Feeding Chickens on a Budget

How much does it cost to feed chickens?

Organic chicken feed on Amazon.com is now $1.44 per pound and the least expensive I have found locally is still about $.75 per pound. A typical laying hen will eat 1.5 pounds per week, so if our 8 were eating exclusively feed we would be spending at least $9 per week on feed alone. We get an average of maybe two dozen eggs per week. That’s $4.50 per dozen, not even counting the costs of raising hens to laying age, building a coop, and other incidentals; which could potentially double that number depending on how thrifty you are. In our area, free range organic eggs cost around $6 per dozen so we’re not too far off, but our goal is to get as close to zero cost as possible without compromising our girls’ health. 

Where do we get FREE chicken feed?

Kitchen scraps: almost anything leftover from cooking or prepping food is great for chickens. Some of our girls’ favorites include the insides of melons, squash and pumpkins, un-popped popcorn, and tomato seeds.

Crumbs: If you have kids (or just messy eaters) and no dogs cleaning up the floor, sweep up those crumbs for the chickens. Make sure there are no plastic or metal bits in there but don’t worry about dirt. After all, the ground – their natural plate – is made of dirt!

Plate scraps: All our plate scrapings go to the chickens. stock-photo-42942310-leftover-whole-wheat-cereal-in-bowl-with-spoon

(Despite my pleas, no one can seem to finish all the cereal in their bowl on school mornings so those scrapings are usually the first chicken meal of the day.)

Back of the fridge: Anything in the fridge that is just a little too old for a sensitive stomach but doesn’t have any visible mold becomes a feast for the chickens. This includes stale bread, crackers, tortillas, etc.

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Back of the pantry: Canned goods up to several years past their expiration date are still fine for the chickens. Once expired they cannot be donated and if they are that old you are probably not going to use them yourself so why not turn those old cans into eggs!

 

stock-photo-8779318-floursUnwanted ingredients: A while ago a very large container of flour in our kitchen became unappealing for human consumption when a small member of the family (who will remain unnamed) didn’t quite make it to the toilet and thought a ‘big bucket’ would be the next best thing. After removing the most offensive parts, I have been using up this flour by cooking it into batches of slop along with pumpkin insides and some olive oil that is perfectly safe but has taken on that scent of starting to go rancid. This same idea can be applied to rice, flour, or other items that have been infested with insects but are otherwise fine. The chickens actually like it better that way!

Spent grain: A friend of ours brews beer and gives us his spent grain from the process. We dry it out and put it in our yard for the chickens AND goats to enjoy!

stock-photo-15534763-snack-finished-isolatedParty leftovers: this one may feel a little strange at first but it can be a great source of chicken food. Whenever I go to a gathering (picnics, parties, etc.) I try to intercept leftovers heading to the trash. Often, after checking with the host of course, I’ll put a container with a sign near the trash. I’ve gotten days worth of feed this way.

 

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Grow your own: During the growing season, we plant some areas of our yard with grains like flax or barley specifically for the chickens to eat. For a good yield you need to fence off the area until the sprouts take hold to prevent the chickens from scratching it up before it has a chance to grow.

Last year we also grew some feed-corn in the garden. We may not do that again since it was a lot of effort for the benefit, but the dried ears are nice because we can put one in the coop at night before closing it up, giving the girls something to occupy themselves in the morning before they are let out again.

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Insect habitats: Place some heavy logs, bricks or weighted plywood around the yard then move them after a few weeks and the girls will get a mini feast of bugs and grubs underneath!

What should NEVER be fed to chickens?

  • Green potato skins
  • Avocado pits & peels
  • Uncooked rice/beans that could expand after ingested (cooking first will make them edible)
  • Candy/soda/anything high in sugar
  • Very salty foods like salted nuts (just wash them off first)

Our Current Costs

We do still buy our girls some mealworm treats and supplement with a bag or two of store-bought feed per year – mostly in winter when they aren’t scavenging as many bugs and greens from the yard. Eventually we plan to get away even from this but currently our feed costs are about $100 per year, which is something we can live with for now.

Go here to see our latest YouTube video with Zachary sharing his favorite chicken feeding tricks.

