Urban Chickens: The First Two Weeks

Bringing your new chicks home is very exciting, but it's important to keep a close eye on them the first couple of weeks.

Things to Know:

Here are the biggest things to remember in those first few weeks.

Clean Up Their Poop

Every day. You don't need to completely empty all of the wood shavings every day, but clean up as much of the poop as you can as you see it.

A dirty brooder box is the easiest way to create an unhealthy environment and let disease to spread among your chicks.

Get Medicated Chick Starter:

Speaking of disease, keep your chicks on a medicated feed for the first eight weeks. This will help prevent some of the most common diseases, like Coccidiosis.

After eight weeks, switch to a non-medicated chick starter feed.

Check Their Butts:

I've talked about this before, but CHECK THEIR BUTTS EVERY DAY, TWICE A DAY.

If they've got poop stuck to their butt, clean it off immediately (and gently) with shampoo and warm water. Then put some vaseline on there.

Clean Their Water:

Everyday. They will kick pine shavings into their water. They will poop in it if the waterer is low enough for them to roost on.

Chicks, and chickens for that matter, need constant access to clean water.

Handle Them Often:

This is the best part.

Chicks should be handled as frequently as possible, at least once a day. Handling them will help you build the relationship that is going to be important as they grow older. They should be used to you so that they:
  • Respond when you call them back to the coop after free-ranging.
  • Let you pick them up if they're hurt, sick, etc.
  • Don't spook when you're in their coop or around them in the yard.

Share the experiences you've been having with your new chicks!

Urban Chickens: Choosing Your Chicks

One of the most exciting parts about having chickens is getting the chicks.

This is my first time raising chicks, so I made sure to do plenty of research ahead of time. Here is a short list of the things I read up on:

  • Different kinds of chickens
    • Who can survive the winter?
    • Who is friendly?
    • Who lays good eggs?
  • Where to get the chicks
    • The store?
    • A farm?
    • Craigslist?
  • How to care for the chicks
    • The brooder box
    • What do they eat?
    • What kind of coop should I get?
    • When can they live outside?
Well as it turns out, doing your research doesn't prepare you for a whole lot. I've written this post to share with you the things you really need to know.

A pullet is a female chicken

If you've never heard this word, learn it. A pullet is going to become a hen.

This is also important because depending on where you live, you probably need pullets. In my town, for example, I can't have roosters.

Here's another interesting fact: depending on the breed, you can't always tell its sex when it's little. But if a store says that it sold you pullets, the chances are pretty high that you're not going to end up with a rooster. Mistakes happen, but not often.

If you do end up with a rooster accidentally...good luck. The store won't take it back. It's up to you to figure out what to do with it. I recommend Craigslist.

You cannot get chicks any time of year

If you plan on buying them from a ranch or feed store, they're actually only available a certain time of year. Here in Colorado, that time of year starts in March and ends...basically whenever the store decides to stop ordering more chicks. I've heard some stores keep getting them all the way into June.

If you want chicks any other time of year, try Craigslist to see if you can get them from a private owner. Some hatcheries will let you order chicks and have them delivered, but you've got to order at least 10 and I don't know if they offer that option all year.

A chicken is a chicken...stop focusing on the breed

Sure, some breeds are known to be more friendly than others, but honestly: it's a chicken.

I spent so much time trying to figure out the perfect breeds, only to find out that the cool-looking ones, like the silkie bantams, aren't worth the fight you're going to have to put up to get one. Everybody wants one and your ranch store probably ordered five. They'll all be sold out by the time you get there.

In fact, the first place I went to for chicks had them all in a tank together and I was so stressed out trying to figure out which chicks were going to grow up to be the breeds I wanted. I was so stressed out about it that I only ended up getting two chicks instead of the six I had originally planned on. I figured I'd pick up my two randoms at that store and then go to a more organized ranch store to get the other four.

Well those two chicks have been my favorite of the six I ended up with. They're healthy, they're friendly, and that's all you can ask for.

Examine your chicks before you buy them

I learned this lesson the hard way.

Again, I'm new at this. When I went to a seemingly clean and organized store to buy my second round of chicks, I just told the woman what breeds I wanted and trusted her to pick good ones. I noticed that one of the chicks she picked up had a dirty backside (butt), but she specifically said that she looked at all of their backsides.

