Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Summer Chick Project for Kids

For a young entrepreneur like my son Caleb, age 7, raising and selling chicks can be a wonderful summer project that teaches responsibility, compassion, finances, and work ethics. 

Partridge Cochin chick

For the last two years raising day old chicks was my daughter, Rebecca's, summer job.  But now she is waitressing and going to college,  and the time, grossness, and effort of raising chicks is not worth the money to her.  So Caleb, age 7, has decided to take over the business!  Because he is so young Caleb will need a lot more help from me than Rebecca did, but for us it is a good way to start out, and I am allowing him to keep the profits!

You can purchase day old chicks from local farmers or order them through the mail.  Mail order chicks tend to be riskier since problems and delays can occur in shipping, however, the "fancier" breeds like Polish tend to sell better.  We purchased day old Polish and Cochin chicks from Meyer Hatchery for Caleb to raise. 

Caleb and Lucas were so excited to see and hold the adorable chicks, but they understood they needed to mostly stay in the brooder until they became a bit stronger.  (Click here to see more info about setting up a brooder)


Caleb's responsibilities include checking each chick daily for pasty butt, cleaning and drying said pasty butts, checking food and water daily, cleaning out the brooder as needed, socializing the chicks, and teaching them to come when called.  At seven years old, he will need reminders, assistance, and a lot of oversight on my part!

Caleb doing a great job feeding the chicks

He also needs to learn all about the breeds that we are raising including color, size, and frequency of eggs produced, what type of pet they will make, and how to introduce them to an existing flock.  In preparation for the local chicken swap, we dress well, make signs, and make sure the chicks are clean, friendly, and perfectly healthy - ready for their new homes!  When we attend the poultry swap to sell the chicks, it will be up to Caleb to have the confidence and knowledge to be able to sell them!

Expenses and Profits:

The cost of the 10 chicks plus shipping was approximately $70.00.  Because of shipping costs, the price goes down with the more chicks you get.  (Rebecca raised 30 chicks last year, but 10 is a good number for Caleb.)  Since we have raised chicks for the past few years, we already have most of the brooder supplies, but we still purchased chick food, vitamins, pro-biotic powder, and Poly Vi Sol for a cost of approximately $20.00.  The chicks will sell for $20.00 each when they are 8 weeks old, so he has a potential profit of $120.00, not to mention all the skills he will gain!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Morning Chores

I have mentioned that we have 9 1/2 acres of land.  On this land we now have 1 dog, 3 cats, 18 chickens, 3 ducks, 2 horses, and 2 goats plus 2 small raised bed gardens.  The homestead is not even close to being self supporting, so I call it my hobby homestead.  Hobbies tend to be expensive and a lot of work, but you continue them for the joy derived.  Because this is a hobby, I help to support our home and homestead with a full time job (as well as being a full time mother).

I am often asked how I can possibly do everything that needs doing, especially in the morning before loading one child on the bus and bringing another to daycare and heading off to work.  So here is my typical morning on the farm:

Fritz says "Put some catfood in that bowl!"

This is Fritz, who has a self dog food feeder with all the dog food he could want, but he would much prefer to eat the cat food.  If I filled the cat food feeder up, he would eat it all.

So every morning I put out a cup of cat food for our indoor cat, Liza (and for Fritz), and a cup of cat food for our outdoor cats, Guess and Trixie, and, unfortunately, for the opossum who cleans up what is left over at night.


I also take a cup of cat food and/or table scraps for our chickens and ducks who greet me at the fence clucking, quacking, and fluttering every morning. 

The horses are fed their grain next and are given hay when the pasture is down.  Fritz is enthusiastic to accompany me to the barn where he gets his daily horse treat.  Every morning the horses greet me at the gate, then I open the tack room door to a horse butt facing me, and I have to remind them to get into their stalls for breakfast.

Since this is their routine, I truly think that they feel without this system of gate greeting, butt display, and stall command, they would surely not be fed.  (Horses love routine.)  In the winter I also have to check the temperature and put on/take off blankets as necessary. 

Next come the goats who are fed a small scoop of sweet goat chow - they are always so happy to see me!

I check everyone's water, then give a cup of sunflower seeds to the chickens who once again cheer me on from the other side of the fence.  I fill up the chickens' feeder, check their water, collect beautiful eggs from the nest boxes, then water the garden. 

I currently have strawberries in one garden with plans for zucchini, and sugar snap peas in the second with plans for cucumbers.  I will also be making a vertical garden "potato tower" out of field fencing, and I will let you know how that works out!

The whole production takes approximately 20-30 minutes.  Many people would cringe at the thought of these morning chores every day but, as it is my hobby, I usually find them quite enjoyable!  I hope you do, too!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Mini LaMancha Doelings have arrived!


