I'm hoping to find time to go through my seed collection to see what I have left. I swear some things got left behind at the old house, and I know at least some of the seeds were in the basement when it flooded. Either way, it will give me a chance to get reacquainted with my collection, and get it better organized.
I took another nature walk today. I took the camera with me. Lots and lots of photos taken. This place is so beautiful, I feel so blessed to live here.
Gypsy is on day five of her antibiotics and is doing much better. She still sneezes a little here and there, but she is active. So much so that she followed me on part of my nature walk, climbing the trees near where I was photographing things. Luna came and climbed the trees too. It was so much fun to watch them run across the fallen tree trunks, playing in the sunlight coming down through the branches of the woods.
Tonight I took the little white rooster (we call him Phil) and moved him to the bunny barn. This is an experiment. I'm hoping he will get along with Josh and the ducks, and that they will be able to go out and free-range, and then come back in at dark. Josh keeps the ducks safe, and brings them in at night. I'm hoping Phil will flock with them and come in at night. Why Phil as our little guinea pig chicken? Well, he's friendly, easy to catch, and doesn't mind me handling him. He follows me around the chicken coop, and several times has attempted to follow me when I leave the coop. I also noticed last night that Sterling (the big white rooster) went toe-to-toe with Phil and the Easter egger hen jumped in between to break them up before it got physical. That's enough motivation for me to put Phil in another building to make sure he's safe from the bigger rooster. His personality makes him an excellent selection for release to free-range.
No new baby bunnies, no more eggs. Yet. I'm still holding out hope for more eggs, now that I've got a timer set on my phone to remind me to turn the lights on and off to allow for 15 hours of light every day in the coop.
I'm hoping to get the rabbit tractor pulled apart tomorrow to use it as a barrier for the rabbits to allow the chickens to go out too. I have Kin and Kai's cgae set up again in the barn. I did notice they have started to squabble now and then in the tractor. I won't be able to put them back together in a smaller cage again. The plan is to put Kai back in the bunny barn in the cage (he is available for sale if anyone is interested), and Kin will stay with the fencing and merge into the chicken coop herd.
While out and about today on the homestead, I found another patch of asparagus, far off in a hard to access part of the property. I came across the most stereotypical "spooky tree" I've ever seen in real life - complete with a hollow trunk!
I'm hoping to find time to go through my seed collection to see what I have left. I swear some things got left behind at the old house, and I know at least some of the seeds were in the basement when it flooded. Either way, it will give me a chance to get reacquainted with my collection, and get it better organized.
During my nature walk I harvested a pocket full of Siberian pea shrub seeds, two pods of milkweed seeds, and nine apples. I had gone out in hopes of gathering up more buckeye seeds and more black walnuts, but instead gathered these. Still a blessing. The pea shrub seeds I hope to share with other gardeners in the second annual swap through the Winter Sowing (Vegetable Gardening With Sheryl Mann) Facebook group. If you want some pea shrub seeds, feel free to contact me directly, or join the Facebook group and join the seed swap!
Feather's last kit did not survive the night. I checked the nest box at 12:55 am before heading to bed, and the kit had crawled away to the corner and was getting cold again. I warmed it back up and returned it to the nest box, tucked in next to Boon, and wished it luck before going to sleep. #3 woke up to go to the bathroom around 1:30am and checked and also found the kit off to the side and cold. She warmed it back up and put it back in the nest box again, but said it was having trouble breathing, making gasping motions. This morning Boon was curled up with the kit, it was still warm, but had passed away. We gave it our very best shot, but sometimes it's just not meant to be. No regrets though, we'd do it again, every time, on the slim chance we can save a life. I mean, so far Boon is doing well, and he was a long shot too. He still is really.
No kits from Snowflake today. I'll give her a couple more days with the nest box before officially losing hope of a litter this round.
We went out to the old house today to do some more clean up work and to dig up some of the plants to bring to the new house. I dug up all three rhubarb plants (two store bought Victoria, and one Glaskins Perpetual I planted from seed), several root balls of the black raspberries, the Rare Treat iris, the root beer irises, and the Siberian iris, as well as a bunch of strawberry plants. I had to leave the raspberry plants behind as we just didn't have space in the vehicle to bring them with. Tony will pick them up tomorrow after work and bring them home. The other plants made it to the new house but have not been planted. I'm really hoping the cold tonight doesn't kill them all. I am hoping to get most of them in the ground tomorrow if weather cooperates. It's been raining since about 3pm, but it's supposed to dry up over night.
