Rooster On Guard

I was sitting out on my back patio this week enjoying the homestead.

As I sit in the shade I can look at the grape vines woven into the lattice of the patio.  I can see the strawberry patch, with white flowers beginning to pop up everywhere.  I watch Mrs. Arable and her three chicks sunning themselves in the pen of the lower coop – the chicks occasionally having a scrap about who is bigger and stronger.  And I can see the hens and the rooster in the barnyard, scratching and pecking their way around, the guardian dog, laying in the sun watching over it all from her pen next to the barnyard.

The sounds include the many different songs of the wild birds, the clucking announcement of a hen that just laid an egg followed by the chorus of other hens joining her, and the buzzing of a fat bumblebee heading for a strawberry flower.

Then I hear a different sound.  The special call of the rooster to warn his hens of danger.  All the hens quickly dart through the small door into their enclosed pen attached to their coop.  The rooster watches them each go through and then goes through himself, after they are all in.  Just as he ducks through the small door and shadow crosses over the barnyard and the guard dog starts growling and barking towards the sky.

I look up, and there is a bald eagle flying low over the barnyard.  A beautiful sight to be sure.  Stunning, majestic, and surprisingly large when seen at this closer distance.  The stark contrast of the bright yellow beak to the white head and tail and the brown/black body almost takes my breath away.  It is such a beautiful creation – but not something I want to see dining on my chickens in the barnyard.

I am grateful that the rooster is being such a good guardian of his hens.  Watching over them and doing his best to protect the flock.  It can be a hassle having a rooster with the hens – no matter how many hens he has he always has his few favorite wives and their backs get torn up badly.  But there are definitely benefits too, like him guarding them from aerial predators.

Sunday Homestead Update

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers!  I am spending mine being loved on by my 6 most favorite people in the world.  🙂

We have had a nice week here with beautiful weather, including some rain.  We have used the time to work in the gardens getting odds and ends done.


We put out tomato and pepper seedlings in their Wall-o-Waters for protection.

We also got the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli seedlings out in the hoop tent.

This is a bigger hoop tent than last year because last year’s was on a 2-foot wide box and this one is over a 4-foot wide box.  We had great success with last year’s tent so we are hopeful that this one will do well too.  We are trying a different way of securing the fabric this year – clothespins.

We also got the celery seedlings out in the garden.

The rhubarb is growing well and we are looking forward to harvesting in the next few weeks.

The first seedlings to emerge from the soil in my new medicinal herb garden are Red Clover.  The onion sets are also sprouting now.

We also got the new medicinal herb garden deer fence up.  I was finding deer prints in it each morning and didn’t want to give them a chance to eat things once they really start sprouting.  We still need to get the fence rabbit-proofed, but we are halfway there.  We are calling it the Apple Garden now, because once we get past our last frost we will be putting two apple trees in that garden.

We used cattle panels for that fencing and Mtn Man made me another arch for my veggie garden out of the scraps we cut off.

It has been so fun to be out in the sun working in the garden again!


The meat birds are 2 weeks from butcher.  We are rationing their food as instructed and when we feed them there is a mad dash for it.

It will be nice to have freezers full of meat, and to be able to move the layer pullets and Silkies into the bigger pen that the meat birds currently occupy.

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a cold, wet week of snow and rain.  It is looking to be warmer this week, which we are looking forward to.  There is so much to get done outside, it is hard to be held back by weather and watch the to-do list pile up.


We got a bunch of snow this week, so our garden plans were pushed back a bit.  Hopefully we will be able to get the seedlings out this week on a sunny day under their tents and wall-o-waters for protection.  We got the wall-o-waters full and they are waiting for the plants to be ready.  I am putting the plants out a little bit each day to harden them off.  They should be ready by mid-week to move if the weather holds.


The search for the thin-shelled egg layer (which is causing egg eating because it breaks) continues.  We have narrowed it down to 3 birds and are working at figuring out exactly who it is.  Of course, two of those three are my favorite birds – why is that always the case?  Sigh.  During the process we also figured out which hen is pecking at everyone’s backs and balding them, and which hens are eating the thin-shelled eggs.  Once we have all the information we will decide what to do next.


I haven’t wanted to work on anything special lately, just mindless knitting with quick results.  So I have continued on the mitered squares for the scrap afghan.  Here are the 15 from last week.  I have 5 more done now as well.


We are almost done with our school year, which is fun and exciting.  I have been working on some plans for next school year.  It is nice to get preliminary planning done now, while the successes and failures of this year are fresh, so that I can remember the changes I want to make.  Then a couple weeks before we start again I will pull out the plans I made and do the final prep and planning.  I have also solidified our summer plans.  We do much better when we keep somewhat of a routine in summer, but with more free time and flexibility.  If we have no plan and no routine we all end up bored and grouchy.  So I have that ready for the summer and we are all looking forward to it.

