How do you run a successful egg business? Well, there are some things to consider. You’ll first need to do your research on your local market. Some rural areas are already saturated with egg sales, but here are a few ways you can be successful.
Your eggs must be clean and beautiful if you plan on attracting customers. Believe it or not, your average customer that will purchase a dozen eggs for $5 isn’t going to be a farmer. It may be someone who is in to homesteading and living a more natural life, but they certainly aren’t farmers. They will want clean and pretty eggs. In fact, I’ve had people tell me straight to my face that they don’t want white eggs because they aren’t as “good” as brown and colored eggs. There’s not much you can do about the falsities that run a muck, but you can offer quality products to your customers either way.
Also, keep in mind that most states require you wash and refrigerate your eggs. There is also a limit to the amount of eggs you can sell in certain states before you require a permit.
Packaging your eggs in fresh, new cartons with a label will help customers feel like they’re special. Tie a piece of twine around it with a sprig of rosemary, and you’ve really got yourself a prize winner, there! People like to feel special. When they feel like they are getting an impeccable product that others rarely get, they will continue to buy it. It also helps with branding your business.
Here are some products to consider to help you:
- SubstationPaperie egg carton stamps and labels (shown above)
- Brown blank egg cartons — it’s always best to use brand new cartons for each sale, but I do reuse most of my lightly used cartons over and over again.
- Mini Egg Stamp — this stamp is super cute to put on one of the eggs in the center of your carton.
- Fresh herbs and twine — because adding extra love really helps your customer feel special
Knowing & Choosing Your Egg Market
Who are you going to sell these eggs to now that they are all prettied up? Choosing and knowing your market is going to be your best marketing strategy through it all. If you’re just selling to common friends, family, and a few co-workers, you could probably skip the prettifying stage. However, if you’re looking for hardcore customers, you’re going to have to travel into the city once a week, every other week, or once a month. You can also tag team city farmer’s markets with a friend, or add on to a farmer already going to market and just commission them to sell your eggs for you.
Here are ways to do exactly that —
- Sell eggs to your family, friends, and co-workers: This is just plain common sense. You already see them and spend time with them, they are your first immediate plan of action to sell your eggs.
- Understand that your market are city folk: while your rural friends will buy eggs from you too, especially the Mayberry friends, most of your egg sales will only bring in money if you market to city people. This is where the prettifying comes in.
- Place your eggs on local farm sale websites: Social media, local newspapers, online groups and forums are all great places to market your eggs.
- Tag team a farmers market with a friend: or a farmer that’s already going. Chances are, they will gladly take your eggs for you at their table. Barter with eggs or other homestead items in return, or offer to go watch his stand once a month, and you’ve got yourself a sweet set up.
Livestock Breeding + Selling
I truly love breeding livestock to conformation, standard, or just for good health and meat production. There’s something about bettering a breed that really takes hold of me and makes me excited. This is what we love doing on our homestead, and what we hope to do more extensively in the near future.
Whether it’s rare or sought after chicken breeds, jersey cows, Nigerian dwarf milk goats, or meat rabbits—if you have livestock, you have a potential business.
This portion of homestead money-making can be a money drainer when you first get started. In order to offer quality livestock, you must have quality livestock. Let me give you an example.
When we first got started in meat rabbits, I wanted a breed that I could not only eat, but that I could sell well. This is why I chose the Standard Rex rabbit. I sought out good quality, pedigreed rabbits from meat and show lines. I raised them, bred them, and held back the best of the best, and sold the others off (or send them to freezer camp).
After my first year of breeding, I had quality rabbits of my own to sell—selling pedigreed rabbits for $85 to $100 each. This seemed outrageous to me, but it wasn’t at all outrageous considering the breed was hard to find in most states.
However, I spent well over $300-$400 on my breeding stock.
Read that again. Because it’s not cheap…yo.
The larger the livestock, the more expensive they will be. But if you are serious about it, and you are willing to make the investment, you will certainly come out on top in the end.
It was a win-win with us on the rabbits, because what we didn’t sell, we could eat. Plain and simple!
The same went for us when we decided to sell hatching eggs and chicks. We chose quality breeds, kept healthy birds, and were able to make a decent amount of income.
- Store your milk in sterilized half gallon mason jars for your customers—making sure they have plastic screw on lids, not the canning lids.
- Have a set time for customers to pick up each week—this way people aren’t in the way of each other all at one time, you can set up different days and times for them to come and pick up every week.
- Store your milk in its own refrigerator. This will make it so much easier on you to keep track of. This is also great if you choose to put the fridge in a garage or barn where your customers can just walk in, leave the money, and take their milk. You’ll get to know most of your customers this well, I promise.
- Make it a point to let them know far in advance when you’ll be drying off a cow. Most of your customers will understand, but some customers may need the milk for health reasons.
