daily stuffs / health stuff

A little of this, a little of that

Picture of the house we're buying...

Picture of the house we’re buying…

So yeah, yesterday I drove to the town where we are in the process of buying our new house (about an hour from our current place of residence) so I could go over the house with the inspector. As anyone who’s bought a house knows, it’s a long, detailed process — this inspection took about two and a half hours and it was quite thorough. The inspector went over the place with a fine-toothed comb and found a few problems, but that’s to be expected on a thirty year old house.  The good news is that the structure is sound, and the envelope of the house is basically closed. The plumbing is good, and the electricity is in… relatively good shape (a few minor issues with the electrical), and really, that’s all I’m worried about. Everything else can be fixed.  Here’s a picture of the house. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s really nice on the inside. A couple coats of paint, and it will be a brand new place on the outside. Again, it’s structurally sound, and that’s the important part.

Anyway, the hour drive out there, the two+ hour inspection, and the hour drive back kinda wore me out. I’m exhausted. Which is weird, because I was full of all kinds of energy yesterday until I had sneezing fit and threw my back out. Seriously. From sneezing. So now I’m in all kinds of pain and I’m tired to boot. It’s been a day of recovery for me today.

Of course, I may have a romantic version in my head... ^_^

Of course, I may have a romantic version in my head… ^_^ (Poultry Yard by Carl Jutz)

So today I’ve just hanging out on the couch, reading about animal husbandry because eventually I want to have chickens and goats… eventually. It’s been a vague idea of mine since I was a teenager, that once I stopped gallivanting around and being a gypsy, I’d get a bit of land with some chickens and goats.  I blame my aunt… because the last time I saw her, which was way back when, she had an acre or so of land with chickens and goats. And my aunt was one of the most balanced people I’ve ever met. Of course, I didn’t know her that well since my mother — the black sheep — didn’t visit her family very often and separated our little branch from the rest of them.  I also blame the fact that instead of taking science in Jr. High School, I worked on an urban farm. I convinced the school that handling dead animals was against my spiritual beliefs and therefore could not participate in dissecting animals. They bought it, and sent me to work on an urban farm down the road every day for two hours a day. It was heaven. They had a huge poultry yard, several horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and acres of vegetables, etc.  With the influence of my aunt’s farm and that little urban farm, I’ve just always wanted that back.

So anyway, the book I’m reading about backyard animal husbandry as me a little horrified. Do people really only have chickens for a couple of months before they slaughter them for meat? This book is all about, “You’re going to pay more in feed than they’re worth once they stop producing eggs, so you may as well eat them.”

Wow.

And I haven't even gotten to the goats yet (Goat, Chickens and Pigeons by E. Hunt)

Goat, Chickens and Pigeons by E. Hunt

I mean, I have no problem with eating chickens and using chickens for eggs, but is it really necessary to purge the non-laying chickens every year and bring in new chickens to replace the old ones?  Now, I don’t know if I’ll consider hens as pets or not having never had them…  but that seems way too calculating for me.  I’m thinking that it’s just me and my husband that the chickens will be supplying eggs and meat for, so I probably won’t need to do that. But seriously, reading about having poultry — I want to have more than just chickens you know — has given me food for thought. But I’m gonna read more than just this one book because if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s research a topic into the ground. Gotta make that English degree pay off somehow, right? I’ve also been looking up stuff online, local laws and websites, etc… And I haven’t even gotten to the goats yet…

Just for fun (and in case you missed it the first time), the dangers of raising backyard chickens

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15 thoughts on “A little of this, a little of that

  1. What an adorable place. I’m envious of all the grenery. As you know, I love my chickens. I can’t add much to what others have said except that at various times, ours meant different things: pets, school projects, distractions, entertainment, and more. I’ve never kept them laying in the winter cuz that shortens their lifespan. I felt it was inhumane. Give the ladies a rest, please. And be prepared for everyone to send you patterns for knitting chicken sweaters 🙂 Goats can be fun but they can be a PIA too. Finally, may I point out how exhausted you were yesterday. Imagine now the work involved managing your menagerie—everyday, rain, sleet, Sun, wind… You are younger than I, and at your age I could do it too. I mourn the loss of my dream to be self-sufficient. Go for it now, but with eyes wide open. Love you for your devil-may-care, the-world-be-damned enthusiasm. You got the gumption.

