I took a lunch break and short walk around the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on my drive to Pennsylvania today. It was a nice break to stretch my legs and take some pictures
I have been spending my workshop time over the past few months on organizing and cleaning, and haven’t really built anything in a while. I needed a shelf to store supplies for the chicken coop, had some twice reclaimed pine, and decided to get the hand tools out and build a very quick shelf.
The wood was already milled, but had cupped a bit. I decided to use it cupped, because it was going to be inside the barn, and I didn’t really want to thin out the boards too much just to get them flat. Plus flattening by hand was more work than I wanted to do this afternoon, and spinning up the jointer would defeat the purpose of a hand tool project.
As of this morning, we are down to 12 chickens and 6 ducks. We lost three chickens over he past few months, one of the chicks, and two of the original hens. The young ducks and hens have started to lay eggs, but not consistently. Over the past few days, we have been getting 3 eggs every 2 days from the ducks. And the ducks don’t use nesting boxes, so we have to go looking for them. We have been getting on or two eggs a day from the hens, with one fairly consistently from the old hen I think. Today we got a total of five eggs, two from the ducks and three from the chickens.
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.