The garlic mustard and honeysuckle are out in full force – time for the goats!
These guys are about two weeks old, and are already acting like little versions of grown-up turkeys. The boys will turn their tail feathers up and strut around, and their curiosity has them probing the edges of the brooder when we open it up to add food and bedding. In just a few weeks they’ll be out on the pasture to spend the summer and fall foraging.
I see many advantages to natural chick brooding: no need for industrial-scale hatcheries, no energy use or fire risk from brooding lamps, and general DIY goodness.
But perhaps the biggest advantage is big grown-up chickens getting to teach the babies how to be a chicken. To wit: this video of Buffy and her chicks when they were about 24 hours old. Buffy had been diligently sitting on the last two unhatched eggs, but it was clear they weren’t going to hatch, so I removed them. Immediately after I took them away, she hopped up from the nest and led her four little ones across their private coop and showed them how to scratch around for bugs.
This is simultaneously so fundamental and obvious (why wouldn’t an animal work this way?) and totally, mind-blowingly incredible. I hope someday to be able to get all if our chicks from natural, in-place brooding.
Four of the six eggs Buffy has been sitting in for the last three weeks have hatched! The other two appear to have developed embryos in them, so we’ll give it another day to see if they’re just late pippers. (Regardless, 4 out of 6 isn’t bad at all.)
These little guys are the first animals conceived and born here. I think that’s really cool.
We’ve had a lot going on, and are far behind on blogging about it. Time flies, whether you’re busily using the first few warm weeks of spring or sitting on a half-dozen hopefully fertile eggs, as Buffy is.
According to the calendar, Buffy’s chicks should hatch in the next few days. So this morning I got final preparations done for her. She’s been brooding in a dog crate in the chicken sunroom, which is the main thoroughfare the flock uses to get from the coop to the outside. Once the chicks hatch, though, we’ll want Buffy and the little fuzzballs to have some safe alone space, so I blocked access from the coop to the sunroom (the flock has a smaller door it can use to get outside directly). We’ve also added a chick-level waterer, a dish of starter feed, and a little ramp to help the chicks get from the main sunroom area back into their nest.
Now, we wait.
Wow, it seems like the few tantalizing bits of spring we had just last week all intensified almost overnight.
We had planned to spend the weekend focused on building a treehouse in the woods, and were making progress until Saturday mid-day when the post office called to say that our first batch of chicks had come in — early! They were due to arrive Monday or Tuesday, but apparently were in the main Madison post office, and the choice left to us was whether to leave them there until Monday or go get them. That didn’t seem like much of a choice, so we took a break from treehouse work to go pick them up and get the brooder ready for them.
This was an order of 15, and we now have 17 or 18 healthy little Freedom Rangers cheeping around their section of the brooder. Greater than 100% live delivery!
Shortly after we had the chicks settled and were back to work on the treehouse (Saturday evening), the guy who does our tilling called to say he could get to the garden on Sunday morning. As with the chicks, it seemed crazy to say no, since we’ve got rain planned for this week and some seedlings ready to go outside.
Meanwhile, Buffy continues to brood on the little clutch of eggs from our laying flock that we started last week. She’s in confinement so we can avoid some of the problems we had last year, but she doesn’t mind, since she just sits still on the eggs all day anyway. Sixteen days left.
While we had far less focused time on the treehouse than planned, it’s exciting to see so much activity. In the end, we got the main support beams and braces and the majority of the floor joists into the treehouse — it’s much harder working 10 feet in the air!
Here’s what we started with:
And here’s where we left things at the end of the first weekend of work.
The typical phrase is “spring has sprung”, and while that may be meteorologically true (recent snow notwithstanding), we’ve got so much springtime stuff coming up in the next few weeks that the present progressive “springing” seems more apropos.
Next week we get baby chicks for this year’s first batch of meat birds, and also turkey poults both for meat and future breeding (yay – winter turkeys!). And the following week we have plans to add a new adult flock of chickens as well (more on that soon).
The pruning chores are nearly done, the seedlings growing nicely under lights in the basement sunroom, and the garden waiting to be tilled.
Our recent spring surprise is that our maternally-inclined bantam hen Buffy has once again gone broody. Unlike last year, when we had no rooster, this year there’s a more-than-decent chance that she can make baby chicks the completely natural way, so we’re letting that happen. Amy and I set up a little brooding pen for her last night, and moved both the wanna-be momma and the sampler pack of eggs she was sitting on into it. And now, we wait – if all goes well we’ll have a few chicks in three weeks.
After many days of inviting 50- and 60-something temps, this feels like a bit of a setback.
But as young Nora remarked when we were driving through the heavy rain yesterday: “at least we’ll have lots of May flowers!”
We’re taking advantage of a non-cold non-rainy day to get the pruned branches out of the garden/orchard area before the April showers make the ground too soggy to drive on. With chicken helpers, of course.
The workshop door was in some very seriously sorry shape:
As could have been predicted, a hollow-core unfinished wooden door can’t really handle being an outside door. Fortunately, I was able to get a solid wood door at the Habitat Re-Store for $5, and it even has a nice window to let more natural light (and views) in.
The new door was half an inch taller than the old one. I could have trimmed the door, but it seemed easier to pop off the threshold and cut it down a bit.
The biggest trick — not that it was much of a trick — was mortising out the places the hinges would rest. I used the old door as reference; there were a few spots where the old hinge area came a bit closer than ideal to the new one, but it seemed to work out OK.
And voila – new door, much nicer than the old door. $5 for the door, $7 for some shiny new hinges, and an hour or so of work.
Now I’ve got some cleaning to do both inside and out, but that’s a topic for another post. 😉