Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Go Red for Women- Why I've been Missing

If you've been following my blog for long, you probably already know I am a woman living with and fighting heart disease.  I wrote a post last year about my story up until that point and shared one of our favorite Heart Healthy Smoothie recipes here. 

I'd like to say that was the end of my story, that everything has been teddy bears and lollipops and that the health care community has changed and now fully respects women in their times of need and treatment of heart disease.  Unfortunately, I recently discovered we still have a fight, we still have a road ahead of us to create gender fair treatment of this silent but #1 killer of women!

This is my story a year later, some recent events that have given me pause, have taken me from my regular farm posts to you, taken me from my family for a bit, and kept me from doing my daily tasks that I love so much.  Many have wondered where I've been, why the Facebook page has been so "dead", and why I haven't posted.  I was back and forth on sharing this, after all, it's not about farming so much or caring for our animals but in order to spread the word and fight for this cause, I need to share anytime and everywhere I can.  Lives are worth fighting for, right?

**warning- some photos are a little graphic, not horrible, but enough some will not want to see**

If you haven't read the first article, a little background is necessary.  I was diagnosed with a global cardiomyopathy about 10 years ago when I was just 27.  By the time I was 30 I had my first ICD implanted- a dual chamber defibrillator.  After 3-4 years of looking for answers, and seeing specialists from Va. to NC. to Dr. Grubb in Oh, I was told I have a global cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia's, and a severe autonomic dysfunction causing POTS, NCS, and other related problems.  With my wonderful local doctor's help, we'd managed to tweak my medications and routines to live a fairly normal life with low activity and periods of rest when needed.

About a month ago, however, my ICD began to vibrate in my chest.  After an ambulance ride and meeting with my St Jude's tech in the Emergency Room, we discovered my battery needed to be replaced, it was below the treatment levels.  This means if I needed the shock, it may not give it.  I was admitted to the hospital for a new ICD.  We knew I'd have to replace it for this reason every few years and having had it for six years, and three electrical shocks later, I was okay with that.  When I awoke, the news wasn't what I expected or wanted to hear.  I wanted it to be over and out and about again within a few days.  Instead I sadly discovered that the lead wires to my ICD had frayed and the local EP (my trusted doctor) could not replace my ICD.
I was then put on rest for about a month while we waited for me to get an appointment at a hospital in Richmond for a lead extraction and a new set of leads (dual chamber) and ICD to be implanted.  Although riskier and performed in the OR, it was still a fairly minimally invasive procedure.
Ready to go in

The operation was unfortunately delayed on the day of surgery by 4 hours.  I had a terrible feeling from the beginning since the prep nurse managed to vaso vagal me (cause me to faint) right there in the prep room while attempting to insert the IV improperly and draw blood.  I'm not afraid of IVs or needles after all of the procedures I've been through, they're really not a big deal.  She apparently was new and I tried to be patient but my body wasn't quite so agreeable.  I became quite ill and then (as usual with these episodes) the next thing I knew there were 4 experienced nurses talking to me and one singing opera to draw me back.  It was a great nursing team in the long run.  I awoke after surgery and was told everything went well and I would be ready to go home the next morning.   The next morning, I was having pain in my left arm (the side the ICD was implanted).  They performed an ultrasound on my arm and told me I was fine and should be sent home. 

By that evening I was in excruciating chest pain and shortness of breath.  It was agonizing even in comparison to my past cardiac troubles and C sections.  I was kept again due to the pain but the hospitalist on the floor continued to tell me that it was just my "anxiety" over the surgery.  I knew this wasn't true, I had "that feeling" that I had in the past during my vasospasms that was my body telling me something was not okay.  I continued to plead with this physician for the entire next day into the evening- almost 2 full days and he continued to press on the painful area and tell me, " I didn't know what a pain level of 10 was, to calm down and not be so worked up, control my anxiety."  At the end of the second day, a nurse who noticed that I became increasingly tachycardic with the pain, went around the physician and called in her RRT.  The RRT agreed with the nurse that I wasn't "just nervous" and insisted on an echocardiagram.  The echo seemed normal but the technician couldn't get a clear picture on the angle of the leads.  She couldn't say for certain but told me later they didn't, "appear to be at the right angle."  She and the RRT then went to the hospitalist and insisted he have me sent down for a CT Scan.