Willow Creek Fiber Mill

The mill has really taken off the last few weeks and we have gone from a 6-week wait time to a 6-month wait time.  The fiber is pouring in like crazy and it is very fun and exciting.  We sorted through over 100 bags of fleece that arrived this weekend and did all the intake paperwork for them and put them up.

And the beautiful yarn pouring out is even more fun and exciting.  I love seeing what Mtn Man creates and all the different yarns.  Each fleece is truly unique and thus so is each batch of yarn.

Mtn Man only has a few weeks left running multiple businesses and then we will be living our dream of him milling full time!  What a blessing!

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a beautiful, sunny, warm week.  We had snow one day, but the rest were clear!


We got our first seeds in the ground outside this week.  Whoooohooo!  We put in some lettuce, spinach, kale, onions, carrots, and peas.  We also were excited to start some seeds in our NEW medicinal herb garden.  We planted yarrow and red clover in that garden.

The Vegetable Garden – looks bare right now – but there is hope planted in that soil.

We also got a temporary retaining wall up between the onion patch and the main garden because it was time to plant the onions but we weren’t ready to buy the wood for the real retaining wall.  We just used some plywood scraps and it is ugly, but it works for now.

Once that was up we were able to finish prepping the soil, stretch out the drip hoses, and plant the onions.

We also moved a bunch of seedlings up to the living room window from the grow lights downstairs.  This is the first step in hardening them off in preparation for them moving outside.


The girls and I shifted from the kitchen (where we have been doing projects the last few weeks) to the sewing room.  We sewed flannel PJs for everyone, and made some skirts and dresses as well.  We need to make more in the coming weeks as we find time.

We also spent time sewing on a project we are doing for Operation Christmas Child.  I will show that in a future post.


I started a new scrap knitting project.  I am making an afghan of squares made with sock yarn scraps.  I am doing a simple mitered square pattern with 40 stitches to start (20 each side).


The Red Ranger meat chicks…

…are very big compared to the layer chicks…

It is interesting having the comparison.  That second picture also has the Silkie chicks in it and the Frizzle that I got as a last minute addition.  You can see the Frizzle is the small black one in the front – and it is not at all Frizzle-y.  I don’t know anything about Frizzles and how many of them in a batch don’t actually Frizzle, but clearly this one didn’t.

The meat chicks are aggressive and constantly fighting each other.  They only have 4 weeks left before butcher day, thank goodness.  We switched them to finisher ration today.

We had a hen that wanted to brood so we put our older rooster, Abraham, in with the hens to start working on some fertilized eggs for the broody hen.

He has been getting more and more aggressive in the last couple months and after only two days out with the girls he attacked me quite viciously.  I fought him off without any injury, but since our kids are heavily involved around the farm we do not keep roosters that attack humans.  In our experience they attack based on size, so if they will attack the adult-sized human then they are even more apt to go for the smaller humans.

So he was butchered today which was a bummer because he was a really beautiful Buff Chantecler.  But thankfully, we have one of his sons and he is also very nicely built and has an even smaller comb and wattles – which we really want in our roos because of our cold winters.  So we put the younger rooster in with the hens.

We also have an egg eating hen, and one of the hens is laying super thin-shelled eggs.  The egg eater is only targeting those eggs, not regular eggs.  It could be the same bird, two different birds, or multiple birds.  We are working to figure out what the answer is.  We found one sitting on the broken egg with yolk on her beak.  She did not lay it, because we know she lays green eggs and the eaten egg was light brown.  So that hen is the eater, but not the layer.  We pulled her from the group and put her in her own cage for now while we watch and see if there are any others eating them and try to figure out who is laying the super thin shells.

4-5 times a year we go through the entire flock, check each bird over carefully for lice and any other issues, make sure they still have their leg band on, clip wings on the ones who have grown back in, and update all our flock tracking paperwork.  We did that this weekend and moved some of them around to different pens and such as well.  We have had a really bad time with lice this winter.  I don’t know if that is because it was such a mild winter, or maybe because we didn’t let them free-range as much, but it has been more prevalent than previous years.  So we dusted them all.  It feels good to be all caught up on those regular chicken maintenance chores.

And that is the update from our little farm in the mountains!

Sunday Homestead Update

We continue to battle spring snow storms and wind here in the Rockies.  It has been hindering our garden preparations, so I am really glad we were able to get so much done earlier in the year when the weather was better.


Despite the cold, we have green popping up here and there in the garden.  The chives, rhubarb, and comfrey are all sticking out their heads.

Everything under the grow lights is looking great too!


All the chicks continue to do well as they grow through the ugly adolescent phase.


Berries were 50% off this week, so we canned some mixed-berry jam (raspberry/blackberry).  We have been out of it for a LONG time so we are all REALLY excited to have some back on the shelves.  We were able to do 16 pints.


I finished the Banner Day Shawl, pattern by Megan Williams.  I used Greenwood Fiberworks Simply Sock yarn and absolutely love the feel of it.  The pattern was easy but interesting, which made it fun and made it feel like it went fast.

Warmer weather is headed our way!  We are looking forward to getting outside more this week.