Home  •  Forum  •  Blogs  •  E-Mail  •  Support Categories
MyCopper Categories Finance Travel Real Estate Games Autos Entertainment
Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass
1 2

April flurries bring May flowers
April 17. A quick update and response to the two new comments.

cats, I looked in the Prescott area and the prices are very high. No open land to speak of. Sedonia had many open lands for sale at better prices. I am just shopping on craig's list for now. I shall let you know if I need any help and understand not traveling too far from home!

Pam, The sleet has melted except for the shadiest places. Temps were below freezing and now the wind is off shore from the north east, making it pretty cool even with sun. The high winds and driving rains really took their toll on the blooming daffodils. It is too wet to do any work in the soil until the weekend since the earth here is improved clay.

I am off today to deliver eggs in Onset, about 20 miles away. I have other things to do in that area and tie the delivery into that trip.

Hoping your car issues are solved and the snow melts soon.

High winds and heavy rain
April 16. The weekend was warm, sunny and little wind. Monday was the same. Monday night, it clouded up and Tuesday, the full moon, it was cooler and mostly cloudy. By afternoon, it started to sprinkle. The heavier rain came by late afternoon. I had an appointment to have my eyes examined at ! PM, then met with my attorney to catch up on what is going to happen with the petition to partition (divide) the property I own with another person. I went shopping and when I came out of the store, the wind was gusting very strong. Shopping carts were rolling across the parking lot, shoppers were hanging onto their hats. The rain came down hard as I drove home. One of my windshield wipers was falling apart...I picked up a new pair earlier. My exhaust system had a break in it just above the second muffler...What a day!

I unpacked my car,
put away groceries and got my rain gear on. The wind was so strong, it tipped my wagon over before I could load Ducky Lucky's hot water and the sprouted grains. The neighbor's bucket was rolling across the yard, the chickens were inside their coops or under the shelters because they would have blown into the next county. I was glad for the rain gear for I would have been soaked to the skin within a minute. Anyone who says farming is a joy has never farmed!

I had watched the weather and freezing was predicted...as well as snow or sleet. After changing water and filling up feed bowls, I drained the hoses. The birds were wet to the skin. I had left the south window open early in the morning and the wind drove rain into the coop, soaking the shavings...looks like I will be cleaning out this coop tomorrow.  I wrapped up chores and walked back to the house. I let my dog out to pee...he walked out onto the porch, took one look around and ran back to the door. The rain came down in sheets, driven sideways by the wind.

Since it was still light out, the birds weren't inside yet. I took off the rain gear and waited until dark. The rain came down so hard and the wind was driving so strong, I decided to wait for some abatement before going back outside. That was about 2 AM! The wind was still strong but the rain had taken a break. Everything was washed clean by the rain. All the birds were just fine but very damp. The temperature was 36 degrees, down from 62 Tuesday morning.

I know there was an eclipse Tuesday night, I am sure that is why the rain storm was so severe. Seems most of the big storms we have had over the past months have been either on a full or new moon. I might be wrong by a day or two, but that is how it seems to me.

This morning, the mechanic came to pick up my car to repair the exhaust system. The porch and steps were covered with frozen sleet. He swapped cars and brought mine back in about an hour and a half, the exhaust now quiet from the repair and new wiper blades installed. I am happy not to have to spend $400. on a complete exhaust system!

I had little sleep lastnight due to the high winds. I never can sleep well when it is windy, the howling wind keeps me awake. I was a bit foggy this morning.

The day dawned clear and cool but the wind continued to gust. I let my dog out (what a bladder he has to hold all night and not pee in the house!) to do his business. I now take him into the pullet yard when I do chores. He sits on top of one of the truck caps on his blanket and watches me and the world. He is a good dog to be so patient. After chores, we went for our regular walk in the field across the lane. With all the rain, he got pretty wet since the field holds water and part of our walk takes us by the lowland and there are some puddles.

We came back inside, he had his breakfast and I had lunch. Then I slept all afternoon while the wind continued to howl. I slept fitfully, really napped. The wind died down about 5 PM and I went out to do chores.

