Another New Visitor

Just before we picked up our new dog Rocky, one of our hens was killed during the day outside the fences. It could have been any number of predators – a fox seemed pretty likely though foxes aren’t usually likely to be out in the middle of a sunny day.

But it turned out it wasn’t a fox. We had seen a cat occasionally around the pastures in the weeks prior, but didn’t think a cat would normally attack an adult chicken. However, after the hen was killed, we saw the cat with increasing frequency. The cat was hanging out just outside the fences watching the other chickens. The cat was even spotted hanging out just outside the chicken coop door at one point.

We decided to email the neighborhood list to see if someone’s cat was loose. Receiving no positive responses, we decided to try to trap the cat.

We put out a trap with a plain can of tuna in it, expecting it to take a few days before the cat felt comfortable enough with a new box in its environment to try to get inside. We were wrong. Checking on the trap after an hour or so of putting it out, the cat was already inside.

The cat in the trap.

He was not very happy to be in a trap. We quickly put on protective gear (think coats in case he tried to scratch) and moved him into a large dog crate to give him some more space.

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Meet Rocky!

Say hi to Rocky, the latest addition to Lucky Penny Acres.

Rocky

We learned that the shelter where we originally adopted Shaffron had an old yorkie come in. The dog was a stray picked up on the streets of Jersey City, NJ. He is missing an eye, very thin, and has some joint problems. The shelter took care of routine vaccines and got him groomed. The description on their website called him a “moldy oldy”. They named him Rocky Wrench.

Given his condition and age, finding a home may have taken quite a while.

Rocky sticking his tongue out at the camera.
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Building a Climbing Ramp

We wanted to build a (human) kid’s climbing ramp (sometimes referred to as a pikler arch / montessori arch). We found a bunch of varieties and styles on sale online but decided to try building our own.

We decided to make it approximately 4 feet long. We started with a 8 foot long, 20 inch wide board.

First, cut it in half to end up with two 4 foot long sections. Stack those two sections on top of each other so when you then measure and cut the arch, both sides automatically match, even if the cuts aren’t exact.

Drawing the arch on the board before cutting. The outer arch is based on a circle with a 24 inch radius with the smaller curved lines based on smaller concentric circles.

With one 20 inch wide board, we cut out 3 separate pairs of arches. While we have only finished the larger outer climbing ramp to date, we have plans to make 2 smaller ramps in a similar style when we have the time.

After drawing out the ramps, cut out the arches using your jigsaw. For the slats, we cut out ten ~23 inch long pieces from 1″ x 4″ boards.

The cut outer arches along with a sample of the slats.

After cutting out the arches and slats, it is time to round off all of the exposed edges and corners with a round off router bit to eliminate any sharp edges.

Once the routing is complete, it is time to sand all of the surfaces with several levels of sandpaper – we used coarse, medium and fine on all of the surfaces.

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Shade for the Summer

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.

Free sun umbrella with 3 broken spokes.

The only problem – it had 3 broken ribs. 2 had the ends broken off and one snapped off closer to the center pole.

A simple fix on one of the umbrella ribs.

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.

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Wildlife Escape Ramps (Part 2)

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.

Roll of 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch vinyl-coated wire mesh.

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).
Any cutting implement that will cut through the wire mesh will work just fine.
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Winter 2019-2020

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.

A view from the main barn.

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.

The trees covered in light layer of snow.
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Automation Comes to Lucky Penny Acres

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.

Automatic Coop Door – Open.

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.

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Cows (2019 edition)

Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), we hosted 3 yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer.

The 3 heifers in the field shortly after arrival.

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.

The cows near their grain tub.

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.

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