Frizzles, New Kitten, and Sunflowers

We have a new cat, Bundy.

We’ve been looking for a young, black, shorthair male cat for a couple of years now, but the right one was never at the shelters.  A few days ago, we were at the gas station, when a truck pulled up at the next pump.

“Hey – do you want a cat???”

We look over, he’s offering a black, shorthair male kitten.

“Yes, please!” Clearly, he’s our cat. And he’s perfect. Sweet as anything, with the most gentle paws I’ve never seen on a kitten. But he’s also not shy or afraid – from the instant we brought him home. He’s not fazed by old cat’s dislike of him, nor by corgi Dexter’s intense, crazy adoration. We literally could not have been given a more wonderful addition to our family. The only thing he needs to learn is to stay off the kitchen counters!

The little frizzle cochins are also super sweet – the most friendly chicks raised by a broody hen that I’ve ever seen.  They like to be cuddled, and when I bring out the camera? They pose. I must have taken fifty pictures of the little fluffly butts yesterday.

Broody mama Boudica is still stunned by how floofy her children are….

Besides playing with all the new babies, we got in a third load of free wood chips, and have been busy spreading them out in the garden. We finally mulched over the whole of the kiwi/grape vineyard – going all chips, instead of grass. Less to mow! This the area where I’ll be building the newest quail coop – just out of frame, behind the blue chairs.  Also out of frame, on the opposite side, is our beehive. It’s still doing splendidly, and this part of garden will be a relaxing area to sit and watch the bees and the quail. If we ever have time to relax…

P.S. The logs in the photo above will be going inside the quail coop once it’s built. Quail like things to stand on. Tiny little birds need to feel like Rulers of Their Domain!

While gardening, I discovered a bird’s nest in my clematis.

It turns out that the male rufus sided towee who has been drawn to my garden because of the wood chips, has attracted a mate! The nest is only a couple of feet off the ground, so I’ll be taking pictures of the babies regularly once they hatch!

Frizzle Cochin Chicks!

Guys. GUYS. These chicks. I can’t even…they are just so fluffy and funny and cute.

When they first hatched, they were fairly standard chicks in appearance…other than their fuzzy hobbit feet.

Amerauca mom Booty did a great job with her hatch. I put fertile eggs under her, and in 21 days, out popped four fluffy chicks, like magic.

Despite the psycho side-eye she’s giving me here (all my adult hens hate my camera) she’s super sweet, and doesn’t mind me snuggling her chicks at all. Which is good for both of us, because you just gotta snuggle chicks this fluffy. The babies weren’t always sure about all these snuggles, but if one objected, all I had to do was hold her out to her mama, who would peck her on the head and tell her in no uncertain language that I was a trusted friend.  After that, the chick would settle down in my hand, perfectly happy (and often go straight to sleep!)

You can’t really tell in the pictures, but cochin chicks have THE SOFTEST fluff ever in the history of soft fluff. I was amazed.

Booty taught them how to dust bathe. And nap in the sunlight.

As they grew older, their wing feathers came in, proving they were frizzle cochins. See how the feathers curl out? This created the greatest look in chick feather-styling EVER, as they grew out the feathers on their feet and legs.

It also led to jealousy and hurt feelings from Ellie, my soulmate hen. WHY are you always in THERE playing with those little fluffy butts? I’m molting, I’ve got a fluffy butt too – nothing special to look at in THERE.

It’s okay. Ellie always gets snuggles too. She’s a total lap chicken.

We just finished (mostly finished) remodeling the chicken coop, and the mama and chicks have moved into the coop with the big girls…in their own private apartment. I’ll film a video tour soon.  I decided this in-the-coop-apartment will work better for future broodies, and so I moved the pet rabbits (Daisy and Dandelion) into the former duck coop/broody coop.

They have lots more room, plus they and the chickens can see each other, which both species seem to enjoy.

And what, you may ask, is going into the old rabbit hutch? Well, since it was originally made as a chicken coop, it’s going back to that purpose. It’s just the right size for a trio of tiny serama hens! Next Spring I’ll get hatching eggs! I’m so excited; I’ve wanted these mini chooks forever. I plan to let them out for regular free-ranging in the garden. They are so small, I don’t think they will destroy the garden like full-sized hens. We’ll see.

And a brief update on the Bobwhite Quail – I still love them. They are my favorite quail for sure. They are so personable and friendly.

 

Snowflake and White Bobwhite Quail

Wow. It’s been forever since I wrote about the bobwhite quail. They are mostly grown now – although they obviously mature a lot later than my coturnix. These guys still act like sweet little babies!

They are SO sweet, in fact, that I am planning on keeping two pair (one white, one snowflake). This means I must build yet another quail coop! Well, with every one I build, I figure out a better design, right?

