Monday, September 17, 2012

Rain, Fall and Updates

We're having a light rainfall today. This is the tail end of summer, just a few days before the seasons change. The chickens are loose in the yard, the horses in their stalls and the geese complaining idly in their newly mown pen.
The next major project for the fall is to finish mowing the weeds down in the pasture. I'm halfway there! I got my big Cub Cadet back from the repair shop last Tuesday and have been running it a bit every day. It took two days just to get the lawn mowed - the grass was really high.
I usually mow the pasture in quarters. One section a week, keeps the weeds down but lets the grass grow. But since the lawn mower was down for a month, I had to do half this week.
I'm pleased to report success with the fertilizer and seed project. What I do is clean stalls, putting the manure into the spreader, then sprinkle grass seed and wood ashes (if I've got some) on top. Spreading the manure takes care of clean up, fertilizer and seeding in one motion.
If you've ever heard the saying 'give a kid a hammer and the world turns into a nail' then you've got the fertilizer idea. EVERYTHING turns into fertilizer: the shavings, wood ashes, the hay, the grain, the straw and the chicken bedding. The result is fewer weeds and more grass.
The parts of the pasture that were three feet tall weeds are now only a foot or two tall and there's grass between the weeds. As long as the weeds are down, the hens will graze, dig piles of horse manure for bugs and eat grasshoppers.
On the subject of chickens, I've been thinking of complying an e-book entitled '#Chicken Fail' to chronicle my lousy attempts at chicken keeping. The only thing holding me back was a limited amount of success this year.
I say limited because I still have the majority of the chickens I bought this spring. Three pairs of geese, the ones I kept are doing very well. I just sold 2 pairs to a friend of mine. She lost the first pair I sold her to a raccoon.
Let me start from the beginning.
This spring I bought large numbers of to add to my poultry flocks. I bought 12 Golden Comets, a hybrid laying hen, 6 Buff Orpingtons, a dozen goslings, 6 males, 6 females, and 24 assorted Muscovy ducklings.
Most of my laying flock of 8 hens was already 2 years old. This is not good. Chickens can live for several years, but usually don't. I swear the silly things are born looking for a way to die. They seem to succeed more often than not.
I also had 4 roosters, 2 Buff Brahmas (Dad named them Mo and Jo) and 2 Dominiques, born here, Mickey Finn, and Spike. Mo drowned last week in the water trough, chickens don't swim.
The hens don't have names, because there are too many of them. But each has a numbered band so I can tell them apart. My oldest hen is #25, a Rhode Island Red I bought at the flea market after I lost my flock of Barred Rocks and Dominiques to a predator, possibly a raccoon.
In 2011, Mickey Finn was the spare rooster. Hatched here to a Barred Rock hen and a Dominique rooster, he and 2 sister hens survived the carnage because they were babies born late in the year so were kept in the tack room.
Now he's the head rooster, and his 2 sisters are #23 and #24. This bunch produced 2 roosters and a pullet who were raised by one of the sisters. I never got close enough to figure out which one. She was 'attack on sight' likely due to the rats.
About two weeks ago, a duck hatched 2 more chicks. I think they're a rooster and a pullet. A week later, she hatched a dozen ducklings. Of those, 6 vanished in one night. I suspect rats. I took the rest from her, and am raising them in a kiddie pool with the chickens and a couple of rat-wounded ducklings.
The sides of the pool curve over, so the rats can't climb the sides. As long as I can keep them inside that, they'll be okay.
Somehow, I'm going to have to get rid of the rats. Poison comes to mind, of course, but the last time I put down poison I nearly killed one of my barn cats. So poison isn't on my list of alternatives at the moment.
I'm pondering how to run a War On Rats. Snap traps might work for a few of them. I've thought of putting the dogs out in the barn for a few nights. It might be best to simply put the geese back into Chicken World. They are more than a match for a rat.
That's all for now.
Stay tuned.

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