I hope you enjoyed my photo tour. I like my yard, and watching the changes it goes through during the warm months.
My new, main garden bed is doing better now, since the temperatures have been getting a little warmer. We’ve been in the 60s and 70s and most of my plants, and seeds, seem to be actually growing and sprouting now. Here are some pictures of my garden:
My back garden, which I increased in size from last year, is doing ok. I have a lot of things growing in it, most of which was not what I planted. I have a lot of weeds, but luckily they are mostly lamb’s quarters, which are edible and actually really delicious (they taste kind of like spinach). I liked the few we found last year so much that I bought seeds for this year, and then didn’t have to plant any – they grew on their own. Here are some photos of my back garden plot.
I haven’t posted in a bit, I’ve been really busy… and we’ve had a ton of rain. The garden is doing ok, things are growing slowly, and my seeds (and second sets of seeds I had to plant) are sprouting, mostly. I planted two types of corn, on either side of the garden. The yellow corn I planted has sprouted, the plants are about 2 inches tall. I got maybe a 70% sprout rate though. My white corn has done nothing that I can see. The seeds were packed for 2014 so that may be the problem. I plan on adding more yellow corn seeds soon.
I had to replant seeds for cucumber, and some for zucchini. I don’t know if they damped off when the seedlings were put in, but the original cucumber seedlings had all died and I have one original zucchini; I had put in 4 seedlings. So I added new seeds; They are now sprouting.
I planted some rows of onions, carrots, beets, and turnips. In that garden, I have a TON of lamb’s quarters (weeds), which are actually really tasty so that is ok. I have a bunch of turnips. I think I have one or 2 onions coming up, and 5 or 6 carrots, and 3 or 4 beets. I will add more seeds for those this week. I’m not sure what happened to those. I did notice a beet growing in my pathway, so the seeds must have gotten washed away somewhat.
We have had a lot of rain. It rains almost daily, and our temps have been in the 60s or so, sometimes into the 70s, but still not as warm as it could be. The rains aren’t very warm rains either. The garden is trudging along. It will do better as we get a lot more sun. My sunflowers are doing ok too, so that makes me really happy. I haven’t had a sunflower grow for me at this house. Last year I lost every one I planted to deer. This year they are planted inside my fence.
Last week, I got home and the chickens were mixed together. From my driveway I can see the babies’ little run. I parked and saw adult chickens in there. I went to see what was going on, and somehow the door that divides their coop space (inside the coop) was left open, so the adults and teens (which are pretty much adults now) were all over in the chicks’ area, and my chicks were scattered. There were 3 huddled in a corner, one hiding behind a food bag, and the rest were outside hiding behind the coop. The adults scratched up the chicks’ run, so it’s a lot more muddy now than it had been. I got them all sorted out, and we’re making absolutely sure that we lock the inside coop door, so that it doesn’t happen again.
As soon as the chicks are 3 months old, around July 20th, I am going to integrate them together. I cannot wait! The reason for this, is that our current adult chicken run is a disgusting muddy mess. We are going to add a second fenced-in run area, an area which currently has grass, and then integrate everyone into that run. We’ll then cut off their access to the current run, so that we can fix the mud problem. I would also like to plant it with some chicken edibles, so they have stuff to munch on over there. The muddiest spot is right at the door from the coop to the run, so we need to figure out what to do there – maybe put some kind of patio (brick/concrete) there so that it doesn’t turn to mud as soon as it rains. Once everything on that side is fixed and plants are growing, I will start cycling the chickens between runs – so they can eat down one side while the other side is growing, and then we’ll switch them to the new grown stuff, and so on. With all our rain, the run doesn’t dry very well, or for very long, and then the teens don’t like to go to bed at night when I put them in, so it takes awhile to get them all in, and we end up trudging through mud, and they all have muddy feet, and it’s disgusting. I do lure them in to the coop with treats, but I have to wait until they are all in and the door is shut, or they take their treats and run outside; then I have to chase them in. Ahh… chickens.
My six “teenage” chickens are just over 3 months old now. I’m still working on figuring out the sex of each of them. I read that at 3 months you can start to tell by the saddle feathers whether they are male or female – males should have pointed / longer saddle feathers, and hens should have rounded ones. (Saddle feathers come down the sides in front of their tail feathers). It would probably be easier to tell if my chickens were all the same breed, but they are not. That complicates things quite a bit. For awhile I thought I had 5 roosters and a hen. But there are two that seem to have rounded saddle feathers, and they aren’t that long. But one of those crowed at me awhile back (which I’ve heard is actually not a very reliable indicator – hens can crow too). And like I said, they are all different kinds of chickens. Here are some updated pictures of my teenagers. (Sorry for the quality of some of these).
On another note, we haven’t been getting that many eggs lately – we went from about 6-8 a day to 3-4 a day on most days. I figured it’s been stress from the combining of chicken groups. Last week I found one of my white adult hens was getting broody – every time we go in the coop, she’s laying in the same nest box. At first I thought “oh, cool!” and figured she could raise some chicks if she gets them to hatch. Then I realized that we haven’t had an adult rooster in a few weeks, so those eggs are not fertile. A day or two after I realized that, she got up and I found a few eggs under her, so I took them out, and tossed them since they may have not been very fresh. (When in doubt I toss them rather than risk it).
