It’s officially Fall here on the homestead and with the cooler temperatures, it’s the perfect time to start working on some outdoor projects. It’s also the time to start planning for Spring, which seems a bit crazy but chicks hatched now will be laying by early spring and the lack of demand for fertile eggs makes this the perfect time to hatch out chicks that I can keep for my own breeding programs or sell as started pullets later on. Fall is the perfect time to start all the background work necessary for spring projects. Since last year was a learning and growing year for the homestead I’m really hoping that the lessons we learned will make the upcoming spring really successful. We definitely learned a lot about our local market and what is in demand in the area. With those lessons, I changed a lot of our breeding programs and I’m really hoping it pays off. Here is what our October homesteading has looked like!
October Homesteading & Fall Fun
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We sold all three of the big guys this month. It’s been a bit strange not to see them out in the pasture but it’s definitely taken some pressure off the feed bill! Those boys ate a lot! They also taught us a good bit about raising turkeys and for that, I’ll always be grateful but in the end, we didn’t need 3 Toms eating food over the winter and starting to fight with one another come spring. We kept our white female and the three bourbon reds (I’m pretty certain at least two of those are male too) for the spring. Hopefully, I will be able to hatch, sell and keep some poults in the future.
Most of the chickens have been molting and slowing down on egg-laying. This is completely normal for this time of year and while you can add lights to a coop to help increase egg-laying during the winter months I actually like to give them a bit of a break during this time. However, they are still laying enough that our family has more than enough eggs to eat and I was able to gather some for hatching. I have been collecting the darkest of my Black Copper Maran eggs to hatch for our next generation and we have started our Olive egger program.
Olive eggers are basically a mixed breed chicken. These chickens are created by combining a dark brown layer (Black Copper Marans or Welsummers) with a blue layer or green layer (Ameraucana, Crested Cream Legbar, or Easter Egger for the most part). While they will not breed true from generation to generation like a purebred chicken will they do add a fun bit of color to your egg basket and it’s a great way to teach and play with genetics. My oldest daughter has decided to take on this project and we hatched out 10 chicks for her to start with. I guess I have to build another pen now!
In other chicken news, my Blue/Black/Splash Ameraucana have started to lay and I’m pretty happy with the way they’ve grown up. There are a few things I want to improve on in future generations – smaller combs on my males and more of a focus on bluer eggs but overall I’m really pleased! If you remember our summer round-up here are the two roosters I picked for the breeding program – Blue 2 and Black 1.
Our rabbit program has probably seen the most amount of growth this summer. This wasn’t exactly planned but an opportunity presented itself that I would have been foolish not to take. We have added three new hutches (a total of 9 holes) to our rabbity and a new trio of breeding rexes. I’m really excited about the opportunity this gives me to expand and improve our rabbits.
We also welcomed the first of our fall litters for the year with two more expecting and two more about to be bred. There will be lots of baby bunnies running about this fall and winter! I recently received my copy of the American Rabbit Breeders Association standard of perfection and have been researching like crazy. I also purchased a program called Evans to help me keep track of pedigrees and other rabbitry statistics. Now that I have more than just a couple of pairs to keep track of this type of program will be highly beneficial. It also lets me generate and print out their pedigrees in a fraction of the time it took for me to do it with a photoshop template and paper records like I did last year.
Reorganized the Feed Room
This was driving me crazy! The feed room always felt unorganized and messy because livestock feed bags are annoying to store in a limited space. I would love to have the ability to store feed in bulk in nice tidy pallets somewhere but I don’t. They all had to be leaned up against the side of the wall and they frequently got knocked over while trying to move other things around which led to wasted feed. Also, they were susceptible to moisture if the roof leaked and pests which luckily the cats are pretty good at keeping away but I’d prefer not to worry about that at all.
So I bought a bunch of Rubbermaid tubs and redid the entire set-up. Each tub can hold about 80Ib of feed which is more than enough for what I normally have on hand, I even had an extra tub that I can use to store extra feeders, water bottles, and other misc items out of the way.
Is this a permanent solution? Probably not, I’m sure that some pests, if they were really determined could chew through these tubs but they are better than the bags and work for now. Hopefully, they will last long enough for my budget to be able to support a more heavy-duty option like these stackable Vittle Vaults. Sometimes your current solution doesn’t have to be the perfect solution – it just has to work until you can upgrade.
Family & Lifestyle
Of course, since it was October there was quite a bit of Halloween fun to be had! Covid cases in our area have dropped pretty dramatically in the past few months and so we felt safe taking the kids to an outdoor Halloween festival this year. they probably got less candy than they did when I tried to make up for the lack of trick or treating last year but they had a lot of fun and as always enjoyed their costumes. No super fancy facepaint this year because the masks would have messed it up but that’s okay!
We also processed our first deer of the season this month which refilled the freezer a little bit. Hopefully, we will get a couple more in the next few weeks. While processing deer 100% ourselves is a lot of work we didn’t have to buy much meat at all last year which really helped out with the grocery bill and hopefully this summer and spring we can produce enough to cut that back even further. If I can get a handle on the gardening here then maybe I can shave a bit off the vegetable grocery bill too.
Things I Still Need To Do!
Fence in the Bigger Pasture – This was supposed to be one of our major focuses over the spring and summer and something we would really like to get finished sooner rather than later but things didn’t quite work out. Fencing and post prices are still crazy high. We are hoping things come down a bit come fall and honestly, digging fence post holes in the fall sounds better than doing it in the summer anyway! It’ll happen eventually!
Work On The Farm Website – While the blog will always be my main focus the farm requires a website of its own where we can advertise items and animals we have for sale as well as showcase our breeding flocks and hatching eggs. I’m considering working this into the blog somehow, as a separate page rather than a whole new domain. We’ll have to see how it goes! I’m still toying with designs and backend stuff, however, so progress was made over the summer homesteading months and hopefully will continue as we move into fall.
Learn to Tan Hides – I have all the materials and it finally not freezing outside so I really have no excuse not to get started on this one. I am going to thaw this hide out and get started on this ASAP.
Redo My Brooding Area – Since we are currently in a hatching and brooding lull I would really like to redo the area so that’s it’s more convenient to move around in and clean. What we have now works fine but it’s more time-consuming than it has to be and I know I can make it better. I have already started pricing materials! This is in the works! I might have hatched chicks before it was completely done but…oh well?
Build Olive Eggers Pens – This is already in progress. I am repurposing some pallets and scrap wood to create two breeding pens for the olive egger project. I will likely have to buy some roofing and wire to complete the pens but I’m happy to be upcycling a good portion of it.