Random Ramblings: Respectful Parenting, Healthy Eating, & Podcasts

Today I’m checking in with a whole bunch of randomness to help clear my mind AND share more about honest and raw truth about myself, my life, and my habits with you– my awesome readers!

The forecast is finally tempting us with temps above 50 later this week, but as we’re waking up so another day where snow is falling from the sky (it’s April 10, right?!), I’m trying to keep my attitude and outlook positive today. Aaaaand I’m living in struggle city. Or after experiencing a not-so-pretty grown up temper tantrum when my toddler refused to stay still while I got her dressed this morning (she often does this as my husband so nicely reminded me), I’m living in failure city.

Clearly I’m harboring some mom guilt today. I know I’m far from a failure, but my high strung and short-tempered self is jealous of those who are a lot more patient than me. And honestly, I’m just in this funk, AGAIN. Mother nature, please stop knocking me down with your cold and snow! Hopefully this is the real, real end of winter.

Thinking about parenting and how I can avoid more mommy meltdowns when the weather can’t be my excuse anymore, I’ll share that we’re trying to practice respectful parenting using a lot of Magda Gerber’s principles. Gerber really emphasizes respect for and trust in our growing babies. The big picture of our goals mean we trust that our children are capable growing little people. We try not to yell when there are meltdowns or defiant moments, instead opting to stay calm, gently redirect while being firm, but fair. When conditions are ideal (ie. when everyone is happy and sweet) it works awesome. And when a meltdown happens and I use the tools I’ve been learning, I find I stay more calm and the hard moments end sooner and more productively. Alas, when parenting children who are trying to make sense of these huge emotions they’re feeling every day sometimes it’s hard, for everyone! This morning’s mommy eruption was not in line with my parenting goals. Grace. Being a mom keeps me seriously humble and thank goodness I know I’ll have lots more opportunities to do better.

Other things on my mind today: healthy eating. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been motivated to really get my diet back on track. I’m reducing my chocolate chip intake by handfuls (no, seriously…) and replacing my cravings for sugar with more veggies and natural sugars like fruits.

I’m currently chomping on carrot sticks and hummus.

hummus-carrots

I can’t say cutting out the junk food is easy right now (cravings are real and you don’t have to be pregnant to have them), but I’ve done this before and know it will be worth it.

38

Breastfeeding can’t continue to be an excuse to keep eating junk (at least not for me) and I’d like to rely less on high rise yoga pants and flexing my muscles to mask my postpartum pouch (which of course, I’m super proud of and grateful for, but hello–I’m human and fitness focused!).

We’ve restocked the freezer and pantry at Costco and Aldi a few times in the last couple weeks and I’m excited to feel prepared to keep working at self improvement.

costco-april-2018.jpg

With two kids, my dinners have been so simple over the last six+ months and thankfully these even healthier meal options are still super easy. I know I haven’t been doing the “What I Ate Wednesday” posts anymore (because they were time consuming and not as popular), but I am still meal planning and some of the menu offering in our home over the next couple weeks will include:

  1. Salmon with Veggies
  2. Pesto Chicken and Veggies
  3. Chicken with Avocado Salad
  4. Ham, Apple, and Sweet Potato Egg Scramble
  5. Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
  6. Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Shredded Chicken (BBQ or Buffalo Chicken)
  7. Healthy Ramen with Asian Beef and Asparagus (this last one is an original from my kitchen! Watch for a recipe later this week)
  8. Turkey Quinoa Taco Casserole
  9. Burrito Bowls with Cauliflower Rice

If the actual meal isn’t popular, these are all dishes with at least toddler and baby-friendly ingredients (yes, Josie is eating now too–she looooves food), like avocado, sweet potato, salmon, meatballs, and loads of veggies (most of which both girls will actually eat if they’re not too tired). Sweet!

