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Neglected? I Think Not

January 9th, 2014

It seems everywhere you turn people are upset that some folks have outdoor animals. I’ve seen lots of name calling, confiscation of pets and even in some municipalities people are citing people for having outdoor pets. With proper shelter, warm bedding, water and extra feed, many animals do quite fine outside, even during the winter. We have outdoor animals, chickens, ducks, guineas, cats and even Tara spends most of her time outside. I can guarantee that they’re not being neglected, or abused, in fact they’re all happier for it, much, much happier!  These animals would be absolutely miserable if we tried to keep them inside to stay warm all winter.
animal feed 1
Tara is one happy dog when she’s out in the cold, in fact, she’s much happier the colder the weather gets.  She’s been getting extra bones and lots of the fatty pork trimmings we saved when we slaughtered our pigs. As you can see, she’s happy as a clam out in the cold munching on her goodies. The duck pond that has a stock tank heater in it is close at hand, which means she has delicious ducky water to drink (it’s her favorite kind, so much better than the fresh stuff in her heated dog bowl).
animal feed
The chickens, ducks, and guineas are also getting a nice warm meal before they roost up for the night. Remember all those potatoes I planted this past summer in the garden? I’ve been cooking them up on the wood stove and mixing them with fermented grains, dried herbs and a bit of lard as well for good measure.  Naturally, the fowl are tickled pink with these delicious meals and are rewarding me with loads of eggs.
animal feed 2
The Sweets, which is our little feral garage cat, is also spoiled rotten. We have a heated mat for her in the garage, but she refuses to sleep on it, even when the weather dips down to -20. She does however, relish the warm venison burger with added bacon grease. She gobbles it right up along with chicken necks and wings and anything else I take out to her. In the winter she eats about double what she does in the summer.  Her fur is so thick you can’t get your finger through it down to her skin, it’s amazing how velvety she gets during cold weather.  She also loves to hunt down by the sauna, no doubt there are load of mice down there.
The truth is most animals adapt very well, bringing them into a heated space during a cold snap actually does them more harm than good because it can cause loss of their warm winter coat. If you have stray animals around feel free to provide extra nutrient dense food for them and provide shelter with warm bedding, but please don’t try to put them in a heated space to keep them warm. And please, don’t assume those with outdoor animals are neglecting or abusing their pets, sure there are some people that are, but most are not.

Do you have any outdoor animals? How do you help them in cold weather?

Chick Update

June 1st, 2013

The chicks are doing really well, they are now outside 100% of the time. Dailon built a movable chicken coop, following the instructions in the back of Harvery Ussery’s The Small-Scale Poultry Flock. So far we like it, there roosts inside and nesting boxes with outside access. We don’t really need to worry about eggs any time soon, these chickies are just about 5 weeks old.
chicks roosting on old swingset
I love that they’re roosting and acting like little tiny chickens. They scratch, dust bathe, chase insects and they are even establishing a pecking order. It is nice to have them be fully outside and more or less taking care of themselves.
chicks roosting
It has been fun to watch these little guys/gals grow up, we’re looking forward to the upcoming months to watch their transformation into teenage chickens.

What’s your favorite animal to watch grow up?


