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Blog Posts on My Frugal Life:

Cat Food Free
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | By Tanya39

My daughter has her own cats now, and when I visit her we go shop, but she doesn't buy much cat food. I always think those poor kitties of hers must starve, and I tell her not to forget he cats at home. She told me that she takes the bus to a thrift store that helps out animals by rescuing them from being abandoned and abused and that is where she gets her cat food for the month. She also goes to her vet who gives her coupons for free cans of cat food. She buys dollar store cat food otherwise for a dollar, and that doesn't go that far, so she gets good sources for cat food. I wish our vet did that for our pets....she is ingenius don't you think. My youngest child wants a guinea pig now....I wonder what that will cost me. Well it is back to craigslist and freecycle for guinea pigs maybe?

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The Missing Socks and Old Stained Tee shirts
Wednesday, March 09, 2011 | By gogalyboo

I know where my missing socks are!

 I just couldn't bring myself to throw away all those old socks, but they were creating a huge pile in my laundry room.

This dog bed is an easy craft that doesn't cost much, plus you recycle(GO GREEN), and simple sewing projects like this one are a great way to hone your sewing skills.

http://www.favecrafts.com/Sewing/Sock-Bed-for-Kitty#

this is where i got the idea from ..Just made our own version for mommy dog and her pups!!
We saved about 25 socks and 4 teeshirts for this> WOOHOO

    

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Chicken Treats: Suet Cage O' Greens
Thursday, February 10, 2011 | By begonia

Feeling “all cooped up” is literally true for many chickens at this time of year. With all these snow storms and cold snaps, my girls have been confined to their coop more this year than any other in their short chicken lives. It has got to be pretty boring.

I like to give my hens greens from time to time throughout the winter. Whenever I make a salad, I save the outer leaves and core for my little girls. That is where the suet cage comes in.

I bought a large NEW square suet cage from my local wild bird seed supplier. (It is important that the cage be new and not used because wild birds carry all kinds of bird diseases.) I suspend the cage on a chain that I hang from a nail in a rafter of the coop. I use chain to make it easier to change the height of the hanging cage. As the amount of bedding in the coop rises and falls over the course of the winter, I can easily adjust the length of the chain to suit.

 I hang the cage of treats just high enough that the hens have to stretch a little to reach it. I use a double-ended snap to attach the cage to the chain. It also makes detaching and attaching the cage to the chain easy. When not in use, I hang the cage itself on the same nail in the rafter that supports the chain.

As the birds peck at the greens in the cage, it swings around wildly, requiring the hens to judge the swing of the cage to get their next bite. It keeps their pea brains stimulated and their naughty beaks busy. It’s the chicken equivalent of tether ball! Begonia

 

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First Eggs of 2011!
Saturday, January 22, 2011 | By begonia

This morning I found two newly laid eggs in one of the nesting boxes! My husband and I each had an egg for breakfast! The egg laying season has started on our little farm in town.

My hens started molting in the late autumn when the day length got too short for egg laying, which is kind of handy because birds don’t lay eggs when they are in full molt anyway. The downside was that I have such a small flock (four birds) that I had to use some supplemental heat in the coop to keep them alive until they got more feathers!

They are fully feathered again and the days are getting longer. The sun is setting at about 5:30, but it is still bitterly cold. This is the coldest part of the year for us. I don’t use artificial light in the coop. I want my chickens to sleep more when conditions are more crowded. I don’t want them awake getting bored and thinking about bad things to peck like each other or their own eggs.

Since they are both pets and egg and manure producers for my little farm in town, I don’t mind if they have a couple of “unproductive” months each year. I am in this for the long haul. These girls are never going to end up as stewed chicken, so they have a few more years to lay their eggs.

I noticed for the last three or four weeks that the girls have been hitting the oyster shell pretty hard. I’ve had to refill the quart jar in the feeder several times.  In the last two weeks, the shavings in the nesting boxes had been disturbed. Last week, I came into the coop one evening to turn on the heater and found that they had been fighting over one of the boxes and had knocked off the front of it! I brushed out the dusty old shavings and replaced them with a fresh supply.