I'm sure you're wondering...what's the big deal? What does it matter if the chick has a clean butt? Because they'll die if they don't. That's why. When their butt (vent) gets poop all over it, it basically glues it shut. If you can't poop because your vent is shut, you also can't eat. And when you're just hatched, that's a big deal.

Side note: If it's taken care of immediately, you just clean the vent and it's not a big deal. This chick was pretty far gone.

So I saw her pick this chick with the dirty vent, and I even noticed that the reason she was able to grab it was because it was too weak to run away. But I trusted that she knew better than me and I took the chick home. When I got home I realized how bad the situation was. I spent a lot of time cleaning this chick's butt and feeding it water with electrolytes, but it was all for nothing. This poor chick was so weak that it could barely stand. It died within hours of bringing it home.

The sad fact of the matter is that chicks die. Their mortality rate is pretty high. But they shouldn't be dying over something as preventable as a dirty vent. Check your chicks before you buy them.

If they do die within 24 hours, the store will probably replace it for free. But I was so turned off by the whole experience that I wasn't interested in getting another chick from that store...they were clearly neglected. And chicks are like $2, so it's not about the money. I opted to just go somewhere else for the next time.

Urban Chickens: Preparing the Brooder Box

And in a very strange turn of events, I have become a chicken owner.

My life is very different than it was this time last year. Instead of living in my beat-up downtown apartment, I'm planning a wedding a raising chickens in my suburban multi-bedroom house. It's weird.

I'm not really sure how it all started...the chickens, that is. But at some point, Brandon or I got the idea that we needed fresh eggs every morning, did a little research to see if we were allowed to in our neighborhood, and next thing I know I'm assembling a chicken coop.

But before you jump on this urban farmer craze like me, let me prepare you for what you're getting into.

Today's Lesson: The Brooder

Brooder? What the heck is that?

Exactly. It's a very strange container that you make to keep your chicks alive and warm until you can put them in the coop outside. Oh, I didn't mention the brooder is inside? Because it is. Like...in your bathroom or laundry room. For months.

Where do I buy one?

You don't. You make one. Although, if someone wants to get into the business of selling cute little brooders for 2-6 chicks, I'll be your first customer!

If you happen to have an extra stock tank laying around, use that. Don't know what a stock tank is? Then a trip to Target is in order because you need a Rubbermaid tub. Small enough that it keeps the heat in, large enough that is can hold the food and water containers, and the chicks.

But where do I buy the other supplies?

Amazon, of course. Here's what you need, besides the Rubbermaid tub:
  • zip ties
  • wire
  • small thermometer
  • hanging chick feeder
  • hanging chick waterer (both the feeder and waterer need to be specifically for chicks)
  • pine bedding or small wood pellets
  • large trash bags
  • chick probiotic powder
  • chick electrolyte powder
  • medicated starter feed
  • red brooder heat light
  • a metal lamp for said light
  • bleach
    • things you use when you clean with bleach (small bucket, sponge, gloves)
  • scissors
  • a drill if you have one...but you can improvise
  • a window screen or some other kind of chicken wire that is small enough they can't jump through, but can still breathe and get light

Don't worry, I have photos of everything. And yes, every single one of these items is available on Amazon.

When should I start building the brooder?

As soon as possible I recommend doing it at least a couple of days before you get your chicks. When and where to get your chicks will be addressed in another post. Part of the reason you want the brooder to be ready ahead of time is that you want to make sure you trust your heat lamp and its position to maintain a consistent 95 degree (Fahrenheit) temperature.

How long will it take?

Give yourself an hour.