Almost immediately, I was taken from the CT Scan back upstairs in a whirlwind of activity.  It turns out, the elecrophysiologist had perforated my heart.  The ICD lead and penetrated my pericardium and went clean through the left ventricle and outside of my heart putting a hole in it.  The hospitalist's comment to me was simply, "Aren't you happy I had that CT done?"  He then told his staff I was to be moved back to the CICU and a surgery needed to be scheduled for Monday.  This was a Saturday evening. Although enraged, I was in too much pain to say anything.  I just cried, grateful that now someone was willing to listen and help me.

I was taken back to the CICU where I met the cardiac surgeon.  He explained to me that there was a hole in my heart that must be fixed immediately.  He advised me I could not wait for Monday because it was life threatening.  They frantically tried to reach my husband while some techs and nurses explained the basic procedure to me and the fact that I'd need a chest tube and line in my neck and my stomach would need to be pumped immediately.

When I awoke I was told the surgeries went well.  They performed a thoractomy to repair the hole in my heart, a chest tube was inserted, a line put in my neck, arterial pressures put in my wrists, and the leads for the new ICD had been reinserted and the ICD implanted again.  I was in pain, a lot of pain and breathing was a terrible struggle.  I was alive, however, and very grateful.  The worst was the breathing I think.  I couldn't speak without running out of breath which was awful for my children.  The chest tube wasn't horrible until it was time to come out and then it was quite uncomfortable.  It only took her two pulls to get it out but I pray I never have to have that again.  The line in my neck was better.  Both the chest tube and line in my neck had to be stitched so there were some small stitches on my neck and side.

The thoracotomy is the slowest to heal.  My ICD incision is pretty well sealed up but the incision from the thoracotomy isn't.  It was performed under my left breast and between my ribs, requiring the surgeon to cut the muscles and nerves between my ribs which are SLOW to heal.  That seems to have given me the worst trouble (this is what makes breathing so difficult and painful.)  I still look forward to a day without pain from that or a day where I can walk further than the length of our bottom floor without being desperate for breath.  I know it's coming soon.
chest tube out, 4 days later able to sit up
I'm still healing from both surgeries.  I spent two weeks in the hospital and finally convinced the doctors to let me come home to complete my physical therapy and healing.  I've been at home another week and I still have pain, worse yet- extensive shortness of breath.  I was told I was lucky to be alive.  The cardiac surgeon said the small cap on the end of the lead was at the perfect angle to prevent a lot of hemorrhaging from my heart at the hole.  My arrhythmia's are giving me some trouble and we are back to the starting board on adjusting my 16 medications.  Due to having 3 surgeries within a few days, I developed a low blood count and anemia.  Hopefully that will resolve soon and I can cut those pills out.

At this point, I want to get back to my "normal" life.  I had complained in the past that I couldn't run with my children like other moms but now I will be happy just to venture outside of my home with them at any pace or just be able to perform regular "mom duties" such as cooking or cleaning.  I know it will take several more weeks and I'm trying to be patient.

As for the hospitalist that refused to believe me or offer me up treatment, I still have nightmares of being in a room and needing help and no one coming or listening.  I am working on getting a patient advocate to review my file.  Being only 38, I did have some strength to fight his decisions and try to voice my needs, some of the older ladies on that floor may not be able to do that so I'm hoping things will change after my case so that the other women that are there can receive the treatment and care they need when they need it and not be bullied into submission.

