Homestead Chicken Terms – How to Speak Chicken

chicken termsAre you hearing people use chicken terms, and you have no idea what they mean? Take a minute to brush up on the lingo and learn the often used chicken terms, before you bring home your first flock of chicks. When you go to the store or call in an order to a hatchery, it will be helpful if you know the basic chicken terms and what the supplies you will need are called. And if you should have any problems or questions after you begin backyard chicken raising, it sure helps to know the correct chicken terms and types of birds that you have. Do you want to raise bantams, full size standard layers, or dual purpose chickens? Keep reading and add these chicken terms to your homestead vocabulary.

Chicken Terms – Form, Function, and Appearance

Chick – The beginning phase of a chicken’s life. Chick’s require special care to stay warm. Broody hens see to the needs of their chicks. The hen tucks the chicks under her wings for warmth. When chicks are hatched in an incubator, you will need to provide warmth, food and water, as they grow and develop.

Pullet – Female chickens under one year of age

chicken terms

Cockerel – Male chicken under one year of age

Hen – A full grown female chicken 

Started Pullet – Started pullets are immature hens that are nearing the egg laying stage. Buying started pullets is one way to ensure you are getting a hen and not a rooster. A started pullet will cost you a lot more than a chick.

Rooster – You do not need a rooster in order for hens to lay eggs. There are quite a few good reasons to own a rooster, but your hens will supply eggs on a regular basis, once they are fully mature. Having a rooster is necessary if you want to hatch out chicks from your own flock’s fertile eggs.

chicken terms

Types of Birds 

Bantams – Small chicken breeds, 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the full size breed. Some bantam chicken breeds are true bantams, meaning there is no full size version. Example – Olandsk Dwarf Other bantam breeds are miniatures of a larger breed. Example – Bantam Cochin

Dwarfs – Dwarf breeds of chickens are true bantam breeds

Heavy breeds – Cochin, Brahma, and other large breed chickens such as the Jersey Giant and some Wyandottes are considered heavy breeds

chicken terms

Production breed – Term often used for a strain of Rhode Island Red chickens. These chickens are bred for high egg production

Large breeds – Wyandotte, Jersey Giant, Brahmas, Cochin 

Heritage Breeds – Heritage breeds of chicken are the traditional breeds. The Livestock Conservancy defines a heritage breed , “A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life.”

Sex- linked Chickens – Chickens bred specifically for the high egg production. Examples would include the hybrid, sex linked breeds, often called black sex – linked or black star, red sex- linked or red star, Cinnamon Queen and Golden Comet.

chicken terms

Chicken Terms for the Coop and Run

Water Fount- the container that holds water and dispenses it at the bottom in a rim or tray.

Feeder – the container that holds the chicken feed. Most feeders are gravity fed, allowing the feeding tray to refill as the feed is eaten.

Brooder – The enclosed pen or container that houses chicks in a warm environment, mimicking the heat provided by a mother hen

chicken terms

Heat lamp – Normally a red heat light positioned over the chick brooder to provide heat for the developing chicks

Grit – Insoluble bits of granite and other hard particles ingested by birds. The gizzard  holds the grit that is used to help break up food for digestion.

Calcium or Egg shells  or Oyster Shell – Provided to laying hens to ensure they have enough calcium to make sturdy egg shells. Offer calcium as rinsed, dried and crushed egg shells, or oyster shell purchased from the feed store.

Perch – A board, tree limb or platform where chickens can rest off the ground.

Roost – What chickens do at night. Chickens sleep or roost at night while resting on a perch. The perch boards should be wide enough to comfortably allow the chicken’s foot to hold on with out much effort. A two by four board is a good choice for a perch. The chicken’s belly feathers should cover the feet when settled on the roost. The area under the roost can be outfitted with a dropping board. The dropping board makes cleanup easier.

chicken terms

Dust bath – An area of loose, sandy dirt that the chicken uses to clean it’s feathers by dusting them with dirt.

Enjoy Your New Backyard Chickens

Learn all you can about your new egg layers. Raising chickens will enrich your life and bring delicious fresh eggs to your table. As with any subject or hobby, there is a language to raising chickens. Now that you’ve read through this post, I hope you feel more confident about using homestead chicken terms.




Looking for DIY Ideas for Your Chicken Coop?

Chicken terms

Take a look at my book! 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens will give you over plenty of ideas for building projects, supplement feeders, treats, health care, and entertainment for your feathered flock. Available at Tractor Supply stores,, Local feed stores and booksellers and right here on this website.

