Tag Archives: pets

Goodbye, Molly Weasley

When I decided I wanted chickens, my friend Stephanie encouraged me and even dragged me with her to a poultry show. I came home with my first four chicks in a box.

Molly weasley and her Peeps the day I brought them home.

I initially named them all after delicious chicken entrees so that the kids would remember that they could end up as dinner and not get too attached. As fate would have it, three of those first four chicks were roosters, and they did end up being three tasty dinners. One lonely hen survived that initial chicken run to be rechristened Molly Weasley. This evening, Gwen went out to the coop to feed the chickens one of their favorite treats, corn cobs with bits of sweet corn still attached. Sadly, she found Molly Weasley, still warm, laying deceased in the run.

I don’t know what her cause of death was. She hasn’t been behaving strangely and up until yesterday, she was still laying eggs. It seemed disrespectful to tinker with her carcass in search of an issue, so I buried her without probing for more information. Just in case  it was some sort of illness, I’ll keep an eye on the rest of my flock, but hopefully the rest of the girls are fine. For now, I’ll just take a moment to remember her on a happier day.

chicken in the backyard

Free range chicken

1 Comment

Filed under urban chickens

Goodbye, 2011

2011 was a difficult year both for my family and for this blog.  If you are/were a regular reader, you noticed I wasn’t around much. I hope to change that this year.  Because I didn’t write many posts last year, I wasn’t surprised that most of the top posts last year were older posts.

As a farewell to the year gone by I present:

The Top Five Posts of 2011

  1. Brined Pork Roast
  2. Homemade Fabric Softener
  3. Homemade Laundry Detergent
  4. Building A Rabbit Hutch
  5. Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread

I am surprised that the Brined Pork Roast recipe was number one. Especially because in my opinion, this recipe is much tastier.

I get lots of searches for green cleaning recipes. Pinterest has been especially helpful in promoting them. I’m glad people are being greener and I’ll try to post some more green cleaning recipes this year.

I am excited to see the rabbit hutch plans make the list.  I wonder if that is because more people are interested in rabbits for meat, or if pet owners just need plans? Regardless, I hope to post more rabbit updates soon. Until then, if you’re looking for rabbit information, check out On Breeding Like Rabbits.

Happy New Year,


Leave a comment

Filed under Charcutepalooza, food, frugality, green cleaning, green living, meat rabbits, Miscellaneous

Building a Rabbit Hutch

When we brought Fiona home, we housed her in the same old guinea pig cage that we used to brood our chicks for a few days until we could get a hutch built, but we knew we had to build a hutch.  First of all, the guinea pig cage was designed as an indoor habitat and the bunnies will be living outdoors; the cage doesn’t offer any protection from the elements.  Second, the guinea pig cage has a solid bottom.  Rabbits need to have wire on the bottom of their cages to allow all the waste to fall through.  Rabbit waste is very corrosive and will eat through solid-bottomed containers.  Third, when housing multiple rabbits, it is best to keep them separated.  Bunnies are prone to chewing on one another.  This can cause injury and infection and destroys the rabbits’ coats.  Besides, you don’t want a buck and doe mating like, well, rabbits.   

So a rabbit hutch was necessary in short order.  I spent some time researching plans online before developing the plans for this hutch: 

housing for two rabbits

Home to our breeding pair.

Fiona lives in the left half and Nibbler resides in the right.  Once Fiona’s kindled a litter, the kits will stay with her for a few weeks before being separated into different quarters.  This hutch cost us all of $29.43 to build.  

If you need to build something small, I highly recommend that you check out the “cull lumber” bin at your local lumberyard or Big Orange Box Store.  You can typically find an assortment of bent or damaged merchandise for 85% off.  We got a sheet of 3/4″ plywood for $3.75.  REAL plywood, not OSB.  The sheet had been cut into three pieces but apparently was not the right size for the original purchaser.  We took the two larger pieces and left the six-inch strip behind. We also found two of the three 2x2s that we needed in the cull lumber bin for twenty cents each. The 2x4s we used for the legs of the hutch and the bracing inside the boxes were FREE.  They are untreated lumber that was used in/under inventory at the store.  It is important that you use untreated lumber because rabbits will gnaw/eat their cages and eating treated lumber is not a good idea.  The paint is “oops” paint from the Big Blue Box Store; Valspar’s top of the line exterior paint for $5.  The hook and eye latches we paid the full price for: 2/$1.49.  The biggest expense was the roll of 1/2″x 1″  rabbit cage wire which cost us $16.49.  Using the correct wire on the bottom is important for several reasons.  First because of the corrosive properties of rabbit urine.  Second, using thin wire can cause injury to your rabbits’ feet.  Third, holes that are too large allow predators easy access to your rabbits.  We had some hinges and chicken wire leftover from our chicken coop/tractor construction, so we didn’t need to buy cage wire for the front or back of the hutch.  Using leftover chicken wire saved us another $12 or more dollars on wire.  Hinges probably would have been another $6-10.  We also had a supply of screws, nails and staple gun staples in the garage.  Fasteners can add up quickly if you have to buy small boxes for every little project you complete. 

