Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 6

This week is more of the same.  The baby rabbits eat a lot and run around.  The only real news is that all of them have been claimed.  We haven't received any deposits or anything, but several people have told us they'll take one (or two) as soon as they are ready.

The weather was lousy today and these guys don't stay still.  So I wasn't able to get very good pictures.
6 weeks old.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 3

The broilers have gotten big!  There just isn't enough space for them in my garage.  Even with them split into two groups there isn't enough room.  Twice now one of the birds has escaped.  The other day I found one standing standing next to the cage looking confused.  My son said that the same thing happened today.  It must've jumped out of the tub.

The lack of adequate space leads to a huge mess.  They are knocking over their food and water and they're getting pine shavings everywhere. 
They've scattered pine shavings everywhere.  It's actually worse than what's shown here.
They are 3 weeks old and have most of their feathers.  So I decided that today some of them would move into the yard.  The forecast doesn't show it going below 50* for the next week.  I didn't want to put all of them out there just in case they can't manage when it's that cold.  It's better to lose half than all of them.
I put a larger waterer in there with them.  I need to hook up the one I used last year.
  They seem a lot happier in the tractor.  They certainly have a lot more space. 
It didn't take them long to find the food.  They were scratching and pecking at the ground as well. 

As for the remaining 8 birds...  I split them up between the cage and the tub.  Maybe they'll have enough room with just 4 in each.
 They sure do eat a lot.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 5

Another week has gone by and the rabbits are bigger.  There isn't much new to report.  They spend a lot of time running around and eating. 

 They sure are cute! 
 I just wish they'd hold still for a decent photo.

5 weeks old.
 They'll be ready for new homes in another 3 weeks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 2

I can't wait to get these things into the yard and out of my garage.  They're a lot of work.  They pretty much just eat, drink, and sleep.  I can see why they are the bird of choice for meat. 
I fill their feeder and waterer every night before I go to bed.  When I get up in the morning they are both empty.  I've actually had to refill their water after just 4 hours! 

Up to this point I've been moving them between the tub and the cage.  That way I can clean one while they're in the other.  Unfortunately they've gotten too big for that.  They don't all fit comfortably in either.  So I split them up.  I put 8 chicks in the tub and 7 in the cage.  This also allows me to double the amount of water and food accessible.
They sure aren't the prettiest breed of chicken. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nature was kind to me after all.

I wrote a post the other day complaining about a late cold snap.  I am happy to report that all of my plants survived.  They were calling for it to go down to 32* both nights.  Instead, it went down to 34* both nights. 
The picture above was taken after the first night.  I left the buckets in place and didn't remove them during the day.  The picture below was taken after the second night (that was today) after I removed the buckets.
The biggest problem I had was that the plants were really too big to be under those buckets.  The tomato in the picture below looks unhappy.  The top of the plant is going out and not up.  It'll survive.
I really didn't mind waiting until next year to test my new greenhouse climate controller.  Even though I didn't see it come on, it must have worked.  I have the controller set to turn the heat on at 40* and the minimum temperature recorded in there was 39.2*.  So that's good news.  I'm real happy about that actually.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 4

Rabbits get big fast!  We can hardly call them babies anymore.  They run around all over the hutch now and don't spend much time in what's left of the nest.
I found all of the rabbits piled into the front corner sleeping this afternoon.
They still try to get under the momma rabbit to nurse.  She doesn't have time for that and just hops away.  Unfortunately for her, there just isn't a lot of room in there.  When she gets away from one there's another one waiting to pester her.  I don't think she's going to mind much when they are gone.
The ears are sticking up less and are starting to turn down.
4 weeks old.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nature is cruel.

I thought Winter was over.  I thought I was done with freezing temperatures.  I thought I was past our last frost date.  I was wrong!  It's supposed to go down to 32* tonight and again tomorrow night. 

