How to Clean Chicken Water Tubs

clean chicken water tubsClean chicken water tubs must be a priority as the heat rises. As the heat of summer continues, nothing is as important to our chickens and livestock as clean drinking water. I mention chickens, but this task is extremely important for all animals. Think about your own thirst. You go to take a drink but your glass of water was left in the sun since yesterday. You take a swig. Ewww! That isn’t what I expected at all. So I only drink a small amount and put the glass down. This is what your animals do when the water is less palatable. They drink, but not nearly enough to combat the dehydration from the summer temperatures. With a small amount of time, you can keep clean chicken water tubs, and livestock water buckets filled with fresh water for your animals.

clean chicken water tubs

What Chicken and Livestock Water Containers Do We Use?

Due to the high level of iron in our well water, I have found that the black rubber feed tubs are the best for our farm for both feed and water. Larger livestock have black rubber feed bowls in the appropriate size and rubber buckets for water. The durability of this product seems to surpass other plastics and metal style water founts we have used before. Plus they come in multiple sizes from one gallon to many gallons. Our chicks are currently using one as a dust bath in the brooder coop. 

As you will see in the video portion of this post, the plastic founts turned an orange color from the iron in our water. This is a stain and makes the water container appear gross and dirty. It’s very hard to clean it and I prefer not to use these after the chicks get old enough to use a tub  of water. 

The galvanized metal founts are nice. They keep the water clean, and keep light from helping algae grow in the container. But iron water and metal don’t do well together. The iron and mineral content in our water causes these water founts to fall apart usually in the first year of use.  The galvanized waterers cost a good bit of money and I hate to see them tossed away so quickly. 

The flexible rubber feed bowls last for years on our farm. This is what works for us with our conditions. Whichever watering system works for you is fine, as long as it can be refreshed regularly, and cleaned easily. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs Weekly

At least once a week, I give the water containers, buckets, bowls, founts, a good scrub.  It doesn’t take long and helps maintain a healthy environment. Gathering the supplies takes only seconds. White vinegar, water, and a scrub brush are all I use. You can use Apple Cider Vinegar if you prefer the smell but since it’s being rinsed out anyway, I just use white vinegar. If you are concerned about additional germs from illness or for any reason, you can do a final rinse using this essential oil based poultry cleaner.

The apple cider vinegar shown is not raw apple cider vinegar that is recommended for adding live probiotic culture to your animal’s water. This is the cheaper version which can still clean equally as well as the distilled white. It’s a preference on which one to use.  

clean chicken water tubs

Dump out any remaining drinking water, Add vinegar to the bowl. I let it sit a few minutes.  Scrub with a brush to loosen all the gunk, algae and rust sediment. Rinse well. The bowl or water container should look and smell much better, cleaner and ready for a refill.

clean chicken water tubs

In between scrubbing, make sure you refill with clean water every day. The algae and rust form a film, called a biofilm, in the water which affects the taste.  Not many of us would choose to drink a big glass of stale smelly water and our chickens and livestock agree. They may drink some, but not enough to combat the potential dehydration. If you see that the water containers you use have not been depleted much during the day, chances are the water is foul. Dump it out, clean the container and refill. Hopefully that will make a big difference in the amount of water your animals consume. 

Water is The Most Important Nutrient

Water is essential to life. When caring for our livestock and poultry, water is the top priority. Hens won’t lay as well, cows and dairy goats won’t produce milk, and dehydration leads to many other problems. 

Gail Damerow wrote an interesting article for Countryside Magazine on the biofilm that forms from rust and algae. Algae, being a plant, isn’t necessarily bad. The bad part comes when the water becomes stale and the pH of the water is affected. This can lead to an environment that promotes bacterial growth leading to illness. Read the article to learn much more about the science behind the growth of biofilms from both algae and rust. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs and Livestock Buckets Frequently 

Keep all poultry and livestock water fresh

Discard any water containers that have a bad odor after cleaning.

Place the clean chicken water tubs and livestock buckets in the shade to slow algae growth.

Dump outside water containers over night and allow them to air dry. Refill in the morning. 

clean chicken water tubs

Watch this video where I demonstrate how I clean chicken water tubs.


3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips

small livestock preparedness Raising small livestock is a good way to feed your family quality protein. Rabbits, chickens, ducks, and turkeys are some common additions to homestead operations. Meat goats might be another addition or possibly sheep. All of these animals require a small amount of routine maintenance and care daily but the labor and land required is still less than beef cattle, pigs or dairy cows. Although day to day life might not be a problem, there may be some occasions where you cannot care for your animals. These emergencies can occur out of the blue, or you may have some notice in order to get ready. Even though we can’t always foresee natural disasters coming, there are some steps that we can take to make the transition from daily routine, to emergency actions easier.

