Trials of a Farmer with a Broken Foot

It’s been four days since I broke my foot. In that time period I have hopped, rolled, crawled, balanced, hoisted, scooted and cried from frustration. Let me tell you, a broken foot is not just an major inconvenience, it is a total lifestyle change.

Do crutches look easy to use? They are for the first ten minutes. I learned fast that you are not supposed to bear weight under your armpits and trying to will hurt you and possibly cause nerve damage. This means all of the strength needs to come from your hands, arms, shoulders and chest. Areas of my body that could probably have used a little work. Well they’re getting it.

On day two of my break, the rest of my body hurt way worse than the busted foot, which felt fine other than being very swollen and bruised, even though I was not on painkillers. My good leg was a tight ball of stress, my abs were so wrecked it hurt to cough and I was totally exhausted. Many times I found myself hungry or thirsty but did not have the energy to crutch myself the thirty feet to the kitchen. Not to mention I couldn’t carry anything back to my desk where I was set up anyway. Any eating or drinking had to be done standing at the kitchen counter.

All of this is nothing considering I have a small farm to take care of by myself. Usually my daily chores take about an hour, and consist mainly of feeding and watering the rabbits and poultry and collecting eggs. Outdoor rabbit tractors also need to be moved to fresh grass daily. The first day I managed to get the chores done to my satisfaction, even though the tractors had to stay put. It took me almost two hours and felt like I had just run a marathon. The only way to carry things was to abandon crutches and hop on one foot. This of course also entails hopping back to wherever you left your crutches, trying not to trip and fall on your broken foot. Sigh. Much spillage and panting ensued.

My life before the broken foot was very full, I was busy all day long running back and forth. Did I mention I also have a small business to run in addition to the farm? Well I do. Luckily I can still sit at a desk and stand at a workbench for short periods so I can complete these tasks with some competence.

I am very lucky to have help. This past weekend my lovely boyfriend came over and did absolutely everything for me. He cleaned my entire house, did all my chores, took me out to eat when I was hungry and fetched me whatever I required. He set me up with jugs of water in each room and even left me his iPad so I could play my silly games in bed. But alas, dear boyfriend had to go back Sunday night for a week of working on the Mainland.

Just the thought of getting down the back steps today and tackling the barn chores now tires me out. They’ll have to get done one way or another but I’m not looking forward to it. Yesterday I bought an expensive walking cast and the doctor at the clinic seemed to think I could walk on it right away. “You can do away with those!” he said pointing to my crutches. I was relieved, but also skeptical. Turns out I just can’t put my full weight on it so soon and I don’t want to either. The cast still helps a lot though with keeping the foot rigid and keeping the swelling down.

The doctor at Emergency didn’t really give me any helpful info at all. He said I should get a walking cast when the swelling went down and gave me a Dilaudid. Then he told me I could go home and walked away even though I was sitting in a locked wheelchair in the middle of an empty waiting room. I had to twist around, depress the lock on the handle of the chair and concurrently inch myself backwards back to reception with my good foot where the nurse said “Wow you’re coordinated! Those chairs aren’t designed for patients to move themselves.” I told her I figured that out already. She looked at my bare foot and smiled. “Not broken after all?” I told her yes, it was broken but the doctor sent me home. She looked confused and said “He didn’t even give you a splint, nothing at all?” I said no and asked if she would please call me a cab.

Considering I pay about $85 a month for healthcare and haven’t been to the doctor in maybe 5 years, I was pretty underwhelmed by the service at the hospital. They didn’t even have a pair of crutches to loan me so I could get home.

Is it weird that I’ve been training my wolf mix to pick up household objects and hand them to me for the last few months? Was I anticipating this accident somehow? Too bad he can’t take out the garbage.

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The Easiest and Best Coturnix Quail Brooder

Many designs for chick brooders exist out there, but most of them are high-maintenance, hard to clean, or labor intensive to construct.

I’d like to share with you the best design I’ve come up with for brooding very small quail chicks (or chicken chicks or ducklings). The parts are cheap and easy to put together and clean, the water stays crystal-clear without drowning incidents or changing five times a day. The chicks stay healthy and there is a minimum of care involved.

DSC_0003You start with a standard Rubbermaid bin, the one foot tall size works best. Remove the lid and store it. This gives you a nice solid-walled brooder that will protect the tiny chicks from drafts which can chill them. If you decide at some point that raising chicks is really not for you, you still have a usable bin.

Line the bottom of the bin with shop towels (as seen here) or paper towels. Anything slicker, even newspapers, will cause traction problems and you could end up with spraddle-legged chicks who will not survive. Place a shallow saucer of food and also sprinkle some food around on the floor of the brooder so the babies can easily learn to peck at the pieces.

