Raising Chickens part 2

Incubation

(Warning – this post contains a video which may not be suitable for all viewers)

Hi all,

Let me share another helpful lesson on raising chickens. I last left off telling you about our chicken breed, “Brown Shavers”. We chose this breed mainly because of the high egg production and highly regarded good health. There are many other good options out there which have unique characteristics. One negative about the brown shaver breed is that they are not very good mothers. They do not sit on their eggs reliably and rarely go broody. This fact leads us to today’s topic!

So we have a brown shaver who’s name is Reep-i-Cheep (yes, I am a fan of Narnia). She fell broody sometime earlier this year which means her instincts made her want to raise chicks. She started to steal all the other chicken’s eggs and hide them so that she could sit on them all day long. It also means that she was not producing any eggs and not eating much food. She seemed depressed that her clutch (a nest full of eggs) never seemed to hatch.

Broody Hens and what to do

There are many ways to “break” a broody hen. A broody hen’s body temperature is much higher than a non-broody hen because eggs need heat to start the incubation process. Methods to break this cycle often revolve around reducing the chicken’s comfort and warmth. Some people talk about putting them in a wire bird cage with no “secure” or comfortable place to sit. Others have suggested a dunk in a cold water bath or a block of ice in the nest.

We are not running a commercial farm, and we have more eggs than we need so we decided to give Reep-i-Cheep some fertile eggs to sit on instead of breaking her.

Incubation

When a broody hen sits on a clutch of eggs, she needs to do so for a minimum of 21 days to complete incubation. An excellent broody hen will then take care of the chicks she has hatched until they are fully feathered and able to take care of themselves. It is okay for a chicken to get up a few times each day to eat, drink, and scratch about but it is vital for a broody hen not to be gone too long or else the eggs will get cold and will not survive. Reep-i-Cheep sat on her eggs for 23 days. At 22 days 3 of her eggs hatched. The remaining eggs were a combination of apparently unfertilised eggs and blood rings.

A blood ring occurs during the incubation of chicken eggs when the fertilised egg starts to develop but then later dies. When the blood vessels begin to form, and the embryo dies; the blood vessels decompose and rather than remaining attached to the embryo, they float in the yolk and form a circle which spans the circumference of the egg. You can see this if you shine a very bring light through the egg. Though there are many reasons for a blood ring to form, the sight of a blood ring always means death.

The technique of viewing the process of egg incubation with light is called Candling.

Reep-i-Cheep was pretty upset and continued to sit on the dead eggs while trying to be a mum to the three freshly hatched chicks. She also refused to eat and drink. Her instincts prevented her from seeing that these eggs would never hatch. She was pretty malnourished at this point too.

At this point, we decided to try to replace the dead eggs with more fertile eggs. We thought Reep-i-Cheep would sit on them again, but we decided to go with a better supplier. Unfortunately, the day after we got the next batch of eggs Reep-i-Cheep chose not to sit anymore and only continued to care for her three chicks. We found ourselves with nine partially incubated eggs and no broody hen and no way to get an incubator fast enough to keep them alive. The only chance they would have was to try to incubate them with the electric hen, much egg turning, and a spray bottle. Unfortunately for us again, the power went out at a point, and the eggs did not survive. We still tried to see if they would hatch but after 25 days had passed, we had no new chicks. We decided to film the results to see how far they had developed before they died. Have a look at this video below if you would like to see the results.

~Grace

Status Update

Hi guys,

There’s no video to upload yet.  I’m still working out bugs with iMovie.  I haven’t used it before, so I’m taking my time to get the first film right before I upload it for your viewing pleasure.

In the meanwhile, we have had two forms of property inspections done on the lifestyle block we’re trying to buy.

One of these was a structural engineer’s report, to investigate the floor levelling problems that were obvious to us as we walked around the house. Old houses in New Zealand often sit on a foundation of piles made of stone or untreated timber (such as totara), and over time these piles can sink, decay, or a combination of both. Sometimes a tradesperson can put packing on top of sunken piles to relevel the house; other times, the correct solution is to repile. In the most severe cases, the entire foundation must be replaced. Especially if the house has other major problems, a foundation replacement can be so costly that it is more economical to demolish the house and build a new one. We wished to rule out the possibility that a complete refounding is needed.

