May!

I can’t believe it’s May already! The first day sure didn’t feel like it as we woke up to snow. But by yesterday afternoon it was almost all gone.

I had an order of birds coming that were suppose to be here April 29th but the suppliers messed up my order so now they are coming this Friday, the 6th. My eggs in the incubator didn’t hatch either. ūüė¶ So I’m going on round 2 with a few less eggs in hopes it will happen this time.

Incubating eggs

So I put 2 dozen eggs in the incubator last Friday. If you want a better look at my homemade incubator go here. I’ve successfully hatched eggs out of it but I find it very tricky to get the temp and humidity stable. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of confidence this time. I’d be surprised if any of them hatch, but I’m hoping. ūüėÄ

I ordered day-old chicks and turkey poults that are coming at the end of April so I was trying to time the hatch with their arrival so I can put them all together. That’s why I’m incubating now. If I had a broody hen, I’d rather let nature do it. Once a hen goes broody, I may get her setting too.

I took this picture this morning. The ducks and chickens are so happy to be outside!

Ducklings and chick

Rouen ducks

They’ve all grown up! As you can see in the picture of the ducks, I have 1 female and 4 males, just like I suspected. One or two of the drakes will make it to the freezer.

Mamma on the left, baby on the right

The one little chick my hen hatched is almost as big as his mamma! Ya, I’m pretty sure he’s a rooster. Oh well, I’m willing to give it another try next year. I’ll tag this hen so I can use her again, now that she knows what she’s doing. She started out rocky but came through a strong mother hen.¬†¬†

All these birds are living together right now in the chicken coop. It’s not heated so I’ll be doing some juggling around and putting them in the barn with the other hens where it’s heated for the winter.¬†¬†

One little chick

A while ago I had a couple hens that went broody so I decided to let one of them¬†sit on¬†a clutch of eggs. I’ve never actually done this before. One year I had a hen hatch some eggs but that was an accident. She disappeared one day and I found her hidden in some bushes on a nest of eggs.

Anyway, I decided on a spot to seclude her from the rest of the flock, tucked 9 eggs under her and let her be. It was around 15 days or so that I risked putting my hand under her to see the eggs. (She pecks HARD!) I see that there aren’t 9 eggs anymore but only 7. She ate 2 of her eggs. ūüė¶ I didn’t think the rest would hatch because they had gotten egg yolk and white on them, but decided I’d wait and see.

On the morning of the 21st day I see a chick under the hen, but it’s not moving. ūüė¶ Later that day I look again and low and behold there’s another chick hatched! And it’s alive! ūüôā¬† so exciting!

I left the other eggs under her for another 3 days but looks like there’s only one little chick. I can’t tell if it’s a poult or cockerel. We’ll have to wait to see.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday hosted by GNOWFGLINS, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Sustainable Eats, and Culinary Bliss.

Winter preparations

It’s been a very busy week, since we got snow.¬† Thankfully it all melted and it bought us more time to get ready for when the ‘real’ snow comes and stays for the winter.

~There’s firewood to be split.¬† We have some but not enough for the winter.¬† It’s been cold enough for a fire in the woodstove¬†everyday.¬† We are waiting on a¬†large delivery, 7 cords more.¬† The logs¬†will be 8 foot lengths so they’ll need to be cut then split.

~We got the snow fence up.  Not really necessary but so great to have.  It helps keep the snow from drifting on the driveway. 

~I cleaned out the chickens and dumped the manure on the garden.¬† This will be the last time they are cleaned before winter.¬† They will be shut in for¬†several months once it’s cold enough, the¬†next time they are cleaned as thoroughly will be in the spring.¬† I add fresh straw throughout the winter.

~I’m still working on cleaning out the goats.¬† I did some but it’s a big job.¬† I’ll get it done though!

~Other years I’d also be putting up the storm windows on the house.¬† We’ve been slowly replacing the windows so this year it is so nice not to be putting up those old storm windows!

First egg

eggs1

I got my first egg from the chicks I got back in May!¬† Generally, they are expected to start laying when they are 20 weeks old but these girls are just 17 weeks old.¬† Don’t ask me why, I was totally unprepared.¬† Though… that hen that squatted for me when I was in there yesterday¬†should have been an indication.¬† I wasn’t sure if I saw what I saw, LOL.¬† The eggs from my older hens would be considered ‘jumbo’ in size.¬† The one I found today… definitely ‘pee wee’.¬† But that’s okay, because I’m so happy they have started laying.¬† It will be no time before I’m back in business!¬† (I had to turn away egg customers since my flock¬†had gotten¬†so small.)