I’m going to keep better track of egg production this year. I have a chicken journal that I started a few years ago that I will use for the purpose. Now I have one more marker to gauge the coming of Spring! Begonia

   

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Frosty Chicks: Baby It's Cold Outside!
Friday, December 03, 2010 | By begonia

The temp is due to drop into the single digits tonight and 5 to 7 inches of snow is predicted for Friday night and Saturday, the first major storm of the season. I went out to the coop at sundown and unplugged the heat emitter and plugged in the oil radiator. The heat emitter can only raise the coop temperature 10 degrees, so it isn’t enough when the temps drop into the single digits Fahrenheit. A person with a bigger flock wouldn’t have to worry, but I have only four sadly molting hens in a fair-sized coop, and supplemental heat is necessary.

I’ve had them cooped up for some weeks now. I have opened the pop door on warmer days when the temperature gets in the 40sF, but they tended to come out for short periods and then go back inside to warm up. I run the 250 watt ceramic heat emitting bulb most days and will gradually run it less and less as they get more plumage.  By late January, they will be outside on sunny days in the teens when they are fully feathered again!

Inside the coop I’ve been giving them more and more layers of “chicken straw” to spread around the coop floor. It insulates the floor which is quite cold because the coop is up on brick footings to discourage vermin.  The oil radiator is up on bricks as well. It has no open flame or heating coil, but it’s never a good idea to have something hot too close to something flammable!

I won’t close up the north side vents until the temperature drops down into the low double digits and single digits consistently. Air circulation is really important in the closed up winter coop because the birds give off so much moisture when they breathe. If the “wet” air doesn’t circulate out of the coop, the birds can become damp. A damp bird is a cold bird, and a cold wet bird becomes a sick bird very quickly. 

I’ll also sleep better tonight knowing that my girls are cozy even during a bitterly cold night. You stay warm, too! Begonia

  

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keeper kitten(s)
Saturday, November 13, 2010 | By leftthesanebehind

Hello all, it has been along time since i wrote.!If i haven't already i would like to welcome all my cats babies to the world. 7. one died so we were left with 6. this time around everything is going better. 6 weeks almost! Man how the time has flown by!..Adverturous little kittens with real personalities!.. friendly, sweet and some hiss and upset at human contact! We are planning to keep one of the babies. but have no idea how to part with the other one we have fallen for!..a lady called and wanted to take one from us, maybe letting her pick with give us a decision we can all keep! well until then it it fun to see them all grow!. Got better pricing for the mother cats spaying, the town next to us charges $180 over the $230 our town vet wants! God bless you all!

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Chickens and Winter: Tucking in the Chicks
Monday, November 08, 2010 | By begonia

The temperature is really beginning to dip here on My Little Farm in Town. It is time to get the coop and yard ready for winter.

When the temperature dips below freezing, as it will tonight, the first thing I do is bring the water font from the chicken yard into the garage for the night. Then I plug in the electrically heated water font in the coop. I ordered it from Farm Innovators ( www.farminnovators.com ), and it was one of the best investments I’ve made—besides purchasing the girls themselves! It is not good for chickens to go thirsty at any time because it affects their laying, and I’ve already had my fill of frozen water buckets growing up on a hobby farm with no water hydrant in the barn. (I used to lug five-gallon buckets of water through thigh-deep snow, and it was so cold that when the water slopped onto my legs, it froze before it could soak my long underwear!)

 I closed almost all the vents on the south side of the coop and blocked the east and west corner ridge vents with triangles of Styrofoam insulation board.  One south vent is always open a little bit. Until the weather gets into the teens Fahrenheit, I won’t close any more vents. I will always have one vent open a little north and south. The chickens’ respiration is moist and rapid. They breathe out a lot of water that can condense on the inner walls of the coop, as well as on the chickens, if there isn’t enough ventilation in the coop. A damp bird has a hard time keeping warm and is liable to become ill.

My husband dug out and cleaned the storm window I salvaged to use in the coop. (Another window of the same size covers my cold frame.) He built up a frame for this window, which is basically a piece of glass with an aluminum edging, inside the main window of the coop so that there would be a three-inch air space between the two panes of glass. He used some butterfly clips to secure it and make it easier to install and remove. This window is warmer and brighter than the Styrofoam board that I had been using to insulate this window. My husband built the overhang on the coop to admit the lower angled rays of the fall and winter sun. The double-paned window has the added advantage of letting in sunlight and making use of solar gain on bright days.