The other report we commissioned is a pre-purchase building inspection. Building inspectors vary in quality, as building inspection is a largely unregulated trade in New Zealand. For this purchase, we opted to consult a member of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors. Membership of a trade association is useful there is a level of professional standards and accountability without having to seek redress through the courts in the event of poor service.

The building inspection, unfortunately, came back with some bad news. The building inspector was very thorough and caught many problems that we didn’t see. We knew that the house had some problems due to its age (floor levelling as described above, old windows, minor roof repairs and some paint needed, etc.), but we were unaware that it would also require extensive subfloor replacement due to borer beetle damage! It will also probably require a complete re-pile as well as a lot of work on the ground surrounding the house to prevent drainage issues.

Once we had this new information, we decided to contact the current insurer for the property. (Historically, we would not have known who the current insurer was, but after a series of severe earthquakes in the Canterbury region, it is now standard for house vendors to certify that a house is insurable by providing a statement from the current insurer. Otherwise, the house must be sold “as is”, which makes finance very difficult as banks won’t lend against uninsured assets.) The insurer, AA insurance, told us that the house in its current state would only be insurable if we promised to repair the subfloor without delay.  They told us that they were unaware that the house was not being properly maintained.

So we’ve gone back to our solicitor (i.e., lawyer) to ask the vendors if they are willing to complete that work or not.  If they are unwilling to do the work there are other options available to us.  All is not lost – but we may end up going back to the drawing board for our lifestyle block acquisition.

~ Grace

Reasons for Change

Good evening,

Many of our friends and family members are asking us why we’ve decided to make this big change.  It’s a big thing, I suppose, to go and seek employment outside of one’s field and sell your existing city property to fund the purchase of a rural one. Unfortunately for Victor and me, staying on with the status quo isn’t a viable option.  You see, Victor is trained in a very specialist field of information technology, and works in the New Zealand public sector.  Because of the nature of the field and how it is funded, he has been hired by two corporations, one after the other, on a succession of fixed-term employment contracts. After some of his colleagues were made redundant about 18 months ago, he was asked to take on extra responsibilities including an acting leadership role. These extra duties came with elevated personal risk, higher stress, no increased pay in the short term, and no indication that they would provide opportunities for career progression in the medium to long term. Meanwhile, his work has become largely administrative in nature, and his specialist skills have been allowed to languish. He’s concluded that his skills are not really in demand in the current New Zealand job market and that it’s time to do something different.

Outside of Victor’s employment; we’ve noticed a substantial increase in city property rates as well as food costs.  We’re also outgrowing our current space as I recently gave birth to our third daughter.  We see how frustrated our pre-schoolers are with our yard space and also really want to be able to have better quality fruits, vegetables, and meats.  All of which are unobtainable with our current budget and spacial limitations.

So what does this all mean?

In short – We’re moving out of the city, and though some parts of our life will stay the same, most of it will change in a big way! Please join us again for our next post in a few days where we will hopefully be able to post our first mini-video on our blog!

Thanks for reading!

Grace

 

Raising Chickens in the City

Good day everyone!

Today I thought I would share our first encounter with homesteading. Victor and I decided early on to try to raise a few chickens in our suburban house. In our town, you can keep poultry (apart from noisy roosters) on your residential property. Whether you take in rescued battery hens or try out a fancy breed, keeping healthy, productive poultry can save you money — plus you’ll enjoy the great taste of home-grown eggs.

Finding suitable housing 

We knew we wanted at least 4 good healthy chickens and we knew we wanted to hand raise them from day olds.  So that gave us the approximate space requirements that we needed to house them comfortably.  We looked around for an inexpensive option but purchasing a coop or building one from scratch was out of our budget range. Luckily for us, Victor’s parents were trying to get rid of their old coop.  So we took it home and remodelled it to remove the broken bits and add some new wood to the areas that needed it most.  This saved us heaps of money in the beginning because a standard kit set Chicken Coop and run can cost a lot!  The prices vary depending on how many chickens you want and any extra features you desire.  I think our expenses to fix it up were around $100-200.  A brand new one could run you into the thousands for a perfect setup.

