Thursday, January 31, 2013


     WOW!  I've just finished reading the first edition of  From Scratch Magazine.  In the "farming" and homesteading blog world there has been much hype of its arrival.  After much anticipation, I was able to read the virtual copy for FREE.  It does not disappoint.
      Every article was well written, the magazine is overflowing with beautiful photographs, and filled to the brim with information.  There are a couple articles in particular that stand out to me. They gave me an extra boost of confidence that what we are trying to do with our small space in rural Alabama is really a good thing. I will talk more about those later.  But first, let me go astray for just a bit to give you a little more in sight to Our Crazy Coop and how we got started with the idea of converting our regular home to a homestead and how we began "bringing the farm to us".
      It is very much still a work in progress but it really has quiet a humorous beginning...and maybe to some, a rather ridiculous idea that prompted this journey.  I was shopping with my mom and sister-in-law when we came to a store that sold things for the home.  These things included picture frames, knick-knacks to sit around, and figurines.  All were of a rustic and "farm" style, suiting my taste "to the T".  We wondered around and so happened upon a section of ceramic roosters and hens...decorations that prior to that day I had not really been inclined to collect. But, the comment was made, by one of the two women accompanying me, that having a decorative chicken displayed somewhere within a home symbolizes the homeowners ability to decorate well.  REALLY??  Guess what?  I didn't have A FAKE CHICKEN in my house just sitting around somewhere.  LOL!  But, just in case that old saying was a true one, I had to make sure that I found the just right ceramic beauty to that was suitable for my rustic style but not too terribly "country".  


