Spring is Here: Gardening and Chick questions!
The spirit of Spring inspires this week's coloring pages! Flowers are blooming, and everything is green! People are starting their gardens, and baby animals are everywhere! With recent events, I have found that more people than ever want to learn how to grow food on their own, so they don't have to worry about where to get food. I have been posting our homesteading adventures on my Instagram story and have received a lot of questions! So in this week's coloring sheet post, I've combined my art with those questions!
One Smart Chick!
Wow, chick days has a whole different meaning for me this year! One Smart Chick is an older design of mine, but I have received a lot of questions about baby chicks since posting a video about how homesteading inspires my art. I love to homestead, because I am continually learning new things, so I like to help others with the information and experience I have. Thus, the chick coloring sheet is going to have some quick tips about raising baby chicks!
- Research the type (or breed) of chicken you want: egg layer or meat bird. Chickens come in all different body sizes and lay different size eggs. Meat birds are different sizes as well, and some don't lay eggs at all.
- Know the time frame for development for each type of bird. Egg layer chicks will not be ready to lay for 4-5 months of age. Some meat birds are fully grown in 8 weeks (that's a VERY fast growing bird!).
- Make sure you have enough space in your yard for the number, breed, and size of chickens you plan on having. Consider coop space, as well as foraging space.
- Where to get your chicks: your local feed store, a local farmer, a local homesteader, order online from a hatchery (make sure is a reputable one), & Tractor Supply stores.
- What you need: a brooder, a heat lamp, chick starter (food), chick waterer (for water), chick feeder (for food), newspaper, or shavings to cover the bottom of the brooder.
- Prepare the brooder before your chicks arrive. What is a brooder? It's a space where your baby chicks can be protected from the wind, cold, and predators. A brooder can be a large plastic tote, a brooder bought at a store, or a large feed trough. It does not need to have square corners; rounded sides will keep your chicks from piling on top of each other, which can result in chicks suffocating. As long as you can keep your heat lamp in a safe location (make sure it will not fall or can be knocked over) on your brooder, it will work. Chicks like it warm, not hot, but warmed with a red heat lamp. The heat lamp is to be placed on one side of the brooder, leaving the other side as an option for the chicks to go to cool down if they get too warm. Have newspaper or wood shavings to line the bottom of the brooder, it will also catch the chicks waste. We use a deep bedding method, where you continue to layer the bedding on top of the previous one. The next layer makes it clean again and covers up the smell. When brooding is over, it is all dumped in the compost bin. Keep the brooder in a well-ventilated area! Poop sticks, so your chicks will smell sticky sometimes. You want to be able to let some fresh air in the room.
- Have the chick feeder and water ready. Both feeders are made for small size chicks so that it is easier for them to drink and eat. You must use a chick starter to feed your chicks. Once your chicks arrive, the first thing you need to do is show them where the water is by carefully dipping the tip of their beak in the water, the majority of the time, they start drinking right away!
- I suggest keeping them inside for the first two weeks. I like to be able to listen in on them and check on them throughout the day. Happy chicks are quiet chicks! If your chicks are chirping and don't stop, they are either out of food, out of water, too cold, or too hot. If you have a chick that continues to chirp, examine it to see if anything is wrong with it.
- The main thing is to make sure all chicks have clean bottoms! Without a mother to make sure their bottoms are clean of poop, chicks may develop a crusty bottom, which can lead to being unable to poop at all. A crusty butt will stop up their digestive tract and can result in death. If you find that they do have a crusty butt, take a damp, lukewarm rag to wipe the dry poop away.
- If you have household pets that will try to sample your chicks as tasty treats, make sure to protect your chicks from them.
- Have a place ready for them to move into when they are too big for their brooder. There are lots of Youtube videos and DIY plans for all kinds of different style coops!
- Do not be hard on yourself if you experience the loss of a chick. Sometimes this happens due to things out of your control. The more you learn, and more often you do something, the more you learn what to expect and do!
You can watch the Wildwood Wonder video about chicks here on YouTube:
Lettuce Turnip the Beet!
If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a total pun nerd! I just love them!!! I also love gardening! Okay, I'm going to tell you something horrible. I killed my first two gardens! An, I had grown up with a garden every summer?! I'm sure my dad tried to teach me something during those years, and I just let it go in one ear and out the other. I did pick up a lot by watching, so I knew I needed seeds, water, soil, & water, so easy, right?! What I didn't pick up on was the time, patience, and knowledge it took to be successful. If anyone tells you farming or gardening is easy an all you have to do is put a seed in the ground, water it, and it will grow has never really gardened before. I am going to first give tips on what to do as a first time gardener and then some resources on where to look for the next step!
- Start with plants from the store. If it is your very first time gardening, starting with store-bought plants is your best bet! You will see results and taste the wonders of homegrown fresh food! Most people have to buy store veggies and fruit during the year, we do too, but once you start growing your food, you can tell the difference in the taste. Fresh off the plant has more flavor because it didn't take days to get to a store, then sit in storage, and later on the shelf. Once you try fresh, you'll have the gardening bug for sure!
- Choose a small area in your yard that has full sunlight at least 6hrs of the day. It could also be your porch or patio. You can buy a raised bed, build your own raised bed, plant in pots, or if you have a neighbor with a tiller, maybe you could borrow it.
