This photo is from yesterday but I wanted to share it. I went to check the nest box for eggs and found Luna asleep in the hay. She stood up for some attention and revealed a nice warm egg underneath her. I guess the chicken was able to get in at some point, and Luna though a warm egg was a lovely place to nap.
Today both of the remaining ducklings disappeared. #3 found one dead with a leg broken in the same way the one had been before. We were unable to find either of the other ducklings. At first Matt seemed to be trying to find them, walking around calling out, but by bedtime she seemed to have given up. She was in the barn with the other birds and calm when the barn got closed up. We still have no idea what happened with the ducklings. When we saw them all the birds seemed to be accepting. Josh (the African gander who guards Matt) accepted the babies, Matt was being a great mom. I know it wasn't our barn cats, they left the last ducklings alone. I know it wasn't Moose because he's trained not to mess with the birds, and I know it wasn't Mazikeen or they'd be very slobbery and chewed on. I still suspect the new feral cat is to blame, since nothing like this happened this spring. Regardless, it's still heartbreaking. I want to just pull all the eggs from the ducks indefinitely and not have any more mom-raised babies. But I know, the hurt will subside, and I'll feel guilty stealing eggs from a broody momma duck, and I'll say "but maybe this time it'll be ok" and I'll do it all again.
This photo is from yesterday but I wanted to share it. I went to check the nest box for eggs and found Luna asleep in the hay. She stood up for some attention and revealed a nice warm egg underneath her. I guess the chicken was able to get in at some point, and Luna though a warm egg was a lovely place to nap.
Despite having multiple nest boxes in the barn, it seems this is the preferred box. I'm not sure why. I may have to invest in more similar boxes since they don't seem interested in the plastic ones that are mounted to the wall. Just the slat wooden one on the shelf. But not the solid wood one just beside it on the shelf, or the more enclosed carrier to the other side.
It's been a bit of a rough day. This morning I went out to let birds out and check bunnies. Now that nest boxes are in we will be doing at least twice a day nest checks. Spotty had delivered, likely in the wee hours of the morning. Six babies, two days too early. Only two were moving when I found them, and despite bringing them all in the house and warming the entire litter, we lost five right away. We warmed the last one up and it was moving nicely, but it was still obviously earlier than it should have been. We put it back in the nest and gave it back to Spotty, who was still actively pulling fur. An hour later when I went back to check, the baby was cold and hardly moving. We tried to warm it again, but it didn't make it. Two days early is just too early altogether.
Not to be brought down by the situation, #4 asked if we could give Spotty another try. Well, it's late in the season, and I wasn't really wanting to breed for a late September litter, but sure, why not. I didn't immediately re-breed, I thought I'd at least give her some time to recoup from delivery and maybe mourn for her lost litter. If rabbits mourn. Some of ours have clearly been distraught when they've lost a baby, while others don't seem to care at all. It's rough to lose a baby, but it's even worse to lose an entire litter.
It was one of those days where it was just wet enough outside to discourage you from getting any projects done, but just dry enough to make you want to get some yard work done. I caught Josh (our African gander) under the apple tree again this morning, ripping leaves and immature apples off the tree. He can be such a jerk, but he's so good at protecting the flock that I put up with his naughty behavior.
No goodies in the mail today. I did start a crochet project though. I'm going to try to make some kind of a triangle hair cover thing. Kind of a homesteader, nature hippy, boho feel to it. I never use a pattern (can't read them anyway), so I hope it turns out the way I visualize it. Time will tell. I still need to finish work on #2's bag too. I'm running out of time, but I'm still trying to figure out how to line a crochet yarn bag with fabric without using a needle and thread or a sewing machine to attach the fabric. I wonder if I could manage to sew it using yarn and a yarn needle to try to keep the outer appearance looking good. I have some old baby onesies stashed away that could be used for fabric for this project.
Late night rambling thoughts about where we're going with the farm next. I have more ideas than I have time and finances for. I remind myself daily to try to pace myself, but it's all so new and exciting. I've been dreaming of my very own farm since I was a child and the possibilities seem endless.
I know next spring I do want to try my hand at selling seedlings. I can winter sow my seeds, and when they're up and looking healthy, I can transplant them into cups and then sell them off to gardeners in the area. It's a thought, I'd like to make it a reality. It would be easier to do with a greenhouse, but I think I can manage on a small scale to see if it's even a viable market. There are greenhouses in the area here, and I don't want to come off as competition. I'd be offering weird varieties not likely to show up in a small town green house.
I want to get some of the Back To Eden style gardening spaces set up this fall before the snow flies so it has time to compost down a little before planting next year. We didn't do any in-ground gardening this year aside from a couple border gardens. This would also mean fencing off parts of the property to try to keep the birds out. The chickens can get into the rafters in the barn, so I'm not sure any amount of fencing would be practical to keep them out of the garden. Maybe electrical poultry netting. I will have to do more research.
I still need to plant the grapes and some berry bushes and shrubs yet, but Tony has been working solid and I don't have the ability to do it all myself. Especially not while refereeing kids all day. Some days they're sweet angels who help out and play nice. Other days I get nothing done for all the time I spend making sure they're not fighting or making messes every time I turn my back. They've got me outnumbered!
I also have all the apple and pear seedlings in little plastic cups in the entryway. The plan is to get a shelving unit and some plant lights and move them downstairs for the winter. It stays pretty consistently 65-degrees down there, so as long as I keep them watered and the lights on a 12 hour timer, we should be able to pull them through their first winter and transplant them in the spring to bigger containers. Depending how that goes, maybe we could even plant some here to start growing!
It's also time to consider last minute fall gardening. Do I still have time to plant cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beans, peas, spinach, and lettuce? It might be worth a shot just to see if I can get some last minute crops out yet. I think I did the same thing last year and only got a handful of peas before the cold weather took the plants out. I never know when to plant a fall garden. Everywhere else plants much earlier in the spring and further into the fall. The season is short here, so for procrastinators like me, gardening can be a bit of an extra challenge. I will learn and adapt though.
I did notice the okra plants have little flowers forming, and the tiny watermelon plants in the buckets are covered in flowers. The okra might make it, but I'm pretty sure it's too late for melons to be starting.
Just for a giggle, here's a photo of one of the green bell peppers we got from the CSA yesterday. I drew the eyes on.
On Friday the kids and I took the metal detector out for a little while. We didn't find much of interest. One giant square-headed railroad tie, one smaller square metal bolt, a U-nail, what appears to be a toy car axle, and a bunch of rusted metal scrap. While digging, #3 made the realization that "clay soil" literally means it's clay. At that point the detector game was over and she was more interested in digging up some clay to see if she could make something. Since I didn't want her digging up the yard, we found a place out in the front fields near the crab apple trees for her to dig up some clay. I picked up a bunch of crab apples off the ground while she did that. Here's Friday's finds and harvest:
I'm not sure how to tell when crab apples are ripe. The big ones in the left container were all on the ground, but on another nearby tree were much smaller apples that hadn't started to fall but were darker red. So I picked a few of them. I do plan on doing more research, but for simplicity sake, if anyone can just shoot me an email, I'd appreciate someone explaining crab apples to me. A good jelly recipe for them would also be greatly appreciated!
As of Saturday, both kittens have their eyes open. I am 99% sure that Harry and Hermione are both girls. The kids are split on changing Harry's name. I say we keep it. Harry could be short for Harriett, right?
Today was Sunday. I laid down early last night, not feeling well, and fell asleep before Tony got home. Thankfully the older kids are more than capable of watching the littler ones. Built in babysitters are a blessing! I woke up this morning feeling achy and sore. It took me all morning and into the afternoon to finally drag myself out of bed. Hot pack, ibuprofen, and the need to pee fueled my eventual rise. Even so, my knees hurt. What a weird thing, when the ibuprofen took away all the back, tummy, sinus, and throat aches, but made my knees hurt? Needless to say, I didn't get much done today.
I snapped a few photos of the spitz pair. They are gorgeous birds, but I don't think I'll be able to do them justice as a pair. I have no way to keep them separate from the rest of the flock to keep their genetics pure. If I did, I'd keep them in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the coop available locally that could fit two birds is $250 and with no heat and no way to move the open-bottom cage in the winter to prevent build up when it's too frozen to clean it out regularly... It's an expensive and risky investment.
Above and below are photos of Rockadoodle, our Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben rooster. What threw me off for a long time is that he doesn't have a large comb or waddles. Someone else posted a photo of their golden spitz roo and he had prominent waddles, so I started to doubt myself about this guy.
His giveaway though is that he has saddle feathers and one of his two rooster tail feathers has started to grow in. Even though he hasn't crowed yet, this one is definitely a rooster! He's also a good deal bigger than the other one, and walks more upright.
There's also a strange color contrast between these two. Rockadoodle had developed more of a black with gold flashes appearance, while his girlfriend is clearly more golden with black flecks. I don't know if this is normal or not, but I've been told this breed is not color sexed, so I suppose it's not common.
Above and below are photos of Goldie, our Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben hen. She's much smaller than Rockadoodle and walks normally like the other chickens (not the weird upright way he does). You can see on her face that she has no comb and only the tiniest smidge of waddled. Her face is also pink, while his is red. She does appear to have noticable hackle feathers. I'm not sure what to make of that
On her back side, she has no saddle feathers, which would further indicate she's a hen. The one thing that's throwing me right now is that she does have one longer tail feather. It's not as narrow and pointed as a rooster feather, but a hen shouldn't have any longer feathers like this.
Bonus points to anyone who caught the throwback to a 1991 children's cartoon movie called Rockadoodle (main character is named Chanticleer and he gets a girlfriend named Goldie). Anyway, since a Chantecler is a breed of chicken, I went with Rockadoodle for the rooster's name instead.
