From the day they arrive as Chicks on our farm, our chickens are raised ethically and we truly let them live their best lives, with only one bad day, and that is processing day. They arrive, get put in our brooder for the first 4 weeks of their life. They get food, fresh water, grit, room to spread their wings and warmth. At 4 weeks we move them out to pasture in our Polyface style Chicken tractors. They get moved every single day to a fresh 10×12 piece of pasture, where they can peck, scratch, flap their wings and soak up the sunshine! This tractor provides protection from predators and weather. Moving them everyday keeps them off their manure and provides a controlled amount of manure on the soil, that way the soil doesn’t get overloaded with nitrogen. This is also the reason we don’t have to feed them (drugs) antibiotics.
So, you finally made the decision to add goats to your homestead! Congrats! I mean who does not want goats running around? They’re cute and entertaining and the BEST cuddlers! Goats however, are amazing escape artists and will eat those plants you finally brought back to life, so before you actually bring your adorable new friends home, it’s best to be ready. Below are my must haves to be prepared…..
Shelter: Goats need a STURDY shelter to take cover from rain/wind/snow etc. The shelter can be anything that is large enough for your chosen breed to be comfortable standing or laying down in. The shelter must be sturdy. Goats are jumpers and they love to play. Our goats are constantly jumping on top of their shelter. We currently use a shelter made from pallets and scrapped sheet metal panels. When we first brought our goats home we flipped over an apple bin and cut out a door, it worked great!
Fencing – Goats are amazing escape artists! If they can get out, they will. Proper fencing is important. Goats are also great jumpers, so your fence needs to be at least 5ft high. Gates need to close completely and have no gaps. Basically you want to make sure your goats cannot slip through, climb over or get their heads stuck in big openings.
Feed – Goats are herbivores (only eat vegetation). We feed our goats a good quality hay during the winter and let them browse on pasture during the warmer months. When our does are in milk we also feed alfalfa pellets as a treat while milking. Goats not only eat grasses, they also will eat leaves, shrubs, flowers, and the bark from the trees! Because goats are herbivores, they do not need grain to survive. We have made the choice to not offer grain to our goats. Male goats should NEVER have grain, it disrupts their calcium to phosphorus balance and will cause urinary stones and even death.
Minerals – Goats need a variety of minerals to stay healthy. You will want to use a mineral supplement specifically formulated for goats. Depending on soil conditions in your area you may need to provide and extra boost of specific minerals. The soil in our area is low in copper so we provide a copper bolus to our goats twice a year. Talk to a local farmer or veterinarian to know for sure what you need for your specific area.
Other Supplies- These are just a couple of items to get you started. Eventually you will acquire more supplies as you grow your herd or navigate towards milk or meat goats.
Hoove Trimmers – Goat hooves can get over-grown and make walking uncomfortable, a good pair of trimmers allows for easy trimming.
Baking Soda – You can offer the baking soda free choice, but I prefer to offer it as needed for signs of bloat (when a goat cannot burp). Baking soda can help regulate the PH in the goat’s rumen allowing for easier digestion.
Now that you’re fully prepared for your new homestead friends go out and get those goats! Don’t just stop at one, get two, three…four..five….you get the idea.
Imagine…It’s 15°F out, the wind is ice cold and your getting all bundled up to spend the next hour cleaning out the smelly chicken coop….sounds appealing right? If that doesn’t sound like a fun time to you, don’t worry, there’s a better way….
The Deep Bedding Method:
What is the deep bedding method? The deep bedding method is a simple process of laying down fresh carbon bedding (pine shavings, wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, etc.) once the previous layer has become soiled by your chickens.
Why Use the Deep Bedding Method?:
Cuts down on coop cleaning and eliminates the stink!We keep our chickens in their coop area all winter without cleaning the coop once. If the coop starts to smell then you need more carbon bedding. The coop should always smell earthy never “stinky.”
Provides compost for the gardens! Chicken poop is rich in nitrogen which falls into the carbon rich bedding; the chickens then scratch and peck naturally turning the nitrogen/carbon mixture causing it to slowly break down into a nourishing compost for your soil.
Provides warmth to the coop! When the nitrogen and carbon begin to break down they put off heat which naturally keeps the coop warmer.
How To Start Using the Deep Bedding Method:
Start by laying down 4″ – 5″ of carbon rich bedding (woods chips or pine shaving work great!).
Let the chickens do their thing! The chickens will drop their waste and then scratch and peck which will incorporate the waste into the carbon material.
Once the initial layer of bedding becomes soiled or starts to smell “stinky” add more carbon bedding.
At the end of the winter pull your new compost out of the coop and use where needed. You can leave 4″- 5″ of composted bedding in the coop to jumpstart the next batch.
Enjoy the winter, without cleaning a “stinky” coop!