Archive | Homesteading

First Snow!

14-first-snow

We had our first snow last night. It was a dusting, but enough to get us all in the mood for winter. The new chickens were freaked out by the snow this morning – it was their first time seeing it and they were afraid to leave the safety of the coop. It was funny to see, but probably not too funny for them.

14-chickens-afraid-of-the-snow

14-leaf-in-snow

14-snow-falling

14-wood-pile

0

Buttoning up the beehive for winter

11-buttoning-up-your-beehive

Last winter was cold and this winter is supposed to be similar. I’ve lost beehives in the last few winters – once because they starved to death and the other time because they froze to death. There aren’t many things as sobering as cleaning out a hive full of dead bees in the spring. It is downright depressing, and replacing the bees takes money and effort. A year ago at this time I had only one hive, and by the time spring arrived, I was left with none. As my hive sat empty after the mass die off, and before my order of a new package of bees arrived from Georgia, our apple trees bloomed. The blossoms were plentiful and fragrant, and I was reminded of the days in the previous year when the honeybees covered the apple trees, collecting nectar and pollen, fertilizing the blossoms. We had so many apples in our harvest that year – so many that I could barely keep up with the applesauce production. We felt blessed.

This year there were no bees to cover the apple trees. No bees to collect nectar and pollen, or to fertilize the blossoms. By the time summer arrived I could see that there were no apples on the trees, and we had no apple harvest this year. When I realized how important my bees were for the apple harvest, I quickly saw that a die-off in winter was more than an inconvenience – it was a serious problem. This winter I am determined to keep the bees alive, and I’m starting by addressing the two issues that plagued my hives in the past: food and warmth.

Cold Weather Food

After I harvested honey earlier in the fall I started feeding the bees a sugar syrup to help them increase their honey stores for the winter. As the weather cooled I stopped the feedings because liquid sugar is of little use to bees when it gets cold. In order to convert the syrup into honey, they need to fan it with their wings to evaporate the water. When it’s cold, the bees cluster and conserve their energy, so fanning syrup isn’t an activity they undertake. When it gets cold outside and the inside of the hive stays warm near the cluster, the water left in the syrup turns into condensation and clings to the top of the hive. When the water droplets get heavy enough, they fall down onto the bees, and the cold drops kill the bees below. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Cold weather feeding means providing low-moisture sugar stores. More on this in a moment.

Keeping the Hive Warm

The hive is kept warm in a few different ways. The first rule is to provide a wind break so that the cold winter wind doesn’t whip straight into the hive. If you don’t have a natural wind break such as shrubs or trees in front of the hive, you can erect a wall of hay bales a few feet from the hive, making sure you place them in the direction of the wind. Here at the Village Homestead there is a good wind break provided by trees and shrubs.

The second way to keep a hive warm is to keep the profile low. Hot air rises, so the closer the cluster of bees is to both the top and bottom of the hive, the better. You know how cathedral ceilings in a home look nice, but they aren’t great for keeping the room warm in the winter because the hot air rises to the ceiling? The same principle is in effect in the hive. If too many boxes are on the hive going into winter, the warm air will rise, leaving the cluster of bees below exposed to the cold.

I am convinced that one of my hives died from cold exposure because I put a box of honey frames on the hive at the end of the winter, and the warm air rose to the top. The bees had food stores, thanks to those honey frames I had stored in my freezer all winter, but they didn’t live because they couldn’t stay warm in their cluster. This year I want to minimize the cathedral ceiling phenomenon in the hive.

A third way to keep the hive warm is to keep out excess moisture. I said earlier that moisture in the hive will collect on the top of the hive and rain down as cold water droplets that kill the bees. Moisture is always in the hive because the bees are living organisms and in the course of breathing, eating and moving around, they create condensation. It is important to have a way to remove the water that collects.

