Category: Backyard Chickens

Chicken Update & Check Anticipation

Okay, I promise I won’t write about this again until Wednesday when I have the actual, real number on the actual, real check. I just need to put out there that when your primary household breadwinner gets a raise but you haven’t been able to figure out the “check math” that you pretty much obsess over what the magic number could be while trying to be patient and wait to find out what the number actually is.

I’m cycling through anxiety, fear, joy, and a desire to just do math all day with different percentages.

The reason I can’t figure it out (even though I’m really quite awesome at math) is because here are the things that come out of the check. Not the Federal taxes, state taxes, FICA, and medicare. Those are well within my wheelhouse and there are even websites that help you calculate those things. No problem, right?

It’s the overtime that gets me. Well, the overtime and the union dues. I can’t seem to figure out the formula for those.

So even though he just got a $4/hr. raise I have no idea how different his check will look because part of it will be normal hours and then there will be 18 overtime hours on top of it.

Which means I can only speculate and wait. I think I already mentioned his check last week was about $740 and that was the last check before eh check with the raise on it.

But you know what, let’s do some math and we can all check back on Wednesday to see how close I got. Feel free – if you’re bored – to try and solve the problem with me. We can sit around a campfire and drink wine and mock me for finally being so excited to have a different kind of money problem!

I found a cool website article called How to Calculate The Taxes on Overtime. Sounds perfect! If only I could figure out how to calculate union dues! I’m pretty sure there’s some easy calculation I just haven’t found.

After some searching online it looks like the union dues are a flat per-hour rate. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say what they are but it doesn’t seem like I would be breaking the rules since you don’t know his local or whatever. I checked two checks with different hours and it looks like he pays a flat $2.20/hr. in dues. (If that seems high please remember he pays to the local and International funds and there are multiple pensions he’s paying into along with other fringe benefits. Two pensions. Be still my heart, right?)

So let’s figure this out.

58 hours.

40 at his new rate of $21.29 = $851.60 ($604.14 after deductions)
18 hours at OT rate of $31.935 (Yes it goes out three decimal places, I checked a previous check.) = $574.83 (No idea after taxes I just cut it in half. So $287.45)

I have to go with my best guess because that link to the overtime pay kind of broke my brain because the layout on the IRS circular E did not allow me to understand what I was supposed to choose in terms of the rate scale for income tax. For real. It was confusing, feel free to click the link and check it out. I think it’s going to be right around $891.59 but if you look at my math I didn’t do a good job.

I only added in the union dues for the first 40 hours but after taking out 50% from the overtime it’s not going to be that extreme. Even now he makes $250 a week in overtime above and beyond his base and I can’t imagine only getting $37 more. I should probably just delete all this stuff because it’s just admitting my calculations are awful and I’m not smart enough or patient enough to figure something very important out.

Because we’ll find out on Wednesday, anyway, so I should just post about being patient and waiting with the calmness of someone totally into Zen and cleanses and green smothies and yoga. You know, pretend I’m the person I want to be instead of being all honest and showing you what a hot mess I actually am.

IT’S CALLED BLOGGING, NOT HONESTING. I’M TOTALLY DOING THIS WRONG.

Also, I’m not sure if union dues are a pre-tax or post-tax deduction. I think they’re post tax because you can claim a credit for them on taxes. I think.

I’m done talking about money for the day. I’m going to move on to chickens and then make a sidebar graphic showing credit card debt so I can show it getting crossed off as time goes by. I hope.

Chicken Update

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Gertie’s feet aren’t messed up. It just looks that way in the picture.

Another one bites the dust. Except this time in a good way. Well a far better way than when Penelope passed away after those horrible seizures. We realized a few weeks ago that our beautiful longhorn Gertie was not a hen but a rooster. My detective skills, as well as the crowing very early every morning which I would only wish upon my worst enemy, led me to this conclusion. I’m a genius, right? I mean, look at her (him) you’d never guess that was a rooster, would you? (Laugh. It’s okay. I did.) Besides wanting to sleep in the morning we realized we had to get rid of him because roosters are illegal in my town.

