Late April in the U.P.

We had a wonderful warm day yesterday. Our temps here got to about 67 degrees F. It was nice and sunny, so I let the chickens out of their yard for the day – we have had rain for the last week until 2 days ago, so their run is really muddy.  I wanted to give them a chance to hang out in some grass. They really enjoyed it.  So did we. We got some of our yard work completed too. Here are some pictures of our nice day yesterday.

yard chickens
Here are the chickens and ducks enjoying the sunshine.
yard ducks
The ducks sunbathing.
sunshine roos
Our rooster Big Red watching over everyone.
rasp trellis 1
My raspberry plants were a (very spiky) mess. I had some old scaffolding laying around, so I created a support system. The fencing on the ground is protecting my strawberries from dustbathing chickens – they think my garden beds are great dust baths.
rasp trellis 2
Here is a closer view of the new raspberry support system. Hopefully I’ll get some yummy berries this year.
potatos
I’m growing potatoes in old feed bags. Here they are. I’m trying this out, we’ll see how it works.
onion patch
This is my onion patch. I planted it last week when we had a break in the rain. It’s hard to tell from this picture but they’re growing pretty well so far. Again the fence is to keep the chickens off for the day. I only put it down when the chickens are out of their run.
baby bunnies
Here are two of our 3 baby bunnies, they are starting to eat their mom’s food instead of just her milk.
wild leeks
We picked wild leeks (ramps) yesterday! I made a really good omelet for dinner with them.

We had a wonderful day outside yesterday, prepping for today when the weather was  supposed to be cold and rainy.  Instead we woke up to:

 

 

 

this morning
blegh.
today 2
more blegh.
today 3
It looks pretty, but it’s April 23rd. This is the U.P. though.

It’ll melt today or tomorrow, and then we’ll wait for our next sunny day. Spring is trying to be here. It just has some days off, I guess.

A Beautiful Spring Day!

After a pretty schizophrenic winter, spring appears to finally be here.  We had big melts in January and February this winter, but I’m hoping the nice weather will stick this time.  This is the U.P., so it’s very likely we will get some snow again, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.  The last few days were kind of crummy – cold and rainy. But today it was finally sunny, and in the low 50s. We got some things done outside, and the animals enjoyed the sunshine.

snow remains
Our chicken coop – you can see our snowbanks are still here. Our yard is pretty much a mix of snow and muck right now. The sun should dry it out.
collecting sap
It’s Maple Syrup gathering time! There have been some weeks this winter where I heard others were tapping, but March is the correct month – when nights are below freezing but days are warmer.  I tapped them today and the sap is really running well.
tap in the tree
You can kind of see the drip of sap getting ready to fall into the bucket here.
daffodils
The ground thinks it’s really spring as well – the daffodils are coming up!
crocus
Baby crocuses are coming up too!
big red
The chickens and ducks enjoyed the sunshine today – here’s our rooster Big Red.
general and hens
Here is The General, our other rooster.
chickens in the mud
The hens enjoying the sun. You can see the muddy ground here – there is a layer of mud on top of ice – the ground has not thawed yet.  Once it does the ground will dry out a little easier.
atat outside
Atat enjoying the sunshine.  At least that part of the yard is just dead grass, not mud.

I’m hoping spring weather sticks around for awhile.

 

As fall turns to winter…

We had a pretty mild autumn this year.  When I was growing up here, we were lucky if we didn’t have to wear snow suits under our Halloween costumes.  Snow has come later the last couple of years.  We finally got a couple inches the other night, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  For most of my chickens, and the ducks, this is their first time seeing snow. The chickens are not very excited about it – the ducks seem to like it a little. I think they will enjoy it more when it’s deeper – we really only got a dusting.

