Sunday Homestead Update

We have had very pleasant weather here lately, getting into the 50s with full sunshine during the day and only into the 20-30s during the night.  We are enjoying it and soaking in as much as we can before winter really hits us.  We have been working and playing outside, finishing up little things here and there, and fixing up things that have been damaged or broken through regular use.

More Hen Jackets

We moved our chickens around and set up the breeding group in the lower coop in preparation for the breeding season starting in January.  I wanted to be sure that every hen in the breeding pen (six of them) as well as any hen in the upper pen with any back damage from the rooster (2 currently) had jackets on to protect them.  So I made several more jackets this week.

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The great thing about these jackets is that they are pretty much free.  I use leftover fabric from other projects on the outside, and then use denim from worn out jeans on the underside.  We have plenty of jeans around here with 4 active kids and a husband in construction.  They usually get worn through the knees, and a lot of damage on the upper front of the thigh.  We continue to use them as barnyard jeans until they are really bad and then they go into my scrapbag.  I cut them apart and can salvage often the entire back of the leg and from the knee down on the front to use for projects such as these jackets.  The elastic is usually little scraps left from other projects as well, although I have bought a package of elastic when I didn’t have enough.

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So the girls are looking lovely in their jackets and the roosters wont do so much damage.

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The transition of moving everyone around went wonderfully.  The roosters are happy to have their girls back (of course).

A Really Close Call

As we have previously mentioned, when allowing chickens to mingle in the barnyard with other species (like cows and sheep) there is the danger of the chickens drowning in the larger animal’s water trough.  Especially because the chickens seem to prefer to drink from that than from their own waterers.  We have always put welded wire at a slant into our troughs so that if a chicken falls in it can climb out.  We have seen it happen a few times and the chickens have always been able to get out and never have been worse for the wear.

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With the hopes of lambs this spring we recently bought a new water trough that is much shallower than our previous one.  Our previous one was a horse trough and was about 3 feet deep.  We also used a plastic bin, pictured above, which was a bit shorter but doesn’t hold much and has to be refilled often.  While the adult sheep could drink from the tall one as long as it was half full or more, the lambs will not be able to reach into it.  So we bought a new one meant for sheep and goats.

The measurements on it are 12x30x52 inches.  We tried putting a slanted piece of welded wire in it, but because of the shallowness of it, coupled with how wide it is, it wasn’t working very well.  The sheep would stomp it down and pull it out of position.  Plus, our sinking de-icer broke, so we put the floating de-icer in there and as the water level went down the wire was keeping it from staying in the water.  It became a big mess, so we evaluated the depth of the tank and decided that, since it was only 12 inches, the chickens could get out if they fell in, even without wire, since it was so shallow.  We took the wire out, and a few days later husband saw a hen fall in and get out without a problem.

We forgot one very important thing…well really two very important things…Eve and Esther.  Eve and Esther are our bantam silky hens.  They are much smaller than our other hens.  The hen he saw fall in was a full sized hen.

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Eve, with one of the chicks she brooded last year.

 

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Esther

 

Last week I took Holly, our indoor dog, out in the back yard to go potty and while out there I heard splashing, flapping, and screeching hen noises coming from the barnyard.  I ran up there and found poor little Eve drowning in the trough.  I scooped her out and ran down to the house, yelling for the children as I went inside.  Oldest daughter grabbed a towel and wrapped Eve up and took her near the fire while oldest son and I ran back up to dump the trough out and turn it over – I didn’t want to even think about any other birds falling in while we were warming Eve.

Then I ran back inside and we took her in the bathroom and began drying her with my hair dryer.  She was shivering and shaking like crazy.  The water she had been in was probably about 40 degrees, so now that the drowning risk was gone I was worried about hypothermia.  We continued to dry her with the blow dryer and changed out the towel and cuddled her.  It took about 45 minutes to get her completely dry.  Her floofy feathers didn’t help much, they seemed to soak up the water like a sponge.  But she finally stopped shivering and perked up and began talking to us.  Her eyes brightened and she started wanting to explore the area.

We were SO relieved that she was OK.  She is not only an excellent proven broody hen for us, but she is also my oldest daughter’s pet.  I am so thankful that I happened to be outside when she fell in and heard her.  I shudder to think about going up there at lunch time to check on everyone and finding her dead in the trough.  It would have been terrible for us.

Husband has worked to figure out a way to have the wire work in the new shallow trough.  He got it set up today.  He wrapped the wire around the top edge so it can’t be lifted up on that side and he put a cement brick on the bottom so it can’t be lifted out on that side.  We are also going to get another sinking de-icer so that it can be under the wire and not cause problems.  Time will tell if it works – especially once the sheep come back this week from the breeder.

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We are very much looking forward to having the sheep back later this week.  We have missed them so much!  Hopefully each one of them is pregnant and we will have adorable lambs bounding around the farm this spring.

While we wait for their return we will be working away at the last of the Christmas presents we each need to finish.  Hard to believe it is so soon – time flies when you are having fun, and we are definitely having fun on our little homestead in the mountains.

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