The other women with heart disease are the reason for me writing this post.  We must advocate for each other and for ourselves.  Take care of ourselves and each other, get second opinions, be courageous enough to disagree if we feel something is wrong.  Don't just accept the "anxiety" and "too much on your plate" quick diagnosis from doctors if YOU feel something more is going on.  Trust your body and your instincts!  Know your numbers and take care of yourselves.  Fight women's heart disease!

With Love,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Cream with my Favorite Coffee Creamer

Although we didn't get quite as much snow as the weatherman predicted (do we ever?), it snowed enough to cover our boots and the temperatures are low enough to make daily chores frigid! 

Since the kids and animals are pretty miserable, we've been working hard laying in extra bedding, feeding more scratch to warm the ducks and chickens up, and maintaining our draft free but well ventilated coops.  All of this made the animals happier but only made the kids colder so I thought I needed to concoct a little something to brighten their day as well- especially since- they don't get out of school.  There aren't any snow days when you homeschool!

I realized I hadn't made snow cream for the kids in a couple of years so it was just what the mama prescribed to cheer up those hardworking kiddos.   Here's the recipe we used, there's a ton out there but this is our favorite and it's a bit sweeter than the traditional recipe because instead of just half and half or milk, I add in some of my flavored froo-froo coffee creamers!  For today, we just happened to have a new bottle of Girl Scouts Samoas coffee creamer!  It doesn't get much tastier!

Coffee Creamer Flavored Snow Cream
1/2 - 1 cup of Milk (adjust for your desired consistency)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2-1 cup of Coffee Creamer (start with 1/2 cup and add more if it's not strong enough)
8 cups of CLEAN (white) Snow

Collect clean, white snow in a large bowl that provides about 8 cups.  Mix the minimum amount of milk, sugar, vanilla, and creamer in a separate medium-sized bowl.  Pour the milk mixture over the snow and stir to mix.  If it's not the consistency you like, add either another 1/2 cup of milk or creamer, you likely will not need both until you reach your desired consistency.  Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Days 4-7: Snowmen Ice Cream, Grinch Floats, & a Christmas Parade

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

We're enjoying our Advent calendar activities and tonight will be one of our favorites.  For Day 7, we headed  downtown for our local Christmas Parade with friends and family.  We look forward to this tradition each year.

The last few days have been delicious and fun!  Our advent activities included making Snowmen Ice Cream and Grinch Floats for deserts and the local parade and dinner out with family.  The deserts are both easy but a lot of fun for special holiday treats and our local parade is a family tradition from when I was a little girl.

Snowmen Ice Cream are easy to throw together with any of your favorite candy treats.  We used Vanilla Ice Cream, don't judge me on that huge bucket of ice cream in the background!  I used Twizzlers for the arms, some Reese's Christmas Bells for his hat, M&Ms for the eyes and buttons and mini chocolate and peanut butter chips for the nose and mouth.  Of course, you can decorate him anyway you like or let the kids do it and have a great time.  I also put some whipped cream around the bottom to be the extra snow around him.

Grinch Floats are even easier but so cute and yummy!  I bought some lime sherbet and filled the cups with it, packing it down just slightly.  Once the glasses were full, I added some Sprite and topped, of course, with whipped cream. 
Grinch floats are fun to drink while watching the Christmas move, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" together.  When my daughter, Alyssa, was little she was afraid of the Grinch but my 2 year old nephew loves him and enjoyed him at the parade last night!

In order to get good seats and parking, we arrive several hours before the start and hang out.  My sister, my niece, and the girls.
Which brings us to the parade.  Having lived within the area most of my life, I've been coming to our local parade each year for as long as I can remember and so have my siblings and all of our children.
Chance and my nephew hanging out while waiting for the parade to start.
  It's a family tradition we look forward to each year and we followed it up with some hot, "home cooked" food at Cracker Barrel.  Enjoy some of the photos I took last night. 
My sister and brother in law.  As you can see, much of the day and evening is spent waiting and trying to keep warm, but since we're with family, it's a huge part of the enjoyment!

