April 29, 2022

Kinder Kids Clips

I tried taking videos on my new camera for the first time. I chose the best subject in the world - goat kids at play. The twins are six days old in these clips. The little brown buck is four days old. Enjoy!

Kinder Kids Clips © April 2022 by Leigh

April 25, 2022

Kidding Round 2

So, we remained on kid watch after the first set of twins was born. A couple days later, Caroline lost interest in going out with the rest of the herd. It was early, but she looked so big and uncomfortable, that I wasn't surprised. Multiples usually come early and we figured twins, at least.

This was her first, so a longer labor wasn't unexpected. After hours of waiting and watching, she finally got down to serious pushing and feet presented. This is normal, so usually, we just stand by to welcome the newcomer. But progress was slow, so I tried to grab the front legs and pull. I say tried, because the little bugger would pull them back in every time I tried to get hold!

I could tell he was big, and after a lot of pushing on Caroline's part and pulling on mine, she finally delivered a handsome baby boy. 

Seems pleased with himself for making his appearance.

So, there was my third buck for my waiting list. Then, we waited and waited, but that was it. She was done. Just one big boy. One big stubborn boy. 

All kids are ready for their first milk pretty much as soon as they hit the ground. They know mom is the source, but they sometimes have trouble zeroing in on exactly where that is. I usually give them a little guidance to make sure they get that first colostrum. 

But this guy! I got him to the teat and rubbed his nose on it, but he clamped his mouth shut. I managed to get his mouth open and the teat inside, but he refused to latch on and suck! Now, sucking is instinctive, except in the case of premies, but he wasn't that early. He was definitely eager. And persistent. Caroline let me express milk from both teats and didn't step away when I tried to get him on her, so I wasn't worried she wouldn't let him nurse. But I didn't figure I could force him either. Since it was 1 a.m., I left him to work it out on his own.

The next morning he was nursing on his own and getting around very well.

With two kiddings so close together, we rearranged the barn to accommodate the new family groups.

Temporary set-up of private stalls.

Kids always love to sleep in the hay feeder trough.

When new kids are allowed to mingle with the others is up to their moms. Some does are ready almost immediately, but does on the bottom of the pecking order tend to take longer. Sky, in particular, is a relentless bully. So, I want to make sure the kids are steady on their feet and quick enough to get out of the way. 

Also! I've revised River's due date. I was watching her and wondering why she didn't seem anywhere near ready to kid, when I remembered that she had a second visit with Jonah three weeks after the first visit. That would put her due date at May 13th, which fits what I see. No complaints about that. It will give us a bit of a breather before the next kid watch begins. 

Kidding Round 2 © April 2022 by Leigh

April 23, 2022

Kidding Has Commenced!

Well, we didn't have to wait long! Up first. . .

Can you guess how many?

They arrived three days before their anticipated due date, and thankfully, it was around 9 p.m. and not the middle of the night. 

Twin bucklings, just a few minutes old.

Early the next morning.

First buckling. 

Number 2.

Ordinarily, bucklings are not the desired outcome. But I have three people each wanting a registered Kinder buckling, so these already have homes waiting for them. 

One down, two to go. 😀

April 22, 2022

April 18, 2022

Alternative Feeds for Chickens

Trying to make the food budget balance with rising food prices has become a bit of a challenge these days. It's caused me to analyze and re-evaluate our diet (which isn't a bad thing), because now, I have to ask myself what my price limits are for the things I usually buy.

Vintage USDA Poster

I'm very thankful to have a garden, fruit trees, and smallholding livestock. But there's a concern too, because some of the heftiest price jumps have been for livestock feed. So I'm analyzing their diets too, and asking, what are the alternatives for feeding our animals?

Well, how much food does a chicken need? There are various answers to that question because it depends on the age and type of chicken. Production estimates are usually around 4 to 6 ounces per chicken per day if the chickens are getting all their nutritional needs met by commercial feed. But what about chickens that free range and supplement their own diet? How does that factor in? I don't know a formula to calculate that, but I can tell you that because of our alternative feeding methods, our chickens eat very little pelleted food. In fact, they much prefer the other things we offer them.

