Don’t get mad, plant the Glads.

As part of diversifying our farm, we decided to grow flowers this year. During the process of deciding we remember that not only has my dad always enjoyed Gladiolus, he could find a really good deal on a thousand bulbs.

So we started planting, putting a new batch int the ground every week and a half, and they’ve been coming up pretty well.

And then we realized we’d made a huge mistake.

We dutifully opened up the first box of bulbs and got them settled in a cool dry place, but we neglected to open the second box and take out the foam insulation. Over the course of several weeks of weather fluctuations, the environment inside that box apparently became pretty good for bulb sprouting. So, today was our emergency “plant a whole lot of Glads day.”

Hopefully the sprouted bulbs will continue to grow as they have begun, and all will be well. And of course, if that hope holds out, we look forward to a nice sale on Gladiolus in late June.



Into the Woods


It’s been fairly quiet around here lately, with things mostly just holding steady. Despite the slightly stagnant feel, though things have ben growing rapidly, which means, of course, that they’ll need more room.

The ducklings have been upgraded from their larger pen to an even larger one, and the chicks have moved into the ducks’ abandoned pen. The baby rabbits have outgrown their enclosure as well, and they’ll be moving up in the next few days.

The pigs are also rapidly outgrowing their area, and that’s a rather more complicated issue. Because they get a lot bigger than ducks. And they make a big mess. And they can be obnoxious.

So the plan for them is that their next move will be out into the woods.

Our entire property is fenced, but after a series of storms, the fence is looking pretty rough.

While the clean up of the fence is happening, the pigs are being trained to respect electric fencing. Pigs are notorious for breaking through, breaking down, or just escaping from their enclosures, and the easiest way to keep them at home, safe and sound, is an electric fence. They learn quickly with the right setup, so there’s little stress on them, and the rest of the farm is surprisingly quiet with the pigs securely in their own corner.

Once the outer fence is secure and the pigs have been trained, we will start blocking off sections of the forest parts of our land for the pigs to work on.


Movin’ Out

When the ducks arrived as adorable little flufflings, we knew, of course, that they wouldn’t always be adorable little flufflings.


Awww. So cute. 

Even so, it’s not always easy to remember just how quickly ducklings grow into teenager ducks or just how messy teenager ducks are. The answer: more messy than you can believe even when you are looking at the mess. Even when you know and have experienced duck messiness first hand, it’s STILL hard to believe how gross they are.

If ducks had a super power, it would be mess making.

The messy, messy teenager ducks were rapidly outgrowing their brooder and defeating every attempt to keep their cozy indoor home clean and dry. Or even clean or dry. We tried several configurations, and then reached the conclusion that it simply couldn’t be done. They are just too messy. So they needed to move outside.


In the box on their way to their new home in the great outdoors. An approximately one minute journey about which the ducklings were not happy. 

The internet insists that ducklings should not be moved out of their brooder until they are fully feathered. But looking at the ducks, it was clear that 1) they were staying plenty warm as long as they were dry, and 2) hygiene was more important than walls. In an outdoor pen, we would at least have So we got the final rabbit tractor built, and the rabbit moved out of the chicken tractor and the ducks moved into the chicken tractor yesterday morning. We kept a close eye on them through the day and aside from being a bit freaked out to be outside with the big scary world all around, they seemed happy.


What?!? There’s like, extra space here?!?

They have a nice straw floor in their house, and their heat lamps are still there. They don’t appear to mind the cold at all, and they were busy swimming last night when it was 40 degrees, so I expect they’ll be just fine. They’ll probably just get their feathers a little bit faster.


Steady as She Goes.

It’s been mostly smooth sailing here for the past week. now that we have the first couple weeks and the holidays behind us, we’ve gotten into the swing of things, complete with routines and a semblance of order and everything.


The flouffs came out of their nest to explore. They met Bob whose training has really paid off, and Rex, who really doesn’t care about rabbits if he’s not allowed to eat them.


On the “not quite so convenient” side of the scale, the four pigs discovered that they can get out of their pen. They only get out (generally) when they’ve run out of their favorite foods and are ready to be moved. So far there has only been one actual breakout attempt.

The bright side of that is that the pigs are very easy to catch. Shake a bucket, shout their ames, and voila, the four little pigs come running home.


The chickens are learning to be free range chickens as we slowly figure out how to give them run of the place and keep them safe at the same time. No chicken likes to be cooped up.


