Oodles and oodles of eggs

We are now getting tons of eggs.  With winter we are somewhat over-run. We are currently getting at least 15-20 chicken eggs a day from our 35 hens. That doesn’t count the 5-6 duck eggs per day we get from the 6 ducks. In the fall we started selling the eggs at the local farmers’ market, but that only runs June-October.  So for now, I sell what I can but we still have a LOT. So we eat a lot of eggs.  The chickens are possibly laying less because it’s wintertime – in the spring their production may even go up.  But the eggs are very pretty – we get all sorts of shades of browns, some almost pinks, some white eggs, and varying shades of greens.  Here are some cool pictures of the eggs:

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A ring of eggs.
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The various shades of brown, from dark to white.
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Here are the green eggs – they come in khaki, and light green, and someone even lays khaki with dark spots.
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Various shades all together.
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Wintertime in the snow

We’ve been really busy this winter with the holidays and other stuff, so I haven’t had a chance to post anything in a while.  We’re in the middle of a typical U.P. Snowy winter.  We get a lot of lake effect snow from Lake Superior.  Here are some pictures of the past several weeks.

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The view from our front porch during a blizzard a few weeks ago.
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Here are our cars during that same blizzard.
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My husband took this picture of a finch, hanging onto a old evening primrose stalk.
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We have a metal roof. When we have warm-ups, we get curtains like this hanging down. We were wondering how long these would get – they didn’t get much longer than this before breaking.
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Our bird feeder next to a snow-curtain. This did not deter the birds from coming to eat.
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Here are our apple trees covered in snow.

Duck Updates

Our ducks are getting huge.  We’ve had them for three weeks already.  I swear they have quadrupled in size. We have gone through I think 5 brooder boxes.  The ducks ruin the boxes after awhile, so they have had to have replacements. Here is the last box we made for them:

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A large duck box

Here is my son posing in a weird pose, and Downey checking out the box, so you can get a sense of scale:

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The duck box with my son, Daniel, and Downey

We had the ducks in a spare bedroom, and then that got too much. They are slobs, as I’ve said before. We want to get them outside, but the weather is not cooperating yet. Here is what our yard looks like today:

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blegh. That is all I can say here.

So the ducks are in our shed, which has a cement floor and is on the way outside, anyway. Instead of making them another box, my husband created a duck corral of sorts:

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The duck corral.  The baby gate is to keep Atat from putting his face in the duck corral.
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The ducks enjoying all the room they now have to move around.

The ducks get really messy – they play with their water and then they stay wet and then they poop, and they stink. So we like to give them a bath (plus they LOVE the bath).  We started in this little tub (which is actually a cat litter pan):

duck bath

We had a leak in our bathtub so we had to use the pan the first time. We now use our actual bathtub – they all fit in at once, and we have been making the water a little deeper. They will dive under and swim around and splash – they love it.  The last time, instead of trying to dry them just with a towel, I put them on a pile of towels after the bath and then ran a hair dryer over them. They loved that.  I was dealing with a pile of ducks upstairs without a  camera, so unfortunately I don’t have pictures of that.

Today I gave them some pine shavings – we’ve been just using paper towels over the cardboard floor of their corral, and we are changing it every 2 hours or so, it seems.  I thought at the very least, the pine shavings will keep the smell down a little.

ducks with pine
You can see the pine shavings on the right in the corral here. On the left, the brown floor is their paper towel bedding after about 20 minutes.  A bunch of slobs.

We are supposed to have warmer weather this next week – they are calling for temps in the 60s next weekend.  So we will be able to get them outside then. We have an old dog shed, that was actually being converted to a clubhouse for my son.  Our plan is to use that for temporary duck housing until we can get them something built of their own.   We have a heat lamp we can set up if needed for if we get colder temps. The ducks are getting white feathers growing in under their yellow fuzz, so they should be ready to go out soon.  That is the plan as of now – we will have to see what happens on the weekend. Our weather has been so schizophrenic this spring that you never know…

Oh, and we have chicks due to hatch on Tuesday!  So bird-in-the-house season is in full swing.

