DIY Swarm Trap/Nuc Box

DSC_0004.JPG

When I moved here, the garage contained a waterlogged, rotten old plywood workbench that I ripped out right away. It was super gross, but there were still a few pieces of wood that looked salvageable. I let it dry out really well and was able to turn what was left into two lovely little nuc boxes!

Since I don’t have any nucleus colonies to house in them right now, I’ve set them up as swarm traps. They each contain five medium frames that have been worked on by my bees last year (so they smell good to scout bees), and a lure, which is just a drop or two of lemongrass oil on a q-tip, in a small plastic bag.

They’re a bit small to be ideal swarm traps at 20 litres, as bees prefer a volume of about 40 litres (the size of a deep brood box), but it can’t hurt to try! Ideally, you want them in a sunny location at least ten feet up off the ground. I check mine every day and I love that I can make something useful out of something that seemed destined for the burn pile! I’ll post the exact measurements and instructions on how to build this nuc box at a later date, stay tuned!

The Broody Banty Experiment

DSC_0030.JPG

I have a very determined little hen who has her heart set on hatching out some chicks this year. I don’t really need more chicks right now, but I’d like to see if she can do it.

All the chicks I’ve raised so far have been by artificial brooder and I’d love to watch a mama hen take on the job. I think it would be even more entertaining to see a bantam hen hatch out full sized chicks and boss them around even when they get bigger than her!

There’s always a market for chicks and layers around here so I think I would probably end up selling them unless I see one or two I like. I don’t want any expensive eggs for this, just some barnyard crossbred mutts are fine. I think I’ve located a source of fertilized eggs at $10 per dozen and that seems a fair price.

DSC_0031.JPG

First I’ve got to make sure she’s really serious about this. I know she’s serious but she has to be SERIOUS. For this, I’ve brought out the big guns. Fake eggs. These are some ceramic eggs I ordered off eBay some time ago and they look and feel exactly like real ones. I set them up in the nestbox for her and she was on them in minutes. Once she’s good and settled for a few days I’ll move her in the evening to a small seperate pen with everything she needs and give her the real deal. Then we wait!

DSC_0032.JPG

 

 

Watering Your Bees

DSC_0067.jpg

Bees need water! It’s not so much of an issue now in the spring, but in the heat of summer you don’t want them visiting your neighbors’ swimming pools and bird baths. Not everyone is fond of them!

It’s instinctual for us to want to provide clean, fresh water for our pets and livestock, but bees don’t like it that way. For whatever reason, they seem to prefer stagnant water full of debris that has been sitting around for as long as possible. Perhaps that makes it easier to smell?

We do know why they appreciate debris, it’s so they can get a drink without drowning. A perfect solution to your thirsty bee problem is a bowl full of pebbles, moss and leaves, woodchips, or a combination of the above. It’s a good idea to get it in place now so the bees can learn where it is by the time they really need it. If you leave it in a place where rainwater can replenish it, all the better.

Weeding the Easy Way – Let Chickens Do It

DSC_0028.JPG

I do a lot of container gardening, and every year my containers sprout tons of annoying weeds before I have a chance to plant them up. I was looking at the mess in dismay until I remembered I had some girls who would be happy to weed for me. The chickens!

Now I just dump my containers in the pen and by the next day they are completely weed-free and have usually also been tilled quite nicely. Is there anything chickens can’t do?

3 Years, 1 Bucket – Fermented Grain for Chickens

DSC_0035.JPG

So, how does my fermented grain bucket look after 3 years of being refilled and never completely cleaned out or changed? Great!

Above you can see my 5 gallon bucket ready to be restocked. There’s about a gallon of liquid left and a few inches of grains. I always refill it before it gets too depleted because I want the goodness of all that mature bacteria to get spread around as much as possible.

Every morning my ducks get one scoop and my chickens and pigeons get two heaping scoops from this bucket and believe me, it’s the highlight of their day. They know they’ve been bad if I make them wait for it (like when they try to wake me up early for it by screaming bloody murder) and I like that I can continue to feed it all winter long and provide them with at least some type of “living” food when the plants are dead and gone.

DSC_0037.JPG

I add supplements every other time I refill the grains. I put in a good 2-3 TBSP each of kelp powder (the cheap stuff for gardens), garlic powder, cayenne powder and turmeric. I get these all for very cheap at a bulk store. Then they usually get two number 2 scoops of whole corn, two scoops of whole wheat, and a smaller scoop each of whole barley and black oil sunflower seeds. If I have other things lying around like wild bird seed that the wild birds don’t care for, I’ll dump that in too. The only thing I advise against using is pelleted or crumbled chicken feed. I tried that once and I got mold on top.

Everybody’s favorite is the (most expensive) corn and that gets gobbled up first. Least favorite and cheapest is the barley, but they eat it eventually. I always do my refill in the evening so the grains have a chance to absorb the liquid. I love the smell of the contents of the bucket, it reminds me of really good salad dressing!

 

 

Eggshells Instead of Bone Meal for the Garden

DSC_0009.JPG

Plants need calcium, especially things like tomatoes which will suffer from blossom end-rot without sufficient amounts.

I save all my eggshells and my birds generate about 5 to 10 pounds worth per year. I dry them, crush them and every spring I spread them all over my gardens. Today was eggshell-spreading day! There are usually none left over, but when there are they get fed back to the birds who love them.

DSC_0006.jpg

I really appreciate that I don’t have to purchase bone meal, which is a by-product of the beef industry. It’s nice using fertilizers that are generated right here on the property and it saves me money. I don’t bother crushing them to a powder, I just do the best I can and they decompose over time.

It’s a myth that eggshells will prevent slugs in your garden. Tests have shown that they actually attract them! If slugs are a concern for you, turn your eggshell into the soil so they’re covered. I don’t bother with this because my ducks eat most of the slugs around here and I like the way the shells brighten things up.

DSC_0073.JPG

 

We Have Mason Bees!

DSC_0005.jpg

This year we are adding mason bees to the homestead. A good friend has gifted me with four tubes of bees and their house is ready and waiting. Once daytime temperatures are stable at around 13 degrees Celcius (55 degrees F), I will place them outside to hatch. For now, they are hibernating in the fridge.

They will require nectar sources nearby as well as a mud source to lay the next generation of bees once they emerge. We definitely have the mud, but not a lot of flowers yet, so until conditions are perfect, we wait.

 

Yes, it’s Safe to Use Advantage on Chickens

DSC_0023.JPG

This is a topic I’ve found it hard to find a straight answer on… Is Advantage topical flea treatment for dogs and cats safe for use on chickens?

The answer is yes. I have a Dorking hen who had been acting sluggish and had a scaly leg mite problem for quite awhile that wasn’t responding to natural treatments (diatomaceous earth and oil dips). I was worried about her and she hadn’t started laying yet this spring, so I decided to test out the treatment.

I wouldn’t recommend this treatment except as a last resort, but it does work! I gave her a 0.4ml dosage which is appropriate for her weight (0 -10lbs), administered to the back of her neck under her feathers. Within days, she had perked up and her sore legs began to heal. She even started laying! I did not eat her eggs for fear of contamination until a four week period had passed, but I have been giving them to my dogs and cats with no ill effects.