I am so glad I stayed up to write this blog! As I was writing I head Josh (our African gander) outside hollering, and a duck frantically quacking. This is not normal behavior. So I put the dogs out and ran for the barn. One lonely duck was outside the barn, desperately trying to get through the fence to get in the barn as it started to downpour. I got the duck in the barn, wrangled the dogs back in the house, and now that I'm done blogging, I do believe it's time for bed.
It's been a long day in a weird way. It's 11pm and I honestly can't even remember what in the world I've done today. I know the critters destroyed the one plant I still had on the outside of the fence (which they hadn't touched in the weeks it's been there and I thought it would be safe).... I even planted it into a different container and put it right beside the door.
That lasted all of an hour or two. I don't even know who the culprit is. It was ripped out by the roots and shredded all over the end of the walkway. I grabbed a few pieces and tried to replant them (and then put it in the fenced area). I found a few more pieces and had #3 plant them into cups and put them in the fenced space too. I have no idea if they will grow or not. I hope they do. This was a cool plant. I think it was hen and chicks, but I've never seen one put babies out on strings like this before.
I also picked our second strawberry of the year. This time I ate it before kids realized I'd picked it. It was delicious. The epitome of what a home grown strawberry should taste like.
This strawberry had such perky little seeds that I scraped a few off with my fingernail and put them back into the hanging basket. If they sprout and grow, great. If not, at least I tried.
I was admiring my spitz chickens today. We snagged two Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben chicks from our mystery box. I've been watching and waiting to see if they are boys or girls. Their color differences are starting to become more apparent. The darker one is starting to get saddle feathers and is challenging other birds - clearly a rooster. The lighter one doesn't appear to have saddle feathers, but I'm not sure it's a girl. It could just be a slower-to-develop roo. If they're a pair, I'd love to set up a coop and let them breed. If I were to buy more from the hatchery, they'd be $14.90 each. If a coop from the store runs about $200, I'd have to sell 14 chicks at $15 each to make up the cost. That might just be a good investment. Or better yet - sell 20 chicks at $10 each. Either way, as long as one is a male and one a female, and they survive winter to breed in the spring... Knock on wood. Once I know for sure I've got a pair, I'll run the idea by Tony. Just out of curiosity - would anyone in the area of central Minnesota be interested in purchasing GSAS chicks or hatching eggs?
I was able to count eight ducklings today while they were out walking. Matt has been sitting on the remaining eggs, and covers them up when she leaves, so I don't know if they're viable or not, but I'm giving her a chance. Josh (African gander) is taking his roll of protector seriously. He screams if anyone (human or animal) comes within five feet of his new duckling additions. I'm glad he's accepted them as part of his flock. With two good moms and a guardian goose, these babies stand a decent chance of survival.
Tonight we removed the wall from the brooder in the barn. The chicks we hatched from #1's friend and from Henrietta and Big Red are now free to mingle with the flock. Happy Feet and Gaetos were also in this group, so they are free to go too. I don't think I remembered to tag Happy Feet, so we may need to catch him/her tomorrow to put on a leg tag. Any bird with a tag is pretty much guaranteed a permanent place here. Gaetos should get one too, but he's incredibly shy, and we already have his older siblings - Nicey and Charlie... So if Gaetos is a girl, she can stay... but if Gaetos is a boy, he'll have to go. We already have three males now (Nicey, his dad Omelet, and our dominant drake Helvegan).
We have not named the ducks in the basement brooder because only the ones that turn out to be hens will be staying. We really weren't planning on hatching so many ducks, but the excitement of an incubator got to me, and I put in way too many... I guess they call it chicken math... but yeah, too many males will cause problems. This fall the extra drakes will be joining the extra roosters in our freezer. I don't even know if I like duck or not, but it's food, and I'll know it was grown here in happy free-range conditions... I'd really rather not think about the end though.
Tony did say we've really over-reached our bird hobby for now, and I have to agree. As much as I really want more guineas, and some ancona ducks, and a couple turkeys... that order will have to wait until next summer I think. We will have our hands full with the birds we already have. Of course, if someone local had some and wanted to trade for some of our chickens or ducklings... I'd be open to that too!
Tony was able to throw together a make-shift barrier so I could keep the birds away from my garden. He used one of the rolls of chicken wire we pulled up from the turtle cage area, stapled one end to the edge of the house and the other to the handrail at the edge of the door. He used the green buckets with the destroyed plants to hold the wire in place (no stakes). He kind of just threw it together and I had to re-arrange everything myself to get it set properly before I opened the barn today. I'd say it was successful. Despite being crotch level, I can climb over it, the ducks and geese cannot. The chickens seem to realize it's not worth the effort to fly over when they have acres of other plants they wouldn't have to work so hard for.
So, I moved the newest apple tree up against the house so it will hopefully stop tipping over. The big tomato plant from Costco is now part of the fence barrier because the birds seemed to be leaving it alone. I still have a lot of plants to re-pot, and this is not going to be our permanent garden space, but for now it's a relief to have the plants in a safe space.
On a side note - does anyone know what kind of plant this is? It's growing beside the house, I assume an escaped planted variety. Spiky yellow flowers, leaves that almost look like a succulent, and low growing.
I finally got to the raspberry beds today! Yay!! That was a long time coming. It took three wheelbarrow loads of compost and manure to mostly fill the beds. When I tried to bring the hose over to wet it all down, I realized I was about 40-50 feet short. We have it set up for a quick release so there's a set of hoses that go out to the orchard trees, and the first length of hose I can disconnect and use for things around the yard - like watering gardens and refilling the duck/goose pool and so on. I didn't want to go and retrieve the next 100 foot length of hose that was down the driveway, so I asked Tony if he could pick one up from work next time he had spare time. Then I filled the new wheelbarrow with hose water from the end of the length and hauled it over, splashing it our over the compost and manure. It wasn't pretty, it took forever, it wasn't perfect, but it got enough of it wet enough that I could proceed.
I put an entire bag of ProMix soil in the wheelbarrow and added water until it was a good consistency. I wheeled it over and shoveled it into the garden beds over the manure mix. Again, I'd love to have mixed it, but with no easy source of water, it's layered instead.
Then I gathered up the plants. Encore, Fall Gold (x3), Canby, Red Latham, and Ann raspberries, and Arapaho and White Snowbank (x2) blackberries. Yes, for those of you who're regular readers of my blog, you might remember I already planted the Anne raspberry once. It was in the side garden with the columbine and the bleeding hearts. The bleeding hearts died right away, the little flowers and the dusty miller I planted around the border were quickly eaten by birds, and the Anne raspberry never grew. The columbine is there, it looked like it was going to flower until we got a heavy rain, and now it's just greenery. But I digress...
The north bed has Encore at the east end, three Fall Gold in the middle, and a Canby on the west end. The three Fall Gold were purchased from Baker Creek and are live plants. We've had them on the window sill since they arrived in the mail. I'm hoping they do well transitioning from plastic cups to a raised bed. The Encore and Canby raspberry plants came from Gurney's. They were shipped with straw stuff around bare roots. and despite being kept moist and under a grow light, they have not grown yet. I'm hoping soil and full sun will intice them to grow.
The south bed has Red Latham raspberry to the east, then an Arapaho blackberry, two White Snowbank blackberries, and the Anne raspberry at the west end. The Red Latham and the Arapaho plants came from the feed store months ago. They've been sitting in the window sill enjoying some growth. I'm hoping the manure and full sun will help them grow more. The White Snowbank blackberries came from Baker Creek as baby plants and were with the Fall Gold raspberries in cups in the windowsill. The Anne raspberry didn't come from the company I thought it had, so I'm baffled where I ordered it from. It was planted in the one garden and never grew, so I'm trying it in the raised bed. I think it may be a dead plant, despite having water and sunlight it shows no signs of growth.
Once all the plants were in the soil, I covered the top with mulch to help retain moisture. I'd have left them like that but Big Red and Phil were circling me from the time I opened the first bag of mulch, and I knew they were eying my new plants. So #3 and I put a short chicken wire fence up. I's a short fence, I know the chickens could easily jump over it, but I'm hoping they practice the restraint they have with the newly fenced plants up by the house. Besides, at this point it would be easy to reach over and harvest berries, so maybe I won't even have to take it off for a year or two. We used up the last of one roll from the turtle cage stash, and the other roll was one we'd bought for a different project that we never got to. Either way, the raspberry and blackberry gardens are completed!
Today Dashi and Matt decided it was time to leave the nest with their new babies. Dashi has been broody for a month, and Matt really only started to sit a couple weeks ago. She kept laying eggs in the nest too, so when they left there were still eggs left behind. I left them in hopes that Matt might go lay on them yet, but I don't think she will.
There are seven or eight ducklings now. Our first hen-hatched babies on the homestead. Josh the African gander has accepted them as part of his flock and guards them. I don't want to stress the new family out by getting too close, but I counted seven, possibly eight babies from afar. These are rouen cross babies, but some may be half Indian Runner (if Omelet is the father). I'm hoping they keep the babies safe and they grow up. I'm not separating them and they live with the barn cats. They may have their work cut out for them.
Tomorrow my goal is to get more of the plants transplanted out of the winter sown containers and into bigger containers. I also need to figure out how to curb the grass growth in my new fenced garden area so I don't lose my seedlings in the tall weeds. I still do not have a lawn mower.
I finally figured out where I wanted my raspberry beds. Got them moved and I'm happy with their location now. Tomorrow I plan to get them filled with manure and compost and soil and maybe even planted (if kids and weather cooperate).
