KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Month: November 2014 (page 1 of 2)

waiting for chicks: the first pip!

today around 11 am the first egg in the incubator started getting busy! this first chick pipped (poked a hole through) his egg and has begun his emergence into the world… though still, 12 hours later, he hasn’t made any more progress. this is normal so now we just have to wait!i also saw the egg wiggle many times and i even heard him chirping in there once! wow!

pipped egg

the first egg is pipped!

today we finished the final preparations for the chick’s house, and added pine shavings to the floor of the pen and covered that with dog pee pads. this is because the first few days the chicks need a textured material to walk on that isn’t their pine shavings (since they don’t learn what is food and what is bedding until the first few days have passed). we also added their food dish and one of their waterers. it’s all ready to go!

chick house

ready for chicks!

now we just have to wait as patiently as we can (yeah, right!)…



Happy Thanksgiving to All!

We hope that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and meal! Hopefully it was full of great food, family and friends!

Our’s was great. A nice relaxing day of cooking followed by 20 minutes of gorging ourselves until we passed out on the couch. We used our roaster oven to cook our turkey, and that turned out fantastic. It kept the oven free, and the bird moist and juicy.

roaster oven  thanksgiving turkey


We wanted to take this time to thank all of our readers and everyone who follows us on facebook. We really appreciate you letting us be a part of your day.

Also, if your going to take part in any of this year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or  other online Christmas shopping deals on, don’t forget that you can support our blog by clicking through our amazon link. It’s that easy!

Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

countdown to chicks: building their first house

our incubating eggs are almost done and the chick hatch is scheduled for so soon… saturday! i  originally thought it was sunday, but i forgot to count the first day that the eggs started incubating as day 1 (which you are supposed to do if you started the eggs in the incubator before noon of that day).

needless to say, we’re getting really excited around here, even though we haven’t really checked out the eggs since my day 15 incubating chicks update.

today i removed the turning tray from the incubator and cut the turning motor off. i also added more water to the device so that the humidity will be higher when the chicks are hatching in a few days. this keeps them from getting stuck to their shell as they’re busting into the world! now that the eggs are on paper towels and without the turning try, the chicks will have more room to break free when the time comes.


almost time!

once i moved them back into the incubator after removing the tray, a couple of the eggs started to move, as if to say “hey, i ‘ll see you soon (and quit moving me around!)”

i also set up their first little home that will be theirs for the first weeks of their life. i used opened wine boxes, taped end to end. these were just the right height if i left the flaps on the bottom folded out to help support the rest of the cardboard. i taped more wine boxes together than i needed, which means that when i need to expand their home to give them more space as they grow, i can simply untape one portion of the cardboard circle and make the circle bigger, then retape it into another circular shape. rounded edges are important because chicks can get stuck in corners if other chicks are pressing against them, and they can be smothered and die.

you can see in the pictures below that in addition to folding out the bottom flaps of cardboard, i also taped them to a sheet of plastic underneath (in this case, an old shower curtain) to keep the circle from buckling or becoming malformed. this sheet of plastic should also help with cleanup once the chickens move outside later in the year. in the next day or two, we’ll be adding wood shavings to the floor of the little pen/house to absorb the poop and spilled water and to make the chicks more comfortable.

chick house

our quick and easy chick house!


heat lamp

the heat lamp really gets the space nice and toasty. the thermometer reads 96 degrees! perfect for day 1!

the red lamp is a heat lamp, and will keep areas of the house 95 degrees, the ideal starting temperature for little baby chickens. each week we’ll raise the lamp so that the temperature directly below the lamp drops by 5 degrees each week. this allows for the chicks to acclimate to cooler temperatures over time. in the meantime, the light will warm them and the red tint helps them from picking at each other (which can cause open sores and lead to a sick or dead chick).

their water and food dishes will be in the house near the warm, center area and we’ll leave the regular overhead light bulb on in their space so that they thrive and feel safer.

so exciting!  only 3 days to go!


Pastured Heritage Turkeys for Next Year’s Thanksgiving??

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, along with the potential hatching of our incubated chicken eggs this weekend, Emma and I have been perusing our favorite hatchery, Murray McMurray, for ideas and inspiration on expanding our flock next spring. With all of the turkey talk going on, we naturally checked out their turkey selection (fun fact: Baby turkeys are known as poults), and boy did we get excited. It’s looking like next Thanksgiving we just may sit down to a feast of pasture raised heritage turkey!

