Fairy Garden

I love my mom. I’ve met a lot of moms and I like a lot of them, but none of them compare to mine. She has recently retired after many years with the same company and has now started her own blog. I am very excited to share her first post with you!

Time To Do Everything

I fell in love with Fairy Gardens the first time I saw one and have wanted to create one of my own for a very long time. So, first opportunity I got, that’s exactly what I did. The beauty of Fairy Gardens is that they are miniature plantscapes that can exist in just a single container but, if you examine one carefully, you will see that they are really whimsical little worlds that take on a life of their own. Most all Fairy Gardens will contain at least one fairy but mine does not. I have two birds, one birdhouse, one bumble bee and one lady bug.

It was easier to create a Fairy Garden than I thought. To start you need to choose a container that you like. You will need drainage so if the container does not already have one you can use a drill with a small…

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Homing Pigeons – Lesson Three

How do we get in?

Don’t get discouraged.

It’s now seven hours since I let my homers out for their very first flight and they are all at this moment safely back in the coop except for the one older male who has seemingly left for good.

What a day. After kicking myself for letting my birds out prematurely and expecting never to see them again, they began to filter back. First they lined up on my roof, then my back porch railing, then they started landing on the windowsill right next to me. I could tell they wanted back in but they couldn’t remember how.

I knew from research that they needed a landing pad and not just a doorway, and I made sure to install one before letting them free. You can see it to the far left of the photo under their little pigeon door. They still didn’t seem interested in using it despite mounds of food piled there that the sparrows were all too happy to sample for them.

I saw them eyeing their food dish through the window that I had on my kitchen table. Knowing they have excellent eyesight, I decided to place the bowl half sticking out on the landing pad. Success! Ten minutes later two birds were inside. Well one was half inside. I went in the coop to shoo him completely in and he was only too happy to go. The two birds ate their fill and settled in on a perch for a nice nap. Meanwhile the other two birds were still trying to figure out how to get in. At this point it began to gently rain.

Well, that did it. The two remaining pigeons were not happy about being caught in the rain and began to try everything they could to gain access to the coop. They were climbing the walls, pacing the ground, skidding off the metal nest box roof and even flying up to me as if asking for help. I opened the coop door at one point and they landed on it, knowing it was an access point. The chickens started escaping immediately though and I had to close it again. Then one bird finally flew to the pad. Overjoyed, he began stuffing his face and getting settled inside. The last pigeon, my favorite one who has a little white stripe next to her eye, was still stuck outside. You could tell she was starting to freak out. I opened the coop door again, blocked the chickens with a piece of fencing and called the pigeon over. Gratefully, she flew in and landed on the ground in a pile of chickens. Then up into the rafters for a well-deserved meal and rest.

WHEW! So what have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that pigeons really do know where home is and they want to get back there, but maybe not right away. I learned that I need to teach the pigeons where their door is and have them reliably using it before I set them loose again. I will accomplish this by making a cage that will hang in front of the open door. They can exit the door into the cage and look around, then they can go right back in, using the pad. I will also be installing a wire “trap” to the door that will only swing one way, allowing pigeons to go in but not out. I will keep the trap lifted while they explore the cage, and when they are all checking out the cage I will lower the trap door and call them to eat. This will hopefully teach them how to push on the wire to re-enter the coop. The trap will also ensure that any pigeons I release will stay home after returning to the coop without the need for supervision.

How about the pigeon I lost? Well, I emailed the gentleman I bought them from and told him to be on the lookout for him as he was probably flying home. He very kindly wrote that he hadn’t returned yet, but he had a new batch of young pigeons almost ready to go and I could pick up a replacement bird at the next Poultry Swap. I think that’s the best possible outcome I could have hoped for!

Homing Pigeons – Lesson Two

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My homers looking at me from my roof

Don’t let them go yet.

It’s been two weeks, otherwise known as a couple of weeks, which is when the seller said I could probably safely let my birds fly. Of course, I’ve been looking forward to this day.

