An Idea For Getting Kids Engaged With The Chickens: Leg Bands

By far the fastest way to get farming/homesteading into your child’s heart is to let them experience baby farm animals. There is something about a baby chick, goat or pig that is irresistible. The second way is to give your child a part of farming that is all their own. A great parenting book I enjoyed constantly used examples of how his local Amish would give their children sections of their best garden space to to raise their own little garden to “gain the love of farming”. We were lucky enough to be able to combine both by giving our children their very own baby chicks.

My youngest bought me these Chicken Leg Bands for Mother’s Day. It was a lot of money for a little guy who only earns $2.50 a week at his chore. He spent more than usual because he felt a little guilty for talking me into the size 9 bands (on the left) a few weeks earlier even though I was pretty sure we needed the size 11 (on the right). In just a month’s time it was clear that the size 9 is far too tight for a Plymouth Barred Rock and the Rhode Island Reds are also more comfortable with the larger size.

Guilt wasn’t the only reason he bought the bands though….my youngest really loves knowing which two chickens are his. For the record, he has two, Midnight: a dark colored Plymouth Barred Rock hen that even as a fluffy chick was darker than all the others. The other is Wildfire: a Rhode Island Red with lots of variation in her feathers…one wing feather almost strawberry blonde and some so dark they are almost black. As a bit of insurance each child has two in case some unfortunate Racoon or Hawk incident happens.

The family business when I was a kid was raising and training German Sheppard Guard Dogs for Police Departments, Sheriff offices and personal protection. Dad was good at what he did, so waiting lists formed and people sometimes chose their puppy long before it was ready to leave the mother. Dad kept track using finger nail polish on the left front nails. This was particularly helpful for children picking out their puppy who didn’t want to wait another 2-3 weeks for it to be fully weened. It gave those children a sense of ownership.

Something more permanent is preferred when you have a flock of 9 that need to be distinguishable even as adults. There are bands for sale that allow you to number your chickens all the way to 100 in the same color so that you can make a detailed breeding plan and track egg production. However, only a few are large enough for a Plymouth Barred Rock, most are pigeon sized and all require catching the chicken in order to read the number. For a backyard flock like ours with engaging the kids being the primary objective, these colorful bands work best. Simply have a child hold the chicken while you open the ring as wide as possible and slip it over the ankle. For us it was a two-person job.

Get the correct size from the beginning so you don’t have to redo this…taking it off can cause you to accidentally scratch your hen’s leg. You could also print up a little list of hen/rooster names with their color and give one to each kid. I sealed mine in packing tape and keep in my phone case so my kids can ask any time which hen is which. My eldest’s best friend even named the last hen, so Sriracha is ‘his hen’. Engaging a 15-year-old with your flock: priceless.

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The Fascinating Osage Orange ‘Fence’ Tree

This is from the root of an Osage Orange. It is a fascinating tree that seems to have escaped extinction. Although related to the Mulberry, the Osage Orange is the only species of its genus in the family Moraceae. The roots have had a year to dry out and the small one [at the end of this post] is able to slid out of the encasement. I re-wet the root trying to bring back it’s vibrant orange, but it has lost much of it’s color since it was dug up a year ago. When dry, it is possible to peel off the tissue-paper like protective layer around it’s roots.

The fruit is fascinating in it’s other-worldly appearance. The kids are drawn to it every time they are at the farm. I have no desire to even try to eat it, but apparently something in my forest is having a go at it. I’ve seen them driven over before, but here it appears that wildlife has developed a taste for it. There are four such ‘Horse Apples’ torn up with in a few feet of each other over a four-week span.

The Native American Osage Indians in the area the tree was discovered were the inspiration for the naming of the Osage Orange. As a kid I always assumed the name came from the orange sized fruit that had a bumpy ‘orange peel’ texture. Until I brought this fruit home I didn’t even notice the slight citrus scent. However, no where can I find the root color discussed. It was the basement digging project which exposed these beautiful orange roots. Just guessing here, but this might be where the dye value of the Osage Orange lies.

Hedge Apples, Horse Apples, Bowwood, Thorny Tree or Osage Orange; regardless of the name, this captivating tree is described as ‘picturesque’ instead of beautiful. It’s limbs are dark and dramatic against snowfall. In the heavy shade of summer they create a bit of mystery. Our small farm is blessed with many fully mature Osage Orange trees that border the ravine running down the center of the property. Thousands of miles of Osage Orange were planted in the early 1800’s as a ‘living fence’ around properties to help manage livestock wandering off. By 1874 barbed wire had become king of fencing….ironically often hung on Osage Orange fence posts.

Not only do the branches provide some very large, blunt thorns to discourage a way-ward cow, but the branches tend to grow low near the ground where that would be the most benefit. These thorns are directly responsible for the development of barbed wire…an improvement on nature I suppose. The branches are surprisingly springy and hard to break off which we discovered while trying to dig a basement near an Osage. This springiness is one of the reasons it is also known as
‘bow wood’ because the tree was known to produce very powerful and resilient bows for archery.