Candy Boards

This year my solution to both of these issues – feeding the bees and keeping them warm – is to create a candy board for the hive. It’s a very squat box that goes on top of the brood chambers (and directly under the inner cover). The box is lined with hardware cloth and newsprint, and filled with a sugar-water mixture that is mostly sugar. This set-up directly addresses all of my issues: the bees have food to last them through the winter; there isn’t a lot of extra space at the top of the hive for warm air to collect; and condensation is absorbed by both the newsprint and the sugar mixture. Extra condensation escapes through a hole drilled into the side of the box. I think it’s a brilliant idea. No, I didn’t make it up myself – a lot of other beekeepers are making candy boards for their hives. I took my recipe from the blog Tilly’s Nest – her instructions are pretty good, and if you would like to make one too, head over to her site and follow what she did. 

A few notes on making the candy board: the sugar solution will be very dry while you are mixing it, like damp beach sand – not wet enough to build a sand castle, but not dry enough to flow through your fingers. Mix it with your hands. When you are ready to put it in the candy board frame, pat it in really well. Push down on the sugar mixture and pat, pat, pat until it is a solid mass. Let it sit overnight to harden. Before placing it on the hive, cut away any extra newsprint. If newsprint peeks out from the hive, it will wick moisture into the hive – exactly the opposite of what you want!

11-sugar-for-candy-board

11-patting-sugar-into-candy-board

11-candy-board-on-hive

Entrance Reducer and Mouse Guards

Two more things to think about when closing up the hive for the winter: entrance reducers and mouse guards. An entrance reducer simply reduces the size of the entryway at the base of the hive. It keeps the cold air out and allows the guard bees to catch a break instead of expending all their energy on guarding a big entrance during the winter. I actually leave my entrance reducer on year-round for young hives.

Mouse guards are a must if you live in a cold area. Mice seek out warm, protected spaces and can crawl through small holes. A beehive is an ideal winter home for mice. It’s warm and protected, and usually close to a field. Once inside a hive, mice can eat the honey and soil the brood chamber with their droppings. Here in upstate New York we worry about exposure to hantavirus as well. My mouse guards were fashioned by Jeff and I love how easy they are to use. He made a five-sided cube of hardware cloth, the width of the hive entrance, and attached two pieces of wood inside the cube. The pieces of wood are no taller than the entrance so that they can slip in easily. When it’s time to add the mouse guard, I simply slip the wood pieces into the hive entrance until the open side of the cube meets up with the hive body. You can see it in action here:

11-bees-flying-to-the-hive

Checklist for Buttoning Up the Hive

  • Reduce the number of boxes to the lowest number the bees need for the winter. I use the 10-frame size, and leave two brood chambers for the winter cluster
  • Add an entrance reducer and a mouse guard to the entrance
  • Create a wind break using hay bales if you don’t have one already
  • Put a candy board on top of the brood chambers, and put the inner cover and outer covers on top of the candy board
  • Place bricks or a heavy stone on top of the outer cover to keep the cover on tight; or use bungee cords to secure the cover to the hive

11-pollen-baskets

11-bees-flying-to-the-hive-2

2

Project Feederwatch has begun!

10-looking-at-birds

The girls and I participate in Project Feederwatch every year, and it just started up for the season. It’s a citizen science project set up to collect backyard bird counts between November and April, and is organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We select two consecutive days each week and record the highest number of each species that visit the feeder at the same time. It doesn’t sound very exciting does it – I mean, who cares that 7 House Finches came to our feeder today? The researchers at Cornell do. They use our data to record trends and draw conclusions. Earlier this year they determined that climate change is altering the habitats of birds. The data we submit gives scientists a good overall view of bird activity in the US and Canada.

We watch the birds and record data partly because it’s a good idea to be a citizen scientist, but really, we do it because we love to watch the birds. ‘A’ and I could sit all day at the window and welcome all of our feathered friends that come to the feeders. Our Project Feederwatch work provides a good excuse for us to indulge in a favorite activity. It makes me feel less lazy. We have to watch the birds, it’s our job. Researchers are counting on us, we tell ourselves.

