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postheadericon Small Livestock for Small Spaces

Urban and small space homesteaders are learning they don’t have to limit themselves to plants in their endeavors to be self-sufficient. With the rising popularity of small livestock who are thriftier and multi-purposed, it is becoming more common to find chickens or even goats in backyards as well as barnyards.


Finding the right small livestock for small spaces doesn’t have to be hard. Match your needs and goals with the right animals and everyone wins.

Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces

Small Livestock

If you’re considering adding animals to your homesteading project or you just want some smaller livestock to work with, here are some suggestions that may suit your needs.


Chickens are the obvious first choice when it comes to livestock that can be kept in a smaller area. They’re the most popular and the easiest animal to get started with. And as we’ve discussed before, they are the gateway livestock for new farmers.


Before you even go look at the chicks at the feed store, determine what you want them for. Are you after daily eggs and a chicken in the pot for every Sunday dinner? Then you’ll want a breed like the Plymouth Barred Rock. They’re multi-purpose birds bred for heavy egg production combined with a tasty, meaty carcass.

Plymouth Barred Rock Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces

If you’re wanting to fill your freezer fast with great tasting chicken, raise a bunch of Cornish cross meat chickens. They’re bred to bulk up fast and provide a meaty 4-pound broiler carcass in only 7-8 weeks.


If you’re wanting a fluffy piece of yard art that wanders around your garden for comic relief, you might look at some of the exotic breeds such as a Cochin or Polish hen. Figuring out why you want chickens can help you choose the right breed or breeds for you.


Although the breeds are all different, the basic care is the same. They need food, water, shelter, and a place to lay their eggs. While the food and water stay the same, you can be as simple or elaborate as you like with the shelter and nest box areas. As long as the chickens have a safe, dry, draft-free area to roost at night, they’ll be content.

Goat Trio at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces



Goats are available in many breeds and come in full sizes and miniatures. Which breed or size you choose should depend on many factors. These include but aren’t limited to:


     ~ Available space – As with everything else, smaller animals require less space (and feed). If you are very limited in the area you can allot to goats, you may consider some of the minis. Several of the breeds are heavy milk producers in spite of their petite size.

     ~ Purpose – Goats have been used for multiple purposes over the centuries. Milk, meat, fiber, and hide are the physical resources they provide. The different breeds have been designed to excel in one or more of these aspects. Goats are also tasked with pulling carts, carrying packs, and being used for weed abatement and control. They are a multi-purpose creature that can definitely pay their own way.

     ~ Containment – Goats are notorious escape artists. Until you are prepared with a securely fenced area to house them, you might want to reconsider goats – large or small. They will get out and wander the neighborhood, leaving destruction in their path. Your neighbors won’t appreciate your goats eating their rosebushes and patio chairs.

     ~ Time – With their extremely high intelligence level, goats need attention and stimulation. They love company and get bored easily. Plan on spending quality time with your goats. It is well worth it as they are very affectionate and entertaining animals.

Quail at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces


Aside from their beauty and compact size, quail are another type of poultry that can be a delight to have. They are industrious little birds that lay eggs on a regular, daily basis – more routinely than chickens. Of course, their eggs are on the small size, but they make up for that in quantity. Pickled quail eggs are a true delight that everyone should try at least once.


Quail are easy to care for and have very basic needs. Compared to chickens which need 3-4 square feet each, quail only require one. They can be kept in hutches up off the ground, similar to those of rabbits. They can also be kept in pens or coops, but not in with the chickens. Chickens carry diseases that can be deadly to quail. As long as they are in pens that are separated by at least several feet, they will be fine.



One thing that most beginning quail keepers aren’t ready for is how violent quail can be toward each other. The males can over breed and scalp the females if there isn’t a large enough girl to boy ratio or a large enough space to provide escape routes. The males become quite aggressive and can kill or seriously wound the other birds if not monitored and allowed room to roam. Provide lots of hiding places, overturned flower pots are ideal.