We’ve had a busy fall – we are now down to 41 chickens, and 6 ducks.  We took out 6 roosters a few weeks ago, and now we still have 6 remaining roosters.  There are a couple on the short-list for freezer camp, but we may wait till spring to take them out.  Below are some pictures of what our fall looked like, and of our new snow.

last-week
Here was our driveway a couple of weeks back.
today
Here is what our yard looks like now.
today-2
Here is the back yard. We didn’t get much snow, but it’s enough to say Wintertime is here.
hekyl-and-fluffbutt
Two of our roosters, Fluff-butt and Hekyll.
ducks-in-snow
The ducks – they weren’t sure what to make of the snow, but they seem to be enjoying hanging out there.
hiding-in-the-coop
Most of the chickens are staying in the coop – they seem confused by the snow.

A Nice Autumn Day

It was a bit chilly today, but the sun was out.  We have had colder temperatures lately, and the garden is mostly done. We had a couple of watermelons that just were not growing anymore.  My son asked if he could pick them today, so I said yes. I figured they weren’t ripe, but when we cut into the largest one (the one we’d set up a sling for, from previous posts), it actually had some pink to it. And it was surprisingly sweet tasting. So this was our first ever successful watermelon:

watermelon
Our watermelon, cut up.

For some reason (maybe the sunshine), I got the bright idea to let the chickens and ducks out of their run today.  We have had so much rain, and it rains so often, that we just haven’t gotten a chance to mow our lawn in the last couple weeks.  So I thought, since they’ll eat grass, and they’re hanging around in a semi-wet / muddy run, maybe they’d like to hang out in the yard for the day.  It wasn’t that unwise, I suppose.  It was just a cluster trying to get them back in. They wanted to hang out in the woods, and they found the sand pile for some much-needed dust baths, and didn’t want to give that up so easily.  They didn’t really do much “mowing” for us, but they enjoyed themselves. We got some good pictures:

yard-birds
The slow spillage into the yard. We just left the door wide open – it didn’t take them very long to figure it out.
yard-birds-2
Here they are, wandering around. They don’t usually stray too far from their home.
chickens-everywhere
Here they are near the sand pile.
s-chickens
Basking in the sun.
dirty-ducks
The ducks had fun too. They rooted around a bit – you can see one of them has a huge mudpile on her bill. I tried to catch her to clean that off but she was not cooperative. It came off later.
general-and-the-girls
Here is the General with some of his older-hen harem. They were weeding / de-bugging the strawberry patch.

We also moved the adult rabbits to their winter home, inside our entrance shed/mud room.  We got some new cages, and my husband has been putting them together and setting them up for us.  Last winter was really hard with our old setup, so we wanted to make it easier this year. Here are photos:

rabbit-cages
Here is the setup in our shed. They are all about chest high. We had to make sure they are taller than our dogs’ noses.
wind-day
Here is wind (now “Day” – we somehow changed their names in recent weeks).
fire-night
Here is Fire (her name is now “night”)
buddy
Here is Buddy (he was Earth).

The cages are pretty nice, we got them from KW Cages. They have a slide-out tray for easy cleanup, which should make it really nice. The rabbits are getting settled in – they weren’t so sure at first but  they seem to be relaxing more tonight. We have a gate to the shed, so we can keep the nosy dogs out (Especially Atat, who is almost as tall as the cages, and very curious).  I think this will work well for winter.  We’ll get them set up outside again in spring.

September in the Coop

We’ve had a lot happening in the chicken/duck coop lately.  The ducks are doing well in there with the chickens. It has been a little more humid when I open the coop in the morning, but some of that could be the fact that we are constantly getting rain – this summer was abnormally wet, and it has continued into September. Luckily the temps are more autumn-like. We started with straw bedding a couple years ago, which turned into cob on the floor – thanks to the ducks, the humidity moistened that cob layer so I was able to finally get it all off the floor today. They now have a super-clean freshly cleaned coop floor. (We switched to pine shavings and it’s been really nice – it doesn’t turn solid on the floor and it smells nice when you lay it down).

We have been getting eggs from the 2nd batch-hatch hens,  and are up to about a dozen-plus a day.  My third batch chickens are only 2 months old, so they will start laying later.