Illness is an emergency that we don’t see coming. When a primary caretaker for the farm animals is taken ill, does anyone else know how to care for the animals? What if a family member needs your help and you have to ask a friend or neighbor to care for your farm during your absence. Can the substitute farmer step in and do the job?

In recent summers, the wild fires out in the north west section of the United States and Canada have taken the worst toll ever, as far as loss of property, equipment, livestock, and hay to feed the livestock through the winter. Many people had to evacuate and leave their livestock behind, stopping to open pens to let the animals run for their own lives. Others were able to load up trailers, vans, and crates with their barnyard animals and take refuge on a farm in another area. I live on the East coast and have never experienced forest fires like this. In our area, flash flooding is a more likely natural disaster. What ever possible disaster might occur in your region, your livestock should be considered in the emergency preparedness plan that is in place for your family.

I have come up with three focal points for a plan concerning your small livestock.

3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips

1. Update vaccines,routine health care and have transportation ready.

Keep the Rooster

Let’s say it is possible for you to pack up your barnyard animals and take them to safety with you. Don’t let your small livestock infect some other flock or herd if they open up barns or grazing land to you. Keep up with the health of your flocks and herds so that in an emergency, you can take them with you.

Have a crate ready for all small animals. Try some “fire drills” so you know how you would gather everyone up. Remember, the animals will pick up on your panic and react. Knowing where all the crates are stored ahead of time, making sure they are in good repair will save precious time.

Make sure your animals are used to being herded, handled or led by a lead rope. If the emergency event is the first time you try to get your sheep loaded into a trailer, it could be a disaster. All it takes is one animal to freak out and the whole flock is running for cover.

2. Have a set routine and write it down

You most likely have a fairly set routine that you go through everyday when caring for the animals. Your small livestock are used to this and changing it abruptly can lead to stress. If you are suddenly called away for a health emergency, make it easier on the caretaker and your animals. Write down the routine and leave it somewhere in the barn or feed room. Having the written instructions will make your friend or family member more confident, during feeding time. If you have a goat that busts through the gate, at feeding time,but will return for food, write this down. It will save a lot of headache and turmoil.

3. Have storage of food and water

small livestock preparedness

Loss of power is another consequence of natural disaster  that we have endured for days on end as a result of a hurricane or powerful storm. We only have well water in our area so when there is no electricity, we have no running water. We have learned to store water at all times. Simply filling the water troughs when they reach half full, or filling our bathtub with clean water will get us through. Some times we also store bottled water for the humans and store jugs of extra water for the livestock.

The same is true for grain. When the feed container gets half empty, buy more. We would be able to feed our flocks and herds for a while with the grass and weeds. The change in diet, to only forage, after feeding grain and hay would be an adjustment for their digestive tract. Optimally, any changes should be done gradually. If a friend or family member had to step in to care for our barnyard, I would hate to have no feed in the bins. In the event of a natural disaster you may not be able to travel to the feed store to buy more feed right away. If you always have a few days feed on hand, this will not be a worry for you.

Know What Type of Disaster is Common for Your Area

Each area of the world is different in what type of disasters might occur. None of us are immune to the possibility of a health crisis. I believe homesteading or farming is a healthy pursuit, full of many rewards and also many challenges. Keeping ahead of disasters by being as prepared as possible is a way to increase the odds of survival.


small livestock 



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Chickens From Scratch

Chickens from Scratch

How to Raise Pigs Naturally on a Small Farm

how to raise pigs naturallyBefore we started to raise pigs naturally, we discussed what that would mean on our farm. Since then, many litters of piglets have arrived, showed off how cute they can be, were weaned, fed for a few weeks, or even months in some cases.   All were sold and the waiting time would begin again.  

How To Raise Pigs Naturallly

The sows had some time off after each litter, to gain some weight, rest and completely dry off.  Then, Charlie would welcome them back into his pasture area and the breeding cycle would begin again.  We started raising pigs with two sows and Charlie, the boar.  Soon after another sow was added.  

How to Raise Pigs Naturally

Wet, early spring weather leads to mud, no matter what you do.

Learning to Raise Pigs Naturally

We have learned a lot about how to raise pigs naturally on our farm.  It’s been a bit of trial and error on some issues as we tried some conventional ideas, and some of our own.  One thing we knew from the start, we wanted the pigs to have as close to a natural existence as we could provide for them, in captivity.  The project was started by one of our adult children and he has been successful with the whole thing.  

