Poultry in Summertime

Our chickens and ducks have been enjoying this summer. We let them free range when we are home, and they love to wander around our yard, looking for yummy things to eat. We currently have 4 ducks and 29 chickens (14 adults, 15 chicks/almost adults). Here are some updated pictures of the flock:

older ducks
Here are our older lady ducks. These two and the new ducks still hang out in two pairs, mostly. We can tell them apart because these ladies have dark-stained bills, the newbies have orange bills.
newbie ducks
Here are the new ducks, they were running away when I tried to take their picture. Another way to tell the pairs apart is that the male (in back, here) quacks softly, all the time. So you always know where he is in the yard.
Esky
Here is Esky (short for Escape Artist). She is one of our oldest hens, and the only one who lays white eggs.
esky daughter
Here is Esky’s daughter – she has the same comb as her mom, and was born the next year (so is about 3 years old)
brahmas
Here are our two Buff Brahmas, they were enjoying a dust bath. They along with Esky make up our 4 year old hens.
bertram
Here is our older (2 years old?) rooster Bertram, patrolling the yard.
food
Here are a bunch of chickens coming for treats. The black hen at the front is an older lady, and most of the rest are chicks from this year. You can see some of the coloring now – some of the chicks have really amazing feather patterns.
orloff son
I believe this is a young rooster, and he looks like a young Bertram.
chicks
Here are more chicks – they are all different – some light, some bright orange, some black and gray. We have a lot of muff-necked chickens now.
red and brown
Here is one of the really cool looking ones – orange and black with a muff neck.
white roo
Here is one of our young roosters. If you look back at our chick pics, this one was the one with little cat-eye eyeliner. He likes to come out of the coop each morning and crow before Bertram does. Bertram doesn’t seem to mind just yet.
buff hen
Here is a Buff-Orpington looking hen (she seems docile like a hen, anyway) as well as the back of our older Brahma’s head.

 

The Garden is Growing!

We started off this summer a little dry, but we’ve been getting more rain now, along with hot, humid weather. The garden is very happy about this – my plants are growing like crazy. Here are some photos of the garden from this weekend:

yellow sky
The sunset from a couple of nights ago. We looked out and the sky was yellow, so we had to take pictures.
garden 1
Here is the left side of the main garden. (Taken from my porch, where I usually look out at the garden).
garden 2
Here is the right side of the main garden.
ground cherry
I’m growing ground cherries this year for the first time. The plants are doing well, so I’m hoping they will fruit for me. I have never tasted them, but I’ve heard they are good.
peanuts
Here are my peanut plants. They are now getting flowers. At some point they are supposed to get a stem of some kind that pokes into the ground and that is where the peanuts grow. These seem to be growing well so far.
first fruit
My first tomato! This is one of my larger types, so this is not ready to ripen yet, but hopefully I’ll will see a few ripe ones before September. I usually have to pick them to ripen in the house.
english cucumber
Our first English Cucumber. I am growing these and an Iznik variety. I grew Iznik last year, they were good but not very prolific. I haven’t grown English cucumbers before.
squash
Here you can see my jungle of summer squash plants. I planted the rest of my variety seed packet from last year, so the types I get would be a surprise.
patty pan
They are all fruiting now, so I know I have a couple of Patty Pan squashes like this one here, a few yellow squash plants, a light green zucchini and a dark green zucchini. I put in 9 plants but I think only 7 survived. They are blending together now so it’s hard to tell.
watermelon
Here are my watermelons. I put these and the cantaloupes in a really sunny, sandy-soiled spot. They do seem to be growing really well. I read that they prefer sandy soil so I’m trying that this year. (My foot for scale) I have two plants here and am trying to train them to grow away from each other.
ginger2
Here is one of my ginger plants. They are growing in bags in the garden and are doing pretty good so far, especially now that it’s hot.
ginger1
My other ginger. I started with 4 rhizomes but two died when I was trying to sprout them.
cantaloupe
My cantaloupe plants. These seem to be happy as well. I have three plants here.
chickpeas and rogues
My chickpeas seem to be growing well. I have rogue tomatoes growing among them – I may leave them since the rogues are these really good cherry tomatoes that keep coming back each year.
cabbages
My cabbages. They have gotten a little cabbage-worm damage but I made an insecticidal soap/garlic oil/citrus concoction, and I’ve been spraying all my brassicas with that. So far it seems to be working, but I have to respray each time it rains. There is damage but they are not destroying the plants. I consider that a win.
atat and hubbard squash
Here is my Atat, outside of my garden fence. To the right you can see my Hubbard squash / heirloom pumpkin now growing outside of the fence. (I’m not sure exactly what it is, it was an Heirloom pumpkin from the grocery store).
sunflower prebloom
My first sunflower bloom – this is the flower I posted the pic of last week. It has grown so the flower is almost eye level with me (I’m 5’6″). And it’s about to open.