I shoveled out the wet shavings from the pullet house, put the shavings on the raspberry patch for mulch. I didn't have time to empty the drop trays under the roosts, but that can be easily done another day. The chickens are so funny...they are suspicious of the clean shavings on the floor of the coop. It isn't like they haven't had their coop cleaned before, but they are naturally suspicious of any change!

I set a hen on ten eggs on April 14. I tried to get her to set on April 12, but that didn't work out. I had to put her into the main coop's nesting box on the eggs, she refused to set on the eggs in the condo unit. Every day, I need to check the eggs under her (the eggs selected have been marked with pencil) and remove any other eggs laid that day by other hens. Today, there were two extra, unmarked eggs. She fusses as I check the eggs and will deliver a good peck should I not wear gloves for protection.

Hoses drained for the cold coming tonight, I collected everything and went into the house for the night. I have to get my egg order together for tomorrow's delivery, make out the receipts and get things together for a new day.

It is still only April and cold should be expected until at least the middle of May...on and off, that is. The peepers are quiet tonight but were very loud lastnight until the temps dropped off.

Hey cats, are you close to Sedonia?
Early in the morning
April 14. My aunt's birthday today. She is my mother's younger sister. They had a fight a year before my mom died and never spoke again. This is the story of my mother's  family, nobody gets along.

I did get the broody condo unit cleaned, the nest box filled with fresh shavings and into the clean condo unit on Friday. I moved the broody hen onto the nest that (Friday) night. She was less than happy about the move and as I was listening to her scream, I recalled the same situation last spring. Probably the same hen since her screaming was familiar.  I let her off the nest Sunday shortly after noon, put her back into her respective coop with her flock. She ran around for a time, ate, drank and went right back to a nest box. I am going to put the eggs under her in that house until the chicks start to pip, then this hen can be moved to the condo unit. If she is put on eggs in the condo unit, she will probably break most of them before the week is out. Once the chicks start to pip, she won't leave the nest or eggs.

Sunday, I had a young family visit the farm. I say young b/c I believe the parents were probably in their late 20's or maybe early 30's. They had a 6 months old son with them as we toured the hen houses and yards. The little one was fascinated with the chickens and made no noise as we looked, fed and picked up chickens (Giselle wanted some attention, so I carried her around under my arm). These folks want to keep some chickens in their yard and wanted to see what I had. They bought some eggs after the tour was done...and want to buy some six week old Dominique pullets later in the season. I will coach them on keeping the birds as well as what they have to do to be in good standing with the town for keeping chickens.

I sold four hens a week ago along with feed and supplies. I as told two of the hens laid eggs the first day they were in their new digs. I am hoping these hens survive! They were 18 months old and laying pretty well. They were hatched out of eggs I got at Casey Farm in RI two years ago in May. These birds are not as nice as the hatchlings from eggs I got from Montague or
Andover, MA three years ago. Their size does not compare nor do their personalities! The Casey Farm hens are small in body size, schizophrenic, and anti-social. If  I had more of a choice for hatching eggs, I would look elsewhere for breeding stock, but I am limited. The four hens I sold last weekend came from Casey Farm eggs. They were fine for laying, but they were defective in the Dominique catagory, having standard rather than pea combs. They couldn't go into the breeding flock and I needed to reduce my overhead. I now have 20 laying Doms and one Napoleon Dom rooster.

Late last week, I baked the last of the young roosters hatched and killed from last spring's hatch. I think this was the best tasting one of all...or maybe because it was the last one, that is why! Well, it made a nice baker, cooking up tender, if a bit stringy (compared to store chickens). I will eat this chicken most of this week, sandwiches, warmed in the broth from baking with veggies and freeze any broth left over for later.

I hope to clean out the grain room this week after the rain clears on Tuesday. Been all winter since it was overhauled and the grain bags are piled up to the ceiling. Need to move shavings out of the coops and mulch the raspberries...and Syd's garden. Many things to do and short on help.

Mallard is still coming around for corn, sometimes in the morning, more often in the afternoons. Her companion has not ventured into the fenced yard for food  yet. Yesterday, I got a bit closer to Mallard as I fed, but she is still cautious. I am happy to see her each time she appears.