Sell Meat: Chickens, Beef, & More
With the scurry of the independent homesteading movement, meat is a brand new thing that homesteaders and farmers are offering to the general public. Actually, the market in many places is already completely saturated with farmers offering grass-fed beef, pasture raised chicken, and even quail and rabbit. But don’t let that discourage you just yet.
When you have multiple things and products on a homestead, especially if you’re already selling eggs and dairy, you now have a market base. You have people that already trust you and your product, and this is how you’ll begin to reel them in with the larger products, like meat.
Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t just about making money—this is about helping people change their lives and live a better lifestyle.
Whatever meat you choose to sell, make sure you’re abiding by the guidelines in your state. For most states you can sell small livestock, like chicken and rabbit, with limitations on how much you can sell.
With larger livestock, they must be processed in an FDA certified facility.
There are two main ways to sell meat—
Process the meat, pay for it (if done at a facility), and then sell to markets, stores, and directly to the customer either with meat shares (quarter, half, whole) or portioned out meat.
The second way is to simply sell the meat before butcher. This is best for larger livestock. The customer would put a deposit down on the portion of the cow they want (quarter, half, or whole). Then they would pay you per pound on final hanging weight, and then pay the butcher directly for the butcher fees.
Homemade Goods + Products
You’re a homesteader, which means you have talents beyond belief. Maybe you make soaps or knit hats. Or maybe you have honey to sell from your bee hives. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to mesh it all together with the other services and products you can offer from your homestead.
Be sure to market during the proper times of year, and offering a quality product will set you out from the rest. Start an Etsy shop, or a website where you can sell your products. And network with local groups, events, and farmers.
You can also sell products like essential oils or other products through companies that you love. I love selling my essential oils—they pay for the cost of the oils and the livestock feed every month! If not more.
Again, you can also consider selling things like canned goods, breads, and yummy goodies that you make at home with your loving hands!
Handyman Services + Skills
Basic Handyman Skills (electrical, carpentry, fixing things)
Sell Plants + Produce
When you begin your new season of planting, and you have all of these extra plants that you don’t know what to do with—don’t toss them to the side or force them into the ground….sell them!
In fact, many homesteaders purposefully plant extra plants just to sell each spring. This is a fabulous way to market organic, non-gmo, or home grown and raised plants to gardeners in the Spring. There is especially a market for herbs!
Make + Sell Herbal Remedies
As an herbal homesteader, I tend to have a lot of herbs on hand at all times. In the winter months, I’m constantly creating some type of concoction for a family member or friend. One year, I posted my Elderberry Syrup recipe on a local social media group and told members that I was getting ready to make a batch if they wanted to buy a bottle. I made over $200 that weekend alone. Call me crazy, but I think I was on to something!
If you’re into herbal remedies, try making salves, lotions, syrups, tinctures, and more. Sell them locally within your community, or even only in your Etsy shop or on your website. Just make sure you label them properly to protect yourself.
Boarding + Pet Sitting
If you have an extra field, paddock, or extra room in your home, boarding farm animals and regular pet sitting are all options for you on your homestead. You already have a farm, what’s a few more animals? This might even be your way to get your “new animal” fix without ever actually getting a new animal of your own.
Set standards in place and put things in order so that your market knows you aren’t just there to be at their every beckon call. Setting a standard makes people understand that you’re organized, and the real deal. And that you take pride in your work.
Teach Other People
It happens to everyone at some point or another. You go and start your flock with a few chickens—everything in life is happy and grand. And then one day, you walk outside to a dead bird, a sick bird, or a “what the heck is wrong with it” bird. That’s when the death emotion sinks in and you think you’re a failure at chicken keeping.
If you take nothing else away from this blog, please take away this. Prevention on your homestead is essential. The bulk of things that go wrong with your chickens could have been prevented or at least counteracted.
Growing your own chicken garden isn’t always the easiest, but when you can set aside time to dry herbs (or order them online), and add it into their feed, you’ll see your chickens health improve dramatically. Herbs and snacks such as garlic, oregano, thyme, marigolds, dandelions, violets, chickweed, red raspberry leaf, elderberry (dried), and autumn olive berry are great, wild grown options for your flock. Some of these things you can find right in your own backyard. Others you can forage for. And still, others, you can grow yourself or order large bags of online here.
Pumpkin seeds and DE in their feed are also great options, and help prevent worms in your chickens digestive tract.
Keep Essential Oils On Hand
Essential oils are a very quick alternative to harsh chemicals. We’ve healed many a chicken strictly with Oregano and Melaleuca! You can find out more about EOs HERE.
Now that we have the prevention part of this equation down, lets get right down to the nitty gritty. You’re probably reading this blog because you need help right here and now. You now know how to help prevent illness, but that doesn’t help you right in this moment if your chicken is ill or in pain. Here are some common ailments and the the treatments for them.