I started moving tomatoes to my raised beds two weeks ago.  I was hesitant to plant too many at once.  So I've been planting 3-4 at a time.  Well, now I have 15 in the ground.  There's a chance I could lose some or all of them.  I'm hoping to prevent that.

How?  I dug out all of my 5-gallon buckets.  I didn't have enough to cover all of my plants.  That didn't really matter since several of them were too tall to fit under a bucket.
I sat pots full of soil on top of the buckets to weight them down.
 I took the trash can out of my garage and used it too.  It was tall enough to fit over one of my tallest plants. 
It's supposed to go down to 32*.  With any luck, all of the plants will make it.  If I do happen to lose some, I still have extras in the greenhouse.  I'm not worried about losing anything in there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 1

The broilers were actually a week old last Thursday.  I just haven't had a chance to write anything about them.  They're eating and drinking like crazy.  I'm filling their 1-quart waterer in the morning and again in the evening.  Their food gets filled almost as frequently. 

I put them in the yard for a few hours on Saturday.
They didn't seem real excited to be out there.  They mostly just ate and sat in the sun.
They're already putting on some meat.  Now they just need to get some more feathers so they can go outside full time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 3

All of the baby rabbits now have their eyes open.  They started opening their eyes when they were about 14 days old.  They still spend most of their time sleeping.  Once in a while they'll get up and explore the hutch. 
They've started to show an interest in the hay.  I don't know how much of it they are actually eating.  My wife said she saw one of them chewing and chewing and the piece of hay didn't get any shorter.
I don't know if the momma rabbit is still nursing them or not.  They try to climb under her and she gets annoyed and promptly hops away.  She was very protective of them when they were first born.  Now she acts like she's ready for them to go.
I spent several minutes watching them today.  They sure are entertaining.
3 weeks old.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saddle Style Poultry Water Nipples

With the threat of frost pretty much gone I decided to reconnect my PVC chicken waterer.  Much to my dismay it leaked.
Two of the poultry nipples were leaking.  One of them wasn't too bad, but the other was.  It looked like the silicone around it gave up and wasn't holding anymore.  I've had this problem before.
This style of poultry nipple isn't meant for PVC pipe.  The silicone helped, but didn't last through the winter.

I didn't want to deal with fixing it only to have it fail again.  So I ordered some saddle style poultry nipples that are made specifically for 3/4" PVC pipe.
The project was pretty straight forward.  I cut a new piece of PVC pipe to the same length as the old one and then held the two pipes together with clamps.  Then I drilled 5/16" holes in the new pipe using the poultry nipples in the old pipe for reference.
Then I snapped the new saddle style nipples into the new pipe.
The last step was to re-attach the pipe to the chicken coop and connect the water.
There were no leaks.  If you're going to use PVC pipe to water chickens I'd highly recommend these poultry nipples over the ones I originally used.  The only downside is price.  These were ~$14 for 5 of them.  The last ones I got were ~$8 for 10.  That's quite a difference.  It's the reason I bought the ones I did the first time.  I've learned from experience that it wasn't worth it. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2

I raised 11 broiler chickens in my backyard last year.  I learned a lot from it and my family has enjoyed eating all of those delicious chickens.  So I thought I'd try it again this year.

Last time I raised Freedom Rangers.  I thought about raising them again, but I decided to look for a cheaper option.  I found that Hoover's Hatchery had female Cornish Cross birds for $1.10 each.  They tack on an additional $5.00 for orders of less than 100 birds.  I can live with that. The Freedom Rangers are $2.10 per bird for an order of 25-49 and $1.55 if you order 50-99.  That's for a straight run (which includes both males and females). Those prices don't include shipping.  Last year I paid $2.70 per bird.

A lot of people prefer the male birds since they get bigger.  I like having the option of ordering all females.  I won't have to worry about any of them crowing and disturbing the neighbors.  Anyway, when it was all said and done, the order of 50 female Cornish Cross chicks ended up costing $80.30 or $1.60 per bird.