Something else I’ve been doing that makes me feel good is listening to podcasts. It’s a fun way to listen and learn while I’m driving, with the kids, or getting some work done. Some of my favorites lately have been:

  1. Well-Fed Women – I love the honest advice these two women give on health nutrition, and fitness related topics. Their podcast description says, “Expect real talk, moderately amusing banter, and empowering advice for women, from women” and I think this sums up their show great. I’ve really enjoyed episodes #162-#165 in the last few weeks.
  2. The mindbodygreen – This podcast is full of awesome info on a whole host of health related topics and all from pioneers in the health industry.
  3. Unruffled – This is a parenting podcast by Janet Lansbury, a parenting expert focused on the respectful parenting practices we’re trying to use. Listening to this podcast helps me stay mindful and focused on my efforts and reminds me I’m an imperfect human capable of trying again when I slip up.

If you’re interested in more of the ramblings from my brain these days, follow my IG account where I’ve been trying to post more regularly. Things I’m thinking about sharing in the upcoming weeks include healthier dessert options, ways you can cleanse your diet and jump start weight loss, what we’re planting in our garden this year, exercises you can do at the office, and a workout you can do on your next hike, my Costco and Aldi grocery lists, the benefits of fermented foods, and more.

Tell me, what are some topics you’d like to hear more about? Share on social media, or in the comments below! 

 

3 Ab Exercises, 3 Ways

This past weekend we enjoyed a fun Easter holiday with our girls and our extended family. Isla woke up on Sunday so excited for her “treats” and eggs from the Easter bunny.

I’m not one of those moms who bans candy from the Easter baskets, but there are lots of non-food items included too. Some of my favorite items in the girls’ baskets this year included coloring books, Easter themed books, watercolor paints, construction paper, puffs and teething toys for Josie, some chocolate bunnies and chicks and some tasty Easter-themed Belgian chocolate bars for Isla. Sure, the chocolate may sound fancy, but I like to keep artificial colors and ingredients out of our food in-home where we can. This chocolate was from the Netherlands and Belgium, so there weren’t any artificial colors or ingredients. The bunny got the goods at Marshall’s. Last, but not least, we can’t forget the Annie’s Organics themed items! Does anyone else feel like Annie’s is the best Easter themed line of food? We are 100% an Annie’s Organics family all year long, but their bunny theme clearly translates particularly well to Easter. So naturally, the Easter Bunny left lots of Annie’s brand snacks in Isla’s basket, and in her eggs this year!

josie-basketisla-basketgirlsfamily-photo

Sugared up and moving through the festivities all weekend, by Sunday night, both girls (and mom and dad) were pooped and ready for bed! Easter success!

Looking ahead I’m a little excited there aren’t any big holidays to mess with my healthy eating goals for awhile. I’ve been a little off the rails the last few weeks. No upcoming festivities means I can really try to be on track. Truthfully, I will probably eat something sweet almost every day, per usual. And I’ll be enjoying some beer and wine a few days a week too. But looking ahead, I know I’ll be doing better than I have over the last couple weeks by cutting out the Easter treats.

They says abs are made in the kitchen and I have to agree. I don’t think I’ll ever have a bodybuilder’s stomach because 1. I don’t want to right now, and 2. I don’t want to eat 100% clean, but I know I feel so much better (ie. way less bloated!) when I’m not loading my body with all the high sugar treats associated with big candy holidays like Easter. So with that idea plus the goal of at least seeing muscle definition when I flex, I’m truly looking forward to this time to get refocused and get back into a more normal “healthy” groove.

Thinking about abs, I’ve put together a quick ab workout. The exercises in this workout target all layers of your abs, plus you have to rely on strength from your arms, shoulders, chest, and back. These three ab exercises can be completed using three different modalities.

The three moves are:

  1. Plank knee tucks
  2. Plank elbow knee tucks
  3. Pikes

And the three modalities are:

  1. Bodyweight
  2. Stability ball
  3. TRX

Check out the video below for a quick visual of what these look like in action. Then, bust out your own equipment at home or at the gym (or not) and give these a try!

 

How was your Easter? And what were you busy indulging in? Share your favorite traditions and treats below. 