Inspired by books on pasture rotation, and sustainable agriculture by Joel Salatin and Gaining Ground by Forest Pritchard, we learned about how to raise pigs naturally in a  pasture setting.   We agreed, from the start, that a certain level of cleanliness would be necessary. There were large fenced pastures available but it was a limited space.  Fencing in more pasture ground might be possible in the future but it would have to wait. And we have neighborhoods and a road near the farm so security and safety were of high importance.

What We Felt Was Important

The other thing we agreed on was that we absolutely did not want pigs living in close, crowded conditions of filth and manure.  Raising pigs naturally has added a new dimension to our small farm.

How to Raise Pigs Naturally

Instead of using cement slabs and metal fencing, we used run in stalls open on one side, soft straw and sawdust bedding, along with pallet barriers with wood fencing.  The entire area is wired with electric fencing and the interior of the pig acreage is broken into different parcels, fenced and wired. This allowed us to separate pigs as necessary, give the sows some space to raise the piglets and the piglets to be weaned.  

Raising Pigs Takes a Lot of Preparation 

Make no mistake, it was a lot of work to get this set up to  raise pigs naturally.  The buildings were already in place as the area had previously been used as horse paddocks.  But they needed repair and needed to be pig proof.   Pigs love to escape.

how to raise pigs naturally

And, when separated, they like to try to get back together.  Charlie and Mariah and Layla were quite the bonded family.  When each sow would deliver, or right before if we were on our game, she would be escorted to a birthing room with a fenced in area surrounding some lush green grass and weeds.  She would be pampered with lots of table scraps, fresh composting veggies and extra hay and feed.  The babies would thrive and follow Momma around.  All well and good, but while the sow was being treated as queen of her pasture, poor Charlie was looking on from the other side of the fence, forlornly. 

How to raise pigs naturally

What Really Happens in the Pig Pen

I think this is a good time to back up and explain some pig behavior.  Telling you how good the sows are and how Charlie hates to be alone, might lead you to think we treat the pigs as pets.  This would be far from the truth.  We respect the possibility that the pigs volatile nature means they can turn on us at any minute.  A sow protecting her piglets is a force that you do not want to cross. We respect that and take precautions.  A pig board is a must between you and the pig at all times. If the piglets need to be handled, at least two people should be on hand, so one can  keep an eye on momma. Pigs might be cute and they sure are smart but they are still livestock and have a volatile nature.  

How to raise pigs naturally

How We Handled Things

Charlie missed his sows and they missed him too.  They all paced the fence line trying to spend quality time together. 

With future litters of pigs we tried something a bit different.  Layla delivered first and was moved to a maternity suite.  Three weeks later Mariah delivered her litter but instead of moving her to a separate area and run in shed, we left her with Charlie.  

how to raise pigs naturally

A lot of  references will tell you that this can end badly with the boar killing and or eating the piglets but if you observe pigs in the wild, that does not happen.  While Charlie may not take an active role in raising the piglets, he doesn’t bother them, either.  He behaves the same as he always does towards Mariah and is tolerant of the babies. Hopefully this won’t change and of course we keep a close eye on the whole situation. The piglets don’t stay long on our farm before moving on to who ever buys them. 

How to raise pigs naturally

Rotating Pastures

 Rotation is one key to our pig operation. This allows the vegetation to regrow and the fields from being over filled with pig manure and mud.  Since this system works with nature instead of against it, the vegetation regrows quickly and a lush green area is ready for use every three months or so.  Of course, if we have a rainy season like we did this spring and early summer, its hard to keep anywhere from becoming muddy.

how to raise pigs naturally

Escape Artists at Work

Keeping pigs from escaping takes some vigilance and they do eat a good bit of food, vegetation and grain.  We try to feed them as naturally as possible but we do have to supplement with some grain.  More woodland will be fenced in eventually, and we will see how they do with a more wooded environment, too.  No matter how long you farm or homestead, there is always something new to learn. That is my idea of a life well lived.  Learning to raise pigs naturally fits into our farm goals.

how to raise pigs naturally

Pin this article for later

raise pigs naturally Before we started to raise pigs naturally, we discussed what that would mean on our farm. Since then, many litters of piglets have arrived, showed off how cute they can be, were weaned, fed for a few weeks, or even months in some cases.

Looking for more information on raising fresh pork?

