Spring is Almost Here!

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A triplet enjoying NOT being in the snow.

The downside of winter chicken blogging is there’s not too much going on. The chickens and guineas are “cooped” up. Pretty boring for them and us.

However… I woke up this past Saturday morning and I knew Spring had arrived. You could feel it. While the nights are still pretty cold (even with the melting, I have a good two feet of snow/ice in the backyard), the days are warmer. Today I barely needed a coat.

Since I still have so much snow, but the days are getting warmer, I want more fresh air in the coop. The door we picked up at the Restore didn’t come with screens, so I’ll be building those this week. It’s going to be interesting to manage as the nights are still cold.

Of course, this whacked weather is giving us another snowstorm later this week. My Master Gardener pollinator session has been rescheduled to next week. But it will pass. Soon, the snow will be gone, and I’ll be planting the garden. My biggest concern is keeping it safe from the flock who are bound and determined to free range. We have a couple-three strategies. We’ll see how they work. But first, we have to get the seeds started!

I’m anxious to get started on raising chicks. We’re looking at a short term solution in the garage until

The handsome Guapo waiting patiently for alone time with one of the hens.

The handsome Guapo waiting patiently for alone time with one of the hens.

the bigger, better coop can be built. Unfortunately, Mr. Hen House is working crazy hours and I’m hesitant to bother him. The man does need to sleep once in a while — shocking, I know! With that said, as soon as it’s put together, I’m going to hook Guapo up with Brownie, Beulah, and one of the triplets, in that order. Why? I want to get a wide variety of colored eggs. As the chicks grow, I’ll sort out the roosters for processing, and then I’ll sort through the hens after they start laying eggs. We’ll see how that works. The hens I don’t keep I’ll bring to the livestock auction.

I also want to get some lovely blue lace red wyandotte hens for Guapo. I’ll purchase the chicks in April. Again, I’ll sort out the roosters for processing. Hens will be sorted by how they look. I would like to end up with 2 to 3 hens that I can use for breeding stock next year. We’ll see what happens. Change is constant and sometimes the best laid plans get blown to bits.

Trying to get this again. Large and healthy hive.

Trying to get this again. Large and healthy hive.

It was warm enough that I popped open the bee hive top today to see if the bees had started feeding on the emergency food. I saw some dead bees up there who had been feeding, but nothing alive. While I removed the top insulation, I did not open the hive any farther. If I do have bees that made it through the winter, I didn’t want to shock them, or any potential brood, with the cold air. (It is warm for me, but still too cold for bees!)

I don’t know if the hive made it through the winter. If not, this is the second winter I’ve lost a hive and that’s not good. I’ll have to adjust my over-wintering plan if that’s the case. I do have northern bees on order and they should arrive in May. But I wanted to expand my hives, not replace dead ones. Keep your fingers crossed!

Spring is coming! Get what you need for your flock — or for a flock you know using the banner below. Frankly, I can’t wait. Winter in New England this year was like being in Michigan. Too cold and too much snow.

 

 

’til next time — stay warm!!!

 

 

 

Blue Hen House

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Will it ever end?

This winter is brutal. I feel like I’m back in Michigan. Argh! Makes for boring

The never-ending winter.

The never-ending winter.

chickens and not nearly enough chicken fun. The two most difficult tasks for me are keeping the flock warm enough and keeping them hydrated. Generally, there’s enough heat during the day that the water stays unfrozen, so I only have to refresh in the morning. But during the  polar vortex attack, I had to go out once or twice a day to refresh.

But it was a smidge difficult keeping them warm enough, especially at night. I worry about frostbite on the combs. So we installed a heating lamp which seems to help. Mr. HenHouse did a fabulous job putting together a nice little heated area. Unfortunately, because Winona is on her own, she misses out. But I’m using the deep litter method in her cage and cover it at night with a couple of wool blankets and she seems to be doing alright. When it was especially brutally cold, I let Guapo spend the night instead of putting him back in his crate (his is covered with a thick moving blanket). I figure the neighbor’s windows are closed and they are less likely to hear him crowing in the morning. So far, no complaints!

We also noticed, unsurprisingly, that the ammonia smell built up in the hoop house. To mitigate, we put in a small house fan in the window and it sucks out the air. It does pretty well although over the long term we’ll need to invest in a hoop house exhaust fan.

To keep interflock pecking down to a minimum, I tend to spread food through the hoop house and fortify with treats when I can. Things like vegetable scraps, meal worm and chicken scratch. They LOVE the chicken scratch from Blue Seal and it’s cheap.

Since winter is SO boring, I’ve put pictures below. And for those of you interested in the bees, I found this not so surprising article showing that the inert ingredients in pesticides are harmful, too. Depressing.

Looking forward to spring and starting the daily egg hunts again — although I really, really hope when we put a laying box into the coop, they’ll use it. Keep your fingers crossed!

Snazzy heated area and a hoop house covered in snow!

Snazzy heated area and a hoop house covered in snow!

Hanging out in the hoop house.

Hanging out in the hoop house.

And I have to believe this is true:

 

Blue Hen House

 

 

Guineas Day Out

So last Thursday, I got home a little earlier than usual. As we were still in the midst of arctic temperatures, I decided to check on the flock and make sure the water had not frozen over.

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Warmer days!

Imagine my surprise when I went outside and saw Guapo standing in the middle of the path we had shoveled to the hoop house! With the flock around him and the guineas hanging out on the staging on the addition. And the hoop house door wide open. Yikes!

I immediately picked up the girls standing in the snow. I was concerned about frostbite and hyperthermia. I was able to get all the chickens back in, and made sure they had water. The guineas, however, were another problem. I can barely walk past them without their screaming that the breeze of my passing is a sign of the end times. Real drama queens, those three.

So when Mr. HenHouse got home, we tried to physically catch them. As they were completely avoiding the snow and flying from staging to roof to trees and back again, the plan was to try to knock them off the staging into the snow. I HATE that, but you get near them, if you can get near them, they fly away. So we wanted to destabilize the staging and hope they would fall.

We had semi-success. One did fall — the others flew on to the roof. Anyway, I quickly scooped her/him up and got her/him into the protection of the hoop house.

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Guapo and dinner, this past Fall.

Knowing these birds had not had food or water, I opened up the addition the next day and put food and water in there, hoping the other two would fly in. No dice. They continued to fly around the yard to stay in the sun.

The third day, I widened the opening a bit more. I figured after almost three days outside, they would be desperate for food, water, and shelter. I started putting food on the staging so they would at least get something to eat and keep their strength up. The freezing rain came, and they were drenched. I think that’s what finally pushed them into the addition. Once there, I was able to close them in, catch them, and put them back in the hoop house.

Lessons learned:

  • Guineas are hardy. They withstood that incredible cold, including the freezing rain, with no injury as far as I can see. But I don’t want to test their hardiness again.
  • Check the damn door. I thought I had, but apparently I did not close it properly and the wind caught it and blew it open. So now I’m properly paranoid about the hoop house door.

Now on to something different… when I was young, I remember driving through a monarch migration in Iowa. It was amazing. While I hated the fact of all those butterflies dying because of the cars, to be in the middle of this living cloud of orange and black was exhilarating. Because of this memory, I have been planting milkweed in my yard with the hope of attracting them. I have not had a lot of luck and I think I know why. Monarchs have been under severe environmental pressures — pressures created by people — for quite some time. It now looks as though they have reached the breaking point.  I hope not. They are beautiful creatures.

Stay warm!!

Blue Hen House