I hope you're enjoying our Advent activities series and finding some ideas to begin Christmas traditions with your families.  If you're enjoying other advent activities or Christmas fun with your family, leave us a message, we'd love to share in the joy and I'm always looking for new ideas for my own kids!
As always, the grand finale is Santa's arrival!

 For more fun ideas I found for Christmas, follow my Christmas Pinterest board.  For more photos of life at The Egg Basket, follow us on Facebook

Blessings to you and yours,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Calendar with Activities & a Creamy Hot Cocoa Recipe

The Christmas Countdown Begins...

It's that time of year again!  I can't believe it's been a year since I posted about our Advent calendar last year.  So much has happened but it feels as if the time has passed so quickly.  Things are definitely different this year and, for once, I'm on time with my Christmas Calendar Countdown post!

If you read last year's post, you saw our adorable advent calendar that I (somehow) sewed for the kids a couple of years ago.  This year we're doing something simpler.   If you're worried it's too late to start this tradition with your family this year, it's not.  Since we just moved a few months ago (and as embarrassing as it is, I'm still unpacking) I went with a simple solution.  I labeled Christmas envelopes with Scrapbook numbers 1-24 and then slipped our advent activities cut outs into the envelopes.  We hung them from some beads left over from decorating the tree and different lengths of ribbon.  Super easy and just as fun!

For the activities, I drew some easy pictures on labels and then stuck them to construction paper and cut them out.  Easy-peasy!  The kids could do it for you! 

To start the year off right and get everyone in the holiday spirits, I always begin playing Christmas music in the house and in the car (when we're not listening to our literature on CD).  Don't have a lot of Christmas CDs laying around?  No worries, I've been spoiled the past couple of years by Pandora radio on my laptop.   Simply type Christmas in the search box and you'll be blessed with tons of Christmas tunes.  There's just something about Christmas music that gets me in the mood- I even feel happier cleaning! 

Then it's time to get the Advent calendar out and begin our countdown!  Here's my basic plan of activities, since I was unsure of the dates on some activities, the great thing about using the slips of paper is I can always switch them around before the kids open them!

Day 1: Sip Hot Cocoa (recipe below) while we decorate the tree.
Day 2: A Family Game Night
Day 3: Elf some friends and family & a little box of Christmas chocolate as a surprise for the kids while we went to the houses.
Day 4: Snowman Ice Cream Deserts
Day 5: Make Ornaments
Day 6: Grinch Floats
Day 7: Local Christmas Parade with my Sisters, Brother, & Their Families
Day 8: Bake Cookies & Decorate them Together
Day 9: North Pole Breakfast- Santa Pancakes & Hot Cocoa
Day 10: Make Gingerbread Houses
Day 11: Write Christmas Cards and mail to friends and family.
Day 12: Christmas Skate with our friends from our local home school co-op group
Day 13: Christmas Pez containers & Pez candy
Day 14: Drive around the area and look at Christmas Lights (Scavenger Hunt?)
Day 15: Hot Cocoa & Christmas Chocolate
Day 16: Put up their small trees in their rooms
Day 17: New PJ's
Day 18: Bake Cookies & decorate to give away
Day 19: Ring Pops
Day 20: Camp out in the family room under the Christmas tree
Day 21: Visit the Washington, D.C. Zoo & the National Tree with my sisters and their families.
Day 22: Christmas candy treat
Day 23: Watch a Christmas Movie together with popcorn & drinks
Day 24: Christmas Eve!  Open 1 small gift!

As you can see, I've used Christmas chocolate or Christmas candy treats a couple of times in there to give us (me!) a break on those hectic, busy shopping days I know I'll face.  Since I don't allow them to have candy often, it's a real treat for them.  I'm hoping to cut those down by a few as the month goes on and I have a better idea of my time.  Again, those are the easy days for me so if I happen across a tough school day or event that gets moved around, I can move those slips of paper in and switch things around.  They're my little saving grace when the day gets crazy as can easily happen!

