This past winter was especially cold. The temperature didn’t get above freezing for at least 6 or 7 weeks in a row. As a result, there was heavy snow cover on the ground for a long time (where more typically there would be some brief periods of melting even during the winter). The heavy snow cover made it very difficult for local wildlife such as deer to find their normal food in the woods. This pushed a lot of deer out of the woods closer to yards and homes.
We had a large group of deer right near the house – they would come out in the evening and hang around for a while standing on their hind legs to eat the low hanging pine and spruce tree branches around the house.
One morning, heading out to check on the chickens and goats, I noticed an animal that appeared to be stuck in the pasture fence.
We built a moveable goat hay feeder a number of years ago (details here). After the first winter, we made a few tweaks (details here). As discussed at the end of Part 2, we did drill some holes into the tray but those holes clogged up periodically so it turned out faster and easier to just scoop out any resulting hay dust from the tray instead.
The original couple of posts continue to be very popular with search engine results (relatively speaking) and we have received a number of inquiries about the plans to make one.
We didn’t really have a specific size plan or design in mind when creating it. The general idea was to replicate something like this one from Tractor Supply or many other samples from other sites.
Most of the design decisions were based on the sizes and types of available materials we had on hand (mostly items just stored in the hayloft). The key component was the metal shelf that we bent into a v-shape. That serves as the main piece of the feeder and basically dictated the width.
The metal shelf was ~32″ deep so that became the width of the feeder area. The roof is 36″ because we happened to have a piece of plastic roofing that was ~18″ wide so we cut it in half to get 2 sections of 18″.
The roof is 4 feet because we had an 8 foot long section that we cut in half. The tray ended up as 32″ because we wanted a couple extra inches past the edge of the feeder to catch falling hay.
Our rooster, Chirparoo, died a few weeks ago. We noticed that he was walking with a slight limp during the day and tried to treat him that evening with some pain meds, but he didn’t survive the night.
Hens are usually experience less stress with a rooster in the flock because the rooster provides protection and helps keep the peace. So we were in the market for a new rooster.
Luckily, someone nearby had a few extra roosters they were looking to part with. They had tried to hatch eggs from their flock, hoping for additional hens. They ended up with 5 roosters from 5 eggs (pretty unlucky).
And, to our luck, they happened to have children who played with the roosters from right after hatching, so they are very used to being handled and are friendly.
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.
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.
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.