Category Archives: Animal Husbandry

Top 10 Homesteading & Preparedness Books


With Homesteading, self-sufficiency & survival preparedness on the rise; it’s no wonder that so many great books have been published on these subjects. Here is a list of my personal top 10 favorite books to ensure your homesteading library is well rounded and complete.

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Country Wisdom & Know – From the Editors of Storey Books

This book is in my opinion the bible of Homesteading. It boosts a whooping 8,167 useful skills and step by step instruction on various topics including animal husbandry including slaughtering, home brewing, basic construction, maximizing your garden harvest, food preservation methods,  building root cellars, basket weaving, making toiletries, and even home remedies. I think my favorite part of this book is that all the skills and crafts provided are shown in multiple how to diagrams and picture illustrations. If the apocalypse happened and my house was on fire, this would be the one homesteading book I would go in to retrieve. Trust me, you will want this one on your bookshelf!

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The Kitchen Table Book – From the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing

This book has blown me away. No where else have I found a more accurate and  complete collection of home remedies and kitchen cures for just about every heath and household problem. Packed full of recipes and remedies from helping depression to boosting brain power this book has it all!  Not only does it feature individual fruits and vegetables including their healing properties; it also features a database of healing herbs and medicinal cures.  Each section has several processing recipes for each food mentioned. Healthy fruit smoothie anyone?Super fabulous bonus: Dabbled throughout the book are interesting tips and tricks to common household issues like how to clean a fireplace the right way.

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Made At Home Eggs & Poultry – Dick & James Strawbridge

This is an excellent introduction to raising chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys for eggs and for eating. From hatching to slaughter to carving and cooking this book offers it all from start to finish. With insights and wisdom, this resource is riddled with lots of delicious recipes to inspire the cook in all of us. With vibrant full color pictures and step by step instructions, this is a beautiful addition to any homesteaders library.

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Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners – C.E. Spaulding D.V.M and Jackie Clay

This book is a comprehensive easy to use reference guide that provides everything you need to know about caring for and treating pets and barn yard animals. It covers in depth information on sexing, breeding and disease prevention and treatment. This book has helped me take over tasks that normally require a vet appointment. With this book you can become proficient in administrating medications, assisting animal delivery and much more. A glossary in the back, helps with learning unfamiliar medical terms and procedures.

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading – Sundari Elizabeth Kraft

Despite my disliking for the title, this book was one of my first and has grown to be a personal favorite. It is well written and full of useful information on small scale homesteading. Subjects include how to sell your excess harvest, raising animals for food, beekeeping, utilizing aquaponic techniques, small batch food preserving, soap making, homemade cleaners and my favorite topic: urban foraging. Each chapter includes several bonus tips and tricks to increase your success.

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Extreme Survival – Akkermans, Cook, Mattos, & Morrison

Self-sufficiency in the wild, making tools, self protection and much more – this book covers it all! From how to survive a car accident to assessing dangerous environments, you can learn everything you need to know about survival. Living off the land is one of the key components of homesteading. Living off grid requires skills and knowledge of the environment including possible threats. This book covers topics such as foraging, bushcraft techniques, street smarts, and how to make escape and rescue plans. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering rural homesteading or off grid living. Plus it’s a beautiful large coffee table book that features color pictures and life saving insights.

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The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving  – Elle Topp & Margaret Howard

I can honestly say that this book should be in every homesteaders library! This is by far my favorite cook book. Working on a mini farm, small batch recipes and the knowledge with this book are priceless. There’s tons of delicious recipes from butters to jellies to marinades and oils. This book is an easy reference to process and preserve your fruits throughout the year. It’s saved me countless hours in the kitchen!

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Soapmaking For Fun & Profit By Maria Given Nerius

This book is hands down awesome! It’s got amazing recipes with easy to understand instructions and is packed with information on soap making! I picked this book up at a garage sale for a quarter and it’s money well spent! This book will not only help you understand the concepts behind soap making but will allow you to create beautiful and wonderfully smelling gifts for family and friends. You can even make a profit as it teaches the business aspects of soap making. I found this book to be especially helpful by creating lovely soaps that I could barter or trade with friends for their homemade items. This book started my interest in soap making which has since expanded into homemade toiletries and household cleaners.

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Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook – Skyhorse Publishing*

Anyone interested in surviving an apocalypse needs this book in their library! This is hands down the most extensive and complete collection of medical information that’s easy to read for the average Joe. This covers everything from medical triage, birthing babies, treating diseases, wrapping wounds and so much more! It’s packed with pictures and step by step instruction to handle the most common elements and beyond. There’s also several handy reference sections for easy look up. I have read this randomly section by section and I’ve learned so much about medical care. In a situation where no doctor or medical professionals are available this book is a potential game changer.

*Disclosure – I’m not a medical professional and this should not be considered medical advice. It’s best to consult a medical professional before trying any medical care from this book. This post is purely for entertainment purposes only.

This concludes my list of some of my near and dear all time favorite homesteading and preparedness books. I hope you found this list complete and informative. As my collection grows, I will be posting an updated version every few years!

If you have any must have books that I need to add to my collection, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear which ones are your personal favorites! Enjoy!!!

Raising Your Own Backyard Chickens: The Basics


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As more people become concerned with where there food is coming from, backyard chickens have been exploding in popularity. We started raising our own chickens after watching the documentary Food, Inc. Needless to say it changed our lives and the way we look at our food.. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Chickens are the easiest farm animals to keep. The benefits far out weight any drawbacks. As awesome as the family dog or cat is, they will never produce anything you can eat. Below are some of the incredible benefits of raising chickens.

