Month: March 2017
I am so excited to hear so many people I know are considering backyard chickens. I mean, how can you resist those little puffs of happiness when you visit them at Tractor Supply or your local feed and hardware stores? I think most people are surprised to find out that backyard chickens don’t have to be a huge investment or a lot of work. You can decide for yourself how much you want to put into building or buying a coop and their care is generally pretty simple. I have put a list together of a few things everyone should know when they bring home their first chickens.
- You will need a good brooder. For some people, this is simply a plastic tub or even a bath tub. If you want to build a brooder that can be reused for years to come, check out our tutorial. The brooder needs dry pine shavings, a thermometer, feeder, water, and a heat source. It is best to have the heat source set up a day or two in advance so that you have a nice warm home for the chicks when you bring them home. The brooder should start at 90-95 degrees (F) and be reduced about 5 degrees a week (by raising the lamp) until the birds feather out. We find it best to put a block of wood in the bottom to hold the feed and water containers, as the little chicks like to kick the shavings into them.
- For egg laying chickens, you should start your chickens on a chicken starter feed with a protein level between 10-15% for about 3 months. For months 3-5 a grower feed with a protein level around 15% is best. Layer feeds, which contain an increased level of calcium, should be fed to layers older than 18 weeks. The extra calcium can be harmful when the birds are younger, so it is important to wait until they reach the recommended age. So just remember: starter feed –> grower feed –> layer feed.
- Water should be available to chickens at all times. A small chicken waterer is perfect in the brooder, but a large one is more appropriate for the coop. If you live in a cold climate where it freezes often in the winter, I recommend just going ahead and buying a heated waterer. You don’t have to always have it plugged in and it is so useful in the winter.
- You will need a coop and outdoor run for your chickens. You can buy a small coop (usually for about 4 birds) at your local feed store, or you can build one of your own. There are so many recommendations and plans online, but just remember a minimum of 3 sq ft per chicken in the coop, 10 sq ft per bird in the run, and 1 ft roosting space per chicken. The coop needs to be sheltered from the cold, but not airtight. Cleaning the coop is the biggest job and how often you do it is really up to you. We use the deep litter method, meaning we scoop out under the roosts 1-2 times per month and then we add more shavings and stir it in. We do a full coop cleaning 2-3 times a year. The run needs to be protected from predators (which will vary based on your location.) We recommend using hardware cloth as a fence and burying it 6-12 inches under ground to keep out predators that will dig. We are lucky that we have only lost chickens while free ranging and nothing has ever gotten into our coop. Our first coop was very large, because we wanted it to be multi-functional if the next owners didn’t want a chicken coop. You can read all about our first coop in this 4 part series.
- It is a good idea to have a chicken first aid kit. We have had a couple of chickens with issues, such as bumble foot or sores from being picked on. While the issues don’t happen often, it is better to be prepared than to have to run out and buy supplies once you discover an issue. I recommend having gauze, vetricyn wound and skin care, stretchy bandage for wrapping, and rubber gloves. Sometimes when a chicken seems sick or lethargic all it takes is some water with electrolytes. Since I am not a veterinarian, I recommend doing some research or asking your local vet if you have any questions about chicken care or a specific sickness/injury.
- After your chickens reach about 6 months old the hens will start laying eggs! You do not need a rooster for hens to lay eggs, and if you do have a rooster any fertilized eggs can be used just like any other egg, as long as you aren’t allowing your hens to become broody and sit on them. You can encourage them by making cozy nest boxes and using a wooden egg or golf ball in the boxes to make them see what it is for. I wrote a nest box tutorial a couple of years ago that I recommend checking out.
- Eggs can be stored with or without refrigeration. Eggs that have been cold or refrigerated should be kept cold, as temperature changes can cause them to spoil. If the eggs are fresh from the coop, feel free to keep them on the counter. If you are concerned about egg freshness, you can try the float test. Fresh eggs will sink. Eggs that are still ok, but should be used soon will stand on end. Eggs that have gone bad will float.