Lice and Mites —
We had our first run in with lice about 6 months into our chicken journey when we bought lice infested chickens from someone we thought we knew well, but in fact, were stuck with sick chickens. I made the mistake of treating them chemically, and almost ended up in the hospital myself. After their first treatment, I learned of a much better way to continue treating them (as they need to be treated for an entire month).
Lice and mites transmit from other birds. However, if left long enough, can become an epidemic and kill your chickens by feeding on their blood supply. It takes awhile to get to that point, which is how we knew the chickens had lice before they arrived here (and none of my other flock had them, but had to be treated still). Should you find yourself with an anemic chicken, raw red meat in his/her diet is essential to get their iron levels back up.
The safest and best treatment: Dusting your chickens (very carefully) with wood ash and/or DE will rid them of any parasites that are currently on them. You’ll need to make sure you are dusting them right down to the skin, where these parasites live. You can add DE and wood ash to a special dust bathing area for the remainder of the month, so that they can dust themselves after the first initial dusting. Or you can continue dusting them individually once a week. In fact, you should do this as a preventative at all times (the regular dust bath). Treating for one month ensures that you catch all of the eggs that have hatched since the first initial treatment. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop and dust with DE.
Scaly Leg Mites —
Scaly leg mites are very similar in transmittal as lice and mites for chickens. However, I have read some pretty crazy “treatments” online for it. Someone even suggested you douse the legs in gasoline or kerosene. Please, do not do that.
The safest and best treatment: Soak your chickens legs in a warm water bath with dish liquid. Scrub their legs with a toothbrush to help loosen any dying scales. Dry and slather both legs and feet with a thick oil such as coconut oil, neem oil, or olive oil. This will help smoother the mites and allow for quicker growth of new scales. Add this oil to the legs of the chickens for at least 4 weeks, once or twice a week. Offering the same DE and wood ash dust bath to your chickens is also essential. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop, dust with DE (without the chickens inside the coop) and make sure you’ve gotten all of the old bedding out. Don’t forget to dust the roosts as well!
Cocci can be a vicious parasite in your flock’s digestive tract. While it mostly attacks younger digestive tracts, such as with chicks, it can also attack your adult flock as well, causing diarrhea, unusual feces, blood in feces, and even death if left long enough.
The safest and best treatment: Kocci free is a very effective treatment. We use many of the Vibactra plus products on our homestead. They are an incredible source for herbal remedies. In fact, you can use Kocci free as a preventative as well once a month. Simply add it to their water.
Respiratory Irritation —
Many new chicken owners freak out when they notice their chickens sneezing or wheezing. But it’s not always the “worst”. No, chickens do not get “colds”, however, their respiratory tracts are extremely sensitive. A little more dust than normal in the coop can cause sneezing and wheezing.
The safest and best treatment: Clean the coop out and lay down a less dusty bedding, especially in the summer months. We prefer cardboard bedding in the summer months. Make sure you air out your coop before putting in new bedding, and make sure your coop has good ventilation so that dust can escape easily. Many times, respiratory issues arise because of dust, too much ammonia in the coop, or pollen.
Mycoplasma Gallisepticum and Mycoplasma Synoviae Infection (MG/MS) —
Mycoplasma is a completely different issue that we really need to talk about in the chicken world. We experienced what I believe was a case of MG here the very first month we started with chickens. The chicken, thank goodness, was on our property for less than 48 hours and was quarantined (and immediately culled), but it was scary, to say the least.
Number one — ALWAYS QUARANTINE NEW CHICKENS. We learned our lesson and are thankful we did.
MG and MS are respiratory bacteria that can seriously sicken and kill your entire flock. It is extremely contagious, and can even be spread by clothing and shoes. Many chicken experts will tell you that MG and MS are not curable, but I have to respectfully disagree. If preventatives are used, and if caught in time at the first symptoms, I absolutely believe that MG and MS can be cured. It is, after all, simply a bacteria.
Symptoms of MG/MS: Wheezing, gasping for air, puffy face and swollen eyes, sneezing, sinus drainage, swollen joints, lethargy.
The safest and best treatment: You’ll need to be aggressive with this one. Oregano (antibiotic) in their feed and water at all times during treatment until symptoms have completely passed for ALL chickens. Add turmeric (immune support and anti-inflammatory) and garlic (antibacterial) to their feed as well. Separate any infected birds as much as possible, but treat ALL birds the same. Chickens can have MG/MS and not show symptoms until stressed or weak, which is what happened to us when we brought in a new chicken. Within 24 hours, she was literally on her death bed when she was fine the day we bought her.
Your chickens will need to be treated until ALL symptoms are gone. You should also not visit other farms unless you plan to change your clothing when you get there. And do NOT sell chickens or hatching eggs from your property for at least 4 weeks after symptoms are gone.