Because the quail are so fertile and prolific, they are an economical and even profitable source of meat and eggs. Selling quail eggs and meat to fancy restaurants is something to consider if you are looking into raising them on a larger scale.

Rabbit at Red Barn Blue Skies Small Animals for Small Spaces


Rabbits have always been a popular choice for those with limited space, in the city or the country. They can be kept in hutches, pens, and even in your backyard running around on the lawn. It is easy to keep their pens clean. Their droppings (pellets) are great for fertilizing your garden as they’re not “hot” like chicken manure. Their diet is simple with a heavy emphasis on greens. Which rabbits you decide to raise will depend on what your goal is – breeding, fur, or meat.


Most rabbit breeds are known for having large litters so they tend to be a good investment that multiplies quickly. You must keep a close eye on the mothers/does, especially if it is their first litter, as rabbits can be cannibalistic and eat their young. Keeping them as stress-free as possible will help deter this, but it can be an issue with some breeds or individual rabbits.


Because rabbits are a great project for beginners, they are a top choice for 4-H and FFA members just getting started. They are an easy to handle type of small livestock and non-threatening for young children. They’re an easy animal to get into financially as there are not a lot of large expenses initially and the returns can be considerable in a short amount of time.


So do you have small livestock? What kind of animals do you prefer?

Stock up for the New Year at Tractor Supply! Apparel, Feed, Fencing, and more. Shop Now!

postheadericon Total Solar Eclipse – Sunday Selections

Today’s Sunday Selection is not about inspiration, but about safely enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime event here in the US. Tomorrow’s total solar eclipse has a large portion of the population in an uproar of excited anticipation.


If you’re late to the game or unprepared, we have a few tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Total Solar Eclipse Safety at Red Barn Blue Skies


Don’t make any last minute plans to travel if possible. The roads and highways, especially leading into the Eclipse’s *path of totality, have been congested if not blocked for days.


If you haven’t already made reservations or are in place to view the eclipse, it will be safer to stay put. Camping sites and hotel rooms have been booked up for months if not over a year. Some people have been planning vacations around the total solar eclipse for several years.

Safety Glasses and Filters

Don’t try to view the total solar eclipse without using proper safety glasses. Be sure the glasses are CE and ISO rated for safety. Also, check them for scratches or any damage. You could permanently damage your eyes to the point of blindness if you don’t follow safety guidelines.


Don’t try to use binoculars, telescopes, or camera lenses. They are not a filter and will magnify the damage being done to your eyes – and you won’t even feel it! Welder’s masks or glasses are also not rated or designed for an eclipse.

There are other options for safely viewing the eclipse:

~   Watch it on TV or on the internet. NASA has a fantastic site to view it:

~   Make a pinhole projector. has a great how-to article. It also explains a few other ways to view the eclipse without actually looking at it.

~   Purchase and install a solar filter made specifically for your camera or binoculars. Never view the eclipse without the proper filter in place on your device.

Chandler Ready for the Total Solar Eclipse at Red Barn Blue Skies

Children and Pets

Pets and children are naturally curious. If they see adults looking up into the sky and pointing, they’re going to look up too. It is best to keep your pets inside during the eclipse.


If your kids must be outside with you during the eclipse, be sure they have properly-fitted glasses with the correct ratings. Make sure they keep them on for the entire duration and don’t let them remove them. This is critical as their eyesight could be forever damaged.

Don’t be surprised to feel the temperature drop before, during, and after the total solar eclipse. You might not see a massive change in the actual light leading up to the actual eclipse, but your skin will start feeling the difference. It could be up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or more in areas under the path of totality.

*Path of Totality is a 70-mile wide swath that cuts across the country through fourteen states (Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennesee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina). Along this path the full and total eclipse that lasts over two minutes will be viewable.  

So have you ever experienced an eclipse? Are you making plans for this historic total solar eclipse of 2017?