- Once you are settled with your chickens, get about 20 more. Then get ducks…and maybe a goat. Just trust me.
Since your baby only turns 1 once, you might as well go big! We did a cake smash for Harrison’s first birthday as well and it’s just so much fun. We had to do Micah’s cake indoors, which was a big mess but completely worth it! Get ready for picture overload!
We decided on a lumberjack party theme when we got this Best Bottom diaper cover in burly beaver plaid. It is one of my all time favorites and the fabric is available on Fabric.com, which we used for our backdrop. We bought the wall hangings from Hobby Lobby and the lantern is from Amazon.
I made a cake shaped like a bear using a round cake and 2 cupcakes. I bought 2 different frosting colors, which turned out to look the same, so it wasn’t quite what I was going for. Since it was cute and about to get smashed to bits, I didn’t worry too much.
Both kids gave us the same look when we set them up for their cake smash. (This devious look combined with “Can I actually eat this?”)
Micah started out slow and got a good taste. Turns out, he’s a big fan of cake.
He didn’t eat much cake before he decided it would be fun to see how much he could get on the walls and ceiling.
The mess was totally worth it. About 3/4 of the pictures were blurry because Micah is a mover. He is very different than Harrison in that way. While Harrison takes his time with things, Micah is all over the place.
He ended up with a pretty epic lumberjack beard.
I’m not a professional cake decorator or photographer, but these moments will be some of my best memories with the kids. I can’t believe Micah will be 1 next week. It is incredible how much kids change in that first year. Micah, you will always be my baby. Happy birthday!
We were very lucky to score a great deal at a Disney Resort for the end of January/beginning of February. The All Star Music resort ended up being less than $90 per night and the kids are still both free at the parks since they are under 3. With a deal like that, we couldn’t pass up the chance to relax and enjoy the nice Florida weather while it was snowy and freezing at home. We were lucky enough to get such a great deal that my parents came with too.
How did we get such a great deal? I checked their website a couple of times each week and priced out every week for the next couple of months to see if there was a deal. For whatever reason, each day the prices seem to change for each week at each resort. We had an “up to 30% off” code for returning guests, but you can often get an “up to 25% off” or free dining plan code if you wait until the right time to book. Sometimes it takes a bit of patience and the ability to travel within the next few weeks to get the best deals. Keep in mind that the best rates are during the week, so if you travel Sunday – Friday you will get the best rates.
We have been to Disney many times and have even stayed at Disney resorts a handful of times. We really love the value resorts because they seem to be much more geared towards kids than the moderate resort we have stayed at (Coronado Springs). The rooms are cheaper, and so are the dining options. We have stayed at All Star Music and Pop Century and I would recommend both.
We had nonstop flights from Milwaukee to Orlando and back. The kids did remarkably well. Harrison got his own seat and Micah snuggled up with us. The trip back was definitely harder, but the car ride was the worst part. Harrison had a backpack of entertainment and Micah was mostly entertained by snacks.
Once we arrived, we used Disney’s Magical Express for transportation. This service is nice because you don’t need to get a rental car, and they deliver your luggage right to your room. As long as you plan on staying within the resorts and parks I recommend this service.
We had 4 days of park hopper tickets. We spent the first morning (Monday) at Animal Kingdom and then hopped over to Magic Kingdom. The next day we spent at Epcot. Wednesday we were at Magic Kingdom all day and stayed until the fireworks. We relaxed and spent some time at Disney Springs on Thursday, and we finished out the trip at Hollywood Studios on Friday. We booked our fast passes as soon as we booked our room, so we were able to do most of the rides we wanted to. The last 2 times I was at Disney I was pregnant, so it was nice to finally have a chance to do some of the roller coasters.
Micah slept so much during the day. We took pictures with him all over the parks sleeping in his carrier. It made the day easy and he was happy whenever he was awake! Harrison also took naps in his toddler Tula baby carrier.
