The Prairie Homestead http://www.theprairiehomestead.com Homesteading | Self Sufficient Living | Living off the Land Thu, 09 Feb 2017 18:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 Homemade Electrolyte Recipe for Chicks http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/02/homemade-electrolyte-recipe-chicks.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/02/homemade-electrolyte-recipe-chicks.html#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 22:06:27 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=18088 Last week was rough… I went from excitedly running around preparing for our new chick shipment, to staying up late working like a mad woman trying to bring some of the chicks back from death’s door. Last week reminded me how quickly things can change on the homestead… And how thin is the veil which […]

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diy homemade electrolytes for chicks

Last week was rough…

I went from excitedly running around preparing for our new chick shipment, to staying up late working like a mad woman trying to bring some of the chicks back from death’s door.

Last week reminded me how quickly things can change on the homestead… And how thin is the veil which separates life from death.

All the chicks survived the ride in the mail, which was a pleasant surprise. Everyone looked perky and healthy when I put them all in the brooder. (We got 30 meat birds and 15 Silver Laced Wyandotte layers.)

We checked on them several times that afternoon and all was well, so we headed inside to eat supper and start our evening routine. I headed back outside to check them again a little while later, and found five of the layer chicks trampled and completely dead, and five more almost dead. (We realized, too late, the smaller, weaker layer chicks were no match for the more boisterous meat chicks, which is why they were easily trampled. We won’t combine the two varieties in the brooder at the beginning ever again…)

Talk about feeling like a big fat failure. 

I wanted to just sit and cry right then and there, but I pulled myself together, scooped up the five chicks that were still barely clinging to life, and ran them into the house.

diy homemade electrolytes for chicks

They were pretty non-responsive, wet, and lying flat… I was almost positive they were goners, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not trying something at least… So I popped towels into the dryer and started working to warm them up right away.

I’ve never really given electrolytes to my chicks before, but after watching sugar-water bring a very sick kitten back to life several months ago, I figured it was definitely worth a try with these chicks.

Sure enough, my hastily-throw together DIY chick electrolyte solution, combined with warm towels, brought all five of them back from the almost-dead– even the one who almost completely non-responsive when I first found her. I was amazed how quickly it worked after I started dripping it on their tiny beaks with a medicine dropper. I truly thought it was too late for all of them. However, within an hour of the homemade electrolytes and warm towels, they were all up walking around again. I was completely amazed.

Ever since mentioning the homemade chicken electrolytes on Facebook, I’ve had a number of you ask for the homemade electrolyte recipe I used. While I wouldn’t necessarily give this to healthy chicks, I will forever-and-always keep the recipe handy for future chick emergencies.

diy homemade electrolytes for chicks

Homemade Electrolyte Recipe for Chicks

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons molasses OR 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon potassium chloride* (optional)

*This is an optional ingredient, and I didn’t personally use it because I didn’t have any. The easiest way to buy potassium chloride is by purchasing a salt substitute at the grocery store.

Mix all the ingredients together and stir until completely combined.

Administer to sick, stressed, or ailing chicks with a medicine dropper. If they aren’t opening their beaks, you can drip it on the outside of their beaks and sometimes they will open then.

As far as exact amounts go, I have no idea. I gave my sick chicks a few drops every 10 minutes or so until they started really perking up. Just play it by ear.

If I had a larger chicken who was dehydrated or overheated, I would offer this solution as their drinking water for a short period of time. However, I have no plans to give this to my healthy chickens, as it’s just not needed unless there is an issue.

diy homemade electrolytes for chicks

The Rest of the Story….

As much as I’d like to say this story had a happy ending, it didn’t. All five ailing chicks perked up, made it through the night and the next day with flying colors. However on the third day, four of them died with little warning. I still have no idea why– I don’t know if it was residual stress, or possibly leftover internal injuries from their trauma. Chicks are so fragile sometimes… It was a learning experience, but definitely a disappointing one. You win some and you lose some in this homesteading gig…

homemade electrolyte solution recipe for sick chickens

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Preparing for New Baby Chicks http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/02/preparing-new-baby-chicks.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/02/preparing-new-baby-chicks.html#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2017 21:10:11 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=18072 I would venture to say… The vast majority of homesteaders got their start by strolling the aisles of the feed store and happening upon those tubs of fluffy, chirping chicks. They’re hard to resist, y’all. And as we all know, chickens are the gateway drug to the more hardcore forms of homesteading– goats, cattle, hogs… you […]

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preparing for new baby chicks

I would venture to say…

The vast majority of homesteaders got their start by strolling the aisles of the feed store and happening upon those tubs of fluffy, chirping chicks. They’re hard to resist, y’all.

