Saturday, March 21, 2009

Where have I been??

Right now since I'm feeling sick I figured I'd take advantage of my down time to post an update. I've been busy working on paintings for a show I have coming up and that has consumed most of my awake time and will continue to do so for the next couple weeks so posts may be sporadic for a little while longer. Hopefully you're all so busy planting that you don't even notice. :)

The duck eggs are still in the incubator, but this past week we had a serious temperature spike in the incubator that I am pretty sure killed all of the developing ducklings. I'm pretty upset about it, and I'm going to go ahead an leave them in there until their scheduled hatch date (Wednesday the 25th) but I haven't seen any movement in the eggs in several days and they don't appear to be developing. I can't really figure out what would have caused that to happen, but I'm going to be making some adjustments and doing some tests before I put the quail eggs in there next weekend.

Speaking of temperature spikes... the weather has been hovering around 90 for the past few days causing the remaining lettuces and herbs to bolt. I'm not really ready for warm weather yet, luckily it's supposed to dip back into the low 80's next week.

Out of the 50 or so tomatoes I planted, about half of them are doing well. About 5 have already been pulled, and several others seem to just be stunted after I transplanted them, but I'm giving them time to catch up. This is what I expected to happen which was why I planted so many in the first place. We have a few tiny green tomatoes developing, I'm hoping to get my first ripe one before May.

We also have some good news on the duck front, one of our muscovy ducks started laying this week! Not only that, they've begun eating flies. We were starting to think that the whole muscovy fly-eating thing was a trick to sell ducks, but now I've witnessed it several times and it's great entertainment. The ducks run around with their necks fully extended and their heads almost touching the ground snapping their bills like mad. Like chickens, the ducks seem to become more friendly once they begin laying. Now the one that's laying lets me pet her every once in awhile.

I'm off to rest!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Around the tiny farm: The animal pen

Here are just a few photos illustrating what's going on this time of year in the animal pen.

Delilah taking a bath. That water was clean not too long before I took the picture. Ducks have a way of getting water very dirty quickly. This shot is in between splashing like mad, they get everything within a several foot radius very wet, which is why I thought it would be smart to plant the sugar cane on the other side of the fence there. After the ducks take a bath, they hop out and run around the pen full speed with their wings flapping, it's hilarious to me, but I think the chickens would prefer to not have giant ducks zooming at them.

All of the older birds are now laying, the last one to start was Cosmo, the white-crested blue polish last week (at around 24 weeks). We're averaging 6-7 eggs a day between 9 birds that are currently laying. It's gotten noticeably louder, mostly with the "Get out, I want to be in that nestbox" noise, which is not my favorite thing to hear. Here's Pizazz (named after the Gem and the Holograms character), our australorp in one of the boxes. I leave the plastic 'training eggs' in the boxes in the nests even after the chickens begin laying just for fun, also, it can't hurt to remind the chickens...

The compost was in bad need of turning, and I was feeling lazy about doing it, so I opened the little gate to the compost bin and for the past few days the chickens have been doing the work for me. They love it and do a far superior job. Now I'll sift the finished compost into a separate container and shovel the rest back into the bin.

Finally, I decided to build a potato bed in the chicken pen. There isn't any grass in there, so I don't have to worry about sprouts of bermuda popping through the potato patch. The chicken wire has so far kept the chickens away from the sprouting potatoes and the newspaper lining has done a good job of keeping the soil in. For seed potatoes, I just went to the farmers market and got some organic red potatoes, yukon golds and fingerlings. This also gives me a good place to dump dirty water when I'm cleaning the waterers instead of having to haul it around the yard or wasting it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New hen!

Rachel's tiny farm got a new hen! Well, in a round-about way I got an old hen back. Remember when the hatchery accidentally shipped my order to me again two weeks after I got the first 26 chicks? Well I was visiting the urban farm the other day, where 10 of those chicks ended up and I commented on how beautiful one of his hens was, and it turns out it was one of the ones he got from me and he gave her to me. I offered to trade him my noisy hen, and what a surprise, he turned her down. For now she's in a pen inside the chicken yard to get accustomed to her new home. She should begin laying any day.

Here is Miss Moneypenny, the new Easter Egger.

I am pleased to get another easter egger, I love those green eggs. I had planned on having three of them originally but you may recall, Dazzler, turned out to be a rooster and got a new home.

I'm trying to get some foliage up around the chicken pen to act as a little bit of a sound buffer, and also to obscure any view of my chickens from the street. So I was pretty excited when tonight a neighbor gave me a stalk of her sugar cane. I cut it into a few pieces and buried it sideways along the chicken fence. It's right next to where the ducks take baths and splash water all over the place. I'm hoping that nitrogen-rich duck water will really boost the sugar cane. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Candling the Muscovy eggs

Well, we are now on day 14 of 35 with the Muscovy eggs. After candling them, I determined that 2 of the original 15 were infertile and 2 had died early on, so now we're down to 11. Tonight I candled one and could see a little embryo moving around, but unfortunately could not get a picture to turn out. Maybe next time I candle I'll test out the video function on my camera. I did get a picture on day 10 of a viable egg, this vaguely shows the spiderweb of blood vessels that form early on in development (The faint red lines near the top of the egg).

Day 10

It's interesting that different poultry take different amounts of time to hatch. You would think that ducks are ducks and it would all be the same, but all other ducks only take 28 days to hatch and Muscovy ducks take 25% longer at 35 days. Compared with a quail's 16 days, that's an eternity (also seems like eternity for those of us that watch the incubators.)