Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 28, 2014


I am blessed with friends who regularly read this blog and support me in my projects. I am grateful for your love and enthusiasm. Drop me a note if you enjoy reading this. Thanks!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ordering Chicks: Which Breeds?

So you'd like to order a few backyard chicks and you don't know where to start? First, decide why you want to raise chickens. Do you want to raise eggs, meat or both? Are you interested in showing chickens competitively? Do you want full sized hens or the smaller bantams?

Here at Red Bucket Farm, we've concentrated on winter-hardy egg laying hens. We always have one or two hybrids---Red Star or Golden Comet---bred for excellent laying capabilities. These girls keep us in eggs all winter long. We also have a few dual purpose hens. These birds lay well but also dress out nicely for the table, hence their dual purpose. We've had Delaware and Dominique, both heritage breeds, as well as Plymouth Rocks (Barred and Partridge--these are color variations), Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, and Speckled Sussex. We also have had an unusual Delaware-Buckeye hybrid that produce eggs like crazy! Later in life, our dual purpose birds arrive at their other purpose: soup.

We've never raised meat birds (Cornish X) because they are bred to be grossly breast-heavy, aggressive feeders that require exclusive quarters. They grow quickly and are butchered in 12-16 weeks. They don't get along well with dual purpose birds and can't be raised together.

When researching breeds, don't forget to consider winter hardiness and temperament. Some birds are happier in confinement than others. Certain breeds are more gentle or aggressive than others. Eventually, you make a decision and get started.

I've ordered my chicks and I'm excited to start my new babies. I included another Easter Egger for green eggs. We're trying a new (to us) breed, the popular Black Australorp. And we're going for a Silver Laced Wyandotte so that our farm has a new glamour girl. Finally, we're raising a few extra dual purpose White Plymouth Rocks for meat. This is a new effort for us because purchasing organic chicken is so expensive.

The new chicks will arrive in a week or so. Stay tuned for updates and get your order in soon!  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ordering Chicks: When & Where?

I'm so excited! I just placed an order for spring chicks. In spite of the continuing cold weather and another visit from the polar vortex, spring will come again and it's time to plan ahead. 

In past years, I've ordered day-old chicks from My Pet Chicken (www.mypetchicken.com). This is an excellent online resource for information, chicks and supplies. They ship chicks in boxes of as few as three birds, which is an important detail if your flock size is restricted by local ordinance. Buyers can choose from a very large selection of breeds, and you can choose your ship dates so that you are home to tend to the babies upon arrival. Be aware that online sources have become very popular, and you'll need to place an order well in advance of delivery to guarantee breed choice. There are several excellent online hatcheries: Murray McMurray, Cackle Hatchery, and Ideal Poultry are only a few of the choices. 

Another option is to order chicks from the local farm store. In my region, they are taking orders now for spring delivery. The disadvantage with this choice is that minimum orders apply (anywhere from 10 to 25 birds) and there is no guarantee of gender. For those of us who can't keep roosters or large flocks, this is a problem. 

This year I've ordered my day-old chicks from a local hatchery, Abendroth's Hatchery in Waterloo, Wisconsin. I pay a little extra to be sure that the chicks are all female. Since I'll pick them up at the hatchery in a couple weeks, the minimum shipping policy doesn't apply. Plus, I'm happy to support a local business. 

In tomorrow's post, I'll describe how to choose chicken breeds. Meanwhile, I'd like to thank my husband and son for handling all my farm chores last week while I was out of town. Well done! The girls look happy and egg production is way up. My husband rocks. That is all. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Green Egg

Cassie the Easter Egger has finally started laying eggs again! Her last egg was Dec. 21, nearly eight weeks ago. It's normal for molting hens to stop laying in the winter, but Cassie is a pullet and didn't molt. It's also normal for hens to lay fewer eggs during the dark months. Cassie has been a bit disappointing, eating a lot and providing little in return. She's back in production now, which will keep her from the soup kettle for a while. Her green eggs are far more beautiful than my limited photography skills can demonstrate. Welcome back, Cassie!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frozen Eggs

I gathered three eggs from the hen house around 9 am this morning. One was warm and lovely; another was frozen solid with small cracks in the shell; the third was frozen and pecked open (photo above). I suspect the girls laid eggs so early this morning that they were frozen by the time I retrieved them. We are so very tired of sub-zero temperatures. (Beta-dog gets to eat the broken egg.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Homemade Potting Soil Mix

It's nearly time to start sowing seeds for your spring gardens. Of course you can buy commercial potting soil mixes, but read the label carefully. Do you want chemically enhanced soil? Watch for Miracle Grow and other "helpful" additives.

Mixing potting soil at home is easy and economical. It takes a few basic ingredients and a dish pan to mix it in. I usually start with compost from my bins, but alas, it's frozen solid. Instead, I purchased a 40 lb bag of ordinary potting soil without any additives. This should cost about $5.

For my seed starting mix, I use equal parts of soil, peat moss and horticultural vermiculite. This mix is light enough for seeds to germinate. If I need to transplant healthy seedlings into larger containers, my transplant mix contains equal parts of soil, peat moss and Turface for drainage.

If you can afford it, choose coir rather than peat moss because coir is far more sustainable than raiding the peat bogs. Horticultural vermiculite is available at garden centers. I buy it in super large bags, but it's also available in smaller amounts.

Turface is tiny bits of clay used for drainage on golf courses and athletic fields. It's sold at landscape suppliers for about $12 per 40 lb bag. (I learned about Turface from the bonsai community.)  If you can't find Turface, you can substitute chicken grit for drainage, which is easily available at farm stores. The baby grit is quite fine and can get dusty; granny grit is slightly larger. Caution: even a small bag of grit is very heavy.

Now go play in the dirt!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Increased Egg Production

What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, I suppose. Egg production from my backyard flock is way up. I should hardly be concerned!

The numbers bottomed out - predictably - the week of the winter solstice. (Remember that egg production is dependent upon light, not necessarily temperature.) That week we gathered only 11 eggs from the girls. With the increase in natural daylight and a little supplemental lighting in the early morning, egg production is currently up to about 23 eggs per week.

Thelma and Louise (our Buckeye-Delaware hybrids) began molting around Thanksgiving. The poor things looked quite miserable for a month or so. It takes all their energy to grow new feathers and they ceased laying eggs entirely for about eight weeks. Happily, they are both back into production now.

So what's wrong with the picture? My silly Easter Egger, Cassie, hasn't laid an egg since Dec. 21. She's not molting or sick, just unproductive. It's not uncommon for egg laying to slow or stop in the winter, but she's less than a year old and should be doing something other than eat, sleep and poop. All that expensive organic chicken food needs to translate into organic eggs. This is an urban farm, not a zoo. Tick-tock, Cassie.