October 20, 2011

Around The Homestead

Updates and random happenings since my last Around The Homestead. Most of the titles link back to the original posts.

Chicken Hawks - We've lost three chickens to hawks, 2 of the Buff Orpington chicks and one of my Welsummer hens. We have numerous hawks, so it could have been a red tail, red shoulder, broadwing, or Harris. We've seen them all. We rerouted the chickens' grazing grounds to where there was more brush cover. The chickens, though, wouldn't leave their yard or the coop for days. About the 2nd week of October, the chickens headed out to the pasture and we haven't seen nor heard a hawk since. We must be in a migration route. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled come spring.

Chicken Integration

Waiting for some scratch

Sometimes I think this is going well, other times not. Most of the chicks are now roosting in the coop, except for a random few that still want to sleep in the goats' hay rack. The other chickens seem to accept them pretty well, except for the two at the bottom of the original pecking order, who absolutely refuse to let any of the newcomers rise above them. On occasion Lord B, our rooster, will chase and pin down one of the cockerels. I can usually distract him, and fortunately no one has been seriously injured so far.

Cockerels & Pullets - My best guess is that of the remaining 12 Buffs, I have 6, probably 7 cockerels. It's hard to count because they don't keep still. That will leave us about 5 pullets. The home hatched, purebred Barred Holland is a pullet, but her half brother is a cockerel. On these breeds at least, it's been fairly easy to tell because of comb development.

Critters under the house - I didn't notice this until I pulled out almost everything from my zinnia bed in front of the house.

Not noticeable at first......

I had seen a young ground hog in the front yard before, and assumed it was responsible for eating my echinacea and chicory plants. I found an opening under the front porch, which Dan blocked with bricks. That seemed to resolve the problem until the other day, I discovered this.....

.... but there's a critter cave under our front porch

The bricks had been pushed aside and the opening was evident again. I put the bricks back, but when I checked again later that day, they were pushed aside again. Must be time to get a live animal trap. We do not need anything spending the winter under the house.

Critters in the house - Are snakes critters? Well, we had one in the house, a juvenile rat snake. Katy found it and I might have stepped on it because it was just sitting there on our living room rug. It was quickly removed to the woods, where it can hopefully make a better living for itself than in our house. The cats also found a young chipmunk in the house. We think it might have been there for several days, based on the cats' behavior. They treated it like a toy and chased it all over the place. Finally Dan had to catch it himself.

We suspected Katy might have brought these in through the kitty door. I know she's brought butterflies and grasshoppers into the house (I find the miscellaneous parts). Our suspicions were confirmed the other day when she caught a bird, and we found her and Riley admiring it under the dining room table. I put the terrified but otherwise unharmed bird back outside and told Katy to stop bringing critters into the house. Do you think she'll listen?

Critters in the garden - That would be deer.

Deer tracks in the demolished beet bed.

One day I discovered about a dozen beets pulled out of the ground with most of the tops eaten off. And deer tracks all over the place. We've seen deer from time to time since we've been here, but this is the first time they've invaded the garden. I've taken to covering the beets at night, wondering what they'll move on to next.

Kitchen Remodel - We've been focusing on the electrical upgrade, so we haven't done much on the inside. Once the circuit panel is moved, we can gut the kitchen including the wall the panel has been in. This is an exterior wall, which needs insulation as well as another new window.

On rainy days though, I work inside getting ready to do some painting. That means stripping 90 years worth of previous paint jobs. Obviously much of that is lead based, so the going is a little slower to deal with it according to removal and disposal guidelines.

At least 5 layers of paint: 2 golds. 2 greens & white

I thought about taking it down to bare walls and leaving them natural wood, but that would be too much work and the effect too dark. Instead, I'm just aiming to be able to apply a new coat of paint, an off white.

Bread Machine - Remember when I blogged about Small Appliances I Have Known & Loved? Well, I found a barely used bread machine on Craigslist and bought it. It's not the model I originally had my eye on, but it was $100 cheaper, which recommended it highly! I've also decided on a much more affordable toaster oven, which I can really use once we finish gutting the kitchen.

Frozen Eggs - Last summer I froze about 13 dozen surplus eggs, thinking I would use them last winter. I didn't, because we still had a steady egg supply. My layers are moulting now, so I've been digging into the freezer to get those frozen eggs! I'm so glad I have them, as I'm down to about one egg a day for the time being. I was concerned that a year in the freezer might be past their limit, but my husband, who has a keener sense of taste and smell than me, thinks they're fine. Honestly, you'd never know they were frozen. I will use these up now though, and freeze fresh dozens next time we have a surplus.

Saturday's post will be my food preservation totals for the year. Click here for that.


Anonymous said...

Leigh, so sorry to hear about the hawk problem....hope you don't lose anymore chickens. Sounds like you have figured out a safe haven for them though:)
You have more gumption that me on the paint stripping. That is one job I truly hate with a passion lol.
Good tip on the eggs, will have to remember that. Didn't realize you could freeze them.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

How did you prepare those frozen eggs? Did you eat them scrambled or cooked in a dish. Just curious how the texture was. Very interesting.

Woolly Bits said...

well, as long as those critters stay outside or even under the house... would a groundhog do any damage to powerlines etc.? after our rat damage we're extremely sensitive to any "funny" sounds and hope that nothing with 4 legs will move inside again now that days get shorter and colder! I don't fancy spending another small fortune and months of work on a different part of the house:((
on the bright side: no deers around to do any veggie patch damage!

good luck with all those wanted and unwanted "critters":))

Leigh said...

Stephanie, I'm just thankful it wasn't more. The remaining chickens are exceedingly wiser.

I'm not a paint stripper person either, but there were just too many layers and it was beginning to look sloppy, especially where we've had to remove door trims.