Cleaning up the chicken yard

Chicken yard cleaned up

Chicken yard cleaned up

I have an area penned off for the chickens so they can roam around outside without getting into my garden or¬†vulnerable to preditors.¬† With only 11 hens and one rooster, the area was quickly becoming choked out with thistle.¬† It had gotten 5 feet high!¬†¬†The chickens, of course loved it and found it to be the perfect place to¬†hide their eggs, which I didn’t know about (I guess that is their point).¬† By the time I found the eggs, they were headed for the garbage… ewww!¬† We got to work clearing the thistle and other weeds that had taken the yard over.¬† It took a few hours spread over 2 days to finish.¬† We found a few more rotten eggs (time bombs) in the process.¬† We have a few big piles of weeds to burn or dispose of somehow. The chickens are very happy now because I had confined them indoors until the problem was solved.¬† And¬† I’m happy¬†because no more wasted eggs.¬† Once the younger hens get big enough, in about a month,¬†I’ll mix them with the other¬†hens. Hopefully having 36 chickens outside will help keep the weeds down.

Chickens being chickens

Chickens being chickens

They’re done!!

chicken_fridgeI’m done the chickens! YAY! Aren’t they beautiful?¬† All standing at reverse attention.¬† The last batch are chillin’ in my extra fridge.¬† Tomorrow morning they join the others at freezer camp. What a BIG job, a tiring, back-aching job.¬† But I’m so thankful for having raised them and I’m thankful they turned out so well.¬† I know I’ll be thankful in the middle of winter when I’m¬†baking one.¬† I forgot to count them but I’d guess 46. I started with 50 and lost a few.¬† Finished weight, most of them were over 4 lbs, even a couple 5 pounders, only one under 3 3/4 lbs.

Now we can take a break for a few weeks.¬† Next will be the turkeys.¬† That¬†should be interesting.¬† I don’t have a pot vat big enough for scalding.¬† It might take two of me to lift it to the plucker.¬† How big do they make freezer bags?

Home-grown chicken

I started processing the broilers this week.¬† I did 2 yesterday. I would have done more but the plucker wasn’t working and doing them by hand was just taking too long!¬† (Not as clean a job, either) It took me an hour to do the two.¬† So hubby fixed the little electric motor on the plucker for me last night and I did 5 more birds this morning.¬† I’m doing a few at a time for two reasons: first, I can only fit so many in my fridge for them to age before I freeze them and second, my back can’t take doing anymore! ūüėܬ† I’ll have to get some help next time.¬† This is going to keep me busy for the next week and a half.¬† I’m VERY pleased with how they have turned out.¬† I can’t wait to taste one.¬† I’m making soup with the giblets.¬† Does anyone know how to clean a gizzard?¬† I never learned how to do it properly. Tomorrow, I think I’ll cook one of the ones I did yesterday.¬† They are 81/2 weeks old and average 41/2 lbs.

I didn’t want to gross anyone out, but thought I’d share a picture of our homemade plucker.¬† We didn’t make it but someone did.¬† I actually can’t remember where we got it.¬† Hubby would know.¬† Through my dad, I think.¬† Gotta love those labor-saving, time-saving¬†devices.¬† It would be even better if it had some kind of hood to catch the feathers.¬† That would save me when it’s time to clean up.¬† The other picture, my son snapped.¬† He actually startled me when he took it. ūüėÜ

There’s something very satisfying about raising your own food from start to finish.¬† Well, there is for me. ūüôā

Critters

Never a dull moment when you have animals. ūüėČ

turkeysLast week we had coyotes trying to get at my turkeys!¬† We woke up at 3 am to the sound of their ‘yipping’ just outside our bedroom window.¬† Luckily hubby chased them off and they haven’t been back since.

We have a mouse (or two) in the house!¬† They have been difficult to catch, despite our best efforts.¬† Finally caught one in a trap this morning!¬† I’m hoping Pixie learns to be a good mouser.

LucyandPixiePixie is¬†very rambunctious!¬† She goes from one trouble to the next.¬† Climbing inside the dishwasher, hanging on the window screen, eating the dog food, chewing on cables… it’s like having a toddler in the house again!¬† I’m thankful when she finally falls asleep.

 

 

BuddyThe dogs have been leaving the property.¬† Lucy took off the other evening and was gone for a few hours.¬† I know if she is in ear-shot, she comes and she won’t ‘run away’ but still not acceptable.¬† Before a thunderstorm, Buddy took off.¬† He’s afraid of thunder. He was found a mile and a half away!¬†Hence the leash.¬† Too nice outside for them to be in but I don’t need them wandering off again.

 

nestMy layers have access to a chicken yard.¬† It is full of thistle and other tall growth.¬† They’ve taken to laying their eggs in the tall grass.¬† I didn’t find where they were laying until there was a clutch of about 6 or 8 eggs.¬† Those ones got thrown out.¬† It’s interesting trying to find that spot every morning.

 

 

chickensThe meat birds are ravenous every feeding.¬† I guess that is the nature of the breed.¬† But it makes it hard to fill the troughs when they are all diving in at once.¬† We’re going through a lot of feed. They are just about ready to butcher.¬† The black ones are layers. I’ll mix them with the others when they get a little bigger.

 

 

The goats have been doing fine.¬† I put up a temporary fence so they have access to graze.¬† They don’t wander far from their pen, but the fence keeps them from things they shouldn’t get into. ūüėČ