    I purchased the little lady you see in the picture above and placed her in the perfect spot on the kitchen counter. Then, I showed her to my children.  Our girls absolutely loved her.  They began petting and kissing that figurine...making a big fuss.  So, I said to my husband, "We should get real chickens if they love this one so much!"  Our second son was beside me when I said that. The thought of us getting real chickens was as exciting to him as it would've been if we had told him we were putting Disney World in the backyard!  We spent the entire next afternoon after church, just surfing the net reading about chickens, coop plans, the general cost for raising them, and everything chicken.  We watched one YouTube video after another.  Within just that short time frame, we were convinced that we were going to be backyard chicken owners.  It was only a couple days later that we downloaded plans to build the coop and placed the online order for baby chicks. 
     When we spread the news of that decision to our family and friends, we are pretty sure they thought we were crazy!  (Thus, the name of our blog was created.) As if having four children, one outside dog, and two inside dogs wasn't enough??  But, many of those same people also thought we were crazy when we had child number three and then child number four.  And now, they wouldn't know us any other way.  It is Our Crazy Coop and we love it.  That brings me to what I was writing this blog entry for in the first place.
     Although we are very much enjoying the journey, we are early on the path and we are frequently asked, "Why??"  When trying to answer that, especially considering the out of the norm way we came to our decision, I find us trying to justify to some people why we'd want to add all this extra responsibility.  Although this new found passion has won us over, once or twice we've double guessed ourselves with questions such as, "Do we really have the longevity for this? Are we in it for the long haul? Are we able to make the sacrifice of time and money that it takes for this?" 
      The first edition of From Scratch Magazine has helped me answer those questions and put some of those worries at ease.  Page after page kept my interest and I'm so glad to know that it will continue coming each month having pages overflowing with information. In this edition Lisa Steele, from Fresh Eggs Daily, shares her valued opinions and eagerly accepted advice in a question/answer feature, you can read about starting plants from seeds, gardening, canning, and much more.
    Now, back to those couple articles I referenced in the beginning.  The article that really sums up my feeling for the new lifestyle we are starting begins on page 36 and is titled "The Farmstead" by Rachael Taylor.  The first quote from her that stands out to me is, "Chickens are the gateway drug to a farming lifestyle."  I laughed out loud when I read that quote because it is so fitting for our family.  My friends would certainly agree that my having chickens has given me a new high and yet another thing to be passionate about. You can't have just one or two chickens! From the moment we got them an instant desire to "bring the farm to us" evoked. This all started just a little more than four months ago and in such a short time it just seems so perfect.  There are challenges.  It takes a lot of planning and a lot of time to make your backyard a homestead. And, we are only just beginning.  While I'm sure there are plenty of things we are yet to face, I know this...the animals need to be good quality, they need to be fed good quality food, and their housing/fencing requirements need to be met in a way that will protect them and keep them healthy.  Ultimately, the animals are there for our family so their health equals our health in the long run.  I'm not a patient person when it comes to getting things I want, so this has been hard.  I'm also a perfectionist.  I want everything to be done right and I want our backyard to look like a "farm" not like a junkyard. Again, I agree with Rachael that "the biggest challenge is always money."   Everyone knows raising a few kids keeps the budget stretched and the calendar busting at the seams. They are going to want to participate in sports and dance and cheer. The animals are going to need feed and fencing and occasional medical care. I'm finding though, that being passionate about making this work makes me do without a few things. One less take out dinner, one less new sweater, one less a little more money left over to buy feed for the chickens and save for our other goals.  There are other homesteading things  you can do to help save money.  Emily McGrath of Our Little Coop gives great tips on pages 58-60 to start your own mealworm farm. That's a great way to save money over time for the "extra snacks" we spoil our chickens with. We've passed by the mealworm treats more than once while out buying feed because those extra treats can get a little pricey.  (Just this week, I emailed my husband with a link provided by  about growing mealworms.) I was happy and thankful to see Emily's helpful article included in the 1st edition. That'll be yet another project added to the never ending to-do list.
     So, for now, we've got chickens in the backyard, we've acquired a Ranger ATV that we are excited to be able to use in things such as gathering vegetables to deliver to neighbors and transporting the coop cleaning materials and feed across the way.  We have ducks scheduled to arrive in the summer, we've created this blog, and we have a Facebook page for Our Crazy Coop.  I've found more "friends" on line than I ever thought were out there.  It's been wonderful to find a network of people sharing the same interests and passions. It's also great to know that they are only a keyboard away and ready and willing to share advice about things that work and don't work in the areas where they have more experience than we do.  This network of people is a network that is willing to share just because it's a friendly gesture and not because something is expected in return.
       Today, there are many who can't understand trying to create this lifestyle in such a chaotic world. Again, the magazine wins me over with another article beginning on page 51, written by Melissa Jones.  It's titled  "5 Ways to Make Your Homestead a Success". As the title suggests, she points out five things to focus on when planning your homestead.  Points number three and four are my favorite.  She says,  "Homesteading is all about community" and "Making connections with people and businesses is more than just trying to sell products from your homestead--it is about fostering a community that encourages the importance of family, self-reliance, and a simpler way of life."
     That's what everybody is really searching for...  a simpler way of life...isn't it? Sometimes it means giving up other things to be able to do this.  I worry about that because with four children, we are bound to have other things that will  pull us away from home on weeknights and weekends and will keep us with a packed schedule.  But, it's the big picture that matters.  We are hoping given the young ages of our children, the exposure to this kind of life will take root and let them see the quality family time that can come from it. 
     Sometimes "being weird" and not doing what everyone else is doing is okay. Some people really may find it strange that we'd want to grow a big garden, have chickens and ducks, and maybe one day a couple of miniature goats.  Especially since we are not on a "true farm".  But that's alright.  Yes, it is work.  Yes, it may make us have obligations that cause us to have to pass by some things that we otherwise wouldn't have had to pass by. IS worth it.  Quoting Rachael Taylor again, she says she has traveled all over the world, "...And yet, none of that quiet compares to your very own bit of Earth--a homestead--to call your own."  Thank you From Scratch Magazine for highlighting all the reasons having a homestead is okay and for letting us feel JUSTIFIED in our new journey.
(You can keep up with us while we are "bringing the farm to us" by visiting our Facebook page,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Classroom to Coop

     I am a second grade teacher by day, and a "farm girl in training" after hours. I'm a mama of four and a wife all the time.  Our family is relatively new to being backyard chicken owners and we are learning new things every day while "Bringing the Farm to Us".  So, when I can take advantage of the opportunity to unite all my titles, it's a good day. 
     Let me first give credit to a blog I follow titled,  It is spending time reading their blog that gave me the idea to sprout lentils. (They have a link on their site with directions.)  Being that it was in perfect timing for Science objectives that needed to be met in my classroom, I figured we could do a lesson that could go from classroom to coop and benefit both my students' education, and the health of our chickens. (And, as I explained to my students, if the chickens are eating healthy, they'll give us healthy eggs, and therefore the food my family is eating will be healthy...and that's another lesson on another day!)  SO, project "How to Sprout Lentils" began.

