An exciting day on the homestead! Yesterday I put in nesting boxes for my hens, and this morning I noticed that someone had re-arranged the straw bedding into a little nest. Since I didn’t see an egg then, I closed the box back up and let them be. This afternoon, though, I checked again and found one little brown egg in the straw.
I built four nesting boxes from leftover plywood, which should be enough for my 11 girls. Since I wasn’t sure what the best size was, I made them one cubic foot each. This is big enough for the hens to get in easily, but tight enough for them to feel secure. The box is built onto the wall of the coop, so I don’t have to disturb the birds by opening the door to collect my eggs.
The top board lifts off to give me access without having to disturb the birds too much.
See the egg! Second box from the right.
Of course, this egg was not saved for later. We fried it sunny-side up, with just a little salt. So much more flavor than store bought, although it is a bit smaller, at 1 ounce. I gather that they will get bigger as the hens mature.
In other news, we butchered all but two of the roosters. I will be writing about that in the next week or so.
I love mulch. Not the red piney stuff that stinks to high heaven when it rains, but the natural layer of leaves and twigs that is provided year-round by our trees. Some people believe that the leaves are a gift to us from the trees. I think that one plant’s trash is another man’s treasure, and I recycle the plant’s waste. Whichever way you choose to look at it, leaves are very useful to have around. If you bag and discard your leaves, you may want to stop and pay attention.
Chickens are weird. It works for them, though. Here, the little goofs are cleaning themselves with dirt. After two wet days, the weather cleared and we got a nice spot of sunny weather, as is typical for Florida in May. I decided to let the chicks do some “practice ranging,” where I put up a temporary fence and let them experience grass. This allows me to learn to trust that they won’t all scatter and disappear when I finally free-range, and it allows me to teach the chicks to come when I call them.
They immediately found a dry sandy spot and began to dust-bathe, which I assume they haven’t done in a few days since their run is still soggy from all the rain. The dust helps them to remove mites and other parasites, as well as clearing excess oils off the feathers ahead of preening.
Last time, I showed you my vegetable garden, and mentioned that I would use chickens as a pest control strategy. At this point, said chickens are still small fluffy things, although they are growing rapidly. Let’s go into some of the reasons I wanted chickens before I go too far into what I’ve done so far.
Yes, I plan on eating them, at least the roosters. My wife and I don’t eat much meat, and most of what we do eat is chicken. I think it’s important to take responsibility for our meat whenever possible, the same reason that I took up hunting in Arizona. By raising my own birds, I can make sure they are treated as humanely as possible, a guarantee I cannot make when I buy a pack of drumsticks at the store.
One of our little roosters at 7 weeks old. They grow so fast.
Well… It’s finally happened. It’s hard to call yourself the Homesteading Hippy without a homestead, especially while living in an apartment or a friend’s spare bedroom. It’s hard, even when you rent enough space to make a garden, when you move every other year. Last fall, my wife and I made the step into homeownership, buying a place of our own. Now, I can finally get homesteading for real! All my practice runs, which some of you have followed over the years, can finally be put to proper use. Let me give you a tour.
We saw our first bobcat lat night! I was on my way to water a friend’s plants when we noticed a large cat walking through one of the yards. It didn’t take long to tell that it was a bobcat! It looked at us and kept on walking, and really didn’t care that we were there. Eventually he walked into the bushes and disappeared from view.
(Click to see larger view)
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are found throughout North America, and eat primarily rabbits and hares, as well as pest rodents like packrats and ground squirrels. They will, however, eat chickens and small pets, so a lot of people worry about having them around. The easiest solution is to make sure that all animals are securely inside (or in a coop/barn) before nightfall.
On our way home, we found him lying on the ground near the path, and were surprised to find that we could walk right up to it to take pictures. We were only ten feet away when I took these photos!