Category Archives: Chickens

Saturday at the Farm

Saturday was a productive day. We accomplished several projects at the farm.

Blueberry Patch

We made great progress in the blueberry patch – a project that we had been working on for a few days. Our soil at the farm is mostly clay and despite working straw and other composted materials into it each year we have yet to turn it into an ideal garden loam. This year we decided to add some sand to the soil. A couple of weeks ago my husband had a truckload of masonry sand delivered.

We decided to use some of the sand in the blueberry patch for weed control. Two years ago we put black plastic down between the rows and bushes and while it was largely effective in keeping weeds down it tended to slide out of place or was easily moved by a hunting dog, (Ranger) who had picked up the scent of a mouse hiding under the plastic. (He is relentless.) Water also tended to pool on the plastic creating puddles that took a long time to dry up. After putting the plastic back in place we covered it with several inches of sand.

The blueberry patch project is not completely finished as we still need to put up the plastic fencing around it and the netting on top to protect our crop from hungry robins. We hopefully will get that done this week.

Planting

We put our first plants in the garden on Saturday.

My husband had identified an area that was dry enough to till the soil and that is where we decided to plant potatoes and cabbage – both cool weather crops.

He broke out the rototiller he bought a couple months ago. It is a Champion 19-inch, rear tine, tiller. After tilling up the patch where we would plant the potatoes and cabbage he reported that he is very pleased with the way this machine preforms. We spread a layer of sand on the patch. He then mixed it in as he tilled the area.

We planted six 17-foot rows of of potatoes.

and 12 cabbage plants.

I saved some of the cabbage plants to plant in the raised beds we are making. Since the ground is still very wet, and still having much rain in the forecast, I’m not sure how well things will do that are planted in the ground. You may remember last year we had many vegetables that were lost because the ground was just too wet. This year we will be making some raised beds and I hope to plant at least a portion of some crops in the raised beds that will be better able to drain excess water.

When the Hen’s Away

The chicks will play. The chicks still sleep in the nest boxes at night, while the older chickens sleep on the roosts. During the day while the older hens are out of the coop or using the nest boxes for laying their eggs, the chicks like to spend some time playing on the roosts. Perhaps they are practicing for when they too are old enough to sleep on the roosts at night.

Breathtaking

From a distance to forsythias create a stunning array.

But standing in the midst of their intense brilliance is mesmerizing.

I forget to breathe.

If only my photos could capture that feeling.

Thanks for visiting.

Time Is Flying

It’s hard to believe April is almost over already. This post contains some of the things that have happened in the past two weeks.

Chicks

After a week at the farm my husband decided it was time for the chicks to learn what farm life is all about. He opened up just one side of their pen so they could roam and learn to forage. It is amazing how they instinctually know how to find bugs and worms and grubs. Some breeds are said to be better at foraging than others. It’s a trait that we look for when choosing what breed(s) of chickens to raise.

It didn’t take long for them to spread out and begin scratching and pecking. They didn’t wander too far from their pen, or the coop and they mostly stayed close together or split into two smaller group.

They also learned quickly (within one day) how to find their way back into the coop which makes closing up the coop at night very easy.

They have been very entertaining to watch (Chicken TV). It’s always funny to see when one finds a big grub or worm and the rest of the flock begin chasing it to try to steal it away. At night they all huddle together in one or two of the nest boxes. It’s a tight fit but they seem to like it that way.

This year there was also a new star in the show. It was quite comical watching Ranger trying to wrangle those young chicks. I’m not sure what he was trying to do with them, and I don’t think he knew either. He would follow them trying to keep them all together as if herding them (he never tried to hurt them). If they went into the coop through the small chicken door, he would follow them in and as they exited through the big door, he was right behind them. If one or more of the chicks went under the coop, where he could not go, (it sits about 6 inches above the ground) we would hear BaROOOO. Again, I’m not sure of his intention. Was he trying to tell us that a chick was where it shouldn’t be or was he telling the chick to come out of there? I’ve not yet become fluent in beagle. LOL!

