Brrrrrrrr! It has been bitterly cold this week. We have spent much of the week working to keep animals watered, fed, and warm enough to survive. Our nights have been in the -20s to -30s F. Our days have been in the single digits and teens. All the animals have done well so far, which has been a blessing. Egg laying is down a bit, but that is expected. The hot mash really helps, and we have been adding hot water to the farm dog’s food as well. It is supposed to warm up some this week, so that will be nice.
Eve decided she did not want to brood chicks – probably a good decision when it is this cold – and thankfully she decided this before we gave her hatching eggs. But Sarah has stuck it out and is nestled under her heat lamp on the eggs still. We will candle the eggs for fertility tonight. Hoping for good numbers!
The focus we put on smaller combs and wattles during last year’s breeding season and chicken selection has definitely helped improve the flock in that area. Last year we had roosters with severe frostbite on their combs and wattles and we had several hens with frostbitten combs as well. This year we have had no problems with hens at all, and the rooster’s combs are ok, but they are having minor frostbite on the tips of their wattles. The line of Dark Brahmas that we used has nice small combs, but definitely bigger wattles than we are looking for. One of the challenges we ran into this year while selecting was that the wattles didn’t really grow until about 22-24 weeks of age. We select our roos between 16-20 weeks. So we selected roos that had small wattles, and then they got bigger. We are keeping this in mind for selecting this next year.
We want to continue to selectively breed for smaller wattles and combs so we don’t have any frostbite at all, so we have decided to bring in some new stock this year that will be our breeding roos for 2016. We are focusing on Buckeye, Ameraucana, and Russian Orloff breeds of roosters because of their combs and wattles, as well as some other traits that go with what we are selecting for. We will get several male chicks of each breed and then select down to the best two. We are looking for the small combs and wattles, as well as good body type and non-aggressive behavior. Hopefully we will have two good ones in the bunch. Depending on when they arrive, we might be able to get them to sire a hatch or two this year as well. We will continue with our breeding program this year while we grow out these males, but we will focus on pullets from our own stock this year that can be crossed with the new roosters next year.
We have been inside keeping warm with our new wood stove. We cooked breakfast with it – just for the fun of it – making eggs and baking oat bread. It all turned out very well.
Most of the week has been spent knitting or working on year-end paperwork for the farm as well as husband’s business. Plus making goals and plans for the new year. I am knitting another sweater with the same pattern I used in the fall but different yarn. I am really happy with how the variegation of the yarn is turning out.
I am also continuing to work on the pair of socks I am making for myself. The yarn is called “Naked Sock” and is a wool free sock yarn. It has quite a bit of stretch. I am excited to see how they feel on.
The girls both wanted to learn how to knit socks, so they are each working on their first pair as I teach them how to do it.
Finley is growing like crazy. He and Holly are still good friends, and I am amazed at her tolerance of his shenanigans. He likes to sit on her head, or right in front of her chest, when she is laying down. But his favorite thing is to chew on her legs while she is trying to walk.
Finley is also completely a back sleeper. Whether he is in his crate or on the floor, he is always on his back. Kinda goofy!
Because of the cold he continues to spend most of his time indoors. He goes out for chores and any work in the barn. He is doing great with all the livestock and with Tundra. On warmer days he has sometimes spent an hour or two out with Tundra watching over the stock.
We have a pack of coyotes hanging around again. The cold has brought them out in the middle of the day even. We saw them – a family group of 5. The father is huge. Scary big. The biggest coyote we have ever seen. The young ones were probably born last spring, but they are coming up on adult size at this point. Thankfully, with the fencing and the guard dog we don’t have too much worry about the stock. The barn cats are at risk though as they roam the property. We are doing things to deter the coyotes from the property and hoping we don’t have any issues with them.
Hopefully the upcoming warmer weather will give the livestock a bit of a break from the bitter cold before another round of cold weather hits.