How to Clip Your Chickens’ Wings

Clipping your flock’s wings doesn’t have to be scary or hard. Follow these three simple steps and you’ll be able to keep your chickens from flying over the fence in search of greener more dangerous pastures.

Personally, we decided to clip our chickens’ wings to ensure their safety in our dog-dense neighborhood. Apparently our 5-foot fence and the resounding barks were not enough of a deterrent for our adventurous hens. Whether it’s best to clip your chickens’ wings or leave them all natural depends on your situation and, of course, is entirely up to you.

Step 1 – Secure your chicken

If you’re on your own for this chore, you’ll need to figure out the best way to securely hold your chicken so that she doesn’t flap around in your lap. You’ll also want both hands free so that one hand can hold her wing and the other can hold the scissors.

How to clip your chickens' wings in 3 easy steps! - HomeInStead Farm

In the video, I’m holding Rockie between my legs so that her weight is completely supported and her left wing is pinned against my body, all without using my hands. Another option is to sit on a chair (or tree stump) with your chicken between your legs, similarly pressing her left side against your body. If you have another person to help, the job will be much easier – have the other person firmly hold the bird while you hold one wing out and do the clipping. And remember, if you stay calm through all this, it will help your chicken stay calm too.

 

Step 2 – Identify the primary flight feathers

The primary flight feathers are located at the front of the unfolded wing. They are longer than the secondary flight feathers toward the back. There are also “cover feathers” coming down from the top of the wing that cover part of the primary feathers. You’ll want to trim your chickens’ wings below the line of cover feathers. This seagull will show you – check it out.

 

How to clip your chickens' wings in 3 easy steps - HomeInStead Farm

Simply cut at the orange line! Thanks, seagull.

For our birds, we trim only the primary flight feathers. These feathers provide the lift necessary for flight. Trimming the secondary feathers is fine, but you’re really not doing much expect annoying your bird at that point. Also, the roosting area in our coop is 2 ft off the ground and I want the hens to have a little flying power so they can get up there at night. Plus, when you leave the secondary flight feathers intact, your chickens will still have pretty-looking wings when they are walking around during the day.

We also make sure to trim both wings. Some people decide to clip only one wing per bird, making flight wobbly and uneven. This prevents their chickens from flying high or in a straight line. This works fine for some but I see lop-sided flight as a recipe for injury.

 

How to clip your chickens' wings in 3 easy steps - HomeInStead Farm

Step 3 – Clip the wings!

Now that you’ve identified where to cut, all you have to do is use a sharp pair of scissors and go slow. Your bird might be surprised by what is happening, but, don’t worry, she can’t feel it. Clipping chickens’ wings is a lot like clipping fingernails. And like I said, if you remain calm, the chicken will remain calm too.

How to clip your chickens' wings in 3 easy steps - HomeInStead Farm

You did it!

One last thing – know that wing clipping is not a one-and-done kinda deal. Chickens molt every autumn and some of their primary flight feathers will regrow during this time. Check your chickens’ wings near the end of molting to make sure their flight feathers remain sparse enough to keep them from flying away!

Easy Beesy Gardening – How to Plant for Bees

Everyone knows that honeybees are in trouble, but not everyone knows what to do about it. The good news is that a little effort can go a long way in supporting honeybees. Creating a garden that has a variety of plants that bloom throughout the year and is pesticide-free is A HUGE HELP to bees! Bees need non-toxic sources of pollen and nectar to maintain their colony and last over the winter. But it’s not just about the honeybees. You’ll also be helping other pollinators like butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and even other types of bees including bumblebees, sweat bees, squash bees, and leaf-cutter bees. In return, these pollinators keep our food supply going strong so we can enjoy nom-noms like berries, almonds, chocolate, pumpkins, and apples.

Easy Beesy Gardening - HomeInStead Farm

Honeybee collecting pollen and nectar

 

Here are some ways in which YOU can help bees stay healthy, safe, and well-fed:

– Avoid using pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides in your garden as much as possible. The worst of these are neonicotinoid pesticides, which are very damaging to all kinds of bees.

– Water your garden in the evening, when the sun is going down, and bees are heading back to the hive. When the sun is shining and the weather is nice, bees are out and about looking for pollen and nectar. A rain shower from your garden hose or sprinkler is the last thing bees expect! Don’t confuse the bees by watering your yard in the middle of a sunny day and don’t run the risk of making the bees waterlogged and unable to return home.

