Second Raised Bed Complete


This middle bed was knocked out more quickly than the first, but the leveling and alignment took way more time.

Now that it’s in, I can see that the grade of the yard next to the fence is higher than the center here, and I’ll have to figure out a strategy for dealing with that. The grade needs to come down a bit anyway to allow more clearance for the bottom of the fence. My preference would be to fill this whole area around the garden beds in with woodchip mulch.

Much of the backyard is a muddy pit right now and major regrading and updating need to be done everywhere. At least the garden beds will be nice and level so I can use them as reference.

Bed two has a deep, rich layer of decomposed woodchips and compost at the bottom of it, and to this I have been adding partly composted rabbit manure and bedding. I’ll try to fill it up with as much as possible since the rats are using this compost pile as a hideout and they need to be evicted. The top six inches of the bed will be chicken pen flooring or finished fish compost.

I’m so glad to finally have this bed done. At last I can plant some new things! I’m planning to put in peas, carrots, mouse melons, johnny jump ups, and maybe a tomato.




Female Red-Tailed Hawk Up Close


This little girl has actually lost most of her tail for now. Luckily she has luxury accommodations and room service for as long as it takes to grow back!


If you ever get a chance to man a redtailed hawk, you’ll understand how serious their talons are. They are strong birds that can grip almost hard enough to crush your hand if they really wanted to.


Here’s a Little Barn Owl


On the glove, to brighten your day! If you ever get a chance to hold one, they weigh next to nothing. I think he weighs about 250 grams if I remember right. I love being able to have him up close so I can admire his intricate feather patterns.


Barn owls are definitely one of the strangest birds I’ve ever met. They can seem a bit deranged, especially when they’re well-fed and display this very menacing behavior where they hold out their wings and rock back and forth, clicking their beaks at you. It’s pretty demonic.


I still quite like them though!

Chicks at 10 Days Old


Well, all the baby chickens are doing great. Nobody has died, although there were a couple of mild cases of pasty butt, which is unusual here. I think the heat lamp may not have been quite low enough in the first couple of days.

They are a very nice batch of chicks, they all come running when I make my “chick, chick, chick” call, and they gather around my hand as though it were a mother hen.

I think you can tell a lot about the adult birds from the way they act as chicks. I’ve had very docile, calm chicks like Buff Orpingtons, and I’ve had very skittish chicks like my Black Copper Marans. Although my adult Maran hen is perfectly friendly now, she’s more interested in chicken things like being at the top of the pecking order and getting the best roost at night and yelling for fermented grain in the mornings. Whereas my Buff Orpingtons were more likely to follow me around while I was gardening and carry on chicken conversations with me.

I have my favorite chick picked out, of course:


You may recall that I hatched out eight Light Brahma/Cochin cross chicks. This one is my favorite. She came out with the same partridge markings as the Welsummers, although the spots on her head are more ornate. She almost looks like a turkey poult to me, she’s surely the biggest of the bunch. I’m calling her “she”, because I’m hoping for a hen. Here’s a top view:



After much online research I was unable to conclude whether Cochins and Brahmas are fast or slow feathering breeds. It seems that even color variation may play a part in which sex feathers out first, so all I know is that I have two fast feathering Cochins, and six slow feathering ones. My favorite chick, as you can see in the photos, is fast feathering. There is also a black Cochin chick who is fast feathering. So it could mean two things, either I have two hens and my favorite is a hen, or I have six hens and my favorite is a rooster. He/she is also one of the most friendly and outgoing chicks out of all of them, so does this lean towards roo? Either way something good will come out of these eight.

Below you can see an example of one of the slow feathering black Cochin cross chicks. You can see that his flight feathers are much shorter, he has almost no tail feathers coming in yet, and even his toe feathering is very slow.


Here is one of the reddish-colored Cochin cross chicks that is also slow feathering. The wings are still just little nubs but the red lacing coming in on the flight feathers and toes looks very nice.


Next up are the Welsummer chicks. Although they came from what I would consider very small pullet eggs, they are big, robust chicks that are pretty cool, calm birds. Welsummers can be sexed by color because they are born with the distinctive partridge pattern, and from what I can tell I seem to have four roosters and eight hens. I like those odds!

Female Welsummer chicks will have a defined dark V shape on the top of the head, a dark brown eye stripe, and two defined dark lines on their back. Here’s a top view photo of a future hen on the left and a rooster on the right.


Here’s a side view of the female chick, you can see the dark eye stripe:


And here’s a side view of the male chick, with a weakly defined eye stripe:


And a pair of females seen from the side and from above:

Last but not least are the three tiny Old English Game chicks. They were all fast feathering and of course I’m hoping for all females. They are growing very slowly compared to the large fowl chicks and I may have to separate them out in the next few weeks, since I use a hanging nipple waterer and everyone has to be able to reach it. They’re so tiny I can’t see that being much of a bother though!



Chickens Have Hatched


Today is day 21, and my chicken eggs have mostly all hatched. I got a 100% hatch rate from my Welsummer eggs, which is great as they were the most expensive. I also got three little black OEG banties, and eight Cochin/Light Brahma crosses. The Cochin crosses are very hefty chicks and they’re so cute with their little fluffy feathered legs and feet.

