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Do you want to know the secret to getting the most eggs from your chickens? Maybe you are considering adding chickens to your homestead for egg production for your family. Maybe you just want a few chickens to grace your backyard and eat ticks and other pests but wouldn’t mind eating some fresh eggs every day.

Or maybe you want to use your flock to add a little income to your family’s budget by selling eggs to friends, family, or local customers. You could even sell hatching eggs from some breeds of chickens.

There are many reasons to add egg laying chickens to your homestead….

If you want chickens so you can have eggs, then you need to know how to get the best egg production. The easiest and most effective means of getting the best egg production is to select breeds of chicken that lay the most eggs per year. But how do you know which breed of chicken is best for you?

Considerations

If you are keeping chickens for their eggs, of course you’ll want to consider how many eggs per year each breed will lay. Some breeds, like Leghorns, were cultivated with egg production in mind, making them one of the most prolific and most well-known commercial breeds available.

But they may not be the best choice for your backyard flock. If you are starting a backyard flock for your family, there are a few other factors you may want to think about as well.

Number of Eggs

Do you want to select your breed of chicken wholly based on how many eggs per year it lays? Then look for a chicken that lays closer to 300 eggs per year and is not discouraged by the lack of sunlight in the winter months.

Some specialty chickens lay great eggs, but they may not lay as frequently as a standard leghorn. Some chickens are better at laying all year round, although most will take some time off during the winter when there are less hours of daylight.

Lifespan and Egg Laying Span

Some chickens will lay many eggs for two to three years, then drop off production even though their lifespan is closer to eight or ten years. Other breeds may lay fewer eggs per year, but lay for more years.

What will you do with your chickens that whose egg production has dropped? Keeping hens that no longer lay will still provide entertainment, bug control, and manure, but the cost of feeding them will cut into any profits.

Free Range or Confined

What kind of area will your chickens be living in? You may want a chicken that lays a lot of eggs, but do you have enough space to keep that breed of chicken healthy and happy? Will you need to free range your chickens or will you need to keep them penned in?

A free range chicken is one that sleeps in a coop at night but is allowed to roam free during the day. Some townships and locations might allow chickens that live in pens but not chickens that free range.

Some people will keep their chickens in a pen most of the time, but allow them a few hours of freedom in the afternoon. Chickens that are good foragers will find a lot of their own food in your yard, saving you money on chicken feed. This translates to cheaper but more nutritious eggs with brighter yolks.

Temperament

If you have young children or frequent visitors, you will want to consider the temperament of your hens. Some hens are very friendly and docile with people but maybe not be so easygoing with other breeds of chicken.

Some hens are friendly with other chickens, but maybe not so friendly with people. Some breeds of chicken are nervous and flighty, which may not be a good mix if you have a young family or other pets. Rooster temperament also varies greatly.

If you are going to keep a rooster or roosters, consider if they are aggressive, protective, and safe to keep around your small children and other animals. Some roosters are gentle and sweet, others can be very mean and aggressive.

Dual Purpose

Some chickens are bred solely for egg production, while others are bred for meat production. Dual purpose chickens, which often include heritage breeds, are known to be good for both meat and eggs.

This is important if you are raising your own birds from eggs so that extra roosters and even extra hens can be used for meat purposes. Many homesteaders will look to raise dual purpose chickens so they can have meat and plenty of eggs.

Aesthetics

Some chickens are great layers, but are not that pretty to look at. White leghorns and Lohmann Browns are great layers, but are not rather plain. Plymouth Rocks and Ameraucanas are much pretty to watch darting about in your yard, but will lay slightly less eggs.

There are hundreds of chicken breeds that you can choose from. To help you, we’ve selected ten of our favorite egg layers. Which ones will you add to your flock?

Top Ten Breeds
White Leghorn

If the number of eggs per year is your main consideration, you might want to give White Leghorns a try in your flock. These white hens will give you around 280 large white eggs per year.

Their excellent feed to egg ratio means they don’t eat a lot and they are great foragers. The downside to a leghorn is their temperament. These birds are quite flighty, which may not make them suitable to family with small children or dogs

The leghorn has a sleek, athletic body. Their smaller stature makes them less than appealing as a meat bird. These birds have red wattles and white earlobes. The larger single or rose comb gives the leghorn a comical look, characterized by the infamous cartoon character, Foghorn Leghorn.

The leghorn is intelligent and active, as well as noisy. Leghorns tends to be high strung and easily bored. They tend to be aloof from human contact. These busy birds may roost in trees if not penned up.

Leghorns are a favorite of the poultry industry because of their ability to lay so many eggs per year for three to four years. Leghorn hens rarely go broody. Chicks grow quickly and full size hens weigh in around five to six pounds.

Leghorns were originally called “Italians,” because the breed originated in Tuscany, Italy, and were brought to the United States in the 1800s.

Konstantin Nikiforov [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Lohmann Brown

This breed might be the best of the best for backyard chicken keepers. With egg production comparable to a leghorn, your Lohhman Browns will lay about 300 large brown eggs per year. Better yet, these chickens are ideal for small spaces and backyards without a lot of room to roam. Their personality is friendly and docile and they are a hardy chicken.

One advantage to owning this breed is their early laying – many start laying as early as 14 weeks. Lohmann Browns are difficult to find in the United States, but may be more readily available in the UK and South Africa.

Rhode Island Red

A good Rhode Island Red hen will lay between 200 and 300 eggs per year. Bred as a dual purpose bird, these hens make great layers and the heritage version makes for great meat, as well. Rhode Island Reds are active and curious foragers. They do well free ranging.

Although the hens are docile and laid back with people and chickens, the roosters can be aggressive. Most Rhode Island Reds have big personalities and can be the characters of the back yard flock. They are fun to watch and easy to enjoy. RIR’s are hardy birds and have few health problems. They can thrive in most climates on most types of chicken feed.

The Rhode Island Red is the state bird of Rhode Island.

Golden Comet

Golden Comets are also called Gold Sexlink. These birds are a hybrid chicken, from a male production red and a female Rhode Island Red. While you can tell the sex of these chicks by their color, breeding golden comets to each other will not produce more golden comets but a range of colored hybrids. They lay a whopping 250 to 320 large brown eggs per year. This hybrid bird is gentle, friendly, and cold hardy.

Golden Comets were bred in the United States specifically for egg production and hens do not tend to go broody. Chicks grow quickly and may being laying at 16 weeks of age. Golden Comets also make excellent meat birds.

They are not accepted by the APA because they are a hybrid chicken. You may not be able to formally show these chickens, but you will probably enjoy showing them off on your own homestead.

Plymouth Rock

The Plymouth Rock or Barred Plymouth Rock is one of the most popular chickens in the United States, and for good reasons. This dual-purpose breed lays around 280 light brown eggs per year. These large, hardy hens do well in cold weather.

They are very sweet with children because of their calm and friendly disposition. They may beg for treats or even sit in your lap! These chickens are adept at foraging and do well in free-range environments as well as in confinement. Their quiet nature makes them easily suitable to the backyard homestead.

Roosters may be a bit protective of their hens, but have been known to assist mother hens by taking their turn sitting on the clutch of eggs. Their barred plumage makes them pretty and colorful to watch.

Buff Orpington

These chickens are the teddy bears of the chicken world. This large, docile bird does well in confinement and lays a solid 200 to 280 brown eggs per year. They are friendly and easily handled, tolerating children well.

Buff Orpingtons do not free range well, and would prefer to dine from a feeder topped off with their favorite chicken pellets. They tend to be very broody – in other words, they love to sit on eggs and raise their own chicks.

This dual purpose bird does well in the cold, but will need some relief from the hot summer sun. Make sure there is plenty of water and shade available for these heavy birds. Along with the Barred Plymouth Rock, they are one of the most popular additions to small backyard family flocks.

Australorp

This easy to rear breed of chicken originated in Australia. Bred for egg production, these hens typically lay at least 250 large brown eggs each year. The record-holding hen laid 364 eggs in one year without extra coop lighting.

Australorps do well in confinement, but also love to forage for bugs in your backyard. These hens are both quiet and calm, with an easy-going disposition. Even roosters are said to be more laidback. They are hardy and thrive in all temperatures.

These docile birds may be a bit shy at first, but will warm up to you with a little time and attention. Their hardy nature makes them a good choice for beginner chicken keepers.

Ameraucana

Ameraucana is often interchanged with the term Easter Eggers, although some would claim these are two different breeds of chicken. This chicken was recently developed in the 1970s.

The Ameraucana lays a blue tinted egg, while Easter Eggers eggs will come in a variety of colors, from green to pale pink. Both types of bird displays a wide variety of plumage color.

Although these birds can be kept in confinement, they are happiest when they are allowed free reign of your backyard. They are smart, predator savvy, and hardy birds. They can thrive year round if kept out of winter drafts. They lay approximately 250 multi-colored eggs per year.

It is important to note that true Ameraucanas are rather expensive, while Easter Eggers, Americanas, and other similarly named chickens will be much less in cost.

Wyandottes

Wyandottes are a favorite chicken breed for homesteaders. This breed was the first dual purpose breed of chicken developed in the United States and named in honor of the Wyandotte Indian Nation.

Wyandottes have beautiful, multi-colored feathers with a laced appearance. They are available in a variety of colors such as silver laced, gold laced, black, buff, blue, and red.

They are a larger sized chicken, making them a great dual purpose bird for meat and eggs. They lay around 200 light brown eggs per year and can live up to ten or twelve years. They adapt well to confinement, but will enjoy free-ranging as well. Wyandottes have been known to eat all manner of bugs, small frogs, rodents, and even small snakes.

These chickens are curious, docile, and friendly with people, and the hens are very easy going around children. They are slightly aloof with other breeds of chicken. Rooster temperaments can vary greatly, so be aware of rooster behavior around small children.

Wyandottes are good sitters and good mamas, fiercely protecting their babies. Some have been spotted attacking a hawk to protect their young.

Sexlinks

Sexlink chickens come in a variety of colors, the most popular being black sexlinks and red sexlinks. These are hybrid chickens, crossbred for temperament, laying ability, feed to ratio, adaptability, and the ability to tell the gender of the chick by color. Sexlinks vary greatly, as each hatchery has its own secret recipe to creating this all-around, great bird.

Red sexlinks can produce over 250 brown eggs per year, with an excellent feed to egg conversion ration. This makes them a great choice for the backyard producer. They are not a large bird, so they adapt well to confinement and free-ranging. They are hardy in both warm and cold climates.

Black sexlinks are a similar chicken, however, they are slightly larger, making them a better dual purpose bird with a lower feed to egg ratio. While red sexlinks can be bossy towards other chickens, black sexlinks are more docile and tame.

Both types are great layers, but the black sexlinks may be a better choice in a homestead situation, while a red sexlink may make more sense for a larger, more commercial operation. Although they are great egg layers, they are not accepted by the American Poultry Association for show purposes.

Runners Up Delawares

This relatively new breed of chicken is a medium sized, dual purpose bird, making it a great choice for a sustainable flock. Hens lay around 200 eggs per year. Their disposition is calm, friendly, and curious. Delawares feather out fast and grow quickly. They are on the critical list with the American Breed Livestock Conservancy.

California White, California Grey

These hybrid chickens make great layers, coming in around 300 large white eggs each year. They are docile, adaptable, and lay year round. This is a quiet breed that is easy to handle and does well in confinement and free-range. It is not recognized by the American Poultry Association.

Speckled Sussex

If looks are important, you will love the speckled Sussex. The speckled brown plumage is both beautiful and protective from predators. They are a gentle dual-purpose bird that lays around 250 – 300 eggs per year. Despite their larger size, these docile chickens are often bullied by other chickens.

Barnvelder

The barnvelder is rare in the United States, but its dark brown eggs make for a beautiful addition to the homestead. They sport a beautiful double-laced brown feather pattern. This breed lays 150 to 200 dark chocolate colored eggs per year. They are a docile and easily tamable bird, with a good potential for calm and friendly roosters. They are quiet but chatty.

Worst Egg Laying Chickens Polish

Polish chickens are a funny and delightful addition to the flock, but they are not known for egg production, broodiness, or mothering. . They have large beautiful crests.

Silver Phoenix and Golden Phoenix

These ornamental chickens have gorgeous long tails, but produce eggs poorly. They are not cold hardy and need special accommodations to support their tails.

Summary

Highest egg production. If your only consideration is egg production, you may want to choose White Leghorn, Lohmann Brown, or Rhode Island Reds for your homestead. With the highest egg production, these chickens will keep you eating pretty much all year round.

Best feed to egg ratio. Red sexlinks by far offer the best feed to egg ration. While they aren’t the most easy-going to other breeds of chicken, they make great layers for small or large production farms.

Friendliest. If you want a friendly layer, Buff Orpingtons and Plymouth Rock are some of the best. They do well with children and lay a substantial amount of eggs.

Dual-purpose. If meat is also a consideration, try a dual-purpose chicken such as a Wyandotte, Barnvelder, and Plymouth Rock.

Prettiest. If you are looking to add a little beauty to your farm, try Speckled Susse and Delawares for their beautiful plumage and bountiful eggs.

Best All Around Egg Layer. The best all around egg layers are probably Plymouth Rock and Wyandottes for their pretty colors, dual-purpose, great temperaments, free range and confinement, and of course, steady egg laying.

Conclusion

The number of chicken breeds available can be overwhelming. If you are trying to decide what type of chicken to add to your homestead, ask yourself a few questions.

Why do you want to add chickens to your homestead? Is egg production your number one concern? Then a white leghorn may be just the right thing.

Do you have small children? Then you may want a more docile chicken such as a buff Orpington. If you want a mix of aesthetics, egg production, dual-purpose, and temperament, wyandottes are a great choice. Other chickens may be a great addition, but are hard to find, such as the Lohmann Brown and the Barnvelder.

Selecting the right chicken breed for your homestead is a very personal choice and may require a little trial and error. But with time and patience, you will find the best choice of chicken breed for your egg laying needs.

The post Top 10 Egg Laying Chickens appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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The main ecosystem you build with your chickens can make your garden beds flourish. It is an ecosystem based on organic science methods. Utilizing the physics of the world to make your chickens happy and your vegetables really grow, can fill a homesteader with such joy.

It is a bit of work and not everything we say will work for you. If you have an idea please do comment on it here. The Homesteading Hippy loves to hear your thoughts on chickens. This is your individual ecosystem you are building.

Doing a Chicken Tour and finding out what your neighbors do can also help you find what is best for you. The terrain I’m used to has a lot of rocks and hard winters. I plan in accordance.

If you are in a different terrain, you might need to do something different. They are chickens and fairly simple creatures. They are one distinct breed and adapt to different environments. It really is about finding what adaptations to our advice works best for you.