I may attempt to draw real plans for you in the future, but for now, here are the dimensions of the hutch: 

  • 2 wooden front panels: 20″ w x 20″ h
  • 2 wooden back panels:  20″ w x 18″ h
  • 4 side panels (two inside & 2 outside): 23″ w x 20″ h (The sides are sloped with a 20″ height at the front dropping to an 18″ height in the back.)
  • 2x2s were used for framing the base.  The distance across the front of the entire hutch is about 74″.  If I were to do anything differently, it would be to make the hutch a little longer so that the bunnies have more space to move around, but they have about six square feet each.

Because we used a precut sheet of plywood, we had to try to get the most efficient use of the board the way it was already cut.  We also had to supplement with a small sheet of plywood left over from a project we finished years ago.  Clicking here will give you a scale cutting guide to use if you have a full sheet of plywood.  The fronts and backs need to go over the ends of the sides to make the roofs fit.  It also makes your hutch look nicer from the front with no seams showing.  The size of the boxes is adequate but as I mentioned, you might want to make the “run” portion of each hutch a little bigger.  Raising Rabbits by Ann Kanable recommends seven to eight foot per rabbit, so another foot in each run would give you about eight feet. 

If my directions seem confusing, please leave a comment and I will try to clarify for you.  I am neither an engineer nor a construction worker.  I tell my husband what I want and figure out how big to make the pieces and he figures out how to construct it for me.


Filed under meat rabbits


Last week I introduced you to our new doe rabbit, Fiona, and told you about my hare-brained scheme (Yeah, I really just said that.) to start raising meat rabbits.  I can’t raise cattle in town.  At present, I can’t even have a goat, but I can have rabbits because they can be raised in small, urban spaces and are considered pets by most people.  

I can, and will continue to buy sustainably raised meat products from farmers I know and trust, but raising my own meat rabbits is financially a better option for me.    Besides, rabbits are greener; they are very efficient converters of plant biomass into meat.  If you don’t believe me, read this research paper by Wayne Cook from the Warner College of Natural Resources of Colorado State University.  It’s really long and unless you’re versed in the science, probably difficult to read so I’ll just share this statement:

“Calculations for comparisons among herbivores show that rabbits can utilize the herbage biomass potential better than sheep or cattle and sheep are considered more efficient than cattle.  (The data) shows that rabbits are about 2.2 times more efficient than sheep and about 2.8 times more efficient than cattle.”

So, even though I don’t have space for sheep or cattle, I can cleanly, humanely and efficiently produce my own meat.  Rabbit meat production doesn’t require much space or equipment and the start-up costs are minimal.  I’ve done my research.  I know there are breeds of rabbits more suited to meat production based on their size, body shapes and growth patterns.  Fiona, our doe, is a Palomino rabbit.  Palominos are considered a good breed for meat production.

Young buck rabbit.

Our new buck.

This is Nibbler.  Nibbler is a 9-week old buck that we purchased at the fair last Wednesday and picked up yesterday.  The kids selected him.  I like that he looks like a wild rabbit.  My only criteria for rabbit selection other than suitability for meat production was that we couldn’t have any of those zombie-eyed albino rabbits.  I’ll be honest, they creep me out. 

Nibbler is a mutt, but he is a blend of several varieties of rabbits that are of a good size and shape for meat production.  Not all the breeds in his gene-pool were on the “preferred” list for meat production, but most of them were and his parents were of a good size (9-11 pounds).  I’m not raising pet rabbits, so I don’t need pedigrees.  By diversifying my gene pool, I will actually end up with heartier stock not prone to genetic defects common in straight-breed rabbits.