This evening Feather delivered six kits, but she did not prepare a proper nest for them. I had twice given her a nest box full of shavings, one she dumped out and pooped in, the second she peed in. Despite moving the nest box to try to prevent her thinking it's a potty spot, twice she soiled it, so I had pulled all the bedding out of it, thinking I could add more shavings once she'd made a nice fur nest. She didn't get that memo. When we arrived home tonight, six kits were scattered throughout the nest box, with a few tufts of hair. All the kits were cold and still. I handed the nest box to #3 and told her to bring them in the house. They all looked dead, but maybe if they warmed up they'd come back.
Of the six kits, two did eventually start to move. One took a few gasping breaths, but never recovered and after about ten minutes passed away in #3's hands as she tried to warm it up. The other one seems to have pulled through for now. It's warm and breathing, which I will count as a success.
As with Boon, a single kit will not survive the cold nights without litter mates to snuggle with and share body heat. So tonight, the little survivor is bunking with Boon in the kitchen.
Boon is just over a week old. He's a dutch / lionhead cross (who knows what his father was). He will likely end up smaller than Feather's kit, but for now the size difference is quite noticeable.
I'm not sure if we will split them up and put them into separate nest boxes and nurse them on their moms, or if they will stay together and see if either momma will nurse them together. My concern would be that Boon, being much larger, will get all the milk, and the little one will starve. It might be best to separate them for feeding time, but for right now, they seem to be enjoying having a warm companion to snuggle with.
Happy Friday the 13th! Short blog today, not much to update. No new bunnies in the nest boxes, Boon is still doing well, and I think I figured out which bunny sneezed yesterday, but I'm not 100% sure because the bunny I saw sneeze tonight had just gotten his nose wet in the water bowl.
I am planning to move Kin and Kai back in to the bunny barn sometime by the end of next week. It will start getting and staying below freezing at night starting the week after next. My idea is to use the kennel panels from the rabbit tractor to go around the door to the chicken coop. Assuming the panels are short enough to fit against the wall under the eaves, or I can find a way to block the extra space left from it butting up against the eaves), the plan is to open up the coop door to let the chickens out, while keeping the coop rabbits contained. The rabbits can come out and enjoy the sun and get some grass nibbles in, and the chickens should be able to fly over the fence to free range throughout the yard. They've been getting fed only at night in preparation for releasing them to free range. I hope they will come back once I open the door and let them all out.
We adventured to the next town down the road from us to pick up a gift for the birthday party #4 was invited to. Interesting to know there's shopping closer than running all the way back to Brainerd.
Today #5 and I walked to the vet clinic with Gypsy and Luna in a cat carrier. The vet looked at Gypsy, took her temperature, and prescribed some antibiotics. While we were there both kitties got their first vaccines and dewormer just to be on the safe side. They sent enough antibiotic home that if Luna starts to get sick, there's enough to dose her too. And as we were leaving the vet informed me that giving the antibiotics is in no way a guarantee of survival. Wait, what?
I've done rescue work before and dealt with sick animals frequently. I worked in a pet store and have helped sick animals recover (and lost a few that were beyond help). Never ever have I been told by a vet that antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection might not work. I have never had a vet suggest to prepare for a loss while also prescribing medicine to fix the problem. I have to wonder if this is because I specifically called her a barn cat, and not a house cat. To us the only difference is that she lives in the bunny barn and runs the risk of being taken out by an eagle or hawk... while the house cats are in the house and if the house were to burn down, they'd probably not know how to get outside. Each has risks I suppose, but we love them all the same... Seems odd to change the diagnosis or outcome odds based on the label given to the cat. I asked if I should put them in the porch overnight again, but they said the temperature change from warmer indoors to colder outdoors could cause even more problems. I was advised that fall is a rough time to start keeping barn cats. Yeah... I see that. She suggested that perhaps the problem was a bad combination of timing (fall, everything is getting colder), and age (immunity she got from nursing with her mom is running out and now she has to build her own). Either way, she was much more active today, though still not fully herself. She was still sneezing but no longer dripping green gunk. After her vaccination and coming home to get her first dose of antibiotics, she was really tired. She and Luna spent most of the rest of the day laying in the hay nest they use as a bed. I hope Gypsy perks up more tomorrow. I know vaccination day is always a downer, but she seems to be feeling better this morning before the vet appointment, so there's hope. I just can't have them in the entryway anymore because they do not understand a litter box. One of them peed on the floor. Fortunately nobody pooped. They use the sand outside, so the litter is probably a strange concept to them.
Today was exhausting two-fold. I finished taking care of the remaining quarantine rabbits. As of tonight I have one rabbit somewhere in the barn that sneezed once as I was passing out food and water, but I am not sure which one it is. Otherwise, we have eliminated every rabbit in the barn with snotty feet, yellow nasal discharge, or sneezing. Once I can root out this last one (if it is indeed sick and not just a random sneeze), I believe our nightmare illness outbreak will officially be over (knock on wood). All of the remaining bunnies appear symptom-free so far (aside from the single sneeze heard this evening).
