April 30, 2015

A quiet night on the farm

Josh got the posts in to start the coop yesterday. It was an exciting step - when I came home they were all up and I could finally start to visualize what the building will look like.  Next step is the headers then trusses. It was a lovely, peaceful sunset too. A nice night on the farm-

April 29, 2015

Fine duck feathers

We let the ducks out in the yard while we clean their home. While they were out in the sunshine you could start to see their fine white feathers coming in through their down. You can really see the feathers at their tails. When they were walking around in the grass it was clear that there is a leader and followers. One of the ducks waddled around while the other two stayed close behind or just on either side of him.  Mostly they just laid down in the grass and enjoyed the sunshine.

April 26, 2015

A duck mansion

I decided the ducklings needed a little more room to move so I cut a hole in the side of their home and gave them a ramp down into the other end of the chick mansion. Now they have an area to run and chase each other. They are excitedly running around pecking at the ground.  I'm hoping by keeping their food in the container the mess will still be manageable to clean up but we will see...

April 25, 2015

Mealworm madness

I set the cup of mealworms in the chicken house so you could see what they do when they get a worm.  Watch the bird that comes to get one then promptly runs around the space like mad, hotly pursued by another, who also wants the worm.  They do this over and over again.  It is hilarious to watch.

Re-thinking my garden plan

I had to redo my garden plan this morning to ensure I have enough paths to get to everything because Josh is going to put in my fence tomorrow.  That means I won't have access from the edges anymore.  So far, I have planted the carrots, kale and beets.  Next will be corn.  I am waiting on my tomatoes and peppers to arrive from Seed Savers.  This is a really cool organization, that is working to preserve heirloom seeds.  I ordered all my seeds and seedlings from them this year.  They are organic and open pollinated - nothing genetically modified or hybridized.  

April 24, 2015

From the sink to the tub: Learning to swim

The ducks are growing so fast!  They are easily twice as big now as when we got them.  You can feel when you pick them up that the air pocket is developing on their chests, which will help keep them afloat.  I decided to try them out in the bathtub tonight, with more water so they can actually swim.  At first they were hesitant and stayed near the back of the tub, where the water was shallower.  After a couple minutes, though, they got the hang of it and started paddling furiously where the water was deeper.  Mother Nature put it in their genes that they just know what to do.  It was pretty neat to watch.  I can't wait to see them out on the pond.

April 23, 2015

Starting on the shelter outside

We painted the coop "Schoolhouse Red" to match the workshop.
The soil here is full of clay so we had to constantly lift the auger out of the ground to clear out the caked dirt so it could keep drilling.

A finished hole - 3 feet deep.

We got the repainted and cleaned coop set up out between the workshop and the pond for when the birds are ready to move outside.  We also started work on the shelter today.  Josh rented an auger and we drilled eight holes to fill with concrete for the footers.  It was a challenging process but with two of us we were able to manage the "one-man" auger.  The holes quickly filled with ground water as we finished them though, so we are a little worried for our first inspection tomorrow.  Hopefully he will have an answer on what to do with all this ground water.

April 22, 2015

A frosty morning

The Farmer's Almanac predicted our last frost date in this area as April 18th this year, but we had a hard frost last night and woke up to white grass this morning.  It was pretty but hard on the flowers.  Luckily I haven't planted anything in the garden yet that's not cold-hardy.  

Worms for dinner

We discovered that the chicks LOVE mealworms.  The boys had fun tonight feeding them wiggling worms by hand.  The chicks come up and grab them then run furiously around their home trying to find a place to hide and eat because all the others want to try to grab the worm away.  It was quite a show to watch.

April 21, 2015

A new home for the chicks

A new, much larger, home for the chicks.

The chicks have outgrown their small home already.  Josh built them a much larger space (4ft x 8 ft) out of plywood then we lined the bottom with plastic.  For now we have given them half of the run but we can expand it as they grow.  This will give them enough room to move, eat, drink, perch, and not be stomping on each other.  We also gave them a bigger waterer and feeder and raised them up some.  Hopefully this will help keep the bedding out of the food and water.  There is a screen over the top to keep them from flying out.  When we put them in the new home they started chirping so loudly it was deafening.  We didn't know if they were excited, scared, cold, or what but within a few minutes they calmed down.  It is hard to believe they are growing so fast!

April 20, 2015

Bath time in the kitchen sink

Splashing in the kitchen sink.

The ducks took a swim/bath in the kitchen sink tonight; too chilly outside for it.  They seemed to enjoy it but there was water everywhere when they were done.  When I took them out and put them back in their home they huddled together under their heat lamp until they started to dry off.  Then they commenced shaking and picking at themselves to finish the process.  

