Livestock Record Book

I love record keeping.  It helps me see progress, set goals, understand successes and failures, and most of all, remember everything I want to remember but can’t keep in my head.

Our homestead has 2 main binders for record keeping: the garden binder and the livestock record book.

The livestock record book has not gotten much use in 2018, with all the livestock except the chickens gone.  And I didn’t even use it as much as usual for the chickens.  All I did was keep track of what chickens we had and their parentage etc for the breeding program and how many eggs were laid.  I didn’t even keep track of the hatches we did or anything.  This is very unlike me, but it has been an overwhelming year with our baby’s health issues.

As we head into the new year, now with not only the chickens but also the sheep, I am looking forward to getting my livestock record book back on track.  So this week I have been cleaning it out, organizing it, and getting it ready to be put to work.

I wrote about this binder long long ago.  I have tweaked it here and there over the years, so let’s take a peek inside and see what I am planning to keep track of this year.

I have large main tabs with each type of livestock on them…chickens, sheep, goats, and dogs/cats.  We don’t have goats but the paperwork is still there from our previous goats and if we do decide to get another milk goat this year I want to have the sheets to remember what and how I like to track it.

There are some sheets that are the same for all the different livestock.

Costs: The costs sheet tracks what we spent on that type of livestock throughout the year.  It has columns to mark it as a start-up cost, a feed cost, or a maintenance cost.  This helps me with future planning and knowing what the money is spent on.  You can see on the Chicken sheet about halfway down I have a spot I keep track of how many chickens we have so that I can break down the costs per chicken.  I fill in the date and the number of chickens and how long we had that many.  Then when we butcher, or sell them, or if we add more, I write on the next line the date and the new amount.  Then if I want to know more specific costs I can use that info to help me break it down.

Income:  The income sheet keeps track of any income made from that type of livestock such as selling fleece, eggs, or the animals themselves.  The chicken sheet is a bit different than the sheep one because selling eggs is a weekly occurrence, whereas income from the sheep is sporadic.

Vet and Vaccination Records: This is a simple sheet where I jot down the details of what has been done and when.  Since our chickens rarely get anything, and the sheep flock is so small, I only keep one sheet for each type of livestock, as opposed to a sheet for each individual animal.

Butchering Stats:  This is another simple sheet just to keep track of how many animals we butchered and how much meat (in weight) we got from our butchering.  I keep one sheet per type of animal.

Those are all the forms that are similar across species.  Now let’s look at what specifics we have for each species.


Behind the big chicken tab I have smaller tabs separating out their forms:

Egg Production: This tab has the egg production sheets behind it.  I sometimes keep track of eggs by color, but the last few years I just mark down totals.

Cost/Income: Behind this tab are the cost sheet, income sheet, and butchering sheet that I discussed above.

Flock Tracking: This tab is for keeping track of what chickens we own and the sheets we use to score our chickens for breeding selection.

Hatch:  Behind this tab I have clutch sheets where I can keep track of information about each hatch, whether under a hen or in the incubator.


Behind the sheep tab I have the cost, income, butchering, and vet/vacc records that I discussed above.  There are also sheets where I jot down our hay plans and purchase amounts for each year, these are just notebook paper where I write it out.  And I have a sheep gestation table and poisonous plants list for reference.

Then each sheep we own has it’s own small tab, which include the following sheets behind them.

ID page: This tells basics about the sheep (date of birth, breed, etc), what we know of their parentage, and has a photo of them.

Ewe Lambing Record: If the sheep is a ewe it includes this record to track all their lambing.

Ram Breeding Record: If the sheep is a ram it includes this record to track their breeding history.

Sheep Shearing Record: Each sheep has a shearing record to track their fleece production and quality.

Lambing Symptoms/Notes: If the ewe has lambed before for us I jot down notes about what her symptoms are like leading up to lambing so that we can look back at them the next year to guide us as we expect lambing.

Goats/Dairy Cows

Even though we do not have a milk producing animal right now, I thought I would note what sheets I use for them.  I have the same cost, income, butchering, vet/vacc, ID, kidding or calving, and male breeding records that I keep for the sheep.  Then they also have a milk production sheet to track the amount of milk produced each day.


