Catching Up


It’s been a whirlwind of activity around here over the last few weeks.  I’m very excited to continue discussing the Homestead Vision and Action plan that is paralleling the decisions I am making for my new homestead, but today I’d like to take some time just to catch up and let you know how things are going.

In preparation for our move, I have been reducing the size of my flock.  We need to build a new coop on the West Virginia property, move the chickens over, and clean up their yard and coop so that I can sell my current home.  Buyers probably won’t take kindly to chicken poop on the porch, so my chickens will have to move soon.  However, because I am planning to expand the flock once we’ve moved, I am looking forward to replacing the chickens I am losing now with more chickens and more breeds – yes, chicken math! (Insert slightly crazed laughter here. 🙂 )


We had a rough patch a month ago or so where days of heavy rain were followed by hard freezes.   My smaller coop, which I had hoped not to have to use this winter, was not well-ventilated or insulated and some of the cockerels living in that pen were frost-bitten.  It has reinforced what I already knew: humidity + cold – (pocket of still air + ventilation) = frostbite.  The experience has already informed my planning for the new (colder!) homestead.  More on that later.


I don’t generally like using petroleum products, so I rubbed the cockerels’ combs with rendered lard instead of Neosporin or Vaseline.  The fat did seem to help keep the combs moisturized although it was too late to prevent frostbite.  I mixed in some lavender essential oil as an antibiotic.  Everyone is healing up okay, and I have been watching for any sign of illness.  The blackened tips are falling off, and hopefully they will be just that much more resilient next winter.


On the positive side, we’ve been getting many more eggs.  It seems our egg production always steps up a notch after the first week of February.  The day length must just hit a tipping point around that time at our latitude.  I love having an abundance of fresh eggs in the house.  It makes me feel very self-sufficient.


We took possession of our new home on Sunday, so we drove over to take a look.  The amount of snow there is absolutely amazing: There is almost nothing on the ground until you get to about 3500 feet and then – wham! – you’re in a winter wonderland.  Can you believe we actually have snowshoe hares on our property in West Virginia?  Apparently they can live above 3300 feet there – and we are at 3800.

There’s a million other things underway as well.  How about you?  Anyone working on anything big at home?  Planning any big changes for this year?


22 thoughts on “Catching Up

  1. The new homeplace should be getting a ‘slight’ dusting over the next couple of days… giggle giggle snicker snicker. ;^) That is one good looking boy on the porch railing, I’m trying to judge his spurs – do I know where he came from? When you put your coops and henhouses together, stay away from metal roofing if you can, just sayin’. Hatching EOs like crazy here, going to be a fun spring!

    • No kidding! My dad and husband took the snowblower up there one weekend to clear away the 3+ feet of accumulated stuff from the winter. We came back the next weekends – and there was 3+ feet of snow. Impossible, perhaps, but true.

      That boy is from your eggs. He was borderline between the lighter male color and “cinnamon-sprinkled” female color as a chick, so he grew out here. He’s actually the rooster I went with when I sold the EOs as a flock. I liked his color, personality, build, and head. I think he’ll do really well with those girls. Of course, I’ll need to start over sometime this year or next spring, depending on how things go. But they went to a great home, and it will make it easier for me to move.

  2. Wow, I never thought the eastern states would get more snow than we do! (We’ve got maybe 2″ on the ground… extreme southwestern CO). We had problems in our coop with frostbite early on this February – the cold was extra frigid. I have a 12’x12′ coop with a heat lamp and over a foot of insulating straw and ‘stuff’ on their floor, plus nearly 2 dozen birds and they still got it. I used Vaseline afterwards too, and it’s so gross… it’s good to know there are other alternatives, but instead of lard, which I think might attract mice, I might try bag balm next year. The lavender idea is a good one too!
    This is my 2nd year with chickens and I have 5 old non-layers and 5 too-many roosters to decide what to do with. SO…..I’d like to ask, how will you be reducing your flock?