We have a whole lot of roosters, and more coming up. I gave one of our youngest, from the third batch, away to a friend who needed a rooster. With some of the youngest chickens it’s still hard to tell which gender they are, so we’ll have to see. We will have to cull some roosters, and I was planning on doing that a couple weeks ago, but I ended up waiting –  they are still with us for the time being. We’ll probably start culling some when it gets a little cooler. I sold our lone bantam hen to someone who had other bantams. One of our large roosters mounted her and I was afraid he was going to kill her, so I rehomed her quickly.

Here are some scenes from the coop:

ducks
Some of the ducks in the yard.
twin-barred-rock-roos
Two barred-rock-looking roosters. (They have feathered legs, so we’re not sure what kind they really are).
short-butt-general
The General perching with some of the ladies. He’s missing his tail feathers (just went through a molt recently) so he looks really short.
no-butt-general
Here’s the General with his tail-featherless butt.
easter-egger-roo
This is the Easter Egger rooster.
copper-maran-roo
Our black copper maran rooster.
big-white-roo
Our white rooster from the first batch (our test batch) this year.  He is on the short-list for freezer camp, but he’s actually a really decent rooster, so we’ll see. That’s part of why we’re waiting to cull anyone: indecision.
coop-perch-gang
Some of the perch-gang. Most of these ones tend to hang out in this room of the coop. There is our frizzled chicken (who is ALSO a rooster, we found), on the right. Our brahmas and speckled sussex from last year are on the left, and the others are Easter Eggers and some kind of crested hens. The black chicken in the front is a Black copper maran.
red-and-brahma
One of the Brahmas (from last year) and a production red hen (who is 2 years old).
older-ladies
These are some of the older ladies. They like to hang out in the front room of the coop.
021
Eggs! On top are the chicken eggs, and the bottom are all duck eggs. We are not getting any blue chicken eggs, just olive. We are not supposed to get blue duck eggs (we have pekins) but we do get them. So at least we get blue eggs from somewhere.

The coop is a very exciting place!

Clucks and Quacks… and chocolate eggs

Yesterday, my plan was to harvest all 10 ducks.  Their pen was a big muddy mess, and we’ve been planning on doing it for months but things get in the way. Early yesterday, I got everything ready. I culled the three males first, and then one of the seven females.  We decided to skin them because it’s (supposedly) easier than dealing with duck wax and everything to get the feathers out, and then you don’t have all the duck fat to deal with.  As the day wore on, and I was working on the fourth duck, my husband thought maybe we should stop at the four we’d done. He said “why don’t we try putting the rest of them in with the chickens?”  I agreed to that – doing all 10 was a daunting task – just the four we did wore us out and took a big chunk of the day. The big reason I wanted to harvest them all was their horribly messy pen – they make lots of mud, and slogging through that each day to feed and water them, and to get their eggs, was really hard. The house we built was really low also, and they loved to lay eggs way at the back, so we’d sometimes have to crawl in there to get the eggs.  We would put new bedding in each night and by morning it would be sopping wet, so you’d be kneeling on sloppy old mucky bedding to get the eggs.  The remaining ducks, now in the chicken coop, are not getting a pool.  I may fill a small one (not in the pen) and let them play here and there, but they are not getting one in the run.

So far, the ducks are doing well with the chickens.  Their pens were always right next to each other;  they’ve been neighbors all summer, so they were somewhat used to each other already.  We were worried the chickens may pick on them, but the ducks are larger than even our largest rooster, so the chickens are mostly keeping their distance.

Tonight, the ducks were starting to get the hang of the bedtime routine, and it was easier to get them to go in the coop with everyone else.  We collected the chicken eggs and found that one of the Black Copper Marans is now laying eggs! We got a small, chocolate colored egg.

chocolate egg
A normal sized chicken egg on the left, and our first chocolate egg on the right.

The old duck pen is going to be reclaimed back into the yard.  It’s a soppy mess right now, since we drained the pool and then it rained last night, but I piled up all the “furniture” on the duck house, and then seeded it with a “chicken forage blend” which has clover and other stuff that will do nicely in our yard.  Our yard is a little bit of grass, and a whole lot of other stuff anyway, so this should work fine.

old duck mess
The old duck yard, after I seeded it and put on some straw to keep the seeds in place.
seeded
Here you can see there are some big puddles. We’re going to have to fill some of the holes the ducks dug with some top soil. We’ll eventually take the fence down and use it somewhere else.

