Chickens…From Egg to Life Part 1: Preparing/Choosing your Incubator

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This was the title of my 6th grade science project. It was about hatching chicken eggs, something I’ve always been fascinated with. I’ve picked this hobby back up the past few years, and have gained a lot of knowledge and experience along the way. Currently I hatch about 200 chicks per year, as well as a dozen or two heritage turkey poults, and a myriad of ducklings and goslings.

Hours hold Light Brahma chicks.

Hours old Light Brahma chicks.

I will be finishing up a hatch by Wednesday, and have ordered more eggs to set Friday. I decided now would be a great opportunity to introduce you to the ins and outs of hatching your own poultry, a valuable skill for any homesteader, poultry enthusiast, or home educator.

I will try to be as detailed as possible. We’ll begin with the topics of preparing your incubator, selecting your eggs, and proper egg handling/storage.

Incubator Preparation

If you’re lucky, you have a willing, waiting hen (or other fowl mother) to slide your eggs under.

Mama hen and her foster babes

Mama hen and her foster babes

If not, you’re going to need an incubator. I know styrofoam incubators are cheap. This is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. I tried the styrofoam. They are difficult to clean, for starters. And cleaning between hatches is crucial to subsequent hatching success, due to bacteria. Additionally, the styrofoam bator off the shelf doesn’t come with the necessary fan to circulate heat, and it doesn’t come with the super handy egg turner. These components turn a $40 incubator into a $120 incubator. Not so cheap now… and not very reusable even if you make the additional investments. I personally use and highly recommend Brinsea incubators.

Eggs in Brinsea on lockdown

Eggs in Brinsea on lockdown

For about $200, I got this Brinsea eco. It hatches 24 eggs at a time (they offer larger and smaller incubators). It is very easy to clean between hatches. No, they aren’t paying me!! I just love this thing. I know it is pricey, but I have more than made my money back on it through selling chicks, and custom hatching jobs.

So, preparing the incubator, regardless of what you use. I will give instructions mostly for a circulated air type incubator, but if you have questions about still air, ask. I have used them extensively although I don’t like them.

A couple days before you plan to start, or set, your eggs, you need to turn it on and get it warmed up. Getting the temp just right can take a little time. It needs to be as close as possible to 99.5 degrees. I never like to see it at 99 or 100. Try to keep it right in the middle.

Once the temp is set and steady for several hours, go ahead and add some water to it. You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity. I did until I was quite familiar with the process. Now I just add water as needed based on the ambient temperature and the relative humidity. I do not like excessive humidity. Go a little dry, it won’t hurt things, and may keep them from drowning in their shells.

Okay, this one is getting a little long, I will make a separate entry for egg selection, as that is a whole nother can of worms…please don’t hesitate to ask any questions about incubators!

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Cattle Record Keeping Sheets – with dairy records too

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Alright, I have more records than this done by now, but I’m not sure if I can figure out how to share them. If you come across this and think its something you could/would use, please let me know how it works for you and if you have any suggestions or requests. This is definitely not a finalized/finished version, just a test.

Sunny, my first dairy cow.

Sunny, my first dairy cow.

cattle record sheets

Organization. Hopefully.

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I have been working hard preparing for Spring. I know, I know. It sounds like I’m jumping the gun or must not care a lick about Christmas. Not so. Alongside my seed catalogs lies my knitting projects for my family. Planning in advance is just smart.

It takes a massive amount of planning, over the course of a few months, to prepare for those few weeks in Spring where we try to get all of our seed in the ground at the right time. We don’t do just one crop, we do about 40 different varieties of vegetables each year. Each year I add more…it gets to be a lot to keep track of.

Our 2012 Early Spring Garden

Our 2012 Early Spring Garden

I have looked high and low the past few years for some type of farm management printables or programs. To no avail. I can find it for the “big boys”, and only for monocroppers but not for us. So instead of lamenting any farther, I have begun to make my own. At first it started small, keeping records of kidding dates/difficulties, etc. What vegetable was planted where. Now, in the style of ME, it is turning into a full fledged operation.

If anyone feels like they have any need for papers like this, let me know and I’d be happy to share. However, I have no idea how to get what I’ve made on the blog. I might do it on Facebook if there’s an interest in it.

