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Posts tagged ‘chickens’

Sweet End of Summer {Farm Update}

The air was fresh, sweet and a bit nippy this morning as summer begins to wind down here in the mountains. The nights have been cool, queuing the leaves to turn from deep green to golden amber and burnt orange in the higher elevations.

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While this summer has seemed to fly by, it has been very enjoyable and relaxed. I have been resisting the urge to embark on any new projects and instead have been focusing on buttoning up what’s already been started. Read more

Summering Away {Farm Update}

In just two weeks school starts again. It’s hard to believe. It feels like summer just got started, especially with the rainy start the season got. May and June brought nothing but rain, with around 47 out of 50 days straight having rain. But the weather finally broke, and July has been sunny and hot. Here’s a quick round-up of what we have been up-to lately.

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Peeping With Excitement {Unboxing Baby Chicks}

Ten day-old baby chicks arrived in the mail from My Pet Chicken on Tuesday. The pepping box contained a variety of breeds, all considered to be the best egg layers: two Speckled Sussexes, two Rhode Island Reds, two Easter Eggers, two Golden Buffs, an Australorp and a White Leghorn. Once these chickens mature they will join our current flock. The chicks are now about five days old and going well.

Moving Up! {New Brooder Set-up}

Our little ducklings are a week old and over the weekend we upgraded their brooder. We have ten day-old chicks shipping Monday, so we needed to get their brooder in order as well, so we took the time this weekend to get all the supplies we needed to make two very nice brooders.

We purchased two galvanized water troughs about 2-feet wide by 4-feet long in size. They measure about a foot tall which will be perfect for the ducklings and chicks when they are very young, but will likely required some netting over the top as they get a little bigger to keep them from hoping out. In the old brooder we were using towels for bedding, which proved to hold moisture and odor, so for the new brooders we are using pine wood shavings for bedding.

We placed a heat lamp to one side of the trough, which keeps the area about 90-degrees. I also purchased a Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder, which we placed in the opposite side of the trough for extra warm. The ducklings have plenty of options and can move around the space to find the warmth they need. A thermometer placed in the trough helps us keep an eye on the brooder conditions.

A chick feeder and waterer completed the setup. The ducklings even get to try out the ceramic waterer made by Rock Bottom Pottery that I purchased for my sister for Christmas. I have to say it looks great and has actual proved pretty practical since it holds a lot of water and the shape keeps the ducklings from splashing around in it and dirtying the water.

The ducklings seem to be very satisfied with their new residence and next week they will have ten pepping neighbors to keep them company.

 

Disappearing Chickens & The Egg Snatcher {Chicken Nuisances}

Mr Fox is brave. Even with the sun high over the mountains and all the activity around the homestead, he isn’t afraid to make his presence know to us. After cleaning up from dinner a few nights ago, we went outside to stroll around and check on the animals. From just below us in the field, he shrieked. The chilling “YOW” echoed along the tree line and down towards the creek before ceasing.

Just a few days later, again after dinner as the kids where taking their bathes, he made an encore. The evening calm was broken by the sound of furious clucking and flapping wings as the flock flew up in all directions. I grabbed a sopping wet toddler from the tub and ran to let our salt and pepper black lab outside. He bolted towards the lower side of the hill to the massive brush pile that the fox was so slyly using for cover as he stalked his feathery prey. In seconds, Asterisk had flushed him out and a streak of rusty orange fur raced through our wooded lot, topping over the hilltop and disappearing. Although rustled, all our hens were accounted for. The havahart has been set and now it’s a game of cat and mouse.

As of today, two of our hens have gone missing during the daylight hours without a feather of evidence left behind. I suspect Mr. Fox has had something to do with it, picking off the girls one by one while we are away from the homestead. I suppose this increases the urgency to get our chicken run built and the hens secured away.

While our lab has earned his keep, alerting us of and pursuing predators, he has become a bit of a chicken nuisance himself. As the hens are free to roam during the day, they have taken to laying their eggs anywhere but the coop, and we only find about half of them each day. The ones which are laid where I can find them are being snatched up for a mid-evening snack by Asterisk. I’ve caught him more than half-dozen times, gingerly sneaking through the yard with a delicate, freshly laid egg between his sharp canines.

Eggstravagant {Daily Harvest}

The days continue to get longer, which means the girls are laying more and more eggs each day. Our flock consists of thirteen hens and one naughty, pain-in-the-butt rooster. We are consistently getting a dozen eggs a day and needless to say, I’m overrun. I counted almost six dozen eggs in my fridge, and we are eating eggs breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Please send your best egg recipe…

Eggs, Eggs Everywhere {And Other Summer Happenings}

What a whirlwind this summer has been. I can’t believe that it’s September. The air is starting to cool and the leaves are leisurely turning an impressive palette of crimson, gold and burnt orange. This is always a favorite time of year for me, but I can’t help but feel a little melancholy thinking that Old Man Winter will awaken soon and slap me in the face with what The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting to be another cold, brutal winter.

