Now that there's more going on here than just, feed, water, repeat, I thought I'd start a weekly farm update. AND IT'S ABOUT TO GET INTERESTING, ha! We're only about 3 weeks away from our first kidding of the season. Duchess is looking quite rotund. I've been oddly accurate in my guessing as to how many little peanuts they're expecting. Just based on her size I'm sure there are at least two, but I'm going to guess three kids. I'm really hoping for a couple does. If she has at least one, I'll keep it. In the past she's only had bucklings, so statistically speaking we should have some does right? (shhhh math people)
The big update (which I'm the only one excited about) is that THE CHICKENS ARE OUT of the barn (ok most of them). Last night we moved about 20. That sounds easy enough, but we have to clip one wing of each bird first. That sounds painful and horrible, it's not. It's like clipping your fingernails. So unless that's really traumatic for you, it's a good analogy. We clip just one wing, this makes them off balance and unable (in theory) to fly out of their open electric net pen. We use Premier1 fencing if you care. We wait till nightfall to do our wing trimming and bird moving. Our chickens are quite flighty and generally don't like being handled, so this is the best, calmest time of the day. They're literally half-asleep. No catching necessary. I just pick them up off their roost, open a wing up for my husband to clip with regular old kitchen scissors, and then we put them in a carrier box, aka a big black tote. Once we had about 10 birds in the tote (it's quite large, normally covers our generator) we carry it out to the mobile coop. Confession, this was the first year we thought to use the tote. In the past, we carried them out one by one or two, which took forever - though I did get my steps in at least! (Fitbit humor) I'm always looking on the bright side of repetitive labor.
This year it only took two trips to get the majority of our birds out to the mobile coop sitting in our "yard" where I want them to till up the new garden. We left one rooster in the barn and a handful of hens that are in the middle of molting. I'll put them out with the others once they've got most of their feathers back. They do have access to the outdoors in the barn coop, but they always have a roof over their heads. Maybe I'm being too protective, but it's chilly out still, and being half-feathered seems like both a risk for getting sick and a sunburn. So they'll hang out in the barn coop for a few more weeks. The hilarious thing is that now the two roosters call to each other in the morning. "Hey, bud, where are you?" "I'm over here, where are you?" That goes back and forth all morning. My youngest (human) kid, who likes to sleep in, is probably plotting their death.
I had hoped to get all the chickens out last weekend, Easter weekend, but some unexpected fence maintenance was needed and I wanted to do a little remodeling of their coop. We went all season last year without any issues with our fence. However, storing it in the hay shed, meant something (assuming a cat...) bit through it in multiple places. I luckily stored the charger in the house to make sure nothing happened to it, but I never thought having the fence sit in a covered shelter all winter wouldn't be enough to keep it safe. CATS?!!! Next year it's getting covered and stored in the barn loft.
Anyway, some mending (yay zip ties) later, and it was "good as new". The remodel was slightly more challenging, only because it rained nearly all week AND I got my COVID vaccine, which took me out for about 24 hrs. Body aches and a headache that would not quit! Complaining, but not complaining! However, now that my modifications are done, I can open the back of the mobile coop and pull out each nest box without having to reach over things or do any weird acrobatics to reach the bottom boxes.
One thing I learned from this coop mod (something I keep having to relearn) is to check that I have all the tools I need before starting a project. It's a long drive to the hardware store, and I will rig up whatever I can to avoid that. I needed a precise-ish saw to carefully cut out the new door from the existing coop wall. If I had the material to make a new door, this wouldn't have been an issue. I could've just hacked away at it and eventually made the right-sized hole. Instead, I had to figure out how to do this with a jigsaw and two packets of brand new blades that didn't fit. They fit the project, just not the jigsaw, ha hahaha, sigh.
If you are ever in this situation, maybe be less stubborn than I was and go to the store. Otherwise, here's this option... I drilled out the four corners of the door. Then I took one of the jigsaw blades, in my hand (wear gloves, I didn't), and proceed to saw about three inches of the door opening from each corner so that you can get a handsaw in there. This will be frustrating and take a very long time, but it did work. Once done you can carefully handsaw the rest. This last step is important. Be stupidly proud of yourself for doing this the hardest possible way and then add the correct jigsaw blades to your shopping list.
The rest of my remodel went swimmingly and I was beaming this morning when I went to open the mobile coop door and let the flock out on green-ish grass for the first time in months! I stood there and watched them happily scratch the ground and eat the green grass for a long time before I remembered I had to finish taking care of all the other furries.
Coming up next, planting seedlings in the greenhouse earlier than I've ever tried (which could be a big fail...). I keep reminding myself that we had a freeze last year on June 13th that severely stunted all of our squash. I don't want to repeat that. I'm also working on getting together my kidding kit, which I'll give a rundown of what all goes into that next week. Plus, how I juggle the excitement of baby goats and the fear of things going wrong.