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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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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Night Predators

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.

A family of raccoons. The bright light in the middle of the picture is a reflector that marks the snowmobile trail that runs through our property in the winter.

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.

A coyote.
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Rebuilding the Dam

A couple years ago, we tried to build a small earthen dam to stop debris from the woods from being washed out into the pastures during spring rains / snow melt. That attempt didn’t hold.

Here is the completed earthen dam a couple of years ago before it was tested.

Instead of rebuilding the earthen dam to completely block the water by holding it back, I decided to fortify the remaining piece of earthen dam with a water-permeable dam instead. By creating a water-permeable dam, the water would still flow through the dam out into the pastures, but the leaves, rocks and tree limbs would remain in the woods leaving the fences and pastures undamaged after the water subsides and avoiding the need for any time spent on clean up. The dam should slow the flowing water, causing the debris to stop while the water would continue seeping slowly through the dam out into the fields.

The same view of the dam today (including the water-permeable portion where it was previously washed out). It has been so successful that plants have been able to establish themselves over the dam as they are not washed away during heavy rains.

But what could we use to make the water-permeable dam? It would need to allow water through yet be sturdy enough to generally hold its shape under pressure from the flowing water without itself washing away.

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A New Kid on the Farm

Last spring, we added 2 new goat kids to the farm.

This year, we added another new kid, this time a *human* kid.

Sticking with the same naming convention as last year (T for the first names for goat twins Tori and Tessi), say hello to Teddy! Teddy was born in mid-February during a snowstorm.

Teddy supporting the local team by wearing his Syracuse University hat.
Teddy getting ready to leave the hospital and head home to the farm.

Teddy is growing quickly and doing very well. I’m sure he will be out in the fields helping take care of the animals very soon.

Teddy takes a quick nap with his first Teddy Bear after a long day of eating, crying and sleeping.
Teddy “celebrates” Tax Day 2019.
Teddy in his sun hat meeting the goats (in this case, Butterbean).

In Memoriam: Harriet

Our old goat, Harriet, passed away peacefully in early February.

She struggled with arthritis for the last couple of years and despite taking anti-inflammatory and pain medication, the cold during the polar vortex was too much for her to handle and we made the difficult decision to have her euthanized once it was clear she was suffering.

Harriet and Butterbean – one of the earliest and still one of my favorite pictures from around the farm.

The average life expectancy for an angora goat is believed to be only 8 to 11 years. Harriet was at least 16 years old (ancient in angora goat years). She lost her front teeth, had her horn cut down when it was threatening to grow into her skull, and still kept ticking.

Harriet after her horn removal with candlewax covering.

We will miss her gentle nature in the flock and her unique color out in the pastures.

Harriet out in the field.
Harriet looking into the camera in her last few days.

We had her cremated and plan to spread her remains around the pasture once spring arrives.