    • I’ve reduced by selling birds. I was able to sell my Basque Hens (which I will begin with again soon) as a breeding flock, and I can usually find homes for cockerels through Craigslist, people I know through poultry, and local poultry sales if I am willing to wait a long time to find a place for them. I am holding on to my older girls because it is harder to find a place for them and they are still laying. In the near future, I am going to have to start eating extra birds just for the sheer economics of it.

  3. Changes coming! Yes, I plan on trying some hydroponic farming this year. Raise some fish and use their waste water to grow some veggies. I’m also thinking about raising some chickens due to some of your influence and the joy you get from having them. Best of luck with your new homestead. Sincerely, Gil

    • That sounds awesome, Gil. I’ve seen some of those systems, and they are very cool. I absolutely do love having chickens and highly recommend them! Definitely a great source of enjoyment and good, homegrown and healthy protein. Thank you, Gil!

  4. We are expanding our coop. We have 3 pens and 5 breeds. We also have planted the first garden since the drought started 3 years ago. Very excited!

      • We have Polish, ameracuna, Welsummer, Cream Legbar, ducks, and guinea fowl. The last two broke into my garden.grrr…lol. I’ll fix them. Chicken wire and hot wire.

      • That is hilarious! I would love to have ducks and guineas. It sounds like you have a gorgeous variety of chickens! Beautiful. I drool over Cream Legbars like everyone, of course. I love the Welsummers I have had – intelligent, sensible birds with good instincts, beautiful feathering, dark, speckled eggs. Ameraucanas are so hawkish and lay such lovely eggs. I haven’t kept any Polish, but the white eggs round out your basket. Beautiful!

  5. Lots of big exciting things going on for me. This past summer we bought a 30 acre farm property that we plan to renovate completely over the next 5-10 years as our budget allows.( The farmhouse has major structural problems and needs to be torn down and rebuilt) It’s only 5 min from our current home and halfway from our house and the kids school so we have easy access to the property on a daily basis. Needless to say, I’m following you homestead vision and action plan with great interest. My big goal with the farm this year is to make a sizable portion of the pasture/fields “chicken safe” for free ranging. I’m also going to try my hand at raising turkeys for the first time this year also since I have so much more room for them on the farm.

    • 30 acre farm – FANTASTIC! It sounds like a huge undertaking, but so convenient and definitely worth the investment! Making a large area of pasture safe will be a challenge. It seems like some places get hit all the time while others just don’t, even with the same predators in the area. Where I am now, we have every Eastern predator there is with a wild, forested ridge behind our property, but we’ve been able to free range without incident for over two years. I am hoping our luck holds at the new place, but I am thinking about electric fencing if we have difficulties.

    • Thanks, Leigh! I love having a mix of colors in the egg basket. Brown eggs are really my favorite – and they can range so much in color from pinkish purples to dark, speckled umbers – but I like having some others mixed in as well. I would love to have a few bright blue layers and a few dark-egg laying Marans.

  6. I don’t envy your winters. My husband used to work for VEPCO in the substation division and had to go to Mt. Storm, WVA. He told me it was near Snowshoe. He had to work in quite frigid temperatures so much so that they could only work outside for 10-15 minutes at a time and then change shifts. Might want to consider a generator and a snuggly place for your birds. Good luck and I hope you enjoy your new homestead.

    • Thankfully, our home will be heated with wood primarily. The coop will be nice and thick, so the insulation, deep litter, and shared body heat should help the chickens out. It’s zone 5b, so the temperature isn’t likely to get lower than -15 at night in the winter. It’s just like New England where many people do keep chickens. I think they will be okay, although I am looking in to some passive solar heat ideas. My husband used to work as a land surveyor outside during winter nearby, and he says your husband was very lucky – they worked outside all day! Thanks, Barbara!

      • So long as they’re dry and out of the wind, they should be okay, but I’d skip on the mediterranean breeds.

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