Brooder Building 101

The Tub

  1. Bleach everything.
    • The tub, the feeder, the waterer.
  2. Line the bottom of the tub with a plastic bag.
    • You don't have to do this, but it's going to make your weekly brooder cleaning less messy.
  3. Put in at least an inch of pine shavings (or whatever bedding you chose)

The Lid

The lid is going to keep the chicks in, but it will also be where you hang your feeder and waterer.
  1. Measure the inside of the lid against the window screen you are using.
    • I was most successful with a long, skinny window screen.
    • This part is going to take some creativity on your part since you're likely working with different material than I am.
  2. Cut the inside of the lid out.
    • I'm going to do my best to try to explain this, but what you want is for the lid to still come on and off like it normally should, but for it also to have a wire roof so your chickens can breathe...work with me here.
  3. Poke some holes.
    • The idea here is to poke holes in both the remainder of the lid and the window screen so that you can zip tie them into place.
    • Use the drill so make holes in the plastic lid, DO NOT use the drill to poke holes in the window screen, it will ruin the screen.
  4. Put everything in place and zip tie!

The Light

It's for heat. Get it right because temperature is everything and the temperature of the brooder box is based 100% on the distance of the lamp. Try 20" away, but keep the light on for a few days and just keep track.

I got a lamp with a clip thinking I could clip it onto the side of the brooder box, but that's waaayyyyy too close, so I had to improvise. Temperature needs to be at a consistent 95 degrees when you bring the chicks home.

Optional Feeder/Waterer Trick

So the thing about chicks is that they love to perch on things, especially their food and water dishes. Not a big deal until they poop in food and/or water and you're stuck cleaning it up.

A good rule to go by is keeping that food and water off the ground, right around the height of the chicks' backs.

What I did was poke some extra holes in the lip of my brooder box and string a couple of wires across. I then hung the feeder/water from those wires using zip ties. The zip ties allow me to cut the feeder/waterer free when I need to clean or refill, but also allows me to adjust the height as the chicks grow.

Please Note: If you do this trick from the lid of the brooder box, it makes it a little tricky when you want to remove the lid to pick up the chick or access anything in the box. An alternative would be to poke holes in the side of the box itself and string the wire across that way.

What brooder box tricks do you want to share?

Intro to StitchFix: My First Fix

I got a new job this year that makes me want to step up my clothes.

The problem is that I want to be sassy and unique, but the only places I know where to shop are the places that everyone else shops!

Per a recommendation, I decided to try Stitch Fix. I had thought about trying a service like this before, but I think I panicked when it asked me what size clothes I wear and backed out.

Stitch Fix, and services like it, hook you up (virtually) with a stylist and send you clothes. You keep what you want, return what you don't. Pretty simple.

The Registration Process

Alright, so when you register, you do actually have to give them your clothes sizes. It's how they, you know, send you clothes that (hopefully) fit.

But after that, the process is very cool. They ask everything from what you're looking for (work clothes, casual, etc.), if you're into accessories, how adventurous you are in your style, and what your style is. For that last part, they show you photos of different styles and ask how you feel about them so they can get a feel for you. They also ask you how much money you normally spend on certain items.

Then, they ask you to make any notes of any upcoming occasions, or anything else you want them to know. For example, I told them that my engagement party was coming up.

I'm going to share this part now because it made me SO happy, but somebody actually read my note. And responded to it!
Talk about awesome customer service!

How it Works

After you've finished the registration process, you're ready to schedule your first "fix" as they call it.

You pay $20, they send you 5 items and that $20 goes towards anything you purchase. If you purchase all 5 items, you get a 25% discount.

You get an email when your "fix" is on its way and then you wait! My first box came within two weeks of registering.

The first thing I noticed was that the box came with a bag to ship the items back...very convenient.
The return shipping is free, you just have to figure out how to get the package to a mailman (sorry, mailperson) or mail delivery facility.

It comes with a nifty little paper giving you ideas on how to wear your new items as well.

From there, you just try on your clothes, decide what to keep, mail back what you don't like and give feedback! Pretty simple. The feedback is nice, too, because it asks questions to understand if it's the style, the fit, the price or what it is that didn't work for you. In terms of price, they stayed pretty true to what I said I'd spend.

The Results of My First Box.

And now we come to the exciting part...what came in my box and did I love it?!

Item #1: Necklace

I'm not going to get into the fancy names of the items. It was a necklace and here's how it looked:
The verdict? I think I'll keep it. It's cute and I don't have enough jewelry.

Item #2: Purple Dress

I loved this dress. I loved it so much...on somebody else. Frankly, I don't have the body for it. It's not flattering and the slit is very high. I'm pretty bummed because it was even super comfortable!
The verdict? Returning it ASAFP.