Sourdough Starter for French Bread

Sourdough starter

I have a sourdough starter that I can rely on and recipes that are out of this world for a carb lover like me. How did I arrive at this point of warm bread bliss? I started using a new sourdough starter that was dehydrated. That’s right. When the packet arrived from Alderman Farms, it looked like a bag of cracker crumbs.

In the past, I have tried other starters that I loved , and other starters that I found hard to care about. I have gathered many good bread recipes that have helped us give up buying bread. Once you find something that works easily for you, giving up grocery store bread becomes an attainable reality. I highly recommend this book for great information on baking bread of all kinds.

sourdough starter

Not a San Francisco Sourdough Starter

This was different than any other approach I had previously tried with sourdough starter. I read the instructions a few times to be sure I was ready to begin. The process seemed clear and straight forward although it was different than other methods I had used in the past. One difference was the use of milk instead of water. I used a half gallon glass jar to begin my starter and have been happy with that choice. Cover the jar and developing starter with a paper towel or muslin cloth. You do not want the jar to be air tight.

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Most San Francisco Sourdough starters use only water and flour. I went forward as the directions stated, understanding that this was not a San Francisco Sourdough Starter but a different variation. In the end, I would be glad I let go and stepped out in faith.

Developing the Bread Starter

My sourdough starter picked up steam pretty quickly and before I knew it, days had passed and I had an active sourdough starter. I appreciated the process because up until this point, no starter had to be discarded. This was something that always bugged me about other sourdough starter instructions. Unless you wanted biscuits or pancakes, some starter needed to be discarded in order to keep adding to the jar. Up to this point, I did not have to toss out any starter.

It was time to bake my first loaves with my new starter. I chose the basic bread recipe to begin. Soon I was baking bread a few times a week and the freezer and my family were getting full! Update! Use Code TIMBERCREEK for $5 off, when you order Sourdough Start to Finish e-book from Alderman Farms!

What Type of Flour Is Best

I use King Arthur all purpose flour for our baking. I trust this company and honestly I have no desire to mill my own flour. Baking our breads is a huge step for me and I don’t want to make it unattainable by adding more tasks to the process.

Some websites will insist that you need to use a whole wheat or whole grain flour to get the starter activated. I have not found this to be true.

In addition to the recipes sold separately, with the sourdough starter purchase, I have used the starter in other bread recipes with great success. A family favorite is a Sourdough Banana Bread. Really, it’s the best banana bread I have ever tasted.

sourdough starter

Feeding and Care of a Sourdough Starter

I hear people say that they love sourdough bread, but don’t want to keep the starter alive. I can’t tell you that it’s ok to forget about your starter. Left ignored on the kitchen counter, the starter will die. And you will have to start over. However, like any other habit, putting the care of the starter (really it takes 2 minutes) into your routine is not hard. Once your starter is active and hardy, you don’t need to feed it every day, either. I feed my sourdough starter about every other day. The bonus from caring for my starter is that it’s ready to go when I need to start a batch of dough. I have found that sourdough recipes are straightforward and use ingredients that are commonly kept in the pantry. Tossing everything together takes only a few moments.

After I have the dough rising in the greased bowl, I go on with my day. Often I leave the bread to rise all day and separate it into loaves or rolls that night before going to bed. When I wake up, the bread is ready to bake.

sourdough starter
I wish I had used an egg wash on the loaves but I can assure you that the bread was good!

Taking the Sourdough Starter on Vacation

Just kidding. You don’t need to take your starter on vacation. Parting is sad, but your starter will be waiting patiently for your return if you follow these easy steps.

  1. Feed the starter as usual, two days before leaving. Wait 24 hours.
  2. Cap the jar and place it in the refrigerator.
  3. When you return, remove it and let it warm slowly to room temperature.
  4. Feed the starter as usual, wait 24 hours before using, to allow it to fully reactivate.

sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter French Bread Recipe

The most often used recipe in our house is the french bread recipe from Patti Alderman at Alderman Farms. It slices easily for toast or sandwiches, and can be made into rolls, sandwich style loaves or long baguettes.  Full disclosure, the cinnamon roll recipe is addictive. You will end up filling yourself with all the butter cinnamon and sugar before good sense returns and you try another recipe. You have been warned. I prefer to use an 8 inch long loaf pan for this bread so the loaf is a little taller, but a 9 inch pan is perfectly fine to use.

Add to bowl of electric mixer, and with flat beater attachment, mix in order listed.

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 teaspoons yeast (this can be left out but the rise times will increase)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil or softened butter

Add 4 cups of flour (the dough may require more to become a stiff dough)

Add flour one cup at a time, until incorporated.

