Hatching Chicks Using Incubators vs Broody Hens, Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed several points comparing the relative benefits of using incubators for hatching chicks vs. doing things the natural way - that is, assigning the job to a broody. Today I am going to cover some more factors influencing the chicken owner's decision on this matter.

How Cows Make Milk

We take it for granted that cows and other mammals make milk for their babies and for us. The process is truly a miracle of nature. What follows is a brief explanation of exactly how cows make milk.

7 Tips for Beginning Chicken Keepers

This post is for people thinking about, or just beginning, to keep a backyard flock of chickens. Perhaps you’re like us — you wish you had chickens and feel that your sustainable, self-reliant life wouldn’t be complete without some hens clucking and pecking around your back yard. However, you’re a little intimidated by actually jumping in. Here’s my two cents, after several years of raising chickens under our belts.

The ABCs of Homesteading: G is for 'Goats'

This is the fifth blog post in an alphabetically organized introduction to homesteading. It covers considerations for how to raise goats on your homestead, including research strategies, space planning, herd management, the fundamentals of milking goats, pasture development, and making cheese and yogurt.

Starting a Rotational-Grazing Goat-Rental Service, Part 2: When Things Go 'Baahd'

When starting a farm business, make sure you know your states rules and regulations. You can contact your states Department of Agriculture and/or your county Cooperative Extension Agency for info. Make sure you know what you need to know about the basic safety and maintenance of goats to begin with: What are their needs when it comes to health, shelter, food, etc., and what are concerns such as plant toxins and predators?

Starting a Rotational Grazing Goat-Rental Service, Part 1

Goat rentals are a good way to "value-add" your goat herd, as well as provide additional rotational-grazing space. But, sometimes you run into problems. This blog series about how we started our rotational-grazing goat-rental service wil outline what some of those problems are and how to deal with them.

Renewing Old-World Skills with a Modern-Day Twist

The revitalization of the “Back-to-Basics” movement has brought with it the old-world skills that the pioneers once used to survive, but with a modern-day twist. While no longer essential to survival, these skills are now being used by modern homesteaders to gain their freedom from dependence.

Learning About Raising Chicks from a Mama Hen

We can argue about how to raise chicks all day, but when it actually comes down to how mama hen and nature do it, no one is going to tell her how she can and can’t do it. Here’s what my Mama Hen is currently teaching this homesteader about raising chicks on our homestead.

Making the Ultimate Brooder Box

Having an area properly prepared for your new chicks or ducklings is important in making sure they grow up healthy and safe. For some, it is easiest to use an old dog crate or a plastic tote and outfit it for the occasion, but if you are going to be getting new poultry regularly or annually, it is often best to build a brooder specifically for raising your young birds.

'Berkie' Babies: Raising Berkshire Heritage-Breed Pigs

We just love everything about the Berkshire pig — so we decided we would raise a breeding pair and produce heritage-breed piglets. Berkshire pigs are gentle enough to pasture with other animals and can be trained to harness/lead.

How to Prepare for Raising Goats

Getting ready for goats means setting up a stall and pasture and making sure you have all the right food for them.

The ABCs of Homesteading: E is for 'Edible Landscaping'

This is the third blog post in an alphabetically organized introduction to homesteading. It covers ideas for starting an edible landscape on your homestead including: soil improvement, cover crops, perennials, attracting beneficial insects, and home-based food production.

Fun Facts About Chickens

Chickens have always been a trademark of farm life and recently have gained popularity with backyard farmers looking to take out the middleman between themselves and fresh eggs. They’re funny looking feathered friends with distinct personalities and some unusual antics you might not know about if you are just getting into poultry. Their quirky behavior can have some interesting origins.

Stories from a Goat Farm and Micro-Dairy (with Video)

You've heard of a one-horse town? Well, we are a one-goat micro-dairy! That doesn't mean we only have one goat to milk, but that our milking parlor is set up to take only one goat in at a time for feeding and milking. Here is a story about a little goat kid who wouldn't give up so, how could we?

Free-Range Chickens? No Way!

How we manage our small flock of urban chickens for maximum health and happiness for all concerned.