Item #3: Black Jumpsuit

Another one I loved! Great quality, fun, and would look great...on someone else. My fiancé really liked it, though. The problem is that it wasn't long enough in the torso so was causing some major wedgie issues! (Sorry to be crude)

The verdict? I don't know, I can't decide.

Update: I sent it back.

Items 4 and 5: Sweater and Jeans

I'm combining these because they go so well together. I can happily say that I loved both of these items. They feel great and look good. I am especially thrilled about the jeans because I often struggle with pants.

The verdict? Keep and keep.

Stay tuned for Fix #2!

The Atkins Diet: Does It Work?

Brandon and I are engaged, and are doing what most couples do when planning for a wedding: diet.

(Read our engagement story HERE)

Being the meat-eaters that we are, we decided to do the Atkins diet. Let me start by clearing up a common misconception:

You are allowed to eat carbs on the Atkins diet.

In fact, you need to eat carbs. The problem is, most of us just eat too many.

The idea behind the Atkins diet is to start drastic. Shock your body into it. You do this by not just eliminating most carbs, but by eliminating a lot of foods as well. Those first two weeks are a bunch of veggies and protein. Daily net carb intake is around 22 grams. That's not a lot.

As time goes on and you get closer to your weight loss goals, you introduce more carbs. Eventually, you figure out how many carbs you can/should consume daily in order to maintain a healthy weight. It's intended to be a lifestyle change.

The first few days suck.

I mean, really suck. You're basically just starving all day, every day. Which is actually another common myth:

You do not get to eat as much as you want.

Yes, the types of food you can eat are limited, but your portions should really be limited, too. If you eat 2 lbs of cheese every day, you're not going to lose weight.

So the first few days are limited carbs, and small meals. I was hungry, tired and grumpy. That being said, the food you can eat is great!

Brandon actually started getting extremely sore as well. Ordinary activities would leave his muscles very tender. We did a little research and found out that it was being caused by a mineral deficiency because of the change in diet. He supplemented with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium and he felt instant relief.

I felt better around Day 4.

This is when I started to feel less hungry and get some of my energy back. I learned tricks that worked for me, for example: the later I eat my breakfast, the better I do throughout the day.

The earlier I ate, the earlier I snacked, the earlier I was hungry. I could generally go between 2-3 hours between meals, so eating earlier in the day meant the time between my afternoon snack and dinner was verrryyyyyyy long.

The Meals

As I had mentioned before, most of the food is great.

One of the reasons I really liked the diet was because of the convenience. Atkins makes frozen meals, snacks, protein shakes, even dessert! Being able to just grab a snack I knew fit the diet made it much easier not to cheat. But the prepared meals get old.

Luckily, Atkins has great recipes, and plenty of them on their website. I tried really hard to always make something for dinner, and breakfast when I could. That way we got some decent variety and didn't tire of the frozen meals as quick.

My one complaint about the recipe section of the Atkins website is that it's really not user-friendly. You can search by:
  • Phase (this lets them know how many carbs you can have)
  • Keywords
  • Type of meal (snack, entree, breakfast, etc.)
All of those things are nice, but then I would frequently run into these issues:
  • Recipes calling for Atkins Baking Mix
    • No idea what that was, it's not something you can buy in stores, it's actually another recipe in and of itself.
  • Multiple versions of the same recipe
    • So I would look up the ingredients for a recipe, buy them, look up the recipe again and find that I was missing an ingredient, or bought too many. And then the cooking instructions would be slightly different.
  • Unclear measuring units
    • Instead of cups, tablespoons, etc., some recipes would call for servings or units.
    • One recipe I looked up, in the directions, said it required 2 cups of Atkins baking mix (please see first bullet), but that amount never changed, regardless of how many servings you said you were making. Since this ingredient wasn't actually listed on the list of ingredients, I was very unclear on how much I really needed.
  • Recipes are listed in alphabetical order
    • It sounds convenient, but it's not. When I would browse through the recipes for dinner ideas, there would literally be 17 pages of recipes, but not wanting to click through every single page, I would basically only see the recipes from the first 4 pages.
Since then, I've just started Googling low-carb dinner ideas and gotten some really yummy recipes.