This will be a stiff dough. Place in a greased bowl, turning so both sides are greased. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Knead down a few times. (I use these containers for bread dough rising )

On a greased surface and with greased hands divide dough into two equal portions and roll into two long loaves. (or shape into loaf pans or roll shapes.) Place the long loaves on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. With a sharp knife, cut 4-5 shallow cuts down the loaf. Let rise about an hour until doubled. Alternatively, grease two loaf pans well. I use coconut oil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

sourdough starter

sourdough starter
Other goodies soon followed!

Helpful Tips

I have found that this recipe takes over 4 cups of flour. This may vary depending on your kitchen or area.

As I stated above, I allow my bread to rise for a long time, not just the hour stated in the recipe. The temperature and humidity, in your home will affect how quickly the dough rises.

When using loaf pans, allow the loaves to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pans. They should pop out easily.

The next thing I want to try with the sourdough starter is incorporating it into the recipe for Easy No Rise Beer Bread. Stay tuned for more bread updates. Need some French Bread but have no starter ready? Try this old tried and true recipe for French Bread.

Don’t forget to stop by Alderman Farms for more sure to please recipes for breads and treats. Use Coupon code TIMBERCREEK for $5.00 off the regular price on the Sourdough Start to Finish e-book!

How to Make a Christmas Stocking

Handmade Christmas Stocking Homestead Style 

how to make a Christmas Stocking

Last year I finally made our family the Christmas stocking I always wanted them to have.  Each member of the family received a new Christmas stocking that was handmade and personally styled for them. The Christmas stockings all coordinated.  The Christmas stocking pattern I used was easy to follow and each one worked up quickly.   With our family growing, marrying and bringing on the next generation, I was happy to have a plan in place to make future family members a Christmas stocking, too.

My  inspiration for this project originally came from Angi over at Schneiderpeeps.  Last year she posted this DIY tutorial about making a new Christmas stocking for each member of her family.    This year I had the opportunity to test sew with some new fabrics from the Andover Fabrics Collection.  The new designs are inspired by the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the popular television show based on the books.  

Inspiration for the Christmas Stocking 

I received a sampler pack of fat quarters and  instructions to let my creativity run free!  The first project that came to mind was the homestead style Christmas stocking that I made last year.  I thought it would be great to see how the Little House on the Prairie fabrics looked as the accents for the Christmas stocking.  

Christmas stocking

My sampler pack of fat quarters from Andover Fabrics LHOTP collection

The directions follow and please feel free to use your own creativity and ideas to adapt my Christmas stocking plan to meet your style and needs.  I didn’t have a paper pattern  of my own, but I did base mine on the link from Schneiderpeeps.  You can find it here.   If you have a favorite stocking already, you can trace the shape of the stocking onto sturdy paper to make your own pattern.  

After you make your Christmas stocking, there is fabric left to make a small soft toy, pin cushion, quilted coaster, or small hot pad.  I am sure you can come up with your own ideas, too.  And remember to save the scraps, just like Ma Ingalls would have done.  Future quilts can  have a patch in them using the same fabric that you used to style your Christmas stocking.


Canvas fabric.  I purchased mine at the home improvement store (canvas drop cloth ) because it was economical and there is plenty to make as many stockings as I need.  

Thread – I used all purpose machine sewing thread

Sewing machine  or sturdy canvas sewing needle if sewing by hand

Sharp fabric scissors

1 fat quarter of print fabric  (one fat quarter is enough for two stocking cuffs.)


Step 1.

Cut out the Christmas stocking and the cuff pieces.  The outside pocket is optional but can be used to hold a gift card or cash. 

christmas stocking


Christmas stocking

Step 2.  Optional

Sew the fabric pocket onto the front of one of the stocking pieces.

Christmas stocking


Christmas stocking

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christmas stocking


Step 3. 

Sew around the outside of the stocking, right sides together, leaving the top open.

Christmas stocking


Christmas stocking

Almost there!

Step 4  

Turn the stocking right side out.

Christmas stocking



Step 5.   Making the cuff

Fold as shown in the picture.  Sew the cuff seam and flip the cuff right side out.

Tuck the cuff into the top of the stocking.  Match the seam to a side seam and align the tops.  

Stitch the top, using a quarter inch seam.   

Christmas stocking


Christmas stocking


Christmas stocking

Christmas stocking

Step 6.

Pull the cuff up and over the top of the stocking.

Christmas stocking


Christmas stocking

Step 7.

Attach a piece of ribbon, rope, twine or what ever you want to hang your stocking from, to the back seam of the stocking.