Total Solar Eclipse

2017 Total Solar Eclipse Red Barn Blue Skies

postheadericon Ode to Summer – Sunday Selections

As the end of summer draws near, we’ll celebrate with some famous authors and their lovely thoughts on the season. Please enjoy this week’s Sunday Selection.

Ode to Summer at Red Barn Blue Skies


Then followed that beautiful season… Summer…

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




postheadericon How to Avoid a Canning Catastrophe

Each of us has some type of family tradition that we’ve passed down through the generations. It might be a song we sing for birthdays, a bible we record significant events in, or special cookies that only family members are allowed to know the recipe for.

How to Avoid a Canning Catastrophe at Red Barn Blue Skies

Canning and “putting up food” is one of those traditions that we need to tread carefully around. Just because “Grandma did it this way”, it doesn’t mean it is the best or the safest. When canning, we need to do everything we can to avoid a canning catastrophe. Maybe no one got sick or died after eating Grandma’s home-canned foods, but that still doesn’t mean it was safe. It may have just been luck.


So let’s buck tradition and steer away from some of the preserving methods that could actually kill us. We can still honor Grandma, we’ll just do it in a safer way.

What Can Cause a Canning Catastrophe?

Creativity and Changing Recipes

Creativity is great, but not when it comes to canning your own food. Adding your own touches to a recipe can be unsafe, causing sickness and even death from botulism. Follow the tested recipe.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is full of recipes that are delicious and varied. Each has been thoroughly tested and retested over the years as technologies progress. Decades ago, Grandma probably took some of her recipes straight from this book or one of printed by the other canning supply companies.

The ingredients, measurements, and processing directions should be followed precisely for each recipe. They are carefully designed to reach the right acidity levels and temperatures to ensure a safe product.

If you really want to show off your creativity, go wild decorating the finished, processed jar. There are multitudes of ways to beautify the jar and showcase the contents without risking anyone’s health.

Using the Wrong Method

Beginning canners are often confused by the various ways of canning food. It is highly important to match the proper method with the type of food being preserved. The ingredients determine the mixture’s acidity which then determines how it is to be canned.


~   The boiling water bath method is appropriate for acidic foods such as fruits, pickles, and preserves. Certain types of tomatoes can also be preserved this way.


~   Non-acidic ingredients such as unpickled meats, soup/stock, or vegetables require a steam pressure canner.


~   Oven canning is not a safe way to can any foods. The jars and their ingredients don’t reach high enough temperatures to kill any bacteria that might be present.


~   Cold process pickles are a popular treat. The key to safely using them is that they must be refrigerated as soon as they’re processed. They must then be used up within three months.

Garden Produce at Red Barn Blue Skies Canning Catastrophe

Pick a Perfect Pear

Don’t use questionable produce or ingredients. By using blemished, expired, or inferior ingredients, you affect more than just the taste. The appearance and safety of your finished product can be at risk. You don’t want to add bacteria or mold from a piece of bad fruit to your mix. Only use the best to produce the best.

Incorrect or Inferior Supplies

Only use jars made for canning. Recycled mayonnaise or pickle jars from the market are made with a different glass than canning jars. Small imperfections that aren’t visible to the naked eye can become a huge problem during processing. They can cause breakage, leaks, or even dangerous explosions.

Be sure to inspect EVERY jar you use, even canning jars. Toss cracked or chipped jars. They won’t form a tight seal and could break.

Don’t reuse your canning lids for processing. Unless they are the special reusable ceramic lids with rubber gaskets, they are designed for only one go-round of canning. Your rings can be used indefinitely as long as they remain undamaged.

Old Canning Jars at Red Barn Blue Skies for Canning Catastrophe

Not Following the Rules

Don’t let what appears to be too many canning rules scare you off. As long as you follow the directions, you’ll be fine. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:


~   Altitude affects your canning settings just as it does when baking. When water bath canning, your processing time is adjusted. For the pressure canner, the level of pressure is adjusted based on the altitude.