The Poop

The place where the chickens sleep is a place for them to poop. One of the things you can do is put sand down where they poop. With a kitty litter scoop you can then easily get the poop. \

Remember that a little bit of sand will not hurt your garden. You then put the poop in a bucket and set it aside. It can then be used as fertilizer. You don’t want to put this on your root vegetables. It can carry pathogens and it won’t be good.

If you use a metal scoop, you can scrape easier. You can also use oyster shells and set them on a small board on the side. This will provide them with extra calcium and can even prevent your chickens from eating eggs.

It is best to bake your oyster shells before to eliminate any pathogens. It is really important to not use fresh manure on your root vegetables.

Root vegetables like carrots, beets and potatoes should not have fresh fertilizer because of pathogens. Only ten percent of manure is then utilized and the rest is simple water. This mixture is then stirred and applied by pouring or using a scoop to lift and put the mixture on your vegetables.

Chicken poop is very high in nitrogen and too much nitrogen can hurt your plants. It is best to not use it to water your plants, but to put it around your growing vegetable near the roots. This is also a great fertilizer for your fruit trees. Again, just pour the mixture around the roots of your fruit trees.

Screen Utilization

Chickens love to scratch. With a few cinder blocks and a screen you can build some magnificent compost. Put the cinder blocks on the ground and put the screen on top. Be sure you lay the screen flat so that the chickens can get on top.

With this simple trick you then simply place your compost on top. Your chickens will thank you. They will then get on top and scratch around. Little do they know that their energetic delight is becoming easy fertilizer for you.

See, compost and leftover food makes wonderful soil. The chickens dig and scratch and push little bits of compost mixed in with their poop through the screen. Do this and your plants will jump (as far as they can) for joy. You will be giving them the extra nutrients in a cheap and organic fashion that will make them grow far.

We live in a society with a lot of food waste. Seven percent of greenhouse gases come from wasted food that then releases methane according to Vox. If you put all of the food waste together it would make a country smaller than Russia, but larger in Canada. That’s a lot of food waste.

The thing is, that food doesn’t need to be wasted. It can be easily composted. If you use chickens for this, even better. Composting is really an easy chore. Chickens are beneficial to this.

Chickens love to scratch with their feet. In a way, you can call this the new Hunger Games. We have a ton of food to eat, but our planet is starving. What’s a simple solution: chickens.

In America 1 in 8 Americans go hungry, yet 365 pounds of food each day gets wasted. Every day a football field-sized portion of food is wasted every day. So how do chickens factor in?

The answer is composting. See, composted food is a bit gross. It rots and attracts bugs. Plus, it does need to be turned.

It really is about policy. The abundance of food waste in American is a problem, but not all of us are politicians. However, if you are a homesteader, you can do this on your own.

Aeration and Chickens

Your chickens love to scratch and dig and you will love the compost they give you. Now, you don’t need to build anything fancy. If you lay the food out by the coop and let your chickens out they will find it.

They love finding rogue bugs and meat and chowing down. It really is in their nature. If you add in a compost pile and let your chickens dive in they will thank you. They will love you.

Chickens aren’t vegetarians. They love nibbling on a spare bug that’s wandered into the compost pile. The coolest thing about doing this, is it will make great compost. Chickens really can open your eyes to a lot of things. When you are deciding to take the plunge in homesteading, you might think you can’t afford the cost and care of chickens.

Chickens like to eat things you probably have been told you can’t compost like meat and dairy. They will scratch and turn your compost and they will remove the things you might not want in your compost. While they do this, they are providing the necessary aeration that your compost requires.

If you live in a city, your neighbors might not like the smell coming from your compost. See, chickens help with this. A good compost shouldn’t smell. It should have a sweet aroma of sugary dirt.

A normal city compost without the use of chickens, needs to be turned. If you have chickens, they will do this for you. They will scratch the compost and let the air molecules in, and make the compost more natural and with extra nitrogen that your vegetables will love.

It really is difficult to find the right margins of chicken fertilizer for your garden bed. This way, you will have the compost for your garden beds and it will have been turned and pooped in by your chickens.

Chicken fertilizer really can boost your garden beds. It is super-filled with nitrogen and should never be put straight on. Neither should it be put in with root vegetables. Chickens add a lot of aeration to your compost. They can add quality fertilizer. It just takes patience.

Chickens and Bugs

Bugs love compost. They love to wallow around in it and lay their eggs in it. They can make an infestation if not properly attended to. Now, what is the easiest way to do this? The answer is chickens.

They love bugs and they love to put their ears down to the ground and try to find them. Another pest drawn toward your compost are worms. The chickens will eat them too. That adds extra protein into their diet and makes their eggs extra good for you.

You may be asking: aren’t worms good for compost?

Chances are you’ve heard of the term worm bin. Know that the science behind utilizing chickens to build your compost is nature’s science or organic science. It is the physics of the land of which we are all apart of.

The chickens won’t get all of the worms and yet some will stay in your compost. This natural fusion of fertilizer production makes great sustainable compost. The Earth will thank you for this and supply you with eggs. It will make your chickens happy and you will be reducing your carbon footprint.

There really isn’t a such thing as a cage-free, vegetarian hen. If a hen sees a bug she will take the plunge to make it her next meal. You might as well as use this to your advantage. No one wants to waste food and no one wants to deal with the smell of rotted vegetables.

A homesteader who really likes to take advantage of the physics of Earth, will learn from his or her mistakes and maximize the profits of a good compost made with the aid and love of chickens.

Now, worms eat dirt. Chickens need dirt in their bellies. It is often referred to as grit. By eating some of the worms, they are getting the essential dirt they need for digestion. Now, we recommend you do provide a level of safety and screening.

Your chickens will love you if you provide them with the nibbles of a compost. They will have their own flock party in your honor. If you are someone who loves to give your flock extra treats but don’t like the cost of pre-packaged goods, know that compost will attract worms that your chickens will love to eat.

Composting with chickens is really a form on recycling. It is vital to the land and reduces your carbon footprint. It will take time and be an extra chore. However, the rewards will warm your heart.

Chickens are a very real way to nourish your homestead and make your compost really healthy for your vegetables. Chickens are an integral part of a healthy compost. If you don’t mind the extra work and care for a few egg layers, they will make your compost extra healthy and your vegetables extra nourished.

Why Is It Good For Your Plants?

Chickens can and will decimate your gardens if they get a chance. They will wreck havoc on your garden. I recommend you have your chickens separate from your garden. The worst thing they can do is scratch and eat your vegetable seeds. I know how much work goes into hoeing and organizing your garden beds.

Not everyone can identify their plants when they emerge. It is best to keep the chickens separate from your garden beds. They do, however, make excellent fertilizer. Chicken manure really is good for your vegetables.

However, know that root vegetables can be tainted by bird poop. That’s why we always recommend you fertilize your vegetables with a process that makes sure the pathogens that chickens can release in their poop is virtually neutralized before you use it.

Water is the world’s best solvent. You should never put straight fertilizer on your vegetables. My grandfather always had a bucket of water and a scoop. Only one-tenth of the water solution was fertilizer.

The majority was water, and only one-tenth was a composted mixture with chicken poop. If you can’t compost, know that no more than one-tenth of the solution should be chicken poop. It really can be a symbiotic relationship with creating fertilizer with your chickens and using that to nourish your vegetables.

Imagine growing corn for your chickens. You can then use that as feed. You literally can just feed them the ears of corn. One year when we had a big corn crop we fed the chickens the corn after we cooked it. I loved watching them eat the ear of corn.

It really is about building a homestead that has a symbiotic functionality that works smarter and not necessarily hard. Yes, you will be adding a bit of sweat equity. That sweat equity will pay off. You will be rewarded with cute critters, healthier eggs and quality fertilizer that won’t break the bank. You should never have your chickens in your garden beds.

If you are concerned with bugs, use marigolds, not chickens. They will destroy your garden. In addition to scratching, chickens do take dust baths. They will do this and not care where you planted your cucumbers.

Your eggs should always come out perfectly clean. If you see poop on your eggs they need to be de-wormed. If you are following the organic fertilizer process, know that that may happen. If it does, you need to take measures for them. It really is its own ecosystem.

These are just a few tips on how to do it. It really is about what works best for you. I made so many mistakes in my first homestead. Luckily I did manage to learn from them and now I’m telling my mistakes to you. It would be a mistake to try and merge your chickens with your gardens.

Know that chickens can really help build compost that is utilized for your garden that doesn’t take from it. It is an art form, however, if you are a dedicated homesteader know that some things are distinct and necessary for your garden and your coop.

The post Composting With Chickens appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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The Zeer pot, or pot-in-pot refrigerator, is a product of necessity – food preservation. This simple configuration of earthenware clay pots, insulation, and fabric allow for a cool space in even the hottest climates.

These systems have been used in hot, arid regions of the world like Africa and the Middle East for centuries. The pot allows a method of cool food storage that helps to extend the shelf life of produce up to 10 times as long compared to ambient temperatures.

Case studies have shown the pots to be more than efficient in food storage and preservation. They require no electricity, are cheap to make, and are easy to maintain.

How it Works

Zeer pots use a form of dormant evaporative cooling to wick warm temperatures up and out of the system. As heat rises from the contents of the pot, it condenses at the surface and is cooled by ambient air flow above.

Cooler air remains inside the pot as it passes down through the top. It is similar to a heat exchanger, a swamp cooler, or in the simplest form – a cold bandana. In ideal conditions, it can hold temperatures 30 F to 40 F (-1 to 5 Celsius) below ambient temperatures and sometimes more.

How to Make a Zeer Pot of Your Own Step 1

Assemble your supplies. For this build, you’ll need at least two clay pots large enough to store the foods you intend to chill. If you don’t have one big enough for all of it, you can create multiple Zeer pots. You’ll also need an insulating material and a few tools, and some burlap.

The system can be scaled up to any size you want as long as the inner pot has a diameter a few inches smaller than the outer pot. Here’s an example of the required materials for a 10-inch outside diameter system:

  • Clay pot (inner) – 8” diameter
  • Clay pot (outer) – 10” diameter
  • Insulation/dirt
  • Burlap or cotton
  • Potting Tray – 12” diameter
  • Cork, silicone, or other water-tight plug material (if needed)
Step 2

Set the larger pot on a stable, flat surface. This will be heavy once built, so if you don’t want to move it later, put it where you intend to use it. An ideal location is somewhere that naturally experiences steady air flow, such as a corridor between two structures, a breezeway or balcony. Even a table near an open window with a cross-breeze can be an effective option.

You may notice a hole in the bottom of the pots. If so, you’ll need to plug them with a cork, rubber stopper, duct tape, or other waterproof, leak-tight material. Once your plugs are installed, you can cut the plug flush and seal them off with tape, glue, or a layer of wax. Solid-bottom pots are most effective and eliminate the problem of accidental leaks.

Step 3

Add about 1-2” of dirt, sand, vermiculite, or other insulating material to the bottom of the pot. The depth may vary depending on the size of pots you go with, but you’ll want to make sure the two pots are level and even at the top rim. This will allow you to have room for the next step.

Step 4

Center the smaller pot in the larger pot and check for level across the top. From the top you should see what looks like a bulls-eye: an inner ring and an outer ring with a cavity that separates the two.

Then, you can start to slowly add the insulation or dirt by pouring it into the cavity between the two pots. If you accidentally spill debris into the inner pot, simply remove it before the next step.

Note that if you have a hole in the bottom of the smaller pot, you can wrap the pot in plastic wrap to create a water-tight barrier, but the insulating and evaporative properties may be altered a bit.

If in step 6 you notice water leaking into the inner pot, you’ll need to restart from step 3 and re-seal the inner pot. The inner pot needs to remain dry but cool. Introducing water from the bottom could create an environment for mold growth.

Step 5

Fill the pot with insulation. If you intend to cool or preserve fruits or vegetables, make sure you wrap them so they don’t leak or mix together, or use multiple pot setups if you want to keep foods separate.

If you intend to use this pot for storing meats, you may want to keep a separate pot, or wrap meats with layers of cellophane to keep the pot from absorbing bacteria or pathogens from the meat. This is an ideal pot for pre-packaged foods, foods with natural peels or dry foods.

Step 6

Fill the insulating layer with water. After you’ve filled, leveled, and topped off the gap with insulation, add water to the outer ring to saturate the insulation layer.

Colder water will help to cool faster but keep in mind that you’ll want to filter water if collected from rivers, streams, lakes or ponds to prevent cross-contamination of the foods inside. You can fill the water to the brim – just keep it from getting inside the inner pot.

Check for leaks and patch them with adhesive, silicone or other water-tight filler as needed. A potting tray beneath the system can help to collect leaks and protect substrates if kept indoors.

Step 7

Add your food. If you’re creating this pot in reaction to a power outage or fridge failure, you can take the time to assemble and test the system before adding food from your fridge. As long as a fridge remains closed it will retain its cooling properties for several hours.

In the meantime, you can start the process and allow the pots to cool before adding food. If you’re considering this pot in your garden, you can add food small portions at a time as they ripen until you are ready to preserve. Plants like tomatoes and carrots can last up to three weeks, allowing time for a greater harvest and you can easily batch your canning or preservation tasks.

You can also scale these systems with larger pots to accommodate fruit trees, vines and larger produce. Plus, the pots can remain outside instead of taking up space on your counter tops, kitchens or pantries.

Step 8

Add your cover. Collect your burlap, rags, cheese cloth, cotton or whatever woven cloth material you intend to use for the cover. The cloth must be large enough to cover the pot completely. Avoid man-made fabrics like polyesters or blends.

Now that your pot is filled with an insulating layer, water, and food, take one of your cloth sections and soak it in water. Then, remove most of the moisture by ringing it out and gently place the fabric over the top of the Zeer pot.

If you are in an area that experiences high winds, use an elastic band, twine or other cordage to lash the fabric to the pot. You can add layers as needed by repeating this process, but keep in mind that you want to maintain some air flow up and out through the top. More layers will prevent bugs and wildlife from raiding your stash.

You’ll want to change out the rags as they dry out, and if you use layers, simply remove the top layer, soak it in cold water, and put it at the bottom of the stack. This type of rotation will help to prevent mold or mildew by constantly exposing layers to outside air.

Another option is to cover the inner pot with a clay lid, and allow the evaporative cooling to occur from the outer insulating ring. This will still keep your food cold and prevent water intrusion from overhead if stored outside. It will also allow a better form of protection against pests or wildlife.

Step 9

Monitor and refill as needed. As the evaporation takes place, you’ll likely notice your rags drying out. Hotter temperatures will create faster evaporation, so take the time to inspect the water level in the insulating layer often.