I should also mention two other things I've discovered:
  • Eating healthy is very expensive. Many of the recipes I use call for crazy ingredients I've never heard of (there is an incredible variety of flour out there) and a lot of these ingredients can only be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods.
  • GLUTEN FREE FOOD IS HIGH IN CARBS!!! Sorry, gluten-avoiders! There are SO MANY gluten-free options out there, but the amount of carbs in a lot of those foods is outrageous.

Our Results

We're still going, but results have been good, so far. Brandon, who was already thin to begin with, lost 14 lbs in the first two weeks.

My results have come much slower. I lost about 5 lbs the first two weeks, but have been slowly dropping a pound or two at a time. A month in, I'm about 10lbs down.

Is it Sustainable?

I would say yes...as long as you're flexible.

Life isn't always going to provide you with low-carb options. Brandon and I just went to Mexico and were very hard-pressed to find low-carb options. A lot of the fish was breaded, and tacos are served on....you guessed it...carb-packed tortillas! (We weren't about to go to Mexico and not eat tacos.) So we ate a little less and made sure to spend time at the gym or swimming to work it off a little.

It's a balancing act and a lifestyle choice. Smaller portions, fewer carbs. I would still never turn down a slice of pizza, but I have the discipline to trade my side of french fries for a healthier option. You have to be realistic and make choices that will work for your lifestyle. As another example: it's just not realistic to say that Brandon and I will stop drinking. And alcohol has a lot of carbs! We tried vodka for a while, but that's just plain dangerous! So that's where we know we're getting our fair share of carbs - in our (red) wine and (low-carb) beer. It means a lot of salads for dinner, but it works for us.

And people have gotten so creative these days that there's really not a whole lot you can't have. I just had pancakes for breakfast! They had a bunch of difficult-to-find ingredients, but they were delicious. And you can make just about anything out of cauliflower. It's not always good, but it is what it is.

Do you have any Atkins wisdom you'd like to share? Comment below.

Valentine's Day Lipstick MUST

Valentine's Day is right around the corner.
Caramel Apple Lip Color

Whether you've found a special someone, or you're still on the market, it's a good excuse to look a little more fancy. I don't buy into the whole hating V-Day because it's a commercial holiday thing. OF COURSE it's a commercial holiday, but if it's a silly day we get to spend being sweet to each other, I'm all about it.

That being said, there is one simple thing that can add that extra touch to your special day: some good lipstick.

Here's where it gets complicated...we want to wear our most bold and beautiful lipstick, but there's a lot to consider:

  • Am I going to get it on my teeth during my date?
  • Is it going to smudge when I eat dinner or drink my many glasses of wine?
Seriously. Since the day we started dating, my fiancé has known that if it's a fancy night out, he doesn't get a kiss because my lipstick will leave a stain. That's not romantic, but sometimes we have to suffer in the name of beauty.


LipSense is working for me. It's a little bit different than a traditional lipstick, but it stays on and doesn't smudge all over everything. It doesn't bleed, either, which is wonderful.

Here's how it works:

  • Make sure there is nothing on your lips. A little witch hazel or LipSense Ooops! Remover will do the trick.
  • Apply one layer of Lip Color, without rubbing back and forth and overlapping. Just one swipe does the trick.
  • Let that layer dry for about 3 seconds (keep your mouth wide while it's drying)
  • Repeat swiping a layer and letting it dry for 2 more times, making a total of 3 layers
At this point, your lips are going to feel dry, kind of like they do when you put on any other lip stain. They might even tingle for a second if you're a first-time user. Your next step is:

And that's it, you're done! Keep applying the gloss throughout the day as needed. When it's bed time, apply that Ooops! Remover, rub your lips together and let it sit for a minute, then just wipe it right off.

If you're like me and want a little extra moisture on your lips before bed, you can put on the Moisturizing Gloss, or I prefer the Moisturizing Lip Balm.

Trust me, both you and your V-Day date will be happy with your beautiful, non-smudging lips.