Infectious Coryza —
I don’t have any experience with IC, but I’ve read enough, and experienced enough through others, to know that IC is extremely detrimental to any flock. Once contracted, it is extremely hard to get rid of. And can live in your soil for awhile. The fatality rate is extremely high and depressing even with treatment. I have no advice to offer you on IC except that you can treat the same way you would treat MG/MS, however, if it spreads to your entire flock viciously, you may very well consider culling and starting all over again after a 4 week waiting period.
Sour Crop —
Sour Crop is probably one of the most common issues on a homestead when it comes to chickens. At least, it seems to be. We’ve actually never had the issue here, but have had friends with sour crop. Sour crop happens when chickens ingest something that is too big for them to pass through the crop. It can also be fungal, as things can begin to ferment in the crop and cause more issues if not passed properly.
The safest and best treatment: Giving your chicken ACV and olive oil in the crop will help tremendously. ACV has anti-fungal properties, and therefore can help tone down that yeastiness in the crop. You can add oil to your chickens crop and massage her crop, holding her upside down, to help expel anything that may be lodged or compacted.
Bumble Foot —
Bumble foot is another very common issue on the homestead. This happens when your chicken has stepped on something, such as a thorn or has gotten a cut on their foot. The thorn or cut then becomes infected, causing a sore type lesion to pop up on the botton of their foot or in between toes. It can affect their walking, and if left long enough, the infection can spread to their entire body.
The safest and best treatment: You can pick the scab off of the bottom of the foot and expel any infection that way, and also release the core of the issue (if it’s something lodged inside the foot). Or you can wrap the foot with a bandage soaked in tea tree and oregano essential oils. This has proven to be extremely successful for us, as the tea tree oil is antiseptic, and the oregano oil is a natural fighter of infection. You’ll need to do this, daily (direct skin contact with a swab soak in the oil under the bandage) for at least a week or until symptoms begin to subside. This also allows your chicken to walk better with the bandage and extra padding so that it can heal quicker.
Too Many Roosters, Not Enough Hens
Parasites and Bad Animal Husbandry
Picking and Pecking
So, how do I fix it?
Alter Your Flock Keeping Methods
Rid Your Flock of Parasites and/or Filth
Free Range More Often Or Add Boredom Remedies
Up their Vitamin and Nutrient Intake When Molting
When All Else Fails, Buy a Hen Saddle
I’ve never used a hen saddle, ever. Because I’ve just never had to. However, there are a lot of amazing people in the homesteading community who either make them, or have created tutorials on how to make them. You can also purchase them in sets of 5 on Amazon. Hen saddles allow your hens to still remain in the flock without losing anymore feathers or becoming irritated. However, that doesn’t necessarily fix the issue. Hen saddles can also be very hot in the Summer months, so make sure your hens aren’t over heating should you decide to use them.
1-1/4 cup of light olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced
•Place the egg, 1/4 cup of olive oil, mustard powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, blender, or food processor. Mix thoroughly.
•While the food processor or blender is running (or while mixing in a bowl with a stick blender), slowly (very slowly!) drizzle in the remaining cup of olive oil.
•After you’ve added all the oil and the mixture has emulsified, add lemon juice to taste, stirring gently with a spoon to incorporate.
I want to stress that this blog post is about small livestock (chickens, rabbits, etc), not larger livestock. Though it could be applied to both. Clearly, the larger the livestock, the more your livelihood depends on the safety of your animals. This may mean that you have to encounter larger predators in larger quantities (coyotes, for example), in which case, it is extremely understandable that you must take matters into your own hands when necessary.
|A photo from one of our hawk/falcon attacks this Winter.|
I had other people telling me I was a horrible person for sitting there and not shooting it — they “didn’t care whether it was illegal or not”.
But sadly, the very same people that were screaming at me because I allow my chickens to free range are the very same people who would shoot shoot shoot if a predator came their way. But they wouldn’t shoot a hawk…because it’s illegal.
I remember a video of some sweet farmers (Heritage Hollow Farms) that live right up the road from me. Farming is their livelihood. They 100% depend on their income from their farm to live. And what I witnessed was an incredible act of humankind — compassion, grace and realizing the fact that they (predators) were here long before we ever were. And while that doesn’t give us the excuse to throw our livestock into their mouths, it does give us a reason to stop and think about their lives.
“This morning Mike came across a sight no farmer wants to see: a very large & healthy coyote stuck in your fence with your sheep on the other side. All sheep accounted for. Returned to the farm and came back with a rifle and wire cutters. This is a tough choice for one who knows this very same coyote could come back and have one’s sheep for dinner. The other concern is the quality of life for the animal if the wire has caused bodily harm if he does get loose – would he be ok or have a slow, in-humane death? We fully realized the safety issue and farmers & ranchers have been battling predators for hundreds of years. Our border collie was loose all last night in those fields after fleeing a kick to the head from a steer – that coyote could have gotten to him.