The last thing I want is a ticket for harboring a rooster. No matter how funny the story would be.

Mr. Brickie turned to craigslist I said, “No way.” because my deepest fear is that this sweet, loving animal that had never hurt any of us would end up being used in cockfighting. I will always remember the chicken I saw on the side of the road ten years ago that was so beat up and his legs were so messed up and later I found out that he had probably been used in cockfighting based on his injuries. So, knowing I’m in/near an area where that happens, I insisted on not using Craigslist.

I’m really happy a friend of mine recently took her kid horseback riding and there was a petting zoo there and she talked to the lady who said she takes in animals and Mr. Brickie called and she said she would be happy to take Gertie and make her (him) part of the family. The relief I felt at getting our mornings back as well as a safe home for Gertie was incredible.

We will miss Gertie but can go visit him at the petting zoo we gave him to. I’m really pleased because he’s used to being around people and being touched and held. He’s a great animal and deserves a good life.

Plus I’m super happy we can tell the kids, “He went to a farm.” then take the kids TO THE FARM so they know I’m not a liar that killed the rooster.

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Three chickens. Was it an omen all along?

 

Stupid Mistakes I Made In The Last 24 Hours

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Surprise! This isn’t a list post. There are really only two dumb things I did yesterday.

1. I posted my mess on Facebook. Everyone knows when you’re freaking out you get off social media. Right? I know. The problem is the only time I truly crave being noticed is when I’m basically crying out for help because something has gone wrong in my brain.

2. I picked the wrong person for support. In the middle of freaking out I talked to someone and made a bad “let’s email a stranger” decision. I take full responsibility for the decision and my actions. That the person I talked to gave me the information while I was in that state, I guess, shows she isn’t in a place right now where she can be considered a person who will keep me safe when I cannot keep myself safe. It is pretty well known among my people and readers I do stupid things for the sake of reaching out and connection when I am in that place. I do not blame her. I am not mad at her. I can’t trust her when I am vulnerable and that is a fact with no value judgment attached.

Really, in the big, huge, wide world of stupid mistakes mine are small infractions. I am a little embarrassed about the posts and I want to crawl under a rock because I totally emailed some poor, unsuspecting person, but I wasn’t dancing on a bar and I kept all my clothes on and a bunch of other COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE things are running through my head on a loop as a reminder of what I could have done but did not.

But I still basically feel like this right now:

The Reason Might Be More Than Just the Foreclosure

I’ve been worried the foreclosure would go through before the loan modification for almost a year now. It has been a familiar daily thought. I have the budget so closely controlled and I save as much as I can when I can and I’m even in the middle of a copywriting project right now because we are all doing what we can. (On a side-note, I can’t wait to show you the project. It’s cute tag lines on packaging. It’s so perfect for me.)

There is such a sense of relief that we are not in limbo anymore. It’s a strange, backhanded kind of relief, but in its way it is better than stagnation.

There is also relief in Mr. Brickie working overtime and giving me the opportunity to save money every. single. week. toward Christmas and school supplies and the girls who desperately want a birthday party this year and I’m tired of saying no to everything. Saving toward moving expenses and not having to spend the tax return next year on anything and getting it in a savings account, again, for moving expenses.

We are finally on the upswing. The problem is when you fall down a deep valley the falling is easy. You hit bottom? That’s like a low-lying plateau where nothing happens. The upswing is actually a steep hill. There is more work and more control necessary when you have money to pay the bills. You have more opportunity to make bad choices because you can fund your bad choices. There is a sense of fear in having this money we now have to use properly. Having no money is one problem. Having money and allocating it properly is a whole different situation.