Most of my “to-do list” remains uncrossed as free time eludes me between full-time work and tending to the littles. Even so, I wanted to do quick update about what’s been happened this summer.

My garden boxes have actually produced some vegetables this year. From the start, I intended them to be a learning experience, so I was happy with anything they produced. We are still getting some peppers and tomatoes and harvested quite a few squash and cucumbers before powdery mold killed those boxes off. The tomatoe plants are falling over with fruit but none of it seems to want to ripen; I’m thinking that this has something to do with it being so shady. At this point, the large garden is still producing more than enough for all our households, so I’ve left the boxes to the goats and chickens. Next gardening season I think I will move the boxes to the larger garden plot since they are just to shaded at my house and with the animals roaming freely around the property I would need to invest in some fencing to protect it, which probably just isn’t worth it.

The goats are doing well. Our plan to fence in our entire three-acre plot is still on the fence (ha, ha, right?). Once our budget permits we will tackle this improvement, which will most likely be in the spring. Until then, they are living in the temporary enclosure, which they don’t seem to mind. Although it’s heavily wooden and doesn’t have pasture, the goats are allowed to free range most days and enjoy the fresh grasses and brush on our neighbor’s property, who has graciously granted us access to his field. All five of this season’s kids are growing, most coming in at 65+ pounds. We have decided to keep the doelings (Gwen, Ginger and Walnut) and have the two bucklings listed for sale as room necessitates that they find a new home.

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And finally, the chickens! They are very happily free ranging all over the place, and after about five months, we are getting our first eggs. Only problem is the chickens are laying all over the place. We have found eggs in the brush pile, the goat barn and even in Cora’s stroller. We have tried keeping them confined until mid-morning and putting golf balls in the nesting boxes to no avail. So, until further notice, we’ll continue the daily egg hunt. I do have to say, frustration aside, my preschooler thinks it’s a blast to hunt for eggs every morning.

As the seasons transition once again there is so much to do and look forward too. Hopefully, Old Man Winter will be kind and spare us a harsh winter. Until then, here’s to fall!

My Garden is Actually Growing! {Garden Update July}

I’ve heard that you either have a green thumb or are good with animals. Well, most days I feel like I’m pretty middle of the road with both, but I keep at it and each season I gain more skills and do just a little better than last time.

Last summer I got into place four, 4′ x 8′ cedar garden boxes and planted a variety of vegetables, none of which, for one reason or another, grew. This year, I’m at it again, and the garden is looking much better. I have three of the four boxes planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers and all of the plants have vegetables on them currently.

Peppers! The banana peppers are almost ready for picking and will be the first produce harvested from my own garden. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, since I’m not a big hot pepper person, but it’s a big milestone and I’m pretty excited.

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Seed to Feed with Barley Fodder {Do-It-Yourself Fodder System}

I’ve been digging around on the web lately, looking into do-it-yourself fodder systems. Fodder systems can be pretty expensive, but with a little research you will find tons of information on do-it-yourself systems that can fit the needs of smaller homesteads.

Fodder systems convert grains and seeds into living fodder that can then be feed to animals to improve their food quality and help cut feed costs. Folks use a variety of feed grains but in my research I have found that most people have the best luck with barley.

Fodder is so appealing to me as a way to provide fresh mircogreens to our chickens and especially our diary goats, which currently don’t have access to pasture. Providing fodder will enrich their diets and make for healthier goats that product higher quality milk.  It also will also allow us to stretch our buck a little further, potentially turning what we pay for 50 pounds of feed barley into 300 pounds of fresh barley fodder.

My first attempt at sprouting barley fodder went ok. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have the super thick grass and root mat that I have seen others rolling up like carpet at the end of day six of seven. Nonetheless, the whole process was pretty neat and both our goats and chickens were pretty fond of the end results.

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Egg in an Egg {Awesome Egg Variation}

Yesterday evening on our trip to the coop to collect eggs from our flock of Black Australorps we discovered an unusual find. In the box was a gigantic, light brown egg, almost three-times the size of a normal egg.

We took it inside and placed our bets. One yolk, two yolk, or maybe it was even a triple-yolker? Tanner thought it might even contain a baby dinosaur (and I was a little weary to bet against him looking at the size of this thing).

The family peered over the bowl as Tanner gave it a crack. To everyone’s excitement out came a yolk and another small egg!

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According to backyardchickens.com, this egg variation is known as a double egg or “egg in an egg” and is “created when an egg with a shell is encased by the next egg in the oviduct and another shell is produced over the outer egg as well.”

It was such a neat discovery!