Gratitude

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In the spirit of the season, I feel called to show gratitude for the many things in my life that are just such a blessing.

My husband, who is a wonderful hard working man with a great sense of humor. He works his tail off everyday in order to provide for our family. He is out of bed every morning at 4 am and we don’t see him until after 6 pm. He supports all of my endeavors, with minimal eye rolling. I am truly thankful for him.

My beautiful children, and their health, I take for granted too often. I feel pangs of guilt when I hear of another parent’s loss or suffering through an illness with their babies. Thank God that we have had nothing too terrible happen, and my heart goes out to those who have.

I am thankful for my little farm. My house is nothing special, large, fancy, or even finished! But it is ours and we have all that we need. I’m grateful for my animals, particularly my beautiful spoiled milk cows. Our extended family that keep us motivated when the spark temporarily dies out.

I am also truly grateful for our ability to be as dependent on “us” as we are. We educate our children, grow a ton of our own food, and even tackle as much of our own medical care as is safely and wisely possible. The benefits are reaped ten-fold, and for that, I think my whole family is grateful.

What are you thankful for this year?

Busy days, busy nights…

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I have been working round the clock like a mad woman for the past couple of weeks. I’m a stay at home mom, a housewife. I should be watching soaps and eating TV dinners, right?

Homeschooling engages ALL of my time from the hours of 8 AM until about 2:30 – 3:30 in the afternoon, depending on the day, my mood, and the kids’ moods, as well as whatever we have going on. In the hours before school I have the animals outside to take care of, have my coffee and get caught up with online activities, and get some food going for us for the day.

Directly after school, I milk cows, then start supper. Doesn’t leave much time for baths and family time, let alone ME time.

I saw a cartoon the other day where the mother of a baby said she needed the father to watch the baby for a while. “I need some me time,” she said. “I have to get the laundry done.” Right!? That’s how it is here!!

No complaints here. Just pretty overwhelmed. After receiving some slight encouragement, I decided to go ahead and put a fancy bow on some of the things I make and try to sell them. I was going to do it through my website, but ebay is a much easier route. I sort of left the website hanging out there…somewhere…

So in between all of this other stuff, I’ve been working on making labels for each thing, packaging ideas, and actually getting the stuff made. I’m tired! Now I just pray it will be worth it!

Lavender Chest Rub

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This morning I was up with the chickens and decided to start some work on my herbal medicine cabinet. I came across a few recipes to make my own chest rub at home, and decided to come up with my own. From what I’ve read, the basics are petroleum jelly, camphor essential oil, and eucalyptus essential oil. I decided since this was the first time making it, I would try to keep it as simple as possible. But I hate the smell of chest rub, so I wanted to add in some smell-good. I love lavender, and had some on hand, so that is what I used.

chest rub ingredients

I started by heating a pan of water on med-low and brought it to a simmer. I sat a pyrex measuring cup into the pot and put in a half cup of petroleum jelly. Once that was heated and liquified, I took a tea ball and filled it with 2 tablespoons of dried lavender, then dropped that into the petroleum jelly. I let them sit together, simmering, for a half hour.

simmering

(The same thing, even better, could have been accomplished by putting the lavender directly into the jelly and then running it through some muslin or cheesecloth. I happened to have neither on hand this morning so I improvised.)

When the thirty minutes was up, I let the mixture cool down ever so slightly, and then added 12 drops of the eucalyptus essential oil, and 8 drops of the camphor.

Lavender Chest Rub

And there you have it folks. Super fast, super easy chest rub. Use like the store bought stuff, rub it on your chest and back. The lavender didn’t make the smell go away, but it did add a nice scent to help mask the stronger smells. Enjoy!

Writing a Novel in a Month

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This morning I have been printing off the free workbooks from the Young Writer’s Program. It is called NaNoWriMo, for National Novel Writing Month.

I discovered them a couple of years ago and it is a ton of fun. The kids are all really looking forward to this, even my 9 yo who thinks a pencil burns his flesh.

The program starts annually on November 1, there is a great online community your older kids can join. (If you don’t make the deadline, nothing says you can’t start this program anytime. Last year we did it in the spring.)

http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/workbooks

There is the link, enjoy!

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