Boon is doing better. Both feedings today when I put his nest box in with his momma, she jumps right in and takes care of him. Yesterday I was beginning to think maybe she was considering abandoning him. He's getting quite plump now. He's got little popcorn responses when we first touch him, which is adorable. As soon as he realizes it's just one of us, he settles right down. I think he will be a very tame little guy if he survives to grow up. I've been cautiously optimistic, but as he continues to do well, I'm slowly losing the cautious part and becoming more hopeful. He is one week old today and has been shelved for four days. So far, so good!
Gypsy is sick today. Real sick. She didn't come out to greet me this morning when I brought Boon out for his morning nursing. I left him and the nest box in with his momma and went to find Gypsy. Luna had come to see me, so I carried her along. I found Gypsy in one of the spare nest boxes, her favorite place to snuggle up when it gets cold. She stood up to greet me, but made no attempt to leave the nest box. Usually she'd be running to me for attention. I knew something was up. I picked her up and could hear immediately that she was struggling to breathe. Yesterday she'd had a few sneezing fits, but seemed fine. Today she's got green goop coming out of her nose and sticking around her nose and upper lip. She's miserable. Her breathing is rattly. She didn't want to come play with the kids after school either. She's lethargic. My educated guess is pneumonia. I called the vet and got her an appointment for tomorrow afternoon (they were booked for today). The only problem is that the appointment is for the afternoon. I will have to bundle #5 up and bring him along since the older kids will all be in school still, and we will have to walk, as I don't drive and Tony will be working. What an adventure!
I think Gypsy and Luna may spend the night in the (unheated) entry way tonight just to give them a little more comfort and warmth than they'd have in the open bunny barn. I've got some blankets I can put there for them and a spare litter box that I hope they're clever enough to figure out there for the night. She really went downhill fast, and I'm worried about how she will do overnight again. Hang in there baby, you have an appointment tomorrow! I do plan on taking both of them just to be safe. Glad I have a little cat carrier for them. On the positive side, Gypsy is still eating.
It's 7:30pm and the rabbit chores are done, the chickens are fed and watered, the goose and the ducks are tucked up in the barn for the night, and Boon has had his evening meal. Dinner is in the crock pot, nearly done. The dog is already snoring on the floor after his marathon frisbee fetching while I was doing barn chores. I can't help but think I'm forgetting something important. I never have spare time. What should I be doing.... Hmmm.
A while back I think I posted about a new website I joined, called Simbi. It seems interesting. Basically it's a barter system for goods and services, with a non-cash-value option for trading as well (currency called Simbi which you have to earn by offering services or goods - you can't buy it to get ahead of other people). You can offer services in exchange for simbi credits, sell items for simbi credits plus postage, or find someone with something you want and offer to trade with them. It can be your service for theirs, or their product for your service. Whatever it might be. And people get really creative with what they offer. You can find people willing to send you a postcard, make a custom item for you, do your lawn work, edit your resume, build you a website, or share a recipe. Can't find what you want? There's a place for requests too that allows you to find someone willing to fulfill your needs.
In my experience, digital transactions seem to be easier to work out. Transactions that require shipping are a little trickier to work out, but are usually worth it. So far face-to-face interactions have not happened for me, but that's likely due to living in a less populated area, and the fact that I don't really go out and meet people if I can avoid it. But the more people who join, the easier it becomes to find someone local... so please consider checking it out (Simbi). You get some Simbi credits for signing up so you have something to start with, and you can always check the "requests" page to see what you can do to earn more. There's also a push to encourage feedback on every transaction. It's important that people rate and review their transactions to give other people a fair idea of what to expect from someone. It's not the typical eBay feedback either, they actually tend toward offering details and positive encouragement.
Everyone survived the first below-freezing night. Last night as I was doing bunny chores, the missing chicken peeked in the door at the back of the bunny barn. I came so close, but I missed grabbing it. I joked that if I could just lure it into the bunny barn, it would be so happy to peck and scratch all the food pellets that the bunnies drop, it would be easy to catch.
Today when the kids got home from school, #3 and #4 went out to the bunny barn to play with Gypsy and Luna (the kittens). Shortly thereafter, #4 came running in the house, "The chicken is in the bunny barn! We shut the back door and (#3) is guarding the gate!" We put shoes on and went out to the bunny barn. Working together, Tony, #3, #4, and I were able to catch the chicken.
I gave the bird a quick once over. It appears to be a hen. She has rounded tail feathers, no saddle feathers and a smaller comb. She has been returned to the rest of the flock now. I think I will call her Goldilocks.
Little Boon is still staying warm in the nest box in the kitchen. Twice a day he goes out to his mom, and if she doesn't sit in the nest box, I bring him into the bunny barn and force Alice to lay down and let him nurse. She is not fond of this, but if it gives him a full tummy, it's worth the effort.