Getting the birds was a bit of a fiasco.  They were supposed to ship on April 1, but didn't ship until the 2nd.  I thought the post office would call this morning when they arrived.  Since that's what they did last year.  So I worked from home.  I hadn't received any calls by 10:30.  Then I remembered that there was a tracking number in the email.  I plugged it into the USPS web site and sure enough, the chicks arrived at the post office at 9:28.  At 10:02 they were put on a truck and went out for delivery.  Ack!

I had to be in the office this afternoon for a meeting.  I left for work knowing that there was no way that I could be home when the chicks arrived.  I texted one of my neighbors who works from home and explained the situation to her.  A few hours later I got a text back saying the got the birds.  I had the garage all set up and left a key for her.  She put the birds in their bin and gave them water.  I really lucked out.  The mailman wasn't going to leave them on the porch.  Who knows where they would've spent the night or how many of them would have died.  As it was, they shipped 52 birds and one of them did die.  (They ship extra knowing that all of them might not make it.)

Now is a good time to point out that I am not raising 50 chickens in my backyard.  I am keeping 15 for myself and the rest are going to other people.

They'll stay in the garage for 2-3 weeks.  I have them in the tub that I made for the ducks.  I have a cage, but I didn't think it would be big enough.  The sides of the tub aren't high, so I stacked boxes all around it to keep them from escaping. 

I already mentioned the cost of the birds.  I also bought 100 lbs. of start and grow feed for total of $29.98 and 3 packets of chick vitamins for $2.99.  I didn't use the vitamins last time, but I figure the Cornish Cross birds are going to need all the help they can get.  They have been known to have health issues.  They've only been here a few hours and they've already gone through a quart of water.

Baby rabbits, baby chicks, gardening...  It finally feels like Spring is here!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 2

The baby rabbits are two weeks old today!  They've gotten a lot bigger and actually look like rabbits now.  I don't think any of them have two eyes open yet, but a few have a single eye open.
Sleeping all alone in the corner.
They still spend most of their time sleeping.  It was hot out today so they were all spread out.  Usually they all curl up together in a pile.

The momma rabbit has finally gotten less irritable.  For a while there she would charge at and even bite your hand when you reached in the hutch.  Then she'd jump on top of the little ones to protect them.  I think she's finally figured out that we aren't going to hurt them.
This guy decided to hang out with mom instead his siblings.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Companion planting with hairy vetch -- Update

Last Fall I threw some hairy vetch seed into some of my raised beds.  It's supposed to work well with tomatoes.  It puts nutrients into the ground that the tomatoes need.  Once it gets tall you cut it down and use it for mulch. 

Here's what it looked like after the long winter.
My tomatoes are getting too big for my greenhouse, so I thought I might as well plant a few.  I know that it's still early.  Supposedly we still have another week until our last frost date.  I checked the 7-day forecast and the lowest it's supposed to go is 49*.  (I guess I didn't need that new greenhouse climate controller after all.  Knock on wood...)
These guys are ready to go.  I have plenty of them so I can risk losing a few.
Before I could plant the tomatoes I had to remove the hairy vetch.  That was a pain.  It was one great big tangled mess.  It pulled up alright around the edges.  It was more difficult to remove towards the middle.  I used garden clippers to cut it off just above the soil.  (I used a utility knife to remove the hairy vetch from the second bed.  That worked a lot better.)
Big pile of matted hairy vetch.  It was like a thick blanket.
I was pleasantly surprised once the stuff was out of the bed.  The soil underneath was beautiful.  It was black and moist.  It looks like this stuff is going to work well as mulch.
Hairy vetch removed from the first bed.  Working around the drip irrigation line made removing it that much harder.
Next I planted three roma tomato plants and put the hairy vetch around them as mulch.
The final step was to return the drip irrigation line back to where it belonged. 

I planted these tomatoes 16" apart.  I think I had my tomatoes too close last year and I want to give them plenty of space this year.