My pigeons had all been doing very well. I had progressed to a couple of them landing on my feed bowl to eat while I was still holding it, and coming to the food when I called. I was feeding them once a day in the mornings and they were sticking to the upper levels of the coop, away from the ducks and chickens on the ground. I’d been researching how to coop train them and today was the day.

I did a few things wrong today. I noticed when I came out this morning that a few pigeons were on the coop floor with the chickens. This likely meant that they had overcome their fears and had come down for some chicken pellets. First mistake: they might not be very hungry. I hadn’t fed them yet and assumed it would still be fine, since I noticed they don’t much care for the pellets and much prefer corn and wheat.

Secondly, even though I’d read to only set them loose on a nice sunny day, I ignored this advice and let them out on a greyish, cloudy day. Not a rainy day by any stretch, but not as nice and sunny as we’ve been having lately.

I opened the pigeon door and they timidly made their way out. Things looked good, they flew around the coop in ever widening circles and finally landed on the roof of my house. My one older bird stayed there and looked at me for awhile. A few minutes later I could only spot four birds, the younger four. The older bird was gone and I’m assuming he flew right back home. Darn it.

I’d also read not to let them out while there were predators around. Well, there weren’t any hawks but I forgot about my cats. They were VERY interested in these birds on the roof and got as close to them as they could. The pigeons weren’t too happy about this despite my efforts to rein the cats in.

After calling them, shaking the food dish, putting food on the landing pad to their doorway and then doing it all over again many times, they still haven’t returned.

They hung out on my roof for a few hours looking a bit perplexed. They flew around and showed me some beautiful aeronautics. Right now they’re on the neighbor’s roof two doors down and it’s been over four hours since they were first released.

Will they come back by nightfall? Will they come back at all? How will I get the door closed behind them without constant vigilance and no trap yet installed?

I suppose I’ll find out.

Incubation Woes

DSC_0001Well, it’s that time again. I’ve had so many requests for fertile quail eggs that it took a couple of months to get enough together for a hatch. I wanted to do a dual hatch with some chicken eggs in there, since I’ve never hatched out any chickens before.

I have a Hovabator with an automatic egg turner and both quail and chicken-sized egg holders. I naturally assumed I could have both holders in the turner at once and set it and forget it (sort of). Well, after many agonizing attempts to fit both sizes in I concluded that it is impossible to use the egg turner with both chicken and quail eggs. You can have chicken, you can have quail, but you can’t have both. The egg holder attachments are different sizes and the very flimsy plastic arms that actually effect movement will not work with both. Whose idea was that? Not that the rest of the turner is much better. I see these things selling for $89.99 and they are a huge piece of junk. The plastic is cheap and breaks easily. The only thing holding a tray of eggs are two thin plastic spokes that you could snap like a dry twig. The whole unit consists of a small motor and some poorly-formed plastic parts and shouldn’t cost any more than $20. I doubt it will last for very many more hatches.

Anyway. So this means, in addition to keeping the temperature and humidity monitored I have to turn my Ameraucana chicken eggs at least three times a day. To me that seems like a lot of work and a lot of opportunities to break eggs. Luckily it’s day 11 and I haven’t broken any yet. I’m starting to feel a lot like a mother chicken though. How long has it been since they were turned last?

First Californian Litter

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Newborn Californian kits

Today marks the date of our very first purebred Californian litter. It was also Samphire and Scorch’s first litter and things couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

Samphire ripped her prepared nest box to shreds when it was put in (I should have known better than to line it with a paper feed bag!) and so I replaced the shredded bag with a new cardboard liner and she went to work getting it cozy. I use wire nest boxes so they need a new liner every time to hold the wood chips and straw inside.

Yesterday afternoon I noticed that she had started pulling fur, which is a first here. Generally all the moms here pull fur immediately before kindling and not a minute sooner. Fur in the nest box means kits in the nest box. I was pretty sure from all this motherly activity that Sam was going to do a great job.