10 Simple Ways to Keep You Safe on Your Farm

Farm life has its risks and we don't need to add to them by acting in unsafe ways. Read more for 10 Simple Ways we follow here on Serenity Acres Farm to keep us safe.

Dirty Jobs: Cleaning Chicken Coops

Ok, the hens are off, but now it's time to clean the coop. Yup...my favorite. Get on your grubbies and join the dust bowl!

Jefferson’s Monticello Chickens

Monticello’s gardens and orchards are world-famous for the fruit and vegetable production. Interestingly, among all his writings, there is very little included by Mr. Jefferson about keeping poultry. But what breeds of chickens might have been on Mulberry Row

Managing Chickens in Mobile Coops on Pasture

Spring has sprung - time to get the hens into their summer mobile chicken coops. A nice afternoon project, right? Well, you know how those "5-minute jobs" go — they always seem to multiply. Learn how we manage chickens in mobile coops on pasture.

A Look at Goose Eggs

A rare treat, goose eggs are prized for their large yolks and tough shells.

Keeping Dairy Goats on Rotational Pasture 24/7 to Reduce Internal Parasites

Rotational grazing can reduce the parasite load of goats, but this is difficult to accomplish with a dairy herd which needs to return to the same location every day for milking. On our homestead, we developed a rotational shelter and management system that allowed us to keep the herd on pasture 24/7 during the warm season. This significantly reduced our reliance on chemical de-wormers and helped us feel better about the quality of our milk and our soils.

Working with Nature to Build Organic Soil, Part 5: Sustainable Grazing

Ruminants have been maligned for causing desertification and worsening climate change, but when we emulate the way nature designed herds to graze, the result is a rapid improvement in soil, forage and animal health. Our planet's health is also improved because rotational and mob-grazing takes atmospheric carbon and stores it as organic topsoil.

Install a Solar Gate Opener to Save Energy and Money

An automatic gate opener is a great example of how simple and convenient it can be to use solar panels to power all of its tools and equipment. You can also get a 30% federal residential tax credit toward the cost of a new solar powered gate opener, accessories and installation, as long as you do it before December of this year.

Raising and Slaughtering Livestock: Legal and Practical Considerations

For the uninitiated, slaughtering animals is a repulsive thought. Our forebears thought nothing of it — and neither would people today if we were not so alienated from our own food production. But this is not to say that we should be unfeeling about our animals. Humane treatment is a moral imperative, and also ensures meat quality: Stressing animals at slaughter time compromises the meat in numerous ways — even making it inedible.

Concerning Dehorning Mature Goats

Goat packers who have goats with horns that have become an issue around the home or farm is that, depending on age and sexual hormone levels, there may be options less dire than surgical complete dehorning or banding at the base of the horn, which compromises your pack goat’s defensive capability and confidence on the trail. Certainly talk to at least two vets before committing to any plan of action regarding full removal of horns from goats over the age of 6 months old.

Fun Facts About Eggs

Easy to produce and good for your health, eggs are a universal food. Here are some things you might not know about this versatile food.

What to Consider When Building a Chicken Coop: Sizing and Location

Building a chicken coop is a big deal. It is something that will remain on your property for years to come. It is the beginning of turning your yard into your own ‘starter homesteader.’ But wait — there are a few things you should take into consideration before you break ground on your new friends’ home.

Why We Fence-Line Wean Our Calves and Why You Should, Too

Spring is a common time to wean calves, but as any animal caregiver knows there's more to weaning than just separating the calf from its dam. When we wean calves, our preparation tasks must start several weeks earlier. We fence line wean to lower their stress and give calves a healthy start.

Solar Backyard Chicken-Coop Building Plans

A community of smaller portable chicken coops are better than one, big, stationary one. Download building plans for a solar heated design that’s also great in hot climates.

Sheep Shearing Day

The sheep are puffy balls of wool, but spring is coming, and with it one of the "rights of passage" to a new season - shearing!

Cordwood Chicken Coops

Cordwood chicken coops are the ideal method of protecting your birds and providing warmth and security. Enjoy these pictures of unique cordwood chicken coops throughout North America.