I just returned home and set them all up with food and water in their brooder. So far they are pretty much just resting and continuing to fluff up. The Welsummers can be sexed by color, and I bought some leg bands today to mark the suspected roos and see how they turn out. The Cochin crosses I will attempt to feather sex after they’re a couple of days old.

So, out of 42 eggs we have 23 live chicks. Everyone looks healthy with straight feet and they all hatched right on time, so I think the incubator conditions were pretty much bang on. Always good to know.



First Raised Bed Populated


Progress on the raised bed garden has been slow and steady. I was able to transplant my leeks, some arugula, my strawberries, some mustard, yellow and red onions, shallots, some chamomile, beets, celery, calendula sprouts and a couple of stray garlics and bok choys out of the ground and into the bed. This now leaves me lots of room to erect raised bed #2.

The first bed has also received some amendments, I added 1kg of crushed eggshells and have been moving the partially decomposed woodchip mulch layer from the former ground-level bed on as a top dressing. The initial fill of soil has settled around three inches lower and it would be a shame to bury all that rich worm-filled media at the bottom of bed number 2.

Everything you see planted in this bed are edibles that overwintered in the ground and are now starting to take off with new growth. I was surprised to see the celery survive and I look forward to lots of it this year, I use it often when making stocks or mirepoix for soups and sauces. The arugula self-seeded as always and I’ve already been eating it for weeks. The leeks are really filling out and I’m looking forward to making them into soup too. I’ll probably also let a few go to seed so I can replant them next year. They are expensive to buy in the grocery store and keep in the ground year-round.

My strawberries never fared well on the ground for some reason, and I kept losing plants. I maybe got 6 strawberries out of them last year. They were the first transplants into the new bed and despite my concern that the soil would be too “hot” from being taken directly out of the chicken pen, it seems that they are very happy now and have been putting out fresh new growth. Please let’s have a real strawberry harvest this year!

An unexpected benefit of the raised bed is more light can reach the plants. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before, but I’ll take all the extra light I can get. This bed is right next to the coop, so it’s a bit shadier than the other two will be.

I also leveled out the pathway between the beds and lined it with old paper feed bags. My hope is to eventually cover this with a nice thick layer of coarse wood chips to provide good drainage and weed control.  If I can’t get a free wood chip delivery I’ll make do with straw. In the meantime, the feed bags can start to decompose. I have about a million of them taking up space and it’s great to finally be able to use them.


Some of the damp bags were even beginning to colonize with wispy white strands of mycelium. I guess if I don’t use them all up in landscaping projects, I can set up a stack of them to grow mushrooms!


Over Five Pounds at Nine Weeks!?


Black triple hybrid buck, 5.31lbs!

When I started with rabbits a few years ago, I was getting very poor grow out rates. I attribute this to the fact that I was trying to stick to purebreds. My Californian rabbits, which are considered to be a top meat breed, probably have the worst grow out rate of all. I don’t think I’ve ever waited long enough for them to reach 5 lbs, and I’ve let them grow for probably up to 16 weeks in the past. The Rexes are a bit better, but are maybe 4lbs at 10 weeks at the most. The purebred bunnies sell well, but they don’t make good meat stock by themselves.

So I’ve been hybridizing. I have only one Creme d’Argent rabbit, and so she has always been bred to either a Californian or a Rex buck. It was easy to see that the resulting hybrid offspring were putting on weight faster, and when she finally had a doe that hit the 5 pound mark at 10 weeks I kept her. That doe is Caraway and she’s half Creme and half Rex. She is 10.5lbs fully grown and looks like a big brown cottontail. Total sweetheart.

After she reached six months of age she was mated to Scorch, my big Californian buck, since she had to be paired with a third breed in order to maintain F1 hybrid vigor. Her first litter only produced five kits, which were a mix of browns and blacks.


Dark triple hybrid brown buck

These kits have grown so fast I almost can’t believe it, they were nine weeks old on Monday and I weighed them today (Wednesday). The bucks’ weights were 1961g (4.32lbs), 2050g (4.52lbs), 2263g (4.99lbs), and 2410g (5.31lbs)!


Lighter triple hybrid brown buck

There is only one doe in this litter, a dark brown/black girl. She also happens to be the largest in the litter at 2418g, or 5.33 pounds! That’s just unheard of for a rabbit barely over nine weeks old in my experience.


Black triple hybrid doe

Day 13: Candling Eggs


Today is day 13 of my chicken egg incubation, and I decided to take a few minutes to candle and check fertility. I do this by turning off the lights and using a high-powered LED flashlight held up against the eggs to check for a large dark mass and veins, which is the developing chick inside.

I’m happy to report that all 12 of my expensive Welsummer eggs seem to be fertile and developing well. They’re harder to see into because the shells are so dark, so hopefully I’m right about that.

I did find that six of the Old English Game eggs and seven of the Cochin/Light Brahma were duds. I had been wondering if the OEG eggs with the mottling that looked a little bit like wet paper or moisture seepage through the shell would develop, and it turns out they did not. I’ll be careful not to incubate eggs showing this mottling from now on.

Above you can see the rejects that came out of the incubator and are destined to be dog food. We’re now down to 29 eggs due to hatch in eight more days. Stay tuned!

Part 1: First Big Chicken Hatch – Day 1