Mar 27, 2014

Making Greek Yogurt!

First off you'll need to make regular yogurt with your fresh raw milk, following the instructions on a previous post:  Homemade Yogurt Recipes and Instructions.   Then before refrigerating, follow the instructions below:

The next part is really quite simple, you just need to find something tight weaved to pour your yogurt through so it can drip and release any excess whey and moisture.  This is what gives the yogurt a nice greekish consistency.  See below:

This is a large flour sack towel, which is quite a bit thicker than cheesecloth, but not too thick for the liquid to pass through, and it also won't leave lint in your food.   You can usually find these at a cooking store, or anywhere you can get canning supplies.   Or you can order them on

This process usually doesn't take more than an hour to hour and a half, at which point I dump the thickened yogurt into a container, and scrape the excess off the towel with a spatula, then put it in the refrigerator to cool and solidify some more.  

You can add fruit, maple syrup, Agave, or any other mix ins you like and get that creamy, rich flavor you get from other store bought greek yogurts, while knowing that yours is much healthier.  Enjoy!

PS, if your'e looking for another great yogurt maker, I recently purchased the Dash Electric Yogurt Maker from Amazon, and it has a mesh strainer included for making greek yogurt!   Love it!

Goat Birthing and Kid Care

Knowing when a goat will kid can be very difficult if you don't keep track of the breeding date.  Just ask me, I always do things the hard way.   I mean to write it down, and then a week goes by, and then two, and pretty soon I can't remember, was that last Saturday... or was it 2 Saturdays ago?   Its even harder if your doe is bred accidentally by a young buck you didn't think was up to it yet, or an escaped male who hops a fence.   Whatever the reason, you need to figure out when to expect your kids.

PattyCake, our Saanen, and her babies, Larry, Mary and Curly  (My daughter would not let me name a Girl Moe)
While there is no way to predict the exact date, there are a series of signs and symptoms you can watch for leading up to the event.   Usually the goats "pooch" or hind end will be swollen as she gets closer to delivery.  You may also see yellowish discharges off and on.  Very similar to when they are in season, except that the swelling accompanies it.   They will tend to "flag" almost nonstop in the last month or more of pregnancy as well.  Flagging is when a goat walks around with her tail up.  This is not a sure sign though, as I've had goats who flag often.  They will also loose a "mucous plug" similar to humans once, twice or even multiple times in the weeks before birth.

Your goat may paw the ground, and nip at her sides, in effect talking to her little ones, and preparing her birthing area.   She may be extra whiny or vocal, and seem stressed at times the closer she gets.   But unfortunately there are many goats who do none of these things.  One of my does that delivered showed many signs, but she never seemed stressed until just moments before she lay down and started pushing.  Also she is a very noisy girl, and she actually quieted a lot the last week or so.  And even after her kids were born, she talked to them in very sweet hushed tones.  It was so pleasant to watch her interact with them.

Lucy and Ethel our 2013 Nigerian Kids
Another sign that is more definite is the loss of ligaments on the hips right before the tail.   If you feel on their rump, you can feel a nice tight ligament going down each side.  24 hours before birth, this ligament becomes so loose that its like it has disappeared.  This is in preparation for the babies to pass through the birth canal.

Baby goats are one of our favorite things about having a farm.   We look forward to the babies every year.  I personally let the moms care for their kids, and nurse them as I believe in doing things the way nature intended it.  Not to mention it is much less work for me.   I do watch closely the first few days to make sure kids are latching on and eating regularly.   If your babes are born too early in spring, or more like winter, sometimes you'll need to provide extra heat in the barn for the first week or so.   You can do this with a heat producing light bulb, OR an outdoor heater.   Just don't use one that use propane unless you can be sure theres enough ventilation and minimize the risk of fires.

At about 2 weeks of age, if you desire, you can start separating the kids from their moms at night.   I usually do this by putting them in an enclosure right next to their moms so they can still see and interact, and I've even locked them in a large dog kennel inside their moms Pen before, and that works too if you only have a couple kids.  They started going in there one there own to sleep after a few days.   This allows your doe to fill up with Milk all night, and then you can milk her out in the morning and let the kids back on her during the day.   This is how you increase milk production, and especially "train" a new milker to produce well.  Don't worry that the babies won't get enough milk.  Mom will hold back a little for them, and also with the new demand, she'll begin to produce more.

It is also crucial between 2-3 weeks of age to have the horns burned if you do not want to deal with Horn issues.    If you wait past 3 weeks the chance of the baby having scurs is higher.

To grain, or not to grain?   Personally I don't think it is necessary as long as the babies have access to good clean water, hay or pellets, and loose minerals.  I have only ever grained one baby and its because she was getting picked on and not getting enough to eat.