10 Small Changes To Live a Healthier Life

The countdown to Easter has started around our house. This weekend we enjoyed some Easter parties and egg hunts and while I haven’t loved Easter in years, I’m really enjoying celebrating with our girls. This is the first year Isla can really participate in and enjoy some of the traditions associated with Easter and with so little time between St. Patrick’s Day and Easter this year, we’re really cramming in the festivities around our house right now.

Along with the parties and egg hunts, we dared to dye Easter eggs with two under two. And surprisingly, Josie was the first to spill a cup of dye. It’s fun starting traditions with our girls. With this fun activity we ate a simple and toddler friendly dinner of baked chicken tenders, tomato salad, and carrot sticks.

dying-eggsdying-eggs2dying-eggs3dying-eggs4dying-eggs5dying-eggs6

In my last post, I talked about how it’s all of these small changes that help create the larger and more amazing accomplishments and transformations. So, today I thought it would be helpful to talk about some of the small changes you can make today to live a healthier life.

A lot of the time, when someone is trying to get healthy they give up because it feels too hard and unrealistic. People think they have to do everything right to be healthy and when that seems overwhelming, they give up. And I think if I thought I needed to exercise for an hour every day and eat nothing but salads that I would give up too.

Thinking about the results I’ve seen firsthand over the last several years, I often think my clients who experience the best success (ie. the long term results), are successful because they were making smaller and consistent changes. Making changes in this way means you can be thoughtful about your current diet and exercise routine, and you’re truly able to make thoughtful changes that build up to a lifestyle change and most importantly–something maintainable.

So, what changes can you make today?

tea.jpeg

  1. Swap your favorite indulgence with a healthier alternative 3 times per week.  What food are you eating regularly and too much of? What food are you not eating enough of? I ask my clients these two questions almost every week. And over time, by reducing your intake of your favorite indulgences, either by cutting down on portion size or not eating it at all 3 times per week, and replacing them with a healthier alternative you’ll see and feel a difference. And hopefully these kinds of changes will become permanent. Some good examples include cutting down on a portion of nuts and subbing that extra serving with an apple. Swap ice cream after dinner with a bowl of your favorite cereal. Eat scrambled eggs with spinach three times per week instead of a bagel. By committing to a change just three times per week, the change isn’t overwhelming and you can still feel like you’re enjoying some of your favorite things.
  2. Reduce the number of alcoholic beverages you’re consuming. Except when I’m pregnant, I do not eliminate alcohol from my diet. However, I do limit myself to a few drinks per week. One of the ways I hold myself accountable is limiting my drinking to weekends with special exceptions. After spending almost 2 years without drinking (because I was preggers), I don’t want to give up alcohol, but I choose to drink a few days per week so I can really enjoy the drinks I’m having.
  3. Swap soda for seltzer. Men shouldn’t be consuming more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and women shouldn’t be consuming more than 5. A can of Coke has more than 9 teaspoons alone, plus a whole bunch of other ingredients your body doesn’t need.
  4. Stop consuming artificial sweeteners. One of the biggest reasons I can’t stand artificial sugar is because it “tricks” the body and your metabolism. Consuming artificial sugar sends a message to the brain and body that you’re about to get a sugar rush soon, but it never comes. Confused, your insulin levels may rise even higher than if you had actual sugar, and then you’re triggering the fat storage system. Without getting too into things, it’s a messy and dirty cycle! Stop messing with your your body and just cut these chemicals out of your diet for the biggest benefit.
  5. Consume ginger, lemon, apple cider vinegar and/or other naturally detoxing ingredients. One of my favorite, natural detoxing regimens includes a regular cup of lemon ginger herbal tea. This is especially great after I’ve eaten some particularly salty food or am experiencing some water retention.
  6. Add fermented foods/beverages to your diet. I am always touting the positive effects of fermented foods to family, friends, and strangers (sorry, not sorry). I love fermented foods and drinks for so many reasons that I will eventually write a whole post about them, but in short: fermented food improves your immune system, can help improve your mood, and yes–it can help aid in weight loss. Some of my favorites include kombucha, sauerkraut (not the mushy stuff your grandma used to serve on top of hot dogs), and kim chi. Just a little bit goes a long way.
  7. Flavor your coffee with an alternative to your favorite processed “dessert” creamer. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup creamer may taste good in your coffee, but it’s not good for you. Instead, consider flavoring your coffee with a slurry of a tablespoon of whole milk, a pinch of cinnamon, and a few drops of your favorite extract (vanilla, hazelnut, almond, coconut, or pumpkin spice).
  8. Go for a quick 5 minute stroll once per hour. If you have a desk job (and even if you don’t), go for a walk once per hour! You don’t have to log a mile, but keep moving to keep blood flowing, feel energized, improve your mood, improve your focus, and more. Hopefully this small movement will help you want to move more than you have more time at another point in your day too!
  9. Drink more water. Aim to drink about half your body weight in ounces in a day. If it feels like a lot more than you’ve been doing, you can count one cup of coffee into your ounce count. Staying hydrated also keeps your body functioning optimally. If you’re drinking enough water you should hopefully be moving enough through the day as you need to keep visiting a restroom.
  10. Exercise for 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week. If that seems overwhelming, be creative when you plan your exercise. Do 10 minutes of exercise a few times a day. Fit in a set of ab exercises while your breakfast is cooking. Go for a walk with the family a few evenings per week. Do some jump squats before you get in the shower and push ups before you go to bed. Fitting in regular movement will help you start exercising more regularly and maybe eventually for longer chunks.