And yes, freezing eggs is a great way to preserve for later use.

Jane, I beat them like for scrambled and added about a half teaspoon of salt. The salt (can use sugar or corn syrup) is supposed to preserve the texture. I froze mine in an ice cube tray, which holds 2 cups of eggs. I treat them like small eggs, but muffin tins could also be used to freeze larger quantities. I use them for scrambled eggs and omlets as well as cooking, and you can't tell the difference between frozen and fresh. It's great.

Bettina, after your experience with rats, I imagine you're very sensitive to noises! I read that the groundhog can cause damage to a buildings foundation. Since ours is just brick with no footer that we can tell, we really need to make sure he can't do that. The other thing is that this is a young one, but the hole isn't big enough to accommodate an adult! I'd hate for him to wake up from his winter's hibernation and not be able to get out!

Lynda said...

I didn't have to use my frozen eggs yet...good to know yours held up well.

I'm really looking forward to the food prep post...I'm trying to finish up my canning season this week.

Andrew said...

Yeah, I have a couple redtails and a few other kinds of hawks that have been frequenting my place over the past few years. Mom puts out ample songbird feeding stations. That was the initial attractant. Now the chickens have their eye too. The awkward, time consuming, way we have gotten around the hawks over the past several months has been bird netting and landscape fabric. We go around and attach the stuff in oodles of places with soft electric fence wire or string or breadties or whatever. Mom likes to put up a lot of orange flagging tape too. Personally I think a lot of birds of prey have monochromatic vision and aren't worried about flapping tape the way a deer is. But its cheap and easy to add. We have to walk around bent over because it's about breast high in there even with the occasional stick support holding it higher. But so far no hawk has gotten anyone. The bird netting catches a few leaves but otherwise handles things just fine. I was sure the landscape fabric would take off with the first breeze but it has been ok. We re-define the lot every five weeks and the entire process is insanely tedious mostly because of the numerous places this had to get wired it. I think there's got to be a tradeoff between effort and gain here. I haven't quiet reached it yet.



Renee Nefe said...

sorry to hear about your critter problems...especially your Katy bringing her treasures into the house. remind her to keep her toys outside. LOL

glad that you have your eggs in the freezer now that your hens are slowing up.

Mama Pea said...

We're on a hawk migration route and lost one of our new pullets and a favorite old banty hen this fall. Our poultry has easy access to heavy tree/bush cover but the hawks seem to catch them off guard every now and then. We don't like to lose chickens but the benefits of having them all out in a large free range pasture out weigh losing one now and then.

My hubby's folks had a German Shepherd that had a passion for catching snakes . . . and bringing them in the house alive. Arrrrgh!

I marvel that you've gotten by without deer damage in your gardens this far. We couldn't grow a thing up here without our 7' high deer fencing.

Kids and Canning Jars said...

I have also lost chickens to hawks. I hope life changes back to the way you want it. Thank you for the update. I love updates with pictures.

trump said...

I apologize for not visiting my favorite blogs lately, and i promise to do some catching-up with everyone in the next few days. We are experiencing cooler weather starting today (Thursday) and as for myself I'm looking forward to falls return to the Lancaster Pennsylvania area. And are the color of the leaves changing your your way folks as they are mine. Hope everyone has a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful fall season that has now begun. Richard from Amish Stories.

Rosamargarita said...

Siento la pérdida de los polluelos por los halcones :'(
un abrazo

Leigh said...

Lynda, yes, eggs freeze very well. So nice to have when the layers are moulting!

Not sure if canning season is ever done. I'd hoped to have lots of beets to try my hand at beet borsch to can. Probably not enough beets now. :(

Andrew, I appreciate your comment and the links. Everyone's tips help! Last year we put up a scare crow and dangled CDs from it's arms. No color, but they flash in the light as the wind blows them. We had a couple of near catches, but no chicken loses.

I should try the orange tape for the deer. Hmm, may those CDs too. I agree it's a tradeoff and that trying to find the balance takes some experimenting.

Renee, it was so funny watching her after she caught that bird. She ran all over the yard with it and then disappeared. That's when we figured we'd better go look in the house. She never hurts anything she catches, she just brings it to us. :)

Mama Pea, it's amazing, isn't it? I agree that the benefits outweigh the benefits. A good reason to keep a few extra layers!

I'm not sure I'd be too happy with that German SHephard!

Melissa, thank you. I'm sorry about your losses too.

Richard, I know how it is. I know you must be enjoying your cooler, fall weather!

Rosamargaratia, thank you!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Thanks for the tip on freezing eggs. We only have eight hens, however with just the two of us I anticipate a lot more eggs than we can eat. So if I'm not able to trade or sell them I'll keep freezing in mind. I had no idea one could successfully do such a thing.

Susan said...

Yeah, my cats & the "grand-kittie" (when he visits) have a catch-&-release program going on. I think they are working on a genetics experiment with the mice. And everyone gets in on the fun when one of them brings a live bird in the house.

My critter problem was a packrat, which was coming into the house and stealing stuff in my bathroom (including a new tube of toothpaste, the little bugger). I didn't want to make him/her someone elses' problem, so I used a regular trap, and after 2 misses I finally got it this week. Still listening to make sure it was the only one.

Good luck keeping your chickens safe from the hawks. I have to watch for them also, as well as a pair of great horned owls that nest nearby. Love seeing them, but not interested in sharing my birds with them!

Renee Nefe said...

I wonder if you can train the cats to hunt hawks...but that might make them want the easier prey of the chickens. hummm. A dog maybe?

Clint Baker said...

I have been reading more on your blog! And I must say, it is first rate! You have so much information, in a one stop location! Awesome!

Leigh said...

Clint, thank you so much. Your kind words have blessed my day!