Feather and Snowflake got nest boxes today. If their breeding dates took, ,they should be due on the 12th. I might consider putting him in one of their litters to see if they'd raise him, but I haven't had any luck with fostering kits to other does before. He will be staying with the current schedule for now anyway. It seems to be working alright for him.
We went out to the old house and got some of the yard chores done. Most of the container garden and failed winter sowing containers have been taken care of, I brought home one potted strawberry plant. The back yard got mowed. We need to go back on Saturday to work more on the yard and cleaning out the inside of the house. We really need to finish moving everything so we can hand the keys over and be forever done with that horrible place. I didn't get to dig up the plants I want, but Tony assured me I could do that on Saturday. I will have to bring my work gloves as I do plan to take several raspberry bushes.
It's going to be another cold night tonight. Below freezing, but not as cold as last night. I vote warm pajama pants tonight, and baking a loaf of bread tomorrow to keep the house warm.
I feel like I got a lot done today. Kids made it out to the bus on time, despite a late start. Ducks and goose were released from the barn, little bunny was briefly reintroduced to his momma, then put on Alice to make sure he got enough to eat. Checked for eggs (still none), picked up apples under the tree, got caught up on dishes and laundry. Swapped a couple jars of feet and tails around to continue processing, and got some into the dehydrator. And all before 2pm.
I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with #5. He gets so lonely some days with all of his siblings off at school. He asks all the time how much longer until they get home. He's such a sweetheart, but definitely a momma's boy.
Tony stopped by the store on his way home to pick up some more groceries. All the basics like rice and sugar, salt and apple juice. The necessities. #5 is always happy when dad comes home before bed time because it means he gets to hang out with him.
Tonight bunny chores were a bit of a challenge. I didn't get out to do the chores until after dark, which meant the temperature was already dropping. It was 34 degrees according to the Weather Channel when I went out. By the time I'd fed everyone and went to refill the water bucket, the temperature must have dipped below freezing because the hose was frozen. Tony came out and disconnected it from the outside faucet to prevent any damage, and from now on I'll have to carry the bucket in the house, fill it in the utility sink, and haul it out to refill rabbit, chicken, and duck water containers. This may mean the end of the kiddie pool for the season, as I won't be able to refill it now, and I won't allow Josh and the ducks to have nasty dirty water either. Maybe we can reconnect the hose tomorrow once it warms up. It's supposed to get below freezing tomorrow night again, but then hover in the mid-30's to low 40's for the next several nights.
I have named the little nest box bunny Boon. I don't know if Boon is a buck or a doe, I don't know if he (we refer to Boon as male for the time being) will even survive. It seems the odds are stacked against him. I've never shelved kits before, his momma is pretty much dried up and won't likely keep a milk supply nursing just a single kit, Alice's babies are on the verge of leaving the nest box and tasting pellet feed, which will mean her milk will start to decrease as well, and while we do have two potential litters due in the next few days, I have not been successful with fostering kits to other mommas in the past. Despite it all, tonight Boon is tucked in under his momma's fur in the nest box, snuggled up in the kitchen, with what appears to be a full tummy. His mom does jump into the nest box and appears to be taking care of him when I put the nest box out there in the morning and in the evening. I am hoping for the best for this little guy (or gal). In the meantime, the kids peek in the nest box after school to see how he's doing, and #5 held him for a little while today, but otherwise we largely leave him alone in there. He seems to stay warm enough in his little nest without any additional heat sources aside from the ambient temperature in the house. My biggest surprise is that Moose is leaving him alone. I thought for sure I'd have to hide the nest box from Moose, but once I told him no when he initially sniffed at it, he's pretty much ignored the nest box, despite it being right at nose level for him. Of course the cats are not allowed to meet Boon, or Boon would become a snack. Mabel is an excellent mouser, and she doesn't discriminate between gerbil, mouse, or baby bunny - I'm sure she'd make quick work of Boon.
Tomorrow is Tony's day off this week. We have to go back to the old house and clean up the yard in preparation for winter. I guess the city is complaining about it. After a couple weeks with lots of rain, and Tony's weird work schedule, he's only been able to mow it recently. He can't mow it when he gets off of a late shift, and it was raining every single day he got off early for a while. We still have the remnants of the container garden that didn't get moved over, and the old bunny barn looks bad with all the tarps and cages removed. It's going to be a lot of work tomorrow. I also hope to dig up some of the plants I plan to take with to the new house. My rhubarb plants, the black raspberries, some of the irises, perhaps some of the strawberry plants too, since Josh destroyed the ones I brought with.
