A few weeks ago a friend recommended a Facebook group for local hikes. That has been a goldmine of ideas. One of the places that was recommended was Wells Dinosaur Haven. Late April, Ben, Izzy and I visited Dinosaur Haven, a private house in Montville that is open to the public (as long as you call first to make sure they will be home). The homeowner met us and gave us a tour of the fiberglass dinosaurs he has been making for the past 40 years.
Izzy had a blast, and wants to go back. It probably helped that it was a very short walk.
Today we decided to give Susanna some time alone in the house. We headed to Preston City and hiked the Preston Nature Preserve Trail. The trail was lightly marked, but an easy 1.1 mile hike with Izzy. We found a box turtle and large rat snake along the way. After the hike we headed to Buttonwoods Farm for ice cream. My goal this summer is to explore as many of the short hikes around the area with Izzy – I just may have to bribe her with more ice cream.
We rounded out the afternoon by letting the new chickens and ducks out of the run into the back yard for an hour or so. Eventually we will build a ramp and let them out behind the garage and not in the fenced back yard, but at this time it seems best to keep them supervised; they are young enough to be easy pickings for a hawk. We are tying to figure out how many of the ducks are hens and how many are drakes, at this time our best guess is 4 hens and 2 drakes, but they are still young and we aren’t the best at telling the differences.
Izzy and I went to the Arboretum for a picnic lunch to day to give Susanna some space in the house. Izzy was able to catch two tadpoles and pet five dogs, so she had a good visit. I was able to get a few pictures of her today, without too much complaint.
Yesterday morning I had a few hours open before I had to drive with Ben to get his first round of COVID vaccine. So,Izzy and I decided to visit the Connecticut College Arboretum. She wanted to look for frogs and tadpoles, and we found some day or two old tadpoles in the swamp. She, for once, let me take pictures of her and didn’t just make silly faces. To top it off, and probably her favorite thing, there were a lot of people walking dogs there in the morning; she got to pet five of them. Here are pictures from the visit.
The trouble with ducks is that they like water. They like water a lot. And I mean a lot. From the first day they are in the brooder they play in the water. This is my second round with ducks, and I forgot how messy they can be. Every two days the brooder is totally soaked and starts to smell. I can’t imagine that having a wet brooder is good for either the ducklings or chicks.
If I cleaned out the brooder every day, I could probably keep up with it. But give it two days and 1/2 of the brooder is wet. Give it three and the entire thing is soaked. Earlier in the week I put a pan under the waterer, but they just filled that up and spilled it all over the coop. Time for a bit of engineering (i.e. a quick google search of what other ideas people had come up with). My solution was to make a tray to collect the water that the birds can’t get to – I’m not the first to do this, so I can’t take credit for this idea.
I picked up a $5 paint tray from the box store. I built a frame with mesh to cover the tray. The frame was made from 2×4 cutoffs and covered it with wire mesh that I rescued from the trash.
Ben and Izzy helped temporarily move the birds to the bathtub and I did a good clean of the brooder, taking the wet wood shavings out and putting clean bedding in. I installed the new tray and we returned the birds to their home.
The waterer sits on the mesh with the spill out going into the paint tray an now nearly reaches the top of the brooder. So far, so good. The ducks are making a mess as usual, but it appears to be mostly in the paint tray. I’ll still have to fill up the water several times a day and probably dump the tray daily, but hopefully it will keep the rest of the bedding dry.
I think I’ll try something like this in the coop, but maybe have the tray drain outside. I remember the last time we had ducks, they made a mess of the chicken run. Maybe this time I can keep it a little cleaner and we can keep having ducks.
Total cost: $5. Total time to assemble and clean: Approximately 1 hour.
We picked up our second batch of birds today from the Norwich Agway. This was their first delivery of the season, and the line at opening went out the back door. We picked up 10 more birds, 6 chickens and 4 ducks. The chickens are 2 Easter Eggers, 2 Buttercups, and 2 Speckled Sussex. I’m hoping that we get no more than 1 rooster out of the 12 chickens we picked up this year, but there is only a 90% accuracy on the chickens. The ducks are a straight run, so it should be a mix of males/females. We picked up 2 White Pekins and 2 Khaki Campbells. I think the brooder is full enough for now. We may pick up more on the last run of chicks/ducks at the end of April if we can move the current birds into the coop by then – maybe grab some Blue Swedish ducks.
Today the thermometer pushed into the mid-60’s and Izzy and I were able to enjoy our lunch out on the patio. It finally feels like spring. However that won’t last. The forecast for next week includes snow.
Tomorrow the plan is to get up early and get the next batch of birds; this will likely be one of the few times Izzy won’t fuss about getting dressed in the morning.
We picked up our first batch of chicks today from Fleming’s Feed in Preston. We got a total of 6 today, 3 Buff Orpingtons and 3 RI reds. Saturday morning we get the next batch from the Norwich Agway, 6 more chicks and 4 ducks (maybe). The brooder was made from left over lumber and painted. The stencils were cut out on the laser for the decoration. Instead of a heat lamp, I picked up a Brinsea Ecoglow Safety Brooder to keep them warm. After a friend lost his garage to a fire caused by a heat lamp, I decided it is not worth the risk to use one.