Benefits

Fresh Eggs – Fresh eggs anytime is the biggest reason for raising chickens. With raising your own chickens, you are aware of what they eat and how they are cared for. Your homegrown eggs will be larger than store bought eggs. Your yolk will be more bright orange than the usual yellow of the store bought variety which is reflection of the chickens more natural nutritional diet and the taste is incredible. Personally, I use to slather ketchup over my eggs and didn’t think much of them. Now a simple fried egg with a little salt and pepper is the best breakfast ever!

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Fact: The average grocery store egg is already 30+ days old by the time you buy it. It’s washed in bleach and the chickens are not well fed or well cared for. 

Productive laying hens will produce 3 to 5 eggs each week with the highest yield during summer months. With shorter days during winter, egg production will drop back or stop. To keep your kitchen in fresh eggs, it’s recommended to have at least one hen for every member of the family.

To see how our flock is laying, check out our Egg Production Log.

Pest & Weed Control – Having chickens in your yard is great pest control. They love bugs of all kinds and are natural foragers. 70% of our chickens diet comes from bugs and weeds. Another big source of food is kitchen scraps! They are literally cute mobile garage disposals. They eat anything from breads, grains, salad scraps, apple cores and even cooked meats. We leave a bowl on our counter top, fill it up over a day or two and bring it out to them. Additionally we do offer pellet feed but when we run out they can easily go a week or more without it, foraging off the land and our scraps.

Watch your garden! They will eat most vegetation so you want to make sure they don’t have access to your garden or flower beds.  In the spring, place your chickens in the garden area to get it ready for planting. Their pecking and scratching helps rid your garden of weed seeds and grubs while loosening the topsoil.

Fertilizer – Chicken manure makes a good fertilizer for vegetables, trees, flowers or fruit. We allow our chickens to free range in the orchard. This allows to not only fertilize the our fruit trees but devour any excess falling fruit. Chicken manure is also a great for gardens. Simply mix it with your soil in early spring to prepare your garden beds.

Pets – Chickens are excellent pets. Breeds like the Cochins, Orpingtons or Silkies are good for this. Buff Orpingtons are my personal favorite. They are incredibly friendly and are good layers. Chickens are also great way to teach young kids responsibility as well as the cycle of life.

Meat – Like eggs, raising your own chickens will provide a healthier, tastier food source if you choose. You can use roosters or hens for meat. Your best choice for meat chickens is Orpingtons and Plymouth Rocks.

We’ve culled some of ours (retired layers) and while it is very different; I was surprised to find the process is much easier, quicker, and cleaner than I ever thought it would be. A few minutes into processing a hen, it looks like something you’d find at the grocery store. If you are not comfortable with the killing & processing, like me, you can always offer to share your raised meat chickens with someone else in exchange for them handling that aspect.

Drawback

Smell, Noise & Sex – Smell isn’t a problem if you care for them properly and keep your chicken coop clean. Noise is an issue if you have roosters; hens cluck and squawk but are much quieter. Some breeds are quieter than others. You don’t need a rooster in the flock since hens will lay eggs without one. You only need a rooster if you plan to hatch your own chicks or for general flock protection. Sex won’t happen if you don’t have a rooster. If you do, it can be rough and rowdy but thankfully it’s usually not loud and doesn’t last too long. Another potential life lesson for the kids perhaps.

Eggs – While nothing beats a fresh egg, they do require some work. Eggs must be gathered often;  no more than every other day. If you don’t gather eggs regularly, the hens will not produce more; they will nest instead. Or if they are bored or under fed they will break the eggs and eat them. This makes for a hard habit to break, especially if you don’t know who the culprit is. Adding dried egg shells back into their diet gives them the extra calcium to build strong eggs as well curb this urge.

Zoning – Before you start buying chicken supplies and the chicks, you need to check with your city or region. Your city may not allow farm animals in residential areas or you might need a special permit. If your city does allow chickens, then there will be a maximum number you’re allowed to keep. Each area may or may not allow roosters. We haven’t had any complaints from our neighbors against our flock of 18, it helps that we pass along surplus eggs. 🙂

Source – Finding a source for chickens is easy unless you are looking for more rare breeds. Start by checking with any farm stores in or near your city. You can also look on Craigslist, and the local classified ads. Ordering by mail is an option, but we don’t recommend it simply because we feel living creatures shouldn’t be put in the mail. Others may disagree but it’s been our experience that there’s always plenty of breeds up for grabs at the local pet stores.

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Once you decide to raise chickens, the next step is building or buying a coop. Even if your chickens free-range, I recommend building where they can nest and take cover in inclement weather. Chickens can overheat in a hot weather rather quickly so having a shady retreat is essential. Chicken coops are easy to build and fairly inexpensive.  Additionally, they are available used on Craigslist and often available for free. We built ours with used lumber and attached a chain link dog run to it. We also added additional security measures to the coop to prevent predictors from gaining access.

Backyard chicken farming is a great introduction to raising livestock for people with limited experience. Chickens are easy to care for and need minimal space. They are such a joy and beautiful to watch.

Stay tuned for our upcoming posts! Hatching and Raising New Chicks, Introduction to Our Coop, Predator Proofing and Chicken Supplies:  What You Need to Get Started!

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