Christmas Stocking


I hope you are inspired to make your own handmade stockings and gifts this season.  As our family grows, I am finding it easier to fill a Christmas stocking with small gifts, tasty treats and gift cards than to shop for many larger gifts.  This adds a handmade touch to our Christmas celebration. When I see small items throughout the year that a family member might enjoy, it is easy to purchase it or make it then and store it for later.  

If you are wondering where to purchase the Little House on the Prairie Collection from Andover Fabrics, they have this convenient shopping locator here.  

Interested in purchasing copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s endearing series of books about growing up in a homesteading/farming family?

Click Here.

See more of what is being done with the Andover Fabrics Little House on the Prairie Collection 

Do you want to see what Angi from Schneiderpeeps did with her fat quarter collection from Andover Fabrics?  Doll Quilt and Teaching Children to Sew  

Chris, from Joybilee Farm used the fat quarters to make a patchwork pillow cover with an embroidered front panel.  It is beautiful!


Little House on the Prairie books


Christmas stocking pin image


5 Easy Gift Wrap Ideas

Easy Alternative Ways  to Wrap Your Gifts 

Easy Gift Wrap IdeasHere we are down to the wire on the Christmas preparations. I bet most of us still need easy gift wrap ideas. If you run out of wrapping paper are you really going to want to run out to the store at this point? Have you seen any easy alternative gift wrap ideas? What if the thought of all that wrapping paper, that can’t be composted or burned, piling up in your living room is too much to bear? When wrapping gifts I love to think outside the norm and I like the packaging to add value to the gift. Let me share some of my ideas with you.  I am sure you will be able to add your own ideas after you get started with these easy alternative gift wrap ideas.

My List of Gift Wrap Ideas


Wrap books in something related to the subject of the book. For example, use a pretty new dish towel as the “wrapping paper”gift wrap for cookbooks . The cooking section of the newspaper would be a another great idea. Use twine for the ribbon and tie on a couple of napkin rings for added impact. If you have children who want to help, let them cut out food pictures from magazines to glue to the newspaper wrappings. For a sports theme book, use the sports section.  A novel could be wrapped in the book review section.  You get the idea? Here’s a list of a few more recycled paper ideas for gift wrap.

Sewing and craft themed gifts 

Use a fat quarter of quilting fabric to wrap up a crafty theme gift. To take it up a notch, tie on a seamstress tape measure, or a package of pretty buttons. Maybe you have some older craft magazines around and could sacrifice some pages to use as wrapping paper. Or skip the wrap altogether and use a storage container or cute tote bag to hold the gift.  Crafters and makers always need more storage. 

gift wrap ideas

Garden Theme Books and Gifts   

Wrap up the gift in a piece of burlap.  Tie on a handmade ornament made from natural items or herbal sprigs. If you use gardening twine to tie it all up, the whole gift can end up in the garden next spring.


Grab a fashion magazine from the recycle bin and add some fashionable clothing pictures to the plain wrapping paper. Decorate an unneeded shoe box to use as a gift box. The box can later be used to store other items.

General Gift Wrapping 

I love to give practical gifts from our homestead and wrap them in my favorite paper.  Brown paper that comes on a big roll has many uses and I find myself turning to it all year long.  The paper is completely safe for recycling.  I buy this one and it lasts a long time.  I use it to cover the table for coloring projects with my granddaughters, too.  

Easy Gift Wrap Ideas

Wrapping gifts in plain brown paper allows me the freedom to write on the paper, decorate however I want, and customize the gift wrap to suit the gift recipient.  I use different types of twill ribbon, satin ribbon, rick rack, vintage lace, twine, and raffia for the ribbon.  Add on a tree ornament, or something useful, and a pretty tag.  


5 easy gift wrap ideas

I hope these ideas help you wrap up the season in style! Here are some additional articles on the same topic.

Urban Overalls – Making Boxes from Recycled Gift Boxes

A Farm Girl in the Making  Using Recycled Paper for Gift Wrap

Joybilee Farm  Using Fat Quarters for Gift Wrap

SchneiderPeeps  Making a Fabric Gift Bag

My Healthy Green Family Furoshiki

10 Practical Homestead Gifts

practical homestead giftsPractical homestead gifts are simply the best idea. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been creating for years, or just beginning to enjoy delicious homemade items from the homestead. You probably love sharing these products with friends and loved ones. The holiday season often has us scrambling for ideas that will lead to checking off the gift list. Have you thought about using the homegrown and handmade items from your homestead for practical homestead gifts for the holidays? I pulled together a list of thoughtful gifts that reduce clutter, improve health, and are still beautiful and appreciated. 