The Farm in early July

This summer’s garden is going well.  We have had a weirdly dry year, compared to the last few. I have had to water things to make sure my seeds sprout. (I’ve had seeds drown and wash away in previous years). Everything seems to be growing pretty well though.  The chickens and ducks are doing well too, and seem to be happy with the summer weather. Here is a photo tour of our little farm:

roses
The roses are blooming. My parents planted these many years ago.
roses 2
Here is a better view of the roses.
peonies
Peonies. These smell really nice.
columbine
Here is the columbine I found in the roadside ditch last year and transplanted to my front flower bed. It grew back this summer and bloomed, so it must like its new spot.
bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts (this photo is catching the end of the bloom for this year).
hens
Some of my older hens hanging out near the shady side of the house.
chicks
Here are the chicks – they are doing well although we lost another one about a week after my last post. (I was on vacation, my husband said that he counted at night and one was missing, with no trace). We have luckily not lost any more since then. So we now have 15 chicks (29 total chickens). They are almost full sized so hopefully that will deter whatever took the two we lost. They free range in our yard, so they were behind the chicken coop here.
bright chick
This is one of the chicks. Possibly a hen, we are just starting to figure out who is what. We have at least three young roosters, based on them crowing. We’ll have to decide what to do with them later this year.
comfrey
My Comfrey is doing well. I put in 3 plants a few years ago and they keep coming back and spreading a bit. They are pretty and the bees like them.
strawberries
Some of our strawberry harvest! My patch did really well this year, I got at least 6 cups of strawberries.
potatoes and squash
Here is a side view of my back garden – the potatoes are on the left, summer squash on the right in the middle of this picture. Strawberry patch is behind the summer squash.
cauliflower and brussels
My cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and lettuce on the right.
butternut
Butternut squash plants. I put in a fence trellis for them to climb – the trellis is resting on the main outside fence of the garden, with enough room for us to go in and grab fruit if it ends up hanging under the trellis.
garlic
The garlic are doing really well. I harvested some scapes the other day.
corn
Here are some of our corn. I have two patches, two different kinds – these are a Golden Bantam variety.
peanuts
Peanuts! These are growing well, as far as I can see. Our summer has become hot and humid lately, and they seem to like that.
onions
My onions. These are doing nice.
main garden
Here is a picture of the right side of the main garden – the other corn patch is in the background. Then coming forward there are peanuts, peppers/green onions, and cucumbers/shallots.
tomato fencing
Here you can see my tomato trellises. I set it up right this year (instead of using sticks like last year). I just used welded wire fence sections, and pounded some stakes in and attached the fence with wire. I tied the tomatoes up after I took this pic – most of my tomatoes are determinate varieties but they still get pretty big, and droopy when the fruit comes in. Some are indeterminate though. They are starting to get flowers now. I can’t wait for tomatoes!
grape vine
A grape vine my uncle gave me last year. I had it in a pot until late fall and I realized “oh, I’d better get that in the ground before it snows.” – I put it in not knowing if it would come back, but it did. It’s in a good spot too, right at the fence at the northern side of the main garden, so it can grow there and not be in the way.
sunflower
Here is my tallest sunflower so far – it’s about 3.5 feet tall currently. I have 14 or 15 sunflowers coming up that I’ve found so far.  I planted several seeds, but I have some rogues coming up as well.

More Ducks!

My ducks have been seeming to want male attention. They keep bugging my rooster; they will bob their heads and quack while surrounding him. He has not seemed interested at all, so I figured I should try to find an adult male duck to add to the flock. I put an ad out on Craigslist, and was contacted by someone who needed a home for his pair of Pekins – a male and a female. So we now have two more ducks. Pictures are below of the ducks together, and some updated chick pics:

004
Here are all four together.
012
The orange-billed ducks in the middle here are the newbies, they are about a year old.
006
My older girls have the darker bills – they are about 3.
007
Everyone has been getting along well. Yesterday they went in their pool, taking turns – the new ducks went in first, swam a bit, and then the older ladies went and took their turn – the pool only fits two of them at a time. But I thought it was cute that they are taking turns.
017
Here they were hanging out their first full day here. We got them over the weekend.
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The chickens were hanging around them as well.
018
Here are the chicks – they are getting very big. They are about half the size of the adults now.
021
You can see Atat in the background – the chicks were investigating him a little. (The dogs are separated from the chickens by a fence).
008
Here is one of the chicks.
008
Here they are hanging out on some boards at the edge of the woods.
010
Another picture of them in the woods.
009
This orange one (I believe a Buff Orpington, but they are all mixes of breeds). 

