Hobby Farm Journal - 4-9-15

Quickly did critter chores; checked on the garden & it’s thawing beautifully! 

The garlic & daffodils are coming up, plus the sorrel! It must be officially spring! Here's more photos of the garden: 
 I even found a baby earthworm in the wood mulch!
 When I was planting pea seeds, the earthworms were everywhere!

It was damp, but warm and most of the snow has melted, except for some of the huge piles. I looked through some of my seeds, and decided to try “direct sowing” in the garden on the 1st bed that has no mulch. Sowed peas, spinach, onions, arugula, corn salad, lettuce, parsnips, carrots, etc. It will be interesting to see if any sprout, and if they do, how they grow. We’re supposed to have a few nights in the 30’s , but day temps are going to be mostly in the 50’s & 60’s, with a few mid-40’s, in the mix. So much better than below zero lows at night and 20’s during the day! McDoogle joined me while I was in the garden, as it provided him some time to run around "free", as the garden in fenced-in (though it still needs posts, etc).

The chickens in the Dad’s coop group are enjoying getting out and digging through the compost and mulched yard areas. They’ve also been reaching their necks through the fence to get any early spring grass sprouts. The grass is just starting to “wake up”, but not yet ready for the chickens.

Besides, I still have to finish fencing on the paddocks. It was wonderful to be out working in the garden, seeing the earthworms and other signs of life out there. I don’t like all the mole & vole holes that are littering the garden, as that means they’ll be probably be here all year! I guess they only like to eat the earthworms, but they can cause damage to seedlings if they happen to burrow right by or underneath them. When I was transferring my blog posts from my Wix site to here on Blogger, I noticed that I’d written on 3/13 that I’d “tested” the rabbits to see if they were ready to breed. Most weren’t, but I did say that the buck did fall over with one or two of the young does. That means day 30 is coming up here pretty soon, and while I’d be totally surprised that “it took”, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for any signs of needing to put the nesting box in. I tried to palpitate the does tonight, but couldn’t feel any “marbles”. Some definitely had larger bellies, and a few seemed to have noticeable “nipples”, not swollen, as they don’t get enlarged until they kindle. I know that some of the does seem to be really hungry in the morning, but that may just be because they’re separate now, not in with 3 other does.

The other day I was talking with the family and discussing the ducks and roosters being together. It was ok during the winter, but now it’s too chaotic. The poor roosters think the ducks are hens, plus the roosters who’ve gotten along fine all winter are suddenly starting to pick on each other. I’ve decided to keep “Andrew” in with the PA coop breeding group, and “Joshua” with the Dad’s coop breeding group. The last few times I’ve put them back in with the roosters and ducks, they’ve been beat up. Surprisingly, I’ve kept “Caleb” and “Daniel” in there for a few days, and the other roosters seem to be accepting them back into their flock. So, the bullies and culls who wouldn’t be good breeders will be going in the freezer as soon as I make the time to process them. I don’t know yet what I’ll do when I switch roosters again, it’ll be not any worse than swapping out roosters every 2 to 3 days. Even when I re-introduced the SFH rooster “Little Man”, he was an “outcast” for a few days, but now he’s “one of them” again. It’s a hard call, as in some ways I prefer all the roosters being on “good terms”, but sometimes I wonder if it would be just easier to keep the ones I’m keeping separate and just keep the rooster “detention center” for the young ones that will be growing up.
I also really think the ducks would be happier back in the larger area for the summer, but I don’t want them in any of the coops, as they are way too messy. Perhaps the Lord gave me a solution, which came to me last fall, but I didn’t have the time to implement before winter set in. The ducks do much better with a “covered yard” situation, or at least an area where their bedding can be treated like compost and it doesn’t matter how wet it gets. Surrounding the rabbit cages are pallets, with openings for chickens and I to access the rabbits, etc. But, if I put a “gate” there in those openings, the ducks can have a semi-secure area to sleep in at night, and can forage during the day with the PA coop group. Yes, I’ll have to increase the amount of feed I give them, but I can simply add the extra fermented layer mash from the “rooster & duck’s” bucket to the PA coop group. Last fall, I had the issue of the ducks going inside the PA coop, “camping out” during the day around the dry layer mash, instead of out there foraging. So, I plan on making a hook to hang the dry mash feeder up out of the way during the day, but letting it down for the chickens (only) at night. I don’t want the hens to be without feed during the night & in the morning, but I also would prefer the ducks to forage, not sit there and eat the layer mash! I also hope that once I move them into the proposed new area for them, they’ll start breeding and laying eggs again. At this rate, it’ll be at least mid-May before we see any ducklings!

Well, 4 of the SFH chicks went to their new home this evening, but I kept the 5th one with a “vaulted” skull. It’s most likely from Little Man x his crested daughter that hatched last spring. I’ve read if you cross crested to crested, the crests become larger, which can lead to a “vaulted” skull”. Basically, that means it looks like a “Polish” chicken  and should have a crest as large as them. Even though the Swedish Flower Hens are a landrace, the general consensus among the US SFH breeders is to not breed crested to crested. While they do naturally have crests, it’s supposed to be just a small “up-do” that doesn’t block their vision. Otherwise, it’ll impede their foraging and free-range qualities, plus make them more susceptible to predator attacks. So, if this little SFH cutie is a male, it’ll probably be raised out for meat, as I’m certainly no going to sell him/her for a breeder. If it’s a hen, it could be just an egg-layer, but not for a breeder. Time will tell, but I am curious to see how it turns out.

I also took photos of the chicks out in the "shed brooder", which are the ones from the 1st and 2nd 2015 Hatch.
They're growing great, as you can see in these photos.

 Above: the 1st Bielefelder cockerel that hatched this year!

The chicks in the "chicken room" are doing great too.
 Here's a photo of them, also.
This is "the chicken room", with the brooder (bin with the green lid & lights)
and all bins along the wall contain the chicken's feed, except for the chick's feed,
which is still in its original bag.