Earlier this summer we had three trees blooming at once. I know one is an apple tree because it mass-produced apples for us last year. The other two I assumed were crab-apple trees. The one closer to the apple tree is producing tiny berry like fruits, currently about the size of my pinky nail. The tree on the far side of the yard, which I recently trimmed all the dead branches from, is producing much larger fruit. Fruits the same size right now as the fruits developing on the apple tree. Could it be they're both apple trees and it just didn't produce well last year because the tree was trying to maintain dead branches? It will be interesting to see what becomes of the fruits. Apple - or crab apple?
I went out to the peninsula that sticks out into the lake. There is a fallen tree (one of many out there), but this one has a hollow bit facing the lake. I figured, why not try to plant something? Partial shade, but it gets a few hours of direct sunlight. Options for shallow roots and limited sun left me with lettuce, peas, or beans. We went with beans. I planted two seeds of Prizewinner - a variety we've grown in the past and it grew so big it actually tipped the fence over, and a small handful of Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Maybe they'll grow, maybe they'll be eaten by squirrels. Maybe they won't grow at all. It's a science experiment.
While out there I found a hidden rhubarb plant. Great! My awful birds (particularly my embdens) have destroyed every one of my rhubarb seedlings for the second year in a row now (last year it was Josh the African gander). I'll have to wait another year to try again with seedlings. Good thing I have plenty of seeds! Just means waiting another year for our first harvest (which can take years of growth from seed). The birds haven't seemed to mess with the three rhubarb plants that were transplanted from the old house, but they killed both of the existing rhubarb plants here and two containers full of seedlings too. I'm hoping I don't have to fence everything in to prevent them from destroying everything.
They also dug up and destroyed my okra, and started to nibble on the melon and squash seedlings. I don't know what I can do to prevent them from massacring all of my unprotected winter sown containers.
Today I transplanted some into 5-gallon buckets, but they ate the okra that was in a 5-gallon bucket yesterday. I think I may have Tony pick up some stakes and I may have to put up a temporary chicken wire fence around the plants to deter them from digging them up.
I brought the containers for apple and d'anjou pears inside. I think I counted 36 apples and 11 pear seedlings. They all need to be transplanted so they have time and space to grow. The kids (#3 and #4) took the time to drill drainage holes in 47 red plastic cups tonight. Tomorrow they want to do the task of carefully separating the entwined roots of the precious baby trees and transplanting each into it's own cup. What a project. I'm glad I have willing helpers!
Today Henrietta isn't herself. She's our Barred Rock hen we got last fall. She went from laying one egg every day up until a couple months ago. She pretty much stopped laying shortly after we put some of her eggs in the incubator (and those chicks are nearly six weeks old now). Today when I opened the barn, she didn't come running out. I found her perched in her favorite spot, with another chicken perched on top of her. She didn't get upset or try to get the other bird to go away. I touched her. Henrietta hates being handled. She opened her eyes and looked at me, then closed them again. I picked her up, but all she did was make a weak groan noise. I set her on a different perch and filled the feed bin. Most of the other chickens came running. Henrietta didn't. I went back and put a handful of food in front of her. She wasn't interested. I left her alone. In the afternoon I saw her near one of the water buckets outside in the shade of a tree. I watched as #5 went right up to her, petted her, and tried to pick her up. I told him to leave her be. Later #3 found her, still under the tree, with Phil and Big Red pecking at her. Her comb has a tiny damaged spot, and her back is getting plucked (from breeding all spring and summer). With nothing else to do for her, I sprayed BluKote on her comb and on her back to try to help prevent further pecking. By bedtime we had to go retrieve Henrietta from the yard. She did not come in at sunset like the rest of the flock. When #3 put her up to roost, she laid down, her legs flopped back behind her, and she didn't even attempt to put her wings at their normal placement. I told #3 to put Henrietta in her normal nesting spot. The place she'd so loved to lay her eggs. A nice wooden crate filled with dried grass over near the nesting ducks. She put her in the box, but it's pretty clear that Henrietta won't be with us much longer. I don't know what's wrong. We have tried to offer her food and water today and she has refused both. We got to spend some time with her, took some photos of her, and are prepared to have a chicken funeral tomorrow if need be. We don't know how old Henrietta is. She was full grown when we brought her home last fall, and her egg-a-day laying schedule would indicate she's likely a young hen yet. I wonder if she found something in the yard that wasn't safe to eat. Just to be sure, I sent #4 on a mission to make sure the yard was clear of any debris that maybe we overlooked. I wonder if she found the new potato towers, as one now has seedlings sprouting up and potatoes are poisonous to chickens. I don't think I'll have the heart to open her up for a necropsy.
Dashi (rouen hen) and Matt (rouen cross hen) continue to share a nest. Today I noticed a partially de-shelled egg just outside their nest. I grabbed it out, it was cold, but I decided to open it up anyway. A perfectly formed little duckling. What a shame it didn't hatch properly. Out of curiosity I braved dueling angry bills biting me to lift the ducks and peek underneath. One hatched duckling under there. Not worth stressing them out and certainly not worth the nasty bite I got from Dashi. If she's half as fierce at protecting that baby from the other birds, maybe it will survive. She's going to be a good momma I think.
I checked in on the colony rabbit babies again. Still all alive and seemingly well. The bigger tort bunny had a chunk missing out of one ear and a bite mark on it's head. Both appear to be healing well. The damaged kit with the bad foot is slowing down on growth and is now a little smaller than it's siblings. The foot is black and shriveling, and there's still swelling around the healthy tissue touching the black portion, but bunny remains active and has a full tummy and moves around the nest. It also has a bite on it's back and I decided today to go ahead and spray it with BluKote. I am worried this may make momma bunny kick it out of the nest, but I also want to hopefully help the bunny to heal cleanly. I sprayed both the damaged leg and the bite on the back and replaced the kit back in the nest. I will check back tomorrow, but from here on out, I won't be able to tell much about the bad foot as the whole thing is now purple from the BluKote.
In the mail today I got my order from SeedsNow with Scallop Golden Bush squash and Egg tomato seeds, as well as the Greek Basil bonus seeds. All three varieties have been on my wish list for a while, so a free-shipping promotion prompted me to go ahead and splurge a little.
Tony picked up an oregano plant and a Hazen apple tree after work too. I'm not sure where I'll put the new apple tree, but I am certain we will find a place for it.
Last night I finally got online and ordered ID tags for the dogs. Much to my delight, Drs Foster and Smith was having a sale on ID tags. Instead of $3.99 they were just 99-cents! I ended up buying two more tags for the barn cats and still only ended up spending what I'd have spent to buy one tag. Now we have to go buy collars for the barn cats. We will see who is the first to lose their tag (and/or collar). Moose lost his right away when we moved in. I'm hoping he might be less rough on this one, but just in case I ordered stainless steel for him and Mazikeen (orange aluminum for the cats). ID tags have free shipping to boot, so my total order with tax was $4.25 for four ID tags. That's a great deal!
This morning I picked our very first strawberry from our hanging baskets. I'd love to tell you how it tasted, but I set it down with the intent to wash the dirt off before eating it, and it magically disappeared. I suspect #5 ate it - dirt and all.
Yesterday I hooked up the new hoses and was able to bring the hose all the way out to the orchard trees on the far North end of the property. It took some doing, but I got them all watered real well. We've been hauling buckets of water all the way out there to water the trees and it took forever and was heavy lifting. Using a hose is much easier! Tony even rigged it up to have a release valve after the first 100-foot hose, so I can leave the rest of the hose out there to water the trees and still have a workable hose for watering the gardens closer to the house and refilling animal waters. My only complaint so far is that we already have grass growing through the landscape fabric and up through the mulch. What? We bought the more expensive landscape fabric that was supposed to prevent that! Well, no sense being frustrated with something you can't change now. Guess I'll just have to spot-weed as I water.
I suspect Floki (hairless cat) may be pregnant again, and possibly Mabel (Rex cat) as well. Both are showing large teats (nipples), Floki is gaining weight (she's typically a slender cat), and Mabel has become a loner, preferring to nap by herself in high places (a tell-tale sign in the past). This would be incredibly strange as our cats have so rarely come into heat before. One litter a year is all we could hope for at best. We didn't have any kittens last year (that I recall). Sage continues to battle a seemingly never ending upper respiratory issue and her corneal ulcer is nearly gone but also still hanging on. I need to take her back in to the vet clinic again, but I'm not sure what else they can really do for her. Another round of antibiotics for the sinus issue, another bottle of drops for her eyes. She's still not well enough to get her shots yet. I did not dose her with the flea and tick prevention that everyone else got on the 20th. I worry about her. She's petite to say the least. She is active, playful, outgoing, curious... but small, and perhaps medically frail considering her inability to kick this sinus issue.
Tonight I was looking at the big turtle trap that we'd found on the property. It's been sitting up in the yard for a while now (we have two and there are more out there where we got these from). I started thinking about how to turn them into mobile rabbit tractors. Last year we used a 5-foot by 5-foot fenced space, a tarp for a roof, and a plastic bin for a dry house. It worked well as long as the ground was even. It had to be moved daily, but the two rabbits in the cage seemed to be happy all summer long.
There will need to be a few modifications. There are a few spaces where the fencing is missing a space (intentional for the turtle trap but an escape route for a rabbit). A few little hardware mesh patches should fix those right up. The open end where the turtle is meant to come in can be closed up with a 2-foot by 2-foot wooden board. Drill some holes in the bottom of the board and wire it to the bottom of the cage. Add a clip to the top to keep it closed, and use the bent wire form of the cage as a hay holder or something. The end that opens up, just add a clip to keep it closed. The bar spacing allows the grass to easily stick up and through for easy munching, and the whole thing is pretty easy to move. I could play with different design ideas. A board or tarp over the top could protect from sun and rain. I could use a couple boards run from one side to the other to hold a plastic tote up off the ground to allow for a safe place to rest or sleep in without taking away from grazing space. If I were to wire a water container to the side of the cage it would prevent spilling (by the rabbits or while moving the cage) and make it easier to refill without opening the cage. The whole thing is roughly two feet wide, two feet high, and four feet long. If I were to keep one rabbit in each, moving each rabbit daily through the yard, I wonder how many I'd need to keep my lawn mowed (and fertilized). To get started, #3 has expressed interest in doing some of the wire patching tomorrow. With any luck I could have some rabbit tractors up and running within a week with minimal financial investment. Use what you've got! If I end up following up on this tractor project, I'll try to remember to take photos as we go!