In my feeders this year I have black oil sunflower; nyger; safflower seed; and suet cakes. I put the feeders up last week and it took a few days for the birds to start coming. The chickens love to eat any seed that falls to the ground, and when I let them out of their run in the morning, they head straight over to the feeders for a snack. Setting up the feeders this fall was a piece of cake because I was smart enough to thoroughly dismantle and clean all the feeders last spring {finally!}. There was nothing sketchy or questionable about the condition of the feeders when I took them out of storage last week. I love it when I plan ahead and things go smoothly… if I can just remember to do that kind of thing more often!

If you are interested in participating in the project, it is not too late to sign up. I think it’s a good experience for children. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has science lessons available for homeschoolers, and there are so many opportunities for science experiments of your own. We have always been happy with our experience. Happy Birding!

10-feederwatch-data

10-looking-at-birds-2

0

Around the Homestead

9-a-and-h

Another fantastic fall weekend in upstate New York. My dad and stepmother came for a visit; my sister had a baby (we haven’t met him yet – she lives in Connecticut); my girls are happy and healthy; the chickens and bees are doing great. What else could I wish for?

Here are some shots from around the homestead today.

9-h

9-jeff-loading-stove

9-buffy

9-fae

9-mrs-crouch

9-narcissa

0

Honey!

comb-and-bees

The bees filled in empty space in the honey super with their own comb.

We harvested honey last week. I am amazed at how much we got – just about 100 lbs. The goldenrod season was really good this year, and half of the honey was produced in the two weeks before we extracted it. HALF. Those bees are very busy!

Getting the honey supers off the hive on extraction day was not as easy as I had hoped it would be. Jeff and I had put a triangle escape board under four full supers and I had planned to give the bees two days to evacuate. My beekeeper friend Erika was going to come over and help me lift the supers off the hive the day of the planned extraction. The supers were heavy this year because I used 9 frames in each box instead of 10, so the bees drew deeper comb and packed more honey into each cell. I needed help lifting the supers that were up higher than my shoulders.

A little while before Erika was scheduled to arrive, I was outside and glanced over at the hive. I expected to see bees flying in and out of the front entrance and not much else. What I saw instead horrified me – hundreds of bees going in and out of the top cover. Without ever witnessing it before, I knew right away that these bees were robbers, coming from another hive to steal this honey. They had easy access because my bees had vacated the upper supers and weren’t there to defend their honey supply. The robbers were getting in because I had used an inner cover that came with the beekeeping equipment I was given years ago, but had never put to use. It didn’t fit right, apparently, and left a few cracks where robber bees could slide in.

I didn’t have time to wait for Erika. Robbers can devastate a hive very quickly. I suited up, lit the smoker, and started taking the heavy supers off the top. I was worried and really mad, and my adrenaline gave me the strength to lift the boxes with no problem. Robber bees were coming from all over by now and a few thousand swarmed around me, trying to get to the honey. They were eating so fast, and it was disappearing as I watched.

At that point, I had an open hive and all these robbers around. Working quickly, I put an outer cover on the ground, upside down, and an empty super on it. A triangle escape board went on top of that, upside down so that any bees in the empty super could go out but couldn’t get in. I put a full super box on the ground next to the empty box and frame by frame, cleared the robber bees off and put each frame in the empty box. I kept going with more boxes stacked under the triangle board.

I cleared the robber bees off each frame by smoking them heavily. I used only pine shavings in the smoker, so they burned fast but produced heavy, thick warm smoke. The bees hated the smoke. I had to work fast because they were determined to get as much honey as they could and they did their best to fly into the empty super each time I slid back the triangle board and added a new frame.

Erika arrived, and we continued the work of smoking the bees off each frame and adding the frame to the super under the triangle board. When they were all done, we realized there was no way we could bring the honey supers into the house for extraction as long as the robber bees were still flying all around us. I would have to let the supers sit out, protected by the triangle board, until dark when the bees stopped flying.

I did get the supers in that night and started extracting honey the next day. The robber bees came back the next day, and stayed for the week until they all died. They took up residence in our garage, where they flew around and sometimes clustered on the windows. I felt badly about the mass die-off but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. They came from another hive, had no queen with them, and they didn’t go back home on their own. I couldn’t save them.