     On day one, our class went to the science lab.  While there, the students were divided into five small groups and each group prepared a jar of lentils to observe.  (I wish I could include pictures of each group of students having such fun, but unfortunately, I can't put my students on the internet.)
          Step 1 
If you notice, the jar lid has been replaced with shelfing paper.  This is a great item to use in this project because it allows the water to be drained out of the jar very easily. Just place the ring to the jar on a piece of shelfing paper, and cut around the paper so that it will fit inside the ring. 

Step 2
We placed a heaping tablespoon of lentils in the jar and covered the lentils with water.  The jar sat on our classroom counter over night.

Step 3 (and this is repeated daily)
The next morning the students got back in their small groups and each student got a turn to drain the water, and continue shaking the jar until all students had a turn and all water was thoroughly drained.  Every day of the project, the students had to rinse and drain the lentils and write an entry in their Science Lab Journal.  The entry had to explain what changes they observed from day to day as well as how we were taking care of the lentils on each day.

After the first day of rinsing and draining, and the lentils had been left on the counter over night, the lentils started sprouting.  The students were so excited to see the small sprouts beginning to form!

Every day, the students made an entry in their journals. Keeping the Science Lab Journal: How to Sprout Lentils, helped the students be an author to an informative little booklet that they could take home and share.  And, our neighboring second grade class is now doing the same project.  So, my students are excited that they are able to provide directions on what to do each day. 

After about five days, the lentils had filled the jar more than half way up. It was amazing to see the excitement in the students when they could see such an obvious growth from day to day. These are the kinds of projects that make a teacher smile.

When the project was complete, it was a win-win situation.  My students learned a lot and they provided a healthy treat for our chickens.  Taking the lentils from classroom to coop is something we will continue to do!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Then 'til Now

Having never had baby chickens before, we were almost like new parents (not quiet as  nervous) awaiting the arrival and a little unsure of how the whole process was going to go. Here (in the photo above) is where it all started.  A phone call from the post office early on an October morning, let us know our babies were ready to be picked up. By the way, we found it unbelievable that we were going to have LIVE CHICKS arrive BY MAIL! Until you have chickens, that's not a topic that just comes up in conversations. Therefore, we didn't know much about them.  Amazing how once you do have them, you will find a segue to chickens in most any conversation.  

Although we were newcomers to the hobby of raising backyard chickens, we had done a lot of reading and new a little bit about what to expect.  We had their brooder box nice and toasty when they got to their new home.  Above, you see their first picture.

Of course, once we dedicated ourselves to being "chicken parents" I started shopping for chicken gadgets.  It seemed appropriate that their space should be named Mother Hen Drive, so why not buy a sign?? This picture was taken on the third day we had them. 

 For the first several weeks, we fed them medicated starter feed.  We had no trouble with it and the chicks seemed to love it.

The thermometer was placed in an easy to view spot so that we could be sure to keep the temperature right about 95 degrees for those first several days. 


 To the left and the right, you see the Rhode Island Red named Pretty Is. This is about the time she was realizing she actually has wings. 

The above two pictures are Black Jersey Giants named Gertle and Gussy. This is when they were about a month old.  Even at that point, we could tell a noticeable difference in their size.  "Giant" is a great part of their name.  


Francine is the Barnevelder.  It took us a few weeks to figure out if she was a Barnevelder or a
Partridge Rock.

Hissy, named by our eight year old, is a Partridge Rock.  This is her at about 4 weeks old. You can see how it was hard to distinguish her from the Barnevelder.

Rainbow, appropriately named by our now five year old, is a Golden Campine.


