Monday, June 30, 2008

Finished Painting the Coop

Except for some minor touching up the coop is done. The red color we picked turned out nice and dark which is exactly what we wanted. It blends in nicely with its surroundings. I spent about 4 hours painting. Even though there are 2 coats of primer, the surface was still so rough it took lots of paint on the roller to fill the divits in the OSB. I may take a couple days off before I do any touch up. (Besides thunderstorms are predicted the next 2 days.)

Today's weather was beautiful, breezy, low 70s, and NO humidity! The chickens and guineas enjoyed being outside the coop too, once they got used to me and Luna moving about while I painted. The ducklings got some swim time in on the pond too without too much harassment from the WBKs.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can spend a little more time with my pups, I've been neglecting them while trying to get this coop finished. We did go on a longer walk today though, so I haven't been totally bad. Maybe the rain will hold off till the afternoon.

Finished the Fence - Ate a Chicken

Hal finished the fence for the coop yesterday. He secured the plastic netting to the top with zip ties, then ran a nylon rope through the top on the diagonal to lift it a bit higher in the center. Then we opened the chicken door and sat back to watch nothing happen. Eventually, we went back into the house to watch TV and watch the coop through the window. Finally, the first head peeked out then disappeared back inside. Next time we looked over a whole bird was sitting on the ramp. Soon all 7 were outside having a wonderful time pecking at the ground and testing their wings. (I say 7 because the night before the crippled chicken passed on.)

They were able to enjoy the outdoors for about an hour then a thunderstorm rolled in and a torrential downpour caught them unaware. They were clueless and instead of running inside ran to the far end of the run and hid under a cross beam. I waited a few minutes till the rain diminished then donned raincoat and boots and tried to shoo them towards the door from outside the pen. Still clueless they wandered aimlessly so I went inside, bent over of course since the fence is only 5 feet high, and tried to herd them back to the ramp. No go. I had to grab the first bird I could, a barred rock chicken, the guineas are too fast and flighty, and popped him through the door. Did the others follow? No, so I had to grab another. When I managed to get the rest near the door, I persuaded one to head up the ramp and the rest followed. I hope when I let them out today going in on their own will be an easier concept for them.

Earlier in the morning we decided to kill one of the meat chickens which had developed leg problems and couldn't stand up. She was barely eating (compared to the ravenous frenzy of the others) and was definitely not gaining the weight the others were. Hal did the deed with a hatchet, I watched from a distance. Then we let it drain, scalded it by dunking the bird in 150 degree f water 3 times, then plucked the bird. Hal showed me how to gut it and I got to finish cleaning her up inside the kitchen sink while he finished working on the fence.

It weighed barely 2 pounds once the neck and feet were removed. Cut up and fried it was delicious. Hopefully, the other 19 will make it through to 8 weeks (they're almost 6 now) and we can have the Amish process them all at once. I'm looking forward to meatier birds and a much less smelly garage.

Assuming it doesn't rain today (it's very breezy and sunny at the moment) and things dry out, I could try painting the final coat on the coop.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fence Started

Yesterday Hal and I started building the fence for the coop. I went to the hardware store, bought some fence staples, lag screws, gate hinges and latch and the red paint for the coop itself. He had 2 post holes dug when I got back and the 2 biggest poles (for the corners) in place. I dug 4 more holes while he cut more cedar for the cross braces.

This is how it looked just before we quit.

Today we hope to attach the chain link (used from his dad, so it was free) and he'll build the gate. We also got some free aviary netting from his dad, it needs repair but it should be easy enough to do and should do a fine job of covering the top to keep hawks outside and chickens in.

Looks like the sun is coming out, rained during the night. Time to go to work.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There are Chickens in the Coop

Hal and I put them in today, the guineas and the barred rocks. He came home early today and fixed the doors which had swollen a bit with the humidity. I finished priming the outer surfaces. Then I got to clean their old brooder in the garage and move the Muscovy ducks into it. They have remained skittish and easily panicked since I brought them home 3-4 weeks ago. The escaped the crate and tried to dive between the straw bales. We managed to finally corner them and plop them into the brooder.

Hal also brought a large humane trap from his dad's farm to try and catch whatever is killing my ducklings. They've been spending the last few nights in the garage again because the WBKs keep chasing them back into the garage every time I let them out. They haven't been able to swim in the pond for over 24 hours because of the big white Pekin male.

