Winter on the Farm

20110212_24Waking up in the morning to the ground white and hard does not make me want to get out of bed in the morning.  Knowing that I must go out and tend to the chickens and ducks in the cold weather just makes me cringe when I wake up.

I am normally a morning person.  It’s my favorite time of the day!  I love to wake up early, be alone and have some quiet time to myself.  Even when it’s cold out, I like the mornings.

But since having these chickens the cold mornings are colder when I am out in it taking care of the animals.  Taking care of animals is a huge responsibility.  I tell myself this every morning.

My morning dialogue to myself goes like this:

“Ahhhh, it’s morning!  If I hurry and wake up, I can enjoy a cup of coffee and read my Bible in the quiet!”

“Oh no.  I have to go take care of the chickens.  It’s freezing.  I don’t want to!”

“Danielle, you know that you love having these chickens.  Just be a big girl, suck it up, and go take care of them.”

So after that conversation, I get up, turn on all of the space heaters (our furnace is broken, which makes it harder to get out of bed), turn on my electric blanket so it’s all warm for me when I sit down, put water in my kettle and on the stove, prepare my coffee press, get creamer and mug out and then I use the restroom and feed the cats.  By this time, usually, my water is just about ready and I wait to pour it into my press.  Other times, I use the restroom before I start it, so I go outside and take care of the chickens and ducks while my water heats up.

After my water is poured into the press, I get boots, hat, jacket on and I put the dog on the leash.  I take the dog with me if my daughter is asleep, if she wakes up, she likes to help me and she takes the dog.  This morning, I knew that their water would be a solid chunk of ice, so I was prepared with a new water tub.  I have a little sand bucket that I use to take warm water out for them when the hose is frozen.  It takes me about 3 trips to fill up the tub they drink out of.  I did this first this morning before letting them out.  I usually just let them out first.  After I got the feed and went into their yard.  This morning was the first time that it had froze the coop door.  Other mornings I do have to breathe on the lock to open the yard door.  I finally got the coop door open and the chickens come running out.

My daughter has a rooster, a Delaware, that is the greediest little pig.  He literally follows me around trying to get the food.  He makes me laugh.  So I have him hot on my heels while I am pouring several piles in different places for everyone.  I watch Louis, my blue faverolles rooster, stomp his feet at Bill the duck.  Bill just stands his ground and quacks at Louis.  I watch this every morning.  It cracks me up.

I always pour a little pile on the other side of the fence for my salmon faverolles, Philip.  He gets picked on and I always give him his own pile of food.  He knows that I do and none of the others have caught on.  Yet.  Philip is my special rooster.  He is the same age as Louis and Harry Clucker, who is a Lavender Orpington, yet he has never crowed.  He is not quite as big as either of them.  It’s very strange.  Our young roosters even are crowing, but not Philip.

After feeding, I usually water if my daughter hasn’t already.  But since I did it first this morning, I go into the coop and check for eggs.  I didn’t get one this morning.  Yesterday though, we got our first brown egg!  That was pretty exciting.

Tonight, I knew that it was once again going to be cold.  And right now it is 23 degrees and 9:55pm.  It is supposed to get down to 20 degrees by 4am.  So I emptied the water that was already in the tub and hadn’t froze today.  The chickens and ducks are all cooped up until the morning, so they don’t need the water in there.  This way, I can just take out the warm water and put it in the tub.  I won’t have to worry about frozen water.

I noticed today that the ducks had gone swimming in the water because the ground was frozen with ice all around the watering area.  Naughty little ducks.  The ground is hard enough with the frost.  But then to have ice?  Thankfully it was thin enough that it was not slippery.

The snow that we have doesn’t seem to bother any of the chickens or ducks.  They don’t have snow in their yard, because it has tree cover.  But the bigger chickens get out every day and they hang out in the grass where all of the snow is.

I do love having a small farm.  I love having our own eggs.  And if need be, we could eat our chickens.  Hopefully it doesn’t come to that yet.  I am not quite prepared for that step.

BrrrrrDanielleLeigh_zpsa2687d75

Duck ‘N’ Chicks

The First 4

As the title of my blog hints, we have ducks and chickens.  This is a fairly new adventure for us.  I grew up on a small farm and we raised a few different types of animals.

Hubby and I feel like we should be prepared to have to live off of the land and our own if we must.  There are many different reasons why we believe this that I will not go into here.  As part of my preparedness, I decided we need to raise our own chickens and have our own eggs.

I feel this not only to be prepared, but I am also sick of giving my money to the big food corporations that are mistreating animals and pumping our foods with poisons.  But, that is also something I will not go into now.

I searched around a bit to see what breeds we wanted to raise.  I am always the type to do different than what everyone else does.  So I did not want any White Leghorns or Rhode Island Reds.  The local farm that I found, The Bradley Farm, had the perfect breeds for me.

I really wanted a Salmon Faverolles.  The Bradley Farm sold those, along with some other heritage breeds.  Orpingtons were on my list of a breed to have because of their tendency to be mild natured and great with kids.  But since I like the rare, I wanted the Lavendar Orpingtons.

Our first trip to the farm we brought four chicks home.  I got two Salmon Faverolles, a Dorking and an Exchequer Leghorn.  In the picture above, the only one that you can tell apart is the Dorking.  The rest are yellow chicks.

We decided that we needed a few more, and Hubby wanted a duck.  Our second trip brought home two Lavendar Orpingtons and a Khaki Campbell duckling.  We did end up adding two Americaunas but they both turned out to be roosters and I got rid of them.  You may see them in some photos.

We kept all of them in a dog kennel that we modified to use for the chickens.  Hubby drilled holes in the side so that we were able to slide a pole through and hang the heat lamp from the top.  The kennel was large enough that the chicks could get out of the heat if they needed.  We kept them in our house until they were fully feathered.

Kennel with the chicks. As you can see, the cats also enjoyed the chicks.

Moving them into their coop was nerve-wracking for me.  I spent I don’t even know how many nights sleeping with the bedroom window open so I could hear if something happened.

The cats were very curious about those feather-skipping aliens that entered into their territory.  But, they took advantage of the heat lamp. In the picture, there are 3 cats sleeping on top of the chick pen.  The one on the end, Jerry, is our chicken watcher.  He actually sits with them in the backyard and just hangs out with them.  We’ve watched him, and one other of our cats, Feisty, round up the chickens and send them into the backyard when they show up out front.

Today, five months after our first chick purchase, we are up to 13 chicks/pullets/hens/roosters and three ducks; a hen, a duckling and a mallard.  We have one large egg that is layed every morning.  Since the hen has started laying, we have only skipped about a week and a half.  Another hen started laying and they are quite small eggs.  This hen started out every other evening, and has now worked into almost every night.

I have many more stories to share, and photos as well.  But I really should save some for future posts.  Make sure you stick around so you can meet all of our feathered family members!