Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pull up a chair...

I'll catch you up.

(sigh) Where to begin?  

After much consultation, we concluded that a raccoon attacked the bantam hen and took her wing.  We haven't reduced the raccoon population around here; but there hasn't been any more problems.  Thank goodness.

Now, voting weighed heavily for either snakes or rats in the barn.  If there was really a snake of that size, then there would certainly be a limit to the rat population.  After seeing a few in the barn, we decided it was most likely rats.  We caved, and put out poison blocks.  (I hate putting anything chemically harmful on our property, but this was serious.)  We found 10 rats.  Of disturbing size.  That is seriously disgusting to me.  Glad they were dead, of course, but really creeped out.

(DH re-affirmed his special place in my heart because he did the actual "cleaning up" of the bodies.  Ick.)

So, we have totally restructured the chicken housing and made sure babies (especially) are safe.

I've made a Mama Hen, so our chicklets can go outside sooner and survive without the usual heat lamp.
It's a box, with fringes of clean rags hanging down where they can hang out and conserve body heat while they snuggle and sleep.   The idea came to us from Sue, who had a friend in the Peace Corp who used to use these in areas that had no electricity or frequently lost the power to traditional heat lamps.

The current crop of babies seems to love it.  Here they are playing Hide-n-Go-Seek.
                                                              (See the little one peeking out on the left?) 
 These guys are housed in a small dog crate, attached to the upper wall of the large coop.  It was designed as a safe spot to house various chickens, safe from pecking or bother, but still in the same coop so they become/stay familiar with the flock.

It was also the start of our last story about chicken adventures - just yesterday I thought we lost another one.

I went in to feed everyone, and behold!  the door to the upper cage was open, and the fourth chicklet was missing.  I searched all over, even sifting through the pine shavings on the floor for a little body, and nothing.  I combed the barn, looking in every cranny.  No chick.  I looked outside in the chicken yard, expecting to see that the flock had pecked the little thing to death, and no chick.  I double and triple check.  Nothing.  Resigned, I go to tell DH we have somehow lost another baby, and as I begin the tale, I hear a little "peep, peep, peep" from the brambles.   I am stopped mid-story, craning my ears to hear it again.  Sure enough, a "peep, peep, peep" comes again.  I dig through the brambles and weeds and finally find the little guy.  Somehow, he fell out of the cage, down about 5 feet (probably bumping down the laying boxes), got across the coop floor, up over a ledge exit twice as tall as the chick, out the door, across 15 feet of fenced-in chicken yard, and across another 20 feet of lawn to the brambles, all without any predators, cats, or full-grown chickens discovering it.  Not to mention the humans who had been traversing that area all morning!  We've named the chick Marco Polo.

I have been keeping up with my commitment to eat my meals from all that we grow here or I can barter with local folks, and it's been an interesting challenge.  Especially considering we have had rain 39 of the last 43 days, and the warmest day this year was back in April.  I have to have a hot flash just to sweat most days.  If I don't get tomatoes soon, I may make the 6:00 news.  But...
this is what it looks like on most days...eggs, lots of salads and greens, bread, cheese.  Jams and berries fulfill the sweet; pickles and salsa fulfill the savory; and I don't miss soda like I thought I would.  In fact, the thing I yearn for most is pasta.  I just haven't had time to try making it myself...

Some of you know I have been struggling with designing my website - terrified that I would get it together and it wouldn't work - so that has been tapping my time and energy.  But...it's up!  There's been a website before, but now I am solely responsible for it, and actually the business is now all mine.  So I had to start fresh, and here's the new look.  Granted, there are still issues with the shopping cart and there's more content to load, but it's like giving birth - exhausting, joyous, unbelievable, and nerve-wracking.  Now to work on the small stuff...

On one of our rare sunny days, I caught these guys taking a nap on the foundation:
That's a pile of three garter snakes.  Cool, huh?  

And I have 4 WIP's/UFO's on the needles right now, none of them close to being finished,  so pics will have to wait.

That's it for now;
no, wait!  One more thing - I think we are getting a new sheep.  More on that later... 

9 comments:

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I was innocently reading along, enjoying your post as always, and then you threw out that hot flash comment. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything, or my computer would probably be toast!

Rats? EWWWW!!! That's worse than just about anything, except maybe alligators. Have you thought about getting a terrier? You wouldn't be able to have free-range chickens, but that would be better than rats, right?

Christine said...

For me it was the Marco Polo comment. I spit coffee strait at my monitor, so I was a little more careful once I got to the hot flash. LOL

Bless his heart for removing the bodies. Ick.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Ugh rats. Love your little garter snakes.

Briefly checked out your website. Very nice. I would like to suggest more personal information - like who you are and what sets you apart from other shops...

Tammy said...

Glad to hear that things have been quieter. When I was a kid, my first experience with my banty hen hatching chicks ended in disaster. A rat killed all the babies. We ended upu having to put out poison too, and the number of dead rats was just frightening.
Tammy

melanie said...

Rats-I had always knew they were a possibility with chickens. So we did the usual (metal cans for feed, eliminating any garbage, cleaning out cluttered corners, even getting a yard cat, etc.) but we've never had them like this! And killing babies? We put out a second round of poison (as recommended) and only got two, much smaller ones. I think we beat back the horde. For now.

As for a terrier Michelle, we pretty much HAVE to have the chickens, and free-range makes them much happier, so... just no more babies in the barn overnight until they are much bigger.

Kathy said...

I just loved the post, Mel! I was glad I'd finished my coffee as both the Marco Polo AND hot flash comments got me! Thanks for brightening my day. :)

I am so very glad we don't have many rat problems in our area. Mice, yes. Rats, no. Maybe those coyotes are good for something after all. Lately we've had larger predators around here - lion and bear have both been sighted and many small dogs and cats have gone missing here. I am so glad our cats are indoor cats.

Thanks for catching us up and kudos to the new website! Hopefully, we can all pass the word around or send some sales your way.

And please keep us posted on your new acquisition! :)

Kara said...

Hi Melanie,

I think I might need your email address to put you on my blog reader list. Try it and if you can't view it give me a holler on my yahoo email, which is just: karamapstone...

Texan said...

welllll okay neat is not the word I would use for the pile of snakes... this last year I have had so many very close encounters with snakes its been unreal and sadly in Texas so many you encounter are poisonous...but other than your pile of snakes tee hee, I enjoyed my visit to your blog :O)...

prairierunner said...

Rats and snakes, I hate one and really dislike the other:)