Tomorrow we will start digging post holes for the fence outside the coop. We've got 65 feet of used chain link fence and a lot of aviary netting to go over the top. I know this set up isn't predator proof for night time, but the intention is only using the run during daylight when I am grocery shopping or kayaking. It will be for keeping stray dogs and haws and eagles out. At night everyone gets put back in their tightly made coop. Hopefully, the guineas will agree to this arrangement as well, but I have heard they are notoriously stubborn. Three more weeks and the meat chickens will go to the Amish for processing and then my next batch of chickens will be arriving. This is turning into a very busy summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And Now I Have Only 3 Ducklings

After keeping them inside for a couple weeks to get bigger I let the momma duck and her 4 kids out. In the morning there were only 3 and no body. We figured raccoon or snapping turtle. A raccoon usually leaves body parts so I was leaning towards turtle. Hal built me a wire box trap that floats partially submerged to catch a snapper. After its float test my friend who is visiting heard a lot of buzzing and found the partial carcass of my missing black duck. It was only a few feet away but it was not there the day before. I think Luna may have found it and dragged it into the yard. We used what was left of the poor thing to bait the turtle trap. However, finding the body does point to raccoons, the head was completely missing.

We set the turtle trap in the pond yesterday and I set up a food baited barrel with a ramp near the pond. This morning there isn't anything caught. I am kayaking today so I am not letting the ducks out. When I do they are visiting the pond in daylight and then spending the rest of the day and night in the garage. They know it's still out there. Perhaps I'll have caught something by tomorrow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Moved the 4.5 chicks and 3 guineas into the garage today. They were getting a bit large for the TV box in the dining room. Plus the guineas were getting very vocal and that is very annoying while watching TV. Chick 0.5 is still alive though I am not sure how. His head and feet are larger, he's getting feathers, but weighs next to nothing. He refuses to give up and won't let me keep him in a box by himself to prevent him being stepped on. I can't imagine he can live much longer. The other chicks are 4 times his size now. Today one of the guineas got out of his box and Hal found him sitting on a jar on the dining room table. Fortunately, the guinea was easy to catch, possibly in shock as to the size of things outside the box.

Hal also added the man door to the coop today and began work on the chicken door. Not easy working outside when it keeps raining. We've had a lot of rain the past few weeks. Not as much as other parts of the Midwest but more than enough.

Tomorrow my best friend from high school will be arriving for a one week visit. I have no idea what we'll be doing though I hope we'll have better weather. The predicted temps for tomorrow are in the 50s, in June! I hope that doesn't last long, I'm betting we'll want to go kayaking while she's here. Yesterday I paddled on the lake for the first time this year with a woman I met on a paddling message board. She was up for the weekend and we were able get in a couple hours even though there were pop up thunderstorms all afternoon. We had to take shelter at the island when the first one came up very fast. It's very "interesting" watching lightening strikes from the edge of the water. I don't recommend it as a regular pastime.

I doubt I'll have much free time to post anything for the next week. Of course, I haven't been very consistent thus far so I don't know why I bother mentioning it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Chicken Coop

Did I mention I bought some chicks on my birthday? I ordered 14 straight run Buckeyes and 11 Golden Laced Wyandottes from a hatchery in Ohio. They're supposed to arrive July 30th, assuming the chickens cooperate. In the meantime I need a place to put them so Hal kindly started building me a coop. It's 6 x 8 feet with a shed roof.

The temperature was almost 90 that day, and the humidity was around 95 %. If it had hit 90 dgrees I would not have been able to prime the walls. As it was the latex paint was practically drying on the roller. Since this photo was taken the rest of the walls went up and I finished priming them yesterday. The OSB and rough sawn plywood soaked up nearly 2 gallons. I hope we can work on it again this weekend but we've had a lot of rain which makes it difficult. The smaller space in the bottom left corner is where a chicken door will be. There will be an identical one on the right bottom corner, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two Ducklings Gone, Four More Arrive

A few days ago after a discussion with Hal it was decided to let the ducklings and momma out for good. I won't go into the reasons, suffice to say they had to leave. The 4 adults were up at the garage at the time and seemed quite expectant when I opened the garage door, in fact here are the 2 "wannabe baby killers" right outside the door.

However, upon seeing the size of the ducklings they had tried to annihilate a mere 2 weeks before, the big ducks turned tail and ran away. Since then, other than a few squabbles over food the 2 groups have kept to themselves.