My Recommendation:

If you ORDER NOW, you still have enough time to get your lip color in before Valentine's Day. I'd start with the Lip Collection, which includes 1 Lip Color, 1 Moisturizing Gloss, and 1 Ooops! Remover.

Once you've got that, you can add on as many additional lip colors as you like, since you've already got the gloss and remover.

To place an order, you can go to this webpage.

For more information on my experience, or to see all the lip color options, visit My Makeup Bag.

Kiss, Kiss!

We Are Engaged!

I am so happy to announce that Brandon and I are engaged!

I am not the kind of girl who dreamed of a fairy tail ending or has imagined her wedding since she was a little girl. I've really always prided myself on being a strong, independent woman. And then I met Brandon, who showed me that strong, independent women can also have their fairy tail endings.

Here is the rundown of our relationship:

We met at a bar (the classiest place to meet the love of your life), spent nearly every day together after that, moved in together after 6 months, engaged at a year.

Now let's get to the good stuff, why don't we? The engagement...

Brandon and I had been living together since July. We had met a few days before Christmas the previous year, so this was our first real Christmas together as a couple. I had been planning for weeks, making sure to spoil him rotten. Brandon, meanwhile, wouldn't even let me get a real Christmas tree. Don't worry, he finally settled and bought me a 4-foot tree that we kept on the counter in the kitchen.

His Christmas presents were coming in the mail weekly and while I delighted in wrapping them and putting them under our tiny tree, Brandon would tell me that I was getting coal for Christmas. He's a real romantic, that Brandon!

Christmas Day rolled around and we exchange our presents. I made him go first because I was so excited to see him open his gifts. A custom-fitted shirt, a painted canvas of Coors Field, a custom drawing of his '66 Chevy Nova (the true love of his life), etc.

Then it's my turn! He hands me two small boxes....not ring-size, but like...socks-size. I open the first one and it's.......socks. Fluffy socks. In all seriousness I loved them, so it wasn't a bad gift. No custom drawing of my post prized possession, but it was cute.

I open my next box and it's....socks. Fluffy ones, still! And a book light. A rechargeable LED one, though, which is pretty badass. In my mind I'm thinking, "Sweet Brandon. At least he knows me well and knows I love to cuddle up at night in some cozy socks and read my books."

Fast-forward to later when Brandon randomly said to me, "Hey, look! Santa stopped by!" And from under the tree he pulls out two more boxes, same size and shape as the first two. I open the first one and it's a Bed, Bath and Beyond gift card. Awesome! There is one down the street from us and I spend an unhealthy amount of time shopping there, so Santa did good on that one!

I open up the next one and it's....SOCKS! I'm like, "Man! Santa sure does want to make sure my feet stay warm!" But I notice this weird lump in the bottom of one of the socks and I'm thinking, "reeeeeaaaal funny, Brandon, sticking a lump of coal in there!" (We had spent a lot of time joking about getting each other coal for Christmas). But it wasn't coal. It was a tiny box, which I opened up to find the most beautiful ring.

I literally just stared at it and Brandon asked me, "do you know what that is?"

Dumbfounded, all I could answer was, "No..."

He took the box, got down on one knee and popped the question.

It was like the movies, I swear. I cried like a little baby.

Side note: Why do girls always cry when their boyfriend proposes? It's such a weird reaction...

I said yes, we're getting married in November and we lived happily ever after.

In all seriousness, it was awesome. Being engaged is this incredible feeling where all of a sudden trivial things don't matter anymore. Ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends are meaningless, silly fights seem extra silly.

But I also started to look at things in a different, cooler way. For example, we had been living in Brandon's house, but I no longer thought of it as "Brandon's house." It's ours. We live here. I'm excited to think about the cool renovations we can make if we stay here long-term.

The future is something I think about a lot more, too. And the decisions we make. Like, we've always been really careful about not drinking and driving but neither of us will say no to a beer with a friend after work. Well now that we're getting married and making life plans, drinking a beer before driving home seems like a stupid risk to take. Instead, we just make plans to either take an Uber home, or have the sober one come pick is up after we're done hanging with our friends.

It's crazy, it's fun, and it's not a feeling I would trade for the world. I am OFFICIALLY making forever plans with the love of my life. How lucky am I? To officially be #NearlyNovak