Today I woke up to eight very pink and fat looking kits, all born in the nest box. There was one uneaten placenta that needed to be removed and a few kits had some scratches on them, but other than that things went perfectly. Now if I could only get the person who sold me these rabbits to finally give me their pedigrees. I’ve paid for them and I would like to have them, it’s been months now without any reply. Very frustrating.

Esther, my Creme d’Argent, was also bred to Scorch at the same time, but she has a habit of kindling on day 32. She looks huge, so most likely we will have even more new kits tomorrow. Yay!

Homing Pigeons – Lesson One

IMG_2600I thought I knew a fair amount about pigeons. I had a pet pigeon named Danny while in university in Nova Scotia. He had been found as a squab by a friend of mine who was too busy running a venue to continue caring for him. I took over the duties while he was still pretty young.

I lived in an old house converted into apartments, on the second floor. Danny, once he was old enough, occupied one of my ample bedroom windowsills. Coming inside to be fed, or when it was too cold and free to roam the city otherwise. It should be noted that my roommates at the time hated him and wanted him gone. He was charming though, and would bat his wings like a Mantis shrimp at my cats if they got too close. Definitely as good a pet, if not better, as any canary, zebra or society finch or budgie, all of which I have experience with.

It was always thrilling to have him follow me to school and join me for lunch. A lot of students were shocked to see what looked like a wild pigeon fly down and land on my shoulder while I was eating a sandwich out on the deck.

I also learned from reading multiple online experiments that if you do harm to a pigeon, they will remember your face for the rest of their lives. Only such intelligent, well-adapted birds could have acquired such a bad rap.

Now I have five homing pigeons. I thought they could just live in the coop with the chickens and that was kind of that. I considered the possibility that the moment I let them out to fly the first time they would just return home to the guy I bought them from, but he had assured me they were young, unflown birds and I could probably safely let them out in a couple of weeks. (That means that they’ve always been locked up and haven’t been able to fly around and really “lock in” where home is by taking note of landmarks and such. Some people say that even unflown pigeons know where they are geographically and can find their way back and I tend to agree. Hoping my pigeons will feel spoiled enough to want to stay here though, fingers crossed.) Well, once turned loose in the pen they flew to the highest point on top of the coop and that was that. I set them up with ample food and water and let them be. First mistake.

Apparently a hungry pigeon is a friendly pigeon. After a day or three of pigeons who wanted nothing to do with me, I decided I needed to remove the food bowl and instead feed them once or twice a day and call them to the feed with the same sound every time. This will eventually set me up to be able to let them loose in the morning before they’ve been fed, and hopefully then call them back for breakfast. If I can practice this routine over and over, I can coop train my birds. Then I can slowly progress to taking them farther distances away for flight training. I allow them to free feed for around an hour or so while  I complete the rest of my farm chores. I give them a mixture of wild bird seed, whole grains and laying pellets. The pellets are not a big hit.

Well, it worked. I now have an attentive group of pigeons who are very interested in me and what I’m doing.

Another aspect I didn’t know was that pigeons are extremely territorial, to the point that the nicer the setup they have at home, the faster they’ll race back. Some people suggest nest boxes that are 30 by 24 inches. That’s nearly the size of a rabbit cage! I decided to compromise and made them a six unit plywood nesting shelf with holes that are about 16″ wide by 11″ deep and 12″ tall. I figure they can always claim two if they require more space. I don’t plan to keep a lot of pigeons, so it should do for now.

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Waiting for a snack

 

Hybrid Kit Weights – Week 6

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Boy it’s getting hot out. The hybrid kits have now been moved outside to their own pen because their mom is due to kindle in about a week. If all goes as planned it will be our first hybrid Creme d’Argent/Californian litter. In the meantime these guys seem more than happy to get out of the barn into the fresh air.

Here are the recorded weights for this week: 1088g, 1077g, 1073g, 1059g, 1056g, 983g, 966g and 808g. That’s a total of about 8 kilos (8110g) and overall increase from last week of 2659g. Nice! These kits at six weeks are pretty much the size of some of my smaller, purebred Silver Marten kits at ten weeks!