DSC_0019Nutrition is very important. Quail grow incredibly fast and will run into problems if fed incorrectly. I use a 26% gamebird crumble throughout their lives and they do very well on it. You don’t need to pulverize the crumbles, the chicks will find pieces small enough to eat.

DSC_0002Now you need to create a mesh top for your brooder to provide ventilation, keep quails in and prying fingers and paws out. I created this top easily using a piece of 1″ by 1/2″ galvanized wire mesh, normally used for rabbit cage flooring.

Cut a piece that is 26 inches long by 20 inches wide. Remove a 2″ square from each corner so you can bend the sides to form an overhanging lip. Use a piece of 2 x 4 lumber as a guide and a hammer to bend your sides up at the seam and fasten the corners together with small hog rings or j clips.

DSC_0006DSC_0005Next, cut out two 5″ by 1″ slots in the center of each short side to accommodate the handles. If you bent your sides and corners neatly, everything should fit perfectly.

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Brooder with drinker flap open

Next you want to cut out a square in one corner to accommodate your drinker or waterer. You will need to customize the size of the opening to fit whatever container you use. Then cut a square that is 1″ larger on three sides to fit over the opening like a flap. Connect at the hinge with more hog rings.

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Brooder with drinker flap closed

Now you need to construct your waterer. Mine is made from a small plastic honey specimen bucket with a lid, but you can use any small plastic container with a lid such as a clean, large yogurt container. As long as you can fit your hand inside to install the nipples it should work. If it has a handle, even better. If not, you may have to add one with a piece of wire or cord.

I find that two nipples are sufficient for the amount of quail that can fit in this small brooder. Make sure you buy high quality nipples as the cheap ones may leak and/or fail. These ones cost me over $8 each, but they’re worth it. Install your nipples carefully and test to make sure they are working and not leaking. To install, just drill a hole slightly smaller than the nipple and push it in tightly. Always retest your nipples when refilling to make sure they are still functional.

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Chick drinker with nipples installed

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Drinker supported by mesh lid

Your drinker should fit snugly over the mesh and hang inside the brooder. When the  chicks are very small you will need to adjust the height, beginning with having the nipples only an inch or so above the floor. To do this you will place the drinker inside the brooder and hang it from the mesh at the suitable height with S hooks.

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Drinker height adjusted for newborn chicks

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With safety flap closed

Now you just need to add a heat lamp overhead at the correct height and fill up your waterer. You can see my heat lamp has a metal safety grille which needs to be removed as the chicks need the bulb itself quite close to the mesh top for the first week or so.

The chicks learn very quickly where the water is and it won’t need to be refilled for at least a few days and up to a week. The water will stay sparkling clean with almost zero maintenance. An added benefit is it provides a small shaded area for overheated chicks.

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Ready for new chicks!

This size brooder will hold approximately 60 quail chicks (at an absolute maximum) for the first couple of weeks. The chicks will tell you if they are too hot or too cold so pay attention to the noise they make and their activity. Make sure the heat lamp is not placed directly above the water as chicks don’t like water that is too warm. Also keep it away from the sides of the bin as they may melt.

As the chicks grow and poop, add layers of woodchips (not cedar) or wood stove pellets to the floor and adjust the drinker height accordingly. I don’t clean out my brooder until the chicks are taken out, I just add more bedding as needed.

If you have any more questions about brooding Coturnix Quail chicks, ask me in the comment section below or check out my Coturnix Quail Chick Care Sheet. Happy brooding!

Muscovy Duckling Update

DSC_0006The four ducklings that were born here are almost a month old. They sure look different! They’re living with one of the chocolate ducklings I bought at the Poultry Swap earlier this month. She was being aggressively picked on by the older ducks (and the other chocolate duckling) and much prefers being housed with the younger ones.

They have a nice large corner of the barn to themselves and they get to go outside to bathe and forage every day while I complete my outside chores. If I stand still in one place too long, I’ll soon feel little duck bills tasting my shoes.

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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Nearly Lost One

ImageI woke up this morning after about five hours of sleep, which if you know me, you’ll know is VERY unusual. I like my sleep. Anyway, for some reason I felt compelled to go outside and check on everyone. First thing I did of course was to open the nestbox to check on the new ducklings. First it seemed like no more had hatched, but then I noticed a dark lump buried in the woodchips. It was a fourth duckling. It was cold, still wet and had not fully absorbed his yolk… But almost. His eyes were dry and caked open with sawdust. But he was moving, ever so slightly.