This weekend I’ll make progress building the coop. That is my hope. That was my hope last weekend, and the soil-cement slab still sits there unimproved since I put it in. But this weekend will be different.
I did pick up a door for the coop last weekend. I found a listing for free doors/windows in the northern part of the state. Izzy and I drove there and, sliding around on the ice, loaded a door into the back of the mini-van. It is a metal clad exterior door, but in pretty rough shape; not really worth the hour drive to get it. The bottom of the door was completely rotted away, and, deciding that it doesn’t really matter how tall the door is to the chicken coop (I can duck my head, and the chickens certainly won’t care), I cut off the bottom 3- 4 inches of the door.
The paint was in pretty bad shape, so I pulled off the plastic trim decoration and decided to use some fairing compound to fill the holes and then paint the door with some left-over marine topside paint that I was going to throw away. I didn’t spend a lot of effort making it look great, but it does look better than it did when I picked it up. And no one will ever notice it once it is installed.
Now I need to go and get Ben up so he can help me pull out lumber to start building the coop. Plus I can’t forget to make the brooding box – I did pull out the plywood scrap for the bottom, but promptly got distracted with other projects. We pick up the first batch of chicks on Friday and I’ll need a place to put them when I get home.
The old chicken coop is starting to fall down. The roof supports have rotted, and the coop floor is nearly falling apart. We are down to three hens, none of which regularly lay eggs. Much to Izzy’s delight, it is time to build a new coop and get new chicks. Plus, I think the rats have found their way into the composting bin and coop.
The plan is to move the coop inside the last bay in the garage/carriage house. The space is just storage and has a dirt floor, but at least is under a roof, so I only have to build a racoon-proof space for the chickens. I plan on making the coop big enough to walk into, which should make it easier to clean. Which, in theory, will make me clean the space more often. I hope the new location will make it easier for the dog and cats to keep the rats away from the chicken feed.
I am experimenting with the floor. I plan on making it out of soil cement, though I put a load of gravel in that section of the garage many years ago, so I’m not too sure how it will turn out. But it is only for the coop floor, so shouldn’t really matter. I could always add a concrete slab on top if it turns out too lose and I really care about it. To make the floor I mixed in a bag of Portland cement to the first few inches of the gravel/dirt floor, sprayed with water and compacted with a 4×4 post.
The weather forecast for the weekend has temperatures above freezing (though it may drop just below freezing tonight), so I decided to do the floor today. The coop will be approximately 8 feet long by 4 feet deep, and 7 to 8 feet tall.
I’m planning on a few improvements over the last coop. I’ll add a larger self-feeder for the chickens. This time, I’ll make it big enough to hold a full bag of pellets. I’ll also make the nesting boxes set up to have the eggs roll out of the boxes to a collection tray to make it easier to collect. We’ll have an enclosed run off to the side of the coop, as well as a door to the outside behind the garage. I’ll make an automatic door opener for the outside, but that will be a later post and after a trip to the pick-and-pull salvage yard with Ben to get a car antenna motor to control the door. I also need to do a good cleaning on that bay of the garage. It is time to get rid of some stuff that has been just sitting around.
We should be getting chicks in two weeks, and I still have to build a brooder box. The brooder heater arrived today, I’m trying something a little safer than a heat lamp, I’ll see how it works. We will have to keep the chicks inside for a few weeks until they get feathers and it warms up a bit outside. The plan is to get 12 hens and 4 ducks. The ducks will make a mess, but the coop exit will put them in the back by the stream, so hopefully they can get enough water from the stream and keep the mud outside. Once the birds arrive, Izzy will be in charge of handling the chicks daily to get them used to humans. A chore she has no problem at all doing.
And, for the much anticipated update on the dishwasher. The repair seems to be working for now. The dishwasher is back to functioning and the basement no longer rains when the dishes are getting cleaned. Knock on wood.
Last week, Susanna noticed the dishwasher was making a whining noise when it was running, and it wasn’t cleaning the dishes properly. I did a little online searching, and it seemed the likely culprit was the pump motor.
This morning, I noticed water raining down in the basement when the dishwasher was running. Not a good sign. After the cycle finished I pulled out the dishwasher and looked underneath. The water was coming from a rubber hose between the dishwasher pump and the main diverter valve assembly. The part is available online for around $60, but the reviews said the replacement part had many failures in the same manner that the original did, lasting less than 2 years in most cases. One reviewer mentioned patching the leaking hose and I took that path.
Ben and I drove to the local Home Depot and I got some Flex Seal paste for the inside of the hose, some E-Z Fuse Silicone Tape to wrap around the outside, and new hose clamps. Hopefully that will repair the leak.
The leak is on the outlet (high-pressure) side of the pump, and seems to be a design flaw. If the repair doesn’t hold, I’ll order the new part, and add a few wraps of the silicone tape to the outside to hopefully extend the life of the new part.
Next step is to wait the 24-hour cure time of the Flex Seal and see if that fixes the problem (for now).