One reason we were so impressed with turkeys as livestock is their size. As you probably are aware by now, having bought your Thanksgiving turkey already, they can reach considerable size. Dressed out, a turkey can be over 20 pounds, and easily 15. Compare this to a 4-5 pound broiler chicken and it’s pretty exciting.

homesteading turkeys

A Bourbon Red Heritage Turkey

Turkeys are also native to North America, and as such are well adapted to our climate and habitats. Wild turkeys are very successful in our area, foraging among mature woodlands, old fields, crop fields, and pastures.  I can see turkeys (fun fact: a group of turkeys is called a rafter) fitting in nicely in a restoration agriculture/silvopasture system grazing among fruit trees, sunchokes, and berries.

It takes about 4-5 months to produce an eating size turkey. Heritage breeds take longer, and put on weight slower, but they make up for it with their hardiness, ability to breed and raise young, and beautiful plumage. We’ll definitely go with heritage  birds when we order poults next spring, but it will be hard deciding on which breeds to choose!!


chicken egg incubation update–day 15

a brief warning for you here… some images in this post are of an unborn chicken embryo, which stopped growing inside its egg after a few days into the incubation period.


recently i candled the eggs again to double check my candling work from last week and the progress was amazing! during the process this time, you could really see the blood vessels and the larger, wiggling chicken inside a few of the eggs. once again, amazing!

i also decided to check the other 5 eggs that i wasn’t sure were fertilized, still thriving, or alive.

unknown egg #1:  the first one was definitely fertilized and alive, and i was surprised and excited to add another potential chicken to our list for the hatch this sunday. so that puts our count at 23 chicks!

unknown egg #2:  the next egg i checked was definitely no longer growing, and i could see the tell-tale red ring around the inside of the egg that means the egg was at one point fertilized but the embryo died within the first few days. this egg was pretty much transparent except for the red ring, and i removed this one to crack it open later and check out the contents.

unknown egg #3:  this egg was just the same as egg #2 and i removed this one also.

unknown egg #4:  this egg had no visible embryo and even though i turned it on all sides, i couldn’t see anything alive inside. there was a very dark section and a very visible air bubble, but the dark patch was different than the dark patches in the fertile and growing eggs and i couldn’t see any blood vessels or other signs of life. so i decided to take this egg out too so that it wouldn’t bust and contaminate the others as time went on.

unknown egg #5:  i was still unsure about this egg, so i left it in inside the incubator just in case.

as of now, there are 24 eggs in the incubator and i’m sure (or as sure as a beginner can be) that 23 of them are growing nicely.

the other 3 eggs that i removed became a science experiment…

failure to thrive egg #1:  when i cracked this one open i only saw the red ring of small blood vessels around the inside of the egg. there were no other substances inside besides the red ring and the light yellow liquid that was the yolk and white mixed together. that means this one was fertilized too (24 out of 27 points for rex).

failure to thrive egg #2:  this egg had the same red ring as the previous one, but it also had a couple thick spots of dark red that could have been the beginnings of the the embryo. it seemed to me that this egg lived longer before failing to thrive. (25 out of 27 points for rex.)

failure to thrive egg #3:  this last egg at first appeared to be the same as the second egg but when i poured the contents out into the bowl with the other yellow liquid, i heard a little plop.  i looked in the bowl and found a tiny, but unmistakable embryo that hadn’t even begun to from its limbs yet,which meant that the egg died sometime around 3 or 4 days into the incubation process. (26 out of 27 points for rex!!!)


tiny chicken embryo



you can see its eyes but it has not yet formed limbs. to me, it looks somewhat like a seahorse!

jason and i have dealt with a chick that was born that died, and chicks that were busted out of their shell by careless hens just a few days before hatching, so this process isn’t new to me… and since the embryo was barely developed i don’t feel sad about the situation, just in awe of it. i am hoping that all of the eggs that are in the incubator now will thrive and hatch well… and i can give thanks for that!!!

i also found a great video on YouTube that shows the growth of the embryo from the beginning until the day i hatches… you can watch the video and think of our embryo-chicks, who are at 15 days today!


5 Unusual Things You Can/Should Recycle

In our modern world of upgrades, planned obsolescence, and the constant ebb and flow of new and newer products, appliances, and gadgets, we end up having to deal with a lot of waste. I’m not talking about garbage, trash, or food scraps, nor items that we all know are recyclable like glass, plastic and paper, but those large, and/or unusual items like appliances, electronics, and many other household items that we throw away every day.

This list is just 5 of the many lesser known things that are indeed recyclable and do not need to be thrown away into landfills. Some of these items can be taken into retail stores to be recycled while others can often be picked up by junk removal companies.


junk removal greensboro

Tires can be reused as well as recycled.

