Back Home and I Need Some Advice :)

I’m back from the Land of the Ancient Ones and while I was gone, we dealt with another predator, a large white German Shepherd looking dog.  My husband and my sons worked hard that week I was gone, and no one was here during the day, but we never know when one of these predators is going to show up…

This particular day was a really wet rainy day. After the guys had worked hard and had eaten dinner, one of my sons spotted the big white dog down at the chicken coop with a hen in his mouth. He couldn’t get to him fast enough to take care of the situation, but he did scare the dog and he did drop the hen he had in his mouth. It was the Welsummer Sis, yes, the one I painted the portrait of for the giveaway. My husband picked her up and put her in a clean warm place, but she didn’t make it. Then he counted the hens that were left and there were only 7 out of the 9. The other hen that was missing was Emma. My two prettiest hens were gone…

Or so I thought… This morning my daughter knocked on my door and exclaimed, “Mom, I think Emma is under the porch!” We grabbed a flashlight and peeked under the porch and sure enough there was a hen sitting there surrounded by leaves.

under porch

She’s not in the above picture, because I took it after she left and went to have a drink with her friends…

Emma

That’s Emma drinking out of a ceramic bird bath I have in my front yard. While she was busy drinking I took my flashlight and looked through a knot hole in the porch floor and this is what I found…

14 eggs

14 eggs!  So Emma is broody again. I’ve managed to break her of her broodiness twice, but I’m not doing it again.

So my question to all of you out there is do I just leave this nest under the porch and see what happens? It is pretty protected right under my bedroom window… Our dog used to have her puppies there. 🙂

porch

Or should I transfer the eggs over to our little chick coop that used to be a dog house and hope that she will be happy there?

We have differing opinions in our house. I just want to do what is best and I want Emma to be a happy hen.

What do you think?

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A Bad Mistake or Not?

Everyone makes mistakes, right?  Of course, we do, but I can’t believe I did this one. I should know WAY better…so after trying to be very positive about my little farm life, I’m going to rant a little…just a little…

DiningMr. Knightly and his girls dining in my flower beds.

I have one handsome Black French Marans rooster who I have to watch behind my back all the time, so he doesn’t attack me. And then I have 4 lovely Marans hens all of whom I raised from chicks. There were actually 13 to begin with …4 died when they were small… 3 were roosters that we butchered…and one rooster Copper was killed trying to save the flock from a predator. So I have 5 left. Then I  have 3 older hens…2 Wellsummers and one Cuckoo Marans named Mara.

When Copper the rooster was killed by what we thought was a coyote, the other hens were understandably shocked and did not lay any eggs for a while. One of the young hens became broody…we cured her of that and she is laying again. So now when everything should be back to normal, it isn’t. I am getting one, maybe two eggs a day.

My son works for a guy who has hundreds of hens and they lay tons of eggs and he was coming home for a few days. I frustratingly and impatiently thought, “Why not just buy 6 of his hens and at least we would have some eggs.” Sounds reasonable, right? So I called my son and he very sweetly said he could do that.

Now I had to work out where to put them. I know they would have to be separated from the other hens for a bit, so I decided to transfer my new little Ameracauna chicks to a little dog house temporarily and put the new adult hens in the chick coop.

Here is their temporary shelter and I think they are pretty happy in there…

coop

Now comes the rant…my son pulls up with the cage in the back of his truck covered by a big blue tarp. I know a journey of an hour and a half was probably rough on the hens, but I was pretty shocked when I saw them. In my ignorance I just did not ever imagine hens being in this kind of condition. I found out that they basically live in the wild, roost in the trees, lay their eggs anywhere…they were dirty, thin, dull and a couple of them had quite a few feathers missing. We put them in the coop along with water and food, and left them for a bit to settle in.

My nightmares started…I felt like I had been punched in the stomach…I thought of lice and diseases that these birds could bring to my flock. Going back down to the chicken coops to close them up for the night, I sat and watched the new hens…

They looked wild like the turkeys that come through our property sometimes. Their necks were thin and stretched out, and then they started flying up to the top of the coop to roost, like they are used to, I assumed, when they fly up into the trees. They stunk. They were so dirty.  I cried…All I could think is that I had made a huge mistake…

I cried myself to sleep that night wondering what I was going to do and trying to reason with myself not to make mountains out of molehills. But even if I got rid of the birds, I would have to totally clean and disinfect the coop to transfer the chicks back in it, which I just did not to long ago, and I was not looking forward to that, at least not so soon…

I got up at 4 in the morning and started looking on the internet about introducing new birds to your flock and I was even more horrified with what I read. I could not get rid of the anxious gnawing in my stomach and I wished that this did not involve the other members of my family.

