Goodbye and Hello – Sunday Homestead Update

Changes in Our Livestock

We had some goodbyes and some hellos this week.

Our first ever milk cow, my sweet doe-eyed Jersey, Charlotte, has gone to a new home.  It was very bitter-sweet.  We have grown so attached to this very special addition to our farm, and yet we know that this is the right decision and we look forward to the arrival of our new dairy cow, Violet.

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We also sold 4 of our laying hens.  As we move forward with our breeding program there will be a lot of culling of our flock.  Culling will sometimes mean heading to our stew pot and culling will sometimes mean selling.  This time we “culled” 4 laying hens by selling them.  This helped balance our numbers as we head out of the first breeding season and as we grow out a couple of clutches of chicks.  And yet I am still keeping plenty to have them earning their keep with egg sales.  The hens we sold were not suitable for what we are selecting for in our breeding program, and yet were perfectly fine laying hens for someone just wanting eggs.

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We added two new animals to the farm as well.  Since our son’s rabbit meat business is going so well that he can’t keep up with the orders, he bought two more does.  They are Flemish Giant crosses and have ginormous ears.  Very cute!  He named them Maple and Ebony.  They are currently in quarantine, where they will stay for 4 weeks.  When they come out of quarantine they will be ready to breed and start adding to the business.

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Construction

After 14 months of living here at Willow Creek Farm, farm construction is finally going to be taking a back seat to our house construction.  It has been a priority for so long to get the farm built to a point where all the animals are comfortable, safe, easy to maintain, and have what they need that besides a few necessities inside the house we haven’t put any work or energy into the house.  Now that the farm is to a point that it can function well and the animals have what they need, we are going to get some things done inside.

We bought a MAJOR fixer upper.  Sometimes I have flashes of the movie “The Money Pit” as we have been living here.  Of course that is an exaggeration, but occasionally tiles will just fall off the wall in the shower, or we will turn on a faucet upstairs and it will start raining downstairs.

So last year, right after we moved in, we took care of a few necessities inside.  First, we ripped out the carpet, some of which was 40 years old, and all of which had had dogs and cats that were not house broken living on it.  Yuck!  It was disgusting and definitely a necessity.  Then we painted the entire upstairs of the house and re-carpeted most of it.  The parts we are wanting to do hardwood in have just been left as sub-floor all year.  Hopefully the hardwood floors will be coming soon.

The other necessity we took care of was bringing down the cost of utilities, specifically heating.  The house is heated with propane and hasn’t been re-insulated in 40 years.  There is a wood burning stove in the dining room.  The previous owner never used the wood-stove and just used the propane baseboard heat.  They paid about $600/month to heat this house!!!  We knew that wouldn’t work for us.  NOT. AT. ALL.  My husband climbed in the attic and saw that there was only about 2 inches of insulation up there – left after 40 years of settling.  So he re-insulated the whole attic, and he installed another wood burning stove in the living room.  Between the two wood-stoves we pretty much only had to turn on the heaters at night for the bedrooms and the wood-stoves heated the rest of the house.  After living through one full winter here we are happy to report that the changes we made brought our heating bill down to $150/month!

This entire time we have been ignoring the basement completely.  We have used it for storage and we have rented out a room and bathroom down there to bring in some extra income through the winter.  In the basement there are 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  A few weeks ago, our renter moved out to a small cabin he built on the back of our property, and we began our demolition down there.  We are tearing out two of the bedrooms (one is a huge bedroom).  We are leaving one small bedroom and the bathroom and will remodel them, making them into a nice guest room and guest bath.  The rest of the space will become a great room, a root cellar, and a storage room.

This weekend we finished the majority of the demolition and clean up of that.  It looks SO different down there.  It is all open and big and light now!  Before it was tight and dark and not so great.

3rd Incubation

Our third incubation has been pushed back because of an unforeseen problem with the hatching eggs we were buying.  The new plan is to start the incubation this next coming Saturday.

Life continues to be busy here as we pass the middle of the summer season for us.  We will start back up with our homeschool the first week of August.  I can’t believe there is only two weeks left before we are schooling again!  We are all looking forward to getting back into a more routine schedule.

3 thoughts on “Goodbye and Hello – Sunday Homestead Update

    • We are aiming for several things in our own chickens. We would like to end up with a heavy, dual-purpose breed that lays well and also gives us a reasonable amount of meat from the cockerels when butchered. We would like them to have longevity of laying. What I mean by that is that currently most hatchery hens lay well for about 2-3 years, but from my research I have learned that a properly built hen can lay well for much longer than that. That aspect has a lot to do with good body conformation and genetics. We also want hens that survive and thrive well in our climate. We are at a high-altitude and in a cold and dry climate. We want hens that will lay through our long, cold, dark winters without supplemental heat and light. We also want to get some broodiness back into our stock. We have struggled with not having any hens that want to go broody and we would ideally like to have the hens hatch and raise the chicks for us so we can avoid incubators and brooders. Lastly, we are not keeping any aggressive birds at all.

      So that’s our goal! It seems like a pretty tall order, and it will take several years to get there, but hopefully we will indeed get there.

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      • Cool! I am really looking forward to your blog on this stuff..fascinated by the chicken breeding “world”.

        I would think you should be able to get 5-7 years of laying from most hens outside the factory farm…at least that is what I am told by long-term urban chicken farmers here in Dallas.

        Red Sex links (NH Red daddy and Delaware Mommy) may meet a few of your criteria… eggs are what I would call XX-Large or bigger with hard/thick shells. They have laid consistently into the heat of the summer, and still push out 4-5 per week in winter (Texas winters, mind you, are mild compared to what you have, with a bit more sunlight) although that doesn’t account for all of it, because the other birds are down to 2-3 per week in winter.

        Red-sex links seem to not be very broody, but you might play around with barred rocks, as they have been the broodiest I have seen in our flock and also the most maternal after the hatch.

        I want to breed our biggest producing red sex link with a Roo that is a cross between a NH Red (different line) and a Barred Rock to see if that helps the broodiness or affects egg size, but I can’t risk another rooster right now, so I”ll have to wait. 😦

        Looking forward to seeing where things go!!

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