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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Schedule for the Kids

Worried about keeping the kids active this summer?  Here is a schedule that might help you out.  Included are ideas for each day with the kids this summer.  It includes an activity for each day for summer break in June, July, and August.  The format can be modified and activities are broad to hit all ages.  I also linked resources that might be helpful.  Outdoor activities and more will help your children stay healthy, engaged, and active this summer.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Raising Chickens: What I Wish I Knew Right Away

7 Week Old Chickens
Here's what I would have done different with my flock and setup if I knew then what I know now.  Raising poultry goes much smoother after you have learned some tips so I'm going to share my experience so you don't make the same mistakes that I did. Timing, set-up, and coop design can make raising chickens easier.  Here are some things that I learned the last few weeks.


In Minnesota the time you buy chickens matters.  This spring has been unseasonably cold.  Chickens need to be kept in a warm area until they have feathers.  We bought our chicks in early April when we had a warm streak.  Then a cold streak hit us for weeks with temperatures below freezing.  We kept the chickens in the garage with a heat lamp.  By the end of April it was still too cold for them to be outside.  The chickens started tipping over their water.  I would find droppings on top of the watering station.  The large tote was not enough space for them so we transferred them to the largest tote we had.  They still tipped over the watering station from perching on top of it.  One reason we got chicks in April was because we wanted them to start laying eggs before it got too cold.  If they are too cold in winter they will start laying later.  If I got chicks again I would definitely get them in May.


Prepare For Predators
The set-up needs to factor in predators.  I love the setup of having the chicken coop and run inside the garden.  So far this seems to be working great.  We planned this out because we have many predators around like coyotes.  We also have many hawks so we fenced the top of the run.  Tunnels made from chicken wire created safe passages for the chickens, but they need to be tight to the ground with stakes or the chickens will escape.

A few things that I learned here is to use 1/4 inch hardware cloth and not chicken wire, enclose run with 2 x 4s, and compost.  The chicken wire that we build the run with will not keep out the weasel that recently visited.  The chickens escaped between the top and side of the run so a run with sides enclosed by 2x4s would love this problem.  Finally, I started dumping the wood chips and droppings in the woods and then realized that composting it would be perfect for my garden.

New Coop Plans

While our current coop works, I had an opportunity to have my dream coop built because the carpentry class at the school I work at needed an end of the year project.  I came up with a plan and picked up materials for them to start building.  We factored in ease of cleaning, storage, warmth, safety from predators, ventilation in summer, 2-4 square feet per chicken, nesting box, enough run space, and easy access to check on chickens.  If you live in Minnesota and need a coop and run for 4 or less chickens let me know.  Stay tuned for the plans as it is currently under construction.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Setting Up The Chicken Coop

With the cold Minnesota weather the chickens are still in the garage with the heat lamp, but soon the weather will warm up.  Over the past few weeks we have been trying to create the best setup for the chicken coop.  Here is what we came up with.
About 4 Weeks Old

We decided to buy a used coop with enough room for four chickens.  I cleaned and painted it.  Then we created a chicken run with stakes and chicken wire.  We made a gate and and have a spot clipped in the back for easy cleaning.

The garden enclosed by another fence will go around the chicken coop.  This should provide a little extra security from predators.  The chickens enter and exit through a tunnel from the center run through the garden to the outer fence. My next step is to come up with the best composting method to use the chicken waste on the garden.
Chicken Coop Set-Up

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I'm Chicken Crazy... I Don't Care... And Here's Why You Should Be Too

Buying Chicks

Two weeks ago today we took home our four baby chicks who were only a few days old.  Before bringing them home I did a lot of research on chickens, and there is a lot to learn.  We wanted chickens that were good egg layers and friendly with children.  The kids were so excited to pick the chicks out so we went to a local nursery to pick them up for $5-$7 each.  You can get chicks straight from the hatchery for much less but we wanted the experience of picking them out and we live near to the nursery so the drive home wouldn't add stress.  We brought home a Rhode Island Red because of their exceptional egg laying ability.  We also have a Golden Wyandotte, a Cochin, and a Barred Rock.
3 day old chicks

2 week old chicks


It's only been two weeks but chickens don't require a lot of preparation.  We bought a coop on Facebook Garage Sale. We bought feed with high protein, a feeder, a heat lamp, a water feeder, and cedar chips.  We started with a regular size tote but the water feeder kept tipping over.  It literally was insane because every time I checked on them the water was empty and the entire tote was soaked.  They needed more space so my husband dumped out his jumbo hunting tote and it became their new home.  It has worked great the past week.  They have more room to play and the water doesn't get tipped over.

Things to Look Out For

A few days after we brought the chicks home I noticed the little Rhode Island Red Shaking.  He didn't look good.  I picked him up and noticed a dark clump stuck to his butt.  Little chicks can get pasty butt from stress or the cold.  The first week we had them the weather was cold.  They need to be kept warm (90 degrees).  The chicks were kept in an insulated garage with a heat lamp, but the stress and cold may have contributed to pasty but.  I brought him in a kept running warm water on his bottom until it came off.  Then I blow dried him and used a q-tip to dab olive oil on his bottom.  I also put a few drops of apple cider vinegar in their water.  I'm not sure where I heard to do this, but it worked.  He seems to be doing much better.

Now it is becoming warmer and at two weeks old we are enjoying bringing them outside to play.  We are trying to introduce the dogs to them at a distance but have not brought them too close.  One barks at them and licks his lips which makes us a tad nervous.  I cleaned the coop with bleach water a few days ago and painted it.  Soon I plan to move the chicks to the coop with straw when it warms up.

Why You Should Get Chicks

Chicks are so much fun, and such a good experience for the kids. They have already provided our family with so much happiness.  Taking care of our chicks is one of my new favorite outdoor activities.  Once you experience it you will know why.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

5 Spring Activities For Kids

1) Kite Flying on a Lake

Take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and get out on the lake before the fishermen and water skiers. We like flying our 5 foot shark kite out on the lake when there is no one else in the lake. We got it at the biggest toy store I have been to in Kellogg, MN.

2) Puddle Jumping

It's the little things in life and sometimes we forget about that. I remember the rejuvating feeling of jumping in the puddles.  My kids could jump in their rubber boots for hours.

3) Listen to the birds

Spring is the best time of year to be outside and listen to the birds without mosquitoes. 

4) Start Garden Indoors

Plant seeds indoor and transplant outdoors in May through June.

5) Chickens

Even if you live in city limits you may be able to have chickens. Sounds like a good lesson for kids, and I heard the eggs are the best. We don't have chickens yet but I'm thinking this is something we want to do. I'll keep you posted. Anyone have chickens?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Does The Ice Say?

Ever wonder what that cracking sound is when you are out on the lake? Many of us hear the ice crack and fear we will break through the ice. The ice actually makes a cracking sound when it is forming. Check out the video below to hear what ice forming sounds like. There is no editing done to the video. It's all natural. Who needs music when you have nature?