I took no photos of the robbing situation because I was working too fast to stop and document it. It was certainly one of the more memorable beekeeping experiences I have had and I learned a lot in the process. One thing I wondered about was the effect of all the heavy smoke on the honey harvest. Would my honey taste smoky? All of it that I bottled tastes like sweet honey, and the small amount that sat in the wax cappings overnight after I extracted did take on a flavor that I am assuming is from the smoke on the cappings. That honey has a delicious earthy, savory taste and I can’t wait to use it. I’m not selling or sharing that small batch of honey – it’s too good to let go!

I’ll be selling the honey this fall, so look for a link on this blog soon.

smoking-the-bees

Jeff smokes the bees before lifting the honey super off the hive.

 

bees-on-frames

0

Our animals

2-girls-with-fae

Every year at this time our activity level speeds up. All winter there was much to do every day, and now in the late spring there is so much to do. The gardens are alive! As of yesterday, I have planted everything I want in the ground. The cucumbers and wax beans are starting to sprout, the pac choi and lettuce are ready for a salad harvest, the tomato transplants are growing every day, and the many tomato volunteers I found in the garden this year are getting bigger and stronger. I love flowers and we have planters around the yard filled with color, accompanied by seeds in the ground that will come up soon. Already I am harvesting and processing some of the bounty: dandelion roots, which are good in cleansing teas, are pulled and awaiting a good scrub in the sink. We have quite a few mint plants that are fast becoming accents in our juices (raw) and iced tea (heated in simple syrup). The plantain in the yard is coming up nice and large now and I will add it to oil to steep for a few weeks before turning it into salves and lotions.

Now that the plants are in the ground and do not need more than water and light weeding at the moment, I am enjoying that one week of the growing season when it all seems to be under control, easy to manage, and a delight to the eyes. This is good, because I have plenty of other things to focus on.

Coco has still not recovered from her accident. She was limping, then paralyzed, then moving her legs, then paralyzed again. At this point I am not seeing signs of improvement in her. It’s discouraging, but I am happy to give her some time to see what develops. I am well aware that we may have to put her to sleep. I’ve cried a lot about it. Just when I think my tears are all used up, they start to flow again. Part of what is so hard is that she is so young. And she’s mentally and emotionally here with us. I know that spinal injuries can take a long while to heal, if they heal at all, so I am going to wait a bit longer before making any decisions about her life.

2-fairy-houses-and-coco

Out in the yard the chickens are in need of some special attention. Ticker, one of our nicest laying hens, looked sick the other day. She was standing alone, sort of hunched up. Her eyelids kept closing and she looked uncomfortable. I have come to recognize the stance of the uncomfortable hen, and I first chalked it up to a stuck egg that needed some time to work its way out. That happens sometimes. However, I soon knew it was more than that because she smelled bad. The whole coop smelled bad. “Bad” doesn’t even describe it. It smelled like death. We couldn’t breathe through our noses while we were near the coop, it was that bad. A quick search on the internet led to a diagnosis of Sour Crop. Sour Crop is essentially a yeast infection in the chicken’s crop. The crop gets big and mushy, full of fermented food, and it smells. The chicken isn’t digesting the food and getting the nutrients she needs to be healthy, so she starts to look sick. I am treating Ticker by keeping her isolated during the day, away from food and water, and I am feeding her kefir. She has a bowl of kefir in her pen for snacks, and I feed her directly via syringe twice a day. Kefir has live cultures in it much like yogurt, and it stops the overgrowth of yeast. I also emptied her crop a few times, which was one of the most unpleasant tasks I have ever undertaken in my life. Overall, Ticker is recovering pretty quickly from Sour Crop, and I attribute her quick recovery to the kefir. It has kept the yeast at bay. Today the coop smelled significantly better, and she looks as though her crop isn’t swollen anymore. What’s crazy is that the coop smelled so bad because her crop was infected. All that smell came out of one little chicken. I find that really strange.