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    • Thanks! I have a feeling that knowing the animals depend on me to be there for them will help a lot in my recovery. Just knowing that the dogs depend on me to take them out helps me get out of the apartment at least twice a day — until the hubs gets home, then he can take ’em, right? and he needs the exercise too. Bless his heart. ^_^ I may not go very far very fast, but they get walked rain or shine because dagnabit, they need to be walked.

      I think it’ll be the same. I do know my limits, (ha!) so I’ll be sure not to take on more than I can handle.

      Congrats on the new grandbaby! Are you back in New Mexico now?

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  2. Hey, thanks for the welcome back! I just wanted to say, from a British perspective, your new house looks amazing from the outside! It’s surrounded by trees, it looks like it has a decent amount of land around it, and that cute little…garage?/outhouse? To me, it looks like one of those stereotypical American farmhouses that we all admire – the perfect place for chickens! (But it could just be kudos to your photography skills…!)

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    • Not my photo taking skills, alas, but the man who inspected the house. I lifted the picture from our inspection report. ^_^ The outbuilding next to the house is a storage shed that’s made to look like a miniature barn. It’s adorable, and could probably be retrofitted to house chickens, and probably goats… but right now, it’s holding the current owners’ stuff. We’re going to move it somewhere else on the property and put a carport or garage (which needs to be bigger if it’s going to hold cars) there for my husband’s car.

      Other than that outbuilding, there’s a two-horse stable with a corral in front which we’re planning on using for goats and another building with a fenced in area that the current owners use for their dogs which we’re planning on using for chickens and/or other fowl and another shed like the one in the picture. So, all told four outbuildings on the property.

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  3. I agree with Marilyn—I bet the house will be cute with minor sprucing up and maybe some more trees and shrubs.

    Okay, the economics of chickens. A chick will cost you around $2-3.00, depending on the variety and how many you buy. Exotic ones cost far more than that, but we’ll just talk about basic laying hens. Starter/grower mash is between $10-18.00 for a 50-pound bag. They don’t eat much when they’re little peepers, but after the first 4-5 weeks, they start chomping up the food. They won’t lay until they’re 5-6 months old, so for the first 6 months they eat up feed and you get no eggs.

    They lay well for a year after that. Good layers will give you almost an egg every day. I have 24 hens that are a year old, and I’m getting 20 eggs a day. At 18 months, they moult and stop laying, so now you have hungry chickens and no eggs for 4-6 weeks. When they resume laying, they do not lay at the earlier rate. Last summer I had a coop with 37 chickens in it—all of whom were over 18 months old, and I got 10-12 eggs a day. As fall approached, those 37 girls went to chicken heaven, because we couldn’t afford to feed them through the winter.

    You can keep chickens until they die a natural death, and we’ve done that with some, but usually we lose them to a predator, or they get egg-bound, or we have to have them butchered. Old laying hens are not edible, by the way. They’re tough and stringy, so they’re really only good for making stock.

    Meat birds are totally different. We buy those as day-old chicks, but we only keep them for 10-12 weeks. By then they are weighing 4-7 pounds, so when they’re butchered we end up with weights ranging from 3 to 6 pounds. If you let them live beyond 3 months, they’re just going to get fatter and fatter, and the meat will eventually get tough. A young chicken is a tender chicken. We buy a variety called “Freedom Ranger.” They eat a lot of grass and bugs, and aren’t super delicate. Most commercial meat birds are Cornish crosses, and their breasts get so big that they have trouble walking after 8 weeks.

    If you want a continuous supply of eggs for you and Doug, you could buy 3-6 pullets, young hens that are on the verge of laying. That will save you all the baby care. I can buy pullets for $5-6 each, and it’s worth it to us to skip the first 5 months of care. They will lay well from about 6 months to 18 months old, at which time you could buy another small batch of pullets. The old girls can hang around looking cute and being not-so-productive, or you can send them off to slaughter. (In a rural area, there’s usually someone around who does butchering on a small scale for backyard farmers.)