We're going to try to photograph the fun and share some of it.  Of course, in the midst of the glorious holidays, we're still running the farm, homeschooling, taking care of each other, and getting the day to days done.  I also won't forget the reason for the season and we'll be celebrating our Lord and praying constantly throughout the season!

My Creamy Hot Cocoa Recipe
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (we used the Hershey's Dark cocoa)
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
3 cups milk
1 can (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan and stir in water.
2. Cook and stir over medium heat until it boils and boil (stirring often) for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in milks and heat (still stirring often)
4. Add vanilla
5. Remove from heat and top.  We used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to top ours.

Monday, November 25, 2013

doTerra Essential Oils Giveaway! Enter to Win!

essential oil giveaway

Essential Oil Giveaway

Just in time for the holidays!

Sponsored by:

Jenni Hulburt

of the

Nature Fed Wellness Movement

You can find more information about Jenni's doTerra Essential oils here! And please take a moment to visit Jenni's website here!

My friend over at The Self Sufficient Home Acre posted a review here!

Jenni Hulburt is a health and fitness expert, creator of the Inspire Workouts, and author of the Dirt Detox. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s degree in Kinesiology (Sports Psychology). As a certified American College of Sports Medicine – Health and Fitness Specialist, Jenni creates fitness, nutrition, and wellness plans for people who want results in their body and their life. She is an educated researcher in exercise psychology, and has formally studied body image perceptions, chronic pain, exercise adherence, and motivation. Through personalized coaching and inspiration, Jenni helps you commit to your health and happiness, leave excuses in the dust, and move.

The Giveaway!

The Essential Oil Gift Set includes 5 ml bottles of 3 amazing essential oils in a a wooden gift box! Retail value of this Essential Oil Gift Set is $25.50! This would make a wonderful gift for a friend or loved one, or a great kit to pamper yourself through the busy holiday season!

Wild Orange essential oils can be used for digestion, immune support, depression, and anxiety.
Peppermint essential oils is good for pain, digestion, hot flashes, allergies, and sinus congestion.
On Guard essential oil is a blend of wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils that help to fight off viruses and bacteria. It can be used for mold, sinus infections, cold/flu, and is great during the winter to stay well (and it smells like the holidays).

How to Use Essential Oils

  • Aromatically: Put a few drops in a diffuser to purify a space, affect mood, or help the respiratory system
  • Topically: Dilute 3-5 drops with a tablespoon of carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil) and apply to affected area or to bottoms of feet. Note: Use 1-2 drops diluted for children and babies.
  • Internally: Add drops to water or empty gel capsules, and swallow. Great for the immune, digestive, and urinary systems.

Jenni's Favorite Ways to Use Wild Orange, Peppermint, and On Guard Essential Oils

  • Diffuse wild orange for depression, add it to water to aid digestion and detoxification, or apply it to the back of your neck for energy.
  • Rub peppermint (diluted for sensitive skin) on stomach in a clockwise direction for digestive issues, apply to sinuses as an anti-inflammatory, or diffuse for respiratory congestion.
  • Add On Guard to water and gargle morning and night, apply to bottoms of feet (diluted) for immune system support, or dilute in spray bottle with water or white vinegar to clean.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Blue Silkie Cockerel For Sale

For sale : Blue Silkie cockerel, 6 months old.

Meet Oreo, a young Blue Silkie cockerel from one of our Blue/ Splash breeding pens.  We've kept Oreo as one of our future show birds and breeders and grown out this gorgeous boy over the past 6 months. 

He's as sweet as can be and loves to cuddle and talk.  We're all head over heels for him and had planned to show him this week at the local Virginia Poultry Breeder's Association's 2013 Fall Show.  He's gentle with kids and seems to get along with any of the ladies and even most of the roosters as long as they're not being aggressive towards him.

Oreo has nice, black feet with proper toe spacing.  As you can see from his picture, this little man has a full beard and is growing in a nice crest.  His crest and cushion are still full of pin feathers and his cushion is already decent for a young cockerel.  When  he's standing properly, he's also showing nice type.  Can you tell we love this boy?

