Homestead Updates, Mid-April 2017
I’ve likely said it before, but springtime is my absolute favorite time of the year. The baby animals, the warming temperatures, and the promise sunnier days to come more than make up for the rain and mud we’re currently slogging through.
Spring clean up is beginning: the sugar maples in our front yard have dropped countless branches that need picked up, our flowerbeds are full of leaves that didn’t get cleaned up last fall (whoops), and the barn and chicken coop are in need of a deep-clean after the long, cold winter.
There’s also all the plans we made for the farm while we were still in the dark, dreary days of winter: re-configuring the barn to make more room for the goats and for hay storage, adding more fencing to our pasture, building a new duck house … the list goes on. There’s plenty to keep us busy well into summertime.
A new puppy
Our family is grown by one more canine-member. Mike and I have been discussing getting a second dog for quite a while, but hadn’t made any firm decisions about it… till I saw a post on Facebook from someone looking for homes for Australian Shepherd pups. I pretty much instantly fell in love with this guy, and he came home with us last Saturday.
He is a bundle of fluff and love and we adore him. We’re hoping he’ll be a great family and farm dog. Since we got him, he accompanies me when I go out to do chores, morning and night. I’ve only let him meet the goats through the fence so far, but he’s sniffed around the chicken yard pretty thoroughly. He worked up the bravery to try and herd one of the Buff Orpingtons the other day, till she flapped her wings and he tucked tail and ran. Of course, he’s not much bigger than a hen at the moment, so who could blame him?
Speaking of chickens…
Laying Hens and Poultry
After a few losses this winter, we currently have 18 full grown laying hens. Ravioli the rooster is still with us, and we are down to two ducks. In the last week or so, our hens have finally started laying regularly again, and we’re getting about 8 to 10 eggs each day.
Our new chicks are 7 weeks old now. They’re fully feathered and the temperatures have been remaining fairly steady, so I moved them out to our smaller coop this week. They’ll stay separate in that coop till they’re about 18 weeks old and big enough to be integrated into the main flock of layer hens.
Our ducks are also moving. One thing I learned over my first winter having ducks was, I do NOT like keeping them in the same coop with my chickens. They add so much dampness and muck to the coop, and generally make a mess of everything. So our two remaining ducks will be moving into their own duck house (which is on Mike’s to-do list to build) along with the four Pekin ducklings we got about three weeks ago, once they’re old enough to be outside as well.
Once the ducklings are out of the brooder, it’ll be time to start our first batch of meat chickens for the year.
Goats and Kidding
The countdown to our first kidding is getting down to the wire — at least, we think so. We only had one of our four does bred last fall. (The other three were a bit too young still.) Candy spent over a month at our 4-H leader’s house, visiting with her blue-eyed Nigerian Dwarf buck, leaving us with a due date window of any time between April 21 and June 9. Judging by the size of her belly and her udder though, I think (and hope) we’ll have kids in late April or very early May. (With my luck it will be next week — a busy week for us with Easter, birthday parties for both my dad and my son!)
In the meantime, I’ve been busily assembling a “kidding kit” with all the supplies recommended by our 4-H leader and various books and articles I’ve read. I’m worse than an expectant mother, I think.
As for the other goats… Reese has thinned out nicely. A critique from the fair judge last fall was that she was too heavy (and I agree, she was), so over the winter we’ve gradually cut back her feed ration to get her down to a healthier size. The LaManchas are as crazy as ever, and I’m eager to get more of our pasture fenced so that they have more space to run.
The meat rabbits are in a holding pattern right now while we’re debating what to do with them. We haven’t had a litter since last fall, and they’re taking up space and energy we’d rather devote to some of the other livestock and projects. On the other hand, we do like having meat in our freezer, and we’ve had a lot of interest from others that wanted to buy rabbits (and/or rabbit meat) from us too. Ultimately, we’d like to find a better place to house our rabbits so that they’re easier to manage. Our long term goal is an addition to the barn, but that may be a few years away, so we haven’t decided exactly what to do in the meantime.
The vegetable garden is also on hold, sadly. I’d still like to plant a few seeds this year, but I’m starting to feel like a full-size garden isn’t going to happen. There’s just too many other things at the house desperately in need of fixing or maintenance, so tilling up a garden just hasn’t been a priority.
What HAS been a priority is spending time outdoors whenever it’s warm enough. The boys have been playing a lot in the sandbox and in the dirt. They recently requested old paintbrushes and shovels so they could play paleontologists and hunt for fossils. (I love it!) Ben is really into football right now so he’s been doing his best to teach is little brother to play with a soft Nerf ball. They’ve been making the most of every warm evening, playing outside till the sun goes down.