The day has begun and I must move off the computer and to the great outdoors where many things await me. Warm days and rain are on the way. Spring waits for no one.
Setting hen?
April 12. My mother's birthday today. She would be 87 today. Yesterday, I used her roasting pan to cook one of last spring's young roosters. I thought of her while I washed the roasting pan. Happy Birthday, Mom.

I woke up at 3 AM this morning to set the broody hen on eggs. As I often do, I fell asleep watching the 10 PM news. Something woke me, not sure what, but I got clean dummy eggs, a quart of hot water and the portable drill together and headed out to the cleaned out condo unit. It was overcast but hadn't rained as predicted.

As I used the drill to remove the roost from the condo unit (I will re-install it when the chicks are 3 - 4 weeks old), I heard a dog baying. It sent shivers up my back and my hair stood up on my neck. The baying was very close to the poultry yard. I have heard from neighbors that two German Shepherds were running the neighborhood together. I finished removing the roost and listened...more baying from right across the lane. I put the dummy eggs and the quart of hot water into the nest box, then set the box on the floor of the condo unit, leaving the roof open for quick access when I returned.

I went to the main coop where the Dominiques live. The dog was still baying. I went into the coop and took the broody hen out of the nest box where she has been setting for three days. She resisted...I had a towel and wrapped her tightly before I went out to the condo unit. Dogs were still baying.

The broody hen was protesting some, but I had her securely in the towel. When we got out to the condo unit, I removed the bottle of hot water from the nest box. The shavings and dummy eggs were warm...better to set the hen into a warm nest rather than a cold. This hen resisted...and started to scream. More baying from across the street, but closer. I got nervous...hoping nothing came after me. The hen wasn't happy about the move. I squished her body down into the the nest, hoping she would feel the dummy eggs under her. I had a board that fit over the top of the box, set that in place and weighed it down with a large rock. I can only hope she will adapt and set. I closed and locked the roof down in place.

I noticed my neighbor's kitchen light was on. He watches me, a stalker. I hid behind the pullet house coop to see what he was up to.
Guess he heard the baying, too. He turned his back porch light on and looked out his window to see if there was anything in the yard in front of the main coop.  He left the kitchen, shut the lights off. The baying continued as I walked back to my place.

I was wide awake and I had left a mess in the kitchen (the maid quit years ago), I figured it was time to clean up. I put the remains of the cooked chicken into the fridge and washed the dishes and roasting pan. Made coffee. Tried to decide if I should go to bed or stay up for the day.

I heard the baying, now by my doorway. Kitty had found me when I was outside and I stopped to pet him on the porch when I came back to my place. I hoped kitty wasn't the object of the baying dog.

I grabbed the big flashlight, shined it outside to see. There were my (up the street) neighbor's two Beagles, out hunting rabbits. What a relief! These two Beagles often get out of their fenced yard to hunt bunnies. If I had the guy's number, I would call him to let him know where the dogs are. They are good dogs, but they love to hunt bunnies. He really loves these two delinquent Beagles and has done all he can to keep them confined, but they are good escape artists and often get into trouble...and fined by Animal Control.

It began to sprinkle, then rained hard. The baying stopped...the dogs probably lost the scent in the rain and went home. They will be sleeping on the porch when their owner wakes up. The rain lasted about ten minutes, then stopped.

If this hen settles down onto the dummy eggs, I will replace them tomorrow night with Dominique eggs. All depends on if this hen will settle down, but somehow I think she will not. Seems maybe she was the first hen I tried to set last spring and she left the eggs. I may have to try a different plan, that would be to leave her in the main coop on eggs until they start to pip. Then she can be moved to the condo unit with the pipping eggs. Once the chicks are hatching, she won't leave them.

Today, Erik Hutchins comes to work with me in the poultry yards. I called Isaac Benner, but he had to work today. The two of them together would get a lot more done, but I am happy to have Erik's help. Now to decide what we should do! Guess prune the raspberry canes, rake the shavings (cleaned out of the coops over the winter months and dumped into the canes as mulch) back into that patch, fence off that area and seed some whole grains for later harvesting. I put condo units close to this raspberry patch so the broody hens can take the chicks inside and have cover to hide while they scratch.