Homestead Honey Sausage Making 

Livin Lovin Farmin 20 Ways Livestock Can Make You Money

Pig Pens or Pig Pastures by Timber Creek Farm

How to raise pigs naturally


How to Revive a Weak Chick and Keep it Healthy

revive a weak chickTwo days into a recent hatch and I had to revive a weak chick and then another! The hatch was sporadic. We had eight broody hens. There was no schedule to the hatch. The eggs were started sporadically and I was out of town. While I was away, new eggs were gathered! It was a bit out of control. One hen out of the eight allowed me to move her to the nursery. The other broody hens had a fit about being moved and so I put them back in the coop where they continued to brood. I continued to try to monitor and save any chicks that hatched, before they were harmed by other flock members. Who said it was easier letting a hen hatch out eggs?


Before I go any further in my methods of how to revive a weak chick, keep in mind that I am sharing what worked for me. I am not advocating or giving any guarantee that my methods will save your chick’s life. Also, I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box, and using what is available at that moment. My methods might be a little controversial to some who prefer to follow strict guidelines. 

What do Chicks Need After Hatching

If you have a broody hen, she will take care of all the chick’s needs. Broody hens can take care of quite a large brood. Tucked under her wings, the chicks are snug, warm and dry. She encourages them to eat and drink throughout the day, while looking out for their safety. Pasty butt is rare in broody raised chicks because the hen knows what to tell the chicks to eat. 

Chicks raised in a brooder have a bit of a harder road. No matter how closely we observe for problems, issues can arise. Pasty butt, chilled chicks, spilled water, and aggressive chicks can wreak havoc. Most of the time things go well, but there are times we need to intervene. Chicks need warmth, dry bedding, and food and water they can easily access. Chicks that are stressed by the environment cannot thrive.

My recently hatched chicks were a few days behind the other three. The broody hen wanted no part of adopting the last hatchlings. So into the brooder they went. I use the warming table style heaters. All the chicks had access to water and food, with clean bedding. But  the last two chicks that hatched, weren’t strong. They stopped eating and drinking within 24 hours of hatching. I needed to try something or they would die.

revive a weak chick

First step 

Always make sure the chick is warm before trying to give food or water. I held the chick in my one hand while completing chores with the other.  Next, I tried some Nutra-drench product for poultry because I had it available in the barn.  I mixed it in a bit of water and used a syringe to let drops fall on the tip of the beak. The chick was interested and started to open it’s beak for the water. If you do this, also make sure the chick isn’t getting wet from the drips. 

As I was feeding the barn cats I had an idea. By now the chick was looking really weak despite the water. The bits of canned cat food looked like something I could try to feed the chick. At first the chick wouldn’t open it’s beak for the food. Then it took a bite. And another! Then it took a big bite. I gave it a few minutes to settle. I continued to give bits of wet cat food and after a few minutes more, the chick was struggling to use it’s legs again. It was reviving!  The eyes reopened and it chirped. How about that!  

revive a weak chick

Other Options to Use When You Revive a Weak Chick

Now, as I said in the disclaimer, this is a last ditch effort. I don’t think chicks should routinely be fed cat food products. Cat food is high in protein, and the canned food is high in water. Both of these were good for the chick short term. If I hadn’t acted quickly, I am not sure that this chick would have lasted while I prepared something else or If I had driven to a store. A good reason to have some ideas on hand, in the barn or feed shed. 

More Ideas to Revive a Weak Chick

Warmed plain yogurt

Scrambled egg

Hard boiled egg chopped tiny

Molasses water – Molasses also contains other nutrients 

Make a mash or tea of fresh herbs that contain Vitamin E such as Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme

Sugar water *use very short term. Too much sugar can lead to pasty butt

Nutra-drench product

Poly-visol infant vitamin drops without iron –*This also helps with wry neck which is a result of Vitamin E deficiency. You can read more on Wry Neck syndrome here.

The important thing is to get some nutrition into them and get them over the hard part. After 24 to 48 hours your chicks should be back on chick feed and able to cope well. You may need to assess when to return them to the brooder with the other chicks. 

What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

The best case scenario is a small number of chicks, transferred to a waiting brooder. They stay warm and within a short time, find food and water. The weaker ones learn from the bolder stronger chicks and all do quite well. But sometimes, chicks need some TLC to get past the initial days. They may have become chilled at some point and become too weak to get to the food. They may be not as strong and easily trampled by the other chicks. Once they are knocked down, it may be too much to struggle back up on their feet. 

