Tag Archive | winter

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.

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An Eggstavagansa

We are having egg issues!  We currently own 17 laying hens.  Let me repeat that… we own 17 egg laying hens and yesterday when we collected eggs, there was 1.  How do 17 chickens who are only a year or two old only produce one egg? 

Our numbers normally drop in the winter, but they have never dropped this bad, over the last week we have collected just over two dozen eggs.  That is 24 eggs in a week.  We should be getting at least a dozen a day!  I am perplexed.  Normally, we sell at least 5 dozen eggs a week. That is really helpful in covering the cost of the addition chickens, that we raise specifically for egg sales. It would be really great to get egg production back.

During the winter chickens do not produce as many eggs because their bodies are using those calories to stay warm.  We have been increasing their feed and supplementing feed with extra compost and pumpkins that we have collected.  They are enjoying the extra treats but they are still not producing.  They are running low on crushed shells so I will get more of that today.  I also have been occasionally giving them sunflower seeds as scratch grains, I will increase that as well as add some cracked corn to their diet. 

We will be also adding lights to our chicken coop.  I will put a light in the night coop where they sleep and in the covered area where they can get out of the rain.  We have had some really rainy, over cast day and I am wondering if they are not getting the light that they need. 

I hate to force them to lay, I know that their bodies need a break, but this is a little extreme.  The decrease in egg production as been going on for about 2 1/2 months.  We have still been able to get at least 5 dozen to be able to sell.  This week I had to tell my last regular egg customer that I did not have any eggs for them.  I do not want to lose them, if they think that they are not going to be able to get eggs from me they will go somewhere else. 

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Since we have been talking about chickens and eggs so much around here the last couple of weeks, we have been trying to figure out what the plan is for our flock in the New Year.   We know that over the course of the year we will be raising 48 chickens for meat.  We are going to do it in two batches, the first in yearly March and the second in July.  We have learned in the past that is not a good idea to raise chickens near hunting season, there is no one to help process them.  We are also going to be at least adding an addition 6 to our flock.  I would love to get 2 dozen eggs a day.  That would cover what I want to sell as well as I want to make our own mayo from now on. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you and your family a Happy New Year.

Winter aquaponics

Like most of the country we woke up to very cold temps. We prepared the chickens, the rabbits, cut firewood, sealed up the house and checked on the garden but we were not prepared in the greenhouse. We had a grow light on thinking that would put off enough heat to keep everything above freezing, well we were wrong. Our main fish tank was fine, the sump and the grow bed was fine, it was the small pvc pipes in the system that froze. 
One of the pvc pipes that froze is the pvc under the bell siphon. This caused the water to back up in the upper grow bed. Luckily my husband caught it in enough time that we did not have any over flow.  He disconnected all the small pvc and brought them inside to defrost. He also used the grill as a temporary great source. We know this is not ideal but it works. In Baltimore we do not have many days with weather like this so I think a temporary solution will work for now. I think some recycled pool noodles will help insulate the small pvc pipes and more grow lights and a small heat source with a thermostat will help. We also have a part of the green house that faces south and does not get much sun. Adding ridged foam insulation for the winter would help as well. There is even insulation that has a foil backing that can reflect the light and heat from the North.
We are glad we have not lost any fish and that the broccoli that is in the system seems perfectly happy. These are lessons learned that will help us improve the system and more forward.

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Winter in Baltimore is always interesting to say the least.  Five years ago we had something crazy like 50+ inches of snow.  Three years ago it was so warm I could have continued to garden all winter.  Most years we have a nice mix of warm days (50’s) and cold days (20 is the low).  This year we have temps that are all over the place.  Tomorrow the high is going to 4 degrees F.  I don’t mind the cold, but it does make taking care of the “farm” a little more difficult.  I am so glad that we do not have to deal with this for months at a time.  To all my family in the mid-west, I just can’t hang, I am an east coast girl.