This is Shelly.  We are not totally sure what she is because we only ordered two Black Jersey Giants.  BUT, she is very much like a Black Jersey Giant and we are beginning to think maybe she is one.  Our order form says the seventh chicken is a "rare maran" but she looks just like the giants. Time shall tell.

They've always been good eaters.  Looking back at this picture now, they seemed so little even when at the time we took this picture, we thought they we so big! (Notice how much bigger the Black Jersey Giants are than the others.)
This picture was taken just a couple weeks ago.  They were eating sweet potatoes and cottage cheese.  I find myself laughing at the extent I go to, making sure the girls get good treats. And, on a regular basis, we mix the The Breakfast for Champions. You can find a recipe for that at

If you had told me a year ago that I'd be tending to chickens, and going the extra mile to make sure they get a healthy diet, I'm not sure I would've believed you. Funny how actually getting them will make your love for chickens take a 360 degree turn.  Well, maybe I shouldn't say it exactly that way.  I suppose it was never that I didn't like chickens, it was just that I had never put a lot of thought into them.  Now...I can't imagine not having them!

Today, the chickens are almost four months old and look like this.  They are growing and thriving and are such a joy to observe.

                                                     This is Francine, the Barnevelder. 

Gertle and Gussy have no problem holding their own...the giants that they are. :-)

Rainbow is the Golden Campine.  She is a very unique little chick.  She is also one of the most stubborn in being still long enough to get a good picture.

Pretty Is...isn't the name just perfect for her?  A Rhode Island Red, she always seems proud to grace the camera with her presence.

 This is Hissy the Partridge Rock.  Funny how all the names they got as babies are turning out to fit them just right.  She doesn't exactly hiss but she does make a sound and get out of the way when you're trying to get her to be photogenic. 

Then 'til's been just shy of four months and I'm so glad to be at now. Each day with this new found hobby is an adventure.  Having backyard chickens has been such an inspiration for our family.  They've made us want to do more things to become a little more self-sufficient. They are the building block of this sweet little homestead we've found right in our backyard.  Because of them, we are now anxiously awaiting the first eggs and planning a garden to have fresh and homegrown vegetables to eat with our "homegrown" eggs.  We're "bringing the farm to us" and we are loving it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snow Day Dumplings

     Only in Alabama does school dismiss early with the slightest mention of the "S" word...SNOW, that is.  Today was one of those days.  Students and teachers alike, spent most of the morning anxiously awaiting THE WORD.  And, by mid-morning it came....School is dismissing early due to the possibility of developing hazardous road conditions. YIPPY!  So what's a mama to do??  Of course, she is to get home and make something good to eat so kitchen duties can be done early and everyone can cuddle up with each other and have unplanned quality family time.  So, that's what I did.  Besides, it was just another reason to use my newest pan...the red cast iron one given to me by my family for Christmas and  that has of late, stayed right on the stove top waiting for yet another reason to be used.

Now, our bellies are full, the kids are all bathed and we are going to bed just a tad bit happier than norm because we got some extra time off today, and even better, a two hour delay tomorrow.  And by the way, do we have snow?  If you look really close on the roadsides, and in the crevices of rooftops, or if you travel far off the beaten path, maybe you'll see a little.  But that's enough to celebrate in Alabama!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lovin' It

It is hard to believe that we have had chickens for just shy of four  months.  Who ever would've thought they would be such a topic for conversations?  When we first got them, we thought we were a rare couple doing something so out of the norm that people would think we were truly crazy! (Mind you, we have four children and some people who know us already thought we had enough "crazy" in our "coop" without adding other responsibilities.  Thus, the name of our blog was created.) But, we've found that having that added responsibility, in some odd way, invites a calm to the storm.  When we go out to feed them, no matter the weather, no matter our schedule, it is easy to take a moment to escape and just observe what's going on.  It gives time to take a deep breath.  There's a lot to be learned from chickens.  They are a motivation to try to make our family the best it can make the most of the time we have together.  Hopefully, in the coming months we will continue to be more and more self sufficient while creating our homestead to be exactly what we want.  We love "bringing the farm to us" and hope to share some of our joy with everyone along the way.