Harrison LOVED meeting the characters. He watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Winnie the Pooh at home, so those were really big hits. We did a Character Lunch at Magic Kingdom where the characters from Winnie the Pooh come right to the table (Crystal Palace). We really enjoyed it, but it was the most expensive part of the trip.
We brought a sit and stand stroller, which was a life saver. Both kids loved it and we had a lot of storage space for everything the kids needed. We brought a lot of food and snacks with us to save money, which was also a big help.
Harrison asks us every single day if we can go back to Disney, so I’m sure there will be more trips in our future. It is such a great family vacation and the kids love the magic of it all (Harrison especially). As Micah gets older I’m sure he will love it too.
I would be happy to answer any questions about our trip! We aren’t exactly experts, but we really do love Disney. As always, thanks for reading!
If you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you already know that we recently made a trip to Chicago for MommyCon/Wear, a natural parenting conference with extra emphasis on babywearing. This was the second MommyCon we have attended and we already have our tickets purchased for next year, because we love it so much. We love everything about it, including the vendors, talks, giveaways, and support from other parents. They have several shows around the US throughout the year and we definitely recommend it to any parents looking for natural parenting ideas.
We started the weekend at the Wear Party, hosted by Abby’s Lane. Our boys loved seeing and playing with other kids, while Ryan and I socialized and filled up on yummy appetizers. The theme of the party was “Keep Doing What you Love” and several amazing women spoke about getting their businesses started and maintaining it all while raising a family. Ryan won an awesome Smartbottoms potty training set for Harrison, including 2 trainers, a seat saver, and key chain. We are very appreciative to Abby’s Lane and Smartbottoms for this giveaway and we can’t wait to try them out.
Everyone who attends gets a gift bag of freebies and coupons from vendors. There are several giveaways at the parties and in the vendor hall. We did not have tickets to the Tula or Cottonbabies parties, but we heard they were great too. Tula Baby announced their newest product, the Free to Grow carrier that can be used from birth to toddler without an insert. We are sad we missed the party and reveal!
My favorite part of the conference is getting a chance to meet and speak with vendors. There is something to be said about getting hands on with products before purchasing them, and the discounts were nice too! I finally got a few things I have been really excited about and have a few more added to my wish list.
MommyCon also offers information sessions that focus on natural parenting concepts (cloth diapering, babywearing, breastfeeding, labor and birth, etc.) I attended a sleep consultation and sessions on crying prevention, car seat safety, and growing your passion into your profession. Ryan attended those talks and a session about being the support in a breastfeeding relationship. There are a lot of sessions geared just towards dads. Each room is set up with a toy box of goodies for the kids to play with so parents can enjoy the talks. The entire schedule is available online if you are curious about what else MommyCon has to offer.
The countdown has begun to big birthday #1! This time last year we were scrambling to get everything set for baby #2 and had an induction scheduled. We were nervous about labor, delivery, and our baby boy. Now he is a happy, healthy little guy that is on the move!
Micah is so close to walking, and it could happen any day now. He lets go of furniture and stands on his own but hasn’t taken that first step yet. Ryan was traveling all of last week and I was so nervous Micah would take his first steps while he was gone, but he held off.
Micah loves music. If he hears music, even in the distance, he starts dancing or clapping. He loves to play around on the piano and has learned to be gentle with it. He also loves to wrestle with his brother, but isn’t quite as gentle with that.
Micah has started to give hugs and kisses. He is starting to say a few words and is working on his animal sounds. Cows say moo and everything else says woof woof!
Micah is staying right on his curve at 22.5 lbs and 30 inches. He has definitely grown quite a bit in length this month but has slimmed down a bit. We are so happy to see him growing so big and healthy.
As far as his kidney goes, he will be having a VCUG (a series of x-rays that watches his kidneys and bladder empty) after his first birthday to assess whether he has grown enough for surgery. We will keep everyone updated when we have more information, but he will stay on the antibiotics until we can get him the surgery he needs.
We had an exciting month with a weekend at MommyCon Chicago and I will post a bit on that later this week. Look for more updates soon and thank you for reading!