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A good coop needs an ample amount of run space unless you know you can free-range and are happy to block off any areas you don’t want them to forage in.  It also needs enough nesting boxes for all your chicks.  Since our chook house has 3 boxes, we can have up to 6 chickens inside comfortably.

Also, you need to have a perch which is flat on the top so that their feet are flat to roost. I highly recommend getting a small bit of 4×2 or something like that rather than using dowels which hurt their feet!

Choosing a Breed

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Chickens come in all shapes and sizes.  From Bantams, which are your smallest breed to your heavy breeds like Australorps and Orpingtons there are plenty to choose from. I could write for days on the different pros and cons of the various kinds, but I will leave that for another day.  All you need to know right now is that we chose to get a favourite New Zealand variety called “Brown Shavers“.  We got ours from a local hatchery called Heslips HatcheryHeslips is a great place to go if you want a highly productive flock like ours.  They were shipped to a local distribution point where we picked them up.  You can also order and pick up directly from the hatchery, but that was farther away for us.

Raising Chicks

When raising chicks for the first time, you need to have specific items to care for them.  You need a broody box to keep them contained which has access to water which is shallow enough that new chicks can’t drown and it should have a small shallow feed dish too.  For feed, I highly recommend the chick starter that Heslips offers when you buy the chicks from them.  It’s excellent quality, and you can usually pick it up at the same time.  You’ll need to provide them with an ample heat source if you don’t have a broody hen to raise them from eggs.  You can choose to buy a standard heating lamp like they use for reptile aquariums but we personally prefer the use of a specialty poultry device called an “electric hen”.  An electric hen is a ceramic heating element that the chicks stand under when they are cold.  You can find these online as well as at some stock feed stores and hatcheries in New Zealand. The benefits of this form of heating are that it is cheaper to run, that it allows the chicks to manage their own temperatures, and that it doesn’t interfere with their day and night routine by adding excessive amounts of light.

As you can see our chicks had everything they needed to grow up.  It takes about 18 weeks for an average flock to go from chicks to Point of Lay (egg production).  Ours took a little longer because we purchased them too late in the year and they were delayed by winter.  On the other hand, this meant that our first year of production was actually much stronger and we had an average of 1.5 eggs per 24 hour period which is more than what the breed is usually capable of.  We feed our fully grown birds a premium grade feed called “Natra-lay”.  It’s the highest protein food we could find and is made with non-GMO seed mix.  It isn’t medicated, and it is free of all pollutants and pesticides, and though it does not have the paid certification of “organic”, it might as well be. We also give our girls scratch seed and occasionally mealworms when they don’t get enough from our yard.  Our girls are now nearly 2 years old!

We hope this has been helpful to you.  We plan on writing more about raising chickens very soon.  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!

~ Grace

Please excuse our mess!

Hello and welcome back!

I thought I would start off by sharing our recent paint job. When we bought our big house, it needed quite a bit of work to get it to a place where we would have a comfortable existence.  Among other things we added insulation, replaced the HRV system (a home ventilation unit) and added lights and new appliances where the originals were either broken or non-com pliant with the city’s housing codes.  We have now lived in this comfortable home for 2 and a half years, but there was still work to do.  The original owners had decided to paint the central living area an insanely dark blue colour called Takaka. Even after we replaced the one light in the room with 20 odd LED lights, it was still dark.We didn’t have the time or money to paint it back then, though, so we just left it for another day.  Fast forward to moving time, and we’ve chosen a much better colour.  It’s a paint by Resene called “Resene Double Pearl Lusta”.  It’s a beautiful warm soft yellow colour with lots of character.

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Starting to undercoat the first wall

We didn’t have the time or money to paint it back then, though, so we just left it for another day.  Fast forward to moving time, and we’ve chosen a much better colour.  It’s a paint by Resene called “Resene Double Pearl Lusta”.  It’s a beautiful warm soft yellow colour with lots of character.

We started painting by masking off the room and applying the first layer of undercoat to the big wall. You can see our progress in the pictures above and below.  It took about three layers of undercoat to cover the Takaka paint. Victor and I worked tirelessly to cover this room.  We had to work in shifts to get it all done because we started out with only one set of proper painting tools! We really needed to get another set so we decided to head to our favourite New Zealand home improvement store, Mitre 10! When we returned we were able to get significantly more progress done before the night fell.  Thankfully, the undercoat we chose was a fast drying type20180414_090844.