And as we all know, chickens are the gateway drug to the more hardcore forms of homesteading– goats, cattle, hogs… you know the drill.

Even though we’ve been doing this homesteading thing for nearly seven years, I still get excited when it’s chick time. I’ve been slightly disorganized with my chick-purhases the last two years (a new baby and a major home remodel will do that to ya…), so I’m rather proud of myself for ordering early this year.

We just got 15 Silver-Laced Wyandottes, as well as 30 Cornish cross meat birds. After having a mis-matched variety of layers over the years, I’ve decided to stick with one breed and plan to selectively breed them for desired traits. I figure it’ll be the next step in up-leveling our chicken operation.

Last year was our first year raising our own meat birds, and we’ve enjoyed the harvest so much, I couldn’t wait to do it again. We got 30 meat birds this go-round, and will order 30 more later in the year.

Preparing for chicks isn’t complicated, and as long as you keep a few factors in mind, you’ll be just fine. However, if this is your first time getting chicks, I totally understand how it can feel slightly daunting. After all, they can be rather fragile and you want to make sure you’re caring for them adequately. If you keep these five factors in mind, you’ll be just fine:

Preparing For New Baby Chicks

preparing for new baby chicks brooder

1. The Brooder

A brooder can be fancy or simple– it’s up to you. Basically, you just need some sort of “container” for the new chicks. If you turn them into a large coop right away, it’s easy for them to get stuck in crevices or corners, which can be deadly when it’s chilly outside. You can purchase fancy brooders, or just use what you have at home.

I personally have used large galvanized water tubs for years– they are tall enough they can’t fly out and they don’t have corners for them to get stuck in. Other options would be plastic tubs, crates, cardboard boxes, or even old playpens.

old water tank for chicken brooder

Once you have your brooder selected, you’ll want some sort of non-slip bedding on the bottom– we have always used pine shavings, but other options are puppy pads, paper towels, or even sand.

Plan on cleaning the brooder every couple day or two. You probably won’t have to completely strip it every day, but I check it frequently and remove areas of wet bedding or the super poopy stuff.

I don’t put a cover on my brooder, but if you have any sort of potential predators (including cats), I would definitely place chicken wire or mesh over the top. Just make sure you don’t use a cover that would block their ventilation at all.

You can get away with a fairly small-sized brooder at the beginning, but if you have a large batch of new chicks, plan on expanding soon. The little buggers will grow faster than you think!

2. Heat

I’m not a fan of using heat lamps for my big chickens, as they are such a fire hazard. However, heat is non-negotiable for babies. Chicks must be kept at 95-100 degrees for their first week or so of life, with the temperature gradually being decreased as they grow.

heat lamps for chicks

The simplest option here is a good old-fashioned heat lamp, obviously. However, If you go this route, be EXTREMELY cautious with it, as heat lamps can be considerable fire hazards. (If you are using a heat lamp, I would definitely not recommend using a cardboard box as your brooder, by the way…)

A safer option is a heating plate. Nope– these aren’t cheap– especially if you have a large amount of chicks. But you’ll likely sleep better at night not having to worry about the coop burning down.

I have this Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder— it works decently well for small batches of chicks.However, for larger batches I still use heat lamps.

I don’t use a thermometer in the brooder. Rather, I just let the chicks tell me how they are doing temperature-wise. If they are plastered against the sides of the brooder trying to get away from the heat lamp, I know they are too hot and I need to raise the lamp or move it. If they are huddled in a bunch as close to the lamp as possible, I know they are cold and I need to lower it or add another heat source. This is another reason heat plates are handy– the chicks can choose to stand underneath if they are cold and can easily get away from it if they are too hot.