I keep track of the barn cats and the LGDs vet info, vaccinations, and any pertinent information about where we got them, parentage, etc.  These are not really worksheets, just notes and paperwork from the vet etc.


That is a peek into our livestock record book.  It feels good to get it back updated and ready for 2019.  I am hopeful I can keep better records this year.

How do you go about record keeping for your farm?

2018 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our baby’s serious medical issues.  This year more than ever.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:








  • Started year with 20 hens, 9 young pullets and cockerels, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 10 layer chicks and 41 meat chicks
  • 18 meat chicks died first couple of weeks, 1 layer chick died – 9 layers and 23 meat chicks survived
  • Because of large loss of meat chicks decided to buy 11 layer chicks to add to the brooder
  • 5 broody hen sets with a total of 15 chicks surviving
  • 1 cross beak chick had to be culled, 1 silkie hen licked to death by LGD pup, 1 hen killed by bobcat, 1 young pullet died for unknown reasons, and 1 hen died of egg bound
  • Butchered 23 meat chickens, 10 layer cockerels, 1 aggressive rooster, and 8 hens
  • Sold 9 hens
  • Ended year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Approximately 3,500 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 2.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, is continuing to mature and be trained to be our lead LGD.  As a pup she accidentally licked a couple of chickens to death and therefore was living adjacent to the barnyard and continuing to be trained.  In December we were very excited to move her into the main barnyard and have her be mature enough to guard without any accidental killings.
  • We have had no bear break-in attempts on the barn since she took over.  The bears used to try to break into the barn multiple times each autumn, despite our previous wonderful guard dog living in the barn (he did keep them out and alerted us so we could chase them off, but they continued to try).  I am guessing it is the size difference, our previous guard dog was 55 lbs, Anya is over 100.  I think the bears can tell the difference when they hear her bark and such and they don’t think it is worth it to grapple with a dog that big.  Not sure what else would cause the change.


  • Did not have sheep most of this year.  Sold the flock December of 2017 due to son’s medical issues and hospitalizations.
  • Unexpectedly bought back three of our sheep a couple weeks before the end of the year!  2 ewes and 1 ram.  They are currently living together in hopes of squeezing in last-minute breedings for this year so we can have some lambs born this summer.


  • No goats this year due to son’s medical issues.  Contemplating plans for a dairy goat in 2019, but have not decided yet.


  • Over 490 lbs of produce harvested
  • Spent $134 on the garden this year, average of $0.27 per lb.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the following knit projects: 2 cabled hats, 1 cabled cardigan, 1 pair of flip-top mittens, 7 pairs of socks, 2 baby blankets, 1 baby vest, 1 shawl, 1 afghan and 169 squares for my scrap sock afghan.
  • I completed one cross stitch, and sewed 4 skirts for myself, 1 dress for myself, 4 skirts for the girls, 1 dress for Sunshine, 4 bibs for Mr. Smiles, hospital PJs for Mr. Smiles, several pairs of flannel PJ pants for everyone, and 3 flannel nightgowns for Little Miss. Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.


  • Canned over 350 jars of food this year.

Year Summary

January was much warmer than usual and we enjoyed the chance to get outside when we could, though the end was bitterly cold.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with hospitals, surgery, and many doctor’s appointments.  We were able to get our garden planning and school curriculum planning done, along with building a new pantry area in the basement.

In February the girls and I spent the cold days working on my grandmother’s English paper piecing quilt, as well as a crocheted scrap afghan.  I also worked on finishing some of my crafty WIPs (works-in-progress) to get them out of storage and completed.

March brought a lot of garden prep work, building new garden areas, and remodeling older garden areas.  Our hatchery chicks arrived on the farm, including our first ever try with meat chicks.  We were very disappointed when a huge amount of the meat chicks died for unknown reasons.  It wasn’t our brooding techniques because none of the layer chicks being brooded with them died.  We also had our first hatch of the year under a mama hen.  We remodeled our bathroom, as well as a couple chicken housing areas in the barn.  And we enjoyed learning the art of dehydrating fruit.