St. Patty’s Day Pummelling

All of our snow was gone… I knew that we could still get snow, since it’s only March.  We got pummeled with snow last night.  This morning we woke up to a huge mess.  The weather people said that we were expecting 8-10 inches.  Today when I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens (who are NOT happy about this turn of events), the snow came over my boots. So I took a stick and measured it. At 8 am we had received 13.5 inches of snow.  And it was still coming down.  Luckily I don’t think we got much more.

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This is what we woke up to.

In the night we knew we were getting some snow – we have a metal roof, and while we were in bed we kept waking up to strange noises. We realized that it was snow falling off the roof – snow that had piled up on the roof was falling off of the roof in little avalanches, since it wasn’t very cold outside.  We didn’t realize just how much snow we had gotten till we got up this morning.

Because there was so much snow, the trees were weighed down – which means that we lost power for most of today.  It’s back on now (which is why I can finally post this).  We dug the cars out and parked them across the street so my husband could plow the driveway. The problem is that under this snow, we had mud since it had been so warm. Our truck is currently stuck in the mud at the back of the driveway. So that’s another thing we have to do in the next few days – get someone to come pull the truck out of the mud. Here are some photos of our big St. Patty’s day snow.

buried cars
Here you can see our cars buried.  Yes, there are cars under that.
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Here is our street view this morning.
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A view of our driveway from the front porch. The red bit is my car buried by snow.
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Our backyard dog run. It looks like the snow we got on Christmas, but I don’t think we got this much then.
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Our driveway (and the rabbit hutches/wood shed) after our plowing attempt.
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Snow in the dog run. This comes up to my largest dog, Atat’s, belly. So the other dogs are buried when they go out in this.
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Our garage and our spruce trees. You can see how the snow is weighing everything down. The rose bush in the middle is very saggy.
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Our back yard/woods – covered in snow.

I hope it goes away soon. I was so excited by the spring weather we had.

 

  • Update – we got our truck unstuck. We just had to wait for the mud to freeze, and it was easy to get out.

Indoor Winter Gardening

In winter I would go bananas if I didn’t have green things growing, so I have a lot of houseplants.  I have a few sunny windows in my house, most get partial sun. I have two windows in my bedroom that are south facing. Unfortunately, my cat Wizard likes to lay in one. He would eat any plants I have there, so I only get to use the other window, near my dresser, for plants. But when I start garden seeds inside in spring, he gets temporarily banished from his window.  Here are some pictures of my indoor garden:

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Here is a pot of green onions. I grew them from old green onions that I had bought at the store. I just left the roots on the bottom base, popped them in some dirt, and they are growing well.
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Here’s my other pot of green onions. It’s overshadowed by my Christmas Cactus which is now blooming.
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Here is my fully opened Christmas Cactus flower.  I had one years ago that had red flowers. I got this one from my boss a month or so ago, and it’s now blooming. I didn’t know they could get this pale of flowers. They are very pretty.
sink plants
Here is my kitchen sink garden, which includes the onions and the cactus above. It’s a west facing window, so it gets sun in the later part of the day. I need to get some hanging baskets for the spider plants in this picture.
art room garden
Here is my art room garden. The window is a north facing window, but the sun does seem to come in in the early and later part of the day. There is also an east facing window off to the right, not pictured, so they get some light from that side as well.  These plants have seemed to do well in here.
dresser garden
Here is my dresser garden, in the south facing window. I usually keep this dresser full so the cat doesn’t jump up and eat the plants.  The spider plant on the right had a long offshoot for awhile, it was hanging almost to the floor. The cat thought it was a toy and wrecked the baby on the end. So now I make sure the offshoots aren’t hanging off the dresser.
tall plants
This super tall plant is a Mother of Thousands.  It was not nearly this tall when I got it, about a year ago. It has grown quite tall. It will need a new pot soon, and maybe a way to put it lower so it isn’t touching the ceiling.
mother of thousands
Here is the top of the Mother of Thousands. It is touching the ceiling of my bedroom.
tomatos
These are some House Tomato seedlings – they are supposed to do well and actually set fruit in the house, in a pot in a sunny window. They are about ready to go into their gallon pots.

