Tag Archive | american chinchillas

Spring goings ons

I finally think that Spring might be coming to Baltimore.  We are going to have a night this week close to freezing, but Spring is really trying to push through.  We have been busy!  Unfortunately busy means that I do not have as much time to write, so I am going to try and bring everyone up to date on the farm. We have many new inhabitants of the farm, 60 some I think.  I hate to say that I have lost count!  We have our “meat birds”, that we raise out for our family’s year supply of chicken.  This year we are raising Rainbow Reds.  These are a pasture chicken that does not have as much breast meat as the Cornish Crosses but still produces a 5 pound roasting bird.  We also have a couple Cornish Crosses, because they were on sale at Tractor Supply.  That store is dangerous in the Spring!  Total we have 30 meat birds. They are scheduled to go to butcher the middle of May.

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Laying hens:  Our current laying flock is getting to be of the age that it is time for them to be soup.  We have 14 birds and we are lucky if we get 7 eggs.  We have had 3 become egg bound in the last month and a half.  I hate to see them suffer and I really hate to waste the meat.  So we prefer to butcher them before they start to have problems, this way nothing goes to waste.  We keep debating whether all 14 are headed to the soup pot, or if we are going to try and wean out the ones that are still laying.  That decision is still up in the air, I hate to go a couple months with no eggs.   We are raising out new laying hens.  They are 8 weeks old right now.  We chose to raise 15 Ameraucana Chickens this year.  These birds will lay blue or green colored eggs.  I am excited to get the colored eggs, but I have to say I am not impressed with the breed so far.  These birds are very skidish.  We have never had birds that we could not easily pick up. We handle these birds twice a day and they are still very skidish.  When you stick your hand in to change the water or to feed them they freak out, flying against the walls and screaming.  The meat birds that we are raising are so much calmer than these birds and those we don’t pick up often.  Hopefully they will calm down soon.  We also have 6 random laying chickens from Tractor Supply that we used for a Urban Farming presentation. I told you that store was dangerous. They are incredibly friendly and do not see why chickens need to be kept outside, when the living room is so warm and full of kids that feed them leftovers from lunch and dinner.  They were moved out to the brooding barn this week, much to their dismay. wpid-ncm_0033.jpg Ducks:  Yes I said ducks.  These were purchased just for my Urban Farming presentation, for the 100% cute factor. One is a yellow Pekin Duckling and the other is a Black Runner Duckling.  I had already found a farm that would take them after the presentation.  This farm even had a pond for them to go live in.  Well, I am a complete softly and have fallen head over heals in love with this crazy ducks.  They still live in the living room, because the kids can not bear the idea of them being outside.   They eat their breakfast of greens while taking their morning swim in the bathtub.  They are then dried off with towels by the kids while watching morning cartoons.  The ducks have imprinted on my 6-year-old daughter and it is cute beyond words.  They follow her everywhere.  She is diligently working on teaching them their ABC’s and 123’s.  She feels all ducks should be properly educated.  Needless to say, the ducks that were never meant to live at my farm, now have names and are not going anywhere, anytime soon, except to play house in the backyard with my daughter. wpid-ncm_0001.jpg wpid-ncm_0122.jpg That is all for new animals.  We still have the rabbits.  We have 3 does still available for sale, after we sell those does we will not breed again still August.  We will maintain our breeding stock of 3 bucks and 3 does.  These rabbits are absolutely amazing.  We took one of our youngest does out to the Urban Farming presentation.  There was 50 plus people that wanted to love on her and touch her.  She loved every minute of it.  She was passed around, flipped upside down and petted for two hours.  She never ran from the kids, she let everyone one of them love her.  The only rabbits I have ever owned is American Chinchilla Rabbits, so I just assumed that this is how ever rabbit acts.  I was amazed at how many people came up to me and told me stories about how grumpy their rabbits were.  If you are looking for a rabbit, American Chinchillas are the best way to go, they are fabulous rabbits. wpid-ncm_0014.jpg Fish:  Our tilapia are finally outside!   The weather has finally become warm enough for them.  Right now we have put them in the sump tank.  I have kept the smallest of the fish in the house, so that they can get the food they need to grow. Veggies:  We have started our seeds and we have some of our over winter veggies that are growing well.  I will do another post about veggies so that I don’t go over 1,000 words in one post…. yes I know I need to post more often, I will work on it. Big BIG things are happening on our Farm.  I can’t wait to share all the details about it in the next week our so.