Everyone is doing well.  We did have an unfortunate event happen with the chicks.  I typically count everyone when I put them to bed.  We put everyone away on Friday night and found that one chick was missing. We counted and re-counted several times, and looked all over. They usually hang out together.  I figured if someone was stuck somewhere they would have been chirping – they are not quiet at all when they are unhappy. We think something, possibly a hawk, came in and got one.  There is no sign of that chick.  So now we have 16 chicks. In my 5 years of owning chickens, this is the first time that I’ve lost any to a predator,  so we’ve been pretty lucky.

Early June 2019

We’ve been really busy here lately. It has been mostly a colder spring with night temps in the 40s- we had our heat still going at times until last week, and we even had a frost advisory for June 1st;  but then this weekend we got a warmup – we were at 90 degrees yesterday!

The garden is mostly planted; I have a few things that are waiting to go in, but I am mostly just working on maintenance and weeding now. Seeds have been slow to start because we are really dry this year as well.  That is somewhat of a nice change over the last few years but I have to make sure to water everything often, and I have seeds that I haven’t seen sprout yet, like my broccoli and some of my beans (I’m growing 6 kinds of beans this year – some are up but some have not sprouted, and some have not been planted yet).

Here are some pictures of the goings-on at our tiny farm:

apple blossoms
Our apple trees are in blossom.
bumble bee
Here is a big bee visiting the apple blossoms.
tulip
A lone tulip. This came up randomly in the middle of our yard. I haven’t seen any tulips here in years, although my mom used to have a lot of them. I replanted it in a safer spot.
main garden
Here is the main garden. It is mostly in – I’m waiting for the corn to emerge and then I’ll put some more beans in to grow up the corn.
tomatos
Here are the two tomato beds, with some marigolds planted among them. I have 18 tomato plants this year, 7 different kinds.
crosnes
Here you can see my Crosnes are coming up – they look a bit like mint; I had to look them up online to verify what the plants look like, but there are 5 or 6 of them that have emerged.
sunchokes
Here are some sunchokes coming up as well.
shade garden
Here is the back / chicken garden (I stole it from the chickens last year). It gets less sun so I planted things that can take a lot of shade toward the back, like lettuce and herbs.
back garden
Here is my back of the house garden. I put some watermelon, cantaloupe, and summer squash in here. This bed gets a lot of sun, and is sandier soil – supposed to be really good for melons, so I figured I would try them here this year. The bags have potatoes. At the far end of the garden is my strawberry/mint patch.
strawberries
Here is a close up of the strawberry patch. You can see the mint intermixed. I use mint a lot, and the strawberries are getting lots of flowers. Hopefully I’ll get a lot of berries this year.
chicks
The chicks are growing up! I put them in with the adults a couple weeks ago, so they could see each other but were separated; they are now mixed with the adults and everyone seems to be getting along well.
Nova
Here is Nova enjoying the sunshine and some petting.
atat
Here is Atat out in the sunshine. I’m not sure where Downey (our other dog) was when we were taking pictures, but he has been enjoying the sunshine too.

This summer is shaping up to be a nice one so far.

Chick and Garden Updates, mid May 2019

Our spring finally seems to be in full swing – we kept getting unseasonably cold weather for a bit – they were calling for 6 inches of snow last week but we didn’t get any, luckily. The temperatures are starting to warm enough that I put in a bunch of the garden this past weekend (the stuff that can tolerate frost, anyway).  I heard the frogs chirping the last few evenings –  it’s finally been warm enough for them.