I am absolutely thrilled that our new Mini LaMancha goat doelings have arrived!  Please meet our new dairy goat additions - Mary and Martha.  They are so cute and so full of mischief that I am having problems getting anything done other than playing with the babies.

We traveled on Saturday just before Easter and met the breeder.  They were pretty well behaved on the way home, but about an hour from home began calling to us from the back of the truck.

Rebecca and her boyfriend helped get them settled in for the night after lots of snuggle time.  Our old horses didn't take well to the new additions and galloped around kicking and snorting like they were young colts. 

The next morning was Easter and the kids couldn't decide if they would rather search for eggs or play with goat kids. 

I was shocked to arrive home from church to find one of the goats in the horse pasture grazing with the horses.  I'm grateful that they made friends with the horses, but was surprised that they escaped the field fencing so easily. It could have ended badly if the horses had not accepted them, but everyone was getting along fine. 

With my neighbor's help, Monday evening was spent chasing wayward goats and reinforcing the fence with chicken wire. It is Tuesday morning, and I just got a text from Rebecca saying the rascals have escaped again!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Little Goat House that We Built

Well, it took nearly 8 months, but here on the day before my Mini LaMancha goat doelings arrive, I have finally completed the goat shelter!

The shelter is 8 feet x 6 feet and is on skids so that we can pull it around with our tractor.  I got the basic idea for the shelter from pictures on the internet, then put it all together in my head about fifty times late at night before I bought my first nail.  This is the first structure I've ever built, so I wanted to get it right!

I started in late August of last year with a load of 2x4s that Home Depot was kind enough to cut for me at no charge. 

The boys and I started framing - here is Caleb helping out:

Framing was a lot of fun.  I used nails to support cross pieces.  Caleb's job was to remove the nails, while Lucas hunted lost nails with the metal detector.


I installed a metal roof, then became ill with food poisoning, which kept me down a month.  Before I knew it winter was approaching and I still needed to put up the walls.  I used OSB - it may not have been the best choice, but we will see how it holds up.  I used TrimLoc around the edges of the sheet metal to protect us from the sharp edges.


The boys were a big help painting the outside with KILZ, then a coat of paint.

Everything sat through the winter and held up very well.  Then the doelings were born in early February, so I knew there wasn't much time left!  Time to get off my tush and back to work.

We painted some 1x4 boards to use as trim and to protect the edges of the OSB.


When the ground was dry enough Dan used the tractor to haul the shelter into the horse pasture onto a sand heap.

I finished securing the trim this morning, and this afternoon will hang buckets, feeders, and a hay bag then fill it with straw for bedding.  We will enclose the area with field fencing temporarily to give the horses a chance to become accustomed to their new pasture-mates and to give us time to secure the paddock.

All ready for the babies to arrive tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Expensive Are Horses Anyway?

 "How expensive are horses, anyway."  When people find out we have two horses, this is one of the first questions I generally hear.  Honestly, the answer depends on quite a lot of different factors.  I can only answer based on what our horses cost with our situation, which is keeping 2 horses on our own property and caring for them ourselves. 

Start up costs:

We live on 9.5 acres that includes 3 acres of fenced area with a small 3 stall open barn and tack room, which we had to build on the property.  Prices will vary greatly depending on your area.  There are also all those additional things that you need when you have a horse, including, but not limited to:

lead lines
saddle and saddle pads
water trough
blankets and sheets
first aid kit

The initial expenses of preparing can be quite high, but we purchased much of what we needed through Craigslist or tack swaps in our area.  Given that we have all the basic necessities, here are the costs of what we pay to keep our horses:


Our horses are mostly yard ornaments and are not worked hard, so we give them approximately 15,000 calories per day.  Those calories come from:

-Pasture: We seed twice per year and the seed costs are about $100.00 each, so this averages to $16.00 per month.

- Hay: 75 bales of hay will last the winter, November through March, and in the late spring we buy the bales for approximately $5.50 each.  We give each horse about 10-15 pounds per day of orchard grass mix, which has about 800 calories per pound for a total of 8000-12000 calories.  This averages out to about $35.00 per month

-Grain: In the winter we feed about 6 pounds of feed per day and in the summer about 2.5 pounds.  Each pound has about 1100 calories for a total of about 3000-6000 calories per day.  At $15.00 per bag, and an average of 4 bags per month, this equals about $60.00 per month

-Treats: To be honest, our dog Fritz eats most of the horse treats, but we buy about a bag a month for $6.00.


