Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chickens, wood, and babies. Now with pictures.

As promised, today we have photos from around the homestead. We've finally been letting our chickens wander the property and do their thing, and they are quite different in behavior than the chickens we had around before. They don't have to be coaxed to come to garden beds with scratch, they're curious, and they are an unruly bunch that make quite a rapid impact on the grounds.

As you can see Left they rapidly found the rabbit hutches, and have been exploring for any bit of food in there, and finding it. They can move a crazy amount of waste under the hutch in an incredibly short period of time. We are glad to see them going around and finding every bug they can and eating it. Not as thrilled about them eating every worm they can find since we like having them around, but that's a consequence of having chickens eating ticks, crickets, and everything else. So far they haven't been harassing the live plants which is a really good thing that we are happy about. We want them to be leaving them alone, and so far they are doing so, even the red peppers hanging ripe on the plants. Over all they've mostly been at the already dug beds.
The Lady of the House is thrilled with having dinosaurs back on the property, and we've been taking great advantage of the eggs. We recently had a rather unusual egg come to us from our girls. As you can see Left one of these eggs is much larger than the others. We haven't eaten it yet but we're debating between whether it is a double yolk or a double egg, or just a very startling experience for one of our girls. Behaviorally we're been sort of startled by some of the behavior. For one thing Mr. Bond is something of a coward from what we can tell. We have no confidence that he'll try to stand up for his harem. For one thing if startled he tries to find a hole and dig into it, for another if he wants something and the girls want it they beat him up and take it. Maybe he's just still growing up but it isn't what we expected from a rooster. This could just be getting used to the social dynamics of a new creature, or any number of other things. We're going to be watching them to learn their ways. The other thing that's sort of startling is that they don't stick together the way we got used to chickens sticking together. They spread out quite a bit from each other most of the time unless someone finds something particularly interesting. They've also been exploding their run completely. At this point there just isn't anything left alive in there when weeks ago it was a lively green area. As you can see they also move crud around fairly rapidly, especially if they can get it into their water. 
But over all, if we can sell even half of the eggs which are organic free range, we'll be paying for the majority of the feed and getting eggs out of it. Obviously they're going to need more food over the winter and producing less, but if we can get them through the winter alive we are going to be doing great in the spring. I am obviously a little fatalistic about that given our luck with chickens so far, but maybe having them closer to the house will make all the difference in the world, so we shall see.
I wanted to give a photo of the pile of wood we got done this weekend. It's a good solid pile that's 4 feet tall, and is a good solid pile. I've gotten much better at stacking wood than the first year. This time the pile is standing still, and I'm fairly sure that it wouldn't just all fall over due to a fishercat running across it. Still, that's a little under half of the wood we want to have stacked for this winter since it is expected to be long and cold, and with the Lady of the House and the Critter home we won't be able to keep the house at my preferred 55 - 60 through the winter and just heat it up for a few hours a day with wood. Basically we are going to have to extend the lifespan of our small oil tank by using wood and we'll need a good bit for that this year.
On the rabbit front Splash and Streak look like at least one of them is getting ready to pop. They are interestingly inclined to use the central area with the small pass through for their nest rather than the nesting areas I built for them. What ever works for them is fine with me, but we're going to be trying to make sure they get enough hay. I am concerned because Splash still hasn't accepted a breeding from anyone, and I don't want her getting too old without being bred. She's going to be a priority to get bred this spring because we don't want her to get too old to safely breed. I recently cleaned the mess on their shelf out since they'd been using it as a bathroom. They seem much happier with it fully clean, so of course they're going to go back to focusing on it as a latrine. Finally the merged group of kits is still getting used to their new large space, and seem to be getting along just fine. I am always glad to see a lack of fighting between kits, and if you put them in together at a good time they won't. In their case they were put together at 8 weeks after they've socialized with their parents, and are still impressionable. The other key of course is to make sure that they're all moved at once so it isn't someone's territory without the others which will cause fighting to sort out who's in charge. As they get older there will be scuffles as they get older, but with this method it's minimized. I'm gong to hopefully have more photos of the babies as we come in to next week. I'm fascinated with how different some of the Creme coats are developing, and it's quite attractive in some of the kits. As usual right now, there will be a post barring the arrival of the Critter in which case there will be unannounced absence for at least a week. Probably longer.

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