January 25, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Chickens (From a Beginner)

I live in the City of Los Angeles. I often blog about fashion, crafts, and trends. It's true that I've only lived in big cities my entire life, but I'd like to think there's a bit of a country girl lurking under the surface. Case in point- I have chickens. Bock bock, crossed the road, egg laying chickens. And guess what... 
I love it!

My lovely ladies are Henrietta and Penny (super original, I know). Henrietta is the fluffy one with black feathers around her neck, and Penny is the copper colored hen. Back in September I "bought" my girls (in quotes because I feel that I rescued them from bad conditions and impending death) from an egg and meat facility a few miles down the road from where I live. The landlord said it was okay, my backyard is big enough to follow local ordinances, and I bought a coop and two $12 hens (and since then have learned A LOT). 

First off I'll start with the good so I don't scare you away. 
1. Fresh Eggs
I think that right there is reason enough to have chickens. Have you ever tasted an egg that's less than a day old? There is no comparison. My chickens are able to roam, scratch, enjoy the sun, and take part in all of the natural behaviors they were intended to. Because of this, the egg quality is amazing. It's also nice knowing where my food is coming from. They are fed non-GMO, organic, corn and soy free feed. Honestly, I can't even eat store bought eggs anymore!
2. Chickens are Hilarious
They have serious personalities. If I run in circles, the chickens are sure to follow because they know I've got the treats! They can be brave (like when Penny chased away a mourning dove today that was totally all up in her business), scared (they don't like the unfamiliar), needy (they crave attention), and bratty (like when they plowed down my garden or how they constantly fly over the gate I put up to keep them from drinking out of the pond). Each one is completely different! Many chicken owners say it's like having a "chicken tv" because you can't not watch and laugh at their antics. Oh, and they'll do almost anything for treats! Below is a video of them dust bathing (not a seizure!). 
3. Generally Speaking, Chickens are Low Maintenance 
Once everything is set up and predator proofed, and as long as you leave enough food and water, they can be left alone for a few days. I don't do this often (and also wasting eggs makes me cringe), but I do have the ability to go away for the weekend if I want knowing that they are just fine. On average, I spend about 5-15 minutes a day cleaning their coop, feeding, and changing the water. 

And now to the nitty gritty...
1. Set Up Costs Outweigh the Money Saved on Not Buying Eggs
I paid around $300 for the coop, coop extension, and initial supplies. Beyond that I spend around $45 for pine shavings and food every month-and-a-half to two months. I get around 12-14 eggs a week... When you do the math that would cost on the high end around $5 a week for a dozen organic, pasture raised, non-GMO, farm fresh eggs.... which would only add up to about $20 a month. You either have to have a few more hens (which means more work and more food for them) to break even, or just genuinely really like them. 
2. Chickens Have No Natural Defenses and Tons of Predators
The coop must be completely predator proofed! Chicken wire will not keep out predators. It needs hardware cloth with openings 1/2" or smaller so that nothing can fit through. Additionally, it needs to be buried in the ground because many animals can dig through. In the area I'm in I only have to worry about possums and hawks, so my girls are mostly safe and I keep an eye on them when they're roaming, but in many other areas many more defenses need to be put up to keep out bears, foxes, raccoons, cougars, weasels, dogs, and many other predators. At night they can't see, and even in the daytime they have no way of protecting themselves other than hiding. 
3. Disease, Disease, Disease
Just how chickens are vulnerable to predator attacks, they are also vulnerable to many diseases. Wild birds can carry lice, mites, viruses, etc... nothing that you want your chickens to get. On top of that, just roaming around and eating bugs (which they love and is generally good for them) can give them worms and parasites. When I first got my chickens they had lice (but don't worry- it's not the human kind and it is only on birds), were possibly malnourished, and Henrietta had a nasty infection that almost took her life twice. Many respiratory diseases makes them carriers for life and it can spread to any new birds. On the flip side, if you are going to introduce new birds to the flock you must quarantine them (somewhere where the wind can't spread anything between them) for at least 30 days. One sick bird can kill an entire flock. 
Back When Henrietta Had to Be Quarantined
Brooklyn Decided She Likes Her!
4. The Scoop on Poop
Chickens poop all day and all night. They can't control it and it gets everywhere. The upside is you can make great compost with it. The downside is it's messy and pretty gross! If you really want to get grosses out, google "cecal poop". They do that a few times each day and it SMELLS to high heavens. 
5. Life and Egg Cycle
Chickens are born with as many eggs as they will lay. They way chickens have been bred today, they lay almost every day. At this rate, they only lay for 2-3 years (sometimes longer but their production slows down dramatically). Around 24-28 weeks is when they start laying, at 18 months they go through a molt (where they lose all their feathers and stop laying for around 2-3 months), and if the daylight hours during the winter are too short, they may stop laying for a while. Chickens live for around 7 to 12 years, although some have reported theirs living around 15 to 20! If you only want chickens for eggs, don't make it a pet and prepare to have it be stew after only two or three years. As for me, I love my feathered friends and I'm going to let them live out a long and happy life after their laying cycle comes to an end. 