The chicks are growing up really fast. I gave them a larger box from their original brooder box. I think I have mostly females but there are at least a couple of roosters in there – someone has been attempting to crow, but it’s not very developed yet. Below are some new pictures of the chicks and the rest of the farm:

two weeks old
Here are the chicks today – they are just over 2 weeks old now.
penguin
Here is one of the penguin-looking chicks. I’m hoping it’s a girl but with that comb it doesn’t look promising. I do have some adult hens with large combs, so we’ll have to wait to find out.
gray
Here is one of the gray chicks.
brown
A couple of brown/red chicks. They were not happy that I had moved them, they were ducking down a little scared.
yellow
Here is one of the blonde chicks.
yellow two
Here are two of our blonde chicks – the one with the orange head is on the left, the one with the cat-eye-eyeliner is on the right. (From individual pics in the last post)
yellow 3
Here is another pic – you can see the wing feather coloration change on the right. It’s cool when their feathers come in – chicks’ coloring can completely change as they grow.
potato bags
We are growing potatoes in feed bags again this year – we have 20 bags planted – I put in about 11.5 pounds of potatoes, three different types. We had really good luck last year growing them in bags. They are in the garden fence to keep them from the chickens.
strawberries
Here is our Strawberry patch. It is also a mint patch (they are both taking over this area). Hopefully they can grow together and keep the other weeds out but let each other grow. There may be a fight. Even though I love mint, I would still let the strawberries win.
back garden
Here is my back garden that I took from the chicken coop – last year we grew squash and tomatoes here but it doesn’t get enough sun later in the season. I am putting a lot of shade tolerant things in here, lettuce, peas, and other things. I planted everything yesterday that can go in already. Peas, spinach, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, chard, kale, and brocollini. I have some other stuff started inside, and I will direct sow beans in June.
onions
Here are my onions! I have a full bed of yellow and a half bed of red that I planted this past weekend. The red onions will be sharing a bed with radishes for this month and then peanuts in the summer. The radishes should be ready before I put the peanuts in.
garlic
Here you can see the garlic starting to come up through the straw – this was planted in October.
garden preseason
Here is my garden as of today. There are only a couple of beds ready – this is the double-dug French Intensive garden. I have 12 beds in here, but the weeds are trying to take over. Most of this garden will go in next month, so I have some time to get the beds weeded and ready.
daffodils
Our daffodils are finally blooming!
purple
Here are some purple flowers we have growing in our yard. I’m not sure what these are called.

Double the Trouble

We have doubled our flock (plus one) – We already had 16 adults, and we just hatched 18 chicks – we sadly lost one chick today so we are at 17.  We had about a 69% hatch rate (from 26 after candling). All the chicks remaining are healthy and alert, and running around in their box.  Here are some pictures of our new additions:

chicks 2
The chicks in their brooder box.
chicks
More chicks in the brooder – we are using a chick heater platform that I borrowed from a friend, instead of a heat lamp – it works really nicely. I may need to buy one for the future. The chicks huddle underneath and it doesn’t get too hot so it can’t cause a fire.

A few years ago I did individual chick pictures – at a day or two, then progression pics as they aged. I was thinking I would do that this time, but then I went to do photos and realized that may be too difficult – it’s hard to tell everyone apart and there are just too many.  I decided to do groups of colors instead, with a few individual pics of chicks with distinctive markings.  See below:

blondes
Here are the blondes and strawberry blondes. I think some chicks may have some buff Orpington in them – otherwise no idea.
tiny penguins
Here are the penguins: The black / gray / really dark brown chicks. Most of these are black with white (hence penguins) but there is one that is a light blondie-gray – maybe they’ll have some kind of splash / blue coloring when they mature – we’ll have to wait and find out.
brunettes
Here are the reds and browns. There are some partridge Chanteclers and possibly Russian Orloff mixed ones.
eyeliner
This little chick has a brown mark on her head and a bit of cat-eye eyeliner. And 5 toes.
orange head
This blondie has orange on her head.
new hairy
Here is one of the gray ones – this is the only feathered leg chick we have.
grey
Here is the blue / splash colored chick – I had a splash once that was yellow with dingy gray – this is gray with dingy yellow – so we’ll see how this one turns out.

It’s very exciting. I hope they are mostly girls, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

Early Arrivals

I have eggs in the incubator, due to hatch this Saturday. I started with 32 eggs; when I candled at 10 days I took six eggs out, leaving 26 in the incubator.  Last night I went to take them out of the automatic egg turner, because you are supposed to remove that about 3 days before hatching, so that the chicks can orient themselves for hatching, and because the turner could hurt them if they hatched in it.

incubator eggs
Here they are after taking them out of the automatic turner. I tried to put them in groups based on where the eggs came from. They are marked as well so I can keep track of which eggs hatched.

As I was moving the eggs, I heard “Cheep Cheep!” I thought that was a little early, but I was excited to hear that at least someone was on their way.