In April we started plans for our medicinal herb garden, little green shoots started poking up their heads on our perennial plants in the garden, and our seedlings inside began taking over the house.  During the cold weather the girls and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning jam and homemade ketchup, as well as starting to work through the Little House Living recipe book.  And we spent some time sewing PJ pants for the family as well as some skirts and dresses.  At the very end of the month the swallows arrived a little early, signaling that it was time to put our first seeds in the ground outside.

In May we didn’t get the big snows that we usually get towards the end of the month, which meant that our garden got a big head start over previous years.  We worked a lot in the garden and we butchered the first round of meat chickens and found the meat to be superior to the meat from our dual-purpose birds.

June was another month extra heavy on the medical stuff with our son.  We spent time in the ER, had unexpected hospitalizations and surgery, as well as many doctor’s appointments.  Somehow we were able to keep the garden going strong, started some harvesting, and butchered the last of the chickens.  And we squeezed in some sewing of bibs too.

In July we were busy gardening, harvesting, and started our canning season.  We had another 2 hens set and hatch chicks.  And the girls and I continued our sewing spree, making more skirts, PJ pants, hospital Pjs for Mr. Smiles, and a knitting bag.  We decided to try eating one of the silkie roos we butchered and were surprised to find their meat is black (more of a purple, really, but creepy nonetheless).  We wont do that again!  Our LGD had to spend some time indoors because of the flies eating her ears, but we finally found a repellent that worked long-term, after years of trying many many different things with no success or very short-lived success.  We also finished chopping and stacking all the firewood that we needed for the winter.

August was mostly focused on more of our son’s medical stuff.  But despite that we were able to continue with the harvest and canning, make herbal medicine, and we added our first root cellar veggie storage rack to the basement.  We competed in many ways at the County Fair and brought home a lot of ribbons and prizes.  We were surprised by a very early first frost.

September was so full of homestead work that I barely had time to blog.  We kept ourselves busy with gardening, harvesting, canning. freezing, hunting, and butchering – all things related to putting food up for the winter.  We added another root cellar veggie rack to the basement and really enjoyed using both the racks to put up the produce.  We also started remodeling one of our wood stove areas and had another hen set and hatch out chicks.

October was full of a lot of canning and we bought a new kitchen gadget to make it easier.  We filled the shelves in the basement pantry and used every empty jar we owned.  We wrapped up the gardening season and were really excited when we tallied everything and found that we had our most successful garden season ever.  I did some preliminary garden planning for next year while everything was till fresh in my mind.  And we also got our first snow of the season.

In November we stayed indoors while we had unseasonably cold weather outside.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezer through successful hunting and we made a lot of firestarters and a batch of hand-dipped beeswax candles.  We did our final chicken culling and re-organizing in preparation for winter, and we decided to try growing lettuce and spinach indoors under grow-lights for the winter months.

December brought a lot of Christmas candy making, as well as Christmas present making since we home-make almost all of our Christmas presents.  We said “no” to a lot of regular events and activities to keep a nice, calm, Christmas season and were so glad that we did.  I learned how to darn socks, and was able to fix several holes we had in some of our handmade socks.  We had two very exciting events happen for the homestead.  First, our LGD, Anya, was finally mature and trained enough to guard the livestock full time on her own.  And secondly, 3 of our sheep returned to the farm after being away for a year.  We ended the year with more medical issues, emergency rooms, hospitalization, and surgery, which will be pouring over into the new year as well.

Looking back we can see that it has been another very productive year full of blessings.

Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  Surprisingly, not with the busy-ness of Christmas, but instead just with things here on the homestead.  We cut back a lot of Christmas gatherings this year and thus have had a very nice, laid-back and fun month, which I am so glad for.  So what has been going on around the homestead that is crazy?