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Baby Bunnies

Today began like any other day, I made breakfast and got my husband ready to go to work.  It was cold this morning and lightly snowing.  I asked him to bring in a load of wood and to check on our expecting momma rabbit, Aurora.  He returned from the yard with 4 ice cold baby bunnies. In the past I would have just said that they were dead and put them in the trash.  However, since the last time we had cold babies,  I have been told over and over again a baby is not dead until it is warm and dead.  So I did what any normal person would have done and stuffed the bunnies in my bra until I could get the heating pad warmed up.

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I folding the heating pad in half and put them inside like a taco.  I rubbed the outside of the heating pad trying to stimulate them. About 5 minutes passed and I noticed that one of the babies was starting to wiggle.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had no idea when these babies were born or how long they had been outside of the nesting box.  I never expected them to be alive!  It took about 20 minutes, but three out of the four babies came to after being rubbed and warmed up.

My husband brought a large tote with pine shavings, hay, the nesting box, food, water bowl and Aurora into the house.  We are getting a winter storm today and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on these precious babies.  Aurora is one of my proven does.  She does great in the summer, she is the rabbit that lives in my garden.  She is slightly spoiled rotten, she lives in the two story hutch with a nesting area that does not require a nesting box.  During the summer, she never drags any babies out of the nesting area and she is a wonderful momma.  In the winter, we move her out of the garden and into the Bunny Barn.  She does not like this idea.  In the Bunny Barn she struggles with babies.  I think that the nesting boxes are just not the right size for these large breed rabbits.  She pulls fur and makes a great nest, but always ends up with babies outside the box. Last winter she did not have any successful winter litters.  We will keep her inside the house just long enough to make sure the babies are doing OK and then I will take her back outside, hopefully by then the storm will have passed.

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Bringing Aurora in the house was a shock to her so I helped her feed the babies the first time.  I am hoping that she will calm down and be able to feed them herself, but right now I know those babies are very hungry and can use some cuddle time with Mom.  I flipped Aurora on her back and she let the babies lay on her stomach and nurse.  It was very cute.   I am thankful for the three babies that we were able to save.  I think this litter will always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday Success

I am very happy to announce that I have finally tattooed a rabbit. If you have been following my blog you will see that I have really struggled with tattoos.  I mean that it has become something that has haunted me.  I sell rabbits never knowing if the tattoo was actually going to work.  I am very grateful that everyone I have sold to has been very understanding of my deficiencies.  I have purchased multiple tattooing tools, still no luck.  Finally, I changed ink and eureka I have a tattoo.  I purchased Speed Ball India Ink Super Black from amazon.  Another rabbit breeder suggested it to me.  I am so thankful that it worked.  I know it seems like a simple task but is was really frustrating.

Now that we successfully tattooed this little buck we were able to separate him from his Momma and sisters.  We have several rabbits that are for sale and whenever I worry about running out of cages, buyers show up, so I am patiently waiting for that to happen again.

Today is the shortest day of the year, winter solstice, time to plant garlic.  I keep garlic cloves in my refrigerator, I know that they will last in the pantry as well, but in the refrigerator they last for a year or more.  These are cloves are from 2013 so I am really hoping they grow well, they had started to sprout in the frig.  I planted them in a deep bed of straw and rabbit manure.  I hope this will give them the protection they need from the hard freezes but still allow them to grow large bulbs.  wpid-img_20141221_154243.jpg

We are continuing to work like elves on our homemade Christmas gifts.  Our family is really simplifying our Christmas traditions and the one thing that we all agreed on, is that we do not need as many gifts.  My kids are truly amazing, but that is a book for a different day.  Anyway, we decided to have two gifts, one store bought and one homemade.  All of the gifts I am giving this year are sewn.  Below there are pictures of one of the puppets I am making for my son and the felt pretend pie I made for my daughter.  I hope they enjoy them.  I am unable to post what I am making for my husband because he occasionally reads my blog and I do not want to give it away.