3. Water

Just like with any other living thing, water is a big deal for new chicks. When I first pull them out of their box, I gently dip their beaks into the waterer so they know it’s there.

chick waterer

I highly recommend using a special chick waterer of some sort, as an open bowl leaves your new flock at risk for drowning. I wrote up this DIY chick waterer tutorial a long time ago, and the method still works. Although to be honest, I just buy the cheap plastic waterers from the feed store now. 😉

Make sure the chicks water stays somewhat warm and full at all times.

4. Feed

chick starter feed

I go the lazy route on this one and simply purchase the chick starter feed from the local feed store… Scandalous, I know. I’m sure there are DIY chick starter recipes out there, but honestly? New chicks have very specific nutritional requirements at this point of their life since they grow so quickly, and it’s easier to just grab a bag from the feed store. Not to mention, they don’t stay on the chick starter for very long before transitioning to either meat bird feed or layer feed. (At that point, it’s easier to get more creative, if you wish.)

chick feeder

I use this cute little chick feeder for the first couple of weeks, but it doesn’t take them long to be needing a larger feeder. And they’re messy little guys, regardless. They spill everything and walk in it as much as possible…

New Chick FAQ:

Q: Do I need to worry about sanitizing my brooder and all the accessories?

A: I suppose it depends on who you talk to. I used to go nuts “sanitizing” everything, but have since stopped doing that. A while ago I read Harvey Useery’s book where he talked about chicks potentially benefitting from healthy bacteria and microorganisms in their environment. This makes total sense to me as I know that’s totally how it works with humans (especially kids). Since then, I stopped sanitizing or bleaching anything when I’m preparing for chicks. I just give everything with a good scrub of fresh water and maybe a bit of natural soap, and that’s it. Now if I had been dealing with sickness or disease of any kind in my flock, I would definitely disinfect everything. Otherwise, I don’t worry about it.

Q: Can I mix species of poultry in the same brooder?

A: I do– at least for the first little bit. I’ve never had issues putting chickens and waterfowl together at first. Eventually the ducks and geese get pretty messy with their water, so I separate at that point. You’ll also want to separate eventually if you need to feed different types of feed (layer vs. meat bird, etc) But if you only have one brooder set-up, I wouldn’t worry about it initially.

getting ready for new chicks

One other consideration would be if you have weak birds combined with hardier birds. We mixed our layer chicks and our meat bird chicks this time around, and ran into troubles the first day when the more robust meat birds started to trample the weaker layers who weren’t strong enough to hold their ground… So if you are mixing, watch carefully for the first little while.

Q: What about electrolytes?

A: Again, it depends on who you talk to… Some folks recommend electrolytes in the water for all new chicks, while others say only use as needed. I’ve only ever used electrolytes for stressed or injured chicks– never for the whole flock. However, if your new batch of chicks are particularly stressed or seem to not be thriving as they should, I would recommend adding a chicken electrolyte solution to their water. You can grab these at your feed store or from the hatchery, or make your own. I whipped up a batch of homemade electrolyte solution this past week when we had several injured chicks and it was borderline miraculous. I’ll share the recipe for it next week.

Other Chicken Posts You’ll Enjoy

how to get ready for new baby chicks

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Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/balsamic-roasted-brussels-sprouts.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/balsamic-roasted-brussels-sprouts.html#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:27:28 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=18059 I have a rather embarrassing story about Brussels sprouts… I had never grown them before, so I decided to give them a try last year. I usually have decent luck with cabbage, and considering Brussels sprouts are in the same family, I figured I had a good shot. I started the seedlings in my basement, […]

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balsamic roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan

I have a rather embarrassing story about Brussels sprouts…

I had never grown them before, so I decided to give them a try last year. I usually have decent luck with cabbage, and considering Brussels sprouts are in the same family, I figured I had a good shot.

I started the seedlings in my basement, and they grew beautifully. Once I transplanted them into the garden, they took right off and the plants were gorgeous and healthy. I patted myself on the back and looked forward to the harvest later in the year.