And now I suffer a strange Asperger's-specific emotional issue. Asperger's sufferers have a strange tendency to become emotionally attached to items. Our previous vehicle was given to us by Tony's mom, who passed away a few years ago. I strongly associate her with the vehicle (it was hers before she gave it to us when she got a new one), and therefore I do not want to part with it. It does not run, the insurance has repaired it enough times over the years that they have deemed it "totaled out" which I guess is code for "not worth fixing anymore." The engine died last fall, and we were unable to get it going again. That's when we bought our current vehicle, and parked the old one. Tony wants to call a scrapper tomorrow to have it hauled away. He does not have any emotional attachment to the vehicle. It's broken, it can't be fixed, the tabs are expired, we haven't been able to use it (aside from storage) for over a year now, and he has no interest in hiring someone to haul it to the new house. I asked if we could bring it here, take the seats out, and modify it to be a chicken coop. I've seen old buses re-purposed as chicken or goat houses, so I'm sure it would work... but alas, he disagrees, and since legally the vehicle belongs to him - I'm left depressed to the point of tears over something that nobody seems to understand. I realize it's just a broken old vehicle, and that my mother-in-law's memory lives on through us, but for whatever reason, my Asperger's mind has twisted the emotional cord around it, and now I'm upset to scrap the old vehicle.
The ducks made their debut today out into the homestead. Their first time out of the bunny barn. They were reluctant to leave the barn at first. It is becoming obvious that Leonardo and Tweak, our Indian Runner ducks are the pivotal connection here. Josh (the goose) protects Leonardo and Tweak and leads them around. Dashi and Captain Barnacles stay nearby because they want to be part of the duck flock with Leonardo and Tweak, but they don't take orders from Josh. His alarm call does not put them on high alert to come to him or go to the barn, and he seems to take little interest in making sure they stay nearby. The new ducks seem confused by the pool. While Josh, Leonardo, and Tweak were quick to jump in, splash around, and groom themselves, Dashi and Captain Barnacles stayed out of the water, even wandering away a couple of times. Once to look at the outdoor bunnies, and once to go back into the barn. It's a work in progress at this point. The bonds aren't strong, but I hope they become a cohesive flock as they spend more time together.
I got a video of them playing in the pool. Because they were locked up in the barn for several days to acclimate the new ducks, Josh was obviously happy to get some pool time in. Even Leonardo and Tweak were splashing more than usual.
They must have worn themselves out foraging today because just after sunset they came into the barn, stopped for a quick drink, and bedded down right away. They didn't charge the food bowl like they usually do, and they were tucked up with heads down before I even turned the lights off!
The dutch cross doe that kindled 10/5 has largely refused to eat since I moved her to a cage with a nest box. I have been giving her fresh pulled grass and weeds, free choice pellets, black oil sunflower seeds, and fresh comfrey. Of that she ate only the grass and weeds up until last night when she finally ate some pellets. She's not enjoying cage life at all. This is why we're keeping the others in a colony style in the chicken coop. Rabbits that have been raised with little human contact in a free-range setting do not adjust well to living in cages. As a result of the stress from being in a cage, and refusing food (which she was eating in the chicken coop just fine prior to being moved), her milk supply has completely dried up. We lost four of her five kits today.
The last surviving kit is the black one. I've brought the nest box inside now because I know one lone kit doesn't stand a chance to keep warm at night in October in Minnesota. Twice a day now I will have to bring him (or her) out to the barn, flip Alice over, and let the little one nurse. Alice's kits are already two weeks old with eyes open and starting to leave the nest box, so fostering the little dutch lionhead kit won't be possible. His odds aren't great, but I'm going to give him every opportunity I can.
I was able to flash a couple of updated photos of the younger litters, but admittedly they aren't the greatest photos. I was in a rush to get the little kit back into the house before he got cold. I will try to get better individual photos when time allows. I've got a lot on my "to do" list lately.
I've been having increasing problems with my tummy pain issues. It's not just lactose that I can't have anymore. I've started getting horrible pains after eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches, which don't have any dairy in them at all. I can eat saltine crackers, but Club crackers cause intense pain. Oddly this newfound pain seems strictly on the right side, while the lactose pains are always on the left side. So today I compared ingredients. Whatever is in the saltines must be safe. So what is in bread, peanut butter, and Club crackers that is not in saltine crackers, coffee, or creamer (largely what I've been living off the past week)? Well, it seems the only ingredient present in all of the offending foods, but not in the safe foods... soy. Soybean oil, soy lecithin, and monosodium glutamate. So starting today I am attempting a soy free diet to see if that takes care of the problem.