“Pet” Chickens

IMG_2656I love my chickens and they are all very nice chickens, if I do say so. I currently have one Buff Orpington, one Red Rock (Rhode Island Red/ Barred Rock cross), one Columbian Rock, two Black Copper Marans and two Barred Rocks.

I’ve raised all my current chickens from store-bought chicks, except the two newest additions, the Barred Rocks who were purchased from the Poultry Swap last Sunday.

So far, the Marans were flightiest as chicks, with the Red Rock and the Columbian Rock in second. The Buff was a fairly friendly chick, but if you really want a friendly chicken who will not only tolerate but enjoy being picked up, who you will want to bring in the house, who you will allow out to free range after only two days… Who is basically like a puppy dog… You evidently need to get chickens raised by a lovely little British girl who have been given a kiss goodnight every day of their young lives.

I finally understand the concept of the “pet” chicken. I mean, all my chickens are now very friendly and instantly underfoot when I go in the pen. They’re not scared of me, they know I’m the food machine. But these new chickens are a whole different class of bird. They are just so human-bonded and I couldn’t be more grateful to the awesome future farmer girl who raised and sold them to me. Thank you!

Poultry Swap Day

Well, the rabbits were packed up and trucked off to the swap this morning. As I predicted, there were plenty of admirers but no buyers. I did give out my number to a few people though, which will hopefully translate to some sales later on.

There were lots of things on offer, it was probably the best-attended swap I’ve been to so far, even though it was rainy. I managed to pick up a few excellent new additions to the homestead and only spent a grand total of $56.

My first purchase was something I’ve been wanting for a long time… Homing pigeons. Ok, I did want fantail pigeons, but I needed birds that could occupy the upper quadrant of the chicken pen and fantails are not great fliers. Plus, with homing pigeons you can drive them miles away and let them go and they find their way home. You can’t have that kind of fun with a fantail!

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My five new homers

The second purchase was a pair of chocolate Muscovy ducklings. I know, the last thing I need is more ducklings but I really want the chocolate color, so hopefully they will stay on as breeders. The other, older ducklings will probably all be going to freezer camp at the 12 week mark, around the beginning of August.

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Third purchase was another long-time desire of mine… Barred Rock chickens! Barred Rocks were the breed I wanted first when I moved here, but somehow it never worked out. Today I purchased a young pullet and cockerel pair from a lovely little girl who told me they have been kissed goodnight every day since they were born. They certainly are very friendly birds. I’m going to try making my version of a “No-Crow” collar for the rooster to see if it actually works. It’s just a little fabric collar that goes around the neck and prevents the rooster from getting a full big breath of air to let out a big crow. I’m skeptical but it sure would be awesome to hatch out my own chicken chicks!

My final purchase for $6 was a dozen pastel green Ameraucana hatching eggs. They’ll be going into the incubator with the latest clutch of quail eggs in the next few days. I’m very excited to see what develops!

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Hybrid Kit Weights & Sexing – Week 5

kits 5 wksWeek five already! I decided to sex the kits while I was at it to see who was who. Here are the results: 800g (buck), 755g (buck), 708g (doe), 697g (doe), 674g (doe), 653g (buck), 615g (buck) and 549g (buck). That’s a total weight increase of 1292g from last week. I wish the bigger kits were does, but they may still catch up. I’ll have to keep my eye on them. Both of the reddish-colored kits turned out to be bucks.

I’m planning to bring the older Rex and Silver Marten kits I have for sale to the Oceanside Poultry Swap this Sunday, July 6th. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell a few, but I don’t think rabbits sell very well at these meets, just from personal observation. It can’t hurt though, you never know. It will be my first time selling anything at the Poultry Swap, so that’s very fun. Not sure I would attempt it if I didn’t have my helpful boyfriend and his beautiful truck though. It’s hard getting over a dozen rabbits and their cages into a hatchback!