Their new run can be moved daily to give them fresh ground (which they make short work of) and still gives them the comfort of their house at night. Eventually they will have a moveable house as well, but for the moment it looks like their mobile house has been hijacked and turned into a garage for a lawnmower.

We’ve finished the rabbit pens for all but one rabbit–which means that he’s got the chicken mansion all to himself. It’s been interesting to watch the rabbits adapt to a lifestyle of living in moveable pens, and to see the different levels at which they are at ease. Rhonda, for instance, appears to be 100% happy in her house. She has been pretty well settled in there since day one with no real problems. The two males, known as Barrel Rider (he temporarily had a five gallon bucket as a house and liked to sit on top of it) and Mr. Rabbit (honestly, he just doesn’t display enough personality to have earned a better name.) are also pretty well pleased with their bachelor pads. Mr. Rabbit remains the jumpier of the two, while Barrel Rider is very nearly as chilled out as Rhonda.

The last rabbit is Granny. Granny is the mother of the others. She’s older, and wasn’t exposed to this lifestyle as a younger, so it’s easy to understand why she’s not quite as in love with it.

But she does seem to enjoy herself. She’s even got a new hobby.

Granny likes to dig.

It’s interesting because both Barrel Rider and Mr. Rabbit have dug a little bit. Granny does not seem to be trying to escape, just to burrow. She’s moved daily to new ground, so one night’s work is all she gets done. She has a house that she could go in, but she prefers to build her own.

For her own safety–so that she doesn’t get out and nothing gets in–we will probably redesign her enclosure with slats on the bottom so that she cannot dig but can still graze.

And since everything is going so smoothly, tomorrow we will get started on the big project of making an outdoor space for the ducklings and chicks who are rapidly outgrowing their brooders.


The good , the bad, and the soggy.

Christmas is always a busy time for our family. There’s certainly no reason to add extra excitement to that.

But why not go for it anyway?

On the 18th we noticed one of the female rabbits–Rhonda–pulling out her fur (and her mother’s fur) to build a best. The man we got them from had said that Rhonda had accidentally been left with one of her male litter mates so it wasn’t a complete surprise. However, after two  and a half weeks with no visible signs of pregnancy, we had more or less decided that the stress of being moved to a new place had probably  caused her to miscarry. But late  on the 20th Rhonda’s nest started moving. After twenty minutes staring at the pile of fluff to be absolutely certain it wasn’t my imagination, I determined that there were, in fact, baby rabbits in the fluff.



So there were baby rabbits and everyone seemed pretty happy. Rhonda was being a good mom. She stayed friendly and wasn’t even upset about sharing a pen with her mom, Granny.

Then it started raining.

I remember floods when I was a little kid. Bridges down, roads out, towns wondering if levees will hold sort of floods   It’s been so long since that kind of rain fell that I’d almost added it to my list of things that were just more impressive in my youth. The last few days have proved that theory wrong.

With the rain came increased trouble with keeping all of the animals warm and dry.  The chickens and pigs were just fine in their sheds, but the rabbit pens had to be moved to higher ground. We moved the baby rabbits and their mother to high ground and hoped for the best. But the next day we woke up to find that the roof of the pen leaked and the nest had gotten wet. And since wet fur doesn’t hold warmth very well,  the baby rabbits were crawling around the pen very unhappily.  Messing with baby rabbits is a gamble. Theoretically, if the mother is used to you and your smell, she shouldn’t be too upset if you touch the babies. But rabbits can also be unpredictable mothers at times, especially in situations that are already stressful. The trouble was that we didn’t just need to mess with the babies, we needed to move Rhonda and them to a new pen altogether–one that was specially designed to have baby rabbits in it.

One of the babies was really, really tiny, less than half the size of the others. Two more were not as wiggly as I would have liked and two more were wet but seemed ok. We dried them off as well as we could, and set up a new hay nest for them in the new pen, gave them a hot water bottle for warmth, and coated everything in Rhonda’s scent for good measure.

Sadly, the little runt and the two who didn’t look so great didn’t pull through, but the other two are doing just fine and have started opening their eyes. Since we have had rain almost every single day, we’ve discovered that the new pen is quite waterproof, as well as being a very workable design that we will replicate for the other rabbits. We also have some insight on the “what we should’ve dones” for future reference. And for now, we have two fat, happy baby rabbits.


New Additions

Tuesday we got our last planned new additions for a little while  when we brought home 13 mostly grown chickens–3 Cuckoo Marans, 3 Americaunas, 6 Australorps, and a Delaware  rooster–along with some two week old chicks.