With this situation in particular we assessed the wire best we could and deemed it likely he could get it off himself once loose (he was choking with each thrash) – It was not barbed wire. I was armed with the rifle and we agreed we would give cutting the wire one chance. If it didn’t work or if he showed any signs of aggression we would use the rifle.
You see, yes, the easy solution and some will say the best, was to just finish him off. To me, that is the fear talking over grace and heart-based. The Earth needs predators of the animal kingdom to maintain balance – to maintain harmony of the cycles of life. This coyote knew our intentions. There were no growls, no biting – once he was loose we stepped away and he laid there watching us for a couple of minutes before running off and pausing twice to look back at us.
Adrenaline was present, sure, but so was a feeling of peace. A mutual respect for each other: predator & prey. He may not be so lucky, we may not be so lucky if there is a next time. The decision wasn’t made by past interactions with his species, it wasn’t made by possible future interactions (yes, we have lost sheep to them before – perhaps even this same coyote). The decision was made in the present. Perhaps we earned some coyote karma at the farm with this one.”
Molly wanted me to tell you all that they have not lost a single one of their livestock to a coyote since this encounter. She would like to think it’s the good coyote-karma working!
She says it the best, though — we allow fear and annoyance to make our decisions for us more often than grace and heart. Sure, I don’t have a lot of love for animals that kill my small livestock, but I do have a lot of love for all-natural living and homesteading. And I would be a complete hypocrite if I sat here and told you to kill an animal that is part of a system that has been perfected for thousands of years and could survive without man in it — nature.
You see, I realized something profound. I am not an advocate for sustainability if I cannot even support the world of sustainability as a whole. If I am trying to get back to a simpler way of living and being completely self-sufficient, then why is it fair for me to have to kill a predator, who has been doing this a lot longer than I have, just so I can live the life I want?
Let’s not be confused here — there is a difference in killing animals for sustenance. When humanely killing an animal to provide for your family (or in self-defense), there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a sacredness about it that is unexplained unless you’ve lived it.
I say all of this, but I want you to understand that I understand when there is a need to kill a predator.
In many cases, it is just a fact of being a homesteader. Sometimes, you just have to do the hard stuff. But not all of the time, and not as your first option.
— Re-enforce fencing, runs and cages. Bury your chicken run wire. Put an extra layer of hardware cloth. Switch to chain link fencing. Add bird netting to your run if possible. Whatever it is you do, make sure predators can’t get in (from top to bottom).
— Invest in nite-guard or automatic lighting options that come on when a predator is lurking (motion sensitive).
— Invest in an automatic door opener/closer for your coops and runs. It can either be time sensitive or closed at the push of a button.
— Deter birds of prey. We have found it easy to deter birds of prey by hanging CDs or reflective aluminum foil pie pans near the chicken run and coop (or the areas where they free range, in the trees). Ever since making these changes, we have had zero hawk/eagle attacks.
— Invest in a Livestock Guardian Dog. We do not currently have the space for a LGD, but we will one day! There are many LGD rescues or farmers willing to adopt out their unexpected LGD litters. Do your research first!
— Humanely trap the predator and take it to a wildlife conservation area.
As a last resort, when all else fails, killing the predator is certainly an option, and you won’t be judged for it here by any means. Sometimes, no matter what you do, nature truly does show you just how incredible its food chain can be. But we try our hardest to do whatever we can to help keep our livestock safe without altering the course of nature.
We must remember, as homesteaders, it is our job to care for the land — and whether we like it or not, that means the creatures that were here long before we ever decided to call this piece of property our “home”. In most cases, it is not the predators fault that it has gotten to our small livestock — it is our own fault for assuming that we can fool nature into keeping its nose out of our business.
In Genesis God tells us to serve and preserve the land that He has placed into our care. And we have decided to do that here — whether it’s a chicken, a rabbit, gardening, planting, or yes…even giving that predator a second or third chance.
Nothing ever goes as planned, that is inevitable. We have established that multiple times on this blog. I think you’ve gotten the point, but I just thought I would reiterate, once again.
We had planned to have several large batches of Icelandic chicks this Spring and Summer, but between predator attacks and everything else going on here, we had to take a step back from breeding Icelandics this year. In the meantime, I had been dying to try the Brinsea Products Inc. Ecoglow. We brood inside during the Winter months, and I did have a small batch of Icies due. Brinsea was kind enough to send us not one, but TWO of their Ecoglow50 brooders. Little did I know, I wouldn’t be able to use both of them this year, but maybe next. I hope!
Things were crazy around here and the last thing I wanted to do was deal with chicks. But more so, I had absolutely no desire to mess with a heat lamp in the middle of Winter while we were out and about. I had enough on my plate worrying about the woodstove, add a heat lamp to it? No thanks.
The Brinsea brooders came just in time — 2 days before hatch day. There was an instant sigh of relief and out of the box the brooder came.
It. was. huge.
