We’re Married!

I have just returned from the best trip of my life...our wedding trip.


Brandon and I planned this day for almost a year since Our Engagement and it was more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.


We were married at Now Jade in Puerto Morelos, Mexico and 29 of our close friends and family were there to celebrate with us.


A beautiful location, warm weather, handsome groom and even a FLASH MOB. Yes, that’s right! My mom and aunt put together a dance and sent it to our guests to learn. We were completely blown away!

We are so blessed to have so many special people be a part of our day and our lives. And beyond that we are so blessed to have found each other.


Our dream wedding was just the first day in the next chapter of our lifetime we get to spend together.

Urban Chickens: The Coop

It has been a crazy couple of months with these chickens.

Once they were fully-feathered (around 5 weeks) and the weather started to get nicer, we introduced them to their coop and put them outside.


Building the Coop


Being the newbies that we are, we bought a coop online, opting for a chicken tractor, a smaller coop that has wheels so it can move around the yard. Chicken poop is especially great fertilizer for your grass and garden, but chickens themselves are also great because they love to eat the weeks and bugs.

While building the coop, we noticed that it was a little weak and there were things we didn't like about it. For example, it had no bottom. That wouldn't be a problem, except that not having a bottom makes it easier for predators to get in.

Brandon took some wire fencing and stapled it to the bottom, the idea being that nothing could dig its way in. As I had mentioned before, the coop materials were pretty weak, so it took a lot of creativity and repairing in order to get that fencing to stay without the staples breaking the wood.

And then there were the latches: they were kind of like this:

At the time that we were installing them, both Brandon and I commented on how they were pretty weak and made mental notes to replace them at a later time.

The wheels were another issue. The chicken tractor model that we bought came with wheels that were too small to make moving the tractor around easy...which was the whole point.

One feature that I absolutely loved was the removable tray. It's metal and just pulls right out, which makes cleaning the coop a breeze. The nesting boxes (which is where they lay their eggs) also had their own little roof that opened up, making accessing the eggs easier.

Please note: They haven't actually laid any yet since they're so young.


The Coop in Action

Once we got the chickens in the coop at had it outside, it was great. They were pretty self-sustaining at that point. Just making sure their food and water was always full was just about the only job I had, aside from cleaning the coop.


They seemed happy and healthy, pecking around during the day and as soon as it was dusk, would go right back into their coop for bedtime, like clockwork.

Moving the coop around the yard was initially more difficult than we would have liked. This was primarily because the structure of the coop was too weak for us to hang their waterer, so we had to keep in on the ground, which meant getting it out and moving it every time we wanted to move the coop.

Other than that, no major issues.

Then, Disaster Struck

Reflecting back on this, it's one of those moments where I blame myself for being lazy and not just doing the right thing the first time.

Brandon and I, when we first got chickens, had planned on building our own coop. Since time is always an issue, we did the lazy thing and bought one online that we would just assemble ourselves.

I talked earlier about some of the concerns we had with the coop (it was weak, the wheels, no floor, the latches) and how we made mental notes to fix those issues later.

You never think anything bad is going to happen, until it does...


One Sunday morning at about 5:45 (the sun was up already), Brandon and I heard this frantic squawking from our chickens. I ran over to our bedroom window and looked outside to see a fox chasing my poor chickens all over the yard. The door to the coop was wide open....fox figured out the latch.

Not only did the fox kill 2 of my 5 chickens (we thought it was 3, but I'll explain that later), but it wouldn't leave the yard. For hours after it kept coming back. And I've continued to see it in our yard several times since.

We have a 6 foot fence and I had read online that foxes can't usually jump such tall fences. Let me tell you, they can. Easily.

Short Rant

I had seen these foxes in the neighborhood a few weeks before, living in the backyard of a house across the street. Now, living in Colorado, animal control really isn't going to do anything about it. Living in this state means living with the wildlife. Fine. Here's where I need to rant:

The foxes den up and live in our neighborhood because people allow them to. Animal Control and the Division of Wildlife HIGHLY discourage allowing foxes to den up at your house. Even worse than that, the animal control officer I spoke to said people around the neighborhood have been feeding them, rendering them unafraid of people and with no incentive to leave.

So these foxes never really have to learn to hunt for themselves, and they're running around the street, where they sometimes get hit by cars.