~   Don’t use paraffin wax to seal the jars. Yes, Grandma did it, but she didn’t know that the wax and heat alone might not kill the bacteria present. Mold often grew on top of the wax seals in the jars.


~   Air bubbles are an issue in not obtaining a proper and tight seal. Be sure to remove them from the mixture before putting the lid on the jar.


~   Preheating the lids by boiling is something that many canners skip. This step isn’t for sterilizing the lids, it is for heating up the rubber seal in order to get a tight grip on the jar. Don’t skip it.


~   If a recipe directs you to leave 1/8” or 1/4” headspace, do it. This is to ensure there is enough room for the mixture to expand without overfilling. Be sure to wipe the rim once the jar is filled and before you place the lid on.

Storage Tips

There was a reason Grandma kept her jars of jelly and other goodness in the basement, root cellar, or pantry. She knew that heat and light breaks down the food in the jars over time. The darkness and steady temperatures in these locations helped preserve the food even longer.

Before you even put your jars into storage, be sure that you have cleaned them thoroughly after processing. Many times sticky residue will end up down the sides and around the rings. Clean and dry them properly to keep bugs, mold, and rust from becoming an issue.

Processed Jars at Red Barn Blue Skies for Canning Catastrophe

Give It a Try

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at canning. It really is easy if you follow the rules and the steps as directed. Keep in mind if you’re wanting to use an old recipe, check it against one in one of the canning books or on one of the canning company websites. You’ll end up with a lovely tribute to Grandma as well as some great tasting treats for your pantry or gifts.

Have you ever tried canning? We’d love to hear your stories and any canning tips you have.

postheadericon Common Sense Critter Care

Over the years, we’ve learned many things about caring for our pets and farm animals. We’ve developed our own little rules of common sense critter care, just like you should. By using our brains and relying on experience, we can usually prevent any mishaps and most illnesses our animals may come across.

We’ve always had our veterinarians’ phone numbers on the fridge or on speed dial, but we want to avoid having to use those numbers. 

Common Sense Critter Care at Red Barn Blue Skies

We want to keep our animals happy and healthy. Our hope is for you to do the same, so today we’ll share a few of these easy tips for common sense critter care.

Fresh Water – Number 1 Priority

Always have fresh water available. Many new (or irresponsible) pet owners think that as long as the animal has some dirty water left in the dish or a puddle in the yard, it’s acceptable. While it’s true any water is better than none, a clean fresh bowl of water is the absolute best for your pet’s optimal health.

(Letting them drink from the toilet bowl or swimming pool is NOT a good choice. There are lots of bacteria and chemical residues that can harm your animal.)

Feeding Your Pet

Discuss the best food options for your pet with your veterinarian. Each animal is different and their needs will also vary. This is especially true as our animals age. There are many very good commercial foods out there, you’ll just need to do your research to fit your individual situation.

Poisons and Toxins

Have the pet poison control number (888) 426-4435 posted somewhere prominently on your fridge along with your personal veterinarian’s numbers. Programming them in your speed dial is also a good idea. Valuable time can be lost searching for these numbers in an emergency.

Keep any type of chemicals, medicines (human and animal), cleaning supplies, automotive and garden products or other possibly toxic substances out of reach of your pets.

Better yet, try to use natural products in and around your home that are both pet and child safe. This is especially important on your floors. Most animals lick their paws and will ingest residue from whatever cleaning projects you use on the flooring.

Common Sense Critter Care ASPCA Poison Hotline Red Barn Blue Skies

Deadly Plants

Find out HERE if any of your houseplants and/or garden plants are toxic to animals. It is always surprising for new pet owners to find that plants such as aloe, ivy, and dieffenbachias can cause serious problems for our beloved animals.

Just as you childproof a home when a new baby is coming to live there, you’ll want to do the same for your animals and pet-proof it. This includes keeping an eye on electrical cords as some animals love to chew on them, kittens especially.