Bee Day

Our bees came last Saturday. This year we decided to try raising Carniolan bees, a breed we have not raised before. I didn’t go with my husband to pick up the bees or to the farm to hive them, so some of these pictures are from a couple years ago. We ordered three 3# packages like the ones in the picture below.

Most of the bees that you see in these clusters are worker bees and a few are drones. In the middle of the cluster is a small separate cage like the one in the photo below. Inside the cage is the queen bee and a couple of attendant worker bees whose job it is to feed and care for the queen.

Once the bees are in the hive my husband uses a nail to put a hole in the queen candy. That is the white stuff that you see in the end of the queen cage. He then places the queen cage in the hive. Over the next few days some worker bees will eat a hole in the queen candy that is big enough for the queen to get out of the cage. The reason for leaving the queen in the cage is that the bees will stay where the queen is and there is less chance that the colony will abscond from the hive.

This year rather than feed sugar water my husband had some frames of honey that he had saved from last year’s hives. Each new hive was started out with a couple of frames full of honey for food.

It was Wednesday before the weather warmed up enough for the bees to come out of the hive.

These pictures (above and below) were taken on Thursday.

Today, Friday, my husband opened the hives to be sure the queens were out of their cages. In two of the hives the queen was out, and all was well. In the third hive the queen was still in the cage and many of the workers were still trying to free her. She was alive so he opened the queen cage and released her into the hive.

First Flowers

We began seeing our first blossoms this week.

These mini daffodils are always the first to open.

Some of the larger daffodils have begun to open as well.

The chives are not blossoming yet, but I could begin harvesting them any time.

These primroses have begun to blossom – I do hope the chickens leave them alone.

I spotted this crocus in bloom. Last year we had more crocuses, but this is the only one I have seen so far.

The forsythias are taking their time but one bush has a few flowers that opened this week.

Tie Dye

One of the things I have have been doing is sorting through my clothes and getting rid of some that, for various reasons, I no longer wear. I came across a pair of white denim capris that I haven’t worn in sometime because they had some stains on them. They still fit and were in good condition, so I decided to tie dye them make them new again.

I’m quite happy with the way they turned out. Quite stylish.

Thanks for visiting.

Do you find that time is flying by?

Winter Update

Now that you know my, um, excuses for not blogging much this year (the dog ate my blog – Blame It on the Dog) let me catch you up on some of the things that I’ve been up to in 2022.

Daily Yoga – The day after Christmas I began doing yoga. I have never done yoga before but have been told about its benefits and encouraged to try it by two of my sisters and one of my daughters. Since I was no longer experiencing as much pain form the pinched nerve, I decided that it was time to start trying to heal this condition. In order to do so I figured some type of exercise is necessary. I decided to start this 30-day yoga journey entitled breath because for the past two years I have been practicing deep breathing and encouraging others to “breathe deep” as well.

https://yogawithadriene.com/breath-a-30-day-yoga-journey/

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I am nowhere near good at this. I am not graceful. I am awkward at best. I am getting better but it’s not pretty. (That is why I only do it when I am home alone.)

I have been feeling and seeing some of the benefits. I can tell that I am getting stronger and increasing my balance. I also feel good physically and I seem to have more focus after doing it. Once I finished the first 30-day program I started over again and I’m about to finish it a second time. I plan on repeating it again in March.

If you’ve ever considered learning yoga I would encourage you to do it. I would also recommend this program as a starting point.

Sewing Projects– I have completed two sewing projects. The first was this sweatshirt dress made with plush fleece. I did adjust the pattern to make it a turtleneck. This top is so comfortable and warm; I wear it quite often.

(I’m no model so this is what I do when my husband tells me to pose. LOL)

The second is this sweater. I’m not sure what the fabric would be called, but it is a soft knit with silvery threads intertwined to give it the shimmery look.

I have a third project started but it’s way different from anything I have done before. I am learning to work with interfacing and make buttonholes, so this is taking a while.

Garden Planning – We are really looking forward to spring. We have ordered and received all of our seeds for this year’s garden. I found it interesting that we did not receive tons of seed catalogues in the mail this year. (I think we received one.) I wonder if we have been removed from the mailing lists because we hadn’t ordered for several years, or are companies no longer using catalogues as a means of marketing? Maybe some of both?