Especially because we don’t actually have enough money and I have to make right decisions now so we will get to the “enough” place faster and without too many extra obstacles. At least no accidents that should have been foreseen or mistakes that cost money. Those all need to be avoided at all costs. Get it? Costs! Har har. *groan*

All that to say I believe I’ve just kept a lid on my emotions here in survival mode so long that when the pressure was relieved and the top came off it was more like the cork from a shaken champagne bottle than the gentle pop of the top of a jelly lid. It was a release of so many emotions all at once. Fear, shame, forced calm, control, dedication, and all those other grownup emotions that keep you feeling still and safe in the middle of a snake pit.

How I Will Move Forward?

First, I will hope that the person I emailed just deletes the email. Really. So embarrassing. I’ve tried to think of ways to send a follow up email to cancel out the original email but that just seems like a really poor idea. You don’t fix a dumb thing by putting more dumb on top, right? I’m just going to hope that goes away.

Second, I need to get off social media and walk away from the computer. I will still write on the computer (I would write by hand but my hand cramps after less than a page. It’s always been that way) and by write I mean both blogging and non-blogging type. A social media vacation will let me step back and get some perspective on how I share, how much, and where.

Third, I need to get my house in order. I don’t mean the normal stuff. My dishes and laundry are kept up and the floor is swept daily…I mean the more detailed stuff. Organizing and downsizing, I guess is what I mean. Either store it, organize it so it’s easy to move, or get rid of it. Everything just needs to make sense as a thing we choose to have in our home. I’ll keep my paintings and elephants and giraffes and my much-loved Anubis statue of course. But I have about 20 tote bags. I don’t mean the cloth shopping bags, I mean legit tote bags. No one needs that. I probably could use to go through my clothes again and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

By the time we move I want to have everything that’s going to be stored in a storage space and the rest moved in one or two Uhaul trips. I do not want a long, drawn-out moving process if I can avoid it even a little bit. I want to know when we move it’s the simplest transition I could have possibly made.

So I’m moving forward, double checking next week’s numbers against my priority budget list and we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

Oh, and I found out yesterday Gertie is a rooster. So now we have to get rid of him or we’ll have a friggin’ hatchery in three months. *sigh* Knowing I’m going to lose another chicken might also be part of my freak-out. I really love my chickens.

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Quick Chicken Update! (July 2014)

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The chickens have been doing surprisingly well with their indoor coop and free time running around the house.

Sure, Gertie (the white one that is NOT a rooster, I swear) crows every morning and that’s kind of loud, but she doesn’t crow earlier than 7:30am so I’m usually already up by the time she starts caterwalling. I throw some oats in the coop and she’s happy for the rest of the day.

The one in Mr. Brickie’s arms and on my shoulder is Raven and the others in the top-right photo are Strawberry in the upper-left and Bird in the upper-right.

If you have any questions about the chickens, feel free to ask.

They are 11 weeks old today and we don’t expect them to lay their first egg until they are about 6 months old.

Gosh, they’ve grown so much!

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Well That Was Horrible (We Lost Our First Chicken)

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I figure I’ll start with the picture so you don’t have to spend a minute of the post guessing what was so horrible. We lost one of our girls last night. I’m not crazy heartbroken or anything, I’m just sad. She isn’t people and I’m not a person who gets that attached to animals. (I loved her but not like I love my friends or my husband or whatever.)

It started when I checked on them at about 8pm and Penelope was hanging out looking angry in a corner of the brooder. Everything inside the brooder looked fine. I made a joke about her being too cool for the other chickens and didn’t think of it again.

Mr. Brickie went out to pick up a couple things from the store for morning and I heard sounds coming from the brooder. It sounded like it usually does when the girls chase each other around. I didn’t think anything of it. When I looked inside the brooder on my way to refill my coffee (about 9pm) Penelope was laying on the floor with her head at a wonky angle. Then she had a convulsion or a seizure or something that took her from one end of the brooder to the other in a horrific display of flipping head and flapping wings. She couldn’t use her legs so when she landed she was just kind of limp and looked like something out of a Japanese horror movie all limbs in wrong places.