This morning, I heard a really loud peep from the next room, and went to check. I found a chick had hatched! On day 19! Here is a really bad picture (the flash went off and shined on the top of the incubator):

new hatchee
Here was the chick that I found this morning

I’ve never had chicks hatch early – I’ve only hatched chicks a few times, and it’s been awhile, but I didn’t realize they could come that early.  I came home and found that the one had brought a friend; we now have two chicks. They are both comfortable in the brooder, waiting for more friends to arrive.

penguin
Here is one – a little penguin-looking chick.
redhead
Here is one that is a little red and brown. I believe this is the first one that hatched this morning.

I haven’t heard any other pips yet, but they aren’t actually due for two more days. So we’ll see what happens. I’m glad that two hatched so the chicks aren’t lonely. There are still 24 eggs in the incubator, so we should get some more soon.

A Nice Day in April…

Today was a beautiful day. We had temps in at least the 50s, and it was sunny. The snow is melting, and I planted a new bed full of perennial vegetables. Here are some pictures from this nice spring day:

snow yard 1
Here you can see our yard is on it’s way to being snow-free. It’s taking awhile. This picture is taken from outside of our dog fence, near the garage. On the left you can kind of see my garden, which is still half covered. The garlic bed started to peak out of the snow today, and that was the deepest part of the snow in the actual garden.
snow yard 2
Here is the house with some snow around it – we have a metal roof so the snow falls around the house and those snowbanks always take longer to melt.
chicken path
Here is our chicken-coop path currently. It’s a low, muddy mess. Luckily we have muck boots to wear when we go to the chicken coop. The ducks love this area – they dabble their bills in the puddles when they pass though. (When the snow is all melted and the ground dries out, the “path” actually disappears, but it’s been a pathway for the last several months).
new bed
Here is a new bed I’m creating near the garage for some perennial flowers and vegetables – I originally planned for just sunchokes and crosnes in this area but I think I will put some milkweeds and gogi berries as well since there is enough room. This is a good spot in case the sunchokes go a little invasive, as I’ve heard they can. This area is out of the way, just grassy, and it could use some nice flowers – sunchokes are supposed to have yellow flowers and be nice and tall. I set this up last weekend, and I thought I would have a week or so for the plastic to kill the grass, but I did not; the sunchokes and crosnes arrived sooner than I thought they would.
sunchokes
Here are the sunchokes – they arrived the other day. I got two kinds, a red (on the left) and white fuseau, on the right. I got three tubers of each kind.
crosnes
Here are Crosnes (aka Chinese Artichokes). These are pretty small but they are supposed to be delicious, and a very easy to grow perennial. I read that you should cut the plants before they flower in order to get tubers of decent size though, so I plan on doing that. I ordered 6 tubers – I think I actually received 8 but some were very small.
planted bed
Here is the sunchoke and crosnes portion of the bed planted. I left the rest of the bed with the plastic on it so it can continue to cook in the sun for awhile. I laid fencing over the bed to keep chickens out – it’s very sandy and they would love to make this into a dust bath area. I will fence it soon and then will be able to take this cover off.
moss
I went wandering the woods and yard a bit today – I found some moss that had greened up already – here is a bug’s eye view of the moss.
white crocus
We have crocuses blooming! Here are some white flowers.
crocus
Here are some purple crocus. We have daffodil leaves emerging too.

Maple Syrup, and new friends on the way

We made maple syrup this year.  We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap.  The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again.  Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.

trees tapped
Here are some of the trees tapped this year. We only tapped three right at the edge of the yard, because there was a foot of snow around the trees when we first started. We collected sap for about 2 weeks. This picture was from right at the end of that time.
wizard
Here is our cat Wizard, venturing outside on a nice day last week.

I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain.  I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.

sap on the stove
Sap on the stove.
sap
A close up of the maple sap steam.
syrup
Syrup! We got 6 pint jars.

I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters.  So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6.  I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either.  I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer.   We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky.   I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.

incubator 4.6
Here are the new chicks on the way! We have 32 eggs in here – I expect after candling we’ll have 20-25, maybe. I will candle the eggs this coming week (after 10 days in the incubator). The left 2 columns are Partridge Chanteclers, the middle two columns are mixed eggs from Bertram’s old home, and the 2 right columns are from my hens.

Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:

ducks in a puddle
Our ducks wandered to the puddle at the edge of our property last week – you can kind of see them in the middle of this picture here – (the houses are our neighbors behind us). This area is low and it tends to fill up in spring. The ducks love it.
ducks in woods 2
Here they are heading back through the woods to the coop. They didn’t like that I came to take their picture.