Anya, our LGD, has been living in the back barnyard, a pen adjacent to the main barnyard, because she was still maturing and had accidentally licked to death a couple of different chickens last year as a pup.  For the most part this guarding situation worked fine.  Her presence and barking kept everything away even though she wasn’t in the same pen with the chickens.  Well, we noticed that her digging and barking started getting out of control in November.  LGDs like to dig nests and dens to lay in, which doesn’t bother us, but she was starting to boredom dig and her pen looked like a disaster area.  In addition, she was barking incessantly.  Previously, she only barked when there was a reason, and yet she had started to bark a lot more and we couldn’t decide when it was necessary and when it wasn’t.  At the time we didn’t know why she was barking so much.  But now in hindsight we are able to see that she was feeling like she couldn’t do her job of guarding thoroughly since she wasn’t in with the chickens, and so she was making up for that by barking extra trying to keep things away and protect the chickens.  And that was made worse because there was a bobcat hanging around.

Unfortunately it all came to a head when the bobcat jumped into the barnyard, grabbed a hen, and took off with her while poor Anya was freaking out not even 5 feet away but unable to do anything because she was not in the same pen.  Clearly, the bobcat hung around for long enough to figure out that Anya wasn’t in the same pen and couldn’t get to it.  And then it picked the farthest corner from her and from the house, which still wasn’t far from her at all, and waited for the chickens to be over in that area.  We found the spot where it took the chicken and ate it, not 50 yards from the barnyard.

So we were in a pickle because the bobcat now knew that he had an easy source of food, and poor Anya was out of her mind frustrated at the whole thing because all her instincts were telling her to guard and she couldn’t.  So we closed the chickens in their enclosed pen for a week to protect them while we figured out what to do.  Meanwhile, we let Anya live in the main barnyard during that time.  We were surprised to see that her inappropriate digging and barking behavior stopped immediately.  Which is what led us to believe what I said above about the cause of those behaviors being her frustration at not being able to do her job.  She was content and happy and went back to lazing around in the sun and watching over everything.

Since she is now 2.5 years old we decided it was time to give it another try with her living with the livestock.  Our previous attempts had gone pretty well, except that she still had too much puppy behavior and wanted to play with the chickens, leading to them getting killed.  She never killed a chicken to kill or eat it, she just held them down and licked them to play with them.  So we were confidant that she would be able to be a reliable LGD once she matured.  We carefully began putting them back together.  First with us in the barnyard, then with us around but not right there in the yard, then with us checking on the situation often but not being outdoors the whole time.  I am happy to report the transition has gone beautifully.  She is happily living in the main barnyard with the flock of chickens and guarding them well without playing with them nor hurting them.  She has more space to live, the big soft compost piles to lay on, and more sunshine in the cold winter months (the back pen is on the north side of the barn and doesn’t get much sun).  She seems completely content to live with them and do her job guarding them – no digging, and no excessive barking.  I love seeing a dog happily doing the job they were bred to do and fulfilling their purpose.

So if you have a young LGD that has made some mistakes…don’t give up hope!  Keep training them and keep giving them time to mature and they will most likely come around.  It is what they were bred to do.


The second thing that has been crazy on the homestead was the sudden and unexpected return of three of our sheep to the farm.

In December of last year we made the heartbreaking decision to sell off the last of the livestock – our flock of 6 sheep – and just keep chickens, because our son’s medical issues and hospitalizations had us weary, exhausted, and unable to keep up the care of the livestock and still give our family what it needed.  You can read about it by clicking here.  It was a hard decision, but a good one.  This year has been a very hard one as far as the medical issues and we had unexpected hospitalizations and surgeries along with a scheduled hospitalization and surgery, plus many medical appointments far from home – it was very nice to not have the livestock back home to worry about during it all.  But not having the livestock also took a part of the joy of the homestead with it, and we all missed them desperately.


Our son’s situation and prognosis have not changed.  What HAS changed is that we have been able to do a lot of emotional healing this year.  And we have found a new level of acceptance of the situation as it is as well as acceptance of the unknown to come in the future.  In that healing and acceptance we also realized that this could go on for many years and we don’t want to miss out on living the homesteading life that we love so much because we are “waiting” for things to get better when they likely are not going to get better.  We didn’t wait for “perfect”timing to start the homestead, we just started it.  And we love it and it is such a blessing.  It is kind of like waiting to have kids until the “right” time.  If we had waited to have kids until the “right” time we never would have had kids.  Life is a constant ride of ups and downs and if we wait until it feels stable to live the life we want to live, then we will never live the life we want to live.