All of these changes might not be easy, or sexy, or even fun. However, I do find that over time, they really help you be a healthier version of yourself for the long term.

When you’re fighting to make these kinds of commitments, the number one way I help myself stay on track is education. Educate yourself! Educate yourself about WHY these changes help you achieve your goals. Get on Google and remind yourself why you’re making these changes in the first place. Unsubscribe from the junk food videos popping up on your social media news feeds and surround yourself with information that supports the healthy changes you’re making instead. When getting healthy, education is your best tool.

Think about what you’re putting in your body regularly and about how various choices you’re making are affecting your waistline, immunity, inflammation, wallet, and more. Consider how eliminating, reducing, or adding something to your life can help you feel better and achieve your goals. Then the likelihood of your sticking to things is a lot more likely!

What are some changes you’ve made to start living healthier? Which one of these changes will you make first? Share in the comments below.

To Weigh, or Not to Weigh

Today I’m reporting on a little experiment brought to you by a serious case of mom brain. I haven’t weighed myself in two months. During my weekly trips to Target, I have repeatedly forgotten to pick up a new 9-volt battery for our scale. So, while not weighing myself hasn’t been intentional, this is the longest time I have gone without weighing myself in years and today I’m sharing my personal and professional reflections (and results) about life sans scale.

I won’t lie, I have normally been the person weighing every few days, or at least once a week. And for awhile in between pregnancies, I had the unhealthy and obsessive habit of weighing myself every day. I remember three days after having my first daughter, I came home and while I should have lost at least 10 pounds (she weighed over 8 herself, plus I was no longer carrying around a placenta and I lost all of the amniotic fluid), I was only down 5 pounds. In my fragile postpartum state, I felt like a failure and cried. Then I remember weighing myself day in and day out after that until I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight…four months later.

In the last 20 months, since welcoming both of our baby girls–the youngest just five months ago–I’m happy/relieved/proud to say my relationship with the scale has gotten a lot healthier. Those feelings I had 20 months ago forced me to reflect on who I had become on the inside and think about why I would care about a number so much. My body had just done the most amazing thing possible–it created life and here I was obsessing over a number on a scale. As my oldest daughter moved out of the newborn days, I knew I didn’t want her to EVER obsess in the same way I was so I worked hard to change my mindset. This is an evolution that continued throughout the entirety of my second pregnancy last year and I’ve been continuing to grow over the last few months. A number on a scale will not and does not define me.

Even so, not weighing myself is very unlike me. While I don’t use weight as the only marker of my progress when working toward my health and fitness goals, I do think a scale can be a powerful tool.