– Plant in clumps. Honeybees like to focus on one type of flower at a time; plant the same kinds of flowers near one another so the bee doesn’t have far to travel.

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Clover flowers – a honeybee staple

– Never buy flowers from nationwide distributors, which often lace their plants with pesticides to keep them looking good. Instead, check out your local nursery or garden shop. Plus, a mom and pop shop will likely be able to offer more guidance in regards to your gardening adventures.

– Plant flowers with a variety of colors and shapes. Honeybees tend to prefer yellow, white, blue and purple flowers while butterflies tend to prefer red, orange, pink and yellow flowers. Some bees are “specialized” and only visit very particular flowers.

– Avoid modern hybrids, as they are often “dead,” meaning they don’t provide nutrition for bees. Ask your gardening friends or supplier what’s native to the area in which you live. Native plants will be easy to care for (since they belong!) and the bees will thank you for planting something they know what to do with.

– Provide a safe water source. Honeybees and butterflies like shallow mud puddles because muddy water provides added minerals. Bees can also drink from shallow bowls or bird baths that have been lined with marbles or stones so as to serve as landing pads.

– Aim for planting at least one species from each of the groups in the following list. Each category of plants has unique benefits for bees. If you’re new to gardening, as we were, it’s okay to start by focusing on planting flowers that bloom early and late in the growing season.

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Honeybees hard at work

 

Start the blooming early

– Crocus, tulips, and daffodils are some of the first flowers to spring up when winter subsides, allowing bees to get a head start on collecting nectar for honey-making

– American Willow, commonly known as Pussy Willow, provides pollen from their soft, silky, silver flowers

– Anemones are one of my favorite flowers and, depending on the kind, they bloom either in early spring or autumn (both cases are helpful to bees)

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Crocus blooming in spring

 

Plant for specialized bees too

– Squash (including pumpkins, butternut squash, and zucchini) are great for – wait for it – Squash bees!

– Goldenrod is an excellent nectar source, blooms all summer, and tolerates dry soil

– Asters bloom from August through October, making it an important food source for bees who need more stores to survive the winter

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Purple Aster (with a fly, not a bee)

 

Let the Garden Grow

– Clover is the most important type of flower among North America’s honey plants. Leave the lawnmower in the garage for an extra week or two between mows to let these round, white and purple flowers pop up and give bees a plentiful source of nutrition

– Dandelions are considered a weed by some, but this all-year bloomer is a continuous nectar and pollen source for bees and butterflies. Plus, the greens are good for you!

– Lavender smells incredible, reduces stress, and is good for bees

– Black-eyed Susans are an excellent source of nectar AND a source of seeds for birds during the winter

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Black-eyed Susan, the Maryland state flower

 

Plant things you like to eat

– Blackberry bushes offer an especially nutrient-rich pollen for honeybees

– Kale is great for honeybees and solitary bees alike

– Rosemary is an early source of food for bees and other herbs are beneficial too including chives, thyme, mint, oregano, basil, cilantro, and sage

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Blackberries taste sweeter from the garden

 

Don’t forget trees!

– Red Maple is a critical pollen source for early brood-rearing (bee baby-making)

– Linden trees are tall, deciduous, shade trees with heart-shaped leaves that produce a lot of nectar

– Black Locust is a major nectar producer for bees and a nitrogen fixer for your soil

– Cherry, peach, and almond trees require pollination from bees and provide delicious food for you!

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Cherry trees have beautiful blossoms and delicious fruit

 

End the season right

– Dogbane is visited by honeybees from June until the first frost and provides nectar during dry spells

– Coneflower is native to North America and deer resistant, making it a low-maintenance option for a fall nectar source

– Joe Pye Weed is a plant believed to have medicinal properties and is a good nectar source from August to the end of September

– American Witchhazel is a tree that produces abundant yellow blooms in late fall, which benefits honeybees in their preparation for winter

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Purple Coneflowers are a no-fuss flower

 

Bee a friend!

Find something you’d like to plant from each category above. Extending the nectar season is especially important for keeping bees alive over the harsh winter months.