Spay and Neuter Your Pets – Not Just Because Bob Barker Said So

Bob Barker always ended every episode of “The Price Is Right” with the words:

“Help control the pet population, get your pets spayed or neutered.”

He offered the daily reminder because getting your pet spayed or neutered is extremely important for so many reasons. Fortunately, Bob’s successor, Drew Carey has continued this tradition in the hopes it will prompt people to take appropriate action. This country has a problem.

Your pet’s health is the primary goal. Altering your animal will help keep them from becoming aggressive and makes for a much calmer, happier animal. Contrary to belief in certain demographics, your animal really doesn’t need or want to experience parenthood. And testicles do not make for a more macho dog. Snip ’em.

There are many programs available to assist with this much-needed procedure. Contact your area’s local animal shelter or animal control. Many veterinarians also have their own programs to assist with the cost.

Please help lower the unwanted pet population. Listen to Bob and Drew – they preach common sense critter care on a daily basis.

Common Sense Critter Care at Red Barn Blue Skies with a Scaredy Cat

Quality Time

Spend as much quality time as you can with your pet. They love you unconditionally and crave time with you. Even if you’re just weeding in the garden, your dog will enjoy laying on the ground next to you while you work. Your cat would love to curl up on the couch with you while you watch that movie. Togetherness is very important for your animals.

Playtime is also a pet favorite. Our cats love to chase anything and everything. We have several that play fetch with us, bringing the toy back time and time again for us to throw. The dogs also play their own game of fetch with a large ball or a Frisbee.

Just be sure to not tire your dog out – many dogs that are very play driven will run themselves ragged for playtime. Cats are easier as they’ll just stop playing and start ignoring you.

Hot Feet, Cold Feet, Short Legs

If you walk your dog on city streets or anywhere with hot ground, please keep in mind that the heat will burn the pads on their paws. I’ve seen people standing on a hot, city sidewalk talking away while their poor dog is doing a dance as his little feet are frying. Hot sand at the beach can also burn sensitive paws. Owners forget that the dog isn’t wearing any shoes. Severe burns and blisters can be a result of this neglect.

Attention to your dog’s feet is also important in the winter for areas where salt and chemicals are put down for ice control. These substances can cause burn and irritation problems for the dog’s feet as well. There are doggy boots/booties made just for this situation. 

Another note, little dogs can’t jog as far as humans or run forever behind a bicycle – their legs just aren’t quite as long. Keep your animal’s limitations in mind when you’re out and about. You may need to carry the little guy home if you travel far.

Dog in Hot Car Red Barn Blue Skies Common Sense Critter Care

Hot Vehicle

Never, ever leave your dog in a hot vehicle. It only takes a couple of minutes to cause irreparable damage leading to your dog’s death. The temperatures inside a car can quickly go over 100 degrees – even with the windows down. It can become an oven in there and your dog will be breathing superheated air within minutes.

If it is hot outside, leave your dog at home where they are either inside a cool building or have air, adequate shade, and water outside. This is common sense critter care at its best.



Be sure you monitor any kids with your pets. Many people assume their animal will love children and this sometimes is just not the case. Kids tend to come at animals quickly, startling the pet and often putting them into defense mode. Children need to be taught how to approach animals and how to properly care for their pets.

They must learn to be gentle with their pets and not hit, pull hair, or drag the animal around. Adults must be diligent in making sure that the kids feed and water their pets as they do tend to forget.

Common Sense Critter Care Girl and her Bunny

Common Sense Critter Care Starts with Education

Educate yourself and your family on the type of pet you have or are thinking of acquiring. You can find information on just about any kind of animal online or at the library.

Research the care and needs of a pet before getting it. The more knowledge you arm yourself with, the happier you will be with your newest family member. The ASPCA offers a wealth of information to help you and your pet(s) have a happy, healthy life together.

The most important tip of all – enjoy and love your pets! Treat them like the family they are. What are some of your common sense pet tips?