Homesteading Fail

Homesteading can seem like a dream. Beautiful gardens, shelves of mason jars, & cute animals running around, who wouldn’t love that? Well folks, homesteading isn’t all sunny days and rainbows. Animals die, mother nature wreaks havoc, and sometimes (even with all the right preperations) plans fail. We have been homesteading for 5 years now and there have been so many failures….pigs in the yard at 3am…our cow jumped through a window…100 chickens hanging out in our neighbor’s yard…goats on the deck…I could go on but I think you get the point. On January 6th, 2022 we experienced another failure. Our city was hit with the worst snow storm we’ve seen in 25 years. 3 feet of snow accumulated in a matter of hours which led to our 20x40ft hoop house to cave in. Luckily all of our animals survived and we learned a hard lesson in extra support. You see, as Henry Ford quoted, “Failure is only the oppurtunity to begin again more intelligently.” Our hoop house was a fail, it didn’t have enough support to accomodate the weight of the heavy snow but within that fail we can see the oppurtunity to fix and even imrove our current design and in the end we will turn this failure into a success. And let me tell you, there is no greater feeling than success after a failure. The sense of accomplishment and pride that you feel once all your hardwork finally pays off makes all of the failures worth it. This spring we will re-build and go into next winter more prepared and more intelligent than before.

Common Chicken Illnesses & How to Prevent Them

Whether this is your first batch of chickens or 1000th, chances are, at some point you will deal with chicken illnesses. Most chicken illnesses can be avoided and in this post we want to give you a short run through of the most common and most avoidable chicken illnesses that we have personally dealt with.

Pasting – This is a condition in which a chick (usually under 1 week old) develops a hard layer of droppings over their vent which causes waste buildup and death if not dealt with quickly enough. Pasting is usually caused by stress and can easily be avoided. The most common stress inducers are, being too cold, too hot, or scared. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your chicks comfortable. Keeping a thermometer in their brooder and knowing the signs they display when they are too hot, or cold is imperative. If they huddle together, they do this for warmth, this will mean they are cold. If they are spread out beyond the lights and are laying around the borders of your brooder, then they are too hot. If they are at an even spread through your brooder, then they are just right! Scared is a whole other thing and can be very detrimental to their overall stress levels. The most typical sign of them being scared is huddling together in a corner of the brooder attempting to hide from whatever it is they fear. Stress is a huge issue, but not the only thing that can cause pasting. Another factor that leads to pasting is digestive enzymes. You want to help build this up as quickly as possible as this helps them digest their food and maintain healthy levels of good bacteria vs bad bacteria. The best thing we have found to help is by mixing apple cider vinegar with their water. We add in apple cider vinegar everyday for the first week.

Coccidiosis – Coccidiosis is a parasitic infection that causes the chicken’s dropping to be loose, watery, and sometimes bloody. The number one cause of coccidiosis is droppings in the chicken water or feed. Make sure your feed and water are always free from chicken droppings! Keeping your chickens clean and dry is another way to avoid coccidiosis. On our farm we use the “deep bedding” method. This method serves two purposes, heat and health. The deep bedding method is where you continually add bedding material (carbon sources such as pine shavings, dry leaves, etc.) to soiled or wet bedding. Eventually as the layers pile up the bedding in the lower layers will start to break down creating a composting cycle that generates heat and helps keep them warm. This also works by providing a barrier between the chickens and the manure underneath, preventing them from sleeping in droppings. So to prevent coccidiosis keep your water clean, feed clean, and keep your chickens clean and dry.

Mites – These are tiny eight legged organisms that can quickly infest your chickens. Mites are carried by other birds, rodents, and other animals so simply keeping a clean coop will not prevent your chickens from becoming infested but there are a few tips to help reduce the risk of your chickens contracting mites.

  • Keep feed locked up – Preventing other animals from visiting your feed can help decrease your risk of another animal passing mites to your chickens.
  • Provide a dust bath – Chickens like the bathe in dust! They will roll around and kick dust all over themselves. This helps keeps mites at bay!
  • Quarantine – Quarantine any new bird before adding them to your flock to be sure they are mite free.
  • Pay Attention – Check on your flock regularly and look for signs of mites. Catching them early is key. Common signs of a mite infestation are a dirty vent area with clumping in the feathers, change in appetite or egg production, pale vent, and feather pulling.

Hopefully this information helps keep your flock clean and healthy!

Raising Laying Hens – A Beginners Guide

Let’s be honest, there is nothing better than fresh eggs straight from the hen to the skillet. There is a sort of peace of mind and pride that comes from knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it was raised. In this post we will cover everything you need to know about starting your own flock of laying hens.