On hot days like this, the kiddie pool is a popular destination as soon as the barn is opened up. Despite refilling their water bowl in the barn at sun down, they sometimes drink it all. Believe it or not, I dumped and refilled the pool twice today to try to keep it clean. I'm not sure how they do it, but these birds can turn the pool muddy in a matter of minutes it seems. It's also not the only water source around the yard, yet Quiche and Omelet (Indian Runner ducks) seem to be the only ones who go to another water dish right away in the morning. Still more chickens will lag behind to come get a drink after the crowd disperses a bit. We move the pool every time we refill it to make sure we don't kill the grass underneath it.
I love the assortment of chickens we have now. Brown, black, white and black, brown with speckles, black with brown heads, black and white striped, black, orange, silver headed, even one blue cochin. We have 53 chickens outside now. There are 16 more in the brooder, and a few more chicken eggs set to hatch on the 31st. Once we put the roosters in the freezer this fall (except Phil, Big Red, and Ralphie), we should have a nice line up for eggs next year!
Below is a photo of after the pool was dumped and refilled (again). Two of the embden goslings have decided it's funner to actually climb in and play. They were dipping their heads and blowing bubbles and splashing around.
The brown and silver duck there with them is the rouen cross we picked up with the goslings around Easter. They were eventually separated when we got smaller ducklings and wanted them in with the duck, but not the geese. Now she seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. Since I released them the other day from the barn brooder, she spends most of her time with Nicey and Charlie - the two Indian Runner ducklings she's been with for weeks now. But when the goslings walk by, she quickly abandons Nicey and Charlie to follow the geese. The geese neither accept her, nor chase her away. She's just kind of like a groupie.
Here's a better shot of the rouen cross. I'm pretty sure it's a hen. It's quack sounds more like Dashi (rouen hen) and less like Omelet (Indian Runner drake). She has the gorgeous silvering along the back like Helvegan (Runner/Khaki Campbell drake). I really hope she's a girl. I'd love to have more this color. She and Helvegan could make lots of pretty silver and brown babies...
She is also the only one of the ducks to brave playing in the kiddie pool so far this summer.
Today was humid. While we only got to 88-degrees, our clothes were sticking to us, and even the humidity in the incubator kept going too high. We started our morning with a brief thunderstorm, which of course put me right to sleep.
By the time I got up, put the clothes out on the laundry line, and hauled the wheelbarrow full of compost and manure, a bag of soil, a bag of mulch, and a shovel out to the orchard, it was too hot. I shoveled some compost/manure mix into two holes and decided to go back to the house.
I refilled all the animal waters - because it's important they have constant water when it's this hot. Then I did some house chores. But really I felt like I was missing out on valuable garden time. I decided to brave the heat a little closer to the house, and build up the garden I started last year.
Last year I threw down some cardboard, added some soil, and attempted to plant a small variety of plants. We got a handful of peas from that garden before the cold took it.
Today I saw some weeds that had managed to come up through the cardboard. Rather than trying to add more cardboard, I just laid down a layer of the landscape fabric that we had left over from the strawberry bed project. We'll have to buy more now for the raspberry beds, but I think this is a good use. Then #1 and I hauled buckets full of manure and compost from the bunny barn to the garden bed. It took a lot of buckets, but the wheelbarrow was out in the field for the orchard project. Once I had the landscape fabric covered with a couple inches of compost and manure, I hosed it down until it was thoroughly wet. Then I added five bags of mulch over the top, to cover all of the manure with at least a few inches. Then I hosed it all down again. At this point I took a break because the kids wanted to play with the hose (and it was 88 degrees, so why not?).
An hour or so later, when I got the hose back, I started transplanting some of the cold weather crops. Now, I have never had any luck growing any of these before, despite trying both from seed and from nursery stock in the past. And now with chickens, I'm not even sure these plants will survive the potential for the chickens to come along and eat them all... So this is experimental.
All in all, I transplanted in 11 Red Rubine Brussels Sprouts, 3 All-Year Cauliflower, 2 Romanesco Broccoli, four clumps of Calabrese Broccoli (it wasn't looking good and I doubt it will make it), and the one All-Season Cabbage plant that survived the container getting tipped multiple times. These are all winter sown seedlings.
I pulled back the mulch to expose the compost/manure layer, then added a handful of wet ProMix soil (with mycorrhizal fungi), before transplanting each plant. Then I carefully covered the soil with the mulch again, and when all the plants were in, I gave them all another good drink from the hose before calling it a night.
The puppy remains nameless tonight. She was hot all day, spending most of her time laying on the floor in the girls' room until #1 decided to kick her out and block her from coming back in. I brought her out several times, but couldn't get her to go potty. I kept bringing her to her food and water dishes, but she wouldn't eat or drink. I offered her several toys, but she just wasn't interested. The photo below was taken while she was laying against the barrier, with a toy she didn't want to play with. She's pretty photogenic.
After work Tony brought home a collar and a plush squeaky toy - which of course she instantly loved. Go figure - a toy type we don't offer to Moose.
Nearing sunset this evening, the sky turned the most beautiful mix of colors. It looked like a watercolor backdrop behind the trees.
Today we have an egg hatching in the incubator. It had already pipped when I put it in the hatching incubator yesterday, and it doesn't look like it will be done hatching before midnight, so today will not be this bird's hatch day. This egg is particularly special. This was the first egg we found that we thought was a guinea egg. We later realized they weren't guinea eggs, and were more than likely Matt's first eggs (our rouen cross hen). I can confirm from the tiny beak sticking out that this is a duck, not a guinea. However, It is up in the air what this baby will look like. Matt looks like a rouen with a white bowtie. Potential fathers could be Helvegan, the Indian Runner / Khaki Campbell with the pretty brown and silver feathers, or Omelet, the fawn and white Indian Runner. I will update when the baby hatches to see what color we get and try to guess who the father is.
Several times throughout the day, Josh was left hollering and wandering through the yard, alone, bereft, friendless. His three remaining ducks (Dashi and Quiche are sitting on eggs, leaving Omelet, Matt, and Helvegan to follow Josh around) kept wandering down to the reeds to munch on duckweed in the lake. At one point Josh took to following the three embden goslings and the rouen cross around, but they largely ignored him or tried to stay well away from him. I'm not sure why Josh won't go into the lake to eat duckweed too. I think he's too predator wary and doesn't want to be stuck in the reeds, unable to see something sneaking up.
We're supposed to be getting lots of rain in the next two days. Maybe it will keep the temperature a little lower. If we get some nice breaks in the rain and it's not too hot, maybe I can get some of the trees planted. It's a bit trickier to do them alone, but they've got to get planted. The hazelnuts are sitting in a bucket of water in the kitchen, bare root, and ready to go. The weeping willow needs to be planted too - it will go out on the peninsula so it can soak up water from the lake and hopefully lean it's branches over the water once it's mature.
I woke up early again this morning. It was 5:30, no alarms, just awake suddenly. The sky was overcast, and I thought - maybe I'm just not used to being up this early. It's not supposed to rain today. But then I was incredibly tired and decided to go back to sleep. I always get uncontrollably sleepy when rain is coming. I don't know why that is. I woke up again a few hours later, groggy and still sleepy, to my husband telling me it was starting to rain, so we would have to put off our morning plans for a while. Finally, about 10:30 the rain started to let up a bit, and I decided to go ahead and work outside, even if I got wet. By the time I finished a muffin and a cup of coffee, the rain had stopped.
The project this morning? The raised strawberry bed. I figured we wouldn't get through it today, but I wanted to at least get the frame and bottom half done, and the landscape fabric stapled on.
We started with the basic shape. Three sides are 8-foot long 2x8's, the front is two 3-foot long 2x8's, the walk way is two 6-foot long 2x8's and a 2' 2x8 at the end. We used 24" lengths of 4x4's to brace all of the corners except the far end of the walkway. We did have to add a temporary chunk of 4x4 to the middle of that 2-foot piece for the next step.
We carefully tipped the whole frame toward the open side, and then completely over (upside down).
We used 3-foot wide landscaping fabric and stapled it along the boards. It took three overlapping lengths to finish covering the entire bottom (flipped upside down as the top in these photos). Make sure you overlap the fabric at least an inch or two to prevent weeds and grass from coming up between the pieces. We also overlapped the edges just a little too to try to prevent any from sneaking in the sides.
Once the landscape fabric was completed, we carefully tipped it back over again to be the right side up.
We did not pull grass or even the ground. As you can see below it is uneven, but once we add in soil and stuff it should be fine.
We will add two more sets of 2x8's all the way around to make the entire bed 24" high. The walkway will have pea gravel to prevent weeds in the future, long after the landscape fabric has disintegrated with time. The garden space will have something in the bottom to take up space (probably mulch), then lots of compost, a layer of good soil and then mulch on top to keep the strawberries as weed free as possible.
Then it's just a matter of marking off the measurements for a square foot garden and planting all the bare root plants we have waiting to see soil.