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On a sad note we lost another chicken to a hawk. We are hoping that early in Spring when the ground thaws we will build a new chicken yard.  We need one that has wire on the top, we found bird netting is horrible to work with.  We would like to have a chicken yard and rabbit grow out pen together.  I have heard that the rabbits and the chickens enjoy each others company.  When the rabbits where in with the chickens in the past we did have larger litters, we will have to see if there is truly any connection between the two.

On a happy note, we are looking for some land to rent so that next year we can not only grow more of our food, but also food for our friends that really would like more of our veggies.  A couple of CSA families is my dream for the future.  I would like to eventually have a larger property and support my love of farming with a handful of CSA subscriptions.

That is all for now.    Merry Christmas to you all from Our Family to Yours.

Bunny Barn

Our three bunnies had been living in bunnies hutches in the chicken yard.  The bird netting above the chicken yard and lack of storage made our daily chores with the rabbits and the chickens a little frustrating. That bird netting has worked great to keep the hawk from eating our birds, however it has almost decapitated me EVERYDAY.    We had been putting the bedding, feed and hay in the basement.  I knew it would be just a matter of time before we would get mice.   We had been brainstorming about what we were going to do long term, thinking about building a shed. 

On the way home from strawberry picking we stopped by a road side Amish shed place. We just wanted to brain storm and see what was available.  After talking to the salesman we found out that they had used pre-built sheds for very reasonable prices.  We bought a 10 x 12 pre-built shed.  It would be our Bunny Barn. 

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Inside the Bunny Barn we built two level bunny cages on two of the walls.  We have wire cages with a slanted shoot underneath.  The shoot empties into a rain gutter and the gutter empties into buckets that are than emptied into the compost bins.  The Bunny Barn holds eight 3 ft x 3 ft rabbit cages.  The slanted shoots under the cages are built out of plywood and covered with plastic vinyl.  We have learned that the plastic vinyl is not a good idea, we will be replacing it with another material in the future, but the bunnies need to start earning their keep first.  I got the idea for the rabbit cage set up from http://willowcreekfarm.wordpress.com/.  They have a similar set up in their barn. 

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One of the best things about the Bunny Barn is that all of our supplies is not now in one place and close to the rabbits and the chickens where we use it.  It saves so many trips back into the house to get feed or all the other supplies I forget when I try and do my morning chores before my coffee has had time start my brain.

It also makes working with the rabbits in the rain or in the dark a lot more enjoyable. I am able to sit out with them and groom them with out having to worry about the dogs or the crazy bird netting that drove me crazy everyday!

 

 

The first weekend in August, Love it!

The weather has been amazing for August, which has been wonderful and has allowed us to be very productive.  

Our bunnies are getting big and it is time to wean them off their mommies. We have turned our unused chicken coop into a bunny nursery.  There is enough room for all 15 of the babies to be able to run and play until they are full grown.  We will be removing the bunnies from their mothers gradually over the next week.  So far it is going great and everyone is enjoying the extra space and room at the water bowl.

The kids picked the rabbits that they are going to be showing for 4H.  These rabbits will get a lot more one on one time than the other rabbits.  We want them to be used to being handled as well as used to noises and other animals.  Everyone in the family is enjoying the extra cuddle time.

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This weekend we also worked on the aquaponics system.  Building it is taking longer than we really wanted it to, we were hoping to have it up and running over a year ago, but the supplies was more expensive than we thought.  We are also struggling with getting ideas from our heads, to paper, and than to final product.  We are learning communication skills that are beneficial to our marriage.  I think the important part is we are still married and still making progress on the system, both wins in my book.  We are now at the plumbing stage, very frustrating, but hoping to take small steps everyday and keep moving closer to our goal.  I will be starting seeds indoors this week for the system, so it needs to be up and running in less than two weeks.  I have confidence that we are that close!

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This weekend I also experimented with making gluten-free pop tarts.  I used the pie crust recipe from my last post and filled them with the jams that I have made this spring and summer.  I baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until golden. They are amazing.  I can’t wait to bake some cinnamon ones!  It was crazy easy and super tasty.  We have already eaten them all and I need to make another batch.  

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As far as harvesting veggies goes, we are still going strong with peppers.  The tomatoes have slowed down quite a bit and so have the cucumbers.  We had our first ever cantaloup today, it was wonderful.  We should have let it sit on the counter a day to soften even more, but we ate it in one sitting so it must not have been that bad.  

Time for me to go have my tea and relax for the night.  I hope everyone has a great week.