I’ve already hung the 250-watt ceramic heating bulb screwed into a heating lamp hood in the coop above their perches. (I found it on a website that sold supplies for people who keep reptiles as pets.) I won’t plug this in until the weather gets into the teens. (I have to admit that I’ve used it when the temperature was in the low 20s (F) and a hen decided to molt at the wrong time of year—they are pets after all!)

When the temperatures get in the single digits and near or below 0 (F), I will set up the oil radiator on top of a couple of the thicker patio brick. (Putting any heater above the bedding lessens the chance of fire. Don’t use a heater with an exposed flame or electric bar—you risk losing your coop and all your stock.) It will heat the coop when the temperature really drops. People with bigger flocks don’t need heaters; the birds themselves heat the coop. I only have four gals. My girls will only raise the coop temperature 4 or 5 degrees and that mainly because my coop is so well insulated with R11 bats in the walls!

 I start to get into the habit of checking the thermometer that I have in the coldest corner of the coop, and I make sure that my LED touch light on the wall just inside the door is in good working condition. The thermometer tells me whether my heaters are working or if they need to be adjusted. The LED light helps me read the thermometer during the dark of winter!

Another thing that I do to prepare for colder weather is bed the yard more heavily. I clear out the broken down and exhausted straw and use it to create new garden beds or add it to old beds as a feeding mulch. Any raw manure in the straw will be broken down even further by the harsh winter conditions. I pay special attention to the northwest corner of the yard that bears the brunt of the prevailing winds. I create wind breaks with slices of straw laid against the fence (see my November 6 blog: Chicken Nests and Windbreaks). The girls will almost always choose the outside to the inside, so providing a sheltered situation for them is important.  

My last preparation for snow and frigid weather is to locate my big tarp for the chicken yard. I will tarp the yard at night or when a big snow storm is coming during the day. When the snow stops, we shovel off the tarp enough to drag it and the remaining snow out of the yard. This keeps the space relatively snow and ice free and allows the girls to be out most of the winter. I like to avoid cooping up the birds as much as possible. This prevents most pecking problems that come with boredom and crowding.

A lot of the things that I do to keep my birds healthy and comfortable are things that a person in a more rural situation probably wouldn’t bother with. In town, chickens tend to be viewed as pets, working pets but pets all the same. My neighbors enquire after the wellbeing of my girls when the weather is harsh.  They ask if they are warm enough!  We urban chicken ranchers also tend to have fewer of birds, which creates problems that people with bigger flocks don’t experience as acutely. Keeping your birds from freezing to death during a northern cold snap of -10 or -15F weather is more of challenge with a small flock! (Although last year during an early winter cold snap, some country folks with much larger flocks lost numbers of birds to the cold.)

Winter can be a tough time for the feathered ones and for the people who care for them. With a little foresight and preparation, a lot of its hardships can be avoided. Stay warm! Begonia

 

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Chicken Nests and Windbreaks
Saturday, November 06, 2010 | By begonia

We are truly headed into winter. Last week we had cold, gusty weather. The wind came out of the northwest and chilled right to the bone. Some of the gusts topped out at 60 miles per hour.  The chicks went out as usual, only retreating to the coop when it began to blow and rain.

When it stopped raining, I broke a bale of straw and lined the northwest corner of the yard with “slices” or flakes of hay. These were normal-size kicker bales, so each slice was about chicken height. I then laid a few flakes of hay in the middle of the “V” so the girls could scratch them up and create their own fluffy bed of hay to snuggle down into protected from the wind.

Being chickens, they just couldn’t resist all the possibilities in those flakes of hay lining the fence, so eventually they tore them up and stomped them down as well. I went out a couple of times that day when the wind was at its worst to kick the hay back up against the fence and bank the corners. (Another option might be to wire a few sheets of plywood into place, but we don’t have any to spare at the moment.)

Most days find the girls gathered in the corner nestled deep in the straw, their dark plumage soaking up what sun is shining. They are tough gals and enjoy being outside, especially when there is some protection from the wind. Begonia

  

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The Chicks Get a Halloween Scare
Sunday, October 31, 2010 | By begonia

We had a flesh eating visitor today. It would have been Nightmare on My Little Farm in Town if not for the substantial bird netting we have over our chicken yard!