When we started with chickens I didn’t keep excellent records of our costs because saving money on eggs wasn’t my goal.  However, I want to show that rabbits are affordable, sustainable meat that anyone inclined to could raise.  We won’t have any meat from our pair for a while because they are young, but I will keep you updated on the expenses as we move forward in this venture.  Check back soon for a post about rabbit housing!


Filed under food, frugality, green living, meat rabbits


Meet Fiona. 

Palomino Rabbit

Fiona enjoying some time in the yard.

Many of you will look at this post and think, “Aw, how cute!”  That is the natural instinct when one sees a bunny.  They are fluffy and sweet.  Generally, they are gentle and quiet.  If you are a gardener, you may be thinking, “What a pest!” or “Great fertilizer.”  But, as fellow blogger Annette of Sustainable Eats writes: Bunnies are Fluffy and So Much More

Some of you will read this post and decide not to come back.  That is because Fiona is the first step in my venture towards meat independence and another step towards more sustainable food.  I started by shopping at the Farmers’ Market.  I joined a CSA.  I got chickens and planted a garden.  I ordered, paid for and received half a hog from my friend Joan at Olds Farm and signed up for a raw goat milk share. (Mr. Hippie isn’t ready to let me get a goat.  Yet.)   I make yogurt, cheese and bread.  All these things help reduce my carbon footprint and my food miles.  They increase my self-sufficiency and make me feel better about where my food is coming from.

I have a friend who is a vegetarian because she doesn’t feel right eating meat if she can’t kill it herself.  She should feel that way.  We all should.  We come from a long line of hunter-gatherers.  We are designed to hunt and kill our own meat.  Somewhere down the line agriculture was developed.  This was a good thing.   It provided food security and allowed us to settle down and form commmunities.   Homo Sapiens  has been very succesful.  We are intelligent and learn fairly quickly how to do things as efficiently as possible. We learned to work together and trade with our neighbors for the things we didn’t have.  All these innovations have made life easier although I wouldn’t argue that it is simpler.  Most of us never kill an animal for food.  Some of us, mostly children, don’t realize that a hamburger was once a living, breathing entity.  There is such a disconnect between us and our food that we don’t have to think about the unpleasantry of actually killing the animal that provides sustenance.  We even have different names for slaughtered animals than we do for livestock.  Pigs are pork, cows are beef.  Even deer become venison. 

This post is not a rant about the ugliness of industrial agriculture or the wrongs of factory farms.  This is not a post to try and convince you that you should raise your own rabbits or chickens.  I know that not everyone can or will do that.   This post is about me making a conscious choice to know where my food comes from.  When three of our four chickens turned out to be roosters, I needed to make a decision.  I could find them foster homes or I could eat them.  Like my vegetarian friend that won’t eat meat because she can’t kill it, I knew that if I couldn’t eat those roos, I had no point eating chicken at all.  How can I justify walking into a grocery store to buy a plucked, cleaned chicken and eat it when I can’t eat my own?  I’ll admit that I didn’t personally slaughter those chickens.  I wasn’t ready yet but it was a first step which brought me closer to where I am now.

 Bunnies are fluffy and cute but throughout history they have been prized as a source of meat.  According to David Taylor in his Rabbit Handbook, “By medieval times, rabbits were much valued for their meat, skin and fur.  . . .  A fine buck rabbit fetched as high a price as a suckling pig.”  I buy rabbit meat from the Farmers’ Market.  I know where it came from and that it was treated well.  I also know that it is lean, high in protein and very “green”.  Rabbits are very efficient converters of plant material to meat so they put very little strain on our already stressed out food system.  But, rabbit meat is fairly expensive to buy.  It is often considered a gourmet or specialty meat so it demands a high market price.  I can raise my own rabbits for a relatively small investment. 

Fiona is a Palomino rabbit, a variety recommended for meat production.  Fiona will probably never be eaten but she is breeding stock for future rabbit meat.  Fiona is not old enough yet to sart breeding so this venture is on hold until then, but the foundation is in place.  Until then, I do have another source of fertilizer for my ever-expanding garden.  We went to the fair yesterday and picked out a young buck.  Nibbler is a “mutt” but has nice coloring, a good shape and will grow to a good size for a meat rabbit.  We’ll pick him up on Sunday, so you can meet him soon.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop.  Hop on over and check out what everyone is doing.