Before you run to the feed store or place an order for laying hens it’s very important to be prepared. Chicks are fragile and will need a safe warm space for the first 4 to 6 weeks of their life. This safe warm space can be achieved using a brooding system. A brooding system is an area set up with heat and essentials for your new chicks.

Setting up a brooding system – To set up a brooding area for your new chicks you will need:

Container : You will need some sort of container/box to keep your chicks in. This can be anything from a plastic tote to a metal horse trough. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 sq-ft per chick up to 4 weeks old (for example – 10 chicks need 5 sq ft). You will want to make a lid for your container out of chicken wire – this will allow air flow but keep pets or other unwanted guest out.

Bedding – Chicks create waste and will need a bedding that absorbs their droppings. We have found that pine shavings work the best for us but some other options are shredded paper or animal bedding pellets. Soiled bedding must be covered often. It is best to add bedding and not remove it. Continually adding bedding allows microbiology to form and break it down creating heat for your chicks. Moisture in your brooder can lead to health problems in your chicks including brooder pneumonia and Cococcidiosis, both almost always leading to death.

Heat Lamp with infrared bulb – You will need a 250w red infrared bulb and a ceramic heat lamp. Stay away from the plastic based heat lamps as they can melt with a 250w bulb. You will want to use a red bulb because chickens do not see the red spectrum well as opposed to a white heat bulb which would be like living in the daylight 24/7 and can be stressful for the chicks and can result in extensive pecking. Once a chicken hits blood it will continue to peck which will eventually result in death. You will want to arrange your feeder and watering system close to your heat lamp. The chicks will be spending a lot of their time eating and drinking and must stay warm while doing so. You don’t want them to travel too far from the heat source to eat or drink. If they are cold, they will not eat or drink.

Thermometer – Chicks need to be kept at 99.5 F for the first week and the temp must reduced by 5 degrees every week after this until 4 weeks of age. At 4 weeks of age most chicks are fully feathered out and no longer need a heat lamp.

Feeder – The current market is absolutely saturated with different feed types. We use a locally sourced non-GMO, Corn, Soy and Drug free grain for all our chickens, but this is our choice. It’s just as easy to go to any feed store and pickup a bag of chick grower, medicated or not. You want to make sure when picking a feed that it has a high enough amount of protein (chicks need 18% – 20% protein) and does not contain high amounts of calcium. Feeding calcium to young chicks can cause kidney issues. You will feed this grain to them until they lay their first egg at 16-24 weeks. At that point you can change the feed to a laying formula.

Grit – Also known as “rooster teeth”. Since chickens don’t have teeth, they use a gizzard that stores rocks or “grit” to grind up the grain before it reaches their stomach.

Water – Always provide your chicks with fresh water daily! If it gets soiled with bedding or droppings clean it out immediately and give them fresh water. Clean water equals healthy birds (clean water is by far the simplest and most important thing you can do for your chicks). Bonus – Add in apple cider vinegar to their water to help with the formation of microbiology in their guts.

Getting Your Chicks

When you receive your chicks they will only be 1-3 days old.  Here are a couple tips to keep your chicks alive and get you closer to collecting eggs! First, the night before you receive your chicks, turn on your brooder light and allow it to get warm. You will want to add your chicks to a warm brooder, not a cold one. As you open the box of your chicks, take them out one by one and gently dip their beaks into their water. This lets them know where their water is.

4-6 weeks of age

Congratulations! You are 4-6 weeks closer to collecting fresh eggs! At this point your chicks should be fully feathered and can be moved to their permanent housing.

Chickens – Choosing a Breed

Meat, Eggs, Dual purpose?

So you’ve finally made the plunge and decided that chickens are something you have to get! I don’t blame you, who wouldn’t want fresh meat or eggs? But, if you’ve never raised chickens, questions like,”what’s a brooder?”, “what do I feed them?” ,”how much feed?”, and “do they need heat in the winter?” can deteriote your excitement over fresh meat and eggs pretty quickly. To make easing into chicken ownership a little easier let’s start with your purpose for owning chickens. Do you want chickens for eggs? meat? or both?

Egg Layers – All hens lay eggs but some hens lay more than others. Most egg laying hens today are bred for high production rates because of demand. People want a bird that is going to put out the most amount of eggs and that begins laying as quickly as possible! Therefore, certain breeds are crossed with others, and your result is a skinny hen with barely any meat on her bones but, she consistently lays almost every day. Some up to 320 eggs per year! If your sole purpose for chicken ownership is eggs and not meat we would recommend a White leghorn, or a Rhode Island red. These breeds will produce the most eggs in the shortest period but they stay thin and do not bring much to the dinner table. White Leghorns lay white eggs, and Rhode Island Reds lay brown eggs. Colored Eggs: If your goal is egg production but you’re looking for those beautifully colored eggs an Americauna or Easter Egger will produce a colored egg. Usually a beautiful shade of blue/green! They aren’t as highly productive as a White Leghorn or Rhode Island Red but they will lay beautiful eggs to feed your family. You might find these breeds to be a bit more on the spendy side.

