The Farm*Homestead*Garden Blog

All things farm, garden, homestead related from the Catsndogs4us family.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What a warm up!

When the weatherman said that our temperatures could get into the 60's today I was happy and figured even 60 is good. Well we made it to 70 F today! What a treat, yesterday was warm and today was even warmer. I took advantage of this weather and got lots of outdoor work done. Coop cleaning, run cleaning, more maple tapping and dealing with some compost. There was some indoor work too the usual cooking and cleaning and I cleaned out the chicks brooder.

Buckets are filling up with sap.

KitKat supervises.

Washing more buckets to tap maple trees.

I was fortunate to be in the run to see Rocky, Hayley's Swedish Duck lay an egg, in fact it was probably her very first! I'd noticed the younger ducks acting a bit secretive the last couple days seeming to look for quiet spots and sitting for a bit but no eggs. Today there was an egg from Rocky! Only a little smaller than the eggs we get from the older ducks.
Rocky's First Egg!

That makes three duck eggs today.

I am happy to say that the three new adopted ducks  are fitting in very well with the flock already. Watching them in the fenced yard today it was hard to differentiate new ducks from old. They all seemed to have a grand time enjoying all the water that resulted from melting snow and ice.
I noticed most of the ducks watching something just outside the fence and saw it was a squirrel captivating them. It even came into the fenced area and climbed up and down a tree in front of the ducks, taunting them I think!

Chickens and ducks alike enjoyed all the new area opening up and more and more snow melted through the day. Lots more spots in the fenced yard became snow free or low snow and chickens were willing to walk on it.

The ducks are quite anxious for the ice to melt so they can have a good swim!

Longer days lots more eggs in the nest boxes.

Well tomorrow winter will return and I will miss the warmth but spring has to eventually arrive. It was nice to have this two day preview.

Editing to add, all 10 ducks, 7 originals, 3 new adopted ducks all went in to bed together in the coop. They are one flock already not even quite a week since we adopted the new 3. It was a special moment.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's All Go All Of A Sudden

Our little farm is pretty quiet over the winter, not too much happening. Then all of a sudden it's nearly spring and things pick up in intensity.

Tapping Maple Trees!

New Baby Chicks!

Adopted Adult Ducks!

It's all go, I'm busy and I'm tired at the end of the day! Today I worked on the acclimation of the new ducks to the existing flock. I had the new ducks in their own pen for a few hours, making sure they got plenty of food. Then about 9:30 I let the new ducks out into the big run with the whole flock. There were some scuffles for about an hour. Nothing serious,  it felt like I was breaking up toddler arguments. Most of the scuffles started with mama duck, she is still protecting her big baby and I don't blame her. She made sure that our existing flock knew they were not to bother her big baby. Funny enough her big baby was integrating just fine with the flock. I didn't see one scuffle involving her. The Cayuga integrated very well too. mama duck set her boundaries, let everyone know her views and then finally, finally settled down. By noontime she was absolutely fine and mingling with the flock. I think the whole gang had a good day together. Warmer weather, 60 F degrees! Lots of wet melting snow and ducks love the wet. Plenty of treats to keep everyone happy while getting to know each other. It went well. The two groups will still sleep separately until we make some changes to the coop setup but I don't see any problems with them roaming together in the daytime.

Getting to know you.......

And just a few interesting pictures from the farm yard today.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Changeable Day

This morning started out very cold, about 11 degrees and seemed to feel even colder to me. I couldn't get the chicken area gate open at first due to ice that had melted yesterday and then re-froze in the night. I had to chip away at it with birds hearing me out there and fussing for their door to be opened.

Once the demanding birds were freed for the day I got the new ducks settled into their outdoor pen. They're starting to learn my routines and getting a little less suspicious. The Mama duck will be hardest to win over but I think she is starting to warm to me...and my treats. Today the new ducks ate some of their treats with me quite close and walked back and forth right in front of me as I took a little video of them.

The new ducks don't mind the chickens at all, mama duck doesn't like our original ducks near her baby though!

Back indoors I set up some of the new boredom busters that we purchased for the 4 week old chicks. 
At first it seemed the dogs and cats wanted the chick stick much more than the birds did, the birds showed no interest in their new treats at first. Later though in the play cage I did see them pecking the treats from time to time. I hung the treats with my farming friend- zip ties. There is so much I can accomplish around the place with zip ties and/or duct tape.


The day warmed up to about 40 F by noontime, mid-day chores were much more pleasant than the morning chores had been. I did some cleaning in the animals fenced area and made sure the now melting snow had some drainage channels to direct it where I wanted the water to go not into piles that would refreeze again tonight. I put the new ducks into their sleeping cage a little early since they'd spilled all their food and I thought I might as well give them a refill in the coop and let the whole gang do clean up duty in the pen. The chickens were happy to oblige.