When doing painting of any kind, it is vitally important to cover the carpet and furniture. As we found, it’s also useful to keep boisterous year-old cats as far away from the work area as possible. They have a propensity to seriously mess up your protective covers and can track paint all over the house. We didn’t want to have to do a full re-carpet as well!

As you can see we have done our best to cover most of the exposed surfaces so that our final result would be pleasing to any potential buyer.  We want to get the “best bang for our buck here” as they say so it was really important to tape things correctly and take off all the light switches and sockets well before we painted the wall around them!

We’ll upload some more pictures later so you can see the final paint job! Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

 

 

Crunch Time or Time Crunch?

Hi everyone,

When last we left off Victor and I were posting our very first blog post and introducing ourselves. Now some of you will know that we currently reside in a small house in a city on the South Island of New Zealand. Some of you might also surmise that we’re not intending on living in our current house much longer. The purpose of this blog is to show how ordinary people can work their way towards their own self-sufficient lifestyle, whether they live in New Zealand or not. We’ve seen how other people have started their own blogs long after they’ve become invested in their homesteads. Unfortunately, most of those blogs and bloggers didn’t have the opportunity to share the process right from the start and this loss of opportunity makes it very difficult for anyone to take the leap of faith to try their own. Our hope is that you can follow along as our family takes that leap for you. Follow us to see how we combat issues around employment, housing, finances, time management and also family life on a New Zealand homestead!

We’re in a huge time crunch right now as we try to sell our home to buy our new farm!

Check in tomorrow to see how we’re getting ready to “put our house on the market” as they say here.

Introducing ourselves

Welcome to Kiwi Homesteading! We hope that you will have fun and learn lots as you join us on our exciting new adventure.

For reasons of safety and security, we will use pseudonyms on this blog. We respectfully ask that you refrain from publicly referring to us by our real names or attempting to identify us, either in comments on our blog or elsewhere.

Victor, the husband and father, is a software developer who grew up in semi-rural New Zealand. After time spent overseas and in the big city, he’s keen to return to the country for fresher air, a slower pace of life, and a healthy environment for us and our children. He believes in greater self-sufficiency, strong community relationships, and less dependence on the vast, impersonal networks that define much of modern city life.

Grace, the wife and mother, is a full time parent to our young children. She grew up in semi-rural Midwest United States.  She spent most of her teenage and early adult years developing a professional traditional art practice and studying under a Master of Arts.  She now focuses on raising our three young girls, with a secondary focus on growing the family chickens, veggies, and other homesteading activities.  In addition to those things, Grace still finds time to practice her art.

The first of our three young girls is Stargazer.  Stargazer is currently three and a half years old, going on 10. She loves to ask lots of questions! When she gets in trouble (which is very frequent), she often asks, “What happened?” or, “Why?”.  She’s a lovely little girl with plenty of aspirations regarding horses and puppies.  We hope these things keep her out of trouble!

The second of our girls is Honeybee.  Honeybee is one and a half years old. She’s as sweet as can be but is going through some hard times on account of some nerve problems which unfortunately make it difficult for her to be as active as she would like to be. She’s doing her best to learn to talk, though, and still tries some things like bouncing on trampolines that are physically demanding for a toddler! Honeybee has overcome so many obstacles in her short life thus far and we believe that a rural life will help improve her health and give her relief from her troubles.

The third of our girls is Ducky. Ducky (sometimes affectionately called “Rubber Duck” or “Little Duck”) is currently a baby.  She’s growing very fast and has started having interest in her hands and toys.  She can’t sit up or crawl yet, but she loves to watch people and she has a strong affection for rubber ducks and ducks of all sorts.  Grace thinks this love is because she was introduced to a toy that Stargazer put on her after her first bath. She particularly likes to watch the ducks at the park and watch the leaves on the trees at the pond too.  She’s a happy baby but due to some family genetics is allergic to milk and soy protein and unable to digest breast milk, so she’s on a specialty paediatric formula diet.

We look forward to sharing our journey with you!