We’ll see how this works with the ducks and chickens together. So far it’s going ok.  If it doesn’t we’ll start talking about taking out the rest of the ducks. For now, they lay a lot of eggs, so they are “earning their keep.”

The chicken flock

Our chickens are doing well – with the babies added, and minus the roosters we’ve culled so far this year, we are at 51 currently.  We moved the smallest chicks out in the coop in their own side now (they are just over a month old), and the rest of the flock is smooshed together in the main part of the coop, with the larger run. When I was moving the chicks out there,  I added some roost space in the main side because I wasn’t sure how everyone would fit.  We have way more chickens now than we have previously. This time of year, they pretty much only go inside to lay eggs and to sleep.  Going in there the first morning after the chicks moved in, I could see that it is going to be just fine – there is plenty of roost space, plus some of them roost up in the rafters anyway – not where I want them, but they go up there, so it’s kind of extra space. Once the babies are large enough, I will integrate everyone and then they will all have run of the whole coop, so they’ll be able to spread out a bit more.  We also will be taking out more roosters as the year winds down.  For now they are snug in the house, but not cramped.  Here are some pics of my main flock as it stands now:

chickens_dorko and brown hen resized
One of the red hens (either production or the buckeye, hard to tell here) and my Dorking rooster, General Dorko. (My husband took these pics, since you can see me feeding the chickens).
chickens_dorko resized
Here is The General again. He is the only year-old rooster we still have. So far he is on the keep list, but he’s been showing some aggressive tendencies lately. He hasn’t pecked at me but he follows me around to see what I’m doing, like he’s suspicious of me.  I think he’s just freaked out because we take roosters out and they never come back.
chickens_australorp resized
One of my older Black Australorp hens. She is two years old.
easter egger roo resized
Here is our easter egger (Americauna?) rooster, hatched this year.
specs resized
Here is Specs, our Speckled Sussex hen. She’s a year old.
frizz 1 resized
Here is our frizzled chicken. I think this is a hen, but we are unsure since she seems to be developing a large pea comb. I have not noticed any male-typical behavior though (crowing or mounting others) so for now, she’s a hen.
chickens_older white resized
One of our 2-year old white hens.
chickens_frizzle and bcm roo resized
Here is the frizzle hen and our Black Copper Maran rooster. He’s from this year’s hatch as well. I’m hoping to keep him.
bantam and friends resized
Here is the bantam hen and two of her friends. They were from the hatching eggs I bought as well, but I don’t know what they are – maybe wellsummers? The lady gave me blue, dark chocolate, and bantam eggs. I did not see the parents. I think they are some kind of crested-something. They are all getting a crest thing where the feathers on their heads stick up.
young black hen resized
Here is a black hen – I think this is Esky’s daughter, or one of the Marans.
bcm  hens resized
Here are some of my Black Copper Maran hens. I’m excited for their eggs later this year.

 

 

Mid-summer on our farm

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

zucchini
My zucchini and yellow squash are going nuts. These plants are huge!
zucchini with cat
Here you can see them with Wizard in front, so you get a little more idea of scale. There are 5 plants in that mess, plus some sunflowers sticking up in back.
ducks
Somehow our duck door got left open – they were starting to spill out.
ducks 2
More duck spillage.
chickens
Here is a picture of the chickens. I love the variety of colors we have.
dogs
My husband got this cool picture of our dogs. Atat’s tail is curled around Downey. Nova thinks the camera is some type of food.

Farming is hard sometimes

We currently have a lot of roosters. We had 3 adults, and I’m not yet sure how many up-and-comers from this year’s hatches.  I really wasn’t noticing the crowing, until last week my neighbor said something – he mentioned that the roosters were getting a bit annoying.  His mentioning it made me notice it, of course.  So I figured out who the worst offenders (at that time) were – it was mostly our older roosters Wonky Top and Splash, and one of our younger roosters from our first batch.  I thought about it and realized that the only reason I had kept so many was for breeding purposes, which have now been accomplished. I have 14 chicks that were all from my chickens, so my older roos have spread their genes.  We culled the three worst offenders, for now.  We were planning on taking out some of the younger ones anyway, but I hadn’t planned on Wonky and Splash (since we named them), so that was a bit hard.  We kept our best (and quietest) year-old rooster, General Dorko.

dorko
General Dorko, the Dorking rooster.

