Saturday, April 29, 2017

Farm Catch Up - A not so short update on all the things

It's been a very busy Spring around here! We've been so busy working outside that I've barely had time to keep up on my farm tracking sheets, much less write for the blog. It's pretty icky out today, which honestly isn't any different from nearly every other day we've had in the last few months, but I'm caught up on outdoor work for the moment. Time for an update!
Magpie Harlequin rabbit kits, a couple of days before their eyes opened.

We've tackled quite a few projects in the last couple of weeks, largely due to a very generous gift from my dad-in-law. We were able to order enough supplies to take some big steps forward on some projects we've had on the to-do list!
  • We're now set up to start hatching eggs! I'm now the proud new owner of a Brinsea Mini Advance. This is letting us start hatching quail and eventually other eggs, if we choose. It's a fully automated system, with alarms that go off if I need to adjust something. There are currently 12 little quail eggs being gently rotated in a corner of my kitchen. They'll be hatching out sometime in the next couple of weeks, so be on the lookout for that post!
We're five days away from hatching our first batch of quail babies!
  • Because we're gearing up to be producing quail, Jeremy has been working on building me some fancy custom grow-out pens. We were given some old laptop carts from the kids' school, and with some creativity and elbow grease, they should be ready to house little quail about the time they're starting to hatch. They'll also give me a more secure home for the quail, as well as providing some storage, something that's lacking in our current quail set-up. We've had something messing with the quail pens recently, probably a raccoon or possum. These new carts will be fully enclosed with locking doors to keep our flocks safe at night.
Once used to house laptops...
Now housing flocks of quail!
  • The big girls are ramping up their laying. Finally! We've actually had all hands... well... all butts on deck several days these last couple of weeks, getting as many eggs as we have layers! This means that we've been able to start selling eggs. No need to dye eggs for Easter when you can get 'em all natural! This is great for us as every little bit of cash we bring in helps offset the costs of running our little farm.
Kinda hard to tell, but we're getting two colors of green, a blue, and a pink, in addition to the browns and white!
  • Those lovely free range hens have been free ranging a bit too much lately. And free ranging girls poop freely. Some of the family were a little tired of stepping in it every time they went outside. Between that and getting ready to plant herb and veggie starts, we decided it was time to put up some boundaries. Chickens aren't really good at following conversations or rules, so instead of sitting them down and discussing it logically, we decided to just build a fence. We now have a very sweet little fence separating the yard/barn/coop/run area from the patio/deck/herb garden/veggie beds. The girls are rather cranky about it, following me back and forth on the other side as I work. Poor babies. Not.
Repeatedly yelling at them to stop eating the produce wasn't producing the desired results...
  • We put cleared the area by the back fence and got all the plants for my little orchard planted - six high bush blueberries, a red currant, a black currant, two types of elderberries, and we added another type of raspberry to the raspberry patch. We've been mulching all the trees and branches we've been piling up, so all that mulch went around all the berries and fruit we planted. And of course the girls wanted to dig it all up, so we put a small temporary fence around the orchard to keep the mulch in and the chickens out. They aren't too happy about that either.
You're on the wrong side there, Kalee...
  • BABIES!!! So many babies right now! We're in the middle of The Great Chicken experiment, so we're overrun with baby chickens of all shapes, colors, and sizes. We've also got two litters of rabbits now, with one more expected any day now. Our American Chinchilla rabbit, Mouse, had a giant litter of 14 kits right on time. She lost several for various reasons, so we're down to 7 now. They're nearly two weeks old now and all doing great. Their eyes are open and they're starting to explore their nest box already. Oreo, our Magpie Harlequin rabbit and first time mom, had a healthy litter of 11 exactly on her due date. They're all doing well at a week old, but the smaller of the two runts most likely won't make it. This is sad, but it's a normal part of life and not unexpected with a large litter. Sugar, our second American Chinchilla, is due any day and has her nest built and ready to go. I'll be posting a bunny update soon.
American Chinchilla rabbit kits, starting to explore their world.

  • The Great Chicken Experiment is really moving along now. We're seeing major differences in some of the breeds. I'm working on an update and as soon as I finish weigh them all, I'll be posting it. In the meantime, they're growing fast! Even though it's been raining buckets, we needed to move them outdoors. While the big girls are great about staying in the yard and returning to the coop at night, these little birds aren't ready for no holds barred free ranging. So I had to build them a nursery run. It's not pretty, but it's functional.
The grass in this area of the yard didn't last long with these guys on the prowl.
  • Planting. So much planting. Indoors. Outdoors. In pots. In beds. Upstairs. Downstairs. I've planted seeds, planted out starts, and repotted perennials. I put some plants into the ground that I've been hauling around in planters for the last several years. I've planted things I've grown from seed over the last several months, plants I was given by neighbors, and things I brought home from the grocery store. I planted all sorts of goodies I found while scouring all my favorite garden stores, as well as stuff I found at the hardware store. Suffice to say, come summer, our little homestead is going to be covered in homegrown goodies! I can't wait!
Celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and passionflower vine, all ready to be planted.
Some oregano for the dining table.
  • Plus, all the usual stuff. Keeping a tiny homestead running is hard work. Feeding, watering, stirring, tracking, measuring, cleaning... We're constantly looking for things to improve, upgrade, and streamline. We make constant changes to increase efficiency, safety, and cleanliness. Always finding things to improve and getting it done is tiring sometimes, but it's how we keep our animals safe and healthy and produce enough to feed our family. From the frequent cleaning of the coops and brooders to changing the way we feed the littlest chickens, we're always fiddling with something.
Coming up in the next few weeks:
    • An update on The Great Chicken Experiment.
    • My latest kombucha attempt. Spoiler: I'm not dead yet.
    • How to make a mealworm farm and why you'd want to.
    • How we're spreading our love of homesteading, or how I made a 1st grader cry.
    • Our first quail hatch, possibly. We'll see.


  1. Love the quail holding pens made from the cupboard. Now that is using your creativity. Enjoyed hearing about the chickens. We had quite a few growing up. Yes, chicken poop too. :)

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