Unfortunately, that night the 2 brown ducklings disappeared. There were no bodies, no signs of what happened so I suspect owls or raccoons. Probably owls. They were the purebred rouens, one the largest and the other the smallest. I have tried to get momma and the ducklings in at night but they refuse. So far the rest have survived. I have my fingers crossed that they will make it but I harbor no illusions. Next time the ducklings will be larger before I let them outside, whatever "good" reasons there are for early release.

This morning momma duck actually brought the kids up to the garage for breakfast. I managed to snap a good photo of the survivors.

On a happier note, I finally got my 4 Muscovy ducklings from the local Quaker farm. I picked them up bright and early Saturday morning from the owners. They were probably about a week old, I can't remember the exact date she said they hatched, but it happened while I was in Massachusetts, so sometime around May 31/June1. I was amazed how similar their coloring was to young rouens, 3 especially seemed to have similar brown markings but where the rouens are grayish, these are yellow.

At first we placed them in a small box but decided that would hold them about a day, they are incredible jumpers, so we had a mini brainstorm and pulled out Rocket's old wire crate. I covered it in newspaper to keep them from escaping between the bars and covered the floor with straw. It is quite a large space and should do well for them for at least the first 30-45 days. After that, we'll have to see what we can do. They are supposed to be excellent bug eaters and good mothers. I hope to get one good breeding pair out of the batch.

Breaking News

As I was getting ready to publish this post I saw the ducklings following the WBKs up to the garage to eat supper. I took some lettuce down to them and somehow, without too much difficulty, managed to chase momma and kids into the garage and shut the door. Now there isn't a pen for them anymore, there are 20 Cornish crosses living in it now, but I tossed straw onto the floor, gave them water and food and though momma is squealing to be let out, I think I'll feel a little better if I can get another few days growth on them before letting them back outside. At least they can stay till Hal returns from his hunting camp later this week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Returning Home

I leave for Michigan tomorrow around noon. Since Luna and I are stopping in Buffalo for the night there is no sense leaving earlier as it's only a 7 hour drive. I probably didn't mention I've been in Massachusetts for a week. Brought my mom home last week. She seems happy to be here, too.

The weather has been beautiful. Mostly in the 70s and sunny. Only very humid one day and then we had rain to wash it all away. My older sister spent the weekend here as well. Last Friday our little family went to the Salem Cross Inn for dinner; me, mom, older and younger sisters and YS's BF. Very good food. There was a surprise min birthday cake for me, too. For dinner I had the prime rib and it was cooked perfectly. Mom had broiled cod.

Unfortunately, it looks like seafood affects her gout and makes it worse, she had an attack on her right wrist yesterday, used to be only in her thumb. No more seafood for a while. This morning it is better, a bit sore, but not painful to the touch. What wonderful things I may have to look forward to when I get older.

Back home in Michigan Hal has been busy building my chicken coop. It's my birthday present. He's named it the Poultry Palace. It even has oak floor boards. Of course, those boards will be buried under a foot of sand, dirt and leaf litter but he says it will be dry enough that it should last 15 years. Between the oak and the wire buried underneath predators should have an awful time trying to get in and eat my birds.

A few days ago I called Meyer Hatchery in Polk Ohio and ordered myself 25 chicks. Fourteen Buckeyes, a mahogany colored bird developed by a woman in Ohio early last century, and 11 Golden Lace Wyandottes, a regal gold tinted brownish bird. I bought straight run because it's cheaper than pullets only (future hens) and the extra roosters will become dinner unless my FIL would like one for his ladies. I only want about 10 birds total (so far, anyway) and I figure this is a good way to start fairly cheaply.

While the hatchery person and I discussed my selections she told me that the hatchery had only sold about 15-20,000 chicks last year and in just 2 months this year they've already sold 10,000! It's a veritable chicken explosion! That information well matches the chaos at the feed store when I picked up my barred rocks. There are chickens everywhere. Are people growing their own food because they're afraid prices will not stop escalating?!

As for my barred rocks, etc, Hal says all the chicks are doing fine and the crippled one is still hanging on though he isn't growing as fast as the others. Poor thing, but if he wants to live I won't put him out of his misery yet. He also says the guineas are starting to make a sound he thinks might be their alarm call. It's very quiet so far but he can tell it will probably get a lot louder when they're older.

So Wednesday afternoon I will be back home. Luna will be ecstatic. She'll probably run right over to Uncle Butch's the moment I let her out of the car. At least Rocket will know I've come home when he sees her show up. He might even be happy to see me.