Brooders for Waterfowl

Find out the unique needs of ducklings and goslings and how best to care for waterfowl.

DIY Off-Grid Chicken-Watering System

For the same cost as one more indoor waterer, we built an outdoor system with 10 times the capacity that won’t require much extra work from us to keep up.

Harvesting Animals Humanely

Harvesting animals is not our favorite part of homesteading, but it is a necessary part. We think the aspect of harvesting, processing, slaughtering, and butchering provides the deepest connection with the land. It is the thing that makes a connection with food the most real.

Feather-Pecking Solutions

Feather pecking among your flock is a situation that requires your immediate attention. The confidence to address the root cause of the problem is essential.

Coping with Animal Deaths on the Farm

Last year was the year from hell. Literally. We lost 7 baby goats, 4 llamas, 2 dogs, and 1 cat due to different causes. But I did have victories. I'll be talking about what I learned here and in my next blogs.

Dealing With Outside Criticism as a Homesteader

Sometimes living off the land can be pretty counter-cultural. My decision to start raising meat rabbits on my homestead was met with a lot of criticism from others. Learn how homesteaders can deal with unwanted (and sometimes unwarranted) remarks.

About Livestock Guardian Dogs

Livestock Guardian Dogs, or LGDs, have been used by shepherds and farmers for centuries. Bred and trained to instinctively protect their herd from predators, LGDs are an alternative to attempting to hunt or scare off threats to your farmyard. Read on to learn the basics for how LGDs work and tips for choosing the right livestock guardian for your homestead.

Building a Hoop Coop

Because our flock is now running around 40 birds, we are in dire need of an updated coop for our hens and their roosters.

Tips for Training Goats to Electric Net Fences

Portable fences made of electrifiable netting allow practical movement and protection of small livestock on pasture. It’s important to use and maintain the nets properly, and to train goats to respect the barrier for their own safety and security. Well-managed net fencing offers significant benefits to the health of herds and pastures, and to the homesteader’s peace of mind.

Your Horse Can Read Your Facial Expressions

Research shows that domesticated horses can read and understand human facial expressions. This finding means that the mood you’re in when you go to work with a horse is going to affect how the horse feels. Learn tips to deal with this amazing trait in your horses.

How to Breed Chickens Using the Clan-Mating System

Poultry expert Harvey Ussery describes how he breeds his heritage chickens. He relies on what he calls a “clan-mating system,” which reduces his time spent keeping written records but still maintains clean, genetically diverse breeding lines.

Hoof and Leg Issues in Pack Goats

Goats need sound feet, knees and legs to carry a pack in the backcountry. Here are some problems and solutions that pack goats experience with their legs, including proper goat hoof care.

The Homesteader's Journey

If you have ever considered the change of lifestyle to be more self-sufficient, here are some of our thoughts and experiences from this journey.

The ABCs of Homesteading: D is for Ducks

This is the second blog post in an alphabetically organized introduction to homesteading. It covers how and why to raise Pekin ducks for a quick and easy introduction to home butchery, food preservation, egg production, and soil improvement.

Considerations When Building a Chicken Coop

Building a chicken coop is a fun exercise and there are hundreds of designs out there that can ensure your coop is both functional and unique. Taking a few things into consideration before building can help you avoid a re-build in the future.

The Joys of Raising Ducks

Raising ducks not only provides you with the opportunity to have fresh eggs and meat available, but also provides you with hours of enjoyment. From chasing minnows to quacking their greetings to a caretaker, ducks can be fun to own!

Purchasing and Managing Pastured Pigs

Tim Rohrer talks about what he's learned while managing the pastured pigs at Joel Salatin’s farm and shares a few things to consider before purchasing your own pigs.

ArkV Adventures, Part 2

So, the gals are on their way to New Hampshire to pick up heritage cows, and so far, it's going smoothly — but there are bumps in the road ahead, so hang on! (Spoiler alert: They all made it home fine: two cows, two pigs, and two galls.)