Old, worn out, and junk tires should not be thrown away. In fact, most municipal garbage collectors won’t even take tires so that leaves homeowners and citizens wondering what to do with their old junk tires. Many companies exist that will take tires and recycle them into useful rubber products like playground padding, mulch, or road materials. Tires can also be used in earth-ship construction, or as planters in the garden for starting sweet potato slips.

Washers, Dryers, Refrigerators, and Other Appliances

These large household appliances are made of metal, usually steel with electric motors made of aluminum and copper. Metal recyclers can recycle these products and reuse them in the manufacturing process. Some large appliances like refrigerators and AC units contain refrigerants that are potentially dangerous and harmful to the environment. You should always be careful with these and never send one to the dump where it can become a pollutant. Rather, find someone to recycle it, and they can make sure that anything useful gets reused instead of wasted or turned into pollution. Some other appliances that can be recycled include stoves, microwaves, dishwashers, and freezers.


There are many different types of batteries, but the ones that are most often recycled are car and marine batteries. These large batteries contain lead, and are recycled in the production of new batteries. Some batteries can be refurbished, and others still are rechargeable. Batteries can contain some pretty nasty chemicals in them, so always be careful if you are storing or transporting batteries. Many places that sell batteries will take them after they are dead, and others allow you to return the battery as a “core deposit” and can even save you a few bucks on your next purchase.

Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges are similar to batteries in that they often can be exchanged at retail locations for some sort of credit. Office Depot and Staples will often credit $2-3 depending on make/model with the return of an ink cartridge. These cartridges can be refilled and many companies will provide this service and are always looking for more ink cartridges. These companies handle them in a safe way and ensure that no ink residues leach out into the groundwater, an unavoidable fact if you send them to the dump.

Computers and Other Electronics

Computers, cell phones, speakers, keyboards, and phones are all recyclable. The components inside them, including the memory boards, wiring, and heat sinks are all able to be re-purposed, reused, or recycled. This type of material is known as e-waste and there are many companies that specialize in recycling and removing unwanted electronic devices. This keeps the costs of production down and reduces pollution too. Many of these electronics can leach out some pretty harmful chemicals if not properly disposed of, and by recycling them, you can make sure that does not happen.


If we want to be sustainable, then we must take care of our waste streams. These resources need to utilized, whether it’s as compost, biomass, or recycled materials and components.

If you are in the Greensboro/Triad area and have a large or unusual item that you want to recycle, send an email to Jason (at) and we can come and make sure it stays out of the landfill!

candling eggs and seeing baby chicks grow!

the incubating-chicken-eggs adventure continues… this time with some more hands-on activities!

last weekend we “candled” our eggs, a term which supposedly came from using the light of candles to see through the egg shell and observe the progress of the contents. this process usually shouldn’t be started before the eggs have been incubating for 7 or 8 days, since the growth of the baby chick inside is a lot more fragile during the first week (ish). also, waiting until at least a week into the process ensures that when you finally do candle the eggs, the embryo inside is much more visible.

the really cool thing about this simple and easy way to check on your eggs, is that it’s like a chicken ultrasound! you can actually see the life growing! candling also allows you to make sure that no bad eggs are still in the bunch that might explode later during incubation, affecting the environment of the viable eggs.

dark-shelled eggs are harder to see into, since the increased pigment in the shell obscures the light and keeps it from penetrating through as easily. jason and i actually has some trouble at first figuring out how to get the bright light to focus on the egg, until he had the idea to put our 1,000,000 candle power flashlight underneath a full toilet paper roll and sit the egg on top of the tube’s opening. this worked perfectly, and also meant that we didn’t have to hold the egg since it rested on the tube just fine on its own. i was able to shift the egg more easily this way, and locate the embryos. the pictures and video that we took really don’t do the experience justice…


let’s see… how do i explain this? the darkest blob that is a little higher than halfway up the egg and a little to the left of center are the eyes of the chick!

the video below shows the dark shape (which is easier to see in the video) moving around in its shell. dancing, really! all the information that i read said that you might see the embryos move inside their shell during candling if you got lucky, and i got lucky over a dozen times! after i finished squealing with delight, i filmed the video!

the coolest thing i learned?

that at least 21 out of our 27 incubating eggs are fertilized and growing magnificently! this is a really high ratio and makes me proud of rex! also, it makes me less inclined to eat him next time he tries to attack me!

after candling all of the eggs, i put a check mark on the eggs that i was sure were fertilized and growing. later tonight, after i’m done writing this, i plan to candle the other eggs and see if they are fertilized, as well as check on a few of the ones i’ve already checked off! talk about an awesome way to spend the evening!


our incubating eggs, most of them with check marks!


Some Cold Weather Posts… Brrrrrr…..