I feel terrible I couldn’t reach in there and pick her up. Who knows, it might have saved her life. But I called Mr. Brickie and told him to drop whatever he had and get home. He did and five minutes later he had her picked up and I was feeding her water through a dropper. We gave her electrolyte water because according to all the websites she was dehydrated. The chickens didn’t have a lot of water but they weren’t dry, either. Also the other chickens are all fine so I’m not sure how she got dehydrated but she had all the symptoms.

By the time we put her back in the brooder at around 1am she seemed better. She could stand and she drank water on her own. We thought she would be fine by morning. She wasn’t as pale and her eyes looked a lot better. She could stand and get the water. She wasn’t gasping anymore. We really, really thought she would be fine today.

But when Mr. Brickie checked her this morning? She was gone. Still in the same spot she went to sleep in last night. So, hopefully, she passed away in her sleep.

Chickens are sweet and soft and wonderful but also very alien creatures. I don’t think I would have reacted with the same level of internal horror had I seen a dog or cat having a seizure. Something about those flapping wings and giant talon-feet just got into my lizard-brain and didn’t let me go near her.

Penelope was always the first. She was the first to hop on the little two-inch perch we put into the rubbermaid bin. She was the first to fly up to the top of her food dish. The first to perch on the edge of the bin and the first to fly out of the bin into the unknkown of the living room.

She was queen of the coop. She bossed the other chicks around and herded them. She snuggled with them and always wanted to be on a perch a little higher than the rest so she could look over them. She was aloof, but let me hold her now and then and loved to snuggle into me and take a nap. She wasn’t phased when I’d call for the kids in my best foghorn carries-for-miles voice but the sound of the computer restarting (the Windows noise) scared the CRAP out of her. She had a little personality and I was excited to see how she would flourish and thrive in an environment where she had access to dirt and grass and the outdoors.

I feel bad, as if I could have done more for her, but she really seemed okay when we went to sleep. I considered having her in the bedroom with us through the night but we couldn’t see how that would help. She had been with the other chicks long enough that if she had something contagious they already had it.

It could also be the placement of the heat lamp or the temperature of the water or the electrolytes in the water or where we moved the roost or maybe she tried to fly out and she fell back down and hit the roost with her neck or head and something happened internally. It could be that one time she got into the plants and ate the potting soil they were in.

I will certainly be keeping a closer eye on my girls in the future, but looking back I really don’t think there were any clear signs that I missed. So here I am, left in that limbo where you lost something that was alive and you were responsible for, but that you can’t really blame yourself for.

So I’ll be sad for a bit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. She was a sweet chicken and I’ll miss her.

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Coop Dreams Update, Aquaponics, and Keeping Up the Hustle

I’m taking a break from the May posts thing. We’ll resume the fun posts tomorrow.

With nine days left until our next court appearance about the house, I’m a bit nervous. Luckily Mr. Brickie had a side job with his cousin and a couple other leads and he’s selling some stuff on Craigslist and we have our emergency moving fund we set aside when we got our tax return so we are still just plugging away toward whatever comes next.

The chicks and the coop plans have kept us from going crazy with worry over work and the house. It’s a great hobby.

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First, we moved the little ones out of the rubbermaid bin because one flew out. So we needed one that will keep the chicks safe until they can move into their coop at 10 weeks of age. they’re about two weeks now, so Mr. Brickie thought it would be a great idea to make something that will just last for the next couple months. It was also good practice for the real coop he is going to build in the backyard.

Here is all the stuff he’s gotten from Craigslist from the “free” section.

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As you can see, one is even a duck house there against the garage! So all this wood is going to turn into a wonderful coop. We’ve been looking at plans so much that Mr. Brickie finally went ahead and drew up his own. The only things we are missing from being able to totally complete the coop are roofing shingles (may be optional) and construction cloth which is a very fine, strong mesh designed to keep things out of the coop. Chicken Wire is designed more to keep chickens in. It’s not good to use when building a coop if you want to make sure your chickens don’t all get eaten by a hungry coyote.