So here's what we do to help cut the feed bill. As a heads up, you won't find that it conforms to what a lot of the experts say. But we have healthy, happy chickens and feed them for practically free. So these things definitely work. The links will take you to my blog posts for more information.

Free-ranging. We used to let our chickens out to pasture, where they eat grass, clover, weeds, and seed heads. But they tend to become counterproductive during pasture planting seasons because they will eat all the seed I've just planted. They've also done quite a bit of damage to my forest garden hedgerow and forest garden by scratching around newly planted trees and young plants. Because of that, we've switched to alternatives to full blown free ranging.

Alternatives to free-ranging. 

  • chicken tractor
  • fencing portions of the pasture with electric netting
  • portable chicken runs
  • enlarge the chicken yard and rotate where they're allowed access

Grazing beds. We grow fresh grass in these beds, which the chickens trim enthusiastically.

Any grass seed will do; chickens just love fresh greens. Occasionally, we move the bed to a new location, and let the chickens scratch up whatever they can find in the dirt.

Gathered greens and herbs. Sometimes I take my hand sickle and trim tall grass for them. Also, I gather weeds and herbs: chickweed (a favorite), clover, parsley, dandelion, plantain, purslane, bee balm, wood sorrel, basil, borage, marjoram, chervil, chives, cilantro, mint, echinacea, dill, comfrey, lemon balm, marigold flowers, hyssop, lemongrass, oregano, stinging nettles, nasturtium, purple deadnettle, rose, smartweed, sage, yarrow, tarragon, thyme, raspberry leaves, thyme.

Root crops. Hang a turnip, carrot, beet, sweet potato, etc. where the chickens can peck it, and it will amuse them for quite awhile.

Winter squash. These are easy to feed. I cut them in sections and let the chickens peck out the seeds and flesh.

Surplus melons and overgrown cucumbers. These can be fed the same way.

Compost. Moving our compost bins into the chicken yard was one of the best things we ever did. 

It's less work for us and they love scratching through it. What's especially amazing, is that there appears to be some sort of symbiotic relationship between chickens and compost. With only minimal turning on our part, our compost works up much more quickly than chickenless compost piles. It's almost like magic. (In fact, my How To Compost With Chickens is one of my most popular eBooks. See cover below, or follow that link for details.)

Do we do anything special about what goes into the chicken compost pile? No. They eat what they want and ignore what they don't want. So all kitchen and canning scraps go into the compost, including dried, crushed eggshells, moldy cheese, and meat scraps. Shockingly, we don't separate out coffee grounds and onion skins (big no-nos in the chicken expert world) because the chickens don't consider them food and leave them to decompose on their own.

Eggshells, dried and crushed instead of oyster shells for calcium. As mentioned above, these are fed via the compost. I know some people worry this will cause chickens to become egg eaters, but I've never had a chicken yet who was smart enough to look at a jigsaw puzzle of crushed egg shells and mentally figure out the pieces could be reconstructed into eggs.

Cooked eggs (scrambled or hard boiled). Extra eggs can be fed back to omnivorous livestock! We especially seem to end up with an excess of duck eggs, which I hardboil, then chop shell and all into small pieces for the chickens.

Surplus dairy. Apparently, chickens can't digest milk, but they can eat cheese, yogurt, kefir, curds, and whey. Since we have goats, we often have surplus milk, so this is an excellent way for it to not go to waste.

Homegrown grains and sunflower seeds. The thing about grain for chickens, is that it doesn't have to be processed. Wheat for example. Toss some wheat heads into the chicken yard, and they know exactly what to do with it. Growing grain for chickens is much less labor intensive than growing it for humans. Ditto for sunflower seeds, set a head out and they'll take care of the processing. 