Filed under food, gardening, green living

Green Eggs ~ A Tribute to Luna Lovegood Upon the Arrival of Her First Egg

Not to be outdone by the other girls, Luna spent well over an hour in the nest box this morning in the 90-degree coop to provide us with this: 

Easter Egger Egg

Luna's First Egg next to the Mystery Egg for size comparison.


See, I knew she didn’t lay that brown Mystery Egg

I could talk about green eggs but I will leave you with some words from the master, Dr. Seuss: 

I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see! 

So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE! 

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,


Filed under urban chickens

Whose Egg is This??

This weekend was the 18th Annual Dunegrass Festival in Empire, Michigan and our second annual weekend at the festival.  Aside from Dunegrass, we’ve been to Empire a lot this summer.  Day trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan.  Day trips to North and South Bar beaches.  The kids and I even made a trip out for Food for Thought’s Green Cuisine event which technically is in Honor not Empire, but we did have to run to Empire for gas so we could make the long trip home.  These little staycations are one of the reasons I’ve been away from my blog so much.  There are posts here and here about other reasons I’ve not been around, and a couple more coming I’m sure.  

Delilah at Dunegrass

Delilah playing her bass while standing ON it.

But, I digress.  Dunegrass is technically a real vacation, not a staycation like our daytrips to the beach or the dunes.  We load up the car with food and camping gear.  We set up a campsite in the field with all the other festival-goers and we enjoy great bands like the Rachel Davis Band and Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys.  

 We sleep in a tent during a torrential downpour and wake up in puddles that quickly dry up the next morning in the sweltering heat and enjoy tins of Jiffy-Pop cooked over a Coleman campstove. 

Gwen and Dylan enjoying the festival.

Gwen and Dylan at Dunegrass with their balloon accessories.

So, if this is a vacation post, why is it called, Whose Egg is This??  Good question.  Even though we went away for a vacation, we drove the 17 miles back into town several times.  You see, we have animals.  The chickens?  They would have been fine.  I checked their food and water supply each time we came into town, but I never had to refill it.   

Palomino Rabbit

Fiona enjoying some time in the yard.

Our new friend, Fiona, would have been fine too although she probably would have gorged herself on all the extra food the first day and been hungry until we came back to feed her again.  I could have boarded the dog, but I didn’t.  Dogs, especially indoor dogs, have needs.  Like food.  And Water.  And the bathroom.  Mostly, that last one.  As far as I can tell, Luther doesn’t eat when we’re not home; his food sits untouched in his room until we come home and he’s sure we’re not leaving again.  However, if he had too, he would go potty inside.  He’s done it before.  Wouldn’t you? 

So, we came back into town.  When we came home Saturday morning we collected Molly Weasley’s egg from the nest box and found the “little” girls taking turns sitting in it.  I saw both Luna and Bella sitting in the box on separate occasions.  We weren’t home for a long period of time, so Hermione might have been trying it out too, but we never caught her. 

Sunday morning we came home and found this in the nest box: 

Does it even have a yolk?

Bigger than a bantam??

  Isn’t it cute?  Now we just need to figure out to whom it belongs.  

I’m pretty sure it isn’t Molly’s because she’s been laying (much larger) eggs off and on since February.  

Molly enjoying the sunshine in her new run.

It has been 19 weeks since our girls were hatched and now we have eggs!  Don’t you love Urban Farming?? 

It can’t be Luna’s, because she should be laying blue or green or pink but not brown eggs. 

Luna's a big girl now.

Luna in the run.

If I had to guess, I’d say it belonged to Hermione because she is the biggest of the three babies and according to MyPetChicken, she will be the most prolific layer of the three little girls.  But, I never actually saw her in the nest box.  I still haven’t seen her in the nest box even though the other girls have been testing it out since at least Saturday. 

Hermione really has beautiful markings.

Could it be hers?

So, it could belong to Bellatrix.  She was actually sitting in the nest a few times, but I never saw or heard her laying an egg. 

My favorite hen.

Bella wouldn't hold still for a close-up.

  I guess I won’t know for sure until I catch one of them in the act!


Filed under urban chickens


It’s been awhile since I did a chick post, so when I saw this post at Grow & Resist and then this post at Traverse City Urban Chickens  I decided it was time to show you some more pictures of my little ladies.  It seems like only yesterday they were little, fuzzy fluffballs. 

My three little chicks in the brooder.

Day old chicks!

