Thursday, February 28, 2013

Turkey Tee-Pee

 For some time, now, I have been meaning to put nests into the turkey coop. I have been at a loss, though. I'm not sure what turkey nests are supposed to look like. There really isn't a whole lot of information of turkeys, at least not heritage breeds that actually live long enough to lay eggs and retain the ability to mate. Obviously, they should be bigger than chicken nests... MUCH bigger! I have read that turkeys like to co-nest. I have put it off because of the lack of direction, and the lack of time since I have been working so much. I received my second egg yesterday! This one, too, was laid while on the roost. Thankfully, it wasn't cracked! The time has come to figure out the nest dilemma! Since I have no clear direction, and like always, not a large budget, I decided to think my way through it and use what I have on hand. Wild turkeys nest on the ground, in thickets to hide them and provide protection from predators and the elements. Obviously, being right on the ground wouldn't be preferred because the nest would get wet when it rained, so I made the base out of a pallet. One of my favorite free and very handy things!
 Then it came to me... a tee-pee  Of course! It has to be cone shaped to keep the turkeys from trying to climb on top of it (HOPEFULLY!). I used my handy dandy electric chainsaw (Keegan calls it my little baby weed wacker...) to cut some small branches. It really has turned out to be quite handy and useful. The only issues I have with it is that really small stuff gets hung in between the chain and the base and have to be continuously pulled out, and the battery doesn't last very long. 
Back on task. I set the branches up and made sure they were steady and used some twine that I reclaimed from my tomatoes last summer, to tie them in place. Then I used the next best, free, and very prolific handy dandy material I have around here. Feed Bags! They are coming out of the cracks! I hate throwing them away because they obviously won't degrade any time soon, and I am always finding uses for them. I cut them open, and starting with a layer at the bottom, placed them around the tee-pee and attached them to the limbs and the pallet with a staple gun (another favorite tool of mine!).
 Next I placed another feed bag on the bottom of the tee-pee so that the bedding wouldn't fall through. I filled it with leaves and voila! A turkey tee-pee  I know that it isn't the prettiest thing I have ever made, but I don't think that the turkeys will mind. The best part is: If it doesn't work, I'm not out anything! I still have a perfectly good pallet, the feed bags were really just trash anyway, and may still be reused, and the leaves needed to be put in the coop anyway! Now I just need to wait and watch to see if they ladies get the idea! I can't wait! Tabby was already checking it out when I finished and put them up for the evening!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Finally Got It!

I got my first ever turkey egg today! They have been mating for the last couple of weeks but I was beginning to think I would never get any eggs! I am so excited! Poor girl didn't know any better than to lay it while she was sitting on the roost and it is cracked. I still don't think that it would be any prettier if it were made of gold. Now I need to get an incubator so I can have new sweet baby turkey heads. <3 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Chicks Have Arrived!

I'm not sure what breed this guy is. He is the most curious
of all of the chicks though!
Keegan's Gold Laced Cochin Pullet
Sleepy Babies, don't fall asleep in your food!
Buff Orphington, Cochin, Barred Rock
I believe that if happiness could come in a box, it would look like this! I get completely giddy when I get a box full of chirping fuzzy goodness! I also get super paranoid that something terrible will happen. I had hoped that I would receive my box on my day off, but of course they arrived the day after (on time). That meant that I had to drop my son off at school, run to the feed store to get chick starter, get to the post office to pick up the babies, speed home to get the littles into the brooder before they froze their fuzzy little butts off, and then had to leave and go to work. Of course I had thoughts of brooder lamp fires, over heated chicks, frozen chicks, and drowned chicks all day long. Aside from the one that didn't make the trip, I am happy to say that they all survived my going to work. It is since then that we have had issues. They all seem perfectly healthy, running around, eating, drinking, and then I will wake up to a couple dead. Not sure what the problem is... The temperature is fine and they are all moving around freely, rather than being all huddled under the light as if too cold, or spread around the edges of the brooder as if too hot. Note that in the pictures it looks like they have no room and are piled on top of each other, but they all like being in the same place at the same time. They run around, but then when they get sleepy they pile up together. They
actually have plenty of room, but I preferred to take
pictures of chicks rather than empty pine chips. :)