April 19, 2015

Bunnies in the garden

Lacinato Kale - I planted this last fall and had great success with it.
Hoping to get a spring crop in before it gets too hot.

Carrot shoots are getting more leaves.

I planted Lacinato Kale in the garden yesterday and this morning came out to find two of my plants had been eaten down to the ground - those rabbits!  I told Josh that I think we are going to need a fence around the garden this year.  Until we can get it in place I'm going to have to cover my plants at night or they'll all be gone before you know it.  The carrots are starting to get the lacey greens you associate with them, peaking through the straw I laid over them to keep them moist.  

A tiny perch for the chickens

A tiny perch for the chicks.

Josh noticed the chicks liked to perch on his finger when he picks them up so he made them a tiny perch for their home.  He built a frame from wood he had sitting around in the workshop then added tiny branches from the yard for them to sit on.  At first they were scared of it, but it only took one brave little chicken to try it out then they were all anxious to get on.  It took about a day for one Rhode Island Red to figure out how to get to the top rung.  They'll be flying around in no time!

April 18, 2015

Fishing at the pond

The boys spent the afternoon fishing down at the pond today.  What a lovely way to pass a gorgeous day. Today they caught small stuff.  There are some huge fish in there though.  Last year Josh got a catfish that was about 1.5 feet long.  The pond is still super muddy from all the rain and run-off.  The cattails are starting to send up new shoots along the edge.  

Bunnies have left the nest

Went out to check on the bunnies this morning and they have moved on.  Best case, they decided it was time to go out on their own.  The other possibility is that they were eaten.  I don't see any signs of that though.  I read a little about bunnies and it sounds like once their eyes open, they don't stay too much longer with their mother.  I am hopeful.  Now I can finish weeding my herb garden and get ready to add some new plants for this year.  Before long I'll probably be cursing those rabbits eating my garden plants. 

The ducks first swim

The ducks had their first swim in a painter's tray today.  I read that this is a good option for the ducks initially because they can walk out like a ramp when they get tired.  They aren't very good swimmers yet because their feathers are oily yet and they don't have the air pocket on their chest to keep them afloat.  Mostly they just splash and clean themselves.  It was so lovely and warm outside; they had a ball in the water then running around in the grass and picking at dandelions.  

The chicks are starting to show small pin feathers on their wings already and are attempting to take flight though they don't get more than an inch or so off the ground.  

April 16, 2015

Six bunnies back in the nest

I went out to check on the bunnies and there were six of them snuggled up together in their nest.  Either the other two came back on their own or their mom corralled them back in.  Either way, they seem okay.  I spent some time weeding in other parts of the bed this evening and one hopped over, looked at me for a moment, then went back in with his siblings.  I wondered to myself if this was the one I saved from the dog...

Getting everyone comfortable

Ameraucana chick

Rhode Island Red chicks

Ameraucana chick

We have found the ducklings don't care much for the chick food so I've started preparing them a concoction of ground up dog food and vegetables, which they adore!  I read online about this method of feeding them to ensure that they get protein and a mix of vegetables.  When you come in the room with the container they start calling out and running around their pen.  When they eat it they take big mouthfuls and toss it around then pick up the pieces.  It makes an enormous mess of their room when they throw it but they are eating furiously now.  We also replaced their water bowl with a chick waterer so they can't swim in it.  The chicks seem to be getting more comfortable and happily chirping as they explore their home.

April 15, 2015

Baby bunnies in my herb garden

I had the dogs outside for a walk when I stopped for a moment to look what was coming up in my herb garden.  The next moment I heard a terrible squeaking sound.  I turned around to see Soju with a tiny baby bunny in her mouth and bunnies flying out of the garden in all directions.  I was able to pry open the dog's mouth and get them inside.  I came back out and examined the one that had been caught.  It looked shocked but mostly unharmed.  I was able to find four of the bunnies, picked them up with clumps of grass, and tucked them back in their nest.  Hopefully their mom will come back and cover them properly.

The birds arrived!

The darker ones are the Ameraucanas and the rust colored ones are the Rhode Island Reds.

The ducklings are a lot bigger than the chicks and more fun to watch.

The chicks and ducklings came home today!  One poor soul didn't make it home from the hatchery so we have 23 chicks and 3 ducklings.  The boys named the ducks: Dr. Phillips, Marshmallow Man, and Mr. Bossy Pants.  One of the ducks is quite bossy, pushing the other two around.  We decided to make a separate home for the ducks with a screen in the bottom so their mess will pass through and they won't be standing in muck.  Josh read about this online because ducks are always splashing water around and it's not good for them to be standing in dirty water all the time.