Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More snow, a less benign visitor, and maybe mites.

I figured I could get away with a little shameless use of one of the best photos we yet have of the Critter and I because it's a snowstorm photo. As those of you in the area know, we got a lot of snow yesterday. We seem to have made a tradition of getting the photos of the Critter in the snow. We can call this one his 3 month picture. As a side note, as I grew up in the far South of the USA in Texas, I never expected to find myself comfortable outside in near zero degree Fahrenheit weather without a jacket, heavy gloves, and a face covering. Now I'm out there consistently in what you see with waterproof work gloves and actually shortly after this photo went out and cleared the driveway. Very different than I was 5, or 10 years ago.

But, that said there's a lot that's been going on around the homestead over the past weekend so let's talk about some not so benign visitors, chickens, snow, and bread. The bread is simple, I baked 10 loafs of sourdough bread in one day. I recommend not doing double batches of dough, it's Much harder to knead a double batch than two single batches. I don't have pictures of this mass of bread, but next time I make bread I'm planning to make a walk through on how I've started doing sourdough.

Let's start with not so benign visitors. Left is our not so benign visitor as contrasted with our relatively benign rabbit visitor. That's a barred owl the Lady of the House spotted as we were coming up the driveway on Saturday, and she held still long enough for us to be able to get a good photo. Normally one doesn't see barred owls out during the day, even around dawn or dusk they usually aren't out in the open. It's especially risky in our area due to the abundance of chickadees that act as the Owl Early Warning System that promptly summons the attack murder of crows. After seeing this owl for the photo we got Left I saw it again 4 or 5 times over the next day before the snow started late Sunday night. I'm assuming it's looking for the rabbit, or the chickens because I kept seeing it flying across the open over to where the chickens are, and perching over the chicken coop. That's led to me being very careful about when I let the chickens out, and put them back in. Fortunately the dog REALLY likes chasing after the owl, and the owl flies away when the Dog come and barks at it. The dog will even run off into the woods after where the owl flies. If you've never been around, when an owl flies in the woods it's silent, very eerie. But that said, so far the chickens are healthy, though we haven't seen the rabbit visitor recently.

As for the chickens, they're a little less healthy than I might like them to be. It's probably difficult to see in this photo, but they're starting to get some comb fading, which usually means mites. That's unfortunate because it's tough to treat mites right now in this weather. We've been doing the deep litter method to help keep the chickens warm. Step one is probably going to be to completely clear the litter from the coop, put down diatomaceous earth and sand for a day or two. Clear that out after a day, and put in new litter with lime and diatomaceous earth to try to kill off the population of mites. The difficulty of course is that they live in the wood of the walls which can make it tough to actively combat them. We'll do our best in this situation, and early spring we may have to build a new coop as a really urgent action item. Either way, we're going to be re white washing the walls of the inside of the coop come spring.

As for the rabbits, things are going well. The problem is that the weather has been in the low single digit Fahrenheit to negative temperatures. That means that it's a huge problem keeping liquid water for them. In one of the few really beneficial things about the Lady of the House having been laid off just before giving birth is that with her home, she can bring the water in and out a lot more regularly which is much better for the rabbits. As it is though, I can say they aren't getting as much as they used to get during spring and summer. On the up side, this means that it's easier to keep their weights at a reasonable level. Keeping weight down when they're not actively breeding is important because obese rabbits won't produce the same way that a healthy weight rabbit will. The best way to do this is to measure out precise amounts of feed per rabbit, but with us mixing hay and pellets it's a little more difficult to get that exact amount. As part of that one of the things I'm planning for spring is to start doing a rabbit fodder system to grow them green grass year around. Apparently if done correctly it can not only be better for the rabbits, it can reduce your feed bill. I'm mostly concerned about the fact that it would be healthier for the rabbits, and would get them greens year around which they most certainly prefer. In the winter I think it would also help with keeping them hydrated. As I plan for that I'll be making posts about that.

On a side note, I'm really happy to have photos from the Lady of the House. She's a much better photographer than I am. We're going to be having to have better quality photos right now because my phone just died. The up side, better photos. The down side is that it inconveniences the Lady of the House who's still on full time baby desire fulfillment. Soon though it'll be light enough for me to get some photos morning and evening. We're going to be getting more snow little by little over the next couple weeks at 3 - 5" a day, a couple days a week. It's going to be interesting.

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