    You’re smart to be reading up on this. When we built our first coop, there was no internet as we know it today, so we read dozens of Cooperative Extension pamphlets, library books, and whatever else we could find on the subject. You’ll do fine if you have all the right information. Just be warned—we started with one coop and 8-10 birds, and now we have 3 coops and last summer had 120 chickens at one point. ack ack!!

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    • The lady in the video did say that chickens were the gateway farm animal (or something to that effect). I already have visions of ducks, geese, goats, llama, and sheep along with chickens in my little barnyard. Ha!

      Because I knit you know…

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      • Well! We used to give them away, when we were both working. Now that money is tighter, I still give some to my sister, but we explained to all our friends that we need to cover feed costs and so we charge $2.50/doz. However, the bulk of my eggs are sold at the village store. Here’s a link: http://www.ottosmarket.com/

        He will take as many as I want to give him, and he sells them for $4.99/doz. (Can you imagine that???) But you see, he was a VP at Whole Foods for 17 years and knows how to merchandise food, and about 40% of the property in our town is owned by NYC people. There’s a lot of money floating around this village!

        I added it up last year, and I think I sold him about $1700 in eggs in 2013. It’s cash money that goes right into my pocket, so that’s handy. And like I said, it offsets the feed costs. If you end up with 2 or 3 dozen eggs that you can’t consume, you will find people who want to buy them. If Doug is working, he may have co-workers that would want them. In our area, people put a sign at the end of the driveway with a cashbox and a cooler for the eggs.

        Plus, we do eat more eggs than a lot of people our age. I figure they’re loaded with vitamins, so why not? We eat mostly vegetarian dishes, so dinner might be a frittata or a quiche with lots of veggies in it. Sometimes I make refried beans with eggs on top—Huevos Rancheros. Egg yolks have iron, which is good for us, considering that we don’t eat red meat. Jim’s cholesterol is low and mine is high, but I think those numbers are mostly genetic since we eat the same food every day.

        We’re going to sell this place this year, so my days of eating our own eggs will be drawing to a close. I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the chix, but we’re starting a new phase of our lives. Plus, since we live in the Hudson Valley with hundreds of small farms around, there is always some place to buy local eggs.

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        • I remember you saying that you’re selling your place and getting ready for life on the road… or something to that effect. Well, come see me! If all goes well, we’ll have room for your RV! ^_^ It’ll be a while before I can get this place into the little farm house I’ve dreamed of all these years, but I’ll do it. Just you wait.

          Plus, there’s the store… I want that too.

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  4. As a chicken owner of many years, they are most likely taking out the hens every year because the meat of a chicken is less tender as they age. At some point they are only good as soup chickens. Once chickens pass about 3 years their egg productivity can decline significantly and you can end up with some chickens living 11 years (as we had one this past year do). Initially you can have chickens laying an egg a day, so with just the two of you, you would be drowning in eggs if you have more than two chickens. You also need to put a light on your chickens in the darker months because they require (I think) about 14 hours of light a day to continue laying.

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    • That’s basically what the book said too, that after so many years, they’re not good for anything but soup. But what’s wrong with soup? But over and over again the book also says something about the chicken “costing” more in feed than it’s producing. So this particular book is focused on cost/benefit and I guess I don’t think that way.

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  5. Our house is kind of like that. A little older, though it wasn’t older when we bought it. These boxy houses aren’t much to look at, but they are very comfortable to live in and very easy to fix because everything in them is standard. And with the right planting and paint, it will look fine. Good luck!! And relax. Buying a house and moving is a long haul. You’ll need to conserve your energy.

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    • Don’t I know it! This will be the second move this year, and my fifth move since 2012. My poor cat, Mister, is already freaking out! Since he and I hooked up in 2009, we’ve moved seven times! and lived for a year in an RV! He’s getting too old for this moving business. Hopefully though, it will be the last. ^_^

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