Besides grass grains (wheat, oats, barley), small grains such as amaranth or sorghum are easy to grow and easy to feed. I toss whole seed heads into the chicken yard and they do the rest. Corn usually needs to be cracked to make it eating size for chickens.

Sprouted grains and fodder. Both of these can stretch the feed budget a lot. Also, they're very healthy. We feed sprouted grains when the root tails are about half-an-inch.

Sprouted mix of wheat, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds.

We feed fodder when the grass has grown about three inches tall. They eat grass, grain, and roots.

Same mix as above, allowed to grow into grass.

Fermented grain. This has the benefit of live probiotics.

I'm not sure how much it decreases the feed bill, but it definitely boosts nutrition. And the chickens love it.

Grubs. Any time I dig anywhere, I keep a small bucket handy to toss grubs into. The chickens adore these, and I hope it helps keep our insect population down as well.

Earthworms. The chickens find these in the compost, but for anyone practicing vermiculture for castings, this is a great way to manage the earthworm population.

Other insects and insect larvae. Some people raise mealworms or solder fly larvae for chicken feed. I've never tried either. If we ever find a cache of larvae, we scoop it into a bucket and take it to them. They also love crickets, but these aren't easy to catch and transport! 

How do I know they're getting a proper diet? How do I know it's properly balanced? Well, they get protein, carbohydrates, fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and all from zero to minimally processed sources. They are bright eyed, interested in life, have good weight, shiny feathers and firm egg shells. We still keep free choice commercial feed available, but every single chicken (and the Muscovies) prefer the goodies I've listed above. 

If you're interested in learning how to mix your own feed rations, I have another little eBook that will teach you how to do that, How To Mix Feed Rations With the Pearson Square. It includes a lot of information on self-sufficient livestock feeding for a variety of species.

These are the book mentioned above. Their titles link
them to their individual webpages (and where to find them)
or you can visit Kikobian.com for a complete list of titles.

Prepper's Livestock Handbook is another of my books that emphasizes alternative feeds for self-sufficiency. The link is to its webpage, where you can find more information.

Back to the topic at hand. I've always had a goal of self-sufficient chickens, which means feeding them from the homestead and not buying feed. So, I've collected and experimented with a lot of ideas. As with all things, however, what I do and how I do it are habit. The way prices are right now is helping me change my habits. As they say, there's a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Alternative Feeds for Chickens © April 2022 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com

April 14, 2022


Pasture improvement is something we are always striving toward. Ideally, it should be a self-sustaining perennial system, but in reality, this is not an easy goal to reach. In observing how our pastures grow, I noticed early on that when trees create light shade from a high canopy, our pasture forage does better than parts of the pasture that are in full sun. Lightly shaded parts of the pasture survive summer's hot dry spells, continuing to provide forage for the goats. Because of that, silvopasture makes a lot of sense.

Silvopasture. Silva is Latin for forest and, of course, pasture is where livestock graze, so silvopasture is a system which integrates forest, forage, and livestock in a mutually beneficial way. Our wooded goat  browse areas are a ready-made location for establishing silvopasture.

Our 2020 Master Plan
Hmm. Needs updating.

Silvopasture has been on the master plan for a couple of years, but it took awhile to get to a point where we could actually do something. Mostly because of



and this.

They're all mature pine trees, most of which either uprooted and fell, or broke mid-trunk and fell. Some of them Dan took down because for awhile, it didn't seem safe in our woods, especially when it was windy. 

On the one hand, these have become a source for homegrown lumber and woodchips. On the other, they leave a lot of mess behind.

Our tractor and PTO chipper in the background.

Needless to say, clean up has been slow. However! We finally made enough progress so that last fall I could toss down some seed. Here's how it looks now.

Silvopasture beginnings.

It's somewhat spotty, but it's a beginning. I'll work to add plant diversity and fill in the bare spots.