Unfortunately, Oreo began to grow in some leakage over the past month.  He has gold leakage around his hackles and so he won't make the final "cut" for our program.  We have too many others growing out to keep him based on this flaw. 

We would love to see Oreo go to a good quality, loving home.  For this reason, although we have him listed for $25 on most of the poultry selling sites, we're willing to sell him to one of our readers or customers for only $15 to a nice home where he can be the only male with some ladies of his own.  Kids would be a plus as he dearly loves my son. 

Our small farm is located in Partlow, Va or we can deliver Oreo to the VPBA Fall Show this coming Saturday since we will be there for the kids to show their other birds.  We would love to find the perfectly matched home for Oreo as he means a lot to us.  Thanks!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Hatching through the winter - an Outdoor Brooder!

It's been awhile since I've posted so my apologies for getting so far behind!  Moving all of the animals, coops, pens, and so on (not to mention the human stuff) proved to be a big job!  Partner that with the busyness of the farm season and then starting home school again, time ran away without me!

As you'll know, I love to hatch- okay, I admit it, I'm a hatch-a-holic!  It's true, I'll cave into the label!  There's something so addicting about bringing those little lives into the world and watching them grow and develop into beautiful birds.  Anyway, as breeders striving for the best birds we can create and getting as close as possible to the Standards of Perfection, a LOT of hatching is required so it's good that I enjoy it.

Hatching throughout the winter also sets us up for good timing.  Winter chicks are ideal candidates for Spring pullets ready to lay and produce their own chicks.  It allows them time to grow out enough for me to go through them and be able to easily "pet out" those that don't meet my breeding program needs when the Spring chick buying is in full swing.

Our challenge has been that my dear husband does not enjoy the dust and dander from having so many chicks inside the house.  Inside the house?  Yep!  That's what he asked, but it's been a necessary "evil" (my evil grin here because I love being able to see the little ones at night) in order to keep them safe and healthy.  Chicks are babies, after all, and they need heat, constant and regular temperatures, clean food and water, and since they haven't yet grown in their feathers, they can't be brooded outside in the winter!  Right? 

Before moving the farm, we had an unfinished basement, what use to be a garage, that we used for brooding the chicks.  My husband wasn't thrilled about the idea but it didn't cause him to have to deal with the dust or poop so he tolerated it.  Then we moved to our dream house.  Here we are and SO unbelievably happy but we didn't have an unfinished basement.  Luckily, the entire house is finished.  What to do with the babies?  I tried keeping them in the laundry room but he quickly decided that wasn't going to be a permanent brooding room.  What to do?  I simply suggested that if he wanted them moved, he should come up with another option for us! 

To my surprise, he did!  I love that man!  He gets major husband points for building us a brooder that we can use to hatch throughout the winter OUTSIDE.  Could it really be?  I was skeptical, even up until the first night, rushing out to check on them over and over but it worked! 

The real test came this past couple of nights, it has been COLD here, dipping in the 20's with a fierce, bone chilling wind but as Chance and I trudged out back to the goat shed where the brooder is kept, freezing ourselves, we only found little fluffy babies chirping away happily and running around without a care in the world!  They're perfectly comfortable and healthy and I have a happy husband! Happy mama, happy husband, happy household, right?

It wasn't rocket science either.  He built a large box essentially using 2x4s and plywood.  We put it on legs to keep it off of the ground (away from mice and other pests). 

I had him build it deep to keep critters from being able to grab at my babies but long because I plan on hatching a lot and I need the room to grow them out properly all winter.  With the cold in Virginia, they'll need to be warm until they fully feather out. 

He put two doors on the top so we can easily reach the waterers and feeders as well as any chicks.  I had him add latches with locks to the side of both doors.  This keeps out predators (human and animal) and protects them.  You'd be surprised how smart raccoons can be, I've heard too many stories of them opening doors and latches to not add tough latches and locks. 