Then my garden tragedy happened, and I mostly avoided the garden for the rest of the season… Partially because there wasn’t much growing out there, and partially because it was just too darn depressing to go out there and look at the carnage.

Whenever I’d walk by the garden, I’d noticed the Brussels sprout plants still looked healthy and strong. But I kept waiting and waiting for the little sprouts to start forming on top, and they never did… I knew Brussels sprouts grew slowly, but good grief. This was ridiculous.

worst-homesteader-3

The frosts came and I turned the pigs into the garden… And then I realized my glaring error. The sprouts grow on the stalks, not on top. DUH, JILL. DUH. But by then it was too late, and so I was left with a row of dead Brussels sprout plants and a red face…

So yeah… My first year of Brussels sprout production was definitely a big fat failure. But you can bet that’s one mistake I won’t be repeating ever again.

Anyway, I might not be able to grow the things, but I sure as heck can cook them. I guessed I missed the memo about hating Brussels sprouts, because I’ve always loved them. They are like happy little bite-sized cabbages when you sauté them with garlic and toss ’em in butter. And c’mon folks– everything is good when you add butter and garlic.

I’ve also been experimenting with roasting them with balsamic and parmesan, and they just-so-happen to rival their butter-and-garlic counterparts, which is why I’m sharing this roasted Brussels sprout recipe with you today. And now you never have to worry about missing your first Brussels sprout harvest, either. You’re welcome. 🙂

balsamic roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Trim the ends off the sprouts and remove any damage or wilted leaves. Slice them in half length-wise and place in a mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and toss.

roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan

Place the sprouts on a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes until softened and browned.

Remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with a bit more balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan and serve warm.

roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan

4.7 from 3 reviews
Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish- Vegetable
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Trim the ends off the sprouts and remove any damage or wilted leaves. Slice them in half length-wise and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and toss.
  4. Place the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes until softened and browned.
  5. Remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with a bit more balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan and serve warm.

roasted balsamic parmesan brussels sprouts

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I’m Teaching My Kids to Fail http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/im-teaching-kids-fail.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/im-teaching-kids-fail.html#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:04:38 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=18018 How’s that for a politically-incorrect title? Failure is a pretty distasteful word in our culture. “They were such a failure…” “He totally failed at that…” “Failure is not an option.” We’ve all heard and said those phrases and they carry an extremely negative connotation, don’t they? As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had a longstanding beef with failure. […]

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wyoming-kids-hay-10

How’s that for a politically-incorrect title?

Failure is a pretty distasteful word in our culture.

“They were such a failure…”

“He totally failed at that…”

“Failure is not an option.”

We’ve all heard and said those phrases and they carry an extremely negative connotation, don’t they?

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had a longstanding beef with failure. I hate messing up, I hate making mistakes, and I hate knowing I could have done something better.

And yet… I’ve come to embrace and even celebrate failure the last few years… Sound bizarre? Allow me to explain:

hay-bw

I’ve had quite a personal transformation over the course of this homesteader-turned-blogger-turned-entrepreneur journey. It’s something I never expected and I didn’t exactly see it turning into what it has when I first started fantasizing about a compost pile. It’s been a life-altering journey of upleveling myself and my mindset, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As a result, people often ask me how it all happened… They want to know my number one tip, my secret sauce, my advice for other “normal people” hoping to experience success in their own journey, whatever that may be.

For the longest time, I never knew what to say… I would hem and haw and stutter as I tried to spit out the semi-coherant word of wisdom I assumed they were expecting.

After spending a lot of time pondering this (and I mean a LOT– I’m weird like that…), I think I’ve narrowed it down to a single, over-arching principle which has given me a big boost in my life–bigger than anything else:

I’m willing to fail more and fail bigger than most people I know.

kids-winter-clothes-10

Homesteading is what first taught me the true value of failure. Looking back at the last 8 years, we’ve had some considerable mess-ups in our homesteading journey… Things like:

  • Moving the same fence line THREE TIMES because we couldn’t make up our mind where to put it…
  • Killing and replanting the same line of trees in the tree row four times…
  • Missing the window on breeding the milk cow many months in a row our first year of AI…
  • Burning/dropping/ruining so many meals in the kitchen I’ve lost count… (Once I exploded a bottle of blueberry water kefir in the kitchen and it literally looked like a murder scene with blueberry bits plastered all over the walls and ceiling…)
  • Maiming/destroying my garden with tainted hay mulch (that one was just last year, ahem.)