One way to tell how much water is in the system is by inserting a piece of tubing into the insulating layer, or holding it in place as you pour the insulation. This way, you can inspect the tube and see the water level. You can also check by touching the surface to feel for moisture and add as needed.

Cautions and Considerations

The Zeer pot is extremely useful for cooling, but it is not effective for freezing. If you intend to preserve frozen foods, the Zeer pot will allow for a slower thaw and buy time until you can consume the frozen food or access another freezer.

For the greatest level of efficiency, these pots need two main factors: air flow and moisture. If your air flow stops, the system won’t cool as well. Also, if your fabrics dry out, the evaporative effects won’t hold true. But an ideal mix of steady breeze and regular moisture monitoring will keep these units cooling without electricity for as long as you maintain them with water and fabric rotation.

Relative humidity and outside temperature also have an effect on the amount and level of cooling. So, take careful consideration on pot location, shade sources, humidity levels and ambient temperature.

Final Word

The Zeer pot is an extremely effective and highly undervalued system that can provide adequate cooling and preservation on your homestead, balcony, or patio. Plus, the system can be scaled up or down depending on your needs or your harvest.

If using stackable pots, the systems can be set up when needed and stored away when not needed. It is a versatile, efficient, inexpensive and highly effective alternative to the traditional refrigeration most of us are accustomed to.

So whether you’re looking for a backup to a power outage or a holding pattern for your fresh produce, the Zeer pot is a great way to go!

If you’re not ready to make your own zeer pot now, be sure to PIN this for later on your Pinterest board!

The post How to Make Your Own Zeer Pot (Pot in Pot Refrigerator) appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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Nothing says fall like pumpkin! We love our pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pies, and of course, our jack o’lanterns. If you love pumpkins, and you enjoy gardening, it might be time to plant, grow, and harvest pumpkins for yourself.

Just imagine having your homegrown pumpkins grace the table at your Thanksgiving dinner. Or perhaps you would enjoy decorating your front porch for Halloween the fruit of your own garden.

Or perhaps you would prefer to have soup or pie that you made yourself from your very own pumpkins. With some simple considerations, pumpkins are easy and enjoyable to grow.

Pumpkins are scientifically considered to be a fruit because the part you eat contains the seeds. Pumpkin belongs to the same family of plants as both gourds and squash, known as cucurbita.

A pumpkin is technically a form of winter squash and they are cultivated in over forty different varieties for eating and decorating. Every part of the pumpkin plant is edible, including the stems, leaves, skin, flowers, seeds and pulp.

A specialty cultivar of regular pumpkins is the white pumpkin. White pumpkins bear a beautiful and ghostly white color which stands out in deep contrast to a more traditional orange pumpkin.

According to superfoodly.com, anything you can do with an orange pumpkin, you can do with a white pumpkin. And that includes eating it. However, the variety of white pumpkin called Lumina is the tastiest of the white pumpkin varieties and is often considered to be the best for eating.

While calorie content and water content of orange pumpkins are similar to that of white pumpkins, white pumpkins may have somewhat less vitamins. Nutritionally, they are otherwise comparable and great to try.

Pumpkins have been grown and cultivated for thousands of years on every continent except Antartica. Early settlers in the United States created the precursor to the pumpkin pie when growing their own pumpkins.

After scooping out the seeds and pulp, the pumpkins were filled with milk and honey and then baked in the fire. Essentially, pumpkins were used as a pie crust rather than as a pie filling like we know today. Whether you enjoy pumpkins for their pie filling or for carving and decorating, there is a variety of pumpkin for you.

Pumpkin Varieties

Pumpkins come in all kinds of sizes, colors, and uses. While every pumpkin may be edible, not all pumpkins are as tasty as others. Varieties used for carving or decorative purposes may not taste as good as those cultivated for cooking or baking purposes. A few varieties are great for both.

Keep in mind that you cannot harvest a pumpkin based solely on its size, because pumpkins that are harvested before maturity will decay more quickly and not last well. Instead, choose your variety or type of pumpkin based on its typical size, use, and color.

Then harvest your pumpkins when they have reached maturity and are fully ripened. There are over forty different varieties of pumpkins to choose from, and many are selected based on their size and type. For example, there are five basic types or means to select pumpkins to grow:

  • Decorative Pumpkins
  • Cooking and Baking Pumpkins
  • Small and Miniature Pumpkins
  • Medium sized pumpkins
  • Large and jumbo pumpkins
Decorative Pumpkins

Decorative pumpkins are edible, but may not taste as good as their baking counterparts. Many decorative pumpkins are great for crafts, tablescapes, decorating, and carving.

  • Hybrid Pam. This popular, small pumpkin is great for crafts like painting and decorating. Hybrid Pams are a semi-vining pumpkin with orange skin and a bright green stem. It grows to around 7 inches in diameter and up to five pounds. This good producer matures in approximately 90 days.
  • Crystal Star. Crystal star is a variety of white decorative pumpkin that is great for carving
  • Casperita. Casperita is a small, white pumpkin which looks flashy as a decoration. It bears a taste similar to an acorn squash. It is fairly disease resistant and a hardy producer.
  • Early Giant. The early giant is an early producer of medium fruits. It is fairly resistant to powdery mildew, making it a great choice for humid areas. This medium sized pumpkin has an elongated uniform and blocky shape. The medium-dark orange fruit can range in size from fourteen to forty pounds, although the average tends to be around twenty five pounds in size. Stems are stocky and the fruit has deep ribs. It is reliable to grow and performs well at farmers markets due to its deep color and tall size. The early giant only needs a moderate amount of space and will yield one to two fruits per plant.
  • Lumina. The lumina is a beautiful white pumpkin with very edible and sweet flesh which is also pretty for decorating.
  • Orangita. The orangita variety of pumpkin is on the small side, weighing in at about 1 ½ pounds and showing off decorative crisp ribs.
  • Knucklehead. For an eye catching variety of pumpkin, try growing the knucklehead with its garish warts and green to orange rind. The firm flesh of this variety of pumpkin is great for carving.
  • Jack O’Lantern. Jack O’Lantern is a traditional carving pumpkin with a sweet, fine and pale orange-yellow flesh. This pumpkin stores and cooks beautifully, making it great for decorating and eating both. The shape varies from round to oblong. It usually runs nine or ten inches tall and weighs in at ten to eighteen pounds.
Cooking Pumpkins
  • Sugar Treat. If you like baking pumpkin pies, try growing the sugar treat pumpkin. This semi-bush hybrid is ideal for pies and matures in 100 to 120 days.
  • New England Cheddar. The New England Cheddar variety of pumpkin gets its name because it looks like cheese. This rich, medium sized pumpkin is also great for baking.
  • Porcelain Doll. The porcelain doll variety of pumpkin is aptly names for its soft pink color with deep ribs. Its creamy texture makes it great for soups.
  • Blue Doll. The Blue Doll has a green exterior with an orange interior. The sweet flesh is great for all kinds of pumpkin recipes.
  • Cinderella. For a sweet flavored pumpkin, try Cinderella. The sweet yellow-orange flesh grows to maturity in eighty four to one hundred days. It gets its name from its globe-shape similarity to Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. The skin of the pumpkin is smooth and bright orange. It grows up to ten inches in diameter and weighs in at twenty to twenty five pounds. This bush type of vine needs only six square feet of growing space. This type of winter squash does not keep as well as other vine types.
  • Mosque de Provence . For a cultural treat, try this variety cultivated in Southern France. The fruits are ribbed, flat, and tan and with moderately sweet flesh. Wedges that look like cheese are sold for cooking in farmer’s markets in France. This variety has a long shelf life, and is sometimes called fairytale for its decorative and magical appearance.
  • New England Pie. The classic New England pie pumpkin has dark orange skin and ranges in size from four to six pounds. The flesh is dry and stringless but not sweet.
  • Marina Di Chioggia. This bumpy squash makes a great fall decoration and wonderful squash pasta. It weighs between six and twelve pounds with blistered skin.
  • Jarrahdale. Jarrahdale bears a greenish blue tint and is a medium to large pumpkin, weighing between twelve and eighteen pounds. It has a long storage life with sweet, thick flesh and a drum-like shape. It is great for both eating and decorating.
Jumbo Pumpkins

Jumbo pumpkins are fun to grow and exciting to use for decorating. Jumbos require extra fertilizer and extra space, so plan accordingly. You may want to remove all but two or three vines so that the plant can focus its energy on producing bigger but fewer fruits. Some gardeners will remove all but two or three fruits as well.

Some prize-winning pumpkin producers claim that feeding milk to your pumpkin will help it to grow larger. To do so, fill a container with milk and punch a small hole in the lid. Run a cotton wick or wicking material through the hole into the milk.

With a sharp knife, cut a small and shallow slit on the underside of the vine of the pumpkin you would like to feed with milk. Place the wick into the opening in the vine, and wrap with gauze to protect the slit. This may increase the potential size of your giant pumpkin.

  • Atlantic Giant. The Atlantic giant is a large pumpkin that can grow to 200 pounds. It will take 130 to 160 days to mature.
  • Big Max. These large pumpkins can vary in color from pale orange to bright orange.While the average size is around one hundred pounds, these pumpkins can grow up to three hundred pounds. Select one or two fruits per plant and mulch well.
  • Big Moon. This large pumpkin holds its shape well and weighs up to a hundred pounds. It will mature in one hundred ten days.
  • Dill’s Atlantic Giant. The average size of this variety of pumpkin is 400 to 500 pounds. It grows to maturity in 130 days.
  • Prizewinner. This giant pumpkin grows to a heavy weight of two hundred pounds or more. It keeps a lovely, uniform shape and is easy to grow.
Miniature Pumpkins

Miniature pumpkins are great for fall displays, table decorations, craft projects, and can be delicious when baked.

  • Jack be Littles. These cute little pumpkins are great for both decorating and eating. Cut off the tops, clean out the insides, and fill with sugar and bake for a sweet side dish or appetizer.
  • Wee B. Littles.
  • Munchkins.
  • Baby Boo.
When to Plant Pumpkins?

Pumpkins will not germinate in cold soil, and the small seedlings are very susceptible to frost. You can direct sow your pumpkin seeds after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm and workable.

The soil temperature must be at least 70 degrees, and preferably, 95 degrees. In the northern areas, if you want pumpkins for Halloween, you will need to plant them by the end of May. In more southern areas, you can start your pumpkins as late as July for a Halloween harvest.

Where to Plant Pumpkins

Pumpkins do well in full sun to part shade, so choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant your pumpkins with enough room for them to grow. Vining pumpkins need space, and some gardeners will choose to plant their pumpkins along the outside edges of the garden so the vines do not overtake the other vegetables.

If you are planting your pumpkins in hills, you want to space those hills five to six feet apart. Place your hills in rows that are ten to fifteen apart, so that you have around fifty to one hundred square feet of space per hill of pumpkins. Mini pumpkins will require less space than larger varieties.

If space is an issue, look for semi-bush or bush varieties of pumpkin. Pumpkins can be grown in large containers or buckets, but will need extra feeding and monitoring for moisture.

How to Plant Pumpkins

Pumpkins do best when direct sown into hills in enriched garden soil. The soil in small hills will warm up faster than a flat garden plot. However, if your growing season is short, you can start pumpkins indoors two to four weeks before your last frost date.

Harden off your seedlings before transplanting them in your garden. Plants should germinate within a week. When thinning, take care not to disturb the roots of the pumpkin seedlings you are keeping. Carefully snip off the seedlings you choose not to keep.

Special Considerations for Growing Them

Pumpkin plants are very tender and do no like their roots disturbed. Be very gentle when weeding, cultivating, or pruning. The less you disturb the remaining plants the better they will grow. Mulching will cut down on the need for pulling weeds.

Pumpkins can rot when exposed to damp soil. To prevent your pumpkins from rotting, place a thick piece of cardboard or scrap of wood under your pumpkins to keep them dry. You can gently turn the pumpkins to encourage even growth, but be very careful not to damage the stem in any way.

Row covers can be used early in the season to protect the tender seedlings from weather and pests, but you will need to remove these covers before flowers emerge in order for pollination to occur. Pests that attack pumpkins are squash bugs, beetles, and aphids.

The first set of flowers to appear on your pumpkin vines are most likely male flowers. The purpose of male flowers is to begin to attract pollinators to the plants, but these flowers will not turn into fruit. Subsequent flowers will be both male and female.

The female flowers will produce fruit when pollinated. You can plant brightly colored flowers around your pumpkins to attract more pollinators to your pumpkin patch. Avoid using pesticides after flowers appear so as not to harm the pollinators.

Pumpkins require heavy feeding. Apply compost or fertilizer regularly to keep vines producing and to grow healthy fruit. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer early on when seedlings are young. Later, switch to a high phosphorus fertilizer shortly before the blooms begin to appear.

Pumpkins also require plenty of water, up to an inch per week, especially when fruit is beginning to appear and grow. Avoid watering the leaves and fruit of the pumpkin vine, and concentrate water at the root area.

Mulch will keep moisture in and pests and weeds out of your pumpkin patch. If the leaves and plants are too wet, powdery mildew can occur and damage or kill your pumpkin patch.

How to Harvest Pumpkins

Do not harvest pumpkins based on their size because immature pumpkins will not last long after being picked. Select your pumpkin variety based on the size you desire, and then harvest them when the pumpkins are fully mature and ripe.

You can tell a pumpkin is ripe when its skin has turned a deep solid color. A ripe pumpkin will sound hollow when thumped, and it will resist being punctured when you press your nail into the rind.

Harvest your pumpkins on a dry day. Wait to harvest your pumpkins until the vines have died back and the rinds are hard. Do not twist or rip the pumpkin off the vine. Instead, use a sharp knife to cut the stem of the pumpkin. Leave plenty of stem intact to slow down the decaying process.

How to Store Pumpkins

Never carry a pumpkin by its stem, always carry it in both hands. Many pumpkins can be stored anywhere from thirty to ninety days when stored properly. To make pumpkins last longer, wash off the dirt and then gently cleanse the skin with a mild bleach and water solution and then allow it to dry completely.

Pumpkins kept in warmth or sunlight will rot more quickly, so make sure to store your pumpkin in a cool, dark, and dry place. Do not store pumpkins directly on cement, place them on a board or cardboard instead. Do not stack pumpkins or allow them to touch each other.

Choose pumpkins to store which do not have any blemishes or cuts in the skin. Some experts say pumpkins will last better if they are cured. You can cure your pumpkins by leaving them in the sun in hot weather for seven to ten days.

Cooked pumpkin can be puréed with an immersion blender or food processor and frozen in ice cube trays to use for soups, cooking, and baking. Or dice the flesh of raw pumpkin and loosely freeze in freezer bags to use in the same ways. Raw or puréed pumpkin can be kept frozen for up to a year without affecting the taste and texture.