I hope this guide encourages you to get started with planting beneficial flowers and trees in your yard. Don’t be afraid to spread the word to your neighbors too – especially the ones with big, empty lawns (how far for a bee to travel for food!) – that it’s okay to spice it up a little. And, remember, it’s okay to let your yard get a little wild every now and then – no problem, you’re just saving the bees!

DIY Laundry Detergent

If you’re a beginner in homesteading, this laundry detergent recipe is a great DIY recipe to start with. It’s shelf stable, easy to make, a clear money saver, and of equal or better quality to the detergent you’re using now. I also recommend it if you or someone in your family has allergies or sensitivities to fragrance, coloring, or other additives.

Simply mix:

1 part grated bar soap*

2 parts Borax

2 parts Washing soda**

So easy, right!?

*It’s best to use a pure soap like Ivory or Dr. Bronners to avoid any unknown additives that could affect the recipe. Be sure to grate finely, especially if you will be washing with cold water, to ensure that the soap dissolves completely.

**If you cannot find washing soda you can make it by putting baking soda in the oven spread out on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees for about an hour. This will change it from NaHCO3 to Na2CO3 through the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).

This recipe is safe for HE (high efficiency) washers and septic systems. Tanya uses close to 1/4 cup per load because she has a large washer and 2 boys who love to make a mess. Lauren uses just one tablespoon per load in her HE washer. See what works for you!

DIY Laundry Detergent - from HomeInStead Farm

Storing your laundry detergent is easy. It’s recommended to use an airtight container, but, honestly, you can just as easily use a pretty glass jar from The Container Store.

If you’d like to add a scent to your detergent, you can mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oils. However, most of this will come out in the wash so we prefer to add scents at the drying stage instead.

So, there you have it! We have been using this recipe to clean our laundry for well over a year and really love all the savings. Plus, this DIY laundry detergent is good for you and good for the environment!  We hope you love it as much as we do!

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper

Keeping chickens is all about the set-up. You’ll want a sturdy and safe coop for them to sleep in at night and a fenced-in yard so they can forage during the day. If you have these things (along with some water bowls), your daily chicken chores will be fairly minimal. As you will see, chicken keeping only requires about 15-20 minutes per day.

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper - HomeInStead Farm

Morning Routine

7:00AM – Wake up. If you have a rooster, you will have been stuffing cotton balls into your ears for the past 2 hours to block out his loud and seemingly endless cockadoodle do’s.

7:04AM – Throw on your robe and farm boots (or farm flops, as the case may be). Stumble sleepily to the coop to let the chickens out for the day. Be careful not to let any of them peck at your toes in their excitement to find an early-morning worm.

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper - HomeInStead Farm

7:05AM – Try not to trip over the hens as they run up the hill to see if there is food by the house (there’s not), then swarm back down the hill to see if there is any food on your person (there’s not). Careful now, they WILL stand directly in your path and cock their little chicken heads at you, scanning your silhouette with one eye like the Terminator. My advice is to stay calm, keep walking, and pray their little chicken brains will be able to comprehend the fact that you are not secretly hoarding worms in your pockets.

7:08AM – Fill the water bowls and give the chickens a scoop of feed. However, if it’s summertime and the bugs/greens are plentiful, let those evolved dinosaurs fend for themselves.

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper - HomeInStead Farm

Evening Routine

7:00PM – Check the nesting box for eggs! If there are no eggs, suspect that your chickens are secretly laying somewhere in the yard. Eye them suspiciously and ask the honest ones where the eggs are.

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper - HomeInStead Farm

7:05PM – Chickens put themselves to bed every night, so you don’t have to round them up or anything like that. Still, it’s your job to close the coop entrance so no predators gobble up your chickens in the night. I also recommend counting all of them to make sure the whole flock has made it inside.

7:07PM – (optional) Leave food and water in the coop for the chickens to enjoy in the morning. We used to do this, but it soon became clear that this step was not worth the effort. A few of our hens wised up to the evening feed and would fly down from their roosts to eat all the food right then and there. Not to mention that the excitement over the food causes so much commotion that the water bowl invariably gets knocked over moments after being filled. Now – especially considering that we get up early to open the coop – we just lock the coop door at night and hope our chickens are content to rest until the morning.

A Day in the Life of a Chicken Keeper - HomeInStead Farm

That’s it!