In the morning I prayed and gathered myself together and went down to the coop with a more positive attitude. I went in the coop to get the waterer to refill it, and the hens were freaking out and I freaked out and started crying again…Am I just nuts?

My son said I remind him of the wife on Green Acres…

Anim_HomepageImage from Mark Maggiore

I don’t think so…

I haven’t seen that series in a long time and I might just have to go take a look and get some laughs out of this whole fiasco…

Anyway, after our Bible time that morning I asked my very sensible level headed daughter to come down to the coop and see what she thought and to tell me if I was just crazy. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the hens were just as sweet and docile as they could be…I mean they still looked scruffy, but at least they weren’t flying off the walls of the coop. She encouraged me that it would be OK and just to wait and see how it went.

Later in the day my son handed me 3 eggs from those new hens and then my husband found 2 more that evening….

full tray

By the way…I did find 5 Marans eggs in a nest behind the barn …the 2 broody hens that are taking up the nests in the big coop must chase all the other hens away…

So was it a mistake? or not?

June…

Daylilies…

daylilies

Gotta’ love them…

Looking back in time I planted a spring clover cover crop to turnover and plant the pumpkins in. It took along time to come up, but here it is now ready to be tilled…

clover

The bermuda is so prolific in these here parts that covering it with newspaper, landscape cloth and 6 inches of mulch didn’t deter it. In fact it seemed to thrive. So gardener daughter Anna covered all around the tomatoes with cardboard. It still peeped through…

grass

So now I picked out most of the bermuda and put 6 -8  inches of hay over the whole bed…

hay

Baby Ameraucana chicks have a new nursery…

chick3

chick

It’s in the old chick coop that was built in the stall. The window panel in the front gives them more light during the day and can be taken out at night and the big door closed for their protection.

chick2

We are getting 3-4 eggs a day from the Marans hens. Ever since the rooster Copper was killed and the broody hen fiasco, the older hens have stopped laying. Or they are laying somewhere else and I can’t find the eggs.  Here they are having an afternoon snack. We have not had any sign of the coyote, and have not trapped any other critters. So far…so good.

chickens

Culprit #1

Here is the first culprit to get caught in our trap…

racoon

But I don’t think he is the one who ate the hen and scared the rooster to death.  I think racoons do most of their hunting at night and he isn’t big enough, I don’t think, to carry a big rooster, like Copper was…and… racoons leave tracks. There were no visible tracks.

The traps are still set and we are still waiting. In the meantime I did a total spring cleaning on the big coop today and all the chickens are going into it tonight. I hope this won’t be as hard as I think it is going to be…

We have been sitting in the meadow watching the owls while the chickens forage around us…

IMG_0037

Every evening I still have been on the alert…I don’t want to lose another hen…

IMG_0044

Or the rooster…

Copper and the Coyote

It is a cold and drizzly evening. We are expecting a late freeze tonight as we light the fire in our wood stove, probably the last cozy fire we will have this spring.

Sitting down at the dinner table to enjoy a healthy salad, I heard a hen clucking like crazy right behind me outside the dining room window.  This is very unusual behavior from our chickens, since they have never, ever ventured this far up towards our house. The coop is way down the driveway from the house, approximately 160 yards away.

We continue eating, waiting for the hen to jump up on the back porch and peek inside the windows of the french doors to watch us eating, but the clucking went on without her appearing.  I got up and went outside to see what was going on. Mara and the two Welsummer sisters were nervously clucking and peering around  the far south side of the house, and then I noticed Mr. Knightly and Emma on the north side of the house, running up into the woods. Very strange behavior for my birds…but I didn’t take it seriously, as I should have.

I went back inside to eat my salad, thinking I would take care of the chickens when I finished dinner, when out the front window I saw what looked like a brown and black animal running across the field…I thought maybe there were two dogs running together, a black one behind the brown one, but a little ahead of it…

field

I placed the arrow in the picture above so you can see where the animals were running. The animal closest was about the color of the hay, but what I realized was the black animal  was probably one of the chickens. It was some kind of animal running away from the coop with one of my chickens in it’s mouth!!!