Final Thoughts on Growing Pumpkins

If you love gardening and you love pumpkins, then planting, growing, and harvesting your own pumpkins is an easy choice. If you have plenty of sunshine and space, choose vining pumpkins. If you have less space, choose semi-bush or bush varieties.

Miniature pumpkins will need less space to grow, will jumbo varieties will require much more space, fertilizer, and water. With just a little care and consideration, pumpkins are relatively easy to grow and fun to use.

All varieties are edible either raw and cooked, although cooking and baking varieties taste much better than those cultivated for decorative purposes.

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The post How to Plant, Grow and Harvest Pumpkins appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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The first real sign that winter hit at my house was a day like any other. Cold temperatures were lingering and there was snow forecast on the horizon. But the winter sign wasn’t so much the coming of snow and colder temperatures – it was the absence of water from my faucet.

After a brief outing, I returned home and quickly realized the low temperatures had frozen somewhere along the line while I was away. This time, it was right at the well pump.

And it was my fault. I hadn’t plugged in the trusty light bulb that keeps the pump house above freezing. After a few minutes with a blow drier, I managed to thaw the pipes enough to get the proper flow back.

This time I was lucky. Next time I may not be.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the best hand pumps for deep as well as shallow wells. But first, let’s talk a little about why you might need one.

Why You Need a Hand Well Pump

Most people rely heavily on the assumption that their well pump is good enough to last for decades. But a long-term power outage can leave some without a well.

Generators and backup power supplies can help as a stop-gap until power is restored, but well pumps draw a significant amount of power, and are not plug-and-play when it comes to providing backup power. Most are hard-wired.

Having a backup for water is critical on a homestead. In most cases, well pumps will fail because of extreme weather, long-term outages, or poor maintenance. The only way to prevent such a failure from impacting your everyday needs is to have a manual hand pump.

Another scenario is that of a grid-down or even an EMP disaster. In such cases, you can rest assured your hand pump will continue to work because it doesn’t need any electricity at all.

Manual hand pumps can run alongside powered pumps and allow for slower but effective water sourcing. Some systems can run in-line with existing pump systems, so water can still be made available at the faucets and fixtures.

How They Work

Hand pumps are used around the world and lift water small amounts at a time. Water is drawn up with the downstroke of a long handle mounted at the top.

On the upstroke, the plunger is reset to the original starting position. A series of simple valves prevent water from dropping back down the well using the principle of vacuum suction.

Flow rates can be increased with the stroke, pipe diameter, and depth. And, while many designs have evolved from industrial revolution-era pumps, there are a few things to consider before buying a hand pump for your homestead.

What to Look for in a Well Pump Quality of Construction

For a sub-grade pump, you’ll want to track down high-quality materials – regardless of brand. Industry standards have evolved to stainless steel for obvious reasons, but some pumps continue to use plastic components that could become brittle over time and reduce the efficiency of a pump in the event of a deep freeze or earthquake.

Manufacturer Location

I’m a big proponent of buying locally. So when it comes to a well pump suited to your area, it’s best to seek out the manufacturers that are based in the same climate zone you are in.

This way, you’ll know if your well pump will stand up to extreme heat, cold, corrosion and types of disasters typical of your region. Some pumps may work fine in the tropic zones, but will fail under arctic conditions.

The Depth of Your Well

It’s best to consult a hydrologist in your region or find a water witch skilled in location and depth surveying for your well. Some hand pump wells are designed to run alongside existing powered wells, but you’ll need to make sure the hand pump can service the same depth.

Shallow well pumps are a little bit less expensive but will be useless if they can’t reach your water source. Standalone hand pumps may be able to tap into springs or shallow well pockets and serve as a secondary resource without putting power to the site.

Serviceability and Warranty

Just like any fixture around the home, look closely at the warranty options when choosing your pump. The mechanical device may last a lifetime, but if parts are tough to come by or the manufacturer is bought out, you may find yourself buying another pump to replace it if you can’t service it yourself.

Some serviceability comes along with the design and features. The more elegant or elaborate the features are, the more difficult it may be to repair or replace.

Design Considerations

Along with serviceability, it’s important to consider the design. The more basic the design, the more functional and durable the pump will be. But if the pump is a fixture in a hobby garden and not meant for survival purposes, a more elegant design will still work.

Longer handles reduce the strength required to pump and the opposite is true for shorter handles. It is also important to determine if the pump can run alongside your existing pump, or if it will require a dedicated well.

There are two main design considerations that will drive the type of hand pump you need – deep well or shallow well. Deep well pumps are more expensive and can retrieve water from several hundred feet below ground. Shallow well pumps or cistern pumps are designed to draw from sources that are less than 20 feet below ground.

Ease of Installation

Some hand well pumps can use the existing infrastructure of your powered well pump and can be installed quickly without additional help. Others may require additional help, drilling, or components to complete the install.

Once you’ve found a pump that fits your needs, be sure to consider what it’s going to take to have a complete system at the ready. This is another reason why buying locally or regionally makes sense: you can call and ask questions to make sure you’re getting the right pieces of equipment.

If self-installation isn’t recommended, you might consider having the gear on hand and coordinating the installation with your scheduled well pump maintenance. If you’re not sure, contact the manufacturer to get a quote for a system that will work best and what kind of installation options are available.

Flow Rate

Flow rates can vary and could make a big difference in the type of pump you select. If you intend to have a backup pump to water livestock in addition to your own personal needs, you may want to find a pump with the maximum flow or community well pump. If you anticipate getting by on only a few gallons a day, a lower flow pump may help to save costs.

Comparison Chart – Top Deep Well Pumps
Brand Model Max Depth Flow Construction Design Warranty
Bison Pumps
Standard Deep Well 300’ 20 oz./Stroke 304 Stainless Steel Elegant and practical Lifetime
Simple Pump
Simple Pump (hand operated) 325’ 5 Gal./Min. Stainless Steel No-frills practical 50-year
Flojak
Flojak Plus 150’ 10 Gal./Min. Stainless Steel T-Handle Pump 2-Year
Lehman’s
Deep Well Hand Pump (not freeze proof!) 225’ 39-15 Oz./Stroke (Varies on cylinder size) Cast Iron Elegant and rustic 1-Year
Comparison Chart – Top Shallow Well “Pitcher” Pumps
Brand Model Max Depth Flow Construction Design Warranty
Bison Pumps
1900 25’ 19 Oz./Stroke 304 Stainless Steel Elegant and practical Lifetime
Simple Pump
Simple Pump (hand operated) 325’ 5 Gal./Min. Stainless Steel No-frills practical 50-year
Flojak
Flojak “Original” 100’ 10 Gal./Min. PVC T-Handle Pump 2-Year
Lehman’s
Closed Spout Hand Cistern Water Pump 20’ 9 Oz./Stroke Cast Iron/Brass Rustic 1-Year
The First Impressions Bison Pumps

The design and efficiency of these pumps is a hard combo to beat. Water flow and depth ratings are top-notch and it is obvious that style was a significant consideration.

The pump is rated at upper-end efficiency without sacrificing the traditional look with a modern style of brushed stainless steel. It’s a bit of a sports car in that it deserves some time out in the open.

Ease of installation, versatility, curb appeal and climate considerations are built in so there are fewer concerns right out of the gate. Plus, the lifetime guarantee takes away the burden of worry over time. However, it may be overkill if you’re only able to impress livestock out in the sticks. The price is a bit higher than competitors but at a glance, you get what you pay for.

Simple Pump

The durability and performance of these pumps are hard to ignore. Water volume, practicality, and simple design makes sense to any DIY homesteader. If parts fail and replacements are days or weeks away, it’s easy to see that components can be replaced with a little basic mechanical skill.

It is a testament to cold weather performance and meets the needs of any homesteader who needs performance no matter what. Most hand pumps are shielded in a pump house so every ounce of design is focused on function.

The depth ratings are greater than the Bison and flow rates are close depending on how many strokes it takes to fill a 5-gallon bucket. A solar-powered version is available from their website. There are no shallow well comparisons to go with, but it follows that even better performance could be achieved with less vertical strain.

Flojak

The design of this is pump sets it apart from the traditional one-hand pump with its T-handle grip. And in doing so, it is feasible that less work would be required to achieve greater volumes much faster. In fact, twice the volume of the Simple Pump and potentially the Bison.

The design does allow for more water, but it is significantly restricted on depth. Any deep wells (greater than 150’) would tax the pump beyond its maximum. This may limit some buyers from getting the most out of the pump and deter them to the other brands.

But their performance potential with shallower wells, cisterns, and backup emergency water products is hard to pass up. Along with the price if you have a homestead on a tight budget. The shallow well system has a PVC handle instead of stainless steel – so make sure you get the right model and keep in mind your freeze protection needs.

Lehman’s

The design and curb appeal of these pumps is in line with long-standing hand pump tradition. Both the deep well and shallow well pumps retain the rustic look with cast iron fixtures that will stand the test of time without a doubt.

The one-year warranty isn’t much but it’s easy to see that the models available at Lehman’s will likely outlast competitors over time under the right conditions. Sizing the system and ordering the right parts is critical and it may require a bit of one-on-one time over the phone versus a simple online kit.

Flow rates are a little less than competitors and depth is mid-range. There are some windmill options available as well. There are some freeze protection points to consider that may prevent some from buying. But for most applications, these designs are set up to add character to any old homestead and perform with diligence.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get a little bit of sticker shock when looking at a hand pump for your well. But keep in mind that a backup to your powered well may be a life-saving investment for your family, your garden, and your livestock.

Whether you are looking at a high-end pump to show off to your neighbors or a last-ditch source for survival, you’ll want to do your research and choose the right tool for the job.

LOOKING TO GET ONE OF THESE PUMPS? PIN THIS FOR LATER SO YOU CAN COME BACK TO IT, AND MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE WHEN YOU DO GET IT:

The post The Best Hand Pumps for Your Well (Deep or Shallow) appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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The life of a homesteader can be rewarding and fulfilling when you have the potential to raise and harvest your own animals, collect milks and eggs, and generate income from hides, furs or offspring.

But part of being on the homestead and taking on animal husbandry requires increased awareness and security when it comes to protecting livestock. Predators are lurking in every region of the world and they test your defenses round-the-clock for an opportunity prey on your herds or flocks.

Some predators are more common than others in regions of the United states, or in populated regions of the world. But regardless of a flock of sheep in the deserts of Middle East or in the plains of Montana, you can bet that if it’s food to you it could be preyed upon by something else.

Canines Wolves

The recent reintroduction of grey wolves and timber wolves in the dense forests of Idaho and Montana in the United States has caused an increase in predatory activity in the West and into Canada. Cattlemen, sheep ranchers, and llama or alpaca farms have been hit hard in the past few years.

The steady supply of meat in high concentrations has allowed some packs to grow and spread exponentially. Their keen ability to hunt in packs makes them one of the most lethal predators to homesteads with large game and some have reported packs consuming an entire elk, buffalo or cow within a 24-hour period. They generally hibernate during the day in heavily wooded areas or den-like caves.

Coyotes

Coyotes are keen hunters that prefer to hunt alone. They can often be seen in the distance along farm fields and ditch banks during the day. But their hunting patterns typically peak at dusk. They can be very vocal at sunset which often spooks smaller game and domestic animals.

In most cases, coyotes have been known to feed upon poultry, fowl, and small domestic animals like cats and small dogs when other food is scarce. Their evening calls tend to lure smaller animals out and away from the safe confines of home where they can fall prey to the coyote.

Coyotes tend to burrow into sidehills in the early morning hours and sleep during the day until they re-emerge at night.

Foxes

Foxes, like coyotes, prefer the taste of poultry. But they may also add rabbit and quail to the menu. They are often cunning and tend to bypass coop security measures. They are silent and have been known to kill more than needed to survive.

Keeping a rooster around may sometimes act as a deterrent, along with larger domestic dogs who take on the responsibility of night guard.

Jackals/Hyenas

More common in Africa and the Middle East, these predators are along the lines of Coyotes and wolves in the United States. Jackal behavior is much like the coyote and Hyenas hunt much like wolves. They often target small wild game but are also a threat to free range herds of sheep, goats, oxen and other livestock.

Domestic Dogs

Untrained domestic dogs may be a bigger threat to small homesteads than most people realize. Dogs off leash who encounter chickens, fowl, or rabbits may revert to instinct and kill without warning.

In some cases, dogs who are untrained or unfamiliar with farm animals will attack livestock during the day when they are exposed, vulnerable, and typically unsupervised. Baby rabbits and hens are especially vulnerable, so when having guests over with dogs, watch closely and be mindful.

Some ways to prevent loss due to domestic dogs include keeping your own dogs well trained as protectors and providing shelter for smaller flocks.

Marsupials Weasels

Weasels are small but powerful hunters and generally chase after rodents like mice, voles and lemmings. However, they have been known to prey upon animals much larger than themselves, like ducks, rabbits and chickens.

They tend to follow into burrows or raid bird nests for the eggs. By keeping domestic defenders around, like cats or dogs, you may be able to prevent some losses of stock and eggs due to the weasel.

Fishers

Fishers are similar to weasels but larger. They’ve been known to take down other predators, like lynx, foxes and porcupines – some of which may be more than twice it’s size.

They’ve been known to hunt rabbit and small game and are native to the northeast United States and portions of eastern Canada. If you keep rabbits in these regions, you may want to keep a keen eye out for these skilled predators.

Opossum

The opossum is a lesser threat to the homestead, but has some characteristics that can cause major problems. They tend to scavenge for food and survive on scraps left behind by humans.

Opossum will eat anything from garbage to garden stock, but may also hunt chickens. This predator is known to carry rabies and could pose a threat to your dogs as a result of a bite.

Porcupines

These near-sighted, slow moving predators are prone to devouring berry patches. While not a predator of your homestead livestock, they may still cause injury to house pets. They are attracted to salts and may be found lurking around salt licks, or sweaty leather work gloves or sweaty boots left outside.

They have several predators, but in most cases the predators will die as a result of punctures from their quills. Dogs who see the porcupine as a threat will often attack and wind up with a mouth full of painful quills that require medical attention.

Honey Badger

As the name implies, this badger will raid honeybee hives. These animals hunt alone and generally live in the southern regions of Kalahari. They have been known to wreak havoc on apiaries (bee farms) in the process of building hives. They generally hunt at night by leaving their small in-ground burrows and use a keen sense of smell to detect their prey.


By Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – CC BY-SA 2.0, Link North American Badger

The North American Badger is one of the top 10 most fearsome predators in the United States. They hunt on open grasslands and have a taste for rodents and small game, like prairie dogs, squirrels and rabbits.