As you can see, chickens are super low-maintenance. Even the coop only needs to be mucked twice a year. The only time your chickens will need attention beyond this 15-minutes-a-day routine is if/when there is some sort of problem. For example, your chickens may require more of your time if one of your hens is egg bound, one of them goes broody, or there is a stalking predator about. We’ll talk about how to address these problems in a later post.

For now, I hope I’ve shown you just how easy keeping chickens can be! With the proper set-up, maintaining the health and happiness of your flock is simple, easy, and often entertaining!

Composting the Lazy Way

We have a confession to make: we are lazy composters. We do it, but we don’t put a whole lot of effort into it. The good news is that lazy composting works just fine!

Composting the Lazy Way - HomeInStead Farm

Why compost?

Composting is great for your garden. Where you see a mess of banana peels, carrot ends, and wasted food on your family’s plates, we see garden gold. Turn that leftover food no one wants into fertile soil! Compost provides nutrients to your plants, encourages beneficial worms and microorganisms, and improves soil texture by loosening clay-like soil and giving sandy soil more structure.

Composting is also good for the environment. When people throw their kitchen scraps into the compost pile, it saves precious space from being taken up in the already overfilled landfills. Plus, when compostable materials go to a landfill, their breakdown is largely anaerobic (without oxygen) which produces methane, a greenhouse gas. On the other hand, the breakdown of materials in a dedicated compost area is primarily aerobic (with oxygen) which produces carbon dioxide, a much less potent greenhouse gas.

What can you put in your compost?

  • Produce trimmings, rinds, and skins
  • Things that were once edible (moldy food, stale bread, old leftovers etc.)
  • Tea bags, coffee grounds, old wine, hops
  • Shredded newspaper, brown paper bags, napkins
  • Plant material (grass trimmings, dead leaves, flower cuttings)
  • Wooden toothpicks, pencil shavings, sawdust
  • Lint from the dryer or from between your toes
  • Dust bunnies and dirt swept up from the floor
  • Wood ash from the fireplace
  • Hair & nail clippings (yours and your pet’s)
  • Egg shells, fish bones, and other animal parts
  • Chicken, goat, cow, and horse manure
  • Guinea pig and rabbit cleanings (make sure bedding is compostable)

How to Collect Compostable Materials?

You don’t have to get all fancy-schmancy here. Use whatever kind of container works for you. It’s easiest to keep something in your kitchen, usually on the counter top, since that is where the bulk of your compost materials will be coming from. If you want to keep it simple, dedicate a regular food storage container to collecting kitchen scraps. If you want a cuter look, buy a compost pail like this one. If you have loads of kitchen scraps, try a portable trashcan with a lid. If you are worried about smelling up your kitchen, try storing your compostable stuff in the freezer until you’re ready to take it outside.

Composting the Lazy Way - HomeInStead Farm

Where to compost?

Where you put your compost bin or pile depends a lot on your space. The more yard you have, the lazier you can be with your compost pile. We recommend putting your compost pile somewhere out of the way, like in a corner of the backyard or on the side of the house where no one usually goes.

If you want to use an area that is quite close to your house, be sure to add a handful of straw or leaves whenever you toss in new scraps to help prevent odor. Also, be sure to minimize the amount of meat and dairy products you add to the pile so as not to attract scavengers. Of course, if you use a compost container, these precautions are less important. And if your compost pile is not close to the house, then there is no need to restrict what goes into the pile.

We are lucky enough to have space far away from the house, outside our backyard fence, where we can toss our kitchen scraps into a big compost pile without worrying if it attracts any scavengers or gives off an odor. After about a year of tossing our scraps onto one spot, we let that area rest and began a new pile nearby. This way, we can let our first pile rest and decompose for a year before it becomes fertile soil for our garden.

Bin, Barrel, or Pile?

If you have a small space or need to keep dogs, kids, etc. out of the compost pile, you may want to use a container to keep your compost, well, contained. There are a wide variety of options for a composting container. You can use anything from a simple hoop bin, which your residential county may offer for free, to expensive tumblers that agitate the compost by spinning. Of course, if you want to go DIY, there are lots of ways to build a compost bin yourself. One super easy option is to drill some holes (for drainage and air circulation) into a large trash can with a lid and throw all your food scraps in there.