This hardy wood is full of irritating sap that makes it hard on the skin but fantastic for repealing insects. The wood is believed to be one of the best available for fence posts because of it’s natural resistance to pests and rot. Supposedly it is possible to cut new growth off them every five years for these fence posts.

This very large, heavy fence post at the corner of the field shows no sign of rot even though the hardware attached to it is obviously many decades old. It was not milled at all and has the limb nubs and taper of a young tree cut off near the ground. It’s black appearance (once the rain washed the dirt away) and texture suggests it is an Osage Orange.

If you want to do a deep dive on the Osage Orange it doesn’t get much more authoritative than the US Forrest Service. This is the type of tree that deserves its own book…and luckily someone wrote just such a book. If you want to plant your own, you can get seeds here.

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HUNTER Rubber Boots: An Honest Review

Let’s cut to the chase, $100 rubber boots are an incredible extravagance. As you can see, my boots are still in pristine condition because I haven’t had the guts to wear them to the farm yet.

The rubber of the Hunter Boot is soft and buttery, much more flexible than my other pairs of rubber boots. I chose the matte “Military Red” instead of “Red”, “Hunter Red” or “Red Gloss”. The closest thing I can compare it to color-wise is the plastic lid on a 2020 jar of cashews from Costco, if that serves you. I was concerned that the other three reds would be too bright, but now I wish I had kicked it up a notch! “Red” really lights my fire, “Hunter Red” is my favorite shade and “Red Gloss” would certainly turn heads, though I’m not sure how well the gloss finish would hold up to farm use.

My mistake was ordering the “Tall” version. I have large calves and boots are often a struggle because of this. HUNTER labels their mid-calf boots as “short” boots which is confusing because their truly short ankle boots are also labeled short. I obviously should have spent more time figuring this out. You can see in this photo that my right boot looks almost normal, but the left boot has an awkward bulge around the ankle. My right calf is still small from months of being in a cast, but my left calf is too large for the narrow opening and is pushing the boot down. Particularly bad because that is one of the common break points on my rubber boots from the rubber constantly flexing back and forth. I probably would have been better off with the “Original Short” in “Red Gloss”.

Those are all fit issues that you may not have. I can say that I had only seen a few women wear Hunters in America. All I knew was that HUNTER rubber boots were revered and they had been around for over 100 years.

Having my own became my 2020 Mother’s Day wish. When I unwrapped them I learned a lot about the company. HUNTER was founded in 1856, and they hold a British Royal Warrant as a supplier of Waterproof footwear to the Queen and her husband. They are obviously proud of that fact, but as Americans it’s hard to appreciate what a big deal a rubber boot is in Britain.

I had red rubber boots as a little kid and then went 20 years without even trying on a pair until I moved to England in 2008. In England, if you like the outdoors you will constantly have wet feet if you don’t own a pair of rubbers! Got your attention? In England rubber boots are called ‘rubbers’ or ‘wellies’….I had to work so hard with my pre-school children to get them to say ‘wellies’ only. I knew we were eventually moving back to the U.S. and didn’t want them embarrassing themselves or us. My absolute favorite pair is regular black with a cloth collar. I would wear them on one-mile walks through the woods. I have finally worn them to the point they leak, but they fit so well I leave them at the Greenhouse as a back-up pair. I bought them in England and don’t think I’ll ever find a pair just the same. A girl can dream though!

This grey pair also has a place on my shelf because they are attractive and affordable enough that I have had the guts to wear them. Even though it has a non-functioning zipper which is a shameful piece of dishonesty, it is a very practical color with a little style thrown in for free.

You can see that they are 2″ shorter than the HUNTER boots, so not actually a mid-calf, but not so long that they bunch up around the ankle. They also have a back seam-cover that is only 3/4″ while the HUNTER boot has a 1-3/4″ seam-cover.

It sports something practical the HUNTER doesn’t have though. The grey pair have pull off bumpers at the heels save you the trouble of finding a boot jack to pry off your clay-covered boots. In the above photo you can see the bumper to the left of the Watermark. Below you can see how the bumper makes removing your boots so much easier. However, the greys don’t have near the tread that the HUNTERs do.

All in all, a pair of HUNTERS is a chance to own a British status symbol…which makes it a great gift for a budding homesteader! Just be aware of some of the fit issues. If you choose to go with a less expensive rubber boot, consider how the pattern and finish will ‘patina’ with real use. Boots that have designs printed on the outside might wear off oddly and gloss may scuff oddly. Choosing a pair with the design under the clear rubber protects the design and creates a bit of a ‘jewel’ appearance on your feet. Like my cute garden clogs.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.