 

Snowy Farm in February

Today it’s cold – about 4 degrees F.  It is supposed to get up into the 20s though today.  I thought it was a nice sunny day for some pictures of our snow.  It looks pretty but I can’t wait for it to melt away.  Our side door is under a spot where our metal roof drops snow.  From plowing that and the rest of the snow away from the door, our driveway is packed down enough where we have to go down to the door. If you’re standing in the driveway you are a few inches above where you would be if you were inside the house, if that makes sense.  I hope you enjoy my photo tour.

snowy side yard
Our snowbanks in the back as you’re heading to the chicken coop.
snowy coop
The snowbank in front of the chicken coop. We have a trail to the actual door so we can get in.  Our chicken yard gate is not closing very well right now, but the chickens don’t really come out – they don’t seem to want to walk in the snow. The building through the woods is our neighbor’s house.
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The woods, beyond the snow bank
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Our rabbit hutch in the woodshed. We have a blanket that usually covers the rabbits when it’s very cold, but there was no wind today so I let them have some fresh air. They should get some sunshine too once the sun rises more.
snowbanks
Our snowbank on the side of the house near the woods.
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Squirrel tracks! They come to eat the seeds the birds knock out of our bird feeder.
snowy street
A view of the road. The old building in this picture is our old hall, across the street.
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The side of our house. The snow gets really deep around the house because of our metal roof – the snow drops off in little avalanches when the temps warm up. Sometimes there are chunks of ice in it – you don’t want to be standing there when it falls.
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Our front porch full of snow.
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A view of our yard under the cedar tree. You can see a couple of birds on the ground. They are waiting for me to move so they can come back to the feeder.
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Our side yard, under a foot or so of snow. In the distance under our apple trees you can see deer tracks – the disturbed snow – they come to try to find apples under the snow. We’ve had them try to shake the trees before also. There are still some apples up at the top.

Mid winter chickens

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The chickens venturing outside, waiting for me to come in and feed them.

We’ve had a couple of decently warm days.  Yesterday they were calling for a high of 37 degrees Fahrenheit, but we got to 48.  Today we were at least in the high 30s most of the day.  The days have been getting longer, and my chickens have been laying more eggs.  Their production had dropped way down in December, but it’s gone up now.  We were getting 3-5 eggs daily earlier this month, it’s now up to about 7-9 a day.

The chickens decided to venture out today a little. We also cleaned out the coop – it was easier with the warm temperatures. I had tried a couple weeks ago with highs in the 20s and their poop was frozen to the floor, so I just had to add bedding. Today I was able to actually scrape everything out before adding new bedding.  Getting the old stuff over to the compost bin wasn’t happening though; we have a huge snowbank in the way, from plowing our driveway. I have the old coop mess over to the side in a bin, and will move it once I can get over there.

I wash eggs on Sundays -we collect through the week and put them in the fridge until we can wash them up all at once.  I have noticed my “Escape Artist” chicken is laying again, we’ve had quite a few white eggs this past week. She’s the only white-egg layer.

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The week’s eggs.

I’m glad the days are getting longer.  I can’t wait for spring.

Thoughts on Rabbit Harvesting

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Our rabbit kits

We raise our rabbits for meat.  We have three adults, and I got them this past fall so that we can have meat for our family.  One small step towards our greater goal of being food independent.  Although I would have preferred to wait until spring to breed our rabbits, one of the does was pregnant when I got them in late October.  That left us with 7 kits ready for harvest at the beginning of January.

The second week of January, I harvested four of the kits. They were 9 weeks old at that point.  I had been looking into what the most humane way of killing them would be – my parents raised rabbits when I was a kid, and my mom told me that they had always used a .22 pistol – it’s fast, easy on the rabbit since they feel nothing – it’s over in an instant.  That’s what we ended up doing.  A shot in the back of the head, and it’s over.  It was a lot easier than I thought.  It’s never easy to take an animal’s life, but I feel we did it in the most humane way.  I also thanked them each for their sacrifice to us before taking them.