After last year’s gardening disaster (too much rain) we decided we need to do something different this year. We will be adding some raised beds. We are in the planning stage, and I’ll write more about it once we begin working on them.

Bees – We lost both hives again this year and just can’t explain why. There were just a few dead bees in the bottom of both hives. The rest were just gone. This is an unexplained phenomenon referred to as colony collapse disorder. We did harvest about 30 lbs. of honey that was left in the hives so at least it wasn’t a total loss.

We have ordered three bee packages for this year. They are scheduled to arrive on April 15. The bees we are getting this year are a different breed than the ones we have had in the past, so that gives us a little more hope for their survival.

Chicks and Chickens – Sunday as I looked at the weather forecast, I realized that the weather this week would be right for tapping maple trees. With above freezing daytime temps and below freezing nighttime temps that sap should begin to flow. We are not tapping trees this year, but I reminded my husband that in past years it seemed like at the same time we tapped maple trees the chickens began to lay more eggs. Monday my husband collected 6 eggs and Tuesday five. For about the past two months we had been averaging only between two and three eggs a day. An interesting correlation between sap season and egg laying.

We are going to add about 12 chicks to our flock this year. I will share chick pictures when we get them. 🙂

New Chair – Last week we finally went shopping for a new desk chair. this is the one I selected.

While it doesn’t actually have bells and whistles, it does have lumbar support, height adjustment, arm rests that adjust up and down and forward and backward, and the seat back reclines. This makes sitting at my desk much more comfortable. It is called a gaming chair so as I like to say, “game on!”

Thanks for visiting.

Have you ever done yoga?

Will you be planting a garden this year?

Did you receive any seed catalogues in the mail?

Christmas Tree Round 2 and Other Strange Happenings

Hello and Welcome.

On Saturday we discovered that our Christmas tree that had only been up for two weeks was dying. STRANGE. It was losing needles quickly and if we brushed or bumped a branch the needles rained down completely coving the tree skirt. At that rate it would soon be naked. I have never seen a Christmas tree die so quickly. In fact, the tree we had last year still had needles on it this spring, even though it was taken out of the house shortly after Christmas and left at the farm to die.

On Sunday we undecorated our Christmas tree and my husband went to the farm to cut a replacement tree. We brought the new tree in and set it in the stand but decided it was best to let the snow melt off the branches before we decorated it. On Monday afternoon I put the lights, ornaments and candy canes on the new tree.

My husband added the angel when he got home. This tree, that seems perfect in every other way, is missing a tall center branch on top that typically holds the angel, so our angel is in the center on top of the tree but nestled in amongst the outward reaching top branches. A unique Christmas tree indeed.

The dying Christmas tree is not the strangest thing that has happened though. That would have to be the forsythia bushes that blossomed at the farm about three weeks ago. There were two of them in full bloom. (I didn’t get a picture.) That is not supposed to happen this time of year. Our forsythias always blossom in May. STRANGE.

We also had bulbs, likely daffodils, sprouting in the prayer garden last week. That too should not happen until spring. STRANGE.

The other thing that is different this year than in past years is the chickens. Normally they stop laying when they molt in the fall or at least begin producing less eggs sometime in November. We get fewer and fewer eggs through December until we hit a low. After that it’s usually sometime in February, or around the time the sap begins flowing, that the hens begin laying more eggs again.

This year the flock began to molt in October and by November there were feathers everywhere and I was getting only one egg every other day. I expected this to last until February but about two weeks ago we began getting more eggs on some days and it has gradually increased until we were getting three eggs each day this week and then today, we got five eggs. STRANGE. (I wonder if the sap is flowing)

Even though I find this to be weird I’m not complaining – in fact I’m thrilled, especially since during our dearth my husband was buying eggs from a neighboring farm for $4.00 a dozen.

I don’t think it’s strange that I finished making Christmas gifts for my kids and grandkids last weekend though usually I’m not done quite so early. Since I had some time to spare, I decided to make myself a Christmas present. No, I didn’t wrap it and put it under the tree.