Brinsea listened to my request and sent me their largest brooders, which would completely come in handy for 40+ chicks. Unfortunately, I only had a dozen chicks in my incubator at the time. The big hatches were not due until this Summer. But, none-the-less, I was going to try this baby out! I couldn’t wait.
So now, it’s time for the Pros and Cons. Yes, there are both. As with any product, nothing is perfect. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love the product. We LOVE this product. But I offered to give an honest review of the product, and I will do just that (as with any product review).
- I didn’t have to worry about a heat lamp catching my house on fire. With that said, we have never even had a “close call”. We have always screwed the heat lamp to a secure area in our basement. At the same time, there was always that “fear”.
- It was easy to assemble. I really didn’t even have to read the directions, but I did anyway. It was easy and painless. My style!
- The chicks loved it. It gave them that feeling of security that they needed, and they only had a heat source when necessary. It didn’t “fry” them with harsh heat, and they weren’t bothered by being under a light all day every day. This was really important to me, and I felt much better about it!
- It is easy to clean. Really really easy to clean. With a warm cloth and some white vinegar, I was able to clean it up and sterilize it in a jiffy.
- It is adjustable, making the heat adjustments less stressful on the chicks. As the chicks grew, the brooder grew. Whenever I would clean their tub out, I would slightly adjust the brooder so that it was raised a bit more. The process of taking them off of the heat lamp was more stressful than raising the brooder over the course of a couple of weeks.
- The power cord is really long. YES, thank the Lord. Honestly, as simple as this seems, it was my favorite feature. We all know that our chick brooding tubs and containers are never conveniently located near a plug. That’s always how it seems to go! I was able to plug the Brinsea brooder in a plug no where near their brooding tub. I was doing a little happy dance, because I absolutely loathe extension cords.
- It can easily fit 50 or more chicks. It was way too big for my mere 12, but it would definitely be a life saver with large hatches that we had planned this year.
- I couldn’t see the chicks. And that’s just a personal preference. I like to be able to see the chicks, and for my chicks to see me when I am walking around and doing chores near them. However, the first 48 hrs of a chicks life are extremely fragile. If I wanted to make sure they were all healthy and happy, I had to pull the brooder up off of them, which sent them into crazy mode, which they eventually got over.
- I couldn’t tell if they were warm enough. While I rid myself of the worry that the heat lamp would burn my house down, I gained the new fear that my chicks weren’t warm enough. Clearly, they all survived, which means they were warm enough. Their behavior ensured that they were happy. But it is hard to measure temperatures with the EcoGlow because the temp needs to be taken at the closest level to the brooder (top). The concept is that the chicks feel some heat off of the brooder, but the bulk of the heat comes from direct contact, which is also known as radiant heat. Therefore….my next issue….
- I couldn’t tell if the brooder was low or high enough. I know, now I just sound like a ditz. But I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable. After a few days, I got the hang of it. So this isn’t really a “con”, but just something to not stress about. You’ll get it!
- It can’t be used in cold temperatures. The EcoGlow is not sufficient if the room you are brooding them in gets below 50 degrees. It cannot be used in temps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it also cannot be used outdoors in unpredictable weather — be it Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter. In VA, our Spring days might be in the 80’s, but we’ve had Spring nights (and some Summer nights) get well into the 40’s. This also means that it can’t be used in our basement during the Summer months, because our basement gets quite cold (close to 50 at ground level on concrete) when the woodstove is not going. This is a big issue, and honestly the only deal breaker for us, because many times we brood outdoors with large batches of chicks, or indoors in the Summer. This is simply user specific, because of the way we run things here. I will be extremely excited and the first on the list should Brinsea come out with an outdoor brooder.
– Your animals are taken care of. You get the job done — feeding and watering come heck or high water.
– You do not take on more than you can handle. You realize that if something is too much for you (physically,emotionally or monetarily) that you are not a failure. However, you do need to find a way to “let it go”. This might mean finding new homes for your animals, not buying anymore animals (this is so hard for those of us who love them!), or simply hiring a helper so that all the animals can be tended to properly. This is a really big issue for some of us. But please realize that you are doing more harm than good, and it is not practicing good husbandry at all.
– Your coops, hutches, barns and sheds are kept up, both with mucking and fixing what needs fixing.
– Your animals are typically in good health, and when they aren’t, you notice it long before it gets “bad”. Yes, things happen, we all know this. This is not a “judgement” listing but a general statement. In other words, you shouldn’t constantly have sick or dying animals on your homestead. This isn’t an animal issue, this is a YOU issue.
-You take careful consideration when it comes to breeding, labor/delivery, and the raising of the young animals.
– If you butcher your own meat on the homestead, then this means your tools are clean before, during, and after processing. You take pride in your skill and humanely process these animals that have served a great purpose on your farm.
– Your animals, no matter where they are or what is going on in your life, are always a priority. Their health, their safety and their offspring aren’t something to take for granted. Fifty percent of the time, it is not the animals fault that it got hurt, it is lack of good husbandry skills.