I have been digging asters out of both yards all week. There are tons of them to get out, more will sprout from seeds that matured last fall. I want to plant Hopi Blue Corn in one area of the pullet yard. This area is contaminated with Bindweed, wild morning glory...but not so glorious to the farmer. Invasive and hard to eliminate, I have been trying to get it out of that area for several years. Until last spring, there were raspberry canes growing there, making it difficult to dig the roots of the invasive weed out. The chickens ate all the canes as they came up last spring and killed most of that patch of raspberries. Now I can easily dig the roots without having to be careful of the raspberry plants. Over last summer and fall, I flame weeded any Bindweed I saw roaming outside of the fenced area as well as what was climbing on the fence. Seems that flaming may have impacted the invasive's root system. One can only hope.

There is a lot of Motherwort around, also invasive and hard to eliminate. It propagates from roots and seeds, same as the Bindweed. Altho' it is a great herb to use in the coops for pest control, it has taken over large areas of the yard, killing all other growth, even the asters! I am allergic to this herb's pollen so I need to get it under control before it flowers.

As soon as I pick up the shovel, the hens run towards me. I have little peace while I dig out roots, all the hens and ducks crowding around the shovel as I lift the dirt. Some hens sit right on top of the dirt as I lift the shovel full...and they squabble over the dirt and climb down into the hole. Makes digging a slow job. But they are hungry for worms and will eat any bug that the overturned dirt exposes. The chickens chase the ducks away, only to be chased away by the same duck. Feathers fly, birds compete. All I want to do is get the roots out of the ground! If I leave any piles of roots, they are quickly dispersed by busy feet, sending the roots flying as they search for bugs. I must have a bag at the ready to put any roots out of the reach of the birds. I now have several bags full of roots for next trash day's collection. At least I have plenty of grain bags for collection and don't need to buy plastic trash bags.

My friend brought me some extra four foot fencing last weekend and I shall use it to fence off the old raspberry area and (hopefully) have some corn mature over the summer. The area is very fertile since I have mulched the (now extinct) raspberries with soiled shavings from the coops for many years. The soil is very soft and black, easy to dig and full of the invasive weed roots. If I can keep the hens off this area, the corn should grow tall and strong. I planted the same corn in 2008 in another area that was a hen yard. That crop grew over 12 feet tall and produced three ears per plant. A pretty good harvest for dent corn.

The birds loved the corn and it stored very well for winter feeding. Unfortunately, if it is windy, this corn can lodge...that means it falls over. But it still grows even if it is laying on the ground. Before the corn crop lodged, I saw hundreds of Lady Bug larvae crawling all over the plants. There were some corn ear worms and some corn borers, but I cut them out and fed them to the chickens. That was fun...almost as much fun as the time I brought them some Tomato Hornworms to eat. Some of these hornworms were three inches or more long. The chickens grabbed the hornworms and ran away from the other birds, but a chase ensued. They ate all the hornworms and were disappointed I had only a few and not hundreds.

The sun is up now. I will get myself together, get an early start on the day.
Broody hens
For the past three days, there has been a Dominique hen plastered to one of the nesting boxes. She is broody. I put three dummy eggs under her and she has stayed put om them. Today, I am headed out to clean out one of the condo units and set her on eggs by tomorrow night. I hope she sets on the eggs. Only time will tell.

I will need to move the condo to fresh pasture, cover the windows with burlap to keep it dark inside and move her at night. Will do this tonight to see if she will stay on the nest and not freak out. So, I need to get shavings this afternoon and get the condo cleaned out before rain comes later on.

Mallard has been flying into the yard often for corn. She was waiting this morning and I tossed her a handful of corn while I washed and filled the pool and water bowls. She eat two handfuls before she took off. I saw her flying with another mallard, but I think it might be a female, no dark head on the companion bird. Often, females will pair up until they locate a male, so I think this is what is going on. I see her fly off towards the tail water pond out behind my farm. This is where she nested last spring and probably lost her egg clutch and possibly her mate. She is a wild thing and will remain so, even if she is eaten by predators while she sets eggs. One can only hope she learned from last year and chooses a better nesting site.

Gota get shavings and clean out that condo unit!
1 2