I put it on yesterday evening and my husband is now calling me Candy Cane. It’s made with flannel and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out and how it looks on me.

I finished up wrapping gifts today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I will spend cleaning and getting an early start on cooking for our family brunch on Christmas day. I am so looking forward to having the kids and grandkids here for the day.

Thank you for visiting and from our home to home and from our hearts to your heart we wish you a

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Teaching Old Chicks New Tricks

This spring we had planned on building our new chicken coop, but life often doesn’t go as planned. Lack of time and know-how led us to the decision to purchase a pre-made coop. It was advertised as being Amish built, though the person sold it to us and delivered it was not Amish.

It is made from rough cut pine with a metal roof.

We had an extra windows installed to provide more light inside and a cross breeze on those hot summer nights.

Before it could become a home for our flock it needed some finishing touches.

We started by priming and then painting the outside.

We would have liked to put a second coat of paint on it but the weather has been quite rainy so that will have to wait until next spring/summer.

Inside the coop we discovered that the untreated lumber was quite susceptible to mold growth. My husband did a little research and found that a product called concrobium is recommend for removing or arresting mold on porous surfaces such as wood. After treating the entire inside of the coop twice with this product he was satisfied that the mold was taken care of.

Then it was time to add more roosts to the coop. Chickens like to roost at night and since our chickens always spend the nights inside the coop we find it necessary to have enough roost space for all of them. The roosts (pictured above) that were installed by the builders were not adequate to meet the needs of our flock.

The roosts he added are pictured below.

It was then time to move the chickens to their new home. The biggest challenge in this was that the location of the new coop is not in the area where the old coop was. The chickens were in the habit of returning to their (old) coop each night so it was time to teach them “new tricks”.

While we didn’t think it would be quite so easy, we first attempted to just put the chickens in the new coop at night and let them out to free range as usual during the day. In order to get the chickens into the new coop at night we had to wait until they returned to the old coop, where they were corralled, then we could catch them and put them into a carrier (cage) and take them to the new coop. We have three carriers that will hold 3-4 chickens each so it took two trips to move the whole flock (24 chickens).

After repeating this process on two evenings, because the chickens naturally returned to the old coop, we decided that was enough of those shenanigans.

The next step was to (temporarily) fence them in so they were not able to get to the old coop. It’s a little difficult to see in the above photo but my husband put up plastic fencing around a large area which included the chicken door. There are lots of leaves on the ground in the area so the chickens had lots to scratch through and he left the trailer inside the fenced area so the chickens could use it for shelter from the rain. They also had access to the coop through the chicken door.

After being fenced in all day, all of the chickens returned to the new coop two evenings in a row. On the third day my husband decided to let the chickens out of the fence, hoping they would return to the new coop that evening. 21 out o 24 chickens independently returned to the new coop. The other 3 returned to the old coop where my husband caught them and took them back to their new home. The following night only two hens returned to the old coop and needed assistance to find their new home. These two are apparently set in their ways. Again the next night these two hens showed up at the old coop in the evening. In anticipation of this my husband had staged a carrier there. He put the two hens in the carrier and transported them back to their new home. Keeping the flock fenced in for another day or two would probably have been enough to break their habit but he didn’t want to punish the whole flock for the actions of just these two.

I’m glad I didn’t publish this post yesterday when two of the hens had still not accepted their new home because last night when my husband closed up the coop all 24 chickens had independently found their way to the new coop. Woo Hoo! Cue Happy dance!

The other thing the hens need to learn about their new accommodations is where to lay their eggs. My husband has put some of the hens in the nest boxes so they know where they should lay. It seems to have worked but is to early to say fore sure. Right now most of the chickens are going though a molt and have stopped laying. We are getting just one egg per day which likely means that two or three hens are laying on alternating days. Each day, however, he has found one egg in a nest box so at least those hens that are currently laying have caught on. Based on our past experience it will be some time in February before most of the hens begin laying again, so we will have to wait to see if the other hens have become familiar with their new nest boxes. At least we know that it is possible to teach an old hen new tricks. 🙂