- I also suggest you start small. I know that right now, especially with food shortages in some places, a huge garden sounds like a great idea. But, if you don't know what you're doing, it will quickly become a huge nightmare! Even an experienced gardener would have a hard time keeping up with all that needs to be done. No, you will not have baskets full of tomatoes. Still, you will have some vegetables and the knowledge you gained from experience, which is better than no vegetables and an awful experience.
- Make a list of your favorite vegetables. Then think about: How much do you eat of that vegetable a week? Am I the only one who eats it? Pick veggies that the whole family will eat. If none of you eat tomatoes, then don't buy tomato plants. If everyone eats squash, it should be on the list.
- Research how much space each plant takes. Squash is a large plant but can be planted in a patio planter. It will need a large pot and an ample space on your patio. Cucumbers are a vine plant that can soon take over, so make sure you have something that will allow it to grow upward. Does that plant grow out and is low to the ground, or is it tall? If you know what size plant you're going to get ahead of time, you can plan to stair-step them in their pots, so they get as much sunlight and the room they need. How much space you have available will determine how many plants you can get.
- What you'll need: store-bought plants (the larger they are, the sooner you'll get veggies), containers/pots/raised bed, soil (read next point), any stakes/cages/or support your plants might need as they get older, and a way to water your plants (water hose or watering can), and gloves if required. I love feeling the dirt between my fingers, so I only wear gloves when pulling weeds or moving things around.
- Make sure to buy the right soil for your container. It will say pots or raised beds. You can spend as little or much as you want on soil, depending on what brand you buy and how much you buy. It is always better to have too much soil than not enough. There are organic choices and chemical-filled choices; it's really up to you and what your preference is. What can you afford and what will work for you at this time.
- Pest or bugs will show up! If you are starting small as I suggested, you should be able to check your plants daily, or twice a day, to see if any unwanted bugs are around. Not all bugs are bad, which is why I highly discourage the use of pesticides. Look up beneficial garden bugs and garden pests that way, and you know the difference. You don't want what to kill your bugs that are eating the bad bugs or pollinating your plants! Remember high school biology? You need those bugs to grow your food!
- Be patient! I know it's so hard; to this day, I want peppers to pop out in one week, even though I know, when I plant them from seeds, it's more like 60-90 days! It takes time! Enjoy the process and watching the changes that take place each day. Learn & observe!
Helpful Things to Know:
I want to address some topics upfront to be clear and transparent with you. I don't want you to think that it is all roses and sweet peas!
- Everyone has their way of doing things. At first, you will follow other examples, and it is okay to try out different techniques. In the end, you have to do what works best for you! It may end up being just one technique, and that's all, or you might mix several up. Learn and grow!!!
- If you have children, use this time to teach them about nature and how things grow! Everything can be an educational experience. Even small things can make a significant impact later!
- Unforantly, plants, and animals will die. The best homesteaders loose animals, the best gardeners make mistakes, sometimes you'll make bad choices, and you'll do the wrong thing. Give yourself some grace and remember the lesson.
- Understand you will not save money at the beginning. People ask us all the time, "I bet y'all save a lot of money?" or make comments like, "It's a lot cheaper than buying from the store." Years down the road, when you learn the ends and outs of gardening. After you've figured out what works and what doesn't, after you've built and completed the start-up part of it, then you start to save money.
How we save money now:
- We have figured out what works for us and what doesn't. Making mistakes means it has cost us money and time in the past to learn those lessons. Sometimes, we did everything right, but things out of our control affected the outcome. Sometimes, it was ultimately our fault that it failed. Most of our failures occurred because it was bad planning on our part. We rushed into projects or had too much on our plate at one time.
- Because we plan, we can look for great deals! We know what we are looking for and don't get sidetracked with things that pop up. As much as my heart whats miniature goats, I know that taking them home is a terrible idea, even if they are free because I have no shelter or fenced in area for them. It is unfair to them!
- We have learned to make our soil, by learning to compost, raise composting worms, raising animals that produce manure, and how to mix up our soil. We have to buy soil every once and a while, but not like we use too when we first started!
- We save seeds. I don't have to buy as many seeds each year because I learn how to different types of veggie seeds each year! I will usually buy "back up seeds" or buy new things I want to try, but my goal is to be completely self-reliant on my essential food/vegetable seeds. I was successful with bean seeds last year, and this year my goal is to save tomato and carrot seeds.
- We have learned to build things to last! If we have to re-build structures every 1-2 years, it is wasting our time and money.
- We figured out that sharing & trading works! It is easier for us to raise meat chickens and let my in-laws raise the egglayers next door. We also have an ideal place to garden, when we don't have to worry about chickens breaking in the garden. In the end, we trade them veggies and meat for eggs (We eat a lot of eggs!). We swap chicken meat with hunters for venison and fish.
- I've learned to forage for wild edibles. I learn new things every year! I choose to learn and practice this at a slower pace, because what to make sure I am picking safe plants and mushrooms so that my family doesn't get sick.
- We tend to end up with free stuff. Once people find out you are a homesteader or gardener, they call you up before getting rid of things you might use. Bricks, stones, fences, & animals. We have gotten some pretty good stuff over the years!
I hope you enjoy the wonders of gardening!