It was a long drive to get the chicks and a few of them did not make the journey–they got too hot or too cold or the stress was just too much for them since they had lived a pretty unexciting life up until then. Four others were doing poorly when we got them home, but despite looking like they were at death’s door, all four were able to pull through and are doing just fine.


Bob checking on the baby chicks. Ironically the dog who is too rough and excitable 90% of the time is perfect around baby poultry.

And we got our first farm fresh egg from one of the Americaunas.


When we first got the pigs, I started growing fodder–sprouted seeds–for them. The idea is to increase the nutritional content of the seeds and also to make grain last longer. One pound of grain makes several pounds of fodder.

Tuesday afternoon the pigs got their first real batch of fodder, and they certainly seemed to enjoy it.

The rabbits and chickens also get fodder.


Hmm….Is this tasty? Yes. Yes it is. 



Why are you making that box click at me when I’m trying to enjoy my meal?

The ducklings got their first taste yesterday and devoured it in about ten seconds. The chicks didn’t see much green food for the first two weeks of their lives, so they were a little bit afraid of it, but eventually they figured it out and gobbled it up.

We’ve been using wheat seeds so far but I’ve started some Black oil sunflower seeds for added nutrition, and we will also probably throw in some millet and oats for variety. Since the rabbits, pigs, and chickens all get the fodder at different stages, I’ll have to work out the best way to make the system work for all of them.

Good Day Bad Day

One of the things I remembered very well when we left the farm  for traveling was that on a farm there are good days and bad days. There are days when everything goes well. There are days when you wake up to half a dozen chicken senselessly slaughtered by the neighbor’s dogs. But somehow I had a harder time remembering the roller coaster days.

I woke up to a call from the post office that our ducklings were ready for pick up. I’m pretty sure there are not many better ways to wake up than hearing that twenty super fuzzy adorable little ducklings just waiting to be brought home and gawked at.

My duckling high was quickly brought down by the discovery that one of the rabbits was missing. Since most of our property is wooded, and there are hundreds of hungry predators just waiting for a tasty white rabbit to come hopping along. So I was pretty shocked and more or less thrilled when a few minutes later, the white rabbit came hopping along.

Only to be noticed by the dogs. The dogs’ training to be calm around the rabbits is certainly progressing, but when the rabbit is outside of the cage, it’s much harder. And when the rabbit is loping along the fence line looking delicious, all bets are off.

There aren’t a whole lot of worse ways to start the day than hearing a rabbit scream. It’s horrible. Really horrible. Not the least because very often that scream is a death scream. It’s the last sound rabbits make.

But the rabbit didn’t die. The dogs pinned it down but stopped short of killing it, and just held it for us. The rabbit managed to avoid dying of fright or having a heart attack. We quickly fixed him a new, quieter cage and he settled in pretty nicely.


See! He’s fine!

Then we went to get the ducklings. All happy and fluffy and adorable. We got the Hatchery Choice special, which means that there are several breed of duck–whatever the hatchery had extras of.


A colorful bunch.

My best guess is that there are several Pekins,maybe an Indian Runer or two, a couple domesticated Mallards, some Rouens, and two that are probably Cayugas but possibly Black Indian Runners.  We got the brooder set up and released the ducklings.


Be free little ducklings.

The joys of seeing the ducklings be all happy was unfortunately dampened when we noticed that one of them didn’t look so hot—I guessed he was a bit cold. Another had a crook neck, which is usually caused by a vitamin e deficiency or an injury. A few minutes later we realized that the little guy who didn’t look so great actually looked horrible. He just wasn’t rallying. He wouldn’t or couldn’t eat or drink and even under the heat lamp he didn’t show any improvement. Upon closer inspection he appeared to have some sort of birth defect, which meant there wasn’t much to be done for him.

It’s fairly common with baby poultry to have at least one that doesn’t make it. They’re surprisingly tough little creatures, but at the same time they are very fragile. But even knowing that losses are a part of raising poultry, it’s still sad when there’s just nothing you can do.

On the other hand, the crook neck duckling was running around, eating and drinking, so we are hopeful that with vitamins he’ll be just fine.

I spent the next several hours obsessively checking on the ducklings. During that time I remembered something else about raising poultry.

Sleeping ducklings are terrifying.


The yellow duckling was scaring me a little.

At the end of the day, though, I suppose the score was in favor of a good day.

At any rate, our little farm is growing. We are planning to add chickens next, so whatever else happens, there’s no doubt that things are going to stay busy around here.