They are very talkative little quail, with lots of cute vocalizations.

I think the snowflake color is gorgeous, but there is something surprisingly appealing about the white ones.

They seem to be more friendly and inquisitive.  Unlike the snowflakes, they are always coming up to the wire to look at me, and talk to me.

I’m trying something new in their coop.

Do you see it? Up there in the corner?

Parakeets!

I have four of them outside with the quail – two blues, a yellow, and a green one. After doing extensive research (particularly of English parakeet-keeping practices) I’m going to try keeping them out here year around. As long as they have a secure, draft-free area, and plenty of time to acclimate, they appear to do fine in my temperatures. I will, of course, monitor them closely during the winter, and if they show signs of discomfort, bring them inside.

But right now, they are loving life! They and the quail get along wonderfully, sharing the ground (when the parakeets feel like walking) and the branches (when the quail feel like perching). I even saw one of the keets go for a brief ride on one of the quail’s back! The quail didn’t seem to notice or mind.

And now for a gratuitous squirrel pic.

This nest box was supposed to be for the birds, but the squirrel chewed the opening larger and claimed it.  Pesky little rodent!

Broody Hen, Currants, and Little Fruit Pies

I’ve been waiting for my reliably broody hen, Josie, to go broody because I want to hatch some frizzle cochins.  Surprise surprise, it was her adopted daughter, Boudica, who decided she wanted to start a family.

Booty (as I call her) is just turning a year old, and has never been broody before.  I was a little nervous she wouldn’t have the commitment to carry through, but I went ahead and ordered the eggs for her.

They came via the post office – and my mail carrier was sweet enough to make a special trip by my house at the beginning of her route to drop them off!

The former duck house has been shifted into the chicken yard, and turned into the Broody Barn.

I was afraid Booty would insist on trying to return to her old nest in the chicken coop, but I think she is smart enough to appreciate the peace and quiet. I am able to leave the Broody Barn’s door open, so she can come and go as she pleases…and she does, always returning faithfully to her new nest.

 

She has eight eggs, and although I really only want one new hen for my flock, I hope she has a good hatch rate. It would be so much fun to see her care for a bunch of babies!

She’s a sweet girl. Although she growls at the other hens if they come near, she lets me raise her up to check on the eggs whenever I want without a fuss.

She’s got about a week left to go. Fingers crossed, everyone!

In other garden news, I’ve been harvesting lots of currants. Pink, red, black, and these gorgeous white ones.

I’m making them into jelly. One batch didn’t set, but that’s ok. I labeled it “Currant Syrup” and will use it for flavoring kefir and yogurt!

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I’ve been also canning cherries, and I’m making a bunch of mini 6″ pies (apricot, cherry, plum, gooseberry, and blackberry) to freeze. And, of course, eat. We’ve had three already. Hey, no judgment. They’re small. 🙂

June Garden Update

The strawberries are producing like crazy. And they have such lush leaves that birds really haven’t been bothering them.

Lots of other things are also coming into season: blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and currants! I need to pick enough gooseberries to make a small pie. I hear they make delectable pies! I need to can some currant jelly.  I also do local U-Pick, since my garden can’t produce everything I want to preserve. Last week a friend and I picked a few buckets of strawberries, and I canned some to make sauce with, and dried and vacuum-wrapped some more.

I really enjoy preserving food. Just the process of it is enjoyable. Partly I just love old-fashioned things, just the pure history of them. Like hand-spinning with a spindle. I’m getting better; this latest attempt at yarn looks actually legit!

And look! I made mitts! There is just something so satisfying about starting with wool, making your own yarn, then knitting a functional piece of clothing.

The bees (after two failed attempts at getting a hive started) are finally taking off. Their numbers have increased so much, and they have the first box full of comb, and are working on filling the second.  Maybe in the Spring I’ll actually get my first batch of honey!

The biggest news, however, is the ducks. Sadly, they are no longer part of our little farm. I gave them away to a lady with more property and a pond. While I loved seeing them patrolling the garden (and they definitely helped with the slugs and bugs) none of the coop methods I tried worked well enough for us. I really thought having gravel in the coop (and using the hose to spray the poop down through the gravel) would work, but it didn’t. The poop did not break up well enough, and the coop was still too stinky.  And honestly, chickens are SO much easier to keep.  So while I will deeply miss seeing the ducks wandering around, and I am sad to not have their eggs anymore, it’s been somewhat of a relief to have them gone.

Their coop is not going to waste, though! It’s had a move and an update – next time I’ll tell you what is moving in! (And what my plans are for the gravel-y place where it used to be!)

Bobwhite Quail Babies!