I had posted about the foxes on Nextdoor.com and MANY of my neighbors talked about how cute they are, how they're harmless, how they'll just walk right up to their doors and it's adorable.

I am here to tell you: FOXES ARE WILD ANIMALS AND THEY'RE SNEAKY AND CONNIVING AND OH BY THE WAY....THEY'RE CARNIVORES. So yes, they ate some of my chickens, fine. But I would have been devastated had it been one of my dogs. But they're not cute. And they're not pets. And they shouldn't feel comfortable living in a suburban neighborhood.

Last part of my rant...

Please spare me the lecture about how we took away their home and need to accommodate them...which one of my neighbors told me.

These foxes were a year old. My neighborhood was built 60 years ago. If they want to live in the field 1/4 mile from my house, that's fine! But not in someone's backyard while being fed roast beef by the neighbors.

Next Steps



Having learned our lesson at the expense of two of our chickens, Brandon built a custom coop like we planned on doing from the beginning. He took extra precautions to ensure it is predator-proof, the most important of which was burying wire 36 inches out from the coop's run in every direction to prevent digging. Stronger latches, more stable structure.

So now our survivors are back to living their happy chicken lives.

Stitch Fix: Fix #3

She has done it, ladies and gentlemen. My stylist, Michelle, has put together the perfect Fix.

Here is what myApril box brought me:

CECE Sportswear Havart Off The Shoulder Blouse

If your read about my last fix, you know there was an off-the-shoulder shirt that I loved, but kept fussing with, so decided to return.

This month, Michelle sent another off-the-shoulder, but one that stays on a little better. I still fuss with it a little, but not nearly as much as the last one.

This shirt is so fun and cute, but the sleeves are by far the best.

Lila Ryan Liza Distressed Skinny Jean

Oh, so you noticed the white pants in that previous photo? Those also came in my box. I love them.

I've always wanted white pants, but never been brave enough to buy them for myself. They need to fit just right and I just don't think they can always be pulled off.

Down side: They kind of see-through, which really just means that I need to be sure to avoid bright-colored underwear when I wear them...a precautionary measure I'm willing to take.

Collective Concepts Edaline Back Detail Top

This top is so versatile. I can wear it with a pair of jeans, or with a pair of dress pants and heels. The back is so cute it's almost a shame to cover it with a blazer for work!
 

Kensie Dresses Deena Lace Knit Dress

This dress is classy and was picked with my upcoming nuptials in mind. It fits well and would be great for a bridal shower, brunch on the beach during our honeymoon, or even our rehearsal dinner.

 

Bay To Baubles Park Floral Drop Earrings

To match the dress, my fix also came with these drop earrings. They're too heavy for every day wear, but they really look great when they're on.


Stitch Fix: Fix #2

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm hooked. I loved my First Fix so much that I've come back for more.

March brought me my second Stitch Fix box.

The Box:

Just like last time, my lovely stylist Michelle wrote me a sweet note explaining her choices for me this month and asking about the wedding/engagement party.

Michelle - the engagement party was wonderful. The wedding is November 3rd in Cancun, so I'll be messaging you to think "beach and sun" in some fixes down the road!

Readers - help me out here! I loved everything, but there are a couple of items I haven't made a final decision on. Here we go...

The Dress

This is one I need help with. It's cute and my fiancé likes it, but it's a little short and it's not my normal style.

That being said, it's an easy summer dress and I could wear it for something as casual as the park, or something more fun like a family birthday party.
My little dog made a photo appearance



Help me out here! To keep or not to keep?

Pants and Top

Michelle told me I would and I do love these pants. They're a bit stretchy, which I would normally love, but I've lost some weight recently and they're a little big. I am going to see if I can exchange for a smaller size.

Note to self: Update StitchFix profile with current measurements.

The shirt is just too cute. It's a little see-through and I think it will be perfect for summer.

White Blazer

I love this and it's really comfortable! I can never turn down a good blazer.
I call this my Michael Jackson look. "Who's bad?!"

Off the Shoulder

I need your help on this one, too. I love this shirt, I really do. Brandon, my fiancé, isn't as crazy about it. It's forgiving and fun, its only flaw is that it doesn't always stay where I want it to stay (off the shoulders).

Let me know your thoughts! To keep or not to keep?


Stay tuned for my April fix!



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?