Ticker also has some wing feathers that look eaten up, and I am thinking she might have scaly leg mites. If she has them, chances are the other chickens have them too, so I will have to treat the whole flock and clean out the coop. I’ll treat by bathing the chickens and then smearing vaseline all over their legs to smother the mites. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. I can’t wait to see how much dirt gets stuck to their legs. I’ll have to put the vaseline on Ticker’s wing feathers too, if that is what is eating them. Since this is a slow week in the garden, it seems like a good time to bathe and lubricate all the hens.

‘A’ and ‘H’ are good. They are both sad that Coco is injured, but they don’t focus on it which is probably a good thing. The spend time with her everyday but they seem able to disconnect when they aren’t with her. ‘A’ has been very helpful with the care of Ticker. Both girls are just about done with the school year. They are so antsy and eager to play as much as possible. We don’t homeschool through the summer. I’m finding that it’s easier for our family to stick to the public school calendar. It gives us the rhythm of regular school days, with short breaks throughout the year and a refreshing longer break over the summer. ‘A’ will be taking a writing workshop this summer and we’ll keep the skills polished a bit, but nothing too strenuous.

So, the girls are doing well, Jeff and I are also well. Grace, who turns 15 this year, appears athletic and energetic compared to Coco. Funny how perspective changes everything. I’ll have more news about her condition as the week goes on.

2-ticker-in-her-pen

2-ticker-drinking-kefir

  2-ticker-with-kefir-all-over

 

 

 

0

Time for an update!

  21-fairy-houses

I realize it’s been almost a week since ‘A’s egg challenge and I have been absent. The news is all good: she passed! She had to eat the equivalent of one large egg, so we prepared a scrambled egg, a few pieces of french toast, and a bowl of matzo brei. She chose to eat the matzo brei, and was given four portions to eat over the course of 90 minutes. The first bowl had the smallest amount of food and they got progressively larger. I was wondering if she would not eat the egg dish because of the new flavor or texture, but she did a great job. At no point did she have hives or any reaction. At the end, we were told she can now eat eggs “without restriction” – what beautiful words to hear!

There’s more than just the news about ‘A’ in this update. When we arrived home after the egg challenge, Coco our kitten was outside limping. By the time she was seen at the vet the next day, her limp had progressed to paralysis of her hind legs and tail. An X-ray showed no breaks, bites or dislocated limbs. The two possibilities that fit are that she has toxoplasmosis or she narrowly escaped being hit by a car, and the wheel ran over her tail as she was pulling away. She is on antibiotics to treat the toxoplasmosis (although I am not sure that theory really fits well), and she is on pain medication and steroid shots to address the car accident theory. Over the past five days she has shown steady improvement. She’s still not walking, but she’s able to move her legs, and just yesterday she started to be able to lift her tail. I spend a lot of time with her, as the human contact seems to help her. In this situation, time is our friend. Hopefully she will heal if we wait patiently.

Around the homestead, things are good. I’ve been slow to put in my vegetables and flowers this year, but they will eventually go in the ground. I’m making lists of salves, teas and tinctures I want to make with the plants I grow. Plantain is coming up strong now, and it’s a wonderful plant to use in healing creams. The Lungwort is looking good this year, so I’ll dry some for tea, and steep some in vodka for a tincture. Lungwort is a good herb for clearing the lungs. Many varieties of mint are grown here, and I will turn some of them into mint-flavored simple syrup for iced tea. In the poultry yard, the new chicks are growing quickly. I am still not ready to say which are pullets or roos. The batch I hatched are just over seven weeks old, and the ones I purchased are five weeks old. I’ll know for sure in a month.

Keep Coco in your thoughts, if you would. I believe in the power of positive healing thoughts. She needs all the help she can get. Thank you.

21-grace

Grace

21-plantain

Plantain. Great for healing skin.

21-lungwort

Lungwort. Excellent as a tea or tincture for cough, colds and asthma.