I hadn’t looked under her all this week, since each time I go to try to move her she pecks at me. I keep forgetting to bring gloves into the coop. I figured she probably had a couple eggs under there, so I would just wait for her to get up and toss them – well, today, I was in there taking pictures for this post and saw that she had gotten up. I went to check the nest box and she had TWELVE eggs under her! That is at least part of the reason we have not been getting so many eggs. She’s been in one of the ladies’ favorite nest boxes, so I bet that when she gets up to eat, they go in and lay an egg, and then she sits on them. I’m going to toss a pair of gloves into the coop, in my supply bin that the chickens can’t get into, and then I can check daily for eggs if she stays broody.
I planted my new garden yesterday. Most of the plants are looking a little sad today, since we got rain last night. I think they’re fine and will perk up once we get some more sun. I’ve got lots of vegetables, with some flowers interspersed along the middle pathway. I ran out of room for my herbs because I wanted to grow various kinds of squash – zucchini, yellow squash, acorn, and butternut. I ended up with two small rows of mixed herbs – basil, rosemary, cayenne, lemon balm. (I meant to make a separate herb bed, but this new garden took up most of my energy this year).
Instead of tomato cages I decided to use some leftover fencing attached to poles, and will attach the tomato plants to them as they grow. I made some supports for my beans and peas using saplings and string. I pounded the saplings in like fence posts, and then wire was used to hold the saplings together and to attach them to the fence.
The top poles are from the top of the saplings, and attached to the poles with wire. I then tied string and attached it to sticks at the bottom where the peas and beans are planted.
I realized I had started way too many plants. I had overestimated the amount of space I had. I also didn’t figure I’d get as good of a germ-rate as I did for some things. Next year I won’t start as many plants, and I won’t start them so early. The April-started plants were ok, but I think it would have been better to start them in May. My tomatoes were no longer happy in the pots they were in – hopefully they will be happier now that they are in the garden.
The garden looks pretty sparse now, but as things grow and fill in, it should look really nice.
I also planted some spinach and chard, and kale in my older garden bed behind the house. I had started carrots, beets, onions, and turnips a couple weeks ago, and some are starting to show up through the soil now.
I put some of my chickens to work today. My garden is just sitting, waiting for me to start planting this coming weekend when I have time. I want to get all the plants in at once. I decided to put a few chickens in there today, to scratch around and get any bugs out, and also to eat some of the grass that is at the fence line.
I chose to use some of my adult hens because I figured they may be more efficient, and also I didn’t want to cause any kind of anxiety issues with the teenager chickens. I thought that taking them out and then putting them back in the coop later may cause them unneeded anxiety, but that my adults would be able to handle it since they’re top of the pecking order. We put four hens in the garden in the morning before I left for work, with a little shelter made out of large flower pots and a piece of wood, in case they needed to get out of the sun.
My ladies did a good job – my garden seemed quite picked over; I could tell that they had scratched most of it up. I had made a pushed-down “trail” going through the middle, which will be my pathway, and that was completely gone by the time I got home. I could tell the grass at the fence line was a lot smaller as well.
The garden space is right next to our dog run. At first the hens were very scared when Atat ran out to see what they were doing. Downey was interested but not as playful as Atat. Atat ran up and started running up and down the fence line, and the chickens ran away back and forth from him, and then finally bundled up in the corner for awhile, till he went back inside.
My husband said it got better later during the day – when the dogs would come out they would just quietly watch the chickens pecking around in the dirt. The chickens relaxed a little when they figured out the dogs couldn’t get to them.
When I got home from work I put the ladies back in their own coop/run. I noticed that the pecking order in the coop was a little different before the hens were put back. Moving four hens to the garden gave the teenagers an advantage against the hens. Six teens to five hens – my teenagers seem a little more aggressive, which I take as a positive sign; they’ve been so scared of the hens until now – I saw one of my teens run up and peck a hen, instead of cowering when she walked by, which is what they usually do. The pecking order will shift a bit for awhile I bet, until they all get used to each other and figure out their places. That will probably be just in time for me to introduce the babies into the flock.
I meant to do an update on my smallest batch of chicks, showing how each one changed from one week to now; but I moved them outside before I could do that update. I don’t want to traumatize them by catching them all – it’s harder to do once they are out in the coop. I went to their coop with my camera and they were very curious; I think they were hopeful that I had some treats for them. Here are some cool pictures of the babies – they are now 6 weeks old.
They are getting big. I’m a little more able to tell what kind they are. A few of them I’m still not so sure (even with the “teenager” chicks I still have no idea, and they are pretty much adults).
As you can see in some of the pictures above, my adult ladies were watching the photo shoot, wondering if I had any treats for them as well. Here they are:
My “teen” chicks were inside the coop eating instead of watching the photo shoot, so I didn’t get pictures of them today. They have been getting along better with the adults, but they still keep to themselves as a group instead of mingling with the adult hens.