Knowing your body weight can help you maintain a healthy weight and encourage healthy eating. I like to keep myself within a “target” weight zone (usually within about 3 pounds, plus or minus of my “goal” weight). This wiggle room leaves room for bloating caused by eating saltier foods (or my period) or dehydration.

Knowing how much we weigh can also help encourage healthy habits. I use a scale to keep my eating in check. Ie. weighing myself helps me avoid scarfing down a dozen donuts and multiple ice cream sundaes in a week. And on the flip side, it helps remind me to eat enough calories to build and maintain muscle if the number dips too low (which doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes could when I was marathon training).

Not weighing myself has really mixed up how I measure my progress and the markers I’ve been relying on have actually been motivating in different ways in the last couple months.

Living life without a scale means I’ve had to stick to what I’ve been saying since before I gave birth last October: the number on the scale isn’t important to me right now. Instead I’m more interested in how my clothes are fitting and my progress photos. And I’m proud to say that in the last several weeks, I’m down another pants/dress size and I’m seeing more muscle definition. These markers may not come with the fast gratification of the scale where you can watch your weight rise and fall a few pounds in a day or two, but these markers indicate changes that are certainly more permanent and that’s something I LOVE.

Further, my daily decisions haven’t been influenced by the scale and I think that’s actually helped me achieve more accountability and I’ve made even more positive choices than I would have in the past. Whereas I may have allowed myself a junk food treat when I was within my “weight zone,” I’ve been making more and more healthier choices as I look forward to fitting into new clothes and seeing progress in my monthly photos.

5-month-pp-scale.jpeg

Not identifying my progress with a number has been empowering and enlightening. While I think that when done in a healthy way, weighing yourself can be a positive part of anyone’s journey to health, it’s not the only way. In fact, the number on a scale is a tiny part of a way to define progress and sometimes someone can live a healthier life without it. The last couple months has shown me firsthand that measuring weight doesn’t have to be a part of everyone’s path.

If you haven’t lived life without a scale recently, I challenge you to do so. Consider analyzing your health in different ways for the next 30 days. Measure your life using different numbers. Track the number of steps your taking, count the number of workouts (and reps and sets) you’re completing in a week, look forward to fitting into a new size dress or pair of pants, and tally the number of veggies you’re consuming in a day. Take a photo at the beginning and end of your journey and you might be surprised by the changes. I’ll tell you this: after living without a scale for awhile, I still haven’t added “9V battery” to my Target shopping list.

How do you track your progress? Share in the comments below. 

 

 

Fitness Trial Workout Group: SIGN UP HERE!

Funny thing, this is a fitness blog, but I often check in with food updates vs. exercise. Why is that? Probably because the workout portion takes way more time, and most conveniently would require me to record my workouts for my blog sans babies. As you can imagine, that’s not always easy around these parts.

However, behind the scenes (ie. behind the piles of toys, dishes, and laundry), I’ve been putting together workouts and the other material I’ll need to start an online training program.

I’ve been working hard to create fun and quick workouts you can do anywhere with little or no equipment. And today I’m excited to share a sample workout video.

Today’s workout will burn your full body. Glutes, legs, arms, back, chest, and abs–nothing is missed. And you’ll work on increasing your stamina because as you blast from exercise to exercise you’re getting in some cardio too (hello, high intensity interval training)!

You’re aiming for 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise and the goal is to complete 3 or more sets, but really do all that you can. Even just one or two sets is better than none! You will want a step or chair and a resistance band if possible. If you don’t have the band, these are the couple changes I would make: do the lateral walks in a low squat (the lower the better)! And if you don’t have a step, do standing knee taps vs. step ups (hold your hands at chest height and lift your knee to meet your hands).

workout1.jpg

Starting next week you can join a FREE training group and access five more workouts like this, along with lots of other helpful information that will help you commit living a healthy life. Starting the first day of spring (March 20), I am launching a paid online training group, but from March 5-12 you can test out a FREE trial workout group.

This will be a private Facebook group and when you sign up you’ll receive an email inviting you to join a community of like-minded people who are committing to regular exercise and healthy habits including nutritious eating! We’ll be moving together, motivating one another, and sharing recipes.