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry is known to reduce illness by strengthening the immune system. During the winter I use a teaspoon daily and if I feel a cold or sore throat starting, I will up that to twice or three times a day. There’s a delicious recipe on The Fewell Homestead which is my favorite blend to make. After I make it,  I store most of the batch in pint mason jars in the refrigerator. A smaller amber bottle sits on the kitchen counter so I remember to use it daily.  

If you don’t want to make the syrup as a gift you could print out the recipe, and include the ingredients, package it all in a decorated box or basket and… voila!  Nothing like the gift of good health.

practical homestead gifts

Extracts for Flavoring

Vanilla and other flavoring extracts can be expensive to purchase ready made, and yet they cost much less to brew yourself. You do need to begin a batch a few months ahead of the gift giving season though. Vanilla, lemon, chocolate mint, peppermint, and almond extracts are very simple to make. Use a small funnel to pour into an attractive small bottle and add a ribbon and tag!

practical homestead gifts

Dried Herbs

Do you grow herbs and dehydrate them for winter use? Herbs make practical homestead gifts and like the extracts and elderberry syrup, the trick is in the presentation. Find a set of small jars to add dried herbs to. An Italian collection could include, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil. I suggest using baby food jars and painting the lids. You can label them on top using a marker or tie pretty tags to each jar.  

Another idea on this same subject would a started windowsill herb garden. Include care instructions.

practical homestead gifts

Basket of Kindling Wood/Pine Cones/Fire Starters

Give the gift of warmth. Firewood and kindling are practical necessities especially when wood heat is the only source of warmth. If you can’t give the best wood stove for heating the home, here are some other suggestions. For the new homesteader share some resources on how to start a warm fire for heating. Grab a pretty basket and collect some kindling and pine cones. Use the pine cones to make these fire starters. Next, take it up a notch by creating a family fun evening with this S’mores basket.    

Make your own marshmallows too with these recipes from Nitty Gritty Life, Attainable Sustainable and Homestead Lady.

practical homestead gifts

Handmade Soaps

If you make handmade soap, it makes a wonderful gift for friends, co-workers and family. The cold process soaps need some time to cure after cutting but you could make a liquid soap and have it bottled and ready for giving in no time at all. Another idea for practical homestead gifts is homemade bath salts and scrubs. Perfect way to give your friend the gift of relaxation.

Honey (with bread or homemade crackers)

Are you raising bees? Most people now recognize the health benefits of fresh raw honey. Not to mention the delicious taste!  Add a ribbon to the honey bottle and you have an appreciated, practical homestead gift.  Homemade bread is a most appreciated gift. For Sourdough starter I recommend the dehydrated starter package from Alderman Farms. Adding a book about baking homemade bread would be great, too.  I recommend this one on basic bread baking. 


practical homestead gifts



practical homestead gifts

Dyed fleece/roving/yarn

Your friends that appreciate good fleece for spinning would love a bag of hand dyed fleece. Spinning the already dyed fleece yields yarn with more color dimension, plus its fun!

Fresh Eggs Make Practical Homestead Gifts

Chicken keepers know that farm fresh eggs can be rare in the winter months. During and after molting, hens often take a break from laying eggs, while the days are shorter.  An exception would be a flock of first year layers. If you have an abundance of farm fresh eggs during the holidays, gifting these jewels is sure to be appreciated.

Hand Painted Signs

Are you artistic? Signs are an appreciated home accent. There are many thoughtful, poignant or fun quotes to choose from. Examples:  Farm Sweet Farm, Come Sit a Spell, Homestead Dreaming, Everything Goes with Bacon, Crazy Chicken Lady, My Pets Make Me Breakfast  

Canned Goods/ Jams/ Italian style sauce/ 

You might think of your home canned fruits, jams and vegetables as pantry staples but with a little creative packaging they can evolve into beautiful practical homestead gifts. Picture this: A jar of homemade pasta sauce, a box of  pasta, a loaf of home baked bread displayed in a basket with a red checked napkin.  Are you getting the idea? Add a bottle of wine if you want to take it up a notch.  I have often given a jar of our salsa with tortilla chips, and fresh avocados. Jams and jelly paired with a basket of home baked bread or rolls is another delicious idea. 

Want to expand on this theme? Homesteader really love hot beverages like coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Perhaps your gift could include an adult beverage like this Homemade Irish Creme Liquor,  too.

The basic theme here with giving practical homestead gifts is the presentation. Without spending an lot of money or any money in some cases, you can pull together a beautiful gift from your homestead. Need more ideas and inspiration? Check out this list of 100 Homemade Gifts. Do you have ideas that you would add to this list? Please continue the discussion in the comments!