The first four took me a couple of hours from start to finish – from culling to having meat ready.  I’m not going to go into detail here, but they are pretty easy to process – especially compared to chickens.  It is still quite a bit of work, and it was cold out that day, so I decided to wait to take the other three at a later date.  For the first four, we got about 6.5 lbs of meat – I weighed one beforehand, and it was about 4 lbs live weight.  I got 1.5 to 1.75 lbs of meat from each kit.

A couple weeks later I culled the other three.  I again got about 6 lbs of meat – they had grown a little more – one produced about 2 lbs of meat and the other two were just shy of 2 lbs each.  I’d heard that you want to harvest them from 8-10 weeks old, because beyond that you are losing out on efficiency in terms of a meat harvested to food spent ratio.  Also older rabbits tend to have a tougher meat texture.  The first four we did at 9 weeks, the other three were 11 weeks.

One thing that made this whole thing easier was that we had not handled the babies a lot – they weren’t very friendly. They saw us as food and water providers.  We try to pet the adults, our breeding stock, when we go out to feed them.  But our plans are not to cull them – someday when they aren’t good breeding stock we may have to rethink that.  I think in the summer the babies would get more handling, since it will be nice out and I’m sure my son will want to play with some.  It may get a little harder then.  But it’s kind of the same with our chickens. I’ve culled roosters that I really liked – I had reasons that they needed to be culled though – some were aggressive, or aggressive to hens.  It’s all part of farming, and processing your own food.  My son was interested in watching the harvest a bit, but did not participate at all. I always try to impart this lesson to him – “This is where our food comes from.  If you buy a chicken or other meat at the store, it had a life once, and someone else killed it.  At least we know our animals had the best life we could give them when they were alive.”

We are going to wait to breed the adults again until spring.  We aren’t planning on having any rabbit kits during the winter anymore.  Winter makes it harder to take care of everyone – water freezing, and me being worried they are cold – I don’t feel it’s fair to the does to make them have litters in the winter.  I’ve planned out a breeding schedule for summer, so we should be able to get about 3 litters from each of the two does throughout the warmer months.  I have an uncle that keeps saying we should get more.  I think that the adults we have are plenty for now.

 

A tiny nest

My husband was out feeding the rabbits and saw this tiny nest up in a tree.  I got some pictures of it. We’re not sure what kind of nest it is.  It’s empty at the moment, of course.  I said we should see if anyone comes to re-use it this year.

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It’s kind of hard to see here – the nest is about 12 feet up into the tree, maybe about 3 inches wide, and it seems to be tied on to the branch by a few strings/bits of grass.

 

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Here’s a closer view, this seems to be the back.  When I went to the other side, it looks like there’s a tiny hole at the top 1/4 of the nest for the birds to get in and out.

I’ve never seen a nest hanging like this. I’m excited to see if anyone claims it in the spring.

Feathered Freeloaders

My hens have not been producing much lately.  Egg production can go down in winter, and I think that may be what is going on, but it’s really down.  I’ve kept track of the eggs we receive from them since we first started getting eggs.  Last December (2014) we got 195 eggs, this December we got 170.  We have more hens this year than last year – last year we had 9 at this time, and right now we have 15.  I know one hen for sure isn’t laying, our “escape artist” hen – she lays white eggs, and is the only one that does.  She’s one of our newer hens from this year. We have not gotten a white egg in at least 3 weeks.  The chickens all seem healthy, and I have a heat lamp on them, but maybe the heat lamp isn’t enough to keep them producing with the cold.  We’re down by 70 eggs from November  – In November we got 239.   Our temperatures are down from November, but not as cold as last winter, luckily.  We’ve only gotten down into the teens at the coldest, maybe 17 degrees Fahrenheit.  I think last year I may have had a white heat lamp in the coop, this year it’s red.  Either way, it’s kind of depressing.  I’ll just keep an eye on them, I guess, and hope for spring.

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Some of the freeloaders. They don’t come out into the snow much. We open the coop door for them in the daytime.