Once we completed the strawberry bed framework it was off to pick up Tony's Father's Day gift... Yeah, those of you who follow the blog know, we decided to get a puppy. Now, before you jump up and start hollering... I do not condone giving animals as pets. This was a family decision, he was given ultimate decision on if he wanted a puppy or not. He's wanted a Saint Bernard for many years, but we've lived in town and never had space. We have a small house, but we have a huge yard now. I happened upon an ad for Saint Bernard puppies a while ago and showed him the photos, told him the price, and asked if he'd be interested in getting one as his Father's Day gift this year. He thought about it for a couple of days and decided he did want a puppy (his first dog - I've had several, but he's never had one that was his). Unfortunately the pup we picked out initially died when it was smothered in a puppy pile on a cold day. Our hearts broke, but the breeder was very nice about it, even sent the pup off for medical testing to make sure it wasn't any kind of genetic issue or something that could be a problem for the other pups... Then he offered us the last female in the litter, who's family had backed out and no longer wanted her.
Today, this little girl came home with us. She doesn't have a name yet, but the kids are excited. Moose could care less, but he has growled when she gets too close to his toys (so I have been putting his toys away every time he does this until he'll have nothing else to fuss about). Her only down side so far? She likes the chickens a little too much. Several times I had to chase after her hollering to get her to stop chasing them. She seems to understand "no" when she starts mouthing something she shouldn't (like my flowers, or the laundry basket), but that becomes meaningless when she's got a chicken in her sights. She's going to have to learn pretty quick that I'm not about to tolerate that behavior!
In other news, the kids found Iris today. We suspect she'd been on a nest the last several days, and with this extreme heat she came back to drink, and either drank too much or waited too long to get a drink. She was dead in the barn this afternoon. She wasn't there the day before yesterday, and I didn't see her when I closed up the barn last night. Given the smell, she couldn't have been dead for very long. Yesterday was 95-degrees, so if she'd have been sitting out in that heat she'd have stunk the whole barn up. She had to have come back either yesterday evening, or this morning right after the barn was opened up. The kids tried today to find her nest to try to save her eggs, but couldn't find it. At least now we know. I've already talked to Tony and we may order some guinea babies from the hatchery later this summer, when it's warm enough for them to go straight out to a brooder in the barn and bypass being in the house.
Today, Josh finally took the ducks down one of the paths to the lake. We're currently surrounded by bog, but there's tons of duckweed growing just off the shore. He walked down the path enough for three of the four ducks following him to realize the delicious bounty and swim space... He walked back up to the yard with just one duck. He wandered across the yard toward the barn before realizing some of his ducks were missing. He spent the next half an hour screaming and searching for his ducks - who were happily playing in the reeds just off the edge of the yard, out of sight. They did eventually reunite, but later those same three ducks wandered back without him to the lake, and he again screamed and wandered the yard until they came back. Where is the fifth duck in Josh's flock you ask? Quiche has decided to be unlike other Indian Runner ducks, and went broody. She only leaves her nest in the morning to run out and get a drink and then goes right back to her nest. Last I checked she was sitting on three eggs.
Tonight, as I closed up the birds in the barn, rechecked waters, and made sure everyone was settled in for the night, I shoveled up a wheelbarrow full of compost and manure from under cages (and some of the bedding from having just cleaned out the barn brooder today). This will serve as the compost and manure for the holes for the orchard. I'm hoping to get as many planted as I can tomorrow, because it's supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday - this way I won't have to haul as much water out. Let Mother Nature do the work for you, right? I'll still have to water the compost and again once the trees are planted before the mulch goes down, but hopefully the rain can soak the mulch and keep it all moist for a while.
I had a busy day today, but don't feel like I accomplished much. Bear with me, I have photos to share.
Last week Penelope lost her entire litter. The second day the kids found one of the barn cats with a bunny (unharmed) and put the kit back in the nest box. We figured maybe the cat got it while one of the kids had the hutch door open. The next morning the same kit was gone. Vanished from the entire hutch. Weird. The following morning the nest box had been dumped over and the remaining kits scattered. Two were cold, one was dead, and the fourth was just gone altogether. I found a whole in the hutch that I had overlooked before. It's too high up for baby bunnies to escape, and too small for fat Penelope to escape... But it's not too small to prevent the slim barn cats from getting in. So I covered it up. The two cold kits were warmed up and returned to the hutch and I moved the nest box to the far side away from the hole. In the off chance the cat or something still managed to get in - it would have to go all the way across the hutch and Penelope would have that much more time to fight it off. The next morning the block was still in place, the nest box was exactly where we had put it, but the last two kits were gone. We still have no idea what took the babies or how it got into the cage.
The whole situation made me worry more about Fern's litter. She's in the next hutch over and her nest box is pushed right up against the cage bars. Surely if something could reach in and snatch Penelope's babies, Fern's litter would be next... But alas, whatever it was never came back for Fern's litter.
Fern's babies are now ten days old. All four are fat and healthy. I snapped an updated photo. As soon as they start to leave the nest box I will do individual photos of them. They will be given Y-names to follow up on the last two years of naming the litters alphabetically.
During one of our visits to the homestead when we were looking at properties, I had noticed the foliage of tulips in the yard. I thought it was strange - there they were in the middle of the yard with no markers or anything. Another time we visited, that area had been mowed. This spring we got to see those tulips bloom. Wow! I have never seen tulips like this before. They're variegated orange and yellow and almost look like little floral flames! Gorgeous! I'm not sure if we should just make an impromptu garden bed there (bring in some rocks, ring it in, plant some more flowers), or dig them up and move them.
In an attempt to wrap up this year's winter sowing (and regain the kitchem space currently dedicated to plastic jugs), I got six containers done today.
Spaghetti Squash - We used to eat through these things as often as we could afford to buy them. Then I discovered I couldn't have dairy... So mixing spaghetti squash and parmesan cheese was no longer an option. I still want to try it again. Maybe with marinara sauce or something else instead. Anybody have any lactose-free recipes for spaghetti squash? I'm listening! I put 12 seeds in this jug.
Golden Zucchini - Yes, for those of you who've been reading the blog for a few years, I'm trying it... again. Every time I've grown this in the past it's been a struggle to keep the plant alive and I've been disappointed at the wasted garden space that never really produces any fruit... I planted the last eight seeds in this jug. Maybe a new location will fix the production problem?
Black Beauty Zucchini - I seem to have collected a bunch of these seeds through various trades and decided - why not? The envelope these seeds came from said they were donated because of low germination. I planted 30 seeds in the hopes I might get ten plants.
Lebanese White Bush Marrow - An interesting variety that I have tried previously. Last time I put it in my square foot garden and it quickly got choked out by other plants. I put 9 seeds in this jug in hopes giving them their own space this year might result in actually getting to taste them.
White Pumpkin - I don't know the actual variety name for this one. It was a white pumpkin we picked up (from a grocery store?). I know we used it for pumpkin pie and it was absolutely delicious. I saved some seeds in hopes of getting another tasty white pumpkin for pie again. I put 12 seeds in this jug.
Theron's Winter Harvest Winter Squash - Wow, the seeds for this variety are humongous! Even bigger than the seeds for Dill's Giant Atlantic pumpkin. I did try this variety before but it never sprouted. I'm running low on seeds, so I'm really hoping at least one of these five seeds produces a squash.
I couldn't get to sleep last night. I checked the brooder, and decided to help the little duckling along a bit more. The most adorable little brown and white duckling hatched somewhere between 1am and 2am this morning. I didn't want to mess with it because it was still wet, so I went off to bed. This morning the kids commented that the duckling was laying on its back. It was Tony's day to get them up for school, so I fell back to sleep. I remembered about what they said this afternoon and went to check the incubator. Sure enough - little duckling, laying on its back. I reached in to put it back on its feet, and it tipped right over again. One leg shot out, flailing to get rolled over again, but the other leg hardly moved at all. I took the duckling out to give it a better inspection.
This special little duckling was hatched with a bad leg. The left leg does not extend from the hock like it should. Instead, it's stuck in a constant "laying down" position. This means when it attempts to stand up or move with the good foot, the bad foot doesn't move, and it ends up tipping over to the left every time.
While holding the cute little beeper, I decided to name it Peg-leg Sue. If it's a girl, the name suits it. If it's a boy, he'll just be a boy named Sue. Either way, duckling has a name.
I consulted with one of my online duck groups, and the responses were pretty positive. I guess other people have ducks living with similar defects. It's not the death sentence I was worried it could be. It does sound like some pool noodle foam and some self-adhesive vet wrap will keep the leg from getting sores or getting scratched up when Sue moves around, and that Sue will eventually learn to walk. But the downside is that Sue will never be like other ducks. Sue will need specialized care (wrapping the pool noodle bumper), and would probably have better survival odds and quality of life if she became a house duck.
Let me be the first to say - we are not having a house duck. I love Peg-leg Sue, I think she's great. She's imprinted on me and loves to snuggle... but we absolutely cannot have a house bird.
In the meantime, Peg-leg Sue will be heading to the brooder tomorrow. I am prepared to give Sue their own box and mini food and water containers in case the other birds are mean.
Tonight, the second egg still had just a tiny hole. I decided to help it along, and I'm glad I did. The inner membrane was starting to shrink-wrap the duckling, despite the incubator being at 72% humidity. I was able to unwrap a portion and put the egg back in the incubator. The duckling then completed the hatching process on its own shortly thereafter. When I checked back a couple hours later, the new baby was curled up with Sue. I think they're going to be companions.
When the sun was down, I rounded up Josh and the ducks to go back into the barn for the night. Quiche has gone broody and has not left her nest since this morning when she left the barn to get a drink. Omelet is beside himself. He doesn't seem to know if he wants to stay with Quiche or follow the other ducks. A couple times I saw Helvegan chase him away from the group. Poor Omelet has lost his position as lead male now that Quiche is on eggs.