He also added the ventilation to the doors.   This part worried me the most at first.   Frostbite on chickens is caused by lack of ventilation and too high of a humidity in cold air and not by the cold itself.  Chickens also pick up respiratory infections from coops that are too tightly sealed and do not provide adequate ventilation.  Many well intentioned flock owners create infectious and even colder environments for their birds unknowingly by not providing proper ventilation.  You want to ensure your coops and brooders are free of cold drafts but adequate in ventilation.  We all need fresh air flow, especially birds being cooped up together in cold weather. 

Dampness can also be a detriment in the cold weather but we can ensure that's not an issue by keeping the brooder dry and clean.  It's always a good idea to check the areas around the waterers especially well.  We're using large flake pine shavings in our brooder and the chicks have a tendency to kick the pine into the water and then get the water in the pine surrounding the waterers.  A quick and cheap remedy is to elevate the waterers (and feeders) slightly with something.  We used a thin board we had left over on top of the pine.  We put two waterers and a feeder on top of that central to the brooder. 

Lastly, we needed heat!  As I said, chicks are covered with fluffy, sweet down.  Although adorable and cuddly, it's not a good insulation so the babies must be kept warm by external sources.  Naturally, this would be a mama hen.  Although I'm never short on broody mamas since we raise Silkies, I don't want all of my mamas tied to the coop in the cold.  Instead, we added heat to the brooder.  My husband cut a hole to fit the heat lamp in the center of the coop.  This gives the chicks plenty of room on either side of it to back away from the heat source if they get too warm or move into it together if they get cold.  This is very important to their health.  A chick will die of a heat stroke as quick as they will freeze to death. 

The general rule of thumb is to start your chicks off in a brooder around 95 degrees and then reduce the temperature 5 degrees each week until you reach a room temperature.  When we first started out, we were VERY methodical about this.  Each brooder had it's own thermometer (or two) and we checked it often.  The more we brooded, however, the less we relied on the thermometers and the more we depended on the chicks behavior to determine the proper temperature for them.  If your chicks are all dispersed evenly in your brooder, hanging out, eating, drinking, playing, and sleeping you're good to go.  If your chicks are all cuddled up and piling together under your heat source- they're chilled and need more heat.  Silkies are pilers anyway and it's nothing short of heart breaking to find a little chick smothered because they were chilled or in a draft and they all piled on to get warmer and accidentally smothered the chicks on bottom.  If they're all huddled up in a corner as far away from the heat source as they can get, panting, and/or holding their wings out from their little bodies, they're too hot and you need to lower that source.  Once you get the hang of it, you may certainly keep the thermometers to help monitor their heat for extremes but you'll quickly learn their signals. 

***Safety Note*** These types of heat lamps (especially when using the red heat bulbs) are known to melt at the socket and drop the HOT red lamps into the bedding, starting fires.  If you choose to use these, ensure you use chicken wire or other wire to cover the bulb so if it melts, it can not drop onto your babies or into your brooder and start any fires.  Although we're currently using these, we fashion wire very well all around the lamps and plan to begin with the Sweeter Heaters in the new year. ***

Having easy access to the brooder was important to me because I am the one that does the sanitizing and cleaning.  I had him add two large doors to the top that folded upwards and cut them wide enough that I'd have plenty of elbow room to get the dirty pine out and clean pine in as well as room to move with my scrub brush.  We also built it to my arm length for that reason.  A simple cinder block on the ground under it gives the kids easy access to check on any of their chicks as well for pasty butt, foot issues, weight gain, and overall health. 

The next step was painting the brooder so it would withstand the elements.  We chose a Barn & Fence Paint in a classic Barn Red and I love the color!  We moved it into the (empty) goat shed area and I now had my outdoor brooder and chick "room". 

I'm thrilled with the new brooder and the ability to continue my year round hatching while making the dear husband happier having a chick free home!

How are you'll doing?  Are there any other hatch-a-holics out there who are hatching all winter?