Learning that some goals are slow to achieve has been one of the lessons we've learned from homesteading. It's easy to become impatient and even discouraged, when things don't happen quickly. So much of it is simply plodding one step at a time. If we do that, then eventually we make progress! Now we just have to keep at it because living systems require our ongoing participation. 

Do you have any long-term goals that you feel will never be reached? Are you hanging in there with them?

April 9, 2022

Spring Planting & Growing: Early Edition

"All spring, I try to plant something every day "
Carla Emery, Encyclopedia of Country Living

I love that quote by Carla Emery, but I confess I haven't faithfully applied it this year. We've had a lot of rain, so some days it's too muddy to work in the garden. I managed to get my cool weather crops in, and now look forward to our last potential frost date. That date falls in the middle of our spring planting months, and so divides my planting season into early and late.

Planted so far:
  • turnips
  • kale
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • mangels
  • sprouted pantry potatoes
  • beets
  • lettuce
  • snow peas
  • salsify
  • pink dandelion
  • cultivated burdock
  • mizuna
  • bloody dock

Of the root crops, only the mangels and burdock have emerged so far. You'll see them with the other spring garden photos below.

I only had a few plants survive winter; the rest succumbed to the cold.

These collard plants are several years old. I don't get huge
leaves from them anymore, but the small ones are tasty too.

One of just a few fall planted kale plants that made it.

Fall planted garlic, multiplier onions, and volunteer potato
plant (the sprouted pantry potatoes haven't emerged yet.)

More garlic

The one that concerns me is our wheat. It's yellowing.

Our fall planted wheat. Yellow from ???

There are a number of things that can cause this: nitrogen deficiency, iron deficiency, sulfur deficiency, fertilizer burn, herbicide injury, moisture stress, plus disease or insect damage. Apparently it's common enough that there are scores of articles written about it and speculating as to its cause. 

We don't use fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides, so those are out as causes. Nutrient deficiency perhaps. Dan side dressed the rows with compost to see if it helps. Moisture stress is a possibility. Not from too little rain, but because we've had so much. At any rate, it looks like we'll still get a harvest.

It's still going to seed.

Saving for next year's seed will be the priority. We can always adjust our diet to whatever's left over if we need to.

Next are the early spring planted veggies.

Snow peas. No flowers yet!

Lettuce and volunteer dandelion; both salad favorites.

Mangels. These make great livestock feed (both leaves and roots).

Mizuna and violets (of which the flowers are edible)

Now that the swale is in and working well, I'm hoping my hoop house will be more useful in summer. Its raised beds dry out quickly in summer, so that I tend to plant there as a last resort. What I've decided to use them for is perennials, where the raised bordered beds can keep them under control.

Cultivated burdock and volunteer chickweed.

The other thing I planted this spring was the garden swale berm.

Swale berm planted with herbs and edibles.

I made a seed mix of all my old herb, flower, greens, and root crop seeds plus clover. Then I covered it with compost. Because the berm is sloped, much of the seed has washed down a bit, but hopefully enough has stayed put to help anchor the soil. It will be fun to see what grows.

Seed mix sprouting on the swale berm.

Then there are the perennials.

My few asparagus plants were taken over by
blackberries and daffodils, so I liberated them.

I actually gave up on asparagus a long time ago, because the wiregrass kept choking it out. But I have four or five plants that have hung in there over the years. We only get a few stalks at a time and enjoy them greatly, so I think it's time to invest in more.

Strawberries are thriving. My competition for those is slugs, birds, and chipmunks.

Red raspberries are leafing out.

Horseradish. Young leaves are good in a steamed greens mix.

Pear tree, garlic, & comfrey; swale berm in the background.

Pear blossoms. Pears seem to be our most reliable tree fruit.

Cherry blossoms. If I can beat the birds to them, I might get some!

Our last expected frost date is right around the corner. Then we can get to work planting our warm weather favorites. Like every other gardener on the planet, I'm looking forward to that.

How about you? How does your garden grow?