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.
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.
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.
As noted last time, 3 of our 4 new hens were missing, presumed dead.
We moved another hen from our flock to the chicken tractor so that the silver-spangled hamburg wouldn’t be alone. We also lined the outside of the chicken tractor with paving stones so nothing could dig right next to side and get underneath. This seemed to work as we saw no indications of any predators for several weeks.
After the quarantine period, we moved the silver-spangled hamburg and the other hen into the main barn so they could safely integrate back into the flock. They were inside a portable dog pen that was lined on the outside with chicken wire with a piece wood over the top. The barn has a concrete floor so the assumption was that nothing could dig underneath the pen.
Last fall, consistent with past practice (see here, here and here), we picked up 4 new hens from the NY State Fair.
There were 3 bantam-sized partridge cochins and 1 silver-spangled hamburg. They were all close to fully grown. The silver-spangled hamburg is a small breed, so although she wasn’t a true bantam, she was similar size to the bantam cochins.
As the hens were new to our flock, we quarantined them in the moveable chicken tractor for several weeks. When quarantining the new hens, we placed the chicken tractor outside of the main fences.
The chicken tractor is covered with wire mesh to both keep the chickens inside and keep predators out. As you can see in the above picture, the wire mesh is pretty small and anything that can fit through the mesh is unlikely to threaten an adult chicken.
Earlier this year in the spring I took a hike up our mountain to clean up any trash or debris that had blown onto our property over the winter.
I collected a handful of empty soda bottles (probably originally left by hunters on neighboring properties), some plastic bags, and 2 deflated balloons.
I also found a few other things in the woods:
There was a deer skeleton just onto our property. It may have died naturally over the cold winter, or it may have been shot and injured by a hunter and the hunter couldn’t track it. It appears to be the skeleton of a young buck – the antlers only have a few points.
We ended up with a number of new chickens once again in 2017.
We really liked the intricate feather pattern on the Partridge Rock hen so we purchased the only one on display. She is a bit older than many of the birds on display – she was over 2 years old and had already been in a number of shows and events before the fair.
Partridge Rock hen in her cage in the poultry building at the NY State Fair – 2017.
In addition to the Partridge Rock hen, we also purchased 2 Andalusian hens. Andalusians are fairly small for full size chickens and pretty fast on the ground. They are also decent flyers compared to other breeds. At least one of them has been flying up into the hayloft to lay eggs occasionally. They have a variety of coloring with blue (gray) with various black lacing. Our 2 Andalusians are named Andi and Luci.
They quickly outgrew the crate and needed some more space. At around age 6 to 7 weeks, we moved them into the movable chicken tractor so they could experience full outdoor weather for the first time and better hone their foraging skills before merging with the main flock.
The chicks in the chicken tractor.
Here is a video of the chicks their first day in the chicken tractor:
The chicken tractor is moved every couple of days to a new spot to avoid dead spots in the pasture from too much foraging and digging. After a couple of weeks in the chicken tractor, the chicks were finally ready to join the main flock.
Click through to see pictures and videos of the chicks joining the main flock.