Minerals are super important for goats.   I know a lot of people who have had nutrition deficiencies and problems because they either do not use minerals, or had let the minerals run out for even as short a time as a couple weeks.   Mineral blocks or salt licks are not as effective as Loose minerals.  This is ESPECIALLY Crucial at delivery time and for several weeks if not months after.  I use the Meat Maker Minerals from Sweetlix, technically made for meat goats, but its the best nutrition for all goats.   I feed it free choice in a bucket that is attached to the wall of their stall.


We raise goats mostly for the milk, so we are very careful about what goes into our goats mouths because we are sustaining ourselves with what they produce.   I try not to feed too much corn, and I've heard that Purina doesn't use any GMO's in their feed.  I still have yet to verify this, but I am using the Purina Goat feed for graining at milking time.   Quantity of grain directly affects quanitity of Milk, keep that in mind and don't be stingy on the grains if you are looking for good milkers.

We only had a single birth on the farm this year.  Born to our yearling, Boo, a 1/2 Saanen 1/2 Nigerian Dwarf cross which is becoming widely known as a Mini-Saanen.   She had a big baby boy, of course.  :-)   He's adorable though, and came out eating.   He found the food within minutes of getting his legs under him.   Here is Boo right as we noticed she was in Labor:

I put these photos in small so you don't have to look closely if you don't want to, but above left you can see her mid contraction, body tensed, and the mucousy liquid just starting to come out..

She had the baby out within about 20 minutes of this, and I just moved him under her nose so she could clean him, and bond, etc.

This is the afterbirth hanging out.   Usually it is much bigger, probably with multiple births.   And it can hang on for days.   Whatever you do, never PULL it out.  It will usually take care of itself within a day or so, but sometime takes a few.

IF you want to watch a normal kidding, I have links to that below:

Sugars First Kidding, May 4, 2013 

Sugars First Kidding, Part II, Breech Doeling

Feb 12, 2014

Baby Chicks 101

Well, its that time of year again!  Tax season!   Ha ha, just kidding.... well it IS, but I leave that stuff to the hubster!  What I'm excited about is the pitter patter of little feet.   Little baby chick feet that is.   Or even ducky feet, or gosling feet. (I'll get into those on another post.)

Have you been thinking about adding fresh eggs to your diet?   There is no more "enriching" way to do it than having your own backyard chickens.   Does the thought seem overwhelming?   Then quit thinking so much... (he he he).  I am not one of those "plan out every last detail" kind of girls.  

(Check out the "Chickens" tab above ↑  and read the story of my first baby chicks here, and then you'll really believe me.) 
Some of our baby chicks hiding behind the waterer.

Most local feed stores start getting in baby chicks about now through April. And my theory is the sooner you get some, the sooner they will grow up and the sooner you'll have eggs.  People worry about raising babies in the Winter, but really thats the best time. You have to have them under a heat lamp for the first few weeks anyway, so it doesn't really matter the outside temps. 

So what kind should you get?   Well... what are your goals?   Are you only interested in keeping birds for the eggs, or do you think you'll enjoy discovering the different breeds and colors, and want some variety to your flock.   Personally, I think keeping chickens is more fun if you have a good variety of birds both for color, and production quality.

Black Star or Black Sex links as they are commonly referred to, are one of my favorites for egg production.
They lay a Jumbo brown egg EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR if conditions are good in the coop. Plus their feed to egg ration is one of the lowest.   Meaning they don't eat as much as other birds, but still produce big beautiful eggs.   Below, one of my Black stars with a few of her babies.   I have at least one or two who go broody (sit on their eggs) every year.

Other good layers with similar qualities include:  Red Star, Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, White Leghorn, etc.  

I also have a thing for Colored eggs, my favorite being green.   So adding some Easter Eggers, or Americanas as they are often called, is a great idea.  PLUS they lay very dependably as well.     I also like the French Black Copper Marans with the feathered legs for a nice Chocolate colored egg. (Do not buy these from hatcheries or you'll be disappointed in egg color.  Get them from a local breeder.)
About a 3-4 days worth of eggs when we were in full production a few summers ago.   Notice all the color variations?   Green, white, brown, and Chocolate.

The "light sussex" breed is one of my favorites to look at, and they are what is called a good quality, dual purpose bird.   They lay a nice pinkish egg every day, AND have white skin so they make a good table bird as well.  Below are a few examples, left is my favorite rooster ever, a light sussex we affectionately named "foghorn leghorn"... what a specimen!   And on the right a beautiful Lavendar Coronation Sussex, who hatched these adorable babies and raised them for 3 months!  Isn't she beautiful?


The first question is, where are you planning to keep them until you get a coop built? Or do you already have a coop?  You may think you can keep these critters in a box in the kitchen for now... (and lots of people do) but here are 2 things to think about.

