This past month has been insanely busy. We’ve had a few gorgeous Spring days, and some less-than-completely-gorgeous Spring days, but I’ve been outside working in all of them. All day, every moment I have! This is my favorite time of year. I’ve discovered that I don’t even mind working in the rain, as long as I’m wearing a hat. I’ve been too busy to even blog, so I’ll slowly have to catch you up on everything that’s been going on. Believe it or not, the loooong post to follow is just a small sampling!
First of all: new chicks!
I have Freedom Ranger meat birds. These guys are the best. So calm, so quiet, so completely chill. We did a test run of four last year, and absolutely loved them. They were awesome to raise, and tasted the best of any chicken we’ve had.
Second: We rat-proofed the chicken coop. Guys. We had such a rat problem this past winter! They were burrowing into the chicken coop, and stealing all the food. I couldn’t go outside without seeing them scampering away…they were bold as squirrels. First step, we laid an apron of hardware cloth around the perimeter, inside and out. We got rid of the areas around the coop that the rats were using as cover. We set traps. And we bought a rat-proof feeder. This one.
The chickens took to it instantly with no learning curve (even the dumb ones!), and the rats almost instantly stopped coming around. I saw a rat now and then for about a week, and now I see no rats at all. Not a single one. This feeder is worth every penny.
Third: The neighbor took their tree down, and we waylaid the tree-trimming company and snagged the chips. Last year, we did not get a proper layer of chips down in the chicken yard, and we paid the price all winter. The ground was a soggy, muddy mess. I was forced to put down some straw just to make it bearable. In the below picture, Mina and Valentina are scandalized by the muddy state of their yard. Behind the hens: lovely, thick chips. In front of the hens: mud and squish.
Free wood chips have been the most amazing thing we’ve ever done for the chickens. They hate them when we first put them down – I don’t know if it’s the fresh scent, or the texture – but they hate them. Within a week, however, they are loving them, and are scratching down through, to the ground which remains diggable, soft, and full of worms.
Fourth: Moving Cocoa’s cage. My angora rabbit requires special housing to keep her fur clean. No slumming about in shavings or dirt for her! She’s bunny royalty. I had her cage inside the breezeway, but I started feeling sorry for her, because she was so isolated from all the other critters. If there’s one thing I’ve loved seeing, it’s how all the animals on my backyard farm are interested in each other. The ducks explode with joy whenever a chicken comes near their pen (every duck I’ve ever owned has been obsessed with chickens!) the quail and the chickens watch each other like television, and the chickens and the rabbits nap near each other on sunny mornings.
So I moved Cocoa out to the bunny area. Her cage is raised up off the ground, both to keep her fur clean (she has a linoleum floor) and to give the chickens another place to get out of rain. She has a hardware cloth window through to Bramble’s cage, so they can spend non-sexy time together, and of course she can watch the chickens. I still need to roof her cage. That ugly tarp has to go!
Fifth: The pigeons got new nestboxes. They are built on the outside of the cage, so I can do welfare checks on the squabs without going inside.
They like them, and it’s much easier for me to keep them clean (and handle the babies).
I had three pair in this pen, but I decided that was one pair more than I need. I found a buyer for the extra pair, but since he needs to build his cage before he can take them, I stuck Casanova and his mate in the Bunny Barn temporarily. With the rabbits.
People on the internet will tell you this does not work – even though they haven’t tried it themselves. They have all sorts of reasons why not: It will scare the rabbits, and they will die. The rabbits will kill the pigeons. The pigeons will blind your rabbits. The pigeons/rabbits will get sick. The rabbits will get pooped on. They will eat each other’s food and die of malnourishment. They almost had me convinced. But then I found a person who actually does it, and it works perfectly for her. And I was reminded of all the rabbits who live with chickens, and my common sense came rushing back.
The rabbits were not scared. My rabbits are not namby-pamby wussy critters locked away in solitary confinement–my rabbits live in the real world, with screaming neighbors, fireworks, and other animals. The only time they are ever stressed out is when it’s time to cut their toenails. The rabbits and the pigeons completely ignore each other. The pigeons live in the loft areas, the rabbits live on the ground. Since I feed my rabbits real grains with their hay, they are largely eating the same diet as the pigeons–and the pigeon food is up in the loft, anyway, and the rabbits eat on the floor. No one has gotten sick, or even pooped on. Most of the things that might make an animal sick are species specific, anyway. It’s not a thing I worry about. I am LOVING having these pigeons in the Bunny Barn. It may have started as a temporary thing, but I think after this particular pair of pigeons are sold, I might put a different pair in there. The potential is wide open!
Sixth: Starting seeds, and preparing the garden. It’s a bit early to direct plant outside, but I do have the greenhouse full of seeded trays, and I’ve put out a few hardy beasts, like lettuce.
And speaking of seeds, my book library has decided to start a seed library. Of course, I ended up being part of the process, and it’s been interesting. The actual seed library itself won’t be operational until Feb 2021, but we are busy figuring out stuff behind the scenes…including special events like our upcoming Seed Share and Garden Fair.
While those with seeds of their own to share are completely welcomed, our focus is on getting seeds out into the hands of people who want to garden. So there is absolutely nothing expected of anyone but show up, enjoy the live music, attend the seed-starting workshop if you want to learn how to begin planting (1pm), let your kids make some garden-related crafts, and of course take home free seeds! The entire event is from 1-4pm.
Seventh: Cleaning up. How does so much junk accumulate over one winter?
And lastly, because if I go too long without mentioning Ellie on the blog, someone always gets concerned and asks if she’s ok, here’s Ellie.
She’s not amused by the new chicks, doesn’t think the new chips smell nice at all, isn’t sure why I want so many rabbits, and thinks I waste entirely too much time building cages and nestboxes for other animals, when I could be sitting in the sun with her on my lap. Or bringing her mealworms. Or doing something that she wants. Because she is a cranky ten-year-old lady who just wishes those crazy ducks would get off her lawn.
You have been busy! The wood chips are something I want to try next year. Where do you get yours from?
When do you think you will have baby ducks?
I call around to the local tree trimming companies, and I’ve found you need to be persistent. They will SAY they are adding you to their list, and will call, but you wait and wait and nothing happens. What works well is asking when they expect to have a job in your area, then following up on that time.
About ducks….I don’t know. I discovered my male has a fertility issue, so he won’t be fathering any babies. If/when the girls go broody, I have a friend who will give me fertile hatching eggs, so I should still have ducklings sometime…but I don’t know when. The girls are showing interest in the nest, but haven’t yet started laying.