When I told my family what I had seen, my son immediately exclaimed, “A coyote!”

Coyote_arizona

Coyote ~ Wikipedia

I grabbed my barn boots and jacket and ran down to the barn as fast as I could, my husband not far behind me. Finding one Marans hen in the coop peacefully laying an egg, and  totally unaware of what was going on outside, I counted 5 hens and one rooster… that meant there was one rooster and 3 hens not accounted for…

And then I saw the feathers…

feathers

And further on I saw Copper’s tail feathers…

feathers2

And more feathers down in the creek…

feathers3

We looked for paw prints, but couldn’t find any…

My husband and son looked further down the road, but spotted nothing. And then as my son started looking towards the woods, Copper the valiant rooster came swaggering out into the field… He looked dazed and wet and his tail had been completely plucked…I wrapped my jacket around him and took him back to the coop…

Remember Copper…

copperHere he is now…

Copper2

Poor thing, but he is alive…definitely a changed rooster…

Copper

Hopefully he will feel better in the morning.  Another of the Marans hens had been up in the woods with Mr. Knightly and Emma. Now there were only 2 missing. What  a surprise when Ruby Hen came out of the woods, a little wet and scruffy with a few of her tail feather’s missing, but clucking away cheerfully.  I just wish I could understand what she was saying…

Ruby

Was she perhaps saying how valiant Copper was that he distracted that coyote from her and took him on, risking his life?  We’ll never know.  I tried to get a picture of the back of Ruby, so you could see some of her feathers were gone, but she was running around so quickly I couldn’t get a shot that wasn’t a bit blurry…

Ruby2

This is not the end of this story. We have one hen not accounted for, but I haven’t seen any of her brown feathers, so I’m hoping that she is still alive and hiding somewhere. The coyote will be back. We have 3 traps set up for it.  It’s just a matter of time.

Now I have to figure out how to protect the hens until we capture the coyote…

The Farm Keeps Going On…

So sad what is going on…the Boston Marathon Bombing… the West, Texas Explosion… my prayers go out to these families, and those injured still in the hospital.

It seems so trite to journal about what is going on here, but that is what this blog is for…a journal… and the farm keeps going on…

Tomorrow, we are expecting another freeze, a late one here in the South, so I’ll be covering up the hostas and the tomatoes in our new bed…

tomato bed

These milk cartons with the bottoms cut off are excellent recycled cloches to keep  tomatoes nice and cozy warm until the weather gets more tomato friendly. I always keep them on until the tomatoes start growing out of the top. But I didn’t have enough to cover all the tomatoes, so I used a plastic tarp for tonight…

tomato bed 2

A little peek inside this minnie greenhouse…

tomatoes2

Still have some tomatoes inside…

tomatoes

And peppers…

peppers

We have our first asparagus shoots today. Had them for breakfast with some really good fresh farm eggs. 🙂

And…they were so sweet. I’ve never tasted asparagus like this…

asparagus

Have to update on the chickens too…

Mr. K and Emma

Mr. Knightly and Emma…still hanging out together…

Hens chatting…

hens

Copper is definitely the head rooster…

copper

These chickens are all doing well…it just seems like they act more like spoiled French aristocrats than healthy barnyard chooks…   No matter what time of day it is when I go down to collect eggs or make sure they have water,  they all just act like they are starving and want to be hand fed…

waiting

But I do know they spend a large part of the day foraging for all the wonderful spring greens and tasty little bugs and worms.

That’s it for today… Hoping for a better tomorrow…especially for those in great trials today.

For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13

Good Morning, Mr. Rooster :)

My grandson watches a little video when he visits me with a little catchy song called Good Morning, Mr. Rooster that goes like this…

Good morning

Good morning

Good morning to you

Good morning, Mr. Rooster

Cock a doodle doo

I’ll share the video at the end of this post…but all this to say that after he visits I have this tune running in my head in the morning, especially when I see my beautiful orange colored yoked eggs…

yoke

This is truly what raising our own chickens is all about having super nutrient rich healthy food.  I bought a new kind of feed from our co-op last month called Scratch and Peck

Scratch and Peck

All of their animal feed products are 100% Soy Free and Non-GMO!  You can visit their site at Scratch and Peck.

And over at Home Farm Ideas there is a Scratch and Peck Feed Giveaway…  🙂

Have a great day everyone!!!