With all five ducks, three chickens, two guineas (Iris is still missing), and the goose in the barn, I locked it all up and then had Tony remove the end panel from the big brooder box.
Tonight is the night the (now 7-8 week old) babies meet their bigger flock mates face-to-face. They've been in the barn for a while and have been able to hear and communicate with the other birds. Some of the chicks already have been flying out of the brooder, but they stay close to the brooder and don't go far to explore. The chickens are fully capable of having hopped up to the edge of the brooder to peek in, though I did not see them do this. Josh is also easily able to look over the edge, and the biggest gosling is also able to peer over the edge, so this isn't a cold or sudden introduction.
The end panel came off, I refilled the big birds' food bin to full capacity (something I haven't done in a very long time), and I stood back and observed. The goslings were the first ones out, followed by about 1/3 of the chicks. They came around the edge and walked toward me, some braved checking out the big rubber feed bowl. As soon as the chicks came out, Big Red started making his angry hen noise from his perch high up on the opposite side of the barn. Henrietta and Phil moved away to the other side of the barn, selecting a different place to perch. Josh eventually brought his ducks over to the food bin, caught sight of the goslings and charged. He's not happy about having companions. The second time he charged, I was able to snag him and pick him up. He's a pretty big bird! Ryan (the biggest gosling) came by to see what I was going. Josh looked at the gosling, and when it took one too many steps toward me, Josh started to squirm. I set him down and he plodded off toward his ducks, who had wandered back to the water dish on the other side of the barn.
I turned the barn lights off tonight. We usually leave them on all night because Josh gets upset if he can't find his ducks. The only light in the barn tonight is the brooder light hanging above the now open brooder. I hope they have enough space to work it out and get away from one another. I guess we will see tomorrow when I go into the barn to check on everyone.
We're supposed to get one whopper of a heat wave. The two week forecast has at least three days that are supposed to get up to 90 degrees! After tonight I shouldn't need the brooder lamp outside anymore.
Our little Happy Feet duckling finally came out if his (or her) shell today. This was the one viable egg out of over a dozen we originally put in the incubator, and it would "dance" in the shell when #5 played music on the computer (as seen by candling). We are excited to announce his (or her) arrival. The official name will be "Happy Feet" and this is the first duckling hatched here on the homestead. Momma is Dashi, our rouen hen, and Dad is Helvegan, our Indian Runner / Khaki Campbell drake.
Today's big project, since the weather was beautiful, was the garden space just outside the living room door. We pass it frequently, it's just beside the screen porch. It had a couple stray plants, mostly grass and weeds, and a pea shrub growing in it. It only gets morning sun before being shaded by the house from the afternoon on.
This bed was all gravel, with a few years of composted leaves over the top. Digging up the rooted bits was hard, but it made it pretty easy to pull the grass and weeds up as there wasn't much soil. With most of the weeds and grass removed, I added three buckets full of rabbit manure. Some was fresh and some was nearly completely composted to soil. Once it was all set up, I added the plants!
There are two Bleeding Hearts plants. My mother-in-law had a big clump of these up against her house. Since she passed away several years ago, #1 has asked for little more than her own Bleeding Heart plants to remember grandma by. I looked for years in local greenhouses, various big box stores and home improvement type stores, I balked at paying more for shipping than for the plants in catalogs. This year while at the feed store I happened to see this package with two plants in it for something like $7. It's been sitting in the window in the entry way soaking up the morning sun every day. The kids pointed out that it's actually flowering already... I figured it was time to get it planted.
One Anne Raspberry plant arrived in the mail today from Gardens Alive. It was $7.99 and I ordered it back when it was still too cold to plant it. I love companies that will ship when the weather is ready so I don't have to worry about what to do with plants that can't be planted yet. I bought this one to compare against the Fall Gold raspberries I bought somewhere else. They're both yellow raspberries, but I noticed that companies who carry one variety do not usually carry the other, and I wondered what the difference was.
Two Columbine plants to attract hummingbirds. I grew up calling these honeysuckle, and I remember the rare treat they were to find in the woods and the sweet nectar they offered. These were a little more expensive than I had hoped. They were $5.99 each at a local home improvement store. I got a third one for $2.99 but it's a bit more wispy and I saved it for another location. These are two different colors. I put the brighter colored one on the darker half of the garden. I'm hoping to feed the hummingbirds with these.
Four pink Impatient flowers that came from the clearance rack at Menard's. A sad six pack of flowers looked like they'd been a little neglected. There was a 50-cents label on them. I figured, flowers that like shade? For 50-cents, I can give them a shot. I brought them home and watered them and they sprang right back to life and started to bloom. I used four of the six in this garden.
I've seen Dusty Miller at stores before and I always thought it was pretty, but where would I put an annual that doesn't produce food? Now that we have a lot more space, I decided to go for it. These were an impulse buy last time we went to Menard's, and I'm glad I picked them up. They should give a nice contrast color to an otherwise over-looked garden space.
The four cockerels and one embden gosling have done well out in the brooder in the barn so far. Today I decided to add a couple more. My criteria for selecting who goes outside? They have to be able to fly up to the edge of the 2-foot tall brooder wall. I need to know they can get up and away from Peter Pecker, the feather-plucking jerk gosling. While refilling the water bin, one striped cockerel (a barred rock?) flew right up to me. Out to the barn he went. When I came back down to finish chores, another big black chick was perched on top of the food bin, so I picked it up to go out too. I noticed a toe was crooked and thought maybe it had managed to break the toe. Then I saw that both of this bird's inner-most toes are bent. What? Just a weird thing I guess. It seems able to perch and move just fine. Not sure if this one is a boy or a girl (not that you can tell by the feet). I suspect it may be an Australorp hen.
I got a great updated photo of Josh and his ducks. And it's even in focus! Behold - Josh the goose and his flock of five ducks.
From left to right:
Helvegan is an Indian Runner / Khaki Campbell drake (gorgeous dark head and silvery chocolate body)
Matt is an Indian Runner / Rouen cross hen (she has a white bow tie mark so we thought she would be a boy - she is named after Matt Smith, who played in Doctor Who and wore a bow tie)
Dashi is a purebred Rouen hen (she looks like a mallard hen and walks with a severe limp for no apparent reason)
Quiche is a purebred Indian Runner hen (she's the dark brown and white standing next to Josh the gander)
Omelet is a purebred Indian Runner drake (he's fawn and white and came with Quiche - he is very protective of her, and the two of them often wander away from Josh together)
Josh the goose is an African gander and the leader of the waterfowl flock. He keeps the ducks safe, breaks up squabbles, and brings them to good forage spots around the yard.
It's been a while since I gave a Sage update. She's feeling a lot better. I can still hear her breathing here and there, but there's no more green nose goop or sneezing. Her eye ulcer is looking a lot better, and she is active. She has figured out how to climb backwards down the cat tree to avoid face-planting. I've caught her a few times using the litter box (which she still does not use 100% of the time). She is a climber of pant legs, and can now jump up to the edge of the bathtub. That said, the ulcer is still there and I continue to give her medicine throughout the day. She's still too little for vaccinations, and the vet didn't seem interested in having her come back again until she was bigger unless there were more complications with her eye. I'm hoping it heals up before I run out of medicine. Otherwise we will have to go back for another re-check before getting a medicine re-fill. She is pretty darn cute though...
Today I also found Penelope's nest knocked over, her kits scattered - two were cold, one was dead, and the fourth was missing. I found the space where the board was missing under the ledge of the hutch. The space where our barn cats were able to get into the hutch to remove and kill the kits. With help from #5 we were able to warm up the two cold kits, and return them to the nest. I moved the nest to a different place in the hutch and used an empty feed bag to cover the gap temporarily until I can get Tony to put a board over the gap. Penelope's litter of five is now down to just two. I'm glad we figured out what was going on before they were all gone.
A few hours later when I went out to do something else, I noticed Fern had managed to knock her hutch door open (or maybe she also had help from the cats) and was running loose in the barn. A note here, that as nice as Fern is in her cage, she's a complete wild mess outside of her cage. It took forever to catch her. I'm so glad she's not a biter! She was successfully reunited with her four kits... Or at least I really hope there are still four after the hutch door was hanging open for who knows how long... I didn't even take the time to do a head count. I saw wiggling under the fur pile and figured that was enough confirmation.
Overall, it's been a long and somewhat challenging day. I've felt overwhelmed to the point of tears when the kids flat out refused to help with basic chores, and it wasn't until Tony remotely blocked their cell phones and all electronics in the house that some of them started to help out a little. I think there's going to be some major changes when school gets out regarding electronic use and getting chores done. Kids will have to get used to earning phone, computer, tablet, or tv time. Or those things will simply go away (or get locked up). I refuse to have to bribe or beg my children to do basic chores. I don't think it's too much to ask for them to help wash the dishes, pick up the living room, clear the table for dinner, or scoop the litter box. And honestly, I typically only ask them for one chore per day, and still they complain. Some days they're great and helpful and considerate, and other days, like today, I'm reduced to tears and left wondering if I've somehow failed as a parent to instill a good work ethic in my children.
I cleaned out the hatching incubator today. Wow that got gross fast! Right now it's just the tiny chick from the fairy egg in there (he went to the brooder with the other chicks but then fell in the water and got sopping wet). There are still six eggs that didn't hatch. When I candled them I saw no movement, I hear no peeps, and I suspect they've died and will not hatch. That said, I put them back in the brooder, just in case. I added the two Indian Runner eggs to the hatching incubator today. They're set to hatch Friday.
I've been sorely lacking in my blogging as of late. I'm not even sure where I left off. So a quick overview of the last few days...