But here’s the deal…

We’ve had these colossal mistakes because we were willing to jump in and just do it, even if we knew we’d likely fall on our face in the process. And therein lies the magic.

If you haven’t yet experienced some measure of failure in whatever you’re passionate about, you might not be trying as hard as you need to be in order to experience the success you’re chasing.

And Lord knows, if there’s one thing I do well, it’s try. 

What have I learned from all these years of homesteading mess-ups? Failure is the key to success.

I like how Brian Tracy says it:

“If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure.”

I wouldn’t say I love failure, but I’m definitely not as scared of it as I used to be. I’m not afraid to fall on my face. I’m not afraid to mess up if it means I’m trying something new or playing big.

bike-dirt-bw

Now don’t misunderstand– I’m not saying I love the feeling of failure… Because I don’t. It still stings. And my face still turns red with embarrassment sometimes. But I’m not afraid to dive into something headfirst– even if that means I might have a royal mess-up in the process.

So why do I feel strongly enough about this to write an entire blog post on it?

Because nothing makes me more sad than seeing people consistently playing small in their lives because they are afraid of messing up.

Fear of failure is rampant. It shows up in homesteading, and in business… In procrastinated goals, and in abandoned hobbies. It causes dreams to remain unfulfilled and regrets to pile up in mounds. It’s paralyzing.

Last year, I came across this video by the CEO of Spanx, billionaire Sara Blakely (Spanx is a massively successful shapewear company, for those of you who aren’t up on woman’s clothing (I’m not either…)). I hit me like a ton of bricks when I first watched it… (You can watch it here– it’s only a few minutes long)

In the video, Ms. Blakely explains how her Dad taught her to celebrate failure. To look for failure and to own it. I thought about that video for days afterwards.

What if… instead of being ashamed of our failures, we own them? What if we start celebrating failures as proof someone had the guts to try in the first place. Wow. That’s radical stuff.

btractor-bw

I’ve seen this principle so boldly manifest itself in my life, I’m determined to teach my kids to fail. It’s a wild concept in a culture that loves participation trophies and shielding kids from anything that may be “hard”… But I’ve never been very good at following societal expectations, so I suppose this won’t be any different.

And so we talk, the Prairie Kids and I. About winning and losing. About the value of try and having grit. About their mistakes, about my mistakes, about Daddy’s mistakes. We talk about how Mommy totally bombed her reining pattern at a horse show this year and how it means I just have more practicing to do (true story….). We talk about Prairie Girl practicing her cartwheels, and how many times she fell over before she finally nailed it. And sometimes, we even celebrate the try and the failure just a little bit more than the success itself.

And sometimes they have to remind me, because I forget.

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The hardest part as a parent is to fight our natural urge to shield our children from the struggle. It’s so natural and sometimes it is appropriate… But other times, it steals the chance for them to wrestle and win.

A couple of weeks ago, Prairie Girl (age 6) and I were out in the barn. She’s learning how to catch her horse and tie the halter all by herself. Rope halters can be confusing, especially when they’re tangled. I stood there for a while as she fumbled with it and attempted to make sense of the wadded mess.

Without thinking, I offered, “Here, let me do that for you.”

She didn’t even turn around as she quickly replied, “NO, Mommy. I have to mess up so I can finally learn how to do this. I don’t want you to help me.”

And in that moment, I knew she is a whole lot smarter than I was even just ten years ago…

There’s one thing I know for certain: Success is so much sweeter on the heels of a failure. Sometimes it has to get darn ugly before it can get pretty. And if you quit in the midst of the striving, you miss out on the greatest reward of all.

So my dear readers, as 2017 begins, I wish you a year of lessons, adventures, and failures. And next time you have a ginormous homesteading mistake, be sure to shoot me an email to tell me all about it. I’ll be the first to give you a high five and a “way to go!”

teaching-to-fail

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