Bins and barrels will help keep critters out and can speed up the decomposition a bit, but you can probably guess that we don’t bother with them. We simply toss our compost materials into a big pile behind our fence. If you have the space, a pile works just as well as a container and is easier to access.

Turning compost? No thanks!

Contrary to what you may have heard, compost does not need to be turned in order to get enough oxygen exposure for aerobic decomposition. Turning your compost pile can speed up the decomposition somewhat if that is important to you.

We help maintain air channels that let in oxygen by adding loose rough materials such as straw and plant stems. Worms and other living organisms also bring oxygen into the nascent soil. Simply putting your compost on the ground in an area with lots of worms will naturally bring plenty of oxygen in. If you want to give your pile some mechanical assistance, you can simply poke it with a stick. Seriously, get a sturdy stick or garden stake and periodically poke a few deep holes into the compost pile. This is way easier and way more fun than turning!

Composting the Lazy Way - HomeInStead Farm

Just do it!

If you’ve been putting off composting because it seems like too much hassle, consider trying our easy, laid-back approach. A low-maintenance pile might not turn into usable soil quite as quickly, but it will get there just the same, and you’ll be glad you did it.

3 Tips for Handling Your Goat

Today we’re sharing our top three tips for handling your goat – video style!

Keep in mind that proper handling of your goat is fundamental to your relationship and success with your goat. Handling your goat correctly from the very beginning will make everyone’s life easier; that includes you, your goat, and your veterinarian. These tips are so important, in fact, that they apply to all animals on your farm!

Handle Your Goat Daily

We’re not asking for massive amounts of goat handling, but consistency is key, especially when the goats are new. Try to handle your goat for a few minutes every day. Our goats usually get their petting time while I’m outside playing fetch with the dogs.

Building trust through gentle and consistent touch is a great way for us, as humans, to communicate with animals. Animals may not understand what you’re saying, but they can certainly read your mood and your body language. The more intentional time you spend with your goat, the more you will bond. Show them that you are safe, trustworthy, and, best of all, the giver of good-feeling rubdowns.

Top 3 Tips for Handling Your Goats from HomeInStead Farm

Building trust with the goaties

Handle Every Part of You Goat

When Holster was in dog training, the trainer gave us some advice that we have implemented over and over again on our farm: handle every part of your animal. Things don’t have to get weird, okay? I just want you to broaden the scope of where you touch your animal from their head, back, and belly to also include their legs, feet, and tail. With your goat, the goal will be to help her feel comfortable about being touched, especially on her underside and utters if you plan on milking one day.

Additionally, your goat’s tolerance for being touched could become vital in an emergency. You never know what body part of your goat might suffer an injury. If your animal is in pain and, on top of that, is nervous about you touching that body part, it will be much more difficult for you to help your animal. Touch those parts now, while there are no problems. That way, your goat will be accustomed to your touch and be much easier to work with. Your veterinarian will thank you, too, when she sees how easy your animal is to handle!

We practice handling our dogs and chickens with the same advice in mind. We handle our dogs’ paws for no reason in particular and even ask to look into their mouths just to get them used to these sensations in a casual and calm setting. Likewise, we pick up the chickens and reward them with treats so they know being held and touched by people isn’t something to fear.

Tips for handling your goats and other farm animals - HomeInStead Farm

Practicing holding Xandra without a fuss

Hold Your Goat’s Hooves

This last tip is our gift to you. If you take the time to do this, it will make your life MUCH easier – trust me. Holding your goat’s hooves will prepare you (and your goat) for easy, regular maintenance. If there is a routine grooming task you will have to do with a farm animal (and when isn’t there such a task?), it’s best to prepare for that task before you actually have to do it. Whether it is trimming goat hooves, cutting dog nails, or clipping chicken wings, you can set it up so that your animal is as comfortable and easy to work with as possible.

So, the idea behind holding your goat’s hooves any old time (and not only when you’re trimming) is to make your goat feel comfortable having their hoof held so they  won’t freak out when you go to trim its hoof. In fact, when you do finally get around to hoof-trimming, your goat may not even notice, at first, that you’re up to anything special. This greatly increases your chances of a) being about to take your time while trimming each hoof, thereby increasing accuracy and decreasing stress, and b) being able to sneak in and out before your goat realizes their hooves have been trimmed at all. That’s right, I’m telling you that, with a little preparation, you too could be a goat-hoof-trimming ninja!