Preventative Healthcare:

Farrier Service: 
Our farrier comes every 6 weeks for a trim (no shoes) and costs $70.00 per visit so this averages out to $50.00 per month

If there is no emergency visit, the vet only needs to come once per year to check health, teeth, pull blood for a Coggins test, etc.  (One of the horses was ill last spring so the vet bill was quite a big higher.)  The normal yearly visit is about $200.00, so the average is $17.00 per month

I deworm 4 times per year using various products.  The cost of the 8 doses of wormer for the two horses ranges from $4-$20 each.  I'm estimating a total of $100 per year, so $9.00 per month.

I vaccinate the horses myself once per year, and the cost is about $80.00, so $7.00 per month

Fly spray:
I buy concentrate and mix it to help save money.  Fly spray is a seasonal necessity, and a full summer will use up about 2 large concentrate containers that cost $35.00 each.  This averages to $6.00 per month

And the Total Is:

The total cost of these expenses comes to $235.00 for our two horses, or $117.50 each.  This does not take into consideration the time and effort that is necessary for keeping horses, but to me this is a hobby and the time spent is not work, but play! 

Additional Expenses:

Keep in mind that additional veterinary and farrier expenses can and do occur!  If you are boarding your horses, not only do you have these expenses but the costs of renting the property and stall as well as the cost of paying someone to feed, blanket, clean hooves, etc. which can be quite high. 

There are also the costs associated with lessons and trainers if you are new or need refreshers.  If you plan to participate in horse shows there are additional costs of show clothes, show tack, travel expenses, show fees, etc.

So you see, the cost of owning a horse can be fairly reasonable, or it can be quite high depending on your individual circumstances!  Do your homework and talk to other horse enthusiasts in your area for more information before making the commitment.  You may even want to look into leasing or half-leasing initially while you learn! Happy trails!

Mini LaMancha Goats Coming this Weekend!

So in writing about what is coming up next for my little homestead in Pungo, I mentioned the possibility of dairy goats.  The dairy goat plan is now a reality, and I am so excited!
Coming this Saturday:

Meet Ein Geti's Opal and Ein Geti's Opera (officially), who we may call Lucy and Ethel.

Why mini LaMancha dairy goats?

When we decided to get goats, the first decision to make was which kind.  My daughter has a friend who has standard size goats and offered us an unregistered Nubian-cross doe (female) and whether (castrated male) at a very low price, and it was tempting!  However, in looking at the cost of feed- both hay and goat chow, plus calculating in the reduced value of the kids (baby goats), the cost of owning goats was not worth the value of the milk they would produce. 

I wanted to get goats that were easy enough to handle that our children would not be intimidated by them.  Lucas, especially, is interested in learning about goats and milking, and a mini goat will be easier for him to handle. This made me look into the possibility of miniature goats.

Mini goats are not without problems, though.  Because they are a smaller breed, we will need to reinforce our electric fence so that they cannot go under or through it.  For the time being, we are using field fencing to create a small paddock within our horse fence, but eventually we want to allow them to roam the pasture freely to remove small trees and weeds that want to grow.  This will be a significant expense as our fence is approximately 1200 feet that will all need to be re-inforced.

We decided to get goats that would be high quality, registered, and from a good dairy line so that they would produce adequate milk for our family and so that their offspring would be valuable enough to cover the costs of owning goats.  I thought at first the only mini goat that fit this description was the Nigerian Dwarf, but then I found out about other mini breeds, which are registered with the MDGA (Miniature Dairy Goat Association) and TMGR (The Miniature Goat Registry). 

Mini Goats are produced by originally crossing the Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat with another kind to get a mini first generation goat. The first 4 generations of this cross are considered "experimental" because you use these generations to experiment with the breed to ultimately get the wonderful traits you want to see in your goat.  Goats later than 4th generation are considered American and then Purebred and must conform to more strict standards.

Here are some of the mini goats that are being produced:

Mini Saanen, a white goat known for its easy going temperament
Picture taken from www.homesteadingtoday.com

Mini Nubian - cute droopy ears and beautiful markings, but they can be loud and sassy!
This goat is from www.bellsgoats.com

Mini Oberhasli, a goat with a stronger flavored milk that some people love
Pic taken from www.Glimmercroft.com

Mini Lamancha, best known for its ears, or actually the lack of outer ear!
Pic from www.echohillsfarm.com
We decided on the Mini Lamancha based on it's friendly easy-going nature, the high butterfat in the milk, and because my husband likes the tall lean look of the Mini Lamancha's frame.  The Mini-Lamanchas we are getting will be 4th generation from good dairy lines, meaning their offspring (if they meet the standard) will be 5th generation American registered dairy goats.  We have already found a couple suitable bucks (intact males) that are 4th generation from excellent dairy lines to choose from for this fall's breeding!

Look for more goaty info and pics next week when the babies arrive!