We needed the rest and healing that we gained this year.  And we don’t regret the decision to sell them all.  We needed it.  And we don’t want to take on more than we can handle and do poorly at it because we are overdone.  But we were starting to feel ready to get back some livestock and get back to living the homestead life we loved despite the other things in our life that made it harder.  And then the opportunity to get our sheep back was dropped in our lap.  Isn’t it wonderful how those things happen at just the right time?  The people who bought them had their own life situations going on and were cutting back the flock.  Did we want to buy back any of our sheep, or their offspring?  Yes we did!

They hadn’t been bred yet though, and we don’t want to miss a year of breeding, and the end of their breeding cycle is fast approaching.  Most sheep are able to breed from about September through the end of December, though some breeds can breed out of season.  Our ewes are of breeds that breed out of season, but we had never tried past December.  In addition to the fact that the later they are born the younger they will be next year when winter hits, and we don’t want to go too far into that.  So time was running out quickly to get them bred.  Because of that, in a whirlwind and only 3 days from when we were offered them, we had three of our sheep back on the property!  We decided not to get back all 6 because we want to keep things easier and more manageable since our son’s medical situation is still an issue.  Plus, once they lamb we will have more sheep on the property for half the year or so, and thus we like to keep the base breeding flock down to 3-4 sheep.  We carefully discussed and selected who to bring back so that we would have the best wool flock possible, plus body size for meat as well since we butcher some of the offspring.

In the end we decided to bring back Fiona, our flock matriarch and the first sheep we ever owned.  She is a Merino x CVM cross, with a shorter fine-wool white fleece (which gives us options of dyeing the yarn).  She is an excellent mother who has had twins.  Here she is back in 2017.

And Rose, who was born on our farm in 2017 and is such a sweet girl with a beautiful medium staple, moorit-colored, fine-wool fleece.  She is a purebred CVM.  She has not given birth before, but her mother was an excellent mother who also twinned.  Here is Rose as a lamb (and with Anya as a pup) and now as a grown ewe:

And Fergus, who was also born on our farm in 2017.   He is a 1/4 Merino, 1/4 CVM, and 1/2 BFL, with a soft and yet long-wool silver and black fleece.  We used Fergus for our breeding ram right before we sold them and we were able to see the offspring from the matches we made and they turned out very nice.  This is Fergus as a lamb and as he is now.

We have a nice range of colors and textures in our little flock, plus good size for meat.  They are all living together and we are hopeful (and expecting) the girls will still have another heat cycle and they will get bred.  It will mean the latest lambs we have ever had – May/June birth estimates.  But better late than never!  And it will be a nice change to lamb in reasonable weather, since we normally are lambing when it is oh-so-cold.  You never know, we may like the change and keep it in the future.

Chickens, sheep, and guard dog all in the same barnyard together again…it feels so balanced and just right.

Merry Christmas!

Put Your Chickens to Work Making Compost

When we first started dreaming about the set up of our homestead, we knew we wanted a shared barnyard situation in which the livestock all lived together in the same barnyard area during the day, and then went into their separate stalls and pens indoors at night.  We felt this was an easier and less expensive set-up to build when you are restricted by space and terrain (we have 3 acres on a mountainside).  So the plan was to build a barn, with an attached chicken coop, and then attach the barnyard fence in a way that all the animals can get outside into the same yard.

You can somewhat see our set up in this picture from 2013…we have the barn with two stall doors, and the coop is the smaller attachment on the left in the photo, and it all opens into one big barnyard.

There are several benefits to this set-up, but with this post I am focusing on the benefits to the chickens, and the garden.

We all know the benefits of free-ranging chickens – healthier eggs, lower feed costs, and more space for the birds which helps their health and quality of life.  But there are also drawbacks, mainly – predators and having chickens wander where you don’t want them, such as in the garden, or on the front porch leaving droppings.

And we all know the amazing benefits of having good compost in the garden beds.  Our garden can definitely attest to it, as we averaged a pound of produce per square foot of gardening space in our garden this year – and that is grown on a short season (10-12 growing weeks), cold climate (down to 40F throughout the summer nights), high-altitude (7,500 ft) garden – all things which limit a garden’s productivity, BUT it is filled with our own barnyard-made compost.