The new ducks meanwhile had a snack and a drink then I added some dry bedding to the kennel cage I have them sleeping in within the main coop. They are definitely warming to me and learning that my routines are okay. They are most happy with the bedtime mealworms. This is a method I have always used to get the ducks in for the night. Small bowls of mealworms then a drink. After that all food and water is taken away for the night because well....ducks are messy! Also they shouldn't have food without drink available and they love to spill their water. Just easier to have a final bedtime snack, it draws them into their sleeping areas and gives them a nice final treat for the day. Maybe silly but it works for me. Day 1 the new ducks were ambivalent to the mealworms. Maybe they didn't know quite what they were. Day 2 they liked them but would only eat them and other treats when I went away. Now day 4 they gobble them up as soon as I put down the bowl. 

As I left the coop for the night and shut up their fenced area I noticed that some snow flurries had begun. A very mixed weather day. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Spring (actually winter) Chicks!

I learned of a farm store selling Welsummer chicks a couple weeks ago. It was about 1.5 hours from here. I couldn't get there within the next few days so I put it out of my mind. Sure I've been wanting a couple welsummers for about two years but this was pretty far away and well, they'll probably be sold out by the time I can get there. When I saw a free weekend coming up I decided to give the store a call just to check. Yes they said we do have Welsummers in fact they're almost a month old now and we still have over twenty of them (plus a bunch of other chicks). Ok then road trip for the weekend planned! Of course then we hit a speed bump in the road trip plan when we decided to take in the three ducks mentioned in the previous post.  Would two new sets of birds with differing needs be a bit too much to take on all at once, no less in the middle of winter? Decided to wait and see, the adopted ducks settled in well and didn't add much work to my day so road trip for Welsummers was still on.

Saturday morning we set off after yet another call to the farm store just to make sure they still had Welsummers (yes, come on down and get them!). Myself and husband as well as Trevor set off about 9:00 AM. We stopped a couple times along the way for a snack break and later gas. It was kind of strange to stop at the Stateline store in New Hampshire right before the Massachusetts border. For years and years we stopped there on the way to visit my mom, the kids Grammy. After she became ill with Dementia we often picked up treats for her at this store a nice halfway point on the way to the nursing home. The clerk, it was almost always the same female clerk was good to us and would ask about my mom and sometimes drew a heart on the bag with her treats. Once their debit machine was fussy and we had no cash, the clerk said if we can't get this through I'll buy "Grammy's" snacks. I wondered if we would see this clerk but alas after almost a year of not going to this store the layout had changed and the clerk wasn't there. Life goes on. We got our snacks and back on the road.

The farm store was not very far into Massachusetts not as far as we would have had to go for Mom's home or nursing home in the past. It was practically over the border and turn left! Just that easy, well about 10 miles after the left but that is nothing when you live rurally. We needed some gas and the first station we came across looked a little different. As soon as we pulled in someone started taking off the gas cap and inserting the pump nozzle, full service? That is a novelty and if we pay cash it would be a good discount and already the price was around 30 cents or more lower than I'd seen near home. Cash it is, the gas station was sure interesting a real throwback. I don't think I've seen another in my whole adult life.

A few more minutes down the road after the gas station we found the farm store and I found the chicks.

Chicks and plenty of them including lots of Welsummers. How to choose, I was only going to get two chicks. Somehow when it was all done there were six chicks in my box, I have no idea how it happend :-D. Four Welsummers, one Barred Rock and one Australorp. 

A few days short of a month old, at that awkward stage and possibly contending with a feather pecking issue,hence the bare backs, but seeming otherwise healthy the six chicks alternated sleeping and curiosity on the long ride home. The bare backs could be from the way their feathers are coming in but where they all have it about the same and in the same places I would guess there was some boredom and feather pecking going on. They were getting too big and crowded for the brooders they were in. I imagine the store thought they would have sold more by this age. I guess not many are interested in winter chicks but there are perks, they'll be laying by summer! The downside is that they'll need to stay indoors for longer and they won't be able to go outdoors for some playtime, outdoors is covered in heavy snow.

We settled the chicks in at home and all took to food and water just fine. The shavings were a huge fun time for them as they'd been in wire bottom brooders in the farm store. The chicks dust bathed in the shavings for a long time their first afternoon at home! I bet it felt good.

Dust bathing is nice!

The cats are very interested in the chicks and the chicks are interested in the cats. To curb boredom I made them up a playcage with some sticks fastened onto the wire sides with zip ties. Into their main (for now) brooder I added some shiny marbles and gems for them to peck at. We're going to get chick grit so that treats can be introduced too, things to scratch and peck around for. These chicks are certainly old enough for a few treats such as dried mealworms. They just need the chick sized grit to aid in digesting the treats, there is no natural grit to be found outdoors in this weather!

Perches to try out.

Shiny things to peck at.