They generally hunt alone with the exception of sometimes teaming up with Coyotes. So if coyotes tend to lurk around your chicken coop, be mindful that badgers may be following suit.

Ferrets

Ferrets were bred to hunt rabbits. Now, they are often bred as pets and in some cases still hunt rabbits where they are overpopulating. Ferreting, the act of using ferrets to hunt, is banned in the US and Portugal.

However, their skills and instincts may kick in and wreak havoc on your rabbit stock if a family pet or some other ferret in the neighborhood gets loose.

Wolverine

These powerful mammals stalk carrion but have been known to take down other animals much larger than themselves, such as deer, bison, caribou and even moose. They also threaten cattle, sheep and goat herds. They are remarkably strong for their size and tend to reside in Northern Canada and Siberia.

Reptiles Alligators/Crocodiles

These massive reptiles can become a threat if flooding increases their territory near your homestead. They are fierce, quick, and skilled at sneak attacks against animals along the water banks.

If you keep ducks or geese, be mindful of flood warnings if you live in a region where these prehistoric hunters may be lurking. They’ve also been known to take down large game so if you have pigs or cattle, you should also be mindful of the borders of their pens during a flood.

Snakes

While you may not expect boa constrictors to be a threat because of where you live, you may be surprised. Many boas are kept as pets until they get too large to feed and irresponsible owners tend to set them loose in the wild.

Some snakes may also raid nests for eggs, chicks, or even full-size chickens depending on their appetite. These snakes are more than capable of taking down and consuming large prey like goats, cattle and deer.

Lizards

Most lizards are content with living off of insects and spiders. But there are a few that prefer the taste of meat. The Gila Monster, native to the Southwest United States, generally feeds on small mammals, birds and eggs. Its bite is also poisonous and has been known to kill humans.

Larger lizards, such as the Malayan water monitor, can grow to nearly 9 feet and has been known to excavate carrion and human remains for food in addition to their diet of small mammals, fish, and birds. If you live in a region where exotic pets are allowed, be mindful of some of these around your homestead if they should get loose or be released.

Winged Threats Owls – great horned, snow, barn

Owls are silent killers that can strike without warning. They often hunt at night, and their vision is impeccable. They generally hunt small rodents or other birds at night but may also hunt domestic rabbits. If rabbits are kept outdoors for food or pelts, be sure to keep them covered at night or in some form of cage.

Hawks/Falcons

Hawks and falcons tend to prefer small game and rodents. Quail, game hens and rabbits are easy targets for these predators. Most hawks will fly in concentric circles and let out a scream while hunting or after identifying their prey in order to flush them out from hiding.

Others will hover and wait for signs of movement before diving in. Attacks are often precise and instant. Adequate cages with heavy gauge wire can prevent some threats from overhead attacks, and sometimes domestic cats may deter some predatory birds.

Eagles (Brown/Golden/Bald)

Eagles are excellent at hunting fish and small game. But they make no distinction between the wild and your homestead. Eagles are able to pluck game from the ground and fly off.

In some instances, they’ve been known to prey on small and medium-sized mammals like dogs or goats and, in rare occasions, they’ve been known to take down large game like mountain goats, deer or elk. When wild game is inaccessible or scarce, the homestead makes a prime target for a meal.

There are few ways to defend against an airborne attack, but one way to limit losses is to provide cover for livestock, such as lean-to structures or elevated pallets, etc. If you have livestock that is ill or recently dead, they may attract eagles, which will feed on carcasses.

Bats

Bats are a smaller winged threat and some forms of vampire bat will feed on exposed livestock, like cows, horses or oxen. While they don’t consume the entire animal, they may introduce bacteria, viruses or blood-borne pathogens that could be harmful or fatal.

These bloodsuckers make tiny incisions and latch on to livestock to feed at night. The small incisions can form sores and expose livestock to infection and disease.

Tiny Threats Parasites

Parasites feast on your animals from the inside. The majority of animals on the homestead may come in contact, harbor and spread parasites of all kinds during normal day-to-day activities.

Unfortunately, these parasites can be transferred to humans in many cases if basic hygiene practices aren’t followed during handling, processing or storing meat. There are several methods for reducing parasite activity in living stock, but the best defense for humans is clean habit.

Felines Bobcat

These cats typically hunt rabbit and due to urban sprawl have in some areas become common sightings even in urban areas. When food is scarce, they may resort to an easy meal on the homestead – or even your back yard. They have been known to kill deer, so it’s best to be mindful if you keep goats or similar-sized animals.

Lynx

Lynx will generally prey on wild animals. But some could trespass on your homestead if you keep ducks, rabbits, and other small mammals. These medium-sized cats typically hunt at night and are native to northern regions of the United States and the majority of Canada.

Their main diet is Snowshoe Hares, so if food supplies or famine takes out the wild hare population, keep a close eye on your own rabbit stock.

Mountain Lion/Cougar

Mountain lions have re-emerged as a significant threat to homesteaders as their habitats get pushed out by urban development and city dwellers move to more rural areas to establish homesteads.

These silent predators won’t hesitate to pick off stray animals, large dogs, or even humans if they see an opportunity. They are skilled hunters, can cover long distances and remain covert day or night.

If you see tracks, chances are you’ve been watched by this animal and your next action should be to call a game warden to report the sighting and keep a close eye on your herd, flock, and family.

Large domestic cats

Domestic cats are some of the most skilled predators out there. Their kill ratios are nearly unmatched, and they are highly effective at taking down rodents and birds. With this in mind, your barn cats may take advantage of newborn rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, quail or game hens.

Most adult animals will protect the young until they are old enough to outgrow the cat interest, but you can take extra measures to keep your stock safe. Separate small animals or bring them indoors. You may also introduce a guard dog to their living space to keep the cats at bay.

Large Game/Anti-predatory Animals Moose

These generally mild-tempered mammals can be easily provoked and cause harm to humans attempting to defend their gardens from moose trespassers. They are fond of fruits like apples and berries and have the ability to climb or jump over tall fences and barricades.

An angry moose can cause severe damage to property and in some cases are deemed as dangerous as bears. There are some tell-tale signs that a moose is becoming irritated, and the best thing to do is back off – especially if it is a mother defending her calves.

Deer

Deer have become commonplace in some urban communities that border forested or undeveloped wildland areas. While they pose no threat to livestock, they can devour garden produce overnight.

They are stealthy and have a knack for finding food even under several inches of snow. Dogs tend to keep them at bay and some fences work to keep deer out, but they must be fairly tall to be effective.

Hippopotamus

Hippos are typically mild-mannered, but they have a lethal nature if provoked. They are responsible for approx. 500 human fatalities in Africa every year, and they’ve been known to kill other predators, such as lions, crocodiles, hyenas and even sharks.

While widely known as herbivores, they have been observed eating their kills. If an African homestead is your thing, don’t be tricked by a close encounter.

Ostrich

These raptors generally eat small insects or mammals. They are extremely fast and have powerful legs that can hurt or even kill predators. They are very defensive of their eggs and hatchlings, so if you intend to raise ostrich, you may find it difficult to harvest the eggs.

Bears Brown Bears

Brown bears have been known to attack sheep depending on the availability of food sources. They generally eat smaller animals and may be attracted to ponds or rivers with fish.

They often teach their young to fish, so an encounter may become violent if the mother bear anticipates danger. A heavy majority of the black bear population – approx. 70 percent – are native to Alaska.

Black Bears

These bears tend to hunt honey bees and certain crops. They’ve also been known to raid garbage cans for food and in rare cases they may kill sheep or pigs if food is scarce.

Dogs may be a deterrent or warning signal if the black bear is getting too close to your livestock. They are native in almost all regions of the United States and Canada.

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears are perhaps one of the deadliest and largest of antipredatory animals in North America. They’ve been known to attack hunters, outdoorsmen and trappers.

While they tend to feed on berries and river fish like salmon and trout, they do pose a risk to homesteads with water sources like streams running through or near the property. If you keep ponds stocked with fish, you may want to run tripwires tied to bells to signal if this predator comes through your property.

If you do spot a grizzly on your property, keep your family inside, keep dogs and livestock away to prevent instigating an attack, and contact your game warden so the bear can be tranquilized and relocated.

Mankind Neighbors

You wouldn’t think neighbors would be a predator, but there’s a good chance they may look at your homestead animals as a resource for their own benefit. While you strive to keep your animals alive, happy and healthy, a neighbor with bad intentions could take advantage of your hard work.

Building relationships with neighbors and strengthening community can help as others look to help protect your livestock when you’re not available. Even homesteads – and every animal on them – can benefit from a simple neighborhood watch.

Travelers

If you live near a busy road or highway, you could face the potential of losing some of your flock to four-wheeled predators. While not intentional, many travelers have run over or hit livestock during regular vehicle commutes. These accidents take a toll on your head count.

If you have animals with a knack for getting out, the best defense is an effective fence. Goats, pigs, cattle and sheep may find a downed section of fence and funnel through in search of green grasses on the other side. Provide solid barriers and warning signage to keep your animals from becoming roadkill.

Strangers

Homesteads located within eyeshot of major highways may be too exposed. Strangers may see an opportunity to plunder from your pasture. You may have done everything in your power to keep animals reined in, safe, and secure, but this type of predator can bypass almost every protective measure you’ve put in place.

To keep your livestock safe and secure from strangers with bad intentions, consider mounting game cameras and keeping well-trained protective animals nearby. Large dogs, llamas and even horses can be effective guardians while other animals, like roosters, donkeys and small dogs can help sound an alarm if an intruder approaches.

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The post The Full List of Predators on the Homestead to Watch out For appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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The Homesteading Hippy by Amanda Furbeck - 3w ago

Quail are a terrific alternative or addition to your homestead. They are small, relatively quiet, prolific egg producers, and require little feed or space. This makes them a great source of eggs if your location does not permit chickens or ducks.

There are generally few laws and regulations regarding keeping quail for personal consumption, and if you can have a pet bird in your home or apartment, you can probably raise a few quail in a spare room (just make sure you check your local laws first).

Better yet, quail are not typically subject to the typical diseases that chickens can acquire, and are not known to carry salmonella. They are a hardy, sustainable source of meat and eggs. The easiest way to add quail to your homestead is to hatch and raise your own.

Still not sure? Read this post on even more reasons to raise quail. This one too.

After hatching a few hundred quail eggs, I learned a few ways to increase my hatch rate and improve the health of my quail chicks. First, consider your egg source.

You’ll need to purchase fertilized hatching eggs from a reputable source. You could order them online from any number of prominent hatcheries. You can be assured that these eggs will be treated carefully and shipped well. However, the hatchery does not have any control over what happens to the quail eggs during shipping.

Extreme temperatures, rough handling, or other shipping issues can cause visible and indivisible damage to your eggs, which will cause a higher probability of a low hatch rate. You could search Craigslist for quail eggs and hope that you have a reputable source. Your best bet is to find a local and reputable quail breeder to purchase your hatching eggs.

Once you receive your eggs, unwrap them and place them point down in an egg carton. Allow them to rest for a full day before placing them in the incubator. This will hopefully allow time for any damaged air cells to settle and repair themselves.

Begin incubating your quail eggs by the time they are seven days old. Eggs older than seven days may not hatch may hatch weak chicks. It is very rare for domestic quail to become broody, or be willing to sit on eggs.

If you are lucky, you will have a great broody hen (silkies or bantams work great) who can do the work of hatching your quail eggs for you. If not, you will need to incubate them.

When you set up your eggs to rest, get your incubator ready for your quail eggs. I had great results with the Farm Innovators Digital Circulated Air Incubator with optional quail egg turners. Standard chicken size rails will be too large to hold the quail eggs.

The air circulating fan will help keep the air moving, and many other incubators on the market also have them. Digital thermometers will also help you keep track of the temp easier. I recommend having an additional thermometer in the incubator to help keep track of the temperature in case the built in thermometer is not working correctly.

Make sure your thermometer has been calibrated, especially if you have had it shipped to you.

Incubators

Your incubator should be at between 99 Degrees Fahrenheit and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit consistently. Temperatures that are too low can stunt the chicks’ growth, while temperatures that too high can kill them.

As the chicks grow inside the eggs, the air temperature in the incubator may increase. For best results, check the temperature in your incubator daily. Digitally controlled incubators will automatically adjust the temperature for you.

Candling

While people typically candle their chicken and duck eggs to watch for signs of growth, quail eggs are very difficult to candle. The mottled, thick shell prevents makes it difficult to see if veins are growing or the chick is continuing to progress.

Rotating the Eggs

Your quail eggs will need to be rotated at least three times a day until day fifteen. Incubators with automatic turners will make the job easy for you so you don’t have to worry about it. If you do not have an automatic turner in your incubator, you will need to do it yourself.

One way to make sure the eggs get turned properly is to use the x and o method. Mark one side of each egg with an “x” and the other side with an “o.” With the palm of your hand, carefully roll the eggs to x one time, then later in the day, roll them to the o position. Continue to do this at least three times per day.

Maintaining Humidity

In my experience, a ‘dry hatch’ works best for hatching quail eggs. This means that there is no additional humidity added to the incubator for the first fifteen days.

If you live in a very dry location, you may want to consider adding humidity. if you do add humidity, you will want to keep the humidity around 45% for the first fifteen days. You can do this by adding water to the channels in your incubator, adding a damp sponge to your incubator, or by purchasing a stand-alone humidity unit from places such as the Incubator Warehouse.

Increase the humidity to 65% percent for the last three days of hatching. If the humidity gets too high in the incubator, the chicks can drown in their eggs before they hatch. If it is too low, they may have trouble breaking through the membrane or the shell.

When you add water to the incubator, especially for the last three days, use distilled water to avoid the growth of bacteria or pathogens in the incubator. Warm your water up until it feels warm, but not hot to the touch. This will prevent any dramatic shifts in temperature during the hatch. Try not to open the incubator any more than necessary to keep temperatures and humidity stable.

Lock Down

Lock down is the period of time from day fifteen until the chicks have hatched. It is especially important not to open the incubator during lockdown. If you do, the sudden shift in temperature and humidity could cause the membrane inside the egg to shrink wrap the chick, making it difficult if not impossible for it to hatch on its own.

When it is time to put your incubator on lock down, you will need to remove the automatic egg turner assembly from the incubator. Open the incubator, and carefully lift out the entire egg turner assembly if possible. Gently remove the eggs and lay them on their sides in the incubator, one at a time. If you do not remove the egg turner, your chicks could get stuck and become injured or die.

Hatch Day

Hatch day is exciting and a little nerve-wracking, even for the most experienced quail hatchers. Your baby quail will hatch any time from day 15 to day 25, although most will hatch between days 16 and 18.

You may hear tiny cheaps coming from the unhatched eggs, this means they have likely pierced the inner membrane and you can watch to see when they will ‘pip,’ or poke a hole in the shell with their beak.