It's incredibly hard to run a homestead and wrangle five kids, when you're sobbing in bed feeling like someone is ripping your guts apart for hours on end. Before I always thought that a lactose intolerance just meant people got a little gassy or got diarrhea or something. While I have not been tested to confirm a lactose issue, I largely got rid of these pains last year by cutting out all milk and cheese. Over the last year though the issue has gotten to the point where I can no longer have anything containing dairy at all, even with a couple lactose pills. Within a few hours the pain will start, and depending how much I ate, it can be intense agony for several hours that ibuprofen doesn't even begin to help with.
As a result of this newfound allergen (possibly), I've lost six pounds in the last seven days while largely on a diet of saltines, apples, and coffee - the only things handy that I know won't cause me pain. I'm hoping tomorrow I can get an early start to try to chip away at my "to do" list. This past week a lot of that has been pushed aside.
Anticipated temp when the kids go off to catch the bus in the morning? 39 degrees. I guess I'll be getting my indoor chores done first! Tomorrow night we've got freeze watch alerts as the temp is supposed to drop to 29. Brrr! Chilly weather incoming!
The missing chicken showed up in the yard today. The kids were able to snap a few photos, but the bird remains on the loose.
In preparation for releasing the chickens currently in the coop, tonight I started feeding them in the evening just before lights out. This will encourage them to come back to the coop at dusk for food. Or so I hope anyway. I'd like them to be able to free-range, and I'm certain they'd appreciate it too.
I sat in the coop for a long time today. I observed the birds interacting with one another, seeing who is aggressive, who is submissive, who dominates at the food dish and who waits for scraps at the end. Here is one of the videos I took today of the birds eating. This was after the three silkie roosters rushed the food bowl and pecked anyone else who tried to eat until they were done. Those three will be leaving as soon as I can line up a new place for them. They're not nice to the other birds or rabbits.
I plan on taking updated bunny photos tomorrow if the weather cooperates. I need updated photos of at least Fern, Alice, and Penelope's litters.
We are anticipating our first below freezing temps Monday night. Looks like fall is officially here.
I'm still enjoying all the newness of the critters we've taken in this month. What a wild first week to start October.
Today I posted in a chicken group asking for identification on the chickens we've got. How do I know if we have hens or roosters, if nobody is crowing, and only one has laid an egg? Well, the results surprised me a bit. I admit I'm a little disappointed, but I will take it as a part of the poultry learning curve.
It's still up in the air if the guineas are male or female. They seem soft spoken most of the time, making soft peeps whenever I'm in the coop to check for eggs, or refill the water or food containers. They were loud and frantic when I had to catch them out of the carrier to put them into the coop, but they've settled down and are quite pleasant now. I have noticed that from the back they look similar, but from the front one has a more prominent wattle (the little dangly bit under the beak), and white patches on the chest, while the other has a smaller wattle and the chest matches the back (black with white spots). I kind of want to give them matching names. They are clearly bonded, staying close to one another everywhere they go. Thelma and Louise (never seen that movie)... or Laverne and Shirley... or Lucy and Ethel... or Bert and Ernie... or Mario and Luigi... or Jack and Jill? I guess it will depend on genders if I can get them figured out. I'm pretty certain the plan is to keep these two, regardless of gender. I'm told there is no finer tick eater available than a guinea.
The three fuzzy looking smaller birds I was told are silkie roosters. They don't crow (yet), but I'd believe it given their sharper pointed feathers on their heads, and what appear to be the beginnings of pointed tail feathers. They're probably just young. The three stay close together, never separating. The fourth wheel (as it were) is a small white bird. I believe it may be a bantam cochin, as it has feathered feet and a rounded rump, but I can't seem to find that particular color when searching for that breed - so I don't know. I had originally pegged this one as a hen/pullet because it lacked any noteworthy tail feathers, and always seems to follow the three silkie roosters around but never challanges or fights with them. My chicken contacts say this is likely a rooster though, just young yet. I'd say keep it around to see if it crows or lays eggs, but from what I understand, bantam cochin is a decorative breed, not known for good egg production anyway. And with pressure from my husband to start sorting who stays and who goes, the silkies and the bantam cochin don't make the cut. They will be available to a new home if anyone is interested in adopting them.
Which brings us to our next oddity. The bid red bird. I had this one pegged as a rooster because it's huge - nearly as big as the silver-legged guy (below). Initially this one was identified as likely a Rhode Island Red, which would explain the larger size. Advice is split on whether this is a pullet or a cockerel (I guess they don't become hens and roosters until they're a year old). For some reason, #5 has decided he likes this bird. If I'm going to put together a small egg laying flock, I need all the hens I can get, so I guess for now this one stays until we can decide for sure.
So when all is said and done, we have four extra roosters that are now available to new homes. This will leave us with a flock of five, which would include one Easter Egger hen (proven layer), one turken (presumed pullet), one barred rock (presumed pullet), one possible Rhode Island Red - hoping it's a pullet, and one big silver-legged monster cockrel. No idea what his breed is, but he's pretty. And of course the two guineas as well.
