Well, June just flew by, didn’t it? Sorry for the long delay. It’s been a crazy month. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
When I incubate poultry in the spring, I start with the ducks, then do the chickens, then do the turkeys. Ducks and turkeys take 4 weeks to incubate. Chickens only need 3 weeks. Ducks are much more hardy, and grow incredibly fast, so they can go first and be put out in the poultry yard at 4 weeks. Then the chickens, timed so that when they are about 4 weeks, its warm enough for them to go out into the “play pen”, which is a separate walled off area in the poultry house with a warming light. Then its the turkeys turn. The fertility of the turkey eggs is higher later in the season, but if the timing is right, they still get 6 months to grow up before Thanksgiving.
All went according to plan with the ducks, with the exception of the one who was late hatching and managed to drown itself early on. I sold two, and the other 8 are doing very well, all grown up and incorporated into the rest of the flock. They are a beautiful mix of ancona and two other breeds, and are gorgeous.
The 15 chickens in the brooder made it to 4 weeks, and were put out into the play pen. This is a chain link dog kennel. The openings are large enough for the young chickens to come out if they want to, but small enough that the rest of the flock can’t get in. They were out there for one day, and then all but one disappeared. The poultry house is a quonset hut, with doors that close tight at night. We still don’t know what the heck happened, but after later events, we think maybe they wandered out into the poultry yard, through the fence and into the driveway, and were picked off by the dogs. Or, something got into the quonset hut and got them when it was dark but before we had closed it up for the night. We had gone out to an anniversary dinner that night (celebrating 17 years), and didn’t get home until after dark. My husband closed up the coop without looking in on them that night, and the next morning they were MIA. The play pen isn’t sealed tight, so something could have gotten in. Regardless, it was heartbreaking after 7 weeks of time (3 weeks in the incubator and 4 weeks in the brooder) to lose them. One survived, and two that were raised by a broody hen also survived, so out of a flock of 17, we ended up with three survivors. I did start a new batch, and have 12 birds that are currently about 4 weeks old. I’m afraid to put them out in the coop, even though they are SO ready to go outside.
The eggs the ducks were brooding? Gone when something got in when the back door of the coop got left open one night. The eggs the turkey was brooding? No good, due to her getting off and them getting cold early in the game. To her credit, they were in a dog kennel, and the door was bumped closed so she couldn’t get back in. So two for two there as well.
Then I hatched out 11 turkeys. Since last year I had a terrible time hatching out turkey eggs, I was ecstatic to have hatched out so many. Turkeys are fragile when they are young. Their two instincts are to explore and to roost. So early on, if given the chance, they wander, and they try to get up high. We went away for the day to do some shopping and exploring in a nearby town, and when we got home, four of the turkeys had managed to hop out of the stock tank brooder, and were subsequently killed by the dogs, who didn’t like being left alone all day, but appreciated that we left them a snack. Then I lost one more when I put them in an outside pen in the back yard in the grass and the dog managed to get to them (turn your back for 30 minutes…). I sold two to a local blog reader (Hi Patty). Then, we put the last 4 out in the poultry play pen when they were 4 weeks old and one wandered through the fence into the driveway, and, you guessed it, was eaten by the dog (this would be Gideon, who has decided he really likes turkey). So, now the poultry yard is lined with chicken wire so no one can get through the fence, and the dogs are sequestered to the back yard during the day, so they have no access to the driveway. Then another bird just shows up dead one morning, after seeming a little out of sorts the night before. So, out of 11 birds, 4 survived, and two only because they left the property. Sigh. Those two ARE doing well, and have incorporated into the flock and get up high to roost at night (trust me, I check on them about 20 times a day). What a mess. Lots of lessons learned this year.
Meanwhile, June brings on doing three farmers markets a week. Wednesday in Milton-Freewater, Thursday at the Walla Walla Heritage Park market on Main Street, and the regular Downtown Walla Walla market on Saturdays. Plus time to make and test new products like Beard Oil. Plus the occasional online order for soaps and other goodies. Plus an increase in wholesale orders. Plus harvesting produce. Plus putting the finishing touches on the commercial kitchen so that I can get it licensed by the state, so that I can add jams to my line (and mostly get away from perishable produce – I’m just too small to absorb the loss if something doesn’t sell).
The June days march on, the flowers bloom, the tomato plants seem to grow inches a day, and suddenly, the temperature is in the 90’s, in June, which is NOT normal. And then, this week, we are into the 100’s, and I’m just trying to keep everything alive, including the rabbits, who don’t do well in this kind of heat. We actually cleaned out the chicken coop (LONG overdue) and in the process moved the rabbits outside under some trees. Since we haven’t been able to locate some wood chips to rebed the space, and the heat hit like it did, they are still outside, under a mister, which is actually cooler than in the quonset. Meanwhile, I have one heck of a compost pile, most of the stuff normally in the coop is outside the coop, and the chickens are very confused. Some of the nest boxes were actually outside, and a chicken laid an egg in one in the sun. When I picked the egg up, it was so hot that I set it aside, and when I cracked it, the white had actually started to turn opaque from the heat. You’ve heard the expression “hot enough to fry an egg”? It really was! We’re predicted to have this heat continue for another week, at least. The cool weather crops like cauliflower are toast. Tomatoes aren’t setting fruit, because the pollen isn’t viable when its over about 90. What a mess.
And…we got a new cat. His name is Kirby, renamed from Kerplunk, but we’re thinking his nick name should be Chaos. He’s about 8 months old, and until last Tuesday, was an unneutered male. He needed a new home or he was going to the pound. We’d been looking for a new cat for about 6 months. He’s cute as can be, full of energy, he’s explored every inch of the house, done his best to win over the two other cats and the dogs, and likes to get up on the pool table and play with the pool balls. He’s not an especially cuddly cat, but we’re slowly winning him over. No longer having testicles should calm things down quite a bit, we expect.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2015, where we’re hoping August isn’t as hot as June!