After the egg has pipped, you will see it begin to ‘zip’ – this is when the baby quail begins to create a crack all the way around the shell in preparation of hatching. Most eggs will go from pip to hatch in twenty four hours, although it sometimes can take a little longer without issue.

If you are hatching a large number of quail, you may find yourself with a delicate balancing act. Do you snatch the hatched quail from the incubator while the rest are hatching? Or leave them there until all of the quail have hatched?

Once the baby quail have begun to hatch, you can typically leave them in the incubator for twenty four to thirty hours. However, if you open the incubator and other quail eggs have pipped but not hatched, they may become shrink-wrapped in their eggs and be unable to hatch without assistance.

Some incubators are able to withstand occasional opening without humidity and temperature issues, while other incubators may not. You will have to decide if you want to risk the unhatched eggs by removing the hatchlings, or risk the hatchlings by leaving them in the incubator longer than 30 hours. It may take a few hatches to find out which works best for you and your incubator.

Once a few early quail have hatched, they will start popping out of their eggs like popcorn. It is a fun and exciting thing to watch. After you have reached day 18, the chance of the remaining eggs hatching goes way down, but it is still possible. If you wish, you can do a float test on the remaining eggs to see if they will hatch.

Take a few, or all, of your remaining eggs, and float them in 99 degree water. Eggs that sink are no good, but the ones that bob at the top still have air and likely, a viable chick.

However, if you simply have patience, you can skip the float test and just keep your incubator running with the remaining eggs. Check periodically to see if any have hatched.

Remove the chicks from the incubator after they have dried off and look fluffy and active. Chicks that are wet or lethargic from hatching should stay in the incubator a bit longer to rest and dry off. The next step to raising your baby quail is to move them from the incubator to the brooder.

Brooding Quail Chicks

Every brooder needs to have water, food, heat, and bedding. in the beginning, quail chicks will need very little room to move around. In my experience, a medium-size plastic tote makes a terrific quail brooder. Cover the top with an old window screen to keep the chicks in and any other animals out.

If you are handy, you can carefully cut out a large square in the lid of the tote and glue, staple, or zip tie a piece of screen or mesh over the hole to allow for airflow while keeping the chicks safe inside. When the chicks begin to grow, you will want to give them more room. You can move them to a larger brooder or move some of the chicks to an additional brooder.

For the first few days, a couple layers of paper towels make good bedding for the tiny chicks. This will give them a little bit of traction, make cleaning easy, and allow you to easily spot and remove ailing chicks.

It is normal to lose a few chicks out of a large hatch. Be sure to remove them promptly. After the first few days, you may want to add pine shavings or some other bedding to the brooder as well.

There are several options to keep the chicks warm. Some folks prefer to use an inexpensive and easy to find heat lamp for their baby quail. Caution must be used with a heat lamp because they can shatter or fall and start fires.

If you use a heat lamp, you will need to have a thermometer in the brooder and make sure there is room for the chicks to leave the heated area if they get too warm. Keep the temperature at 100 degrees for the first week, dropping it two or three degrees each week until the quail are fully feathered. Lower the temperature by raising the heat lamp a little bit at a time.

Quail that are too warm will lay flat, act lethargic, and may even pant. Quail that are too cold will huddle together and cry loudly. Comfortable baby quail will move in and out of the heated area, eating and drinking, and returning to get warm.

My first choice for keeping baby quail warm is a Brinsea EcoGlow. This is essentially a heated ceramic plate on legs. For baby quail, remove one of the legs and put the other leg on the lowest setting. This will give the quail room to move around and find the spot that is just right.

There is a much lower risk of fire with this type of heater, and the size of the chick, not the temperature, determines how high to place the heater. The chicks enjoy going under the heater much like a baby chick would hide under a mother hen.

When you move chicks from the incubator to the set-up brooder, you will need to show them where the food, water, and heat source are. Use a waterer that is specifically made for quail chicks, which will help prevent the baby chicks from drowning in a bowl or saucer or chicken waterer.

You may want to place clean marbles or gravel in the bottom of the water bowl for a week or two so that the chicks can get a drink without falling in or getting wet and cold. Quail water gets dirty quickly, so be sure to change it often.

For the first few days, sprinkle the quail food onto paper towels so it is easy for the tiny birds to find. Commercial game bird food has the correct amount of protein for quail, but you will probably need to grind it with a coffee grinder to make it into smaller crumbs. Even normal size quail crumbles may be too large for their tiny beaks.

As you move the chicks from the incubator to the brooder, pick each one up carefully with two hands. Quail chicks are fast and active, and may easily squirm out of your grasp. Be especially careful not to drop them!

Lightly dip the chick’s beak into the water, and show them the food by scratching it with your finger. Usher them under the heater so they can get warm again. They may cry as they are scared and unsure of where their hatchmates are.

As long as they are warm, fed, and watered, they will soon settle down and sleep. Once a couple of chicks have figured out how to eat and drink on their own, the other chicks will pick it up much more quickly. Baby chicks will sleep a lot of the time during the first several days, only coming out to eat and drink and then hiding under the heater for more naps.

Baby quail grow quickly and may double in size the first day or two. There may be a large difference in size from quail that hatch just a day or two later, but they will quickly catch up and their sizes will even out in just a few days.

Keep a close watch to try to make sure all of the chicks are able to eat and drink. In a few days, the chicks will be large enough that you can switch to regular game bird crumbles in a quail feeder.

Quail are by nature a bit skittish. Once they are a few days old, they enter the ‘popcorn’ stage, where the slightest disturbance startles them and they jump about like popcorn.

Soon, the little chicks will be able to fly and you will have trouble keeping them in the brooder when you open it to feed and water them. It will help to keep the flighty birds in the brooder if you can keep part of the top of the brooder covered while you work.

Keep a close eye out for any escapees so you can track them down before they get into trouble. Change the bedding whenever it becomes dirty or wet.

Don’t be startled if some of your chicks look like they have expired! Baby chicks tire easily, and may stretch out on their sides or fronts to sleep. Even adult birds may occasionally sleep in the “playing dead” position. As long as they are not too warm or sick, there is nothing to worry about.

Growing Quail

After three to four weeks, your baby quail should have all their feathers and you can move them to a grow out pen. If the temperatures in your area are very cold, you may want to consider keeping a heat source available for the quail for a couple more weeks.

If you are raising coturnix quail, they will begin to lay eggs by eight to nine weeks. Bobwhit quail will take a little longer, but their tiny white eggs are certainly worth the wait.

By six to eight weeks, you can begin to sex your quail. If you leave too many males per number of females, the roosters will fight or over-mate with your hens. This can cause injury to the hens.

Adult quail cannot be free-ranged like chickens. They will become easily lost or be taken by predators. They will need at least one square foot of cage space per bird, with a low ceiling so they do not hurt their heads on the ceiling if they are startled.

If you are going to breed your quail, keep no more than one male for every two to five hens. This will give you enough fertility to breed more quail without causing injury to your hens. Collect and store your eggs and you can begin the hatching process all over again, or enjoy the delicious fresh quail eggs and meat for yourself.

Hatching quail is a rewarding experience. With a little practice and patience, you will quickly master the practice of hatching quail and be able to grow your own quail for meat and eggs.

The post How To Hatch Quail Eggs appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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A feeling of dread came over me as I reached into the bag of lettuce to grab a handful of fresh, nutritious greens for my salad. Just imagine my surprise when overnight, my store-bought bag of tasty fresh salad greens had turned to mush even in the coolness of my refrigerator.

Instead of crunchy delicious greens, much to my dismay, I grabbed a handful of disgusting lettuce slime. Bagged lettuce just does not last long, even when refrigerated. But for very little investment, you can grow your own lettuce and have fresh lettuce greens to eat every day without buying lettuce from the grocery store.

Even for the novice gardener, planting your own lettuce is fast, easy, and just makes sense. Homegrown lettuce is more savory than store-bought lettuce. It is crunchier, fresher, and has more vitamins than the produce you find in the grocery store.

Grocery store varieties of lettuce have been cultivated for shipping, aesthetics, and disease resistance, but loses nutrients the longer it sits on the shelf.

Homegrown lettuce retains more nutrients because it is fresher and cultivated for different characteristics. Lettuce is easy and cheap to grow, comes in a wide array of varieties, and it does not take up much space in your garden or on your balcony or patio.

When to Plant Lettuce

Lettuce is a cool weather crop, which means it grows best in the spring and fall in most areas. If you plan to direct sow your lettuce seeds in your garden, plant them no more than two weeks before your last frost date.

Lettuces can tolerate a light frost or snow, but not extreme cold. If you want to start your lettuce plants even earlier, you can start them indoors in seed trays four to six weeks before your last frost date. Make sure you harden off your seedlings for a week before transplanting them into your garden.

To harden off lettuce seedlings, set them outside every day out of direct sun and harsh weather. Start with keeping the plants outside for one hour, then increase it to two hours. Continue increasing the amount of time plants are sitting outside until you are ready to transplant them, about a week later.

Plant your lettuce seedlings in the garden after hardening them off and no more than one week before your last frost date. Lettuce seeds will germinate best at around 70 degrees, but the lettuce plants will grow best when the temperature is around 65 degrees.

Lettuces planted in the middle of summer when the weather is hottest will tend to bolt or go to seed too quickly. Hot weather can cause most varieties of lettuce to take on a bitter flavor, which is why summer planting is not as popular as fall and spring lettuce planting.

Some varieties of lettuce have been bred specifically to withstand the hot summer temperatures and avoid bolting.

Where to Plant Lettuce

Lettuce is often planted directly into the garden from seed, which is known as direct sowing. Lettuces can be planted in tight rows to prevent weeds, or broadcast into larger sections.

Broadcasting is a method of scattering seeds over a larger area, rather than specifically planting each seed, one at a time. Whether you plant in rows or broadcast your seeds, cover the tiny seeds with one quarter to one half inch of soil. Water carefully so as not to wash away the delicate seeds.

Lettuce can also be started in trays or pots indoors, hardened off, and then transplanted into the garden. However, lettuce should be transplanted outdoors no more than one week before the last frost date to protect the tender seedlings from extreme weather.

Lettuce can grow in full sun or even in part shade. Lettuce that is grown in full sun will grow more quickly, but lettuce that is grown in part shade may taste less sweeter.

A fenced in garden or raised bed are great choices to plant lettuce. This will keep your lettuce crop protected from small animals like rabbits that will enjoy your tasty greens. Plant about ten lettuce seeds per foot of garden row. Space your rows approximately twelve to eighteen inches apart.

Although you can easily grow lettuce in your garden, this vegetable does not need a large space to grow. You can easily grow your lettuces in small raised beds, along side your flowers in the flower bed, or even in containers on your patio or balcony. Some varieties of lettuce will grow indoors, year round.

Growing Lettuce Indoors

Because lettuce grows well in part shade, you can grow it indoors over the winter in a sunny window. Try planting loose leaf lettuce in rich potting soil in a flower pot and place in a window that gets plenty of sun.

Water as needed. Try growing the same lettuce under grow lights if your windows do not get enough sun.

You can regrow romaine lettuce from its base. Choose your harvested romaine head, and cut the leaves off about two inches up from its base.

Place the base of the romaine into a shallow bowl or jar of water. After it begins to grow, transplant the lettuce into a pot and make sure it gets plenty of light. Water your lettuce twice a week, but be careful not to let the soil become too soggy.

Soil for the Best Lettuce

Lettuce grows easily and is normally forgiving if the soil quality is not perfect. However, lettuce grows best in loose soil that stays moist but is not soggy. Ideally, your soil will contain plenty of organic matter to keep it loose and fertilized. Aim for a soil pH that is between 6.0 and 6.5.

Hydroponic Lettuce

One of the easiest vegetables to grow hydroponically is lettuce. Seeds are started in a specialized soil-less growing medium until the seeds begin to grow. The seedlings are then transferred to a water and nutrient solution.

A sunny window or some full spectrum fluorescent lights will enable the lettuce to mature quickly. Hydroponic lettuce is a great alternative when outdoor growing space is not available. You can order pre-fabricated hydroponic kits or create your own hydroponic set-up.

Types of Lettuce

There are four popular types of lettuce that you may want to plant in your garden. These four types are made up of many different varieties. Choose the ones that fit your nutritional needs, taste, and gardening capabilities:

  • Butterhead, a sweet, delicate head lettuce.
  • Crisphead, a crunchier version of a head lettuce.
  • Loose leaf, individual leaves that are sweet and easy to grow.
  • Romaines, a sweet and crunchy variety of lettuce.
Butterhead Lettuce

Butterhead lettuces are a type of lettuce with large loose heads and soft delicate leaves. This variety of lettuce boasts a sweet buttery flavor and is great in salads or used in place of tortilla wraps or bread for sandwiches. Most butterhead lettuce varieties will mature in about forty five to fifty five days.

Buttercrunch Lettuce

Butter crunch lettuce is heat tolerant and matures in about sixty five days. It grows crisp and juicy leaves in a loose head that do not turn bitter in the heat as easily as other varieties.

All Year Round Lttuce

This variety of butterhead lettuce readily withstands the heat of summer and the cool of spring and fall. It can be direct sown from March until August, offering a harvest from April through October.

It will overwinter well if protected, and can be planted early in the greenhouse, making it a great choice for the year round gardener. It is rich in vitamins and tastes great.

Boston Lettuce

Boston Lettuce has large, light colored leaves and is easily confused with Bibb lettuce.

Bibb

Bibb lettuce is often used interchangeably with Boston lettuce, but it typically this variety of lettuce grows in slightly smaller, darker colored heads than Boston lettuce.

Merveille des Quatre Saisons Lettuce

Merveille des Quatre Saisons grows well year-round in mild climates.

crisphead/iceberg lettuce Crisphead Lettuce

Crisphead lettuce varieties, also known as iceberg, grow round, overlapping leaves that appear in a tight head. This crispy lettuce has a mild flavor and works well in sandwiches, salads, and as a garnish.

Like its name, crisphead lettuce offers a nice crunch. Iceberg lettuce is the most sensitive to heat and can be difficult to grow. It typically matures in seventy five to eighty days.

Loose Leaf Lettuce

Loose leaf lettuces are some of the easiest lettuce varieties to grow. Their flavor tends to be mild and sweet. It grows in single, loose leaves that do not form a round head.

They are also known as leaf, cutting, or bunching lettuce. These lettuces grow in a variety of colors and shapes and mature in forty to forty five days.

Crispino

Crispino is a dependable variety of iceberg lettuce. It tolerates more heat and humidity than standard crispheads. You can expect a higher percentage of uniform heads with this variety of iceberg lettuce.