I can’t wait until their home is up and painted and ready to rock!

Work Update

We are staggering along nicely with our savings from the tax return (aka the just in case emergency moving fund) and the this-and-that of our everyday hustle.

As soon as there is a project to be worked on, Mr. Brickie will be on the team. That’s all we have from the bricklaying front. It’s enough. Like I told my mom, last year he didn’t start working until June 5th, so to panic before that is just silly.

The chicks keep us occupied and sane. The aquaponics plans keep me interested in the future. Aquaponics is where you use fish and plants and have some symbiotic relationship where you can reuse the same water and things grow like crazy.

Want to know more about aquaponics?

I’ll keep you posted.

Also, I’ll do more chickencam as soon as we figure out where to put the webcam in the new brooder. It’s not nearly as convenient as it was pointing it into the rubbermaid container.

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Coop Dreams (or, The Chicken Town Diaries)

We have been scouring Craigslist since April 23rd for wood.

That is because a long-waited-for ordinance was passed that we can have hens in the town I live in. I had nothing to do with the passing of the ordinance because I’m pretty much the opposite of an activist. If an activist needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on or someone to yell to, that’s me. Actual activism? That’s not me. Appreciation? Oh, that’s SO me.

We have a rough coop design already, thanks to hours of searching on Backyard Chicken and then changing the design based on personal whims and preferences. Also, you know I want it to look like a little barn, let’s not even play I don’t have a huge streak of country in me. (I hide it well, but it’s there. Especially when chickens are involved.)

Why Chickens? That Seems Weird.

If you have never owned a chicken before or had a chicken as a pet it’s going to seem weird to have livestock for a pet. I get that. No judgement from me. Also, if you have had a chicken as a pet or friend you can totally skip to the next section because I’m going to explain it for the uninitiated.

When I was young (I don’t know how young, but we lived in California in a beautiful house with a built in pool and a very nice guy and it’s where I learned to swim, so “learned to swim” age.) I had a pet chicken. I don’t know how I got her or why she became my pet.

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New Hampshire Red via mypetchicken.com

Her name was Penelope and she was probably a New Hampshire Red based on pictures I have seen online of what different chickens look like. I have very fond memories of holding her and carrying her around with me and talking to her and that one time I got a lollipop stuck on her feathers (no lie) and she was a real pet.

I couldn’t have cats or a dog because I was highly allergic. I still am. When we had dogs and I would pet them my forearms would break out in hives. Cats mess me up even worse.

But chickens by and large are awesome and I’m not allergic and …

Benefits of Chickens as Pets

Most animals you own you just give and give and have to be content with love in return. Vet bills, food, and for what? Love. Don’t get me wrong, love is awesome and I have a turtle that doesn’t give me anything but enjoyment so I am not judging you dog and cat lovers.

But when you have a pet that gives you FOOD? Daaaaang….that’s just taking the whole relationship to the next level, now, isn’t it? You give them food and they give you food back. It’s like some kind of quid pro quo magic land where pets show you they care with eggs.

I know that’s not really what’s happening, but honestly, I don’t care. It makes me happy that I will give to them and they will give to me and we can have a symbiotic relationship like that.

Second, the next time we have a spider, ant, other-bug infestation in this house? You’re damn right I’m letting a chicken in my house. They’ll eat those insects up like nobody’s business! ”

Oh…but I don’t want them pooping all over my house while they are eating all the ants!” I hear ONE of you saying right now. I hear it in my mind. It’s okay, it’s a good question. Well let me introduce you to the solution….

The Chicken Diaper!

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Chicken Diaper vis mypetchicken.com

Oh yes, this is a thing. A real thing. I could not be more excited.

So fashion.

I really love the idea of a chicken diaper and you can probably find chicken diapers on Etsy because someone has to be making these in their kitchen as a home business. HAS TO BE.