 I am calling Ideal today to report the losses, which include at this point:
- 1 Brown Leghorn pullet
- 1 Gold Laced Cochin pullet
- 1 New Hampshire
- 1 Silkie
- 3 All Heavy Male Assortment
      (2 rhode island reds, 1 buff orphington)
Ramona, one of my Easter Eggers
I have waited the full 4 days just to make sure that there are no more losses. I really hate losing babies. Sometimes they just can't handle the trip though, and there is nothing that can be done. I hope they are all good now!
I have been keeping them inside in a ferret cage because it has been quite cold and wet outside the last few days. It seems to be much warmer and is definitely drier today so one of my projects needs to be to pull the brooder tractor out to the sun, clean it out, and let it dry. I have a lot of projects in queue for today, including taking one of my foster littles (noodles) up to the shelter, an hour away, so she can leave bright and early in the morning on the transport to find her very own forever home! Yay! So she gets a bath and the borrowed kennel has to be sterilized before it is sent back. I think it is probably strange that I feel the need to wash their dog before returning it so they don't think I let it get dirty or anything... Speaking of cleaning, I also need to clean once she is gone and I have 4 less feet running around the floor! Ha ha I'm hopeful that one less dog (I still have my two and another foster little getting over Pneumonia running around) will make it possible! I also have to do the soccer mom thing this evening until after dark, which I LOVE. I always bring a book to read, or things to study, and still end up spending the whole time watching Keegan practice.

So much to do! I have probably spent too much time sitting still. I really want to have a super productive day off! Hope you all have a beautiful day and feel free to leave a comment! I'd love some feed back.

I'm not sure what breed this baby is either, but he is beautiful!
He is brown and a gorgeous blue color. Behind him is my
brown leghorn pullet. 

One of my Blue Silkies. They are so little! This baby is sitting on my pinky
finger, and I have very small fingers as it is. 

I think this is one of Keegan's Silver Spangled Hamburgs. Fast little buggers!
It took a while to get a picture of it where it looked like more than a blur.

I just love my baby blue silkies! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chick Fever!

Some of Miss Idgie's babies last summer
It has happened. I wondered if it would this year. Especially since I have been working 50-60 hour weeks for the past month. I have been so tired that I can't even think straight, but still, it happened. I have chick fever! Even with the very little free time that I have had, I have still been managing to pour over hatchery catalogs  and research new breeds that I don't have yet. All of those fuzzy little babies are invading my thoughts! The chicken math is taking over!
It is official! I have made my first chick order of the year! Last year was the first year that I bought chicks from a hatchery. Before that I had gotten them from a local man that has been raising them for most of his many years, or from the local feed store. Last year I bought my chicks and turkey poults from Murray McMurray. I was VERY happy with the birds, and with their customer service. I am also very partial to them because they put my son's picture in their catalog this year! I decided not to go with them this year, simply because of the distance the babies have to be shipped in order to get here. They up from way up in the northern states, and I am about as far south in the US as you can get! My chick order got lost last year, and while they replaced the entire order, no questions asked, before the box even made it (2 days late), I felt so badly that those poor little chicks had to go through it. I lost more than half of the order, although the second box got here without a problem. Not the hatchery's fault, but the longer the box has to go the more potential there is for problems to occur. I lost two of my turkeys as well, due to the long, hard, HOT, trip. I will never order chicks that late in the summer again! It is too hot down here.
This year I am trying Ideal Poultry. It is closer to me and it is the hatchery that my local feed store swears by.   I had planned to wait until later in the year, but my chick fever took over, and they were beginning to sell out of the breeds that I wanted already! I was so looking forward to adding some more Easter Eggers to my flock this year! They sold out... I will just have to find them somewhere else. I am so excited about the chicks I did order, though!
Water and Love Daily for Best Results! 
Firstly, I told my son that he could pick out two breeds of chicken. I made him sit down think about each breed, check out their qualities on Henderson's Chicken Breed List, read customer comments on the McMurray website, and weigh out the options. Things like, how well do they free range, how do they deal with the heat, what is their feed to egg ratio, and what is their temperament, were important factors. He decided on Silver Spangled Hamburgs (I think a very good choice!) and Gold laced Cochins (not so much). He has wanted Cochins since we first got chickens, though, so I figured I would give him a chance. I think he will have to give them a lot of extra care during the hot months though. He will get two of each of those along with the rest of my order.

