Healthy food for coop-bound chickens

We currently have a small flock of 5 Rhode Island Red hens and 1 Plymouth Rock rooster. My husband and I raised the hens from day old chicks. When one of our immature hens went missing, we picked up our young rooster for free from a local farm. He’s kept the ladies safe ever since.

Since no one felt like going broody last spring, I’ve decided to buy some more chicks this spring. In Maine, you must buy a minimum of 6 poultry (6 chickens, 6 ducks, 6 turkeys…), so I guess we’ll get 6 more chicks. If all goes well, we’ll have 11 hens and 1 rooster. Sounds good to me!

Our chickens won’t go out on the snow. I’ve tried opening their coop in the winter before. They take one look at the snow, clearly say “Nope!” and quickly hop away. Because of our painfully long winters, the chickens stay in their coop from November to the end of April; half the year! To keep their spirits up, I feed them sprouted wheat and sunflower seeds. They literally jump for them when I enter the coop.

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It only takes a few minutes a day and seems to keep them happy and healthy. I drilled lots of small holes in large tupperware containers from the dollar store. I keep them in our shower. Every morning I fill a large yogurt cup with wheat and sunflower seeds. I give it a little squirt of hydrogen peroxide (to inhibit mold) and fill it to the top with cool water.

20150118_000443_2_bestshotI rinse the stacked trays for a few seconds and bring the top tray out to the chickens. In the evening after work, I lay the trays on the floor of the shower and pour the soaked seeds into an empty tray. I rinse them all well and stack them back up for the morning.

I buy a 50 lb. bag of wheat and 40 lb. bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds for $34 at our local feeds store. Due to the soaking and sprouting, it doubles in weight and nutrition so I end up getting 180 lbs. of high quality feed for only $34! The chickens get one tray a day. Since I have 4 trays in rotation, the seeds are 4-5 days old and bursting with nutrients that the seeds plan to use to make leaves and begin plant life. Only all that energy goes to the chickens instead! They feed on the sprouted seeds until they can forage full time in the garden; around May.

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Begin the Soapin’ Adventure

Just this past fall I got into DIY Health and Beauty products. We didn’t have a lot of money for Christmas gifts, but I still wanted to be able to give our family special and useful gifts. There’s nothing worse than spending your hard earned money to get something for   someone that ends up collecting dust, completely forgotten in a few short weeks.

I made all natural, fragrance and dye free lip balm, lotion bars and soap. I’ll share the lip balm and lotion bar recipes later. Today is about soap!

I found a lot of soap recipes online that included ingredients I didn’t have. I didn’t want to buy all sorts of special (and expensive!) ingredients so I ended up designing my own recipe using a soap calculator. Yeah, a little crazy, I know. My husband said “For the very first soap batch you made, you just made up your own recipe?!”

I had ordered lye online. I didn’t realize that almost $9.00 for one pound was pretty expensive! I had virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and unrefined shea butter in the house. I did a little research on oils and butters in soap making and decided on

10% shea butter (it was recommended to keep shea butter under 15%)

20% coconut oil (more than 30% was said to be really harsh and drying)

70% olive oil (can be used up to 100% and it’s very gentle)

I used the Bramble Berry Soap Calculator to calculate my recipe. The cold winter air in Maine is extremely drying and my hands always suffer so I went for the maximum superfat allowed: 10%!

Here are the exact measurements I used: 280g olive oil, 80g coconut oil, 40g shea butter, 132g water, 51g lye.

I decided I wasn’t going to use any fragrance or dyes. I just wanted pure, natural, gentle soap!

I hot processed the soap since that has a shorter cure time and Christmas was right around the corner. I poured the soap batter into a wonderful silicone mold I bought online. The next day, I popped them out and what do you know….they were UGLY!2015-01-17 12.04.07

I let them sit for 2 weeks, then tried one out in the shower. It was so soft that nearly half the bar was gone by the end of my shower! My husband tried it too and said it smelled like cooked pasta (?!). What a failure. I set them aside and decided that our family members would be getting just lip balm and lotion bars….2015-01-17 12.05.15

Fast forward to now (7 weeks later) and I decided to try a bar again. Their color lightened up a bit and the “pasta” smell was pretty much gone. It’s now my favorite bar! It has a creamy lather and is the only soap I’ve washed my hands with that doesn’t leave them feeling tight and dry. So what I thought was a failure, ended up being quite a wonderful bar given enough time. 20150117_123824

Introduction

Hello all!

My name is Michelle and I’m a newly-wed homesteading wannabe in Central Maine. My husband and I are both music teachers and the happy parents of two dogs, two cats, six chickens and 30,000 bees (approximately). We live in a small ranch on 3 wooded acres. We’ve been enjoying this little slice of heaven for just over 3 years. I want to use to this blog to document our journey moving towards a more sustainable, healthy, natural and frugal lifestyle.

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Since we only have heavy clay soil, I started my garden in a raised bed. As my confidence in my gardening skills has increased, so has our allotted garden space. We started off with two 9′ x 3′ raised beds. We’re now up to four and a half (I have a small shady raised bed for growing greens).

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We have planted apples trees and blueberry bushes out front. We have two grape vines on the side yard by the chickens. Just this past fall we planted three hazelnut trees and three hardy kiwi vines. Two of the kiwi vines are ‘female’ and will produce small, smooth skinned kiwis. The other vine is our ‘male’ to pollinate the two females. He won’t produce any fruit, but will hopefully make sure the other two vines do! 20140703_174000Since all of our fruit and nut producers are young, we haven’t harvested anything from them yet. I’m looking forward to the day when we can enjoy fruit and nuts grown right in our yard!