Summertime

Summertime is a bolt resistant variety of iceberg lettuce. It grows in tight heads with thin, crinkled leaves and a darker green coloring.

Ithaca

Ithaca is a variety of iceberg lettuce that matures in approximately sixty five days.

Great Lakes Lettuce

Great Lakes lettuce grows large heads with thick, crumpled leaves. It was the first variety of iceberg lettuce to be cultivated.

Black Seeded Simpson

Black Seeded Simpson is a sweet-tasting and fast growing loose leaf lettuce. This variety of lettuce does not transplant well, but can be direct sown in your garden or container.

It is one of the most popular varieties of lettuce for gardeners in the United States. It may turn bitter or rot in hot weather. Snipping just the leaves of Black Seeded Simpson means the plant will be able to regrow from its base.

Simpson Elite

Simpson Elite is very similar to Black Seeded Simpson, however, it extends the season slightly because it is less likely to become bitter in the heat. This lettuce tastes best when picked immediately before eating.

Merlot Lettuce

Merlot lettuce is also known as Galactic lettuce. It is one of the darkest red loose leaf lettuce varieties available. Merlot is rich in antioxidants and is a great “cut and come again variety,” which is a type of lettuce that can be continually cultivated as the plant regrows after it is harvested.

This lettuce matures in fifty five days.

Salad Bowl Lettuce

Salad bowl lettuce has a sweet flavor with curled, crisp, tender leaves. This variety of lettuce does not become bitter in hot weather, but does grow best in the cooler months.

romaine lettuce
Romaines

Romaine lettuces grow in a tall, compact head with firm leaves and ribs down the side. Romaines, or cos, as it is often called, are more tolerant of heat than other varieties of lettuce.

The inner leaves of a romaine head are lighter in color and more tender, while the outer leaves tend to be a deeper green and have a tougher texture. The great tasting Romain lettuce is frequently used in salads. Romain lettuce develops in approximately seventy days.

Brown Goldring Lettuce

Brown Goldring is a delicious romaine lettuce known for its brown outer leaves and golden, inner heart.

Cimmaron

Cimmaron has been around since the 1700’s. It bears large reddish-bronze heads that do not bolt.

Winter Density Lettuce

Winter Density is an early growing romaine lettuce. It is ready in as early as fifty four days and grows in a tightly compacted head.

Dragoon Lettuce

Dragoon is a miniature variety of romaine lettuce. Dragoon matures in forty three days and is suitable for hydroponic systems.

Other lettuce varieties:

  • Speckles Lettuce
  • Blushed Butterhead
  • Sparx
  • Flashy Trout Back
  • Victoria
  • Jericho
  • Coastal Star
  • Breen
  • Monte Carlo
  • Tom Thumb
  • Flashy Butter Oak
  • Oakleaf
  • Perilla Green
  • Perilla Red
  • Ruby
  • Green Ice
  • Fine Frilled
  • Salinas
  • Sun Devil
  • Mission
  • Legacy
  • Loose leaf
When to Harvest Lettuce

It takes anywhere from forty five to fifty five days for lettuce to mature, especially lettuce that grows as a loose leaf variety. Loose leaf lettuces can be harvested at any point in their growing cycle.

However, lettuce varieties that grow heads, such as romaine, will take longer to grow. Romain may take from seventy five to eighty five days to mature, and crisper lettuces may take anywhere from seventy to one hundred days to maturity.

Light frost can make lettuce taste sweeter, but heavy frost or extreme cold can be damaging, if not fatal to plants. Be sure to harvest lettuce before excessive heat or cold sets in and before plants begin to bolt. Lettuce tastes best when harvested early in the morning when the temperature is cooler.

How to Harvest Lettuce

Lettuce is easy and quick to harvest. For loose leaf lettuce, cut the lettuce leaves with a pair of scissors about an inch from the ground. The remaining lettuce plant will regrow into new lettuce that can be harvested again in a few weeks.

You may need to plant new lettuce plants after several cuttings if the quality of the lettuce begins to suffer. You can harvest leaf lettuce at any point in its growing cycle. When the plants have reached maturity or are about to bolt, you can pull the entire plant out of the soil and plant new seeds in its place.

If you are harvesting head lettuce, you can simply pluck off the outer leaves to eat and leave the rest of the head to grow. Another means of harvesting lettuce is to carefully cut the entire head off of the plant with a sharp knife.

It’s best to harvest head lettuce when the head has reached the desired size but before it reaches maturity or bolts. Romaine lettuce may regrow if you leave an inch or two of plant growth after harvesting.

Wash lettuce just before you are going to consume it, making sure to remove any bugs or dirt. Allow lettuce to drip dry in a colander or air dry in a salad spinner. Loose leaf lettuce will store for about a week in a plastic bag in your refrigerator, while head lettuce may last for several weeks.

When Lettuce Goes to Seed

Bolting occurs when lettuce begins to produce tall stalks that flower and grow seeds. This happens when the temperatures begin to warm up, typically over seventy five degrees, consistently.

You can lengthen your lettuce growing season in the summer but choosing the more bolt resistant varieties. Additionally, you can use shade cloth to cover your lettuces which reduces the direct sunlight and heat that will lead to bolting.

Lastly, try companion planting your lettuces with taller vegetables that will offer shade to your lettuce. Move containers that are growing lettuce out of the direct sun into a shadier spot when the temperatures begin to warm up.

Tips for a Better Lettuce Crop

Lettuce grows very quickly. For best results in achieving a consistent supply of lettuce to eat, try succession planting. Succession planting means staggering the timing of planting your seeds, rather than planting them all at once.

For example, plant a row of lettuce every two weeks so that every two weeks you will have a new batch of fresh savory lettuce to eat.

Because lettuce does not grow well in the heat, it can be difficult to continue to have lettuce or salad all summer long. Companion planting is one way to grow lettuce throughout the summer.

Companion planting means planting one plant along side a plant of another species for extra benefits. For example, in the heat of the summer, try planting lettuce in the shade of a taller plant, such as tomatoes.

The shade of the tomato plants will help keep the lettuce cooler, which will stave off bolting and bitterness. The dense lettuce leaves will help hold in moisture for the tomato plants. Both plants will benefit from companion planting, and you may be able to extend your lettuce season longer into the summer.

Fertilize lettuce approximately three weeks after seedlings emerge from the soil. Use a 10-10-10 or 5-5-5- fertilizer. Mulching around the base of the lettuce plants will reduce weed growth and hold in moisture.

Water lettuce once or twice per week as needed. Do not overwater because lettuce grows better in well-drained, not soggy, soil.

Caterpillars, aphids, and beetles can be very damaging to lettuce crops. Parasitic wasps or lady bugs can be released near your lettuces to help control the aphid population.

Neem oil can also be used to help control pests on your lettuce. If natural antidotes fail to protect your lettuce plants, you may need to resort to pesticides.

Conclusion

Lettuce is a staple vegetable used in a wide variety of dishes from salads, to sandwiches, to garnishes, and more. It is fun to explore the many different varieties of color, type, and taste available.

Most lettuces are easy to grow and taste great. For the freshest, most nutritious, and tastiest lettuce, grow your own and consume it within minutes of harvesting. Growing lettuce is easy, inexpensive, and and enjoyable.

The post How to Plant Grow and Harvest Lettuce appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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It really is an art form. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started getting baby chicks. Luckily for you, I can tell you the mistakes I made, so you have the option of not making them yourself.

Baby chicks require more work than grown chickens. Preparation really is key. Ask yourself if you are really ready to take care of chicken babies. In this guide we’ll be talking about buying chickens, and how to do like a pro. How?

I actually won awards after breeding my hens. We’ll get into brooding later. That is a different topic. Baby chickens need to be provided with shelter and a bin that maintains a temperature of 72 degrees. In some places it may be too cold still to ensure this. That’s why you might consider keeping them in a bin in your house.

Now, before you do this first ask yourself if you own a cat. Baby chicks are very vulnerable and not yet big enough to not be considered prey for your cat. Typically until April 29, most outdoor or farm stores will be selling baby chicks. A lot of places even have the arrival of chicks emblazoned on their outdoor signs.

I like buying chicks from a local feed store. I’m not keen on buying them in the mail. Theirs extra precautions and I’m still not sure about it. If you know a good breeder who ships baby chicks, please leave a comment and let us know.

If you have your box ready for them with water and feed, you are ready to go! It really is a passionate personal joy for me. I love holding baby chicks. If you’re not sure, still go to the store and just look at the babies.

If you’re not excited for the extra work, you may not want to bother with it. I get excited for the new arrivals of chicks. I also love the different varieties. It can be a joy or an extra burden. If it’s an extra burden for you, you might consider not getting babies.

Since I’m talking to fellow homesteaders, I’m going to assume you all love getting baby chicks. It’s a bit of extra work, but the rewards are worth it. Here’s what I did, and I hope you share with me what you do that I may not know.

Five Steps To Bring Them Home

Before you bring home your baby chicks, you will need to take a few necessary steps to ensure your new babies have the right nest to thrive. Most likely, they will come home in a box and you should put the box in the place you are planning to put them and let them discover their new surroundings on their own.

Always buy more than one chick. A single chick needs companionship. Your baby chick will die of fright if you buy one and leave them alone outside. They need to come in groups. They will have each other for soothing and comfort.

I’ve always lived in areas that I could own as many chickens that I wanted. If you live in the city, know the laws. Many places you can only own three and at a distance from the road. In most cities you can’t own a rooster. If you buy your baby chicks from a store, most likely they have been sext.

Occasionally, a boy chick will get into the mix and once it starts crowing, you’ll be alerting your neighbors you have something that may be illegal. Do not move your girls into the coop until they reach their teenage years. The older hens will peck on the birds and they need to be able to defend themselves.

If you’ve heard the term hen-pecking, know this is a real thing. It is something they do to provide order to their coop. If you introduce this too young, they won’t be old enough to handle it and they could get pecked to death. The number one mistake people make is overcrowding.

Don’t buy more birds than you can handle. If you overcrowd your girls, they’ll start pecking each other even more. Give your young hens a chance to start laying. Some lay as early as four months, some as late as a year. Be patient.

Once, I bought chicks in winter. I’m not totally against this, but it was extra work to keep them warm, I had to put special vitamins in their water and when my power went out once in the middle of the night I didn’t know, and they almost froze to death.

I recommend you buy chicks in the spring and be patient for eggs. You will have the option to buy chicks in the winter, but know you are adding extra work. I like to buy my chicks in the spring, and simply grow them into hens and repeat the next year.

To me this is easier and less pain. I struggled with getting chicks in the winter. I really didn’t enjoy it and if you’re not liking it, you won’t be doing it. I enjoy a simple farm life and having a small farm. I enjoy getting chicks. I did not enjoy taking care of them in the winter.

One plus, was that I could get eggs in the summer. Most chickens will start laying eggs between four months and a year. By buying winter chicks, I did open the door to that possibility.

Bedding

Your new baby chicks will need a nest. Local farm stores do sell this. I like to get a smaller bedding for baby chicks. I want their bed to be soft and easy to clean.

I use pine shavings and then when I move them into the coop, I’ve heard that some prefer hay and some prefer shavings. When I get baby chicks I don’t plan on keeping them in the place I allocate for them. If you have a specific preference please feel free to comment.

If you live in the city and have a relatively small backyard, you can still get baby chicks. It does have some preparation. First you want to find a local feed store. Make friends with them. Chances are they have had chicks or know what you will need to buy to raise them into layers.

You can raise chickens in a farm, urban or suburban environment. It really isn’t that much work. If you don’t want to build a coop, you can purchase one ready made.

The first thing you want to do is find out exactly what the specific ordinances or rules are. You don’t want to buy bedding and set up your home nest and then find out your city or HOA has a rule that says you can’t own chickens. Some people prefer breeders, it really is what works for you.

If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money making a separate containment for your baby chicks, consider asking a local store if they have any apple boxes they are planning to throw away. They will likely give it to you and provide you with a cheap home for your baby chicks.

Put the water, food and bedding in this box. All they really need is a container and temperature control. Be sure your box doesn’t have wholes large enough that your baby chicks can get out.

Water

Your baby chicks will need fresh water every day. Feed stores sell water dispensers for relatively cheap. Remember to change it every day. They need fresh/clean water every day. It’s easer for them to drink from a water container made for them. They are relatively cheap and very useful.

You want everything set up before your chicks arrive. If you have your chicks for more than one day, you will see how they mistakenly poop in their water. That’s why you change it every day and keep the water dispenser clean.

There are vitamins you can add to the water. It is unnecessary unless you buy them in the winter. If they are getting proper feed, grit and clean water they don’t need supplements added to their water.

Feed

I avoid buying medicated feed. I also try to buy only non-GMO feed. At my first homestead at a local farm store, some local farmers made their own feed. I preferred this. I like to buy local and to support local farmers in any way I can. They added peas to the feed. This provided added nutrition to my growing girls.

Temperature

A simple heat lamp above your baby chick box will keep your new chicks heated. The temperature of the brooding box needs to be kept at 72 degrees. You can then drop the temperature by five degrees per week. You really have to be careful with the temperature of your baby chicks. They are delicate and do need extra care.

Grit

When you introduce them to grit, you need to know that grit should always be introduced in food. I like to make them scrambled eggs with chia seeds before I introduce them to dirt. Baby chicks do need grit to survive. They won’t die from eating it. It really is natural and if you are skeptical start with chia seeds.

I also like to use flax seeds before I move them to dirt. You don’t want to over feed them. They can eat things from the garden and things like quinoa. They may not think they like it at first, but give them a chance. It really is like a little kid trying something for the first time.

Avoid dried foods like beans, and rice is an absolute no. Everything you give them should be cooked and is not a food that will absorb water and expand in their stomach.

If you see bloody diarrhea that looks like uncooked hamburger, that is a sign of a parasite in their intestine. If that happens, They will need medicine.

By adding a teaspoon of medicine to their feed, you will be able to treat them. You want to add this filler for five days. You will want to treat your entire flock. If one has this parasite, chances are they all have it. It does take time and you won’t know necessarily which bird has it. They can get it from ground water, from handling, from soil. It needs to be treated.

Awareness is key, and it will need to be treated. If you see one of your birds being listless, that is also a sign. A parasite can kill your flock. They will need treatment.

Chicks love to dust bathe.Wood ash is a perfect thing to provide them to roll around. Mix it with meal worms and don’t be surprised if they actually eat most of it. This keeps off pests from their feathers. It is a part of the natural way they live. The more natural environment you can give them, the better.

Post Office Chicks

Some people like to buy their baby chicks from a service that sends them in the mail. Never buy from a service that has them travel for more than three days. Once your chicks arrive, make sure they drink water immediately.