It has been quieter on the farm lately… or it was, until my silly little bantam roosters started crowing more.  They are very small so their crows are little (it sounds like a regular rooster sucked some helium first).  They are really tiny, so in terms of meat it would be a lot of work for not much payoff.  I think I may sell them along with the hen.  Her eggs are going to be small – the bantams were a bonus when I bought my hatching eggs anyway. They are cute, but not really what we’re trying to do here.

bantam roo 1
Here’s one of my bantam roosters.
bantam roo 2
Here’s the other rooster
bantam hen
Here is the little hen

With all the harvesting we are having to do, I feel like I’m killing something every weekend.  Actually, I literally have been lately. I need to figure out timing for future years.  We did 5 rabbits a few weeks ago, then a duck (we skinned it instead of trying to mess with waxing / scalding – the meat was delicious). Then the three roosters last weekend.  And I have a backlog of “animals we need to cull soon” – ducks, chickens, and rabbits.  I have to do some rabbits later tonight.

Next year, we are not planning on hatching any chicks, so that will help.  We won’t have ducks, since we are going to take them all out this year, and we don’t plan on having them ever again since they are ridiculously messy.   The rabbits are relatively easy (no feathers to pluck) but it still sucks having to actually kill them.  And they are eating a lot, or at least this batch is – I don’t know if it’s the summer heat or what.  We were trying to decide whether to keep rabbits at all anymore, and I think that we will, at least one more year to see where we are at (if it’s actually saving us money or not). But I won’t breed them again this year, and I need a different schedule for next year – maybe a batch in spring, one in the fall, or something.  Summer seems too hard on the does. We will be retiring Fire (our black Rex doe), because this last litter was only 3 bunnies – I don’t know if something is wrong with her or not, but we will be taking one of the younger bunnies we have and raising it up to be a breeder. I’ll probably sell her to someone as a pet.

I enjoy farming, I just need to figure out a better balance in terms of timing.

Mid July on the farm

We have been very busy.  Last week I went camping.  While I was away, it seems that my garden has exploded. (It tends to do that when you don’t see it every day).   I hatched hatch# 3 of chicks a couple days ago, and we found our first duck egg today!  Here are some pictures of the latest happenings:

garden 7.16
Here is my garden. I get to do some weeding today.
greens
Here it is, growing away. The red bits on the right are some beets.
tiny artichoke
A tiny artichoke. It’s about an inch tall.
sunflower
A sunflower. This is only about 2 feet tall right now.
roma
Roma tomato.
pumpkin
My pumpkin plants!
kohlrabi
Kohlrabi. First time growing this – we are not sure if we like it yet. We will be trying it when it’s ready.
daniels garden
My son’s garden. His corn is doing well. There is a zinnia blooming.
early girl
Our Early Girl tomato. This was a grafted plant I bought. I somehow forgot to plant seeds of my Early Girl tomatoes.
hatch 3_2
Here are the newest chicks! We have 14, they all hatched on Thursday, and they are from my own chickens’ eggs. We now have 57 chickens all together. That total will go down once we cull the extra roosters.
hatch 3
A chick’s eye view of them.
hatch 3_3
Another chick’s eye view.
barnyard
Here is the bird yard. You can see we have Pekin ducks here.
blue duck egg
We got our first egg from the ducks today. It’s about the size of a chicken egg. Not sure why it is bluish. Pekins are supposed to lay white/cream eggs.
duck egg
Here is the egg again. Like a large chicken egg – I figure its a starter eggs for the ducks, so they should get bigger soon, and probably change to the cream/white color. Not sure if we’ll eat this one since it’s a weird color. I know it was laid this morning / last night, so it’s fresh, but it’s still not the color they are supposed to be from the ducks.

Exciting times!