The shared barnyard method, which also incorporates a compost pile into the barnyard that the chickens have access to, is the key to both removing the downfalls of free-ranging chickens, and to creating amazing garden compost in a shorter period of time.

By keeping the chickens in the enclosed barnyard area they are much safer from predators.  Good fencing not only keeps the chickens in, but keeps the predators out.  It limits their risk to only predators that can jump the fence, or aerial predators.  But with all the human smells and activity, those are even limited to only the ones that are bold enough and hungry enough.  And in our barnyard, the Livestock Guardian Dog keeps even those out, so our chickens are safe from predation.

Keeping them in the shared barnyard also keeps them away from places we don’t want them to be, like the garden or front porch, while still giving them the opportunity to free-range.  The shared livestock barnyard is full of great things for the chickens to forage and eat.  They can scratch through the droppings from the other livestock, as well as the leftover hay and feed scraps, to find all sorts of bugs and seeds and forage – all of which would just be wasted if they were not in the shared barnyard.

In addition, we dump our compost pile right in the middle of the barnyard.  It consists of all the kitchen and garden scraps, as well as everything we clean out of the barn stalls and coops when we clean them.  So it has a big mix of food and garden scraps, hay, straw, pine shavings, and plenty of poop from all different breeds of livestock.  We put it in one big pile in the middle of the barnyard (not near the fence lest it be used as a way to climb out).  The chickens then are able to scratch through it all, finding all sorts of things to eat, and turning and aerating the compost for us at the same time.  Because the chickens are doing all the hard work for us, our compost maintenance consists of adding stuff to the pile as we have it, and then every few weeks going out and raking the pile back up into a pile since it has been spread out by the chickens.

Here is how it looks when we have it all raked up:

And here it is after about 3 weeks of work by the chickens…quite spread out:

We then rake it back into a pile, which is stirring and turning it even more, and we continue adding to it.  Usually we start with one pile higher in the barnyard, closer to the barn so it is easy to clean the stalls out into it.  That is the less-composted pile.  Then, as it begins to turn more and more into soil we move it down to a second pile lower, and start adding the fresh stuff to a new upper pile.

Then, come spring it is time to “harvest” the black gold.  We take a wheelbarrow (or a tractor, when we have access to one) into the barnyard and scoop up the compost that is finished and take it to our garden.  And the cycle continues.

Other gardeners in our area have told us that because of the cold climate it takes them approximately 2 years to get their compost to the point it can go into the garden.  They are using compost bins that they manage and turn on their own, and their compost is mainly kitchen and garden scraps.  Here at our homestead we have easily had plenty of compost each spring to fill our garden after only a year of time for it to breakdown.  Some years we have had so much that we were able to share it and give it away to other gardeners as well.  And because we do the shared barnyard method it includes all the poop, bedding and feed scraps left from the animals, thus being a more balanced compost.  And it composts faster because we let the chickens work on it, which speeds up the breakdown, and leaves us with rich black gold to use, all the while feeding the chickens and cutting our chicken feed costs.

Over the last 6 1/2 years we have found the shared barnyard method, with a compost heap in the middle of it, to be a super-efficient way to manage our little backyard homestead.  It benefits each of the different types of livestock, especially the chickens, and makes for a super-productive garden as well.


Sunday Homestead Update

We woke up to -8F this morning.  Brrrrrrr.  So there will be extra barn chores today as we help make sure the animals are all handling it well.

I have previously done a thorough post on how we keep animals warm in very cold temperatures and you can read it by clicking here.  I also have done one specifically on keeping our chickens in the cold which you can read by clicking here.

Since it is so cold today, we decided to have a PJ day and work on making our hand-dipped beeswax candles.  We only have a few left from our last batch, so it was time to make some more.  What better time than a frigid winter day?  I posted how we make our candles a few years ago and you can read it by clicking here.

The woodstoves are burning, the house is cozy, there is beautiful snow outside and the farm animals are all taken care of, so now I am going to take my hot cup of tea and go help with the candle dipping project.  Have a great Sunday!