So not only do chicken diapers exist, you can get them from multiple places. Consider this your fun fact of the day. Whip this fact out at a cocktail party and you’ll seriously be known for the best small talk in the world.

So when I see ants I’ll skip the Borax, skip the white chalk, skip the vinegar, and just let a chicken do the job for me and be terribly thankful I gave her such a nice treat!

What We Have to Do Before We Get the Chickens

There is kind of a weird, backward process to this.

1. Get a building permit for the coop. (It’s the same as a shed permit.)

2. An inspector comes out and inspects the coop. If it passes you get a pat on the back. I guess. We’re not there yet.

3. You apply for and receive a poultry license. (This is free. Allows for up to 6 hens. NO roosters!)

4. You are now allowed to get your little bundles of chicken joy.

It’s weird because if you plan on having loving, well-socialized chicks they have to spend about two months indoors from birth being taken care of and fed and loved and watered and whatnot. Sure, you can buy a 10-12 week old chicken and put it right into the coop, but part of the joy of the whole thing is having the little baby chicks and raising them and naming them and learning their personalities. (I mean, I’m not pretending they’re people with feathers, but they do have different personalities. That’s a thing. I didn’t just make it up.)

But as good, caring, law-abiding citizens we will wait because that’s what good people do.

*ahem* where was I?

Want to See My Coop Design?

Well, I don’t know where Mr. Brickie’s actual graph paper drawings are, and they’re really more ideas anyway as we scour Craigslist for materials in the “Free” section we can use to make our chickens their new mansion. We probably have about fifty percent of what we need so far. (We work fast.)

Here is the basic design we are working with because OMG it’s so perfect. (Our code allows for 24sqft for the coop itself and 32sqft for the “chicken run” around the totally enclosed “keep those coyotes away from my girls” coop.) I found it on BackyardChickens.com where they have a whole bunch of coop designs you can be inspired by. Some include full plans and all of them include pictures!

basic-coop-design

Our design has to be modified because this coop is 5′ x 10′ overall and we can only have 32sqft. The little enclosed coop part is 5′ x 4′ and we can actually have 24sqft so we could make it a little bigger. (Maybe we won’t. It depends on the wood and how everything fits together.)

Probably the best advice I’ve gotten is DO NOT USE CHICKEN WIRE. Use galvanized hardware cloth. It’s like mesh and it keeps predators out. Chicken wire will keep your chicken in, but won’t stop a raccoon or coyote or big dog.

So this is my little homesteading hill I’m going to fight for.

I have become a chicken lady, and I couldn’t be happier.

Other Interesting Things About Chickens

Chickens can be recognized as emotional therapy animals.

Chickens are smart and have bi-lateral right/left brain thinking! (this article is long, amazing, and has scientific sources)

Here is a link to a chart on cost of ownership for one person. (I like that he has with and without coop because our coop certainly isn’t going to cost $400!!) His breakdown shows $3.50 per dozen eggs is the overall cost if you were JUST using your chickens for eggs. Considering they’re organic and free-range and you know exactly where your eggs are coming from… $3.50 is about what they are at Whole Foods, aren’t they?

Stick With Me and There Will Be Pictures!

mr-brickie-and-coop-woodSo far all we have this this one of Mr. Brickie with a piece of reclaimed wood that is going to be the second layer of cover for the coop. We are going to paint it and give the coop a rustic look but the underneath layer is going to be solid.

As you can see this is his, “Are you seriously taking a picture of me right now?” face. I have to give him credit because if it was me and he tried to take a picture I’d probably shriek at him.

He’s a good guy.

Our chicken coop is going to be so cool.

If you have any questions or recommendations or want to tell me something you think is critical to know about raising chickens or building a coop, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I’m all about learning and want to do this as well as I can from start to finish.

I have wanted a chicken like a little girl wants a pony for years. I could not be more excited about actually getting to make that dream happen.

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