Five days next week I will post a quick workout video, like the sample above. This is a workout that should take you between 15 and 20 minutes to complete. You will have the option to complete all exercises simply using body weight or utilizing equipment you have at home or at a gym. I will cue for safety on each movement and will be able to give information about how you can scale an exercise back or ramp it up for a bigger challenge!

Everyday, I will post some of my favorite recipes, plus I’ll share some of my favorite recipe sites and apps so you can find recipes that truly work for your tastes and budget.

Additionally, you can chat with other members of the group so you can share what’s helpful for you and seek advice about what’s been challenging. We will cheer each other on and I can answer any questions and provide professional health and fitness advice.

I am PUMPED to start this group. Work out on your own time, in your own space, but with professional guidance and as a part of a community. It’s a workout for a new era and I’m thrilled to be a part of this trend.

To join the trial group, it’s simple. Complete the quick form below and click, “Submit.” Before Monday you’ll receive an email inviting you to the group and we’ll get started together! Sign up now and share with your friends!

PS. Signing up for the trial group WILL NOT sign you up for the group starting March 20. Watch for details about the paid group soon.

 

Home Workout Gear (Essentials + Workouts)

It’s official, the flu is inundating the U.S. this winter and I officially suspended my gym membership because of it. Yeah, I can hear you all gasping from here. Your personal trainer has temporarily quit the gym.

While I love to go to the gym to lift heavy and take advantage of the child care (hello, mommy’s two hour break every day!), it’s that child care catch that has me opting to keep my workouts at home for the remainder of the winter season.

While I know our kids can still catch the flu, I am trying to do all I can to minimize the risk, especially since our little ones are in the high risk age (under 2). The number one way to avoid the flu is to keep your hands out of your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you have babies and toddlers, do you know this? Um, that’s pretty much IMPOSSIBLE.

So, I’m owning my new identity as the germaphobe mom with her two kids in the double stroller at the grocery store and Target, with reusable bags strapped to the handle–if I even take them to the grocery store at all. We’re avoiding museums and public play groups. And the gym was the last step. But my reasoning is while both our kids go to daycare twice a week, by avoiding places like the gym and public play groups I am slightly decreasing their exposure to germs and hopefully avoiding big germs like the flu.

At day care there are less kids per adult (1:4 ratio), whereas at the gym there can be an unlimited number of children per adult. This means that at the gym, my two teethers (Josie is cutting teeth already and Isla is crushing the 2-year-old molars game) are more likely to shove any communal toys in their mouths because right now EVERYTHING goes in their mouths.

Since we’re spending way more time at home than I’d prefer, this means I’ve not only been hosting multiple dance parties a day for my toddler, but I’ve also been scouring Pinterest for all kinds of fun activities and crafts and putting them into action.

 

magnet-cookie-sheet
Didn’t you know fridge magnets are way more fun on a cookie sheet? 

 

window-paint-josie
“Fingerpainting” on the windows

 

window-paint-isla
Paint in a Ziploc bag, taped to the window

 

caterpillar
We made a paper plate caterpillar after reading, The Very Hungry Caterpillar

While my choice “hit the pause on the gym” might not be one all parents would make, I feel confident I can still get the workouts I need and want at home for now. And if my kids do get the flu, at least I knew I did what I could to personally protect them.

Since I’m a personal trainer and I love exercise, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I have a small arsenal of workout equipment. You don’t need tons of or really any equipment to get a good workout at home. But personally, I love having a variety of pieces to pull from to keep me motivated and keep mixing up my workouts. And naturally I have some favorites. Here are a few of them, and a couple sample workout videos to match. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to catch my at home workouts weekly.

kettlebell-dumbbell
Dumbbell and Kettlebell

gliders

bands
Resistance loops and resistance bands

This first workout uses gliders. I LOVE THESE THINGS. They are awesome for targeting all different muscle groups and can be use for way more than abdominal exercises–the number one type of exercise they are marketed to work the hardest. If you don’t have gliders, feel free to try a couple washcloths or some paper plates. This workout combines both a reverse lunge and then a curtsy lunge. Then you transition right into a hamstring curl, mountain climbers, and then a single leg knee tuck. Aim for 10-15 reps per exercise (and per side where applicable). The goal is 3-5 sets. This workout will smoke your legs, glutes, and abs.

