Friday, August 17, 2012

New Arrivals and Tom-foolery

When I had to put my Cuckoo Maran roo down (he had a non-responsive intestinal problem), that left me with out a rooster. Ok, I have a Cochin rooster, but he seems to have gender-identity issues. With the demise of the Maran roo, he's quit crowing. Go figure. In addition, the Cochin girls are quite mean to him, so even if he figured out what his job is, I'm sure he wouldn't get any...

I searched Craigslist (you know by now that I am the CL Queen), and found some Golden Cuckoo Marans, a trio to be exact. I met their breeders this morning and picked them up. They're very pretty birds.

They're a little smaller than my existing Cuckoo girls, but they'll catch up. Right now, everyone else is locked out of this pen so they can get their bearings. They've discovered the food and water, and are happily scrounging around in the litter.

The turkeys and the "mean girls" are quite interested, and are testing out their authority, which is why they're locked out for now. I have to say, though, this roo stood up to one of the cochins before I kicked her butt out.

While I was taking this pictures, I heard the toms fooling around outside of the pen. I have an abundance of toms in this batch of turkeys - there are only 2 confirmed bronze hens (and one that I can't get close enough to check), and about 4 chocolate hens. The rest are toms. and being
 boys, they spend an inordinate amount of time checking each other out and strutting their stuff.  This is a group of 6 of them, with Mr. Big on the right. He is unchallenged for his post of top turkey. The smaller chocolates (who are catching up, but will never equal his magnificence), display because they can, but aren't really asserting anything other than their maleness. There is another bronze (on the left of the picture) who is very similar in size to Mr. Big, but he's very slightly smaller, and his head coloration is more red than blue. He also is a very nice bird, but in the scheme of things, he's destined to be someone's dinner.

One of my neighbors is captivated by the turkeys. She's been lobbying for me to keep some and not eat them all, particularly Mr. Big. I'm caving. There is something very special about him - there's actually someone in there. Since I have 2 bronze hens, and at least one outstanding chocolate hen, I'm thinking of keeping a trio or a quad. Here are the bronze hens:

They are much more feminine than the toms!

I would not have any in my freezer, but I would potentially be able to raise my own poults, either by the hens themselves, putting eggs under the peahens (they will have special "nests" for next year), or getting an incubator.

As for the cochins, the same neighbor has found a sanctuary for my egg-eating hens. This would be a great thing, because they're a) mean to everyone, even the turkeys, b) they wouldn't be around to teach the young ones bad habits, and c) I might be able to foist the gender-confused roo off onto her!

I'll call her today - that would calm things down in the poultry yard quite a bit, and make things easier when I leave next week for my nephew's wedding for 5 days .

On top of all this fun, I've been working on a weaving project. See the details here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It has begun!

I've been late collecting egg the last couple of nights because it's too freakin' hot.

The day before yesterday, I found a peahen egg, and she was sitting on it. I left it there. Yesterday, as well as today, she seems to have no interest, whatsoever. Oh well, it's a little late in the season for peeps, anyway!

However, the cochins seem to be coming through their moult in record time. I'm back up to 4-5 eggs one day, 1 or 2 the next. and due to the great whacking to end all egg eating, I'm down to 6, 2 1/2 year old hens.

Yesterday, I went down to find all the waterers empty. I had just filled them the morning the day before. Have I mentioned that it's hot? Anyway, while filling them, I collected 2 eggs, and set them on the poultry pen trashcan lid. The gang was beginning to look for their nightly roosts, and through the shade cloth from inside the pen, I noticed one of the Cuckoo Maran pullets eying them... I dashed out to rescue them, and prevent her from getting started down the road that ends with decapitation.

So this evening, I went down, collected 4 eggs, and on my way out, spied this:
Can you see it? Here's a close up:
One of the pullets, most likely a Cuckoo Maran, has started laying. Wow! I got them the first week of May, and they were about a week old at that point. They're 4 months old! Now granted, it could be one of the buffs or Australorps, but they're a little younger, so I doubt it. And it's certainly not one of the Americanas (not green or blue).

Since the 2 buffs and 1 Americana are going to Michelle, whenever I can get together with her, they will likely be laying hens at that point and no longer pullets! The other two buffs, an Australorp and a Maran are going to my sister in a week. She may have eggs sooner than she thinks, too!!

For comparison, here are the 4 eggs that I collected tonight (medium size, not large) and the newest, "practice" egg:
The lighter ones in the box are cochin eggs, the other two are from the Birchen hen and the Barred Rock.

I'm going to have to order egg cartons - I'm all out after this 18 holer is full!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More gardening...

I about killed myself over the last couple of days getting the two completed beds ready for planting. Our dump has compost for $7/yard (pretty cheap), so after figuring out the cubic footage of the 2 beds, I got 2 yards. Then I had to shovel it out of the truck.

It was hot. I soaked myself in the 100 gal. stock tank. This is a great way to lower your core temperature very quickly. So who cares that I was in my bathing suit and supplex shorts - I'm so not proud!

There is a reason that the compost from the dump is cheap - it's pretty sterile, and has bits of shredded plastic bags in it. I'm not sure I want to know what they make it out of. It needs organic matter badly. Yesterday, after recovering from getting compost, I got horse poop from the rather large pile at the barn. It was probably a yard and a half, which I shoveled into a pile, wetting it down as I piled it up. I was hoping to start some serious heating of the pile, as it's not as composted as I thought it would be. Fortunately, it's a good mix of poop (green matter) and bedding and hay (brown matter), so it should work pretty well.

This morning, I dug about 4" of manure into one of the beds and planted my long-suffering tomatoes. I also got the drip system laid out, and installed in the two finished beds. They only need emitters or soakers to be complete.
Before manure:

After, with Tomatoes installed:
 A close up:
Boards are to keep from compacting the soil
This garden seat was my Mom's. I've designed the garden beds so that it and my dump cart will fit easily between the beds. I'm finding the little rolling seat to be very handy and comfy.

Now, I have to figure out which seeds go where, so that I can begin my rotation. I may just put them here and there, but for sure one bed will be beets and carrots and garlic (when it comes). I love pickled beets!!

I have the lumber for one more bed, and only need to buy 4 more boards to make the 4th. Since Dad and Wilma are coming next week, I'm going to have to pause in the garden construction to clean my house...