21-chicks

0

Warm weather

11-galway-skyline

Spring weather has finally come to the Northeast. Oh how we have waited for it! Everything seemed to stand still for a while, as if the late-winter season would last indefinitely. The ground thawed later than it has in recent years, the leaves on the trees were slow to form, the air temperature remained chilly… and then one day the switch flipped, and now spring is upon us. In earnest! The days are warm and sunny, and with the nice weather everything has come up from the ground. The dandelions went from dormant to fully grown in a few short days. As I wait for my perennials to come up I see the weeds are spreading out in the garden beds very quickly. I’ve been weeding and applying mulch on as much bare ground in the garden as possible, eager to greet the flowers that will bloom again this year. The vegetable garden is in, seeded and mulched, with more plants going in this month. The usual outdoor chores have started up again: repairing and replacing the fencing; setting up the watering hoses; and gathering rakes, shovels and gloves for handy access.

It feels like we’re rushing to get it all done. It’s necessary to stay on top of the garden projects because they do have the potential to get out of control quickly, but there is something else at work. It’s the shortness of the season that hangs over us and causes us to go outside and dig in the dirt with vigor, because in just a few months it will come to an end.

We have enjoyed our time outside immensely. We had several trees taken down and others pruned heavily. The work was much needed and long overdue. The overgrown trees that came down will be turned into firewood for our stove, and the apple trees that were pruned will (hopefully) produce better apples this year.

11-chicken-at-woodpile

Our days are very full right now, with schoolwork, field trips and house work all jockeying for the #1 position. Volunteer work is coming back in full swing too, as our UU congregation is set to welcome a potential minister to spend time with us for a week so that we may get to know one another. There is a host of work that comes with the excitement and activity. I am looking forward to it. Schoolwork comes in the form of spelling and writing lessons, math work, science and discovery lessons, music (piano and recorder), and so many more topics.

One school project we will be taking on this week is food allergies, specifically what ‘A’s body is doing when she reacts to a food, and what is happening in her body as she starts to outgrow her allergies. We are learning about it because on Thursday we will travel to Mount Sinai hospital in New York for a scrambled egg food challenge. She’ll eat eggs and if she doesn’t react, she will be able to say she’s not allergic to eggs anymore. Her first visit at Mount Sinai was last week. We have been going to Children’s Hospital Boston for a few years, but I decided to switch to Mount Sinai because their research direction is a bit different, and I thought it would be helpful to see someone there. Her new doctor thought she was ready for a scrambled egg challenge as she has been eating pancakes and cookies with egg without any reaction for about a year. I was so happy to hear that she was eligible for the challenge, because I have been thinking the same thing. Any doctors I asked about it didn’t know how to answer, so they replied with a cautious “No.” However, I do think ‘A’ will pass. We will find out on Thursday.

11-observing-the-chickens

The new chicks are growing just as fast as I remembered chicks to grow, which is fast. When you consider that they develop from egg to chick in only 21 days, it’s not surprising to watch how quickly they grow the first few months. I am not ready to say definitively who is rooster and who is pullet, but the telltale signs are emerging and it looks as though 50% are going to be female. I’ll know for sure in a few weeks. Some are clearly roo, with their tall, fighting stance, and their big, red combs. Some are clearly pullets, with their feather coloring and their docile nature. Some are up in the air still, as they look like hens but get tall around the roosters and go eye to eye. Peg, our injured pullet, is not healing well. She’s not in pain and she gets around on one leg all right, but the injured leg sticks out to the side and gets in her way. She was in a separate pen in the coop until yesterday, when I took her out and put her with the other chicks. I’m glad I had her separated the way I did – with only chicken wire between her and the other chicks. They were used to seeing and hearing her, and they accepted her right away. Time will tell what happens to her. If she can get around on her own, we might keep her, but if there is any doubt, she will go with the roosters when it is their time. The roosters are going to go to a friend who processes chickens on a small-scale farm. Time will tell. This hobby farm life isn’t always pretty.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you! You all came from a mother, and some of you are mothers yourselves. Enjoy the day!