Meat Birds – The most common meat chicken is the Cornish Cross. The Cornish Cross is a hybrid of the Cornish and the Plymouth White chicken. These birds will grow to be 4-6lbs and ready to process at 6-8 weeks! We call these chickens the race car chickens, they grow to desired weight in the shortest amount of time. The second most likeable meat breed is a Red Ranger. Though they are slower growing, taking up to 10-12 weeks, they are very popular for their flavor and have less issues than the quicker growing Cornish Cross who have been known to have heart attacks caused by their rapid growth. Red Rangers do move around more and will be harder to catch if they escape! Red Rangers can serve as a dual-purpose breed as well, and will lay eggs if allowed to reach laying age. Feed conversion is about the same since they take longer to grow out.

Dual Purpose – Dual purpose chickens are birds that are raised for eggs and meat. They will produce plenty of eggs over their lifetime and also be heavy enough to produce a plentiful meal for your family once egg production has diminished. These birds are calmer than your quick laying breeds which means they won’t be flying over fencing and ending up in your neighbor’s vegetable garden! We love the Barred Plymouth Rock, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, and Buff Orpington.

As you can see, there is a lot to take into consideration when deciding on breed and purpose. The best approach is to determine your goal and then decide on the breed that best fits that goal. Chickens are often referred to as the gateway farm animal, as they most often throw you down a spiraling path of animal ownership! Best of luck in choosing your path!

WOW!! A Year Already!?!

We want to start this out by saying THANK YOU! To everyone of you that helped support us through 2021. We wouldn’t be where we are without you!

December 10th already! Wow! We haven’t even fully settled into Winter yet and we are preparing for 2022! We wanted to give you a quick 3 things we were able to accomplish because of your support!

  • Our biggest project for 2021 was our greenhouse. This was a daunting task. It took every bit from all of us, including the help of close friends to complete! We were able to build from scratch a 20×48 greenhouse/high tunnel. This is going to serve multiple purposes for us at the end of 2021 and moving into 2022. Our first use is for all of our chickens and rabbits for winter housing. We filled the whole thing with 18 inches of wood chips and moved all our animals in. This gives our land a break from manure and keeps our animals warm, dry, and happy! Starting in spring, we can move the animals out and have an awesome growing space for vegetables!
  • Next, we were able to grow our egg production! We started 2021 off with 100 laying hens. Due to demand, we have increased our flock by an additional 125 layers! This will double our production for 2022!
  • Lastly, we were able to expand the number of pasture raised chicken and turkey for 2021 and will continue to do so into 2022!

Again, Thank you for your support and inviting us to your dinner table! We look forward to remaining your healthy, humane, and regenerative source of food.

As a reminder, Please sign up at the bottom of this page with your email to receive updates and our pre-order form that will be coming out very soon!

Mountain Spring Homestead.

New soap scents available now!

Three new scents!

Have you ever tried goat milk soap? It is easy on the skin, moisturizing, and it smells amazing! Here are a few added benefits that maybe you didn’t know!

Deep cleans without harsh chemicals

Natural occurring lactic acid helps remove impurities and leaves your skin feeling clean and undamaged

PH similar to our skin

Has anti-bacterial properties that can help conditions such as psoriasis and eczema

High amounts of fatty acids that help keep your skin moisturized

Packed with vitamins, such as A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, and E• Contains minerals such as Zinc, Copper, Iron, and Selenium

If you are interested and would like to try some, please head over to our online shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MtSpringHomestead?ref=seller-platform-mcnav

Free shipping on Orders over $35!

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Interested in supporting our farm in other ways? Please consider donating at the bottom of any page! Thank you!

Winter Housing

How do you justify the money and time put into building a Greenhouse/Hoop-house? We couldn’t justify the purchase with only growing vegetables seasonally. By only growing vegetables, the greenhouse would have sat vacant all winter and not produced any income, you could say that our priorities were backwards. We wanted something that would house our animals over winter, and the vegetables became a second thought. This is only our first season using this greenhouse, but it is already significantly warmer inside as opposed to out. Once we move our laying flock in to roam the ground beneath the rabbits, scratching, pecking, and providing manure, we can only imagine the warmth the compost breakdown will provide! We initially put in 12 inches of wood chips and will continue to add as it becomes soiled. Excited to see what it looks like this spring!