1.) You'll have to clean their box daily if you don't want to be turned off by the smell at dinner time. 
2.) Make sure you have a screen or something on top, they can jump out even at a young age. 

I actually created a little invention for easy care of baby chicks, and I'm sure YOU are totally creative/handy enough to make one yourselves.... here's the basic idea: 

I got a Plastic Container/Box that is pretty big. Like the storage containers at Walmart. You want it at least 12" deep, and get the biggest one you can find, seriously, trust me on this. They outgrow the box so fast. And if you don't want to spend money, just use a Big Cardboard box for now, but if you think you'll EVER do this again, its worth getting the plastic one. Then get a whole 10' or 12' piece of 1/2" PVC and build a frame that fits PERFECTLY into the bottom of the box. You want the four sides, and then you want two supports down the middle, longways, to set the food and water containers on. Then you cover this frame with a piece of 1/2" mesh. Metal or plastic is fine, I prefer the black plastic mesh (in the fencing area of Home Depot) I just used wire ties to attach it.  Also, creating a mesh frame for the top is a good idea, or use an old screen you have lying around.  I know this sounds like a whole lot of work, but let me tell you the benefits of having this. 

 1.) It gives the chicks a sure foundation to grab with their feet.... preventing all the leg problems that can happen with babies. 
 2.) Its a piece of cake to clean. I line the bottom with Newspaper, lay the frame over, and the poop falls through the mesh.  When you need to clean it, you just pull out the frame dump out the box and contents in the trash, (after of course moving the babies to a cardboard box temporarily) and then hose it out if necessary.  Let it dry, or dry it out with a few paper towels and replace the newspaper and frame.
3.) It just makes having chicks more doable in my opinion.

This has been the best setup we've had for small amounts of baby chicks - up to 10 I would say.

If you are going to start out bigger from the get go, I would recommend building a brooder out of wood right from the start.  Its going to function very similarly in that it needs a mesh bottom, and usually I do a mesh front too so the little ones can see the babies well.  Then the other 3 sides out of pressboard (too keep it light weight)  And a hinged top, light weight as well.    The only other thing I do, is run some 2x4's accross the legs under neath, on the inside of the legs, about 2 inches or so under the bottom mesh,  and then I can slide a peice of plywood or pressboard, lined w/ newspaper to catch the poo, and help keep the heat in.

Baby chicks are usually fully feathered by the time they are 4-5 weeks old. If you lift their wings and they have feathers everywhere on their body, they are good, and should be able to regulate their own temperatures at that point as long as they have a place to keep dry.  Of course you wouldn't want to put them out in freezing temperatures, cold turkey... but you can safely introduce them to the cold over the course of a week or two.


It is pretty standard these days to start chicks on chick feed that is laced with Antibiotics.   They claim it keeps them healthy as they are growing, but I personally don't recommend using medicated feed, as I am in favor of natural and where possible, organic feeds.  You'll have to look a little harder to find non-medicated feed, but just ask your local feed store clerks, and get to know them, they can be a great help.   I know the guys in my IFA and Cal Ranch stores by name, and they know me and are happy to help when I come in.   I also go directly to a mill when I have  lot of chickens I'm raising and buy the feed in bulk.

Another option is sprouting wheat, oats and other grains and feeding your birds what is called "fodder."   Do a google search on this for now, and I will do another article on it in the future.   Its a great way to feed your birds healthy nutritious food, and give them a great start.  You can use it as a supplement to regular feed, or in place of it altogether.

Other than food, of course your birds will need a clean source of water.   And they are messy critters so you'll likely have to clean and change the water daily.

Also a heat lamp will be helpful in keeping them at an approximate temperature of 85-90 degrees.

Of course you'll need to purchase an inexpensive waterer and feeder from a feed store, or you could order online.   I believe these are all FREE SHIPPING:

A Good Basic Feeder for 8-10 Chicks (Add a Mason Jar)

Larger Feeder for 12+ Birds

My cute niece, gently holding a baby chick.

And this is harsh, but beware of kids....they will love those babies to death if you're not careful. Teach them right away how to hold a baby chick... you wrap one hand gently over the wings and body, then they can't flap the wings. And then pick up the bird and set it on your other hand... keeping the one hand over the top. Show them how hard to squeeze by squeezing their arm with your hand. Tight enough to keep the birds from flapping wings, but not too hard to squish them, right? Its important to keep the wings contained. If they can't move their wings they can't get away. If one of the kids is holding them and they jump out of their hands, they can break their legs, or get hurt. 

Most importantly, HAVE FUN with your adventure!!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and we can start a discussion.   I have been raising chickens on and off for over 12 years now, so hopefully I can help with any concerns you may have.