With the length and number of summer heat waves seeming to increase every year, we have been looking for additional ways to help the animals better cope with the heat.
We had been considering putting up some shade sails to provide additional shaded areas for the animals to get out of the sun. While still considering buying a shade sail, we happened to come across an ad from a local homeowner cleaning out their house before moving. They were giving away a free sun umbrella so we picked it up with the thought to use it for extra shade for the chickens.
The only problem – it had 3 broken ribs. 2 had the ends broken off and one snapped off closer to the center pole.
The 2 ribs with broken ends just needed a quick fix – attach a length of wood to replace the missing piece. I used a couple pieces of scrap wood and some old screws salvaged from other projects over time.
The 3rd rib required two pieces with a small bolt to permit it to pivot and close the umbrella – I had to buy the bolt, along with a couple washers and a nut or two – total cost $2.78.
As previously mentioned, we created some simple wildlife escape ramps for our water buckets to reduce both wildlife drowning deaths and reduce potential contamination risk for our animals.
Here are the step-by-step directions for creating a simple wildlife escape ramp for a standard 5 gallon flat-back bucket.
Here are the materials you will need:
5 gallon flat-back bucket.
1/2 inch vinyl-coated wire mesh – you will need a 1 foot by 1 foot section. It often comes in rolls 2 feet wide. The vinyl coating is important because the ramp will be underwater and the vinyl provides additional protection.
Wire cutter / side cutter / scissors – This will be needed to cut out the appropriate size of wire mesh (if necessary).
A ruler or other straight edge to use for bending the wire mesh along a straight line.
1 can of rustoleum or similar spray paint (optional).
As the snow has finally all melted for the season and the grass is just starting to turn green, we look back at a few of the pictures we captured from the winter.
Overall, it was a mild winter compared to average. Less snow overall and only a handful of really heavy snowfalls. Even with that, there was some amount of snow on the ground from late November through early April – though during some of that time the only snow around was the piles of snow next to the driveway.
We adopted Shaffron about 4 and a half years ago shortly after moving to the farm in summer 2015. It took her a while to really get comfortable living inside a house and using dog beds. But eventually she learned to love her dog beds.
Automation has come to our hobby farm. We installed an automatic chicken coop door earlier this year for extra protection against predators given our prior losses.
The simplest model (which is the one we purchased) provides automatic opening and closing with a daylight sensor or a set time schedule operation. The amount of daylight that triggers opening or closing is fully adjustable. It also includes a freeze protect feature with an adjustable temperature setting so that the door won’t open if it is below the set temperature (we set ours at 17 degrees). Our door requires external power but we already had power outlets in our coop so that wasn’t a big issue for us.
Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), we hosted 3 yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer.
This year they were on the smaller side as they were part of the end of summer births last year so were only ~10 months old whereas the cows we hosted in prior years were closer to 12 months old by the time they arrived here.
Because they were on the smaller side, in addition to all of the grass they could eat, they also received supplemental grain every few days so they would put on extra weight. Feeding the extra grain really made a big difference in how friendly the cows were. With the grain feedings, they would often run across the pastures when they saw anyone coming close to their gate.
When we first adopted Tiny, we were not expecting her to live for much longer as she seemed quite sick at the time. That was way back in November 2017.
We had to have her put to sleep last week. She had progressing kidney failure and was struggling a little to keep on enough weight. Though she was declining physically slowly over time, her mind went first. Her dementia had progressed to such a stage that she wasn’t really Tiny most of the time any more.
We’ll miss her standing right next to us in the kitchen waiting not so patiently for her share of any eggs we were cooking.
Although other than the weasel incident last fall, our chickens have generally been safe while inside the pasture fences. Even so, since the weasel, we have made an extra effort to make sure all of the chickens are locked inside the coop every night.
In addition to the weasel, we had occasionally seen foxes and coyotes in the area. We set out our new game camera (which we used to track down the weasel) to see what other predators might be around the farm at night.
Raccoons are a common chicken predator that can kill an entire flock if they get into the coop at night. We captured a family of raccoons just outside the pastures one night. They don’t appear on camera on multiple nights over a couple month period so hopefully they were just passing through and don’t live in the immediate vicinity.
In addition to the raccoons, we also captured a coyote traveling along the trail one night. It doesn’t appear in multiple shots either so likely isn’t living in the immediate vicinity.
After the weasel attacks last fall, our chicken flock was somewhat depleted. Earlier this spring, we purchased some new chickens to add to our flock – this time we purchased day old chicks.
Although they are sorted by sex shortly after hatching, there is generally an error rate of around 10% so there is always a risk with day old chicks that some might actually turn out to be roosters.
We bought 6 chicks in total – 3 Buttercup hens and 3 Ameraucana hens. The Buttercups are the chicks with the speckled heads in the pictures. We already have other Ameraucana chicks – they are also called Easter Eggers because they can produce a range of egg colors from brown to green to blue to pink (each hen only lays one color its whole life).
While none of the 6 appears to have been a rooster, unfortunately one of the chicks did have a health issue appear after a few weeks.