March 9th, 2013

I’ve been wanting to add more chickens to our flock for a while now. We average about 6 eggs a day from our flock of 7, that’s just enough for our breakfast. Mr Chiots and I each eat two eggs and the chiots gets two as well. This summer, we’re supposed to have a strapping young fellow living with us (more on that later), so I started checking Craig’s List for chickens a few weeks ago.
New Chickens 1 (1)
There was one lovely flock of 12 that I missed owning by only an hour. Then I came across a listing for 2 roosters and 4 hens. They were close, only about 15 minutes away. I contacted seller and we met Thursday night. I handed over $20 in the parking lot of the local Agway and she handed over 6 chickens. What a bargain!
New Chickens 8
This flock is a rescue. She works at a local animal shelter and from what I gather this flock showed up one day. They’ve been living in her barn for a while, she was making sure they were healthy and that the roosters weren’t mean. She guesses that they’re about 9 months old or so.
New Chickens 2 (1)
I ended up with 2 big roosters that are pretty docile so far (let’s hope that trait stays). The lady I got them from said her and her 12 year old daughter were picking them up and handling them every day to make sure they weren’t aggressive. They’re big handsome fellows, white and black with bright red combs and bright yellow feet.  We’re so happy to have a rooster once again, they do such a great job of protecting the ladies.
New Chickens 9
Along with these two handsome fellows came 4 hens. A big ginger one, a mostly black one, a buff one, and a reddish one. The lady I got them from guessed that they’re Wyandottes, though the ginger one might be a Buff Orpington. It’s hard to say, they could all be barnyard mutts.  I don’t know my chicken breeds very well. They lay four eggs a day though, so it doesn’t really matter.
New Chickens 4 (1)
Most people like to start flocks with chicks, I’d much rather start with older chickens. I don’t care if my chickens aren’t tame and don’t want to sit on my lap.   It’s also nice that I don’t have to feed and care for these chickens for 6 months before they start to lay, they’re already doing that.  Eventually, I’d like to get a few ladies that are skilled at raising their own, then they could raised chicks much better than I ever could.
New Chickens 6 (1)
I did a lot of research on how to integrate these birds into our flock. There are all sorts of ideas on how it should be done. Finally, I settled on the advice of an old-timer who said, “I just put the new chickens in the coop at night and in the morning they work out the pecking order.  I’ve been doing that for 50 years and have never had any serious issues.”
New Chickens 7 (1)
The new chickens were introduced into the coop on Thursday evening around 7, there was a lot of clucking and boking going on, but all of our current chickens pretty much stayed on their roosts. The next morning, I was up with the sun to check on them and make sure things weren’t getting out of hand.
New Chickens 3 (1)
Amazingly, there wasn’t much besides clucking, boking, and crowing going on. It was a loud day in the coop for sure, there was a constant hum of noise coming that direction. Every hour I headed out to check on everyone and all was well on each visit. There was a little big of pecking, chasing and fighting, but nothing worse than I’ve seen between the ladies in our current flock.  It looked like fairly normal behavior for establishing the pecking order.  Towards the end of the day it seemed everyone had worked out their differences.  I’ll continue to watch them closely for the next couple days to make sure nothing does happen.
New Chickens 5 (1)
Now I’m wondering when I can let them all out of the run to free range. The weather looks to be nice for the next couple days so they would certainly enjoy it, I just want to make sure they’ll all make their way back to the coop at night.  I certainly do not want to be hunting for chickens at dusk!

How many eggs, on average, are consumed per day in your home? 

Duck TV

February 6th, 2013

Mr Chiots and I have this little round window in our dining room. I have a deep distaste for round windows, but that’s another story for another day. This window perfectly frames our garage/barn, which is where the ducks lives at the moment. We find ourselves often pausing to look out this window as we walk to and from our office, checking to see what the ducks are doing. Having ducks is more entertaining that having TV. You never know what you’re going to get when you stop to look out this window.
Duck TV
Sometimes there will be ducks scaling the Mt Everest of snow piles, other times you’ll see 7 ducks flapping their wings attempting flight. A week ago we got a good laugh when they chased a squirrel from the yard. This is better than cable and much cheaper too!

What sources of entertainment have you found outside your windows?

Duck Potatoes

December 11th, 2012

If you remember, we added some ducks to Chiot’s Run back in October. When we traveled back to Ohio for Thanksgiving, we left them in a heated room in our garage. They still weren’t fully feathered and we hadn’t trained them to the electric fence, so we figured it would be the safest place to leave them. When we left they were still ducklings, we arrived home to BIG DUCKS!

Not only were they big ducks, they had gotten lazy in their cushy indoor days. When I would open the garage door to let them out to forage, they wouldn’t leave the garage. After two days of this, I finally decided it was time to withhold their food. A hungry duck is one that will go outside in search of food. Low and behold, it worked! Now they’re out and about much of the day eating dandelions and clover in the lawn.

The good thing is, they have now been trained to see an indoor place as a safe place and a place to sleep. I think this will be greatly help in our efforts to keep these guys safe from predators. I don’t have to herd them inside at night, they go in on their own. If they start trying to stay outside, they’ll be herded inside. We’ve already been working on our herding with them, it’s really quite easy with a flock of ducks!

They’re not quite fully feathered and they’ll still get bigger than they are now. Muscovies are pretty large ducks. The good thing is that they’re very hardy, the cold doesn’t seem to be bothering them at all. They’re so entertaining, we really get a good laugh from them quite often. They seem quite curious and love watching us working outside, here they are paying close attention to Mr Chiot’s coffee roasting to see if they can pick up any tricks.

We’re still in the process of building our duck house, we’ve been slightly busy with our work after taking a week and a half to travel to Ohio. Hopefully they’ll be living in their new digs by Christmas.

Have you ever had to deal with lazy pets?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.