Here's some general advice I've learned...
-Keep a specific pair of shoes (preferably muck boots) to go in the area where the chickens are... you don't want to carry in or out any diseases and I'm sure you don't want to spread chicken poop everywhere!
-Supplementing their diet with garlic and oregano can have health benefits, but supplementing with calcium and grit. These should be in a separate feeder so they can eat it as they see fit. Lack of calcium can lead to sad, weird eggs.
-Join backyardchickens.com! It's a great community where you can find an answer for anything. I also follow Fresh Eggs Daily and The Chicken Chick. They know their stuff. 
-Do your research first! You don't want your birds to suffer from something that could've been prevented. 

And here are some of my favorite chicken related products!
And with that, we're outta here! 
Where are my chicken lovers at?!
Anything that I missed or that you want to add? Any questions? Let me know!

January 19, 2016

So You're Engaged... Now What?

Since November 7, 2015 I have been basking in my newly engaged-ness (if that's such a thing). It's been a wonderful time of love and happiness, but heads up... it's surprisingly not as simple as planning a pinterest wedding! (Sorry, ladies.) I had a bit of a jump on planning before the holiday proposal boom, but for all of those who have been engaged less than a month- it's time to get on it! Here are a few things to do within one to two months after getting engaged (with roughly 10-12 months until the big day)...

My MOH gifted me with this book, and its saving lives! Plus, the mug is adorable

1. Decide on a Budget
Before anything else, be realistic about how much can go into the wedding. Figure out who will be paying for it, if anyone else is helping out, and what you can afford. Remember that a wedding is one day but a marriage is a lifetime, so decide if going into debt is worth it!
This one was simple for me. I would rather have an amazing honeymoon and start out my marriage without being in debt, so my budget is not huge! I plan on a lot of DIY, an there are certain aspects that aren't as important to me (for example photo and video are hugely important, whereas food hardly matter to me... as long as there is something to eat). 

2. Book a Venue
This one is important. Dates fill up fast, and the rest of the wedding relies on this main detail. Once the venue is locked down, all the other details will fall into place.
For me, this was a big cause of stress. Many venues require you to use their caterer, some have massive food and beverage minimums, and others were too ordinary for me! The first place I saw ended up being the one! It has amazing ocean views, has an indoor reception area that doesn't feel like a ballroom, and I can bring my own alcohol! The manager on site has been extremely responsive and helpful, which was also a large factor in choosing my venue. 

My proposal was PERFECT... but that's another story for another day!

3. Decide on a Bridal Party and Send out Bridesmaid Proposals 
This part was so fun for me! I went online to zazzle.com (affiliate link) to pick out some amazing cards. They were customizable, so I was able to write in each bridesmaids names. There were even multiple paper choices! This website is extremely simple and there are often sales going on (like right now you can save 30% with code SEMIYEARSALE). There were many other ideas I had, but seeing as all of my bridesmaids are in other states, postage for five large boxes would have been too much (but I'll definitely share those ideas in another post. Stay tuned...)! I chose these cards below, which also matched for flower girl and bridesmaid. 
Will You Be My Maid of Honor Bridesmaid 4.25x5.5 Paper Invitation Card
4. Send out Engagement Announcements and Plan an Engagement Party
Both of these are optional, but why not enjoy every minute of being engaged? It only lasts for so long! Personally, I'm way behind on this and it's been two months now. As a general rule of thumb, only send out engagement announcements and engagement party invites to who will be invited to the wedding. A general Facebook announcement also works for those trying to save on postage!

5. Get a General Idea on What Your Wedding Will Be Like
Colors, theme, style, etc.... Do you want a Sunday brunch or a Friday night sunset ceremony? Banquet hall or beach? Far away or local? Summer or winter? Having a general idea of a wedding plan will help you decide on details such as what style of dress you choose, how expensive it will be (peak season and Saturdays are the most expensive), and how many guests you can invite. Some of these details should've been ironed out when you booked the venue, but not focusing on items such as choosing a color or theme can prevent you from moving further in your planning. 

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Here are some amazing white dresses to wear to all bridal functions (engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, etc.)! Some of them are major splurges, but others are completely affordable! 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link or buy a linked product, I may receive a commission- but I only post products I love and give my honest opinion!