Days on the homestead are both slow and fast. That sounds a little Dickensian, it’s true, but that’s how it feels to me. Part of it is because of winter, and part of it is because accomplishing most tasks on the homestead is a series of small steps that complete a big task. Goals are broken into subgoals. Unlike a 9-5 job, there is no end of the day. The activities blend.
Here’s what a typical morning, right now, in winter, looks like. I wake up and check the incubator, and turn the eggs if they need it. Right now, we only have one egg in the incubator, Mrs. Leedle’s last egg before her departure from this earth. She’s given us 20 chicks so far, and her death is a huge loss to us. I’ve been thinking of what to breed her offspring to, in order to preserve their fast growth, their size, and (hopefully) their steady egg laying ability. I found a Buff Orpington rooster for sale locally, and if he looks like a likely prospect, I’ll incorporate him into my breeding program. I’ve also decided to try to acquire some Brahma hens (also for sale locally), as I hear they’re good egg layers and have a larger size. I was going to order chicks from a hatchery, and I still might do it, but for now, I think I’m hanging tight with what I got.
But I digress. Because it’s winter, I pile on the clothes to feed the horses, chickens (both inside and out), and the pigs. The horses each have different grain needs (everyone eats the same grain but in different quantities). I distribute hay rather than use round bales in their fields because it saves on wasted hay. Right now I wait until mid-day to fill their water tubs. Usually I need to adjust someone’s blanket. I try not to get stomped by a colt that’s eager for its grain.
The pigs eat different things each day, right now it’s potatoes and corn and whatever scraps are left over from the previous nights dinner, excluding meat products. For a long time they got pecans every meal but pecan season is over, and they ate them all. Next November, we will construct a mobile pen for them so we can just put them under the pecan trees, which would save me from the chore of picking the pecans up, and the pigs get the added excitement of looking for food. They love to root!
I check the boxes to see if the hens laid any eggs, and to see if the red hen, the only layer we have right now, is laying. If she’s laying, I wait until she’s done. If I don’t, the other chickens will eat all the food before she can have any, and if she’s laying in the winter, she needs all the food she can get! The bigger chickens get their regular feed and I also give them sprouted wheat for additional protein. It keeps them from getting bored, since they can eat the berries, the wheat grass, or the roots! They love it! I mix my own feed because it’s higher in protein and more bioavailable so they eat less and get more nutrients from it. Fodder is amazing stuff, and you can get 6 times the nutritional benefit using sprouted grains than simply feeding or eating the grains alone.
After the outside animals are fed, I give the baby chicks their breakfast, which includes filling their water (my 4-week olds are crazy and dump their water constantly). If I have baby chicks just born, their water includes a probiotic. Otherwise, once a week they get vitamins. We have a lot of roosters right now, so a fight or two breaks out during meal times usually. They’re crazy! The 4-week olds are growing rapidly, and in a week or two can go outside. I’m working on building an automatic waterer for them, since now we are quite chicken heavy, with 29 chickens.
I also water my indoor plants, which are growing tremendously in the manure I started composting earlier this winter.
When everyone is fed, I can finally eat. Breakfasts here are usually fast, and usually include eggs and some sort of meat. I prefer sandwiches, because they’re easy to eat. I wish we had a dairy cow so we can have fresh milk. That’s something we’re working towards!
What do mornings look like on your homestead?
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.