Know that they haven’t had water for three days. Dipping their bills in water immediately after unwrapping will ensure their thirst is quenched. If you get a damaged or deformed chick, call the place and have them send you another chick. If one of your chicks comes deformed, that can be extra work.

One of the most common deformities is referred to as pasty butt. In the area they poop, some chicks will get poop stuck. This will clog the colon of the bird and if not treated they will die. Care for this needs to be done with delicacy.

If you have a chick with pasty butt, gently clean the poop off with a Q-tip. Then put petroleum jelly on the exposed skin. Do not clog the colon when doing this.

Usually, the chick will eventually grow out of that, it is a deformity and is unplanned and something you paid for that brought you additional work. Your breeder needs to know that this deformity has been included in his or her bird’s bloodline.

Business or Hobby?

There are people out there who don’t like chickens, but love eggs. Once your chickens are laying put a sign up in front of your house. Most eggs sell for around $3 per dozen. If you’re looking for egg cartons, you can purchase unused one online or get repurposed ones from friends. People love farm fresh eggs.

Another option is to participate in your local farmers market. Eggs literally fly from booths at the Farmers Market. It’s still America’s favorite breakfast food and getting eggs straight from your home farm, can help you pay for your hobby. It is a very simple way to enjoy the hard work of loving up on baby chicks. They are extra work, but they do provide a lot of rewards. They can feed your stomach and your soul.

Training

Chickens can do tricks. I like to start my chicks young and get meal worms. Once they do something I ask they get a meal worm. I find this very enjoyable. If you train them really good, you can get your chicks to do an obstacle course. You can buy meal worms at your local feed store.

When you start training them choose a command and only use it before they get a meal worm. They’ll learn that when you say that specific phrase they get a treat. You will then be able to train them to do anything.

Composting

My favorite post-dinner snack for my teenage girls is corn on the cob. This isn’t a food I give young babies. I have always fed my baby chicks food from my dinner table. I’ve fed them pasta, I’ve fed them leftover casserole.

They love it. I have even found ant hills and scooped up live ants for them. They love it. At my first homestead we had fire ants. They can really sting if they bite you. That’s why I recommend if you do this, you are covered. I’ve picked up enough ants, that I automatically know how to protect myself.

Showing Your Chicks

Again, know the rules at the local farm. The year I showed my chickens, they were teenagers. The judges look for no pests and if they fit the specific breed. I used a spray on their feathers that was made for humans. This killed any lice and made them more presentable.

Adding Them To The Coop

When they first come home do not add them right away. You are exposing them to unknown parasites and an established pecking order. This could cause chaos and create a toxic environment. I like to wait until they have all their feathers and are bigger than my cat before I move them in. They will need a separate nesting box for the first few weeks after you bring them home.

SEXTING

If you have more than one rooster, you are asking for trouble. They will fight and potentially abuse the hens. The best way to avoid this is by buying baby chicks from a farm store where the birds have previously been screened for gender.

You still may get a rooster, but one is just fine. If you end up with an additional rooster, try to re-home it or consider butchering it. One year I ended up with four roosters and it caused me nothing but trouble. I had to buy a special spray because the roosters kept plucking the back feathers off my hens. Overcrowding is an issue, but having more than one rooster is an absolute no.

Did we miss something? We’d love to hear your suggestions. Please comment below and tell us your experience with baby chicks.

The post Buying Chickens: A Step By Step Guide appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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Corn is the quintessential American plant. Cultivated in North America for thousands of years, this plant is a favorite of gardeners all around the world. Fresh, golden corn is easy to grow in a backyard garden, allowing you to cook dozens of ears at a fraction of the price you would pay at the supermarket.

Even better, it’s low maintenance, making it the perfect plant for you to grow this summer, no matter how little gardening experience you might have.

Health Benefits of Corn

Technically a grain, corn is commonly considered a vegetable, largely because it is so high in various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Corn is commonly grown around the world, and offers numerous health benefits. Although corn is high in sugar, it is a food that should be included in any healthy diet.

Corn is rich in vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, and more. While it tends to be higher in carbohydrates than any other macronutrient, it does also contain protein and minimal quantities of fat. It can even help lower your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as it is high in Vitamins B5, B1, and C.

The Many Faces of Corn: Ornamental, Sweet, and Field Corn

When you’re poring over your seed catalog, you may be taken aback by the hundreds of different types of corn varieties available to gardeners. Sweet corn is the most common type of corn grown by conventional backyard gardeners, but certainly not the only kind. Ornamental and field corn are also popular depending on your needs.

Sweet corn is the most popular kind of corn grown in the garden, and it is what is traditionally used for classic corn on the cob. This type of corn preserves well, making it a favorite for canned, frozen, or creamed corn recipes, and is picked before the kernels have a chance to dry out.

Sweet corn is technically harvested during the immature stage, meaning the kernels are nice and tender, comprised of soft starches that will not pop when exposed to heat.

Ornamental corn, also known as Indian corn and flint corn, has a hard outer shell. It usually appears in a myriad of colors, making it an attractive option for sprucing up your home in the autumn months. It is primarily used for decoration and is not usually edible.

However, some types of flint corn are also prized as popping corns. These varieties tend to have a hard exterior shell with a soft, starchy center. The moisture inside the starchy center of the corn produces steam and builds up pressure, causing it to explode and produce popcorn when exposed to heat.

The final type of corn, field corn, is also commonly referred to as dent corn. It is the most widely grown type of corn in the United States, but not for human consumption.

This type of corn is grown for livestock feed, as well as some food products that require processed-down corn. Containing a mixture of hard and soft starches, the kernels become indented when they are dried.

While these three major types of corn vary widely in their culinary purposes, they are all grown in a relatively similar fashion, with the exception to this being in how they are harvested.

That being said, you do need to pay particular attention the variety of seed you purchase, as you don’t want to find yourself with four dozen ornamental corn plants on your hands when you expected to be enjoying some tasty corn on the cob.

Varieties of Corn

When it comes to sweet corn, keep in mind that the kernels of most sweet corn varieties will start to change to starch immediately after you have picked the ears. This is why you want to eat them as soon as they are harvested, or within as little time as possible. That being said, there are newer, hybridized species of sweet corn that hold onto their sugar content for much longer.

When you are looking for the best variety of corn to pick, consider this new feature and select a variety that is listed as supersweet. While these varieties will have a tastier, fresher flavor, they may not hold up as well to hot or dry conditions. Pick a standard variety of corn for an old-fashioned flavor, or consider more synergistic varieties for an updated take on the dinnertime classic.

While there are dozens of types of sweet corn you can choose from, there are several standouts in regards to popularity and ease of growing. Among the most commonly grown species are Peaches and Cream, Sugar Buns, Incredible, Miracle, Honey and Pearl, Supersweet Jubilee, and Silver Queen.

Categories of sweet corn can be broken down into whether they are standard, sugar enhanced, or super sweet. Standard sweet corn has lower sugar content but can germinate easily in colder soil, and includes varieties like Jubilee and Silver Queen.

Sugar-enhanced sweet corn includes types like Incredible, Sugar Buns, Peaches and Cream, and Miracle. These types of corn have higher sugar content and store well after they have been harvested.

The final type of corn, super sweet corn, includes types like Honey and Pearl, Phenomenal, and How Sweet It Is. These corns germinate poorly in cold soils, making them inopportune for gardeners who want to get a headstart on the growing season.

If you are growing a blend of standard, sugar-enhanced, and super sweet corn, you will need to isolate them to ensure you don’t have problems with cross-pollination.

That said, if you have plenty of space in the garden, why not try out a mixture of varieties? Plant some hybrid species for a super sweet snack, or add some ornamental or popping corn in, both of which are shockingly easy to care for.

When purchasing your seeds, account for roughly twelve plants per person in your household. Count on more if you want to preserve a large batch of corn by freezing, drying, or canning it. If you want an extended harvest, consider sowing fresh seeds every two or six weeks. You can plant early-season, mid-season, and late-season types all at the same time as well for the same effect, too.

How to Plant Corn

Corn is one of the few plants that does not transplant well, and as a result should be grown directly from seed. If you garden in a colder climate with a short growing season, consider using biodegradable pots. This will allow you to transplant the entire pot into the ground, rather than having to disturb the roots as you take the plant out of the soil.

Ideally, you should wait to plant (or transplant, if necessary) until the absolutely last minute. Make sure all danger of a frost is past, and allow the soil to warm up to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This the ideal temperature for seed germination.

If the temperature is staying cold and you don’t have any more time to spare, consider laying black plastic on the areas where you intend to plant. You can remove it before you lay your seeds down, or you can plant directly into the plastic itself after letting it warm the soil for a few days.

When you’re ready to plant, sow seeds about an inch deep. If you’re planting in particularly hot weather, plant them up to two inches deep. You can plant seeds close together (roughly seven or eight inches apart), because corn has a relatively low germination rate. This will help prevent large, bare gaps in your corn patch.

Seeds germinate in roughly seven to ten days. If you have more than one plant arise in close proximity, you can thin your plants. Ideally, they should be spaced to one every fifteen inches for best results. To thin your plants, cut unwanted seedlings off at soil level instead of ripping them up out of the ground by their roots, as this can cause damage to the surrounding plants.

How to Grow Corn

Corn needs roughly an inch of water per week, but this requirement increases during hot, dry weather as well as during the period when the stalks are beginning to form tassels.

If your corn is water stressed, you will end up with multiple ears with few kernels. To make sure you are watering your corn adequate, use a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system. If you’re watering by hand, try not to spray them from above, as this can remove pollen and halt the process altogether.

Weeding is also very important in the early stages of corn development. Kill all weeds around the stalks during the first month of growth. After that, the roots will spread out about a foot from the stalk, so you need to be more careful in your weed removal techniques.

Your best bet is to apply a thick layer of mulch (like wood chips or straw) around the base of the plants to prevent new weeds from sprouting. This will also help the ground stay moist and allow the soil to retain all of the nutrients your corn needs to thrive.

Corn is very susceptible to frost, so if a cold snap is on the way, make sure you cover your plants to prevent any damage. You can use row covers or a similar contraption to ensure your plants aren’t damaged by poor weather.

Corn doesn’t need much in the way of extra fertilizer, but it’s not a bad idea to apply blood meal or another kind of fertilizer (think compost or a diluted fish-based blend) to help feed the soil. This can help to replace lost nutrients and is especially beneficial when the corn stalks are about knee-high.

Some people believe that pruning corn plants will help enhance production of ears and sweet kernels. This is false, however, as removing side shoots can damage roots. They don’t harm production, and often removing them does more harm than good.

Unfortunately, corn is one of those vegetables that is extremely susceptible to pests. Cutworms are one of the most common insects to affect the growth of your corn, and they usually attack young corn seedlings. Flea beetles are also common, and may cause extensive damage to the leaves of your young plants.

When your corn plants have matured, you may find that you have a problem with corn earworms. To help prevent them, try not to plant your corn near tomatoes, which corn earworms are naturally drawn to.

These pests feed on the tips of developing ears, and can cause extensive damage. Once the pests have begun to affect your plants, you can use an eyedropper to apply Bacillus thuringiensis, water, dishwashing liquid, and vegetable oil. This will help eliminate the pests without harming your plants.

Other common pests to affect corn plants include cucumber beetle larvae, European corn borers, and seed corn maggots. Keep in mind that insect pests aren’t the only types of creatures that can harm your plants – mammalian pests can also wreak havoc on your crop.

Raccoons, birds, and squirrels may all choose to nibble on your hard-earned harvest. They can often only be prevented by installing fencing or netting to keep them out of the garden altogether.

In terms of diseases, corn is relatively resilient. This is particularly true of hybrid varieties. Rotating your crops and engaging in clean garden practices can also help guard your plants against disease.

If you find plants that are infected with some kind of disease, like Stewart’s wilt, a common bacterial disease, your best bet is to destroy the affected plants to keep it from spreading.

Pollinating Corn

Corn is unique in that it can be a bit more challenging to pollinate. In order for your plants to produce kernels, the wind must move pollen from the tassels onto the silks that encase the ears. While this is typically a process that can be carried out on its own, you may need to transfer pollen on your own.

Keep in mind that corn is susceptible to cross-pollination. You should keep different corn cultivars, particularly those that are hybrid or supersweet varieties, at least 400 or so yards apart.

If you don’t do this, you can also plant them in succession, which will mean that they produce tassels at different times. This will prevent genetics from one type of plant from being spread to another.

Promote adequate pollination by planting in blocks instead of rows. Blocks should contain three rows. If you don’t have the space or garden capacity to do this, you will likely need to hand-pollinate.

How to Harvest Corn

You’ll know your corn is just about ready for harvest when silks appear on the ears. After three weeks, the ears should be ready. You should begin checking them for ripeness as soon as the silks appear. To do this, simply pull back a small portion of the husk and stab a kernel with your nail. If liquid comes out, the eras are ready to go.

While all of your ears will likely not be ready for harvest at the same time, those growing on the same plant will always ripen all at once. If you notice that any of your silks are completely dried out or a yellow or green color, they may be past their prime.

The only exception to this is in ornamental or popping corn. If you are growing these varieties, you will want to leave them on the stalks to dry until the first frost. This will allow them to harden and be preserved for an extended period of time.

Preserving Corn

Preserving corn allows you to enjoy the flavors of summer all the way into late winter. There are several ways you can preserve corn, but keep in mind that it can last for several weeks if refrigerated and not preserved in any other way.

There are several other good ways to hang on to the delicious flavors of corn. Whatever you choose to do, you should always clean and blanch your corn before beginning the preservation process.

Blanching helps your vegetables stay fresher for longer, and can be done by placing your corn in boiling water for about seven to eight minutes. Cool the ears in ice water and allow them to dry before cutting off kernels or continuing with your preservation.

Canning corn is a great option for slightly immature corn, as it tends to brown during canning. You don’t need to blanch for this method of preservation, as you will be using a pressure canner which will cook the corn as it cans it.

You can fit about four and a half pounds of corn per quart, but make sure you only select ears with fully mature kernels. If so desired, you can also pickle corn, which will allow you to can it using a simpler, easier-to-use water bath canner.

Many people also freeze corn. You can freeze any variety of mature corn, just remember to blanch it first. When stored in freezer-safe packaging, you can store frozen corn (ideally, cut off the cob) for up to a year before it begins to lose its freshness.

Once you’ve grown, harvested, and preserved it, there are so many ways to consume corn. Eat it fresh off the cob, or use it atop a salad. Creamed corn, corn fritters, and corn casserole, as well as dozens of soups and salsas are also fantastic uses for corn.

No matter how you choose to eat it, corn is a fantastic crop that should be included in every gardener’s plot – no matter how big or small it may be.

The post How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Corn appeared first on The Homesteading Hippy.

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