In anticipation/celebration of the unusually cold weather that is rolling in tonight, 19 degree cold weather, I thought I’d take a look back at some of our cold weather posts from the past. For new readers who maybe weren’t around last winter, check out some of these posts on cold weather and winter homestead chores.

Hopefully these posts don’t make you feel too cold! Stay warm tonight!!

With Christmas right around the corner, why not get your Christmas tree delivered right to your home instead of messing with all the hassle and mess of picking one up and transporting it back home! If you are in the triad area, check out our Greensboro Christmas Tree Delivery service!

Acorns/Oak Nuts: Food from the Woods

This year has been a good year for acorns in North Carolina, with almost every oak I’ve seen having a decent crop of nutritious nuts. The oaks on our property are no exception, and in particular the chestnut oaks have had a bumper crop of huge acorns this fall.  I gathered this pile of acorns from beneath a chestnut oak in about 5-10 minutes, and it ended up weighing about 5 pounds. Not too bad, and if you do some math, that would be 30-60 lbs. an hour.

chestnut oak acorns edible

5 pounds of chestnut oak acorns from our woods

Chestnut oaks make great acorns, some of the largest in our bioregion and also some of the least bitter. In general, the tastiest and sweetest acorns come from white oaks, while the most bitter tend to come from red oaks.

I’ll start processing these in the next few days and eventually get down to a nutritious and delicious product! Talk about nutrient dense food!

But before that can happen, the tannin will need to be leached out. This isn’t too complicated or difficult, but it does take some effort. I don’t know if we’ll be eating acorn bread on our tomato sandwiches next summer, but it should be a fun and edible experiment!


adding a donkey to the family: why?

so the donkey quest has begun… through research, at least! we just got our great, new donkey book in the mail, donkeys: small-scale donkey keeping by anita gallion.


this donkey isn’t jack-jack, but he sure looks like him!

i’ve wanted a donkey ever since i volunteered at a horse rehabilitation center, about 5 years ago. the one donkey that they had there was a perfectly healthy, hilarious gelding (castrated male donkey) named jack-jack. he would stand by the fence and bray until i would come over to him and pet him or feed him, and the first few times i interacted with him he made me nervous simply because he was so pushy and snugly. he was a downright attention addict. i wasn’t sure why he was at the farm, but the owner told be that he had been brought to a horse sale, very skinny and obviously malnourished. the first owners couldn’t afford to take care of him anymore, and although the owner of the farm already had many other sick, crippled, or old animals, she decided she had to take him too (she was just that kind of animal-loving person).

after he lived at the rehabilitation farm for a while, he gained his weight back and became a thoroughly healthy, spunky fool. he quickly became the personality of the group, and even became good friends with the giant and very blind percheron draft horse named ophelia. jack-jack often led the other blind or old horses around the field and would sometimes even intervene when the socially bizarre horses were doing something crazy… usually repetitive walking or chewing behavior because of past trauma or of being locked up in a little stall all the time by their first owners.

the horse i volunteered with, marigold, an old thoroughbred racehorse, would walk in circles when she first arrived at the rehab farm since where she came from, she was used to always having just a little bit of space. jack-jack would step in when he caught her doing this, and try to get her to socialize and move around to other places.


marigold, my old, blind friend!

i was also impressed by how smart and observant jack-jack was… he would try to untie ropes when he saw them tied up and he was capable of untying his lead rope from a tree or branch! sometimes he would even attempt to unlock the gate lock with his lips… though he was never successful!

he was also so loud! after spending time at the farm i learned that donkeys are fantastic at protecting their herd (including any horses or other animals they’ve adopted) through 2 basic tactics: being so damn loud that predators just want to run for it, and by being almost totally fearless with their sharp-hoofed attacks! i’ve always heard that donkeys are less skiddish than horses and are more willing to charge and kick butt.

so far, in my theory, donkeys are to horses as geese are to chickens: both donkeys and geese can almost totally survive on the grasses or scrubs that grow around them and don’t need as much nutritional supplementation as chickens or horses do, they are great animals for protecting themselves and for seeming threatening to intruders (animal or human), and they are so comical and goofy (well, at least to me)!

jason agrees that a donkey will be a great addition to our homestead, and we’re already thinking of all the new opportunities that can come from having a donkey… having a trusted creature that a kid can ride, that can pull a plow, and can haul logs or other heavy loads. we’re also excited to have a new friend that can let us know when someone comes to visit and can protect our other pets and farm animals from harm. not to mention their valuable manure and just how cute they are.

we can’t wait to get a jenny who can be the mother to other lovely donkeys who will be our friends and our children’s friends for decades to come!


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