Remember these little cuties?  Starting at top left and moving clockwise you can see our Dominque, Bella; Luna, the Easter-Egger and Hermione, the Golden-Laced Wyandotte.  They change so quickly I wish I would have taken more pictures but you’ll have to settle for my sporadic time-lapsed photography. 

Luna, Hermione and Bellatrix

Happy Easter!

Here on Easter Sunday, the girls were six days old.  You can just see their wing feathers starting to develop.  Top left is Hermione, Bellatrix is in the center and Looney Luna is along the right side.

17 day old chicks

The girls at 17 days perched on Mr. Hippie (who was playing camera-shy).

Hermione wouldn’t stay turned-around but at least from this view you can see her tail feathers.  Luna is center and Bella on the right.  You can see their feathers starting to come in but they still have a lot of downy fluff.

The girls in the brooder

The girls at twenty days.

Don’t they look strange?  Their bodies are mostly feathered, but their heads are all fluff.  It makes their necks look extra spindly.  Luna (in the center) is way ahead of the other girls in feather development.  She reminds me alternately of a hawk and a road runner.  Bella (on the left) is still my favorite, but I think once Hermione’s feathers come in she is going to be beautifully marked.  She is the most skittish of the three.  If I put my hand into the brooder, Hermione runs into a corner, Luna mostly ignores me and Bella jumps right into my hand.  All three will tolerate being held once they are caught, but Bella seems to want to be held.  Luna is the most confident and tries to escape the brooder to explore if the lid is left open. 

The kids and I put them into the chicken run to introduce them to Molly yesterday.  It went ok.  Not well, but ok.  They all just stood there.  Nobody moved.  And then. . .  Molly started pecking at the chicks to see what was going on with them.  Once both Luna and Hermione had been pecked once I decided it was time to go back inside.  We’ll try again soon.


Filed under urban chickens

A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words

Lonely Rhode Island Red

Poor, lonely hen all by herself now.

1 Comment

Filed under Silent Sunday, urban chickens

Bittersweet Beginning

If you’ve been following my chicken saga, you are by now well aware that three-quarters of my flock turned out to be of the illegal crowing variety.   So, now what??  Well, the roos have to go.  There are, I suppose, several options.  I could try to sell them.  I could give them away on Craig’s List or Frecycle, or maybe even take them to the humane society.  Or, I could butcher them. 

Butchering was always our plan.  From the very beginning, the children were told that if any of the chicks were roosters, they would be dinner.  And, that when the hens stopped producing, they would have to go too.  Mr. Hippie was researching guillotines months ago when we first started thinking one or more of them might be roosters.  He never got as far as actually building a chicken guillotine, but he was pretty intent on building one for a while.  However, the city ordinance that allows four hens and bans roosters also prohibits the (outdoor) slaughter of chickens in town. 

So, I put in a call to Olds’ Farm.  I get a lot of poultry from them and have purchased everything from their maple syrup to their ground beef.  In addition to produce and ethically-raised meats, Olds Farm also offers poultry processing.  I’ve got a call in to them to have my roos butchered.  As soon as they get enough birds scheduled, they’ll call me back to let me know the drop-off date for my three.  It’s sad, but I’ve come to grips with the omnivore’s dilemma.  I’ve arrived at a place that every conscious omnivore must reach.  If I can’t raise and eat my own birds, why is it okay for me to march into the grocery store and buy an already slaughtered chicken?  If I can’t eat those three roosters, I don’t feel justified consuming meat.   Granted, there is still a separation between me and the actual slaughtering of the birds.  I’m not quite There yet, but I think I will be eventually.

With every yin there is a yang.  When one door closes, another opens.  Whichever idiom you choose, good and bad seem to go hand in hand.  This time is no different.  I may be losing three roosters, but now I have the opportunity to raise chicks.  Day.  Old.  Chicks.  Fellow blogger Tony of TC Bok Bok is ready to start his adventures in urban chicken farming and we’re ordering our chicks together.  This will mean safer, warmer transport for the young chicks, and shared shipping costs. 

I’m paying a little more for them than I did for the last “girls”, but the chicks from My Pet Chicken are guranteed to be girls so as Tony says, the extra cost is hen “insurance”.  Plus I got to pick the varieties of chicks that I wanted!  The order is in and I’m getting three chicks  the last week of March.  An Easter-Egger, a Dominique and a golden-laced Wyandotte are on their way to keep my soon-to-be lonely Rhode Island Red hen company.   I can’t wait to meet them!


Filed under urban chickens