Yes, I know that hens will lay eggs without a rooster. I've heard that having a rooster helps to keep the hens safer from predators. I don't know how true this is, but that silver guy is the biggest chicken in the coop, and if someone could scare away a predator, I'm hoping he'd be the rooster for the job.
We checked in the nest box today, and all five dutch cross babies are alive and well. They're adorable. It's a nice break from all the harlequin we usually have around here. My early favorite is still the brown and white dutch marked kit, but today #5 took the kits out one at a time to look closer and discovered something interesting about the solid white kit.
The little white one must have gotten the lionhead gene because it's got the cutest little cowlick on the top of its head! I'm excited to see how this baby looks as it gets more fur.
I remember seing two white rabbits on the farm we got these guys from. One was larger than the other, but neither had the lionhead mane. We have the smaller one here. The larger one they kept.
Aside from these two bucks that are temporarily bunking together, everyone else seems to be getting along well.
Last night after putting Josh (the goose), and the ducks (Leonardo and Tweak) in the barn for the night, I released the two new ducks. They were alone together all night, and this morning they seemed to have worked everything out. Josh still nips at the new ducks here and there, but I think for the most part they're integrating well. The new ducks keep a little distance from Josh, but if he was pinching me, I'd keep some distance too.
I still have no idea what kind either of them are. I opened the garage door and left the gate closed, and neither made any attempt to fly over the fence, so I don't know if they can fly or not. Tomorrow will be the big moment of truth when we let all of them out together and hope the two new ones stay.
#5 has decided to name the new ones after more Octonaut characters. I'd like to introduce Dashi (brown female) and Captain Barnacles (with the blue patch on the wing).
Six apples off the tree today, plus one from yesterday. I need to do another batch of dehydrated apples this weekend, and possibly more apple butter soon too. I wonder what would happen if we chopped up some dehydrated apple slices and added them to the bread machine for some apple bread. I bet we will find out shortly because that sounds like it would be a delicious result.
As planned, we picked up some more critters today. Three silkie roosters, two guineas, two big roosters, two smaller chickens (possibly hens?), two dutch cross rabbit does, a dutch cross buck rabbit, a small white buck rabbit, and a pair of ducks.
The ducks were put in the bunny barn, locked in the travel carrier for the day. Leonardo and Tweak were excited to meet them and several times throughout the day I saw them stop by the carrier and chat with the new ducks. This evening when Josh and the ducks got put in the barn for the night, I opened up the travel carrier and let the new ducks out. I figure this will give them all night to get to know one another in the safe confines of the barn, after having all day to talk through the carrier door. As expected Josh was a little overly aggressive - just to be sure he's the boss. But Leonardo and Tweak love the new brown duck a little too much perhaps. She is obviously a lady, and the boys have not been around one since they arrived here. I was thinking perhaps since they're a different breed, they'd leave her alone. Alas, that is not how things work. I'm not sure if I need to invest in more female ducks, or find homes for some male ducks. I will see what tomorrow brings. They will be staying in the barn tomorrow just to help the two newbies understand that this is home now. Perhaps this weekend we can let them all out together to see how things go. They were hard to separate from their duck/goose flock at the previous farm, so I hope they bond with Josh, Leonardo, and Tweak here. And that the boys don't overburden the lady before I'm able to find more lady ducks. Otherwise I may have to catch and move the new pair to the chicken coop.
The two guineas, two big roosters, three silkie roosters, and one of the two that might be a hen all went into the chicken coop with the original three hens we brought home Sunday from the same place. The one red hen made a break for it while Tony was trying to get a rooster out of the cage, and we were unable to catch her. Moose would like very much to eat her, but has been told several times NO... I don't know if she will survive the night alone out on her own. I hope so. I hope she returns in the morning, but if she doesn't, then I'll know we at least tried to catch her.
The three dutch cross bunnies all looked nearly identical today, except for this one who has a bit of a mohawk going on. The lady sad they are crossed with lionhead, which gives them weird head fur. This one is most noticeable. I call her Lady Mo for now. She's an early favorite. She is currently housed in the chicken coop with the other dutch cross doe we picked up today, the dutch cross buck we got on Sunday, and the mystery breed doe we picked up yesterday.
Where is the doe we picked up on Sunday you might ask. I moved her to a cage after I discovered her five little gifts she'd so carefully nestled in fur in the chicken coop. There's one black, one white, two black and white dutch, and one brown and white dutch. Not sure who the father is, or if they'll have lionhead fur or look more like a pure dutch.
And of course, as promised - photos of the bunnies we took in yesterday! There are two black and white, one buck, one doe.