How to become a goat-hoof-trimming ninja and other tips on handling your goats - HomeInStead Farm

Lauren sneaking up on the goats to trim their hooves like a ninja

As with all animal training, it’s important to remember to start slow. If your animal isn’t quite ready for being petted or held, see if it will eat food out of your hand. If not, just sit down quietly, with some food spread on the ground nearby, and let the animal approach you. The goal with any animal training is to start very small and build from there, rewarding each and every success along the way.

Welcome to HomeInStead Farm

Hi! We’re Lauren and Tanya!

We are two friends who, together, created HomeInStead Farm so we could share our adventures in homesteading with you! Whether you are curious about simple ways to become more self-sufficient, or you’ve already gotten off the ground building your homestead, we’re here to share what we have learned so far. And – in order to keep it real – we also plan to share our misadventures and the sillier side of life!

Welcome to HomeInStead Farm! - two friends who started a blog to share helpful advice and silly adventures that come with starting a homestead

Tanya and Lauren trying – in vain – to take a nice photo with the goats

Separately, neither of us would have imagined caring for 8 chickens, 2 goats, 1 beehive, a budding perennial food forest, and a thriving annual garden! We knew absolutely nothing about what we were getting ourselves into when we started planning, and we’ve definitely felt an equal amount of excitement and dread every time we’ve taken on a new homesteading responsibility. But, armed with each other’s courage and enthusiasm, we are making our way into homesteading life. In just two years, we have built our homestead from the ground up – literally!

Even the kids have work to do at HomeInStead Farm!

The boys helping build our very first vegetable garden

Our current Maryland homestead is located in a regular-enough suburban neighborhood where we have the space (a little less than 1 acre) and the freedom (no HOA) to delve into homesteading. But yes, our neighbors can hear our goats maaaa-ing all morning until we come outside. And yes, they are very patient people.

In addition to not knowing anything about homesteading when we started, we were not sure if we’d be able to balance our work-life with our homesteading-life. One thing that really helped us get the ball rolling was when we met The Harvest Collective. This local non-profit group is so passionate about educating others on how to grow their own food and care for the environment. They helped us take our first leap into gardening and permaculture, convincing both of us that our black thumbs were only temporary. The Harvest Collective showed us how to plan an edible landscape, improve our soil, and plant fruit and nut trees. They told us what was likely to grow well in our area and, most of all, they got us to stop obsessively planning on paper and actually go for it in the real world. The absolute best way to learn about growing food is by doing it!

Tanya & Mike of HomeInStead Farm working the land

Tanya and Mike distributing mulch under the direction of The Harvest Collective

Once our annual garden and edible landscape were underway, we thought, “Hey! We sure would love to get some fresh eggs every morning from happy and healthy hens!” So we ordered day-old chicks to be delivered by mail (that’s right – we had to pick up a little peeping box from the Post Office while acting like everything was completely normal). Did we have a coop before they arrived? No – we’d get there when the time came. Did we buy a special brooding box for the chicks? No way – we MacGyver’ed a storage box and a bench together for that. Obviously we wanted our chicks to be safe and healthy, so we weren’t COMPLETELY unprepared. We had a heat lamp, a sturdy box, chick feed, and newspaper for bedding. My point is: you don’t have to plan every single detail to get started and you don’t have to spend a ton of money on supplies. It’s much more important to just go for it than have all of your chicks in a row.

HomeInStead Farm - Our makeshift brooding box for the baby chicks

Our makeshift brooding box for the baby chicks

After a successful first year of growing food and keeping a flock of chickens, we felt much more comfortable expanding. Our confidence as homesteaders grew with every new project. By year two, we had expanded our gardens, added a beehive, and were raising baby goats!

Welcome to HomeInStead Farm! Pictured: Pepper & Millie, our Nigerian Dwarf goats, bottle-feeding.

Our goaties, at 8 weeks old, bottle-feeding like there’s no tomorrow

We’re so happy you are here to share our journey. And we hope to show you that it only takes guts, love, and an internet connection to get started homesteading!