11-coco

11-h-holding-Blue

11-westchester-skyline

0

Signs of spring

7-chickens-in-fence

The signs of spring are coming quickly now, one after the other. Little changes are rippling through our days. We’re noticing the usual things, such as the crocuses that are blooming (I planted them two autumns ago as early bee food, but alas there are no bees this year to enjoy them); the ground is mostly thawed and I spent time working the garden soil yesterday; the chickens are able to get out and about and forage on grass; ‘A’ and ‘H’ are enjoying playing outdoors without coats, hats and gloves; the Canada geese fly low overhead and honk, honk, honk.

There are other things too that come out of all these spring changes. The eggs from the chickens are a bit different this week – the shells are lumpy and thin. I think it’s the switch to foraging. I have no scientific proof of this, but it makes sense. I think their bodies are adjusting to the change in nutrition and it will take a little time for the egg shells to normalize. The cats are feeling the change in weather. Coco spends much of her day outdoors, and Grace, who is 14 now and looking more frail than ever, paces the house. She wants to stir, wants to go outside, but isn’t ready yet.

The end of the school year is in sight!

7-computer-work

The girls are rounding the final corner in the homeschooling year. My goal is be done with formal schoolwork by the end of May. Their studies are all over the map at this point in the year. They take classes with other teachers (piano, recorder, science and art to name a few). With me they learn French, writing, spelling, history, math, literature, computer programming, geography, social studies, typing, handwriting (printing) and cursive. I allocate a lot of time for quiet reading (Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Lloyd Alexander’s books and anything that resembles historical fiction are popular choices in our house right now). Now that the weather is warmer, outside play time has increased. Our days are full, to say the least.

7-coco-outside

The new chicks are happy in their brooder box, and when Jeff is finished building the new coop, they’ll love living there. I’ll be happy to have them out of the house at that point. They still need a warm environment and they cuddle under the heat lamp. The lamp will move outside to the new coop with them. The new coop has two primary purposes: 1. It’s a brooder for new chicks and a home for the young females who aren’t laying yet. When they begin to lay eggs, they can move to the main coop and join the older hens. 2. It will serve as an infirmary for sick chickens who need to be quarantined or isolated. When Laura got sick last fall, I realized that I didn’t have a good place to put sick chickens while they recovered. This new coop is smaller than the current one, with lower roosts (younger and ill chickens don’t have to jump very high to roost), and it will have an attached run, where the chicks/chickens can go outside but still be safe.

New chicks: male or female?

I took some of the chicks out to photograph them today and I noticed that some crouched down low, as if to hide, while others stood tall and proud and eyed the camera. I have heard you can spot the difference between males and females by observing their body language in situations like this. The males stand tall while the females crouch down. See how the chicks in the photos below are standing differently? If this method works, it looks like I have 7 females and 8 males.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter right now how many males and females I have, because I plan to raise them all until they are ready for their next stop on the chicken train. When the males start acting like roosters (crowing), I’ll give them to a friend who will process and eat them. The hens will stay with me, and if I have enough, a few will go to another friend who is looking to grow her chicken family.

7-squatting

7-standing-tall

You learn something new every day, don’t you?

 

0

Life during the hatch

Our life during the hatch slowed down a bit as we took time to concentrate on watching the chicks hatch, and then care for the new babies. The process is fascinating and a bit addictive. We slowed down but haven’t stopped completely. The temperatures outside are on the rise, so outdoor playtime has loosened up and increased. Even Coco the kitten enjoyed some time outside this week, her first day of many to come exploring the great outdoors.

Everyone kept watch over the incubator: when I wasn’t there, the girls were peering in. When we walked away for a moment, each cat took a turn watching the eggs hatch.

2-a-watching-eggs

2-coco-keeping-watch

2-grace-keeping-watch

The girls and the chickens were happy to spend time outside, as was Coco.

2-swinging-outside

2-crocus-and-chicken

2-coco-walking-outside

2-writing-on-bark-2

2-writing-on-bark

The new chicks are happy in their brooder spa.

2-chicks-in-brooder

0

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes