Spring Prep

The snow is finally melting and the flock is ever-anxious to get outside. I’ve been holding back because once I let those birds out, the guineas will never go back in! I’m not ready to loose them into the backyard just yet. This is New England and we may yet get a snowstorm or three.

Blue Seal #5 Scratch -- Their favorite treat!

Blue Seal #5 Scratch — Their favorite treat!

To keep them occupied, I’ve been providing tons of vegetable scraps and their favorite treat in the whole world: Blue Seal #5 Scratch. They adore it. And it’s cheap — less than $2.00 a bag. I’m hoping the snow will melt enough over this week so that we can move the coop and get it prepped. I want to put chicken wire on the bottom to make it more predator-proof. And for the time-being, fence it, to include deer fencing over the top to keep everyone in, except maybe guineas. Doing that, as well as making a nursery in the garage, will give us time to build the more permanent coop that we will need if we decide to move forward.

Egg laying has been picking up, and I know we’re on a good curve when Brownie starts laying her double-yolk eggs. I don’t know how she does it. As you can see, they are huge!

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Brownie’s huge egg.

We’ve ordered our chicks from McMurray, so we can get Guapo his girlfriends and see if we can sell some chicks and throw some roasters in the freezer. Unfortunately, the little flufflets won’t arrive until June, but that gives us time to prepare. We ordered 10 Blue Lace Red Wyandottes, 3 Araucanas/Ameraucanas, and 3 of a breed I”m unfamiliar with, Black Star.  My goal is to find 2, maybe 3 good looking hens in the Wyandotte batch for Guapo, get some more brightly colored eggs, and add color to the flock overall. I’m also playing with the idea of mating Guapo with Brownie or Beulah to see what we get. If nothing else, it lets me experiment with the incubator and have some chicks to sell at the auction.

On a side note, I am 2/3 through the New Hampshire Master Gardner Program! So excited!!! Such a great program and tons of fabulous information. However, the real learning takes place when you start putting in your volunteer hours. Because of the wide variety of questions that come in, you almost always have to research to find the information needed for the client. I am so looking forward to it. So, if you have any gardening questions, backyard livestock, or for that matter, wildlife questions (we can always refer to the right department), call the UNH Cooperative Extension Education Center and Information Line at 1-877-398-4769, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Because Spring will arrive!

Because Spring will arrive!

With Spring Prep in mind, we purchased 4 corrugated raised beds to test. Not too expensive (they cost roughly the same as purchasing all the wood and other materials). We’re going to test them with our berry bushes (we have a lot, scattered throughout the yard). I think I”ll put strawberries in, as well, to provide ground cover, rather than continuing mulching. I can still fertilize and add compost when needed.

With that, I’ll leave you with Snoop, who is watching and waiting for the Spring to get here full force. He is ever my backyard watcher:

Watching and waiting.

Watching and waiting.

Get ready for Spring! Order supplies from EggCartons.com:

Blue Hen House

 

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

What Chickens Get for Xmas

Dried mealworms!IMG_0662

They love it, especially this time of year when there’s no foraging going on. I’ve also started throwing some of their food on the ground so they can pretend to forage. I really want them to scratch to keep their nails short. That’s especially a problem for Guapo since he is in his crate most of the time. The protein in the mealworm is also very good for them. My only complaint is that it is a tad expensive. So they’ll get this treat throughout the week.

Guapo, however, got two xmas presents. First, he got to spend one night with the girls. I figure everyone’s windows are closed in the winter so there’s less a chance people will hear him crow. His other present is that I’m bringing him out everyday to hang with the girls. I changed my routine so that when it’s cold, they will have water for longer. I used to take care of them at 5a.m., but if it was very cold, their water would freeze by 6:30, 7:00 a.m., before they got up. Now I take care of them around 7a.m. and since the sun is up, they are up. So they have water to drink, at least for a little while. And 7 is not an unreasonable time to bring Guapo out on a weekday. Most folks are up, getting ready for work or school. And he doesn’t crow for long (although that’s a subjective measure of time!).

The girls found the bucket where I store their wood shavings. They decided that is where they want to lay eggs.

Brownie laying an egg.

Brownie laying an egg.

I seem to get eggs from everyone (including Winona) except Beulah. I really want those blue eggs so I’m wildly disappointed. I do expect her egg laying to start again sometime in the spring. Since egg production generally drops in the winter, due to the shorter days/longer nights, I’m not totally surprised.

All in all, the hoop house is working out. I had hoped it would be a bit warmer, but the sun just isn’t strong enough in the winter to heat that plastic too much this time of year. However, I don’t believe I’ll have any frostbit issues as long as we don’t get a long sub-zero temperature run.

So a couple of things before closing. First, a lovely xmas video by Tim Minchin, called White Wine in the Sun. Enjoy!

Second, I was going to add a blurb about the whole Hobby Lobby and conscience clause crap going on, but I just don’t have the stomach for it. So I hope everyone had a lovely holiday and will have a safe and happy new year. May we all get the jobs and pay that we want, may our healthcare needs be met, and may those forced birth assholes see the error of their ways.

Now, because your eggs deserve the very best:

 

 

Blue Hen House

We’re getting eggs!

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Brownie’s dark brown eggs

But not where they are supposed to be! Since the girls basically have the run of the yard now, I took down the fence around one of the raised beds. In doing so, I found a clutch of dark brown eggs — which I later discovered were laid by Brownie.

I then saw Snoop-dog walking with something in his mouth and burying it (he likes to bury things). I went to find out what it was, and it was a light brown egg! I just left it. I’m not even sure where he found it. I also found a light brown egg in the coop yesterday. Yeah! Someone laying where they are supposed to. And this morning, I found one of the quints likes to hop over the fence, lay an egg, and hop back. She had a small clutch of light brown eggs.

While it is absolutely adorable they are making little nests all over the place, I really want the eggs in the coop. So, I have to make it more accommodating, which is on the list when we finish the trim. And if that doesn’t work, I suspect the behavior will modify itself during the winter when they cannot get far due to snow.

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The lid has since been modified to a nice flip top.

Things are better with the keets as well. Mr. Hen House built a lovely, portable cage to use while they acclimate to the big outdoors. Every couple of days I move it to a new location so they can see various parts of the yard. The hens were very curious initially and even now occasionally stop by to say hello. The keets don’t worry about the hens at all. They get a little flustered with me or Mr. Hen House, but not too much. But when the dogs or cat get near, they totally freak. I don’t worry about the serial-killer cat, Ash, as he could care less. But when they get agitated, it can trigger the dogs into behaving badly so I’ve been monitoring and using the water bottle on the dogs occasionally.

This weekend I will work on a plan to get the keets imprinted on the coop. I am a tad concerned they will fly away and make a break for it when they have no boundaries.

On to non-chicken stuff… the healthcare exchanges will be opening soon. There are lots of questions, IMG_0449particularly with subsidies. This link will bring you to a subsidy calculator. It also answers some basic questions on the plans. Of course, there is still a lot unknown and each state is different, but it’s a start. Frankly, I’m looking forward to the NH Exchange opening up. I am currently without a job and coverage with Mr. Hen House’s job is a little lacking so I’m hoping we’ll find a good deal on the exchange.

Have a lovely week!

Click here to visit www.EggCartons.com

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UNH School to Farm

University of New Hampshires holds an annual “School to Farm” event. Their website says it “is a statewide program working to connect NH farms and schools. Farm to school connections enable schools toSheep serve healthy, locally grown foods in their cafeterias, integrate farms, food, and nutrition into their curriculum, and explore food and agriculture-based learning opportunities.”

I helped present at the beekeeper station this past Tuesday, along with the Seacoast Beekeeper’s Association president, Jeff Salava. Kids went around from the blueberry station, to ours, to the sheep and wool station, and through several barns looking at animals. Each station was 15 minutes, so they move pretty quickly. Which is good, ’cause kids freak me out but I did so-so presenting. Jeff was much better. Hopefully, we reduced the fear a lot of kids have of bees.

CowsUNH

The weather has gotten very nice again. Not quite as warm as I’d like, but not as humid either. We’re finishing up planting the garden this week. Not too far behind in getting it ready. I’ll have pictures soon. Now, on to the girls…

I try to feed them veggie scraps when I can. I know some people feed their chickens every type of table scrap, but we confine our birds to veggie and fruits. Occasionally, I’ll buy bird seed as a special treat. I noticed the big girls don’t like a lot of the vegetables, but the little ones are still expanding their palate and seem to enjoy veggies and fruit a bit more.

Tomatos

Dirty Girl and Brownie eye-balling the last tomato scrap. See Winona in the lower right hand corner? She’s watching me watching them.

I gather eggs about every other day. Winona and Beulah are great layers. I currently get lovely brown and blue eggs. Can’t wait to see what Brownie and the Quints will make! With a little luck, I’ll be getting some eggs by early Fall.

Eggs

I’ll close with a link to an op-ed written by Stephen King. It’s a little old, but I read it for the first time earlier this week and it nicely captures what I think a lot of people miss when talking about taxes.

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