– You’re diligent in all of the above, and whatever other tasks arise. Because those of us who practice the art certainly know just how often that art has to be put to good use….
|Cleaning out hutches and coops in the hottest of summers!|
I have some friends that are absolutely terrified of hatching eggs. And rightfully so. I hear the horror stories all the time on farm forums and facebook pages. The best hatchers have their own horror stories — and they are the best because they have learned from their own mistakes and made sure they didn’t make them again. The best hatchers also understand that just because they’ve done this 100 times, it doesn’t mean everything is always going to go perfect in the end. That’s just the risk you take when trying to play “God”.
First and foremost, don’t freak out. Take a really deep breath before starting.
Next, do your research. If you don’t already have an incubator, don’t just take the cheap route. I took the cheap route, and thankfully it has turned out fine with some tweaking. However, might I suggest the Hovabator Genesis, as it automatically measures temp and humidity for you.
Otherwise, we, personally, have a Little Giant still air incubator. I’ve grown to love it. We do not use an egg turner and we do not use a fan.
There are two different types of incubators — still air and forced air.
A Still Air Incubator (SAI) is normally a styrofoam incubator that does not have a fan to circulate air inside of it. This means that there can be uneven temperature readings throughout the incubator when hatching. It’s the same concept as a regular oven and a convection oven. One has a fan, the other doesn’t. The fan helps circulate the warm air so that the temps are even through out the entire incubator. A still air incubator does not have a fan.
A Forced Air Incubator (FAI) has a fan. It can also be a styrofoam or other form of incubator. You can also buy fans for your still air incubators. The fan allows the air to move about so that temps are even, thus heightening your chances of all chicks growing at the same rate and all eggs pipping simultaneously. Cold and hot spots in your incubator will not be a problem.
With that said, there have been many times when we’ve had 95%-100% hatch rates with our still air incubator. So it’s all in preference and what helps ease your mind.
Here are the steps you should take when beginning an egg hatch:
1. Select quality eggs.
If you are using your own eggs, make sure you choose the larger, more rounded eggs for incubation. Avoid eggs with extra pointy tops or eggs that are porous. Porous eggs can be found by candling before incubating. You’ll see little spots on the eggs during candling. If they are extremely porous, do not use them (photo to left). Porous eggs allow bacteria into the shell and can cause the chick not to grow, or worse, kill it after it has started growing. With that said, I’ve had plenty of porous eggs hatch just fine.
Whether your own or purchased, eggs can sit on the counter for up to one week (fat end up). After that week, fertility begins to diminish.
Now that your incubator is set up and your eggs are ready, you need to place them in the incubator. Place an X on one side of the egg and an O on the other. This will assure you that your turner is turning properly, or will remind you which eggs you have turned manually and which eggs you have not.
If you are not using a turner then make sure your eggs are either laying naturally in the incubator, or that they are setting in an egg carton (so that they don’t roll around). I like to set my eggs on their sides in an egg carton (6 per carton) with fat end slightly raised. You will need to take the eggs out of the carton (or turner) on lock-down day (day 18) so that they do not get stuck or trapped when trying to hatch.
Here is a video of a day 10 candling of our Icelandic Chicken Eggs. I had forgotten to video day 7 candling on these eggs. Forgive the quality!
You may find that the humidity rises as the chicks hatch. If absolutely necessary (especially if condensation begins appearing on the window of your incubator) then you can take some of the water out of the bottom of the incubator. However, it should not rise too much if you have been consistently only adding little bits of water at a time. If you prefer, you can just use a wet sponge during incubation so that you don’t have to worry about putting water in and out of the wells.
|A chick has hatched and several have pipped in this photo above.|
10. Clean up time.
You can clean out your incubator with a white vinegar/water solution, or a simple bleach/water solution. Either works well. Sometimes bleach just seems “better” because it is completely sterile. It is your preference!
Most of all, have fun with it! Go in with the idea that bad things can happen, but so can good things!!
When we first started our homesteading journey, I was constantly amazed by some of the things people said. Not just from those who don’t understand self-sufficiency, but also from those who are just like us. We are in competition with no one. We love this lifestyle, because it suits us. And we never want to be judgmental to those who don’t enjoy the same lifestyle that we do. If you truly knew me personally, then you would see the beautiful array of colors and religions and lifestyles of friends that I have, and I love them all the same!
It’s always a good thing to taste your words before spitting them out. And other times, it’s nice to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before thinking their life is a walk in the park. The moral of the story? Think before you speak, and show more grace than necessary…because ultimately, none of us “have it all together”
(there are a ton more, but these are some of the ones I could think of today!)
If You’re a Non-Homesteader:
The sad reality is that if you truly knew where your food came from, what was inside of it, and how it was processed, you probably wouldn’t eat it either. Fermenting, curing, and butchering your own food is a lost art — we simply want to revive it and teach others just how simple and rewarding it is. And in the long run, it’s much healthier for you.