Of the dozen bunnies in the three colony litters, we decided to keep one back as a future breeding project. Of the eleven remaining bunnies, nine have people who have spoken for them and have scheduled meetings to pick them up. That just leaves two... Both are black bucks. I think this may be the first time I've been this close to selling out an entire litter before they're even ready to leave! I'm hoping nobody backs out, but realistically, it's another two weeks before they can go, and that's a lot of waiting.
The saint bernard puppy that we put a deposit on died. I guess they were puppy piling and ours was at the bottom of the pile and suffocated. My heart is broken, but my husband has decided to take the last remaining female in the litter instead (the people who put a deposit on her backed out). It's his father's day gift, so I have no say in it. I wasn't fond of that one, but again, this will be his dog, not mine.
Yesterday evening when I went to refill food and water for the brooder, I found a chick laying on its back. I thought it was dead, but it moved when I picked it up. It was plucked clean from the shoulders to the tail except for wing feathers. I sprayed it down with BluKote and put it in the other side of the brooder with the more mellow chicks and the ducklings. It just laid there under the light. Some of the chicks would come and pick at it, and it made no effort to move. The big duckling started pulling on the wing feathers and I decided the bird deserved a dignified death. I put it in a little box with some bedding, got a small waterer and put some feed in the box, and brought the box up to the living room. Yes... I know... I brought a chicken into the house. It was going to die anyway, I didn't want to always wonder if it was pecked to death or if I did enough to help it. So in the box in the living room the chick was left. I checked again before bed and it was laying down with beak near the water. This morning the kids checked in and were surprised to find it standing there, pecking at the food we'd left for it. It was still lethargic, made no effort to really move around, but was eating and drinking (and pooping). I took some photos to share with the identification group I'm in. Turns out she's a girl, and before she looked like a bald eagle, she was properly feathered to be a Columbian Wyandotte chicken.
She's doing better, but is still weak and lethargic, but she's standing up and walking around some today. I did find her out of the box once, but I wonder if she fell out because the flaps were down and the sides are low... So I put her back in and put the sides up and she hasn't gotten out again since. Surprisingly enough, the dog leaves her alone.
In the meantime, Peter Pecker (the mean gosling) is in the kennel of shame until further notice. I posted an ad to try to sell him, but it seems my description is gathering more laughs than actual interest. Yes, his name is Peter Pecker - because he's a dick and he pecks the other birds. Yes, he's in the kennel of shame. He's a naughty bird. I look forward to the day he does outside and joins the flock - and Josh cleans his clock and sets him straight on his behavior. Because clearly his siblings and the chicks are not standing up to him. He was causing mini stampedes through the brooder when he would go all T-Rex on a bird and it would scream and everyone would run. It seriously was starting to look like a feathered scene from Jurassic Park... He'd stalk his prey, or start a stampede so he could select a victim amid the chaos. He's a real jerk. I love my birds, but this guy is earning his place in the oven as Christmas dinner... if I don't sell him first or he doesn't meet an unfortunate end when Josh won't tolerate him harassing the other birds... or my husband has had enough and throws him out before it's warm enough. Poor Peter Pecker is facing a rough future. He's $10 if anyone wants him.
Tomorrow is the day we are supposed to put the eggs in the second incubator, stop turning them, and increase humidity, so the babies can orient in the egg to the proper position to hatch. One minor glitch though... I went to set up the new still-air incubator yesterday. I hate it. The temperature gauge on it is clearly not set properly as it wasn't reading the temp right in the house. It came with another thermometer, which looked wonky and had uneven intervals - and that one didn't match up to the house temp or the thermometer on the incubator. So I pulled the one out of the good incubator that we've been using to make sure the temps match up. In picking it up, I must have bumped it in just the wrong way because now the glass part with the red indicator isn't secured to the back with the numbers, so depending how I put it back in, it shows a ten degree variance. I put it in anyway... So once the incubator was fired up and running... I had three thermometers and all of them were reading different temperatures. Which make me question the humidity gauge. I didn't like it, I didn't trust it, so I asked Tony to make an emergency stop today before work to return the still air and spend the extra to buy the better one that we are currently using to incubate (a second one to be our hatching incubator). He couldn't find the receipt for the still air incubatore, so he didn't return it, but he called on break to say he's got the new one in the car. I'll have to set it up tonight so it's ready for eggs tomorrow.
As for winter sowing progress, we now have sprouts in Jumbo Pink Banana Squash, Galeux D' Eysines pumpkin, Yellow Monster Pepper, Connecticut Field Pumpkin, Japanese Black Pumpkin, Jimmy Nardello pepper, Rezha Macedonian Pepper, King of the North Pepper, and Clemson Spineless Okra.
I'm hoping some of the less cold tolerant sprouts survive the next several days. We're supposed to dip below freezing again tonight.
Today I collected five eggs. To a seasoned farmer, or someone with a nice flock of chickens or ducks, this might seem unimpressive. But to me, it's a very special number right now. We only have five female birds... This means that every hen laid an egg today... Even dear Matt who has us questioning her gender with her very sporadic egg production (this is her third egg).
I've been saving all of the eggs since the 2nd to go into the incubator tomorrow when the other eggs come out. Now that I'm thinking more about it, I think perhaps just the duck and guinea eggs will go in tomorrow, and we'll start fresh gathering chicken eggs and space them a week out so they hatch at the same time. I wonder if it will matter at all once I start brooding them outside when the weather finally decides to get with the calendar.
Today I had to bring the five fruit trees back in the house again to prevent them from freezing. They're in buckets so they can be moved from the entryway (where all our other plants are awaiting warm weather to be planted outside), to outdoors to save space. I think it's futile anyway because I'm fairly certain we bought five dead fruit trees... No growth at all... And despite having "Guaranteed to grow" right on the package, the website of the company has no information at all, and of course since we bought these months ago, no receipt either. Disappointing. And expensive.
Chores are done, sun has gone down, and I need to drag myself off to bed soon. Tony left with most of the kids to go to the funeral. He called to let me know he'd made it safely to the hotel, and to let the kids say goodnight. The last remaining child here is already snoring in bed.
My anxiety creeps up on me at night when my babies are far from home. I miss them, I worry about them, and it can be downright distressing. I'm trying not to think about it.
Tomorrow I have an appointment to bring Sage to the vet. Except now since all the kids have gone with Tony, and the last kid here will be in school - I've got to go all on my own. Which to a normal person would be a good thing. But for me - for me that's a major source of anxiety. I never go anywhere alone.
So here I am, up at just past midnight. I need to go to bed so I can get up and get that one kid up and ready to go to school. She wants me to cut her hair before school too. Then I'll need to do all of my regular chores (making sure all the critters have food and water, letting the birds out of the barn to free-range, checking in with the brooder chicks). I need to manage a shower in there somewhere, the brooder needs to be cleaned out (again), and I still need to clean out the colony building - which I think I'll put off until this weekend when kids can help.
I brought Peter Pecker outside today. That's the smallest gosling - the one who picks on all the other chicks. I put him in a big turtle trap out in the yard, in hopes that the flock would come and meet him and I could get a feel for how introductions would go later. Yeah, well, that didn't happen.
Josh took one long look at Peter Pecker, peeping in his cage, and ushered his ducks to the other side of the building. When I moved Peter Pecker's cage to the front of the barn, Josh again eyed him from afar before directing his ducks down the driveway and away again. Not wanting Josh to go any further toward the road, I brought Peter Pecker back in the house and put him back in the brooder. When I came back out, Josh and the ducks were back to playing in the pool like nothing had happened.
In a strange, partially related thought ... How do birds learn language? I mean, the ducks seem to somewhat understand what Josh is saying when he wants them to get up and move somewhere else. But what about birds like the embden goslings, who were hatched in an incubator and raised in a brooder? Is it possible they just don't speak the same "language" as Josh? I know mixed flocks figure it out. We have ducks and guineas, chickens, and a goose - and they all have their rolls and they do tend to keep their own mini-flocks based on species, but they get along at night when they roost and nest together, and they don't fight over territory in the yard. After today's avoidance of Peter Pecker, I have to wonder if bringing out four new goslings is going to create a second little flock of embdens instead of integrating them into the Josh-and-his-ducks flock. Not much to worry about yet. They hardly have any feathers at all. And it's still in the 30's and low 40's at night here... I don't think they'll ever get to go (and stay) outside at this rate.
I'm wondering about possibly taking some of the chicks outside that have discovered the gift of flight. They should be able to get up off the floor to various roosting places in the barn, and there are places underneath things that Josh cannot get to in case he gets mean with them. But then again, it's still cold, and the barn cats might not see them as flock birds so much as snack toys. Maybe I'll discuss with Tony about investing in some fencing and sectioning off a part of the barn - adding in a brooder light, and leaving some of the bigger, more aggressive, or better feathered babies outside with a heat lamp. I don't want to kill them, but it was a mistake to put a brooder indoors. That will never happen again. At least never on a scale like this! We have 50 chicks, 4 goslings, and 3 ducklings indoors, with more set to hatch in ten more days. That brooder has got to be moved outside. Tony gets off early next Friday and has next weekend off. Sounds like an excellent time to set up the brooder out in the barn or the garage. According to the forecast on the Weather Channel app, we should be in the high 40's to mid 50's for lows by then. Chicks will be 6 weeks old on the 14th (that Monday).
As you can see, when stressed, my mind wanders. Hence why I am still awake.
Today #5 caught all the colony bunnies so I could gender check and photograph them. Check out the Rabbits page to see! I know I said I was going to wait to gender check them, but someone asked me about which kits were girls. Well, it turns out, not many of them! There are eight bucks out of twelve kits! That's 2/3 of the kits! Yikes! We decided to keep the broken torte just to see how the color turns out. That leaves three girls and eight boys that will need homes as of the 25th of the month.
