive parenting is with lots and lots of wine. For me, it’s Lindt chocolate and ice cream. Separately, of course (Most of the time). But I digress.

There are things you hear people say that you cannot fully comprehend until you actually have kids. But there is also a lot of stuff that you don’t hear. Things most moms won’t tell you. Things that are too hard or too embarrassing or too personal to admit in public. Everyone probably has their own list, but I thought I’d share a few of mine with you today.

  1. Mommy rage is a real thing. And it’s horrible.                                                                      I promise you, it will happen at some point. You WILL lose your…you know what. You will look at that precious little face, and you will just want to smack it. Like I said, there are things that are hard to admit, but they’re true.                                                                                                                                                                                        Kids will do every single thing in their power to drive you past the edge of your sanity to a place where it is almost impossible to control yourself. And you will fail. And you will feel horrible. You will vow to never let yourself get that mad at your child again. And I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you will fail.                                                                                                                                                                                    Failing is part of life. What’s important is what you do afterward. Be prepared to fail again and again, but learn to forgive yourself. We’re all human. We all have faults and we all have limits. Learn to apologize to your kids. This is hard for me for some reason. But I try REALLY hard to do it anyway. And I always feel better for it.
  2. You WILL turn into your parents. And it’s not a bad thing.                                       This one is hard for people for some reason. We always hear people talking about opening their mouths and hearing their mother come out, and we talk about it like it’s this horrible thing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For me, this has actually been a good thing. I had a fairly difficult childhood. Nothing too crazy or horrible by most standards, but my dad was in the military and we moved around a lot. It was extremely difficult to keep friends back in the days when we only had email and snail mail and I was just a little kid besides. I spent a lot of very lonely years playing alone in my room. And then my parents got divorced when I was 13. This was very difficult for me and there are some things that took me a very long time to process and get over.                                                                                                                                                                              I never had a super stellar relationship with my dad and there were a lot of things I didn’t (and COULDN’T at 13 or 18 or even 25) understand. Not until I had kids of my own.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You see, I’m much more like my dad than I am my mom. We deal with stress in very similar ways and express ourselves similarly. And I got his temper. For sure. (See item #1) As a child I couldn’t understand his reactions to certain things or the way he handled certain situations. But NOW… I understand him SO much better. I view those memories in a completely different light because I have dealt with similar situations in similar ways, whether good or bad.                                                                                                                                                                                   So for me, at least, becoming more like my dad has actually helped me to be a better daughter AND a better mother. I have forgiven him for things I once thought unforgiveable and feel much more love for him as a result. And I can be a better mother because this process and these realizations I’ve had, help me to have a better perspective on stressful situations and my own reactions to them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For me, I believe that if I didn’t sometimes remind myself of my father, I would struggle more to forgive myself for my shortcomings. I try to take the good and the bad, be honest with myself, forgive myself, and be better than I was yesterday.
  3. Sometimes you don’t like your kids. And that’s okay.                                                    Right now, and for quite a while, actually, I have struggled with liking my oldest child. I love her. But sometimes I don’t like her. She is ALWAYS grouchy. She has a horrible attitude and is rude to me and her sisters CONSTANTLY. And she whines a LOT. I HATE whining.                                                            Whiney children are no fun                                                                                                                          Every day I tell myself that I’m going to have a better day with her. I won’t yell, we’ll have great conversations, I’ll talk softly to her no matter what. And almost every day I fail. (See items 1 and 2) I want so desperately to improve things, but it is REALLY hard. She just pushes all of my buttons all the time!                                                                                                                                                                                  But here’s the thing. I love her. A lot. That never changes, no matter how frustrated I am with her. Sometimes I don’t like her.  But I always love her. Whenever I am struggling, I try to cling to that and just hang on. Because it’s ok not to like her sometimes. It doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad mother. It makes me a normal human being.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I can’t think of a single person that I like 100% of the time. Sometimes I don’t even like my husband. I hardly ever like other drivers on the road. It’s ok.

So those are my big three. Whether you’re just starting on your parenting journey or you’re an old pro, we all struggle. We all have shortcomings that we hope never see the light of day. Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Forgive yourself. Try your best and be better tomorrow.

What about you? Do you have struggles that are difficult to admit to? How do you deal with them? I’d love for you to leave your message in the comments!3 parenting secrets other mom's won't tell you