4 Reasons to Drink Goat's Milk

Not many people in our sphere of influence drink goat’s milk, so we have a great opportunity to educate those we come in contact with about the benefits. These are our four main reasons why we drink goat's milk.

ArkV Adventures, Part 1: Transporting Livestock in Winter

The farm hasn't had cows in 50 years — but Kara wanted cows. Not any old cows; no, a special heritage kind. nd where were these cows? In the mountains of New Hampshire, half a continent away! Time for a road trip to pick up and transport livestock in winter!

Preparing Your Homestead Rabbits for Winter

Whether it’s as simple as switching our water bottles for crocks, or something more complicated, like stacking hay around your hutches — here are a few quick tips on how to keep your homestead rabbits warm this winter.

Becoming (Accidental) Urban Farmers

An urban homestead is as unique as the individuals who own the property. Our homestead developed slowly. In fact, my wife likes to joke that we are “accidental homesteaders.” We did not buy our village home nestled on 1/16th of an acre with the goal of becoming urban farmers, it just sort of happened, out of necessity.

A Slice of Winter Homesteading Life (with Videos)

Mark pulled out the camera this week to share a few short videos about our winter garden and goats. Explore our December garden and goat pasture in these short homesteading videos.

Lessons Learned from Childhood on a Farm

Time well spent on my grandmother’s farm taught me lessons that I have carried with me throughout my entire life. What I learned there even inspired me to pursue a homestead lifestyle for myself, working right beside my husband as we learn to be more self-sufficient.

Choosing Hay for Your Dairy Goats

How should you choose good hay for your dairy goats? Hay should be composed of plants goats like to eat, cut and cured properly for best nutritional content and storage life, and free of unwanted chemicals and weed seeds. If you can, buy hay fresh from the field of a trusted source, where you can inspect it and its growing conditions.

15 Fun Facts About Geese

Did you know that "goose" is actually the term for female geese? How about the origins of European geese? Here are a few things you might not know about these elegant farmyard birds.

Life and Death on the Farm

Death on a farm is unavoidable as life itself. These stories share lessons learned, words of wisdom and how a farmer can prepare for the inevitable when raising livestock.

The USDA’s Latest Dumb Idea to Combat Avian Influenza

Is it okay to let the fans and air conditioners go off in a shed with 20,000 chickens inside? Of course not, and poultry growers have been prosecuted and fined for such negligence. Yet, the USDA as of September 18, 2015, has sanctioned this action as an appropriate "depopulation" measure in an avian influenza-infected poultry barn.

Know Your Egg Shed, Part 1

An egg shed could be defined as: the eggs produced within a certain distance that go to a specific place. That place could be your kitchen. In chicken-friendly, local food-supportive, low carbon-footprint communities, backyard flocks and small family farms produce eggs. The takeaway message is that egg shed needs for a family, or a community, are relatively easy to meet. A household or a community can somewhat easily be protein self-sufficient.

Gentle Heritage-Livestock Breeds for New Homesteaders

Starting with gentle livestock breeds is key to success for new homesteaders. Scottish Highland cattle and Dorper/Katahdin cross sheep proved easy-to-handle and good producers for a retired Missouri couple.

How to Milk Your Cows in 30 Minutes

Milking your cows is a repetitive chore. Steve Judge, a long-time micro dairy farmer details his process which demonstrates through efficiencies how you can do it in less than 30 minutes.

A History of Geese as Guard Animals and for Weed Control

Noisy, gregarious birds, geese have been part of human history since the Ancient Egyptians. Their uses are wide ranging, and their entertainment value should not be overlooked. While I've spoken to many people who are skeptical about geese on their farms, universally those who have added geese to their barnyard are delighted by these comical and helpful fowl.

Feeding Greens and Other Garden Materials to Dairy Goats

Many garden vegetable crops produce excess leafy material perfect for feeding goats. Using these materials as milking snacks helps reduce the need for purchased grain & hay while recycling these waste products on the homestead.

Cows Without Legs, Part 2: Forage Management

Here is the second half of my strangely-titled discourse on grass cattle management. I have come to the conclusion that on a correctly managed enterprise, cattle should appear not to have legs (hidden within tall grasses). In Part 1, I discussed the animal side of this philosophy. Now I’ll continue with the forage aspect of it.