Our poor chickens.  Year round we have problems with hawks, so our chicken yard has bird netting over it.  I have to say, I personally HATE bird netting.  It comes un-stapled and falls down and then on mornings when I go out there before my coffee I get clothes lined by the sagging bird netting.  The bird netting is horrible.  This last snow finally defeated the dreadful  bird netting. The problem is that the netting was put up in such a way that I can not clean it up by myself. There is way to many supporting ropes and boards that we used to try and hold this horrible stuff up.  It took the chickens all of 3 minutes to get tangled up in it.  Very frustrating…  So I let the chickens out the roam the yard.  Our whole backyard is fenced in with privacy fence, and if it was not for the hawks I would let them roam everyday.  Today the danger of the netting was worse than the danger of the hawks. Well, at least at the time I thought so.  Their feet were turning white from the wet ground and the cold temps.  I ended up locking them up in their covered area, which is not very big.  They are some mad hens. I hope that when my husband gets home we can remove the netting so that tomorrow they stay in the chicken yard, where there is not as much standing water.

I need to get one more cold weather chicken frustration off my chest, I HATE our heated waterer… this thing in horrible.  My advice is to buy a heated disk that you can set a metal waterer on top of, DO NOT buy the plastic white and red heated waterer. The base never stays on, the chickens trip over the cord and unplug it.  When you fill it water gets spilled everywhere and you end up cold, wet and pissed off.  I would love to save everyone that frustration. That is just my two cents, I would love to hear what you use in freezing temps.  OK rant over!

Chickens in the Snow

Chickens in the Snow you can even see the bird netting hanging down!  Horrible stuff!!

As unprepared as we were with the chickens and cold weather, the bunnies are doing fantastic.  The bunny barn is insulated and has heat lamps over the baby kits on nights when it is below freezing.  The waterers are not freezing and everyone seems happy and warm.

I enjoy having the four seasons in Baltimore. It is nice to look at the snow from the window, while sitting in front of the fire place crocheting.  But I really enjoy being in the garden in the spring, summer and early fall.  I enjoy my chores and harvesting the veggies.  I do not mind the heat and I love being in the garden in the still of the morning as the sun first comes up.  Now that we have taken control of the mosquito problem it is even more enjoyable. I do not like doing chores in the freezing rain and really cold temps.

As winter continues I will continue to dream of warmer days and plan out my garden.  Some days I just sit and look at my seeds, it makes me all warm inside.  The nice thing about living in Baltimore is I know winter is only for a season.  Some places have a much longer winter or constant winter, no thank you hon, I will keep my crazy Baltimore weather, it is not predictable, but I know it is always changing.

Winter planning

Yesterday it was 58 degrees here in Baltimore.  I could feel my body aching for time in the dirt.  This kids and I spent a couple hours outside playing with the chickens and tending to the very confused garlic plants.  I planted the garlic around Halloween and they are growing really well.  We have had such a mild fall that I am worried that they are going to die when it gets really cold outside, they have already grown about 4 inches.  I mulched them and covered them with straw, but I might have to add more straw if snow comes.

We have been collecting supplies for the green house, the grow beds and new raised beds. There is going to be another round of lay offs at my husbands job so we are holding off building anything until we find out if he still has a job.  So far we have collected at least half the recycled windows for the green house and we have an arrangement with a local window replacement company to be able to go back anytime for the rest.

In order to satisfy my dirt craving we are going to build a cold frame this weekend using some recycle lumber and the windshield of my old jeep wrangler.  I am going to plant some lettuce, collard greens and cabbage.  I am looking forward to watching things grow.

 

The chicken coop has been insulated for the winter, even though they have not needed it very much.  We have had only about 10 nights below freezing.  The only difference that we have noticed in the chickens with the slightly cooler weather is they are eating about twice as much as they did in the summer.  To help keep the feed cost down I try to let them run around for at least an hour a day in the backyard.  They really enjoy the worms, salamanders and slugs that they find.  We have also started sorting our compost into two bins.  One bin is the tissues, potato peelings, onions and coffee grounds that the chickens can not have.  The other bin is everything else.  The chickens are getting all the other table scraps, which they think is just a wonderful idea.

For extra compost I have been getting scraps from a market in a near by town.  I have also been collecting leaves from friends who I know do not have dogs.  We are in need of as much dirt as possible, especially with 6 new raised beds going in this year.  During my last trip to see some friends in Virgina I came home with a cooler of beef and a rubber maid tote of cow manure. There is some hot composting in our future.

What do you do in your garden during the winter?