We did way too much farm stuff this weekend.
We’ve known that the chicken coop needed work before it could house the new laying flock. We got carried away. Or rather the chicken coop got carried away. We moved it from behind the barn out to the house-side edge of the pasture. We’ll be able to build a bigger yard there without having to make it wonky shaped to leave room for the tractor to get in and out of the barn.
It’s amazing what you can do with 2x8s some chain and a reasonably capable tractor!
Here’s what it looked like:
And here’s how we made it work.
The 2x8s and cross pieces are screwed together to make a pair of skids and then chains are hung on the bucket of the tractor and it’s all lifted just a bit to get the front edges clear.
Then it’s a slow pull and a bit of tricky maneuvering at the end (we turned the coop 180 degrees) and the coop is now in it’s new place.
It also go a bit of new wall, a quarter section of new floor and a new pop-hole door. Oh, and some gutters! Now it needs paint — badly. The only draw back to the new spot is that it is visible from the house. So chicken coop aesthetics now matter!
That all happened Saturday. Sunday we sheared. It’s amazingly fast for such hard work.
That’s Jim holding Satchmo by the head and Jason Black trying not to get kicked. Satch hates having his feet touched!
lousy photo — i took it in the barn at twilight.
nonetheless — he’s the first swallow of spring.
Our egg factories continue to receive far too much attention and far too many luxuries. Especially considering they haven’t produced a single egg yet.
Over the weekend we built a fence to surround the Chicken Taj Mahal. The fence isn’t designed so much to keep anything out as to keep the chickens in. Chickens are a major pain in the garden.
When we first moved the little chickens out to the coop we built them a little yard using some exercise pens and bird netting. The danger for little birds is that the crows will kill them.
The chickens are now plenty big enough to be out of crow danger but they were quickly out growing their little “play pen” so it was time to build a proper chicken yard.
Because the coop is inside the electric fence there’s not too much problem with coyotes or dogs. So the fence only has to keep chickens in — meaning it can be 3 or 4 feet tall. (Fliers get their wing feathers shortened)
The first step is gather up (buy — ouch!) your fencing materials.
Then you dig some post holes. Here at Black Dog Farm that means you put the backhoe on the tractor and make big holes in the ground.
You get something that looks like this.
Some of the rocks have to be taken out with a pike. Ones like the one next to the five gallon bucket.
Then you set up the posts. As demostrated by our dedicated engineer.
Getting the posts in is the first challenge. Then you have to wrestle with the fencing and install the rails.
I ran out of patience for the picture taking and smashed my thumb — it’s very purple — while we were tacking the wire fencing up.
But here it is assembled and doing its job of containing the chickens. We kept the gate section from the original playpen yard because it was much easier than building a gate.
The snow has just about all melted — now we’re having floods. But here are a few of the best pictures from the December snow storms.
We are very grateful to have Adventure Truck on our side. He got us off the farm and safely back every single day of the storm except Christmas. Somedays we only went as far as the Startbucks and the post office (nothing in the boxagain!) but it helped.
adventure truck powers along
Some of our animals love the snow, other not so much. Ivan will sleep on the back porch while it snows on him. We have to remember to keep the laundry room door shut or he’s likely to come into the house and head for his couch looking like this:
ivan on the back porch
On the other hand Tucker — the barn cat- really hated the snow. It quickly got to be too deep for him to walk through and he was stuck in the barn for several days. Here Jim is talking to him a couple of days into his confinement.
jim talking to the snow bound cat
There were a lot of little birds hanging about the place. We couldn’t keep the feeders clear of snow and eventually started laying seed and water plans on the covered porchs. Here a junco sits fluffed up against the cold in the maple tree outside my office. (The picture is cropped from a much larger image showing the entire flock.)
junco in the maple
One last photo just because… it makes me laugh.
ivan after helping with chores
Note the little birdy tracks in the snow!
Today was shearing day. There were only 6 animals so it went quickly.
Here’s what the crew looked like before:
the crew all fat and wooly after a snowy winter
Here Jason is shearing the first victim, er Mutton:
Jason shearing Mutton
And here’s what they look like now:
the crew after shearing
Each summer we have several nests of barn swallows.
Late last week I watched the first of the barn swallows fly across the pasture. This morning I had the first evidence that housekeeping has started.
One of the oldest/biggest nests is perched on top of the flood light over the feed room in the barn.
flood light over the feed room
As you can see it’s a tight fit.
here’s the nest perched on top of the light fizture
This morning I found this little mess on the floor directly underneath the nest. It’s made up of hay loosely joined with mud and a plush lining of chicken feathers.
barn swallow nest
chicken feathers used to line the nest
Usually they just build a new layer on top of last years nest. I suspect this last top layer had to be evicted because there is no more room to build up.
We should see the females arrive soon.
Just for amusement value. This is what life looks like around here in the spring.
who me? no, I never overeat.
Click on the photo to embiggen. Really, it’s worth it. I’ll wait…
And here he is looking a little less goony.
still got hay everywhere
The frizzled banty hen has managed to hide out and hatch a handful of chicks.
Jim caught this one out for a snack.
one black chicken, one black chick
Hopefully they will stay in the barn long enough to grow to be too big for the crows to terrorize.
Mz. Frizzle and her brood of 10 are out and about every day now.
Mz. Frizzle and the 10 little Frizzles
Mizz Frizzle still has all 10 chicks. They’re growing bigger and bigger all the time.
frizzle and brood
as you can see at least a few of them are also ‘afflicted’ with frizzled feathers.