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.
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.
I’m glad the days are getting longer. I can’t wait for spring.
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.
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.
I’ve never seen a nest hanging like this. I’m excited to see if anyone claims it in the spring.
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.
We had a couple inches of snow from last week, and then yesterday we got about 6-8 inches. The dogs had a lot of fun playing in it – Even Downey – he hates water and being wet, and won’t go out in the rain. But he loves snow.
We had an escapee today. Yesterday I moved the babies into their new home, which is on one side of the extra hutch. This morning I was heading out to feed the rabbits and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little fuzzy blur running away. There was a loose spot where the door meets the floor of their cage, and I think he squeezed through there. We spent most of the day trying to catch him. We set up a cage on the ground with a water bottle and food, hoping he’d go in on his own when he got thirsty.
We don’t have any snow right now, so he was happy munching on grass. The food in the cage was not as enticing as the grass.
Our cat Wizard snuck out this morning and seemed like he was attempting to help me catch the bunny. But he’d get up to the bunny and swat at it, so I think he just wanted to play with it. Luckily he didn’t seem too intent on attacking it, which was what I thought he’d do. He wasn’t very helpful though, so we made him go back inside, and were hoping the rabbit would go into the cage if the cat wasn’t there. That didn’t work very well though. In the end we had to chase him into the cage. He did not want to be caught, but we got him. He’s now back with his brothers and sisters.
I’ve fixed the loose spot in the hutch, so hopefully we won’t have a repeat of today. Oh, and I found out when moving them that we have 7 babies.
We’ve been very busy this month. In my last post, I said I would get some pictures of snow… well, then it melted. But on Thanksgiving, which was a couple days ago, we got about 4-5 inches. So we have snow again.
Here is Nova. We got her about a month ago, from our coworker. Nova was her son’s dog, when he was in the Air force in Georgia. Now he moved back to town and is going to college, and couldn’t keep her, and my coworker felt bad that Nova was home alone during the day. So we took her in. She gets along great with our other dogs and she is a sweetheart.
The chickens aren’t minding the snow so much. I have heat lamps in the two rooms of their coop, so they can go in and warm up their feet if they get cold. Our batch last year (which we still have the hens from) didn’t like to go out in the snow. I’m not sure why they don’t mind this year, but they don’t.
Last weekend we went up to my cousin’s to get the original hutch that I got with the rabbits. We have set it up near our other rabbit hutch, so it’s now Rabbit Row:
And here are the little baby bunnies:
The rabbits have been doing ok with the cold so far. We’re going to add a tarp to the front of the hutches to block wind from the inside. That’s one reason I positioned the hutches into “Rabbit Row.” – I figure it will help block wind somewhat. I’m already planning on a new setup once spring comes – more of a rabbit shed, I think. I’d like to add a run of some sort so they can hang out in the grass also.
We’ve also decided on names for the adults. They are Earth, Wind, and Fire. (my husband came up with it) – The gray buck is Earth (since he’s on the left), the white doe is Wind, and the black doe is Fire.
The farm is pretty much ready for winter. It’s a nice time to just cozy up inside – we don’t have a lot of projects we can do outside in winter, except reinforcing animal housing and doing normal feeding chores each morning and night. I like that it’s kind of a relaxation time. Of course I’m already planning in my head what we’ll do when spring comes.