I picked him up and brought him inside where I immersed him in a bowl of warm water up to his neck. After a few minutes, he started to revive. I dunked his head briefly to clean out his eyes and he sputtered a bit but then closed them up properly. I kept him in the water until it began to cool and then put him on a towel under a heat lamp. His breathing was a lot better and he was making feeble attempts to preen himself. In the meantime I went out again and removed the remaining five eggs from underneath the duck. After candling, they all turned out to be bad. Hoping the duck would now leave the nest and take care of her young, I kept an eye on her. She left the nest and the three ducklings followed her. However, once they left the coop the larger ducklings began picking on them immediately. The mother made no attempt to protect them, so I made the decision to transfer them to the brooder. The healthy ducklings began to drink and eat right away and snuggle up next to the rescued duckling who is slowly fluffing up. I guess this solves the problem of how to feed them without all the adults stealing their chick starter. I may try to reintroduce them to their mother in a day or two once they are all doing well, but who knows if such a thing is possible. If not, they’ll just get raised in the brooder.

I think I may need a nap later.

New Baby Muscovy Ducks!

ImageBeing super busy with taxes today meant I got out to feed the animals a little later than usual. As I was feeding the quail I kept hearing a little peeping sound near the older ducklings. I kept looking to see which one was peeping but couldn’t see any lips moving, ha. Was it the quail? It was a peep that was a little out of place.

Suddenly I noticed a little brown ball of fluff beside the duck pool. BABIES! I grabbed the little guy and put him in a safe spot. When I looked into the nestbox, I saw two more ducklings in with mama, so I put him in too.

I’m so excited! These are the first ducklings that have ever been born here. The colors look interesting and I wonder how they’ll turn out. They seem mostly brownish. The drake, their father, is black and their mother looks like pied lilac. I know Muscovy color genetics are fairly specific and you usually only get one or two colors each time. Generally the ducklings will look a lot like the parents although there are exceptions. You can see what I mean here: http://www.muscovyduckcentral.com/genetics.html

Now I just have to figure out how to feed them chick starter without everyone else eating it all first!

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Muscovy Ducklings at Six Weeks

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The ducklings have been with us for for almost two weeks now and are settling in very well. Today, much of the coop floor is being excavated by the hard-working boyfriend and we’re going to lay at least a foot of woodchips down. This should help cut down on the mud. Bonus is that all the manure-rich material that was dug out went straight into my tomato and tomatillo beds.

If all goes as planned, we’ll have more Muscovy ducklings hatching out the beginning of July. It’s going to be very ducky around here!

Bees and Ducks

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Went to a delightful Bee Club picnic today with my fabulous boyfriend and had my first in-person look at the inside of a working beehive. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in the center of a buzzing cloud of bees. It shouldn’t feel safe, and yet it does. It’s an amazing calm feeling. I was also the only person to get stung today, right on the top of my head when a bee got stuck in my topknot. In a way it was a relief and there’s an aspect of it that feels almost therapeutic.

I picked up some fantastic items at the fundraiser auction, some perennial broccoli starts and some seed grown, five year old trilliums. The two dozen fresh eggs I donated in a red wire basket were picked up for $10 by a charming Croatian woman who gave me a complete rundown on Linden trees, another hot auction item. Much good food, home-brewed mead and sunburns were enjoyed by all.

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We returned home just in time to complete a poultry trade. Two downtown Muscovy ducks and their seven ducklings were dropped off in exchange for one Black Copper Maran hen. Great deal!

Duck social dynamics are so interesting to watch. These new ducks are looking a bit ragged, but they seem very friendly and it will be lots of fun watching them grow up. I love ducks.

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Wood Duckling Update

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Well, we’ve had little Woody for three days now. The first day he wouldn’t eat. He spent 100% of his time trying to escape. I think he tried to push himself through every single opening of the cage he was in at least a million times. He is one very determined little duck.

Wood Ducks are perching ducks so they have claws like Muscovies. This means that they are escape artists. Woody can also jump about three feet straight up into the air. I considered putting him in my solid-walled brooder, but I wanted him on wire for cleanliness since I’m wet brooding him.

I was lucky to have gamebird starter already on hand, since that’s what I feed my quail. A bit of research seemed to show that that would be best for him, however he didn’t seem the least bit interested in trying it. I finally had an eureka moment when I decided to mix the crumbles with water and place them in a shallow saucer. About ten minutes later, I peeked downstairs to see him happily eating away. That was a joyful moment.

So far he’s been an incredibly feisty little wild duck. He hisses at the cats with his beak gaping and charges at them. He swims in his little pool and preens himself. He basks in the sunshine during the day.

He’s become a lot friendlier in just the few days he’s been here. He no longer frantically tries to escape and seems to like it when I come to talk to him. According to what I’ve read, if he’s a boy he will ultimately fly south for the winter and probably not return, but if he’s a female she will return to us every year to raise her young. I’m now conflicted as to whether I’m hoping for a female or a male. The male has heart-stoppingly beautiful plumage, but won’t stay. The female is more drab, but will return. Interesting trade off.