If possible, raise the weak chick with another non-aggressive chick for company. Chicks all do better with at least one friend in the brooder. 

revive a weak chick

Of course, we all want a good outcome and it is often a matter of timing. Do what you can to observe the chicks and help with some TLC if you see a weak chick. When you revive a weak chick, it is a rewarding feeling. I hope these ideas will help you if you have a need to revive a weak chick. Please leave your own remedies and ideas in the comments.

revive a weak chick




How to Make a Hen Saddle or Apron

hen saddleWhy is your hen wearing a dress? This is a question I hear if I put the hen saddle on a chicken. The hen saddle protects the chickens back and feathers from the treading of a rooster. I have also heard these called hen aprons.  If you don’t keep a rooster, you may not ever need the protection of a hen saddle. Making the hen saddle is an easy DIY project. First lets look at why the hen saddle might be necessary.

Observing chickens mating can be disturbing if you haven’t seen it before. Roosters are not gentle when they mate. The hen submits by crouching down. The rooster jumps on her back and treads his feet into her feathers to gain his balance. The actual mating is quick and both hen and rooster shake their feathers, walking off to continue foraging. The rooster may go from one hen to the next in quick succession. And if you have more than one rooster, the boys may have their own idea of which hen belongs to each of them. Roosters must have a different idea of what courtship should look like! 

How Does Feather Damage Happen?

Rooster feet are large and the talons are sharp. In addition, the spur may be quite long. All of these structures are digging into the back of the hen while the rooster is mating. Feathers are meant to protect and fluff. They can not always withstand repeated abrasions. The mating behavior can cause the hen to loose her back feathers. After the feathers fall out, the hen is still a willing victim in the mating game. Now however, the skin on her back will take the wear and tear. Some hens seam to  have a lighter feathering and lose their feathers quickly. Some manage to keep a downy covering.

hen saddle

In addition, sunlight will burn the tender skin on the hen. This can’t be healthy!  

Use a Hen Saddle to Stop the Feather Loss Before it Happens

The first sign of feather loss starts near the tail of the hen. Look near  the tail feathers for a downy look instead of feathers. If it’s not molting season, you probably are seeing feather loss from mating. Molting usually starts in late summer and is over by the time cold weather hits. Nature intended it this way. The new feathers and downy undercoat are ready to insulate the chicken through the colder weather. Read more about molt here. 

hen saddle

Rooster caused feather loss is usually seen in the spring. Mating season begins as the days lengthen. Look for feather loss at this time and think about using a saddle to protect the hen.

Using a hen saddle will protect the feathers before they fall out.  If you don’t want to sew a hen saddle, there are many options for buying them. If you can sew a simple pattern together, you may enjoy stitching up a few to protect your hens. 

The hen doesn’t seem to notice she is wearing a saddle once it is on her. Depending on the temperament of the hen, she may object to being caught and held while you dress her. After the saddle is on correctly, the wings fold over most of it and they rarely seem to bother with it. 

Occasionally the saddle will roll up the hen’s back. Flip it back down and when she adjusts her wings it will cover it up again.

hen saddle

When to Use the Hen Saddle

The hen saddle does a great job at protecting the hen’s tender skin during mating season. As late summer approaches, the roosters should be less active, and the molting process will begin.  At some point during the molt, new feather growth will begin. At this point, remove the hen saddle so it does not interfere or abrade the new feathers. If there is still an over zealous rooster, that must stay with the flock, you may need to play around with the timing of taking the saddle off. In some cases, putting the hen saddle on during the day and removing it at night, might be the answer. 

Save for later!

hen saddle


How to Make a Hen Saddle

Using the pattern provided, or make your own, cut two from cotton fabric.

 Cut a piece of elastic 12 inches long. 

(I used two contrasting “fat quarters” which can be purchased where ever quilting supplies are found. Two fat quarters will make 4 hen saddles. Of course, you can use an leftover cotton fabric you have on hand,too.)

Place the two pieces of the hen saddle, right sides together.  

Stitch the two layers together, leaving the opening shown, unsewn for turning. Use a quarter inch seam allowance and clip the curves to make turning easier.

Turn the hen saddle to the right side by pulling the saddle through the opening. Smooth and press the saddle.

Turn the opening raw edges to the inside. Press. Fold over the top for the elastic casing. Sew to the body portion at the top, making a casing for the elastic band.

Insert the elastic band through the casing.  Attach to each side of the hen saddle, stitch in place. If you are having trouble threading the elastic, attach a safety pin to one end to push through the casing.

hen saddle

Show your creation to your hens! I am sure they will all want to wear the latest fashion statement!

hen saddle

Hen Saddle in Action

Are you wondering how in the world you will get your new hen saddle onto the chicken? Watch this video as I apply the hen saddle made in this post, to one of our buff Orpington hens. It seems my buff Orpingtons are especially prone to feather damage from the roosters. Maybe because they are a docile breed and don’t run away from him as quickly!  


Print the Pattern and Instructions

Print here

2017_05_13_14_41_43 hen saddle