No. Enough said. Don’t you think you have a boring life without farm animals?
No, it’s not harder for you. It’s the same exact thing that we are doing but on a different time schedule. The reality is that we’re all in this together, and if we’re simply going to pick and choose who has the “harder” job, then we’re completely missing the whole reason as to why we do what we do.
With that said, I completely understand. If I were just homesteading with a few animals and had a full time job, I wouldn’t think much of it. But we homestead, homeschool, and I work from home during the week. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do. However, I make it work. Why? Because I love this lifestyle, whether it’s at 9 a.m. or 11 p.m..
This is woman specific, because I hear it ALL of the time.
My answer? Because I have a husband who was caring enough to tell me a long time ago to learn how to do things on my own in case something ever happened to him and I had to take care of our family all by myself. Yes, he helps. But the uprising of women farmers is inspiring, and rightfully so. The average age of the Virginian farmer is 60 years old, who is going to take his or her place when they are gone? We (women) care about farming, homesteading, raising healthy families and our food system just as much as, if not more than, most men. I take joy in taking care of, breeding, and processing our animals. And he takes joy in the building of hutches, garden beds, and other handyman things that need done. And yes, he does sneak some cuddles in with the ducks every now and then….don’t let his burly manhood fool you!
Because there is not enough time in the day to make everything from scratch…let’s be honest here. And whether you realize it or not, you don’t make everything from scratch either. I do not have enough time during the week to make soap, laundry detergent, dish liquid, homemade meals from scratch every single day (bfast, lunch and dinner), my own clothing, blah blah blah. However, I try my hardest to do what I can in the time frame that I have. And the stuff that doesn’t get done….I absolutely love supporting my fellow homestead friends and crunchy momma’s who do these things!! We’re all on this journey together, and that means we get to support each others businesses and talents as well!
5. “I don’t know how you do it all.”
I don’t. I don’t do it all. I have days when I fail, big time. I have days when I just want to give up. I have days when I realize I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I have days when I feel alone in this journey and like I’m the only one who cares (and then my husband goes out and buys organic ketchup and I remember he is just as committed as I am). I have days when I compare myself to other moms or homesteaders. I have days when I sit on real estate websites and day dream of what we “could” have, but then I realize I am so blessed to have what we DO have. I’m just like everyone else, I just package it differently…..
Thankfully, it immediately killed the lice, however, I retreated with DE a week later (because more lice had hatched) and DE did the job just fine with zero chemicals and absolutely no reaction. I completely understand there is a DE debate on whether it is safe or not, but when used wisely, it works wonders, and my own body thanked me afterwards as well.
|Lice eggs — Photo via poultrykeeper.com|
1. Examine all chickens. Lice will be visible on the skin of the belly and around the vent. They will be nasty and crawling quickly, so look thoroughly. Assume that all of your flock could potentially have lice or lice eggs on them. Lice eggs will be seen (pictured above) at the base and on the shaft of the feather. Separate chickens that look anemic or lethargic from the rest of the flock. For chickens that visibly have lice on them, dust (to the skin) cautiously with food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Wood ash is a more natural option if you are against DE. However, DE works just fine on our homestead and we have absolutely zero issues using it.
2. Create a large bathing area for your chickens if you do not already have one. Fill it with fresh wood ash. Wood ash is a completely all natural way to rid chickens of lice and mites. In fact, you can even rub your chickens down (to the skin) with wood ash and a little dusty dirt rather than using DE. It will naturally kill mites and lice. Make sure there is plenty of wood ash in the dust bathing area for the next 4 weeks.
3. Thoroughly clean out coop and give a good layer of DE to the entire coop, including roosts and nesting boxes. Do not put bedding down for 1 hour. Do not allow your chickens back into the coop for 2 hours so that the dust settles. Lock them in their run or allow them to free range without coop access for 2 hours, total.
I hope that my horrible experience can help many of you. I doubt we will ever have to deal with this again, as we are completely on top of things now and will give any new hens brought in a thorough run down. However, sometimes life just throws you lemons — and it is better to be prepared now than when you actually need the reference!
As always, the key is prevention — weekly check overs, quarantining new chickens, a clean coop and living area, and good diets are important!
On our homestead, we strive to treat as naturally as possible. Certainly, there are some dire instances when less natural remedies must be used. However, thankfully, we have not had to use anything other than all natural treatments for quite some time now.
With that said, if you find that this natural remedy is just too much, or your chickens aren’t progressing, the chemical fix is simple and can be used as a last resort. Don’t beat yourself up about it!! Use 2-3 drops of Eprinex or Ivermectin on the skin of the back of the chickens neck. Just keep in mind there is a withdrawal period of 2 weeks after treating, and you’ll probably have to treat once a week for 2-4 weeks.