Check out today's video of #5 singing to tame another bunny HERE. Bunny in his arms is the black buck with a white foot.
Today the mail brought the Viking Aronia and the Fall Gold Raspberry plants I had ordered from Baker Creek. This morning I also ordered Edelweiss grape, canby raspberry, and Encore raspberry from another company. It occurs to be that we are going to have raspberries coming out our ears once they all start producing. But hey, we should have red, yellow, and black raspberries, blue and pink blueberries, and black and white blackberries. This could make for the coolest fruit salad ever!
The last few days Kaelyn has been pulling fur. I'm hoping she's just overzealous to get her nest started and that it isn't a sign of a false pregnancy. We no longer have the buck she was bred to, so this is our only shot at those precious vienna genetics we're trying for. Come on blue eyes! She's not due until the 9th.
For now, I'm taking Moose and heading to bed. I swear this dog is a life saver. I feel safe with him around.
The chicks in the brooder will be four weeks old tomorrow. Wow! Only two weeks left until they're supposed to go outside. I have at least three in there that have figured out their gift of flight and have been side-swapping back and forth between the duck half and the gosling half. On the other hand, the goslings are still all fluff, and the blue chick (the only blue chick) is only just now starting to get wing feathers. She (or he?) is otherwise also still all fluff.
At this rate I can only assume that some of the chicks will not be ready to go outside in two weeks. I plan to introduce a few at a time. Maybe that will help integrate them into the flock better. Take the biggest, best feathered chicks out and put them into a crate like I do when introducing other new birds. Leave them in for a day, and release them. The only problem I see is that I won't be able to close the barn up and keep them contained for a few days like I'd like to, if I stagger their introductions. I hope they gain some size in the next two weeks. The barn cats may find them to be tasty morsels as they're currently about the size of the birds that visit the feeders in the yard.
Today I got four eggs from the barn. Four eggs and we have five female birds... That's pretty good odds! We got eggs from Dashi (rouen duck hen), Quiche (Indian Runner duck hen), Iris (guinea hen), and Henrietta (Barred Rock hen). The only slacker remains Matt... I swear Matt must be a boy due to a lack of eggs, but there is no curled feather to identify Matt as a male. Matt remains a mystery.
Today while taking the bin of brooder shavings out to the compost heap, I found the guineas cowering under the outdoor rabbit cages, screaming their warning call, the chickens up against the side of the garage hiding in the shadows, and Josh ushering the ducks into the barn. Up in the sky, four giant brown birds were circling, riding the air currents. They reminded me of vultures or buzzards circling a dying animal, but they were nearly as big as the bald eagles. At first I pegged them for large hawks, but I saw them later on the melting ice on the lake and I swear they're all juvenile baldies. Why there would be four packed together, I'm not sure, but that's what they look like, and one even came around and perched where the big bald eagles often sit to watch the livestock. As always before, my presence deterred them and they flew off all three times they were in or near the yard today. You know it's bad when by 7:30 with the sun still shining, all three guineas and all three chickens have put themselves up in the barn for the night.
Tony took the kids down to visit his grandmother this weekend. She is teminal and has refused treatment, so it was Tony's last chance to see her before she passes. The kids seem to have had fun. Tony rented a hotel room and they got to play in the pool and visit with one of their favorite great-aunts. As I type this they aren't home yet, but called a while ago and are less than an hour out.
I must say that having roughly 32 hours of peace and solitude is refreshing. I got part of the barn cleaned up, cleaned out the brooder, fixed a couple of the cages that needed repairs, spent some time outside, went to bed when I was tired, and woke up when I felt rested, I even took a nap yesterday. I'm not used to this kind of freedom. Wow. It's actually really nice. A rare treat.
The grass is starting to return and the yard is slowly starting to change from brown to green. The lake finally thawed today, the water is running (there's a creek that runs through the lake). It has been windy today, and there's a fire hazard warning. Unfortunately today there were many fire engines that went past our house, and an ambulance. Across the lake to the east, just beyond the treeline, something was on fire. I don't know if it was a home or a barn or what, but I know there were a lot of fire staff on hand and I could see the smoke coming up behind the trees and blowing across the road and off to the north. I hope that nobody was hurt.
I keep checking the eggs in the incubator. I did remove the second egg from Dashi as it was still clear and obviously infertile. Many of the other eggs are progressing well. The oldest duck egg (also from Dashi) has a little peeper in it that wiggles around and moves when we look with the flashlight. It's pretty neat. I'm actually afraid I'll drop the egg, so I try to refrain from candling too often... but it's so neat to watch too. I'm crossing my fingers for a successful hatch in about two weeks and then we can (again, hopefully) move the brooder pen out to the barn or the garage to get it out of the basement, and have some happy little birds. Tomorrow we're supposed to hit 76-degrees before dropping back down to the 50's and 60's for highs. If nothing else, it feels like winter has finally loosened its grip and spring has finally forced her way in.
Our guinea hen Iris has laid her first egg! She dug out a little nest on the ground just behind Fabio's cage (he's one of our rabbits). I'm pretty sure first eggs are not likely to be fertile, but I popped it into the incubator just to see. I'd love to have a whole flock of guineas, but I can't afford to buy them outright. Local price around here (if you can find them) seems to be $10-$20 each. Yikes! If I could hatch out a flock, I'd say that's worth the time. Especially since we're finally starting to warm up enough that there's some hope of moving the brooder out to the barn or the garage for the next round of chicks (the first ones that will be coming out of the incubator).
I continue to give Sage eye drops every two hours. It's hard for me to gauge if she's getting any better or not. At one point when I went in to give her the eye drop, I found her curles up with Netherquartz. He's our biggest cat, and technically is Sage's half brother (same dad, different mom). When she was very small he would bat her around and I was always afraid he'd end up hurting her. Now he's playing babysitter. I tried to get a photo of them cuddling, but as soon as the camera came out Floki wanted to be in the middle of it. Here's the best photo... Sage, cuddling with Netherquartz, and Floki, trying to sneak up from the right.
I bought a single Monterey Strawberry root from SeedsNow. It took longer than anticipated to get here. According to the tracking code it seemed to have gotten hung up in California for several days before moving along. I followed the directions on the package when it arrived, rinsing it several times, and then letting it sit in some water in the window. Took only two days for the first tiny shoot to start growing. So here it is, in a cute little hanging basket, complete with David, our little garden gnome.
While out and about, I also noticed that one of the transplanted rhubarb plants is coming up! I had to chase the guineas away as they were pecking at it - and it's very near to where Josh has been bringing the ducks to lay and forage during the day. Last year Josh destroyed all of my rhubarb seedlings in little containers. I think he just liked to chew them up and toss them around the yard, because he didn't eat them - he just destroyed them. I hope that isn't the case with every rhubarb plant. Gardening will get too expensive if I have to fence in every single plant I don't want Josh or the chickens to eat. I wonder if transplanting bigger plants will help to deter damages... as opposed to starting seeds and having tiny seedlings come up.
Today is our Goose's second birthday... er, hatch day I guess. Either way, the big fella is two now. I hope he will enjoy the four goslings he will soon be introduced to. The biggest gosling (Ryan) is huge now. Ryan is roughly the size of Phil, our cochin bantam rooster. Ryan is going to be a monster by the time he or she has feathers and goes outside.
Yesterday I pulled out the kiddie pool and filled it up for the very first time this year. Josh was thrilled. He stayed in it most of the day. At one point when Helvegan (our Khaki Campbell / Runner drake) attempted to join Josh in the pool, Josh jumped out, chased Helvegan around the pool, pinned him down and stomped him for a few seconds, before jumping back in the pool. A couple minutes later, Helvegan was in the pool with Josh peacefully. None of the other ducks attempted to swim with Josh.
Today Josh took the ducks around the yard, eventually finding a new water source in the big buckets from last year's container gardening. I guess despite having drainage holes, the soil is still frozen enough to pool the water up on top. I guess they like that more than the pool or the water bowl in the barn. To each their own I guess.
Today #1's friend's mom came by with the eggs from her flock. She has Polish and feather-legged chickens, and two roosters... So we'll see if any of these eggs are fertile. And if so, what kind of neat chicks we can hatch out.
The 20 eggs from the friend's flock, and the eight from our hen will go in the incubator tomorrow, which will set us up for a hatch date of 5/13.
The new Runner hen laid another egg today. She laid it right next to the kiddie pool this morning, and #3 came in exclaiming, "She really will lay anywhere!" And of course, having a nice clean egg, still warm from being laid, I went ahead and put it into the incubator (after a quick dip to sanitize). I hope I'm not pushing my luck with separating my hatch dates this much. I just can't stand the thought of wasting purebred Runner eggs when I already have the incubator fired up. It'll mean hand turning the eggs when the turner comes out for the other eggs to get ready to hatch, and higher humidity for the last week of their incubation while the other eggs are hatching... but it's worth a shot, right?
I candled the eggs in the incubator again, in a desperate attempt to find some sign of life in the other eggs. Still, just the one egg. It's obvious, and you can actually see the heart beating inside the shell (awesome!), so it's pretty clear to me that the other eggs are duds. I will check one last time tomorrow before tossing them out. It will be a sad lonely little duck, raised with chickens. Perhaps having an identity crisis if we manage to keep the contents of that shell alive long enough to go out to the barn.
Tonight I checked the incubator one last time and the humidity had spiked to 70% and there was condensation on the viewing window. I haven't added any water in two or three days now. So I opened it up and let all the air out. Hopefully this correct the issue. The heater works pretty fast to get the temperature back up to 100, so I'm not terribly worried about the temporary temperature drop. I'll have to ask kids in the morning if they're sneaking extra water in there somehow.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.