This second workout utilizes the resistance loops and is 100% full body! Start with a squat, alternating a lateral leg lift. Pop into a side plank and then pull hamstring curls. Next, loop the band around your upper arms and feel an extra burn in your triceps as you do push ups. Balance out the push motion with a pull as you complete single arm rows. Transition into plank knee tucks with some extra resistance. Lastly, find your side plank again and pull for some side plank tucks. Again, the goal is 10-15 reps (per side where applicable) and you’re working for 3-5 sets.

Give these workouts a try and let me know what you think in the comments below. You’ve got this! 

 

Backyard Ducks (and Why We Got Them Instead of Chickens)

Happy Hump Day! Some weeks, this midpoint feels better than others. This week is off to one heck of a start. Chris is officially away on business and yesterday I came down with a terrible stomach bug.

Stomach bugs are the worst, but having one while caring for a 13 month old and while 33 weeks pregnant? Ugh! It seriously sucked. Thank goodness for my mom who whisked in (by surprise) with all the sick supplies I could need and lots of energy for my little one when I just didn’t have it. I don’t think we ever really appreciate our parents until we have our own kids. People always said it before I became a mom, but man do I know it’s true now. At this halfway point in the week, I am extra psyched to see this illness kicked to the curb and to be one step closer to Friday and the return of my numero uno.

Since I clearly haven’t been working out the last couple days (opting to instead work on just feeling better), my original post is on the back burner and today’s post is about our backyard brood. One of the things that has changed in our life in the last few years is the addition of four girls in our backyard–our four ducks! When we felt like our CSA membership and garden weren’t enough, we tackled the project of raising our own protein in the form of eggs.

In actuality, I conned my husband into the addition of four ducks. Oops–I guess I’m not supposed to admit that. Though we’ve definitely joked about it several times. I had shown Chris backyard chickens at a friend’s house and after seeing their small scale set up, I convinced him chickens were a hobby we could take on. I love ducks though, and quickly started researching the differences between the two and tried to decide if we wanted chickens or ducks. I personally hoped we could have ducks since I love them (so much so that they were even a part of our proposal, another story for another day), but knew we wouldn’t do it if it wouldn’t work logistically.

Ultimately, we decided to get ducks for the following reasons:

  1. They thrive better in the winter. We live in New England and I loved that we don’t need to provide an outside heat source when our temperatures are at their worst, which we would need to do with chickens. It’s most important that ducks are protected from the wind. So, we wrap their pen in a thick plastic (leaving space for ventilation), plus they have a house in their pen for extra protection. When the weather is especially fierce, we have brought them inside and stashed them in a bathtub overnight, but it’s honestly not something I love to do. It’s fun to let them swim around and hear them quacking, but ducks are so so messy!
  2.  Ducks lay eggs for longer than chickens. I’ve read that chickens lay eggs for about 3-4 years, with their most productive laying time being in the first two years (years three and four would basically be lucky). Ducks on the other hand lay eggs more regularly for six plus years! We have two breeds of ducks: two white layers and two cayugas. The white layers lay about 250-300 eggs per year and the cayugas lay about 150-200 eggs per year. We read that these ducks are still laying for some owners at years 8 and 9! This meant chickens would provide maybe 4200 eggs in four years, if they could lay about one egg per day and for that long. And our ducks could lay 6000 or more if they lay eggs for just six years. Maximizing the number of years we could get eggs in our own backyard for the maximum amount of time seemed like a common sense decision.
  3. Duck eggs are bigger and more nutrient dense. Duck eggs are larger in size than a chicken egg. Think like a jumbo egg and then add a little more. We often need to secure an egg carton with a rubber band just to keep it closed. Duck eggs are also higher in protein, fat, minerals, and all of the other nutrients you would find in a chicken egg. We also think duck eggs are tastier–and with their increased fat content they’re better for baking too. Lastly, duck eggs are normally more friendly to those with chicken egg allergies. Not that we have allergies, but I was scraping for every win I could find a couple years ago!
  4. Ducks are friendlier and easier to manage. While our ducks aren’t as friendly as our dogs, they do like to chatter with us and they do really love the company of our two poodles too. Apparently ducks are easier to contain too, at least when roaming free. Most domestic ducks cannot fly. Whereas with chickens, you need to clip their wings to keep them close to the ground. Our ducks are definitely escape artists, finding any little breach in the fence around the back of our yard, but while chickens can seemingly fly out of an enclosure, ducks only need about two feet of protection from the ground to be contained.  Our ducks also herd well. When it’s time to go back into their pen, they move together pretty easily. This isn’t the case with chickens.
  5. Ducks contain pests. With an unusually bad tick season this year, our ducks have been a big help. We still found ticks here and there, but during the heaviest tick weeks, we let our ducks do extra work in the yard and we feel like it significantly reduced the tick population. They are also great at finding things like slugs, and they do their work while creating a lot less damage than chickens who scratch up lawns and garden beds. Our ducks more or less just push mulch and dirt around to get their snacks. Ducks are great foragers, which can also mean we need to feed them a little less food than chickens.