I'm not sure what breed they are, but I assume some kind of cross. They're too small to be purebred New Zealand, they don't have the right fur to be satin or rex, up ears eliminates lop genetics, and no long hair means not angora, Jersey wooly, or lionhead.
The third rabbit has a beautiful eye-catching coat. I have no idea what breed he is, but he's gorgeous. If anyone recognizes this color or breed, please let me know! I'd like to know how big he will get, and if he gets big enough, I'd be interested in keeping him as a breeder. I just can't get in to smaller breeds. He's adorable though, and so soft and cuddly. I suspect Creme d'Argent, as the lady said he was more orange as a baby, and is now more "silver" and I know the argente rabbits change color. Anyone have a proper breed ID on this fella?
No new eggs today. Hoping for another one tomorrow though. Every other day seems to be the pattern for the Easter Egger hen.
I took a short video inside the chicken coop today. A brief view into the lives of our newest friends. Three hens, two Dutch cross rabbits, and even Luna, the new kitten, wanders in for a while. Yes, that's a desk - the hens seem to enjoy hanging out on it when they're not up in the rafters. I do plan on pulling the boards off the outside of the window to let more natural light in, but haven't gotten to it yet.
The same hen left us a second egg today. I know it was her because the Naked Neck and the Barred Rock should both lay brown eggs, and this was another blue/green egg like the last one.
Yesterday I was too sick to deal with the rabbit tractor, so the two bunnies sat in the same spot two days in a row. I wanted to show everyone the difference just one day makes. In the photo below, the cage has been moved for the day to fresh grass (you can see it's nice and green in there). The space directly in front of the cage is where it sat for two days. Note that it is brown and well chewed except the one green patch where the nest tote was sitting. The space to the right of the bare patch is where it was the day prior, and all the spaces behind that are days before that... All green, but with short grass. As though it's been mowed, but not destroyed. They did start to dig, likely out of boredom, sometime late in the second day stuck on the same patch of grass. This is the importance of moving your rabbit tractor every day!
My belly problem has been escalating. Though originally it seemed to be limited to a severe dairy allergy, I continue to get painfully ill when I eat a peanut butter sandwich, despite the fact that neither the bread, nor the peanut butter contains dairy products. Tony has suggested perhaps I am also acquiring a wheat allergy. I hope not, but as of right now I'm not sure what to think. I will continue to wean things out of my diet until I am back to normal.
Today a sandwich in the afternoon lead to pain in the evening. I was near tears by the time we got home from our trip to Brainerd, and ended up laying in bed with a hot pack. Two Advil did nothing to stop the escalation of pain. I have got to get a handle on this.
We did meet someone today to pick up more bunnies. We now have three more cute little fluffy friends. I'm not sure on breeds or genders yet. Like I said, I pretty much came straight home and was in too much pain to do anything. I know there are two broken blacks, and one odd colored one (oh that one is gorgeous). I didn't get any photos yet, but will try to get some taken and posted tomorrow.
Tonight we have bunnies in travel carriers as I wasn't able to get them set up in their cages. This means the travel carrier we usually keep the kittens in at night is currently occupied. I was assured the kittens were snuggled up together in the bunny barn when Josh and the ducks were put away just after dark. I still worry. I hope they'll be alright on their own in the barn for the night.
It got down to 38 or 39 degrees last night. I think it was enough to make Tony seriously consider options. Tonight the low is supposed to be down to 40 and Tony turned on the heater. This is the first time we've used the heater, but he cranked it up initially just to make sure we would be safe. We have carbon monoxide detectors on all floors and in or near all bedrooms. He made sure it ran for three hours before he turned it down to 65 and came to bed.
Tomorrow we go back to pick up more chickens and rabbits from the people we met on Sunday. No word on how many and what kinds they have for us. She did mention giving us some ducks last time too. It will be an exciting adventure. I'm really hoping I can keep my tummy troubles in check long enough to go out and haul critters home and get them all set up.
In addition to that, I am also hosting dinner tomorrow for my mom following #1 and possibly #2, playing in their first school tournament. Wishing them luck!
I'm afraid today will be a short and boring blog. I've been having the same pains I had last fall and winter again. Today I was largely down and out. I moved the game console to the bedroom so #5 could sit with me while I laid down. Ibuprofen has been a constant just to be able to sit up.
Once the older kids got home from school, I took a little bit of a nap, had #2 make dinner, dosed up on more ibuprofen, and managed to stagger out to the bunny barn long enough to make sure they all had food and water.
I did get the chickens and the dutch cross bunnies fed this morning. No eggs today. Or at least no eggs when I checked in around noon. #3 said she looked later in the evening and didn't find any either. Oh well. Can't win all the time I guess. Maybe we will have another egg tomorrow. I know #5 is excited to see if the Easter Egger chicken will lay the same colored eggs, or different colored eggs each time. I'm a little curious too.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.