Out of Eden has new chicks! I mentioned before that I’d ordered Snowflake and White Bobwhite quail hatching eggs through the mail. That’s always iffy, because you never know how they will be treated in the mail.

This time, I was lucky. Out of the 12 eggs, 10 were viable, and developed into chicks. I only ended up with 7 chicks, because one didn’t hatch, one attempted to hatch (unsuccessfully) from the wrong end of the egg, and one died a few hours after hatch of suspected neurological problems. Seven are tremendously healthy though, and that’s a great success from shipped eggs.

Here are four of them, fresh out of the incubator.

They are the tiniest little things – even smaller than coturnix quail.

Also speedier than coturnix. Beware, if you hatch these…they WILL run at top speed out of the incubator, and freak you out just a little! But they are sweet, too. The other night, I put my hand in the brooder, and three of the white ones jumped in my hand together and went to sleep.

Two days later, the White ones aren’t yellow, but a silvery pale. And the Snowflakes are grey and brownish black. They also talk more than the coturnix: they have several sounds beside the standard alarm cry and cheep. One is a three note call like a songbird, and the others are assorted peeps and chirps. I’ve seen three of them just sitting together, having a conversation! It will be interesting to see what sounds the adults make. I’m only familiar with the male’s “bobwhite” call.

I cleaned out the big quail coop (it most recently held ducklings), turning over the ground with a spade, and putting in a few plantings of ferns and hosta. I hope the quail will enjoy hiding underneath the leaves, not just ripping them apart and eating them, like the coturnix would.

I also put in some logs and various other things for them.

The stepping stones are mainly for me. This big, walk-in coop always makes me a bit nervous, because quail are so still and camoflaged that I worry about stepping on one. The stones will make it easier to see where I’m putting my feet!

This coop is my roof garden coop; in this picture from last fall, I’ve filled it with straw for the quail to snuggle in through the winter.

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Bees, Quail, Fruit Trees, and Ducks

The peach trees are still doing fantastic. No leaf curl here!

And the peaches themselves are still growing!

The rest of the garden is looking great, too. I love this time of year.

The wood chip mulch makes everything so woodsy. And so far, it’s really helping with the soil. Although we’ve had some record scorchers, I haven’t had to water anything – other than a few things that I just put into the ground. When I pull back the chips to plant, the ground is dark and rich and full of earthworms!

To the chickens’ great sorrow and lamentation, I blocked them out of the east section of the side yard.  The plan next year, is to turn this part of the yard into a colony setup for meat rabbits. Right now, I’m growing a few excess squash and other things that the chickens would rip apart.

The strawberries are loaded with green berries, and see the little apple espalier in the corner? I love espaliers! So much fun!

And this year? I think the bees are going to make it! The queen is laying up a storm, and they are so self-suffient that they completely ignored the sugar water feeder I set up for them. Once I realized I was only feeding ants and hornets, I took it down.

Also, don’t you love the little waterer I set up for them? It’s a giraffe footstool (formerly inside the house until I got tired of it) with a shallow bowl on top. I’m glad I thought to do this, rather than just donate the footstool!

The newest trees, two little plums, are so cute.  I did a count the other day, and I have TWENTY-FOUR fruit trees in my backyard. And this is not counting the bushes, like the gooseberries and blueberries.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree changed my gardening life!

One of these plums is actually a plum/cherry hybrid, so I’m really hoping it fruits before too terribly long. I’m quite anxious to taste them!

The three new ducks are all grown up now, and they are all three boys! Since I wanted a drake, and only intended to keep one anyway, it doesn’t mess up MY plans, but the friend I was planning to give the extras away too already has a male and needed females. So I have two cute little guys up on Freecycle as we speak. Anyone out there want some ducks?

The one I’m keeping, I’ve named Montgomery.

Maisie, Millie, and Montgomery!  See the new pea gravel bedding inside their coop? They like it, and so do I. Much easier to just wash the poop away with the hose set to ‘jet’.

Oh, and look! My teeny tiny little mulberry tree is producing mulberries this year! I’m so excited, because I’ve never even tasted a mulberry, but folks say they are wonderful.

The most exiting news, however, is what’s currently in my incubator. While I am still absolutely keeping my coturnix quail, I’m branching out to bobwhites! I found a seller with Snowflake and pure white bobwhite quail eggs, and of the 12 I put in the incubator, 11 are currently developing into chicks. When they had only been four days in the incubator, I candled them, and was able to see their tiny hearts beating! Such an incredible experience!

Snowflake bobwhites are gorgeous.

bobwhiteAnd the whites are so floofy!

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If you’re interested, I do recommend this seller. His eggs were wonderfully packaged, and although how they are treated by the post office is out of his hands, I’m impressed with getting 11 out of 12 to develop. Sounds like he raises his birds really well, too!