Our unwelcome guest was an immature Coopers Hawk.  It was sitting right in the middle of the netting that protects my chicken yard trying to figure out how to get at those nice plump hens. My daughter spotted the hawk first and I stopped her from driving it off long enough to get a picture.  

For more information, check out the following web site: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Coopers_Hawk/id

These birds seem to think my patio bird feeders are their private snack bar. They are usually unsuccessful because of the family of crows that consider my yard their territory and regularly drive off intruders.  My birdfeeders also are situated so that smaller birds can take cover quickly.

We’ve also been visited by Red Tail hawks in the past. Again the netting did its job. If you have chickens and don’t want to lose any to hawks, there is no substitute for a nice barrier between them and the cold cruel world. Begonia

   

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Worm Wrangling: Vermicomposting on My Little Farm in Town
Friday, October 29, 2010 | By begonia

I had a worm roundup a couple days ago on the sunny south side of the house before all this blustery weather blew in. I had two worm composters that needed attention before winter. I needed to empty both boxes, rebed one, and transfer my population of squirmies to their winter “digs.” (Get it? Worms, Digs. . . sigh.)

Worm castings are the real black gold. I dumped the bins into the big red sled that I use to haul all manner of stuff around the yard. Then I drew up a lawn chair and began separating worms and their cocoons from finished worm compost. (This wasn’t as hard as it sounds because most of the worms were in one layer of the box.) I dropped the worms and cocoons into a tray with some cover for them to hide in—worms hate light. I eventually put the remaining worms in the newly bedded box.  I dumped most of the contents of my vermicomposting boxes on the bed that will be covered by my newest cold frame, where I will plant next spring’s greens in March.

I learned about worm composting over 15 years ago when I read the now classic, Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.  I didn’t get around to actually doing it until after we moved back to Wisconsin from Iowa in 1993. I’ve been vermicomposting for about 10 years.

Vermicomposter—such a fancy word for a plastic box drilled with holes (one of my worm composters is a retired recycling bin) filled with leaves, chicken yard hay, and vegetable kitchen scraps with a piece of junk window screen in the bottom to keep the worms from escaping!  Boxes and worm beds can take many forms, but the most important thing is that you have a container with good drainage to hold the worms and their bedding and food. The bedding shouldn’t be too wet. It should be about the dampness of wrung out sponge. You can use shredded corrugated cardboard, black-and-white newspaper (don’t use bleached paper or colored newsprint—it poisons the livestock) and some dirt or peat, old hay, chopped up grass clippings and leaves, or some combination of all of the above about 8-10 inches deep.

The worms—buy red worms mail order when the weather isn’t freezing or from a bait shop. I bought two tubs of red wiggler bait worms to “seed” my latest box. This worm’s Latin name is Eisenia foetida. I tell you this because this worm has a lot of different common names. You  want to be sure to get the kind of worm that lives in the top 6 or 8 inches of litter not something that requires a permanent burrow like the night crawler (Lumbricus terrestis) or garden worm (Allolobophora of various types). You can find ads selling redworms in the back of outdoors magazines or on the web. You also might get a couple handfuls from someone who already composts with worms and is feeling charitable.

Worm chow—kitchen and garden scraps, coffee grounds including the paper filter, tea bags,  and crunched up egg shell are all good food for worms. Don’t try to feed them any fat, oil, or meat—this stuff just stinks and attracts pests. I pull back a few inches of bedding and add food and then cover it again so my worms can dine in the dark as they prefer.  

Location, Location—worm boxes are best located in a shaded area sheltered from the weather. You don’t want the sun frying them or the rain drowning them. I bring my worms into my semiheated garage as soon as the nighttime temps start to fall into the low 50sF. I bring them into the basement when my garage temperatures fall into the 40s and high 30sF. (I’ve even heard of people keeping a worm box under the kitchen sink, which I’d be tempted to do if I had enough room under there!) I’ve never had a problem with smell.  Every once in a while I might get a few fruit flies if I don’t bury the scraps deep enough in the box. By the end of the winter, I sometimes have to start a new box because the worms have reproduced so well in this ideal environment!

You probably have everything you need around the house to make and bed a vermicomposter right now. Add a double handful of redworms, and you’ll be a worm wrangler, too! Begonia

 

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