A few things that were a bit more challenging when we considered ducks include:

  1. Ducks need a larger source of water than chickens. Ducks need to be able to clear their nostrils and this means their water needs to be deep enough to do this. We also wanted to provide them with a small space to swim, but we easily did this with a $10 kiddie pool. We also have a larger one in the yard that they can play in, typically from April-November. The water piece is really just a pain in the winter when we literally need to lug buckets of water to them–sometimes twice a day. Good thing I like exercise! During that time of year, the ducks have a deep rubber bucket vs. their pool. So no swimming, but they are alive. I think they like winter as much as me (not at all).
  2. Ducks need more space. While I convinced Chris to get some backyard birds with our friend’s small chicken coop, ducks need about four square feet per apiece. This meant we outfitted them with a large enclosure (their pen), plus put a coop sized dog house inside. Oh, how my husband was shocked when the ducks arrived and then I showed him the blueprints. We outfitted the duck house with a door that we can close during the winter months for maximum protection. Not everyone needs to do this, but we really wanted to create a long term home for our ducks and this seemed like the best answer for us.
  3. Ducks attract more predators. This was a big one for us. We have two small dogs, and when we got ducks, we were hoping we would eventually have kids. Plus we of course value our own safety and the safety of our neighbors. We have seen fox, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, and bear in our yard over the last few years–and that’s even before the ducks came home. However, we found most predators come visit the ducks at the beginning of the spring season, realize they cannot breach the pen, and they generally do not return. We let the ducks roam less during that time, and we also make sure their pen is truly impenetrable. We made sure to dig hardware cloth at least one foot into the ground and to put hardware cloth around all sides and the top of the ducks’ pen. Hardware cloth is heavier and provides better protection than chicken wire which can easily be chewed threw or pulled apart. It was more expensive, but a worthwhile investment.
  4. Ducks are messy. Like seriously. I had no idea how messy ducks were. One winter day when the weatherman was forecasting temps that could reach -20, I brought the ducks inside. I put down a ton of doggy pee-pee pads in the kitchen and let the ducks roam free with a few snacks. I thought I was so smart! 15 minutes later I returned to the biggest mess of my life. There was water, food, and worst of all–poop–everywhere! Literally, everywhere. Chris came home to the smell of bleach and the ducks washing off in our bathtub. I felt silly and honestly laughed hysterically at the predicament (because what else do you do when your life gets so ridiculous), but who knew these small birds could make such a disaster! I’ve since learned. Sometimes the messes our animals have made make the messes Isla makes look easy.

But those are the basics. Why we got ducks vs. chickens. So now, here are our favorite ducky girls.

And a couple photos of their pen and house.

Do you have backyard ducks or chickens? What are your favorite things about having them? And your biggest challenges? Or do you have any questions? Share in the comments below.