10 Steps for Calf Care on a Small-Herd Micro Dairy

Learn ten step to raising calves so that they will grow to become tame, calm and well-mannered cows. Steve Judge, a long-time micro dairy farmer takes us through the steps he follows on his farm.

Rude Goats

There are some goats you don't want, no matter if the price is right. In this case, the goat was free.

How to Get Started With Chicks

Raising chicks is easy as long as you pay attention to their needs for food, water, and housing. It also helps to learn their language.

Every Cow Poops: The Value of Cow Manure on the Farm

Cow manure is a key indicator of bovine health and well being. After milk, it is the most valuable thing your cows will produce. Micro-dairy expert Steve Judge explains why it pays to get comfortable with cow manure.

How Not to Keep Chickens (Know What You’re Getting Into)

A growing number of homeowners are realizing how useful chickens can be in the backyard: They offer pest control, fertilizer, comedy relief, and their business end doles out concentrated protein like a Pez dispenser. Unfortunately, novice chicken-owners can encounter problems when they expect more than chickens can deliver, either in food, companionship or general co-operation.

Three Ways to Gauge Pastured Livestock Health

Here are three easy observations you can make every day to see how your animals are performing. Use them to constantly adjust your grazing program, instead of “flying blind” until sale day or weighing. They can help you adjust paddock size or give supplemental nutrients.

Can You Really Get Goats For Free?

Author Maggie Bonham recounts the various ways she's managed to obtain free goats, including Craigslist ads and trading for chickens.

What is a Livestock Guard Dog?

Livestock guard dogs were found in a sweep of cultures from southern Europe through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia. They worked in the company of shepherds who often spent weeks on high summer pasture or on long migratory routes.

Fun Times at Goat School

Maine and Minnesota Goat Schools are over, and a great time was had by all; Janice Spaulding recaps the events and prepares for the next one is in Ohio in September.

Maple Field Milk: Full-Tilt Farming

Dairyman Nick Snelgar reflects on the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health certification process and bagging hay for winter on his UK dairy farm.

Magnificent Birds: Free-Ranging Chickens, the Threat of Hawks and Choosing Freedom Anyway

One week after moving our chickens, there now stands a chicken “duck and cover” shelter for them to dive under in the event of a hawk attack. It’s not perfect as a strategy, and the hawk may still get a chicken or two. But these magnificent birds crave a greater measure of freedom than they have in their chicken tractors, and I aim to see that they get it.

Chicken House Tips

Suggestions for the interior of your chicken house, including; feed storage, access to nest boxes, dividing the chicken-living area, and making a loft for storing bedding material.

Farmers in Training: A City Dweller Gets Lessons in Harvesting, Milking and the Meaning of Life

The place I call home these days is The FarmSchool, a fertile 180-acre strip of ridge top in Athol, where 15 student-farmers are spending a year learning the ins and outs of growing food, managing forests, and raising animals for meat. I arrived at the farm in October, just as the leaves were reaching their peak brilliance. The Farm School — which offers three-day programs for schoolchildren, a summer camp, a full-time middle school, and the apprenticeship program I’m in — takes us through all seasons of farming, weaving together class work and on-farm training.

Who Let the Cows Out?!

Today I gave the cows all a dish with a zinc mix, copper mix, and sulfur mix. I do this about once a week to see if they need to free choice those particular minerals. Today they liked the sulfur and zinc but did not eat much of the copper. It is amazing how farm animals know what they need and will take it if they need it.

Dehorning Cows and Trimming Cows' Feet

We had a dehorning and RE-castrating day at the farm today. We had to make the very difficult decision to dehorn three heifers that had not been properly dehorned as babies, which is when this should be done.

Organic Living During World War II

Wendy Albright remembers visiting her grandparent's farm where practicing organic living was the preferred way of life; they exercised natural crop cultivation, gathered fresh chicken eggs, canned both vegetables and meat and the term "eating like a thrasher" became a reality.