 Our order consists of:

- 2 Silver Spangled Hamburg pullet                           ( Great free rangers, Good white
                                                                                  egg layers)
- 2 Gold Laced Cochin Pullets                                  ( Fair egg layers, very docile
                                                                                   and friendly)
- 2 Light Brown Leghorn pullets                                 (excellent feed to egg ratio,
                                                                                  beautiful, and I wanted to
                                                                                  add white eggs to our basket)
- 4 New Hampshire Pullets and 2 Roosters              ( Good brown egg layers, dual
                                                                                 purpose,Very quick maturing,
                                                                                 large, and good for use as meat)
- 6 Blue Silkies Straight run                                      ( Just because they are wonderful
                                                                                  brooders, mothers, and I really
                                                                                   really wanted some!)
- 25 Heavy Roosters                                               ( Meat birds until we can hatch our
                                                                                 own.I don't like cornish birds, and
                                                                                 I hate that the left over roosters are
                                                                                 usually "disposed of". At least they
                                                                                 will live a good life in the sun and
                                                                                 grass for a little while!)

I am getting them sooner than I had wanted, but I am already getting excited! They will ship on Feb 13th. Maybe I will get fuzzy little babies for Valentine's Day! I can't wait!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Garden

My first winter garden is doing great! Not everything came up, but the things that did are doing really well. The onions are an exception. A few of one kind are peeking through, and none of the other kind. I forgot to write down where I planted things, so I will have to wait until they get bigger to see what they are. Only 3 of the beets that I planted came up. I was really sad about that because I was looking forward to them. The chickens enjoyed the tender cabbage and rutabaga sprouts... they never made it past that stage. I think I planted too late in the season so the Swiss chard and spinach came up but didn't get very big. The broccoli is working on coming up and I'm hoping that it keeps trying. The lettuce is doing really well. I have been covering the lettuce beds when we have cold enough weather for it to frost. A few months ago I saved some thin white material that was wrapped around a mattress topper I bought. It has been a perfect floating row cover! Some days have been really cold, but over all it has been much warmer than usual this winter. Rather than cutting the heads, I have been pulling the largest leaves off of the outside of each head. This leaves the head to keep growing new leaves. We hope to have lettuce through the spring with replantings. I have been doing the same thing for the kale, which has been doing great, as well. Again, I forgot to write down which type I planted where. Two of them look a lot alike.  I need to do better about writing things down in the spring. I have been covering the carrots, though not as well as the lettuce, but they really don't seem to mind the cold weather. I pulled a couple the other day, and while they are still on the small side, they were delicious! The brussel sprouts have been loving the cold weather and are, by far, the biggest thing in my winter garden. There are no sprouts growing yet, but I am excited to see it. This is my first time getting them to grow this large. This is definitely the time of year for brussel sprouts. The garlic is loving this time of year too! It all sprouted and after letting it grow during the warmer weather, I mulched the bed when it started to cool down. I have been raking leaves and pine straw out of the yard and layering it in my garden beds. This helps to keep the roots warmer, keeps the soil moist, and begins decomposing to make compost right in the garden. The strawberry bed has also been partially weeded and covered with leaves. Hay will be the next layer added. Leaves and  hay are also being added to the compost pile. We will be needing a TON of compost for the garden this spring and summer! Because of the lack of money, and help, the new garden beds have not been added. I'm worried that it is too late for this spring's garden and I may not get to plant everything.

I'll try to add pictures later!

The Adventures of the Turkey-Heads!

One of my Bourbon Red Toms coming to visit me <3
"Aren't I handsome?!"
After having heritage turkeys for 7 months, I would have thought that I would have them figured out by now! Not how to take care of them, because they are actually really easy to care for, but how they think and why they behave the way they do. I still haven't figured out if they are really smart, or really stupid. I'm not sure, at times, how they could possibly survive in the wild! Other times, I can't believe that anything could be that curious without being very intelligent. They are very nosy animals. They have to be right in the middle of what ever you are doing. Pulling weeds? They have to grab everything in your hand away from you and try to eat it or bite your fingers repeatedly. Raking leaves? They want to see what it is that you are raking up, and to do that they have to spread it back out again. Using a chain saw to cut wood? Well, I've learned to appreciate the breaks I have to take when they are getting too close to the chainsaw for comfort, as I usually need one by that point, but you get the picture. When I am not outside doing something, they climb on everything. Loud crashes occur occasionally, and I always know who the culprits are. Prancing on the roof-top? No it isn't Santa Claus... the turkey hens like to fly on top of anything high. They have also learned that they can see us through the window, so they find their way up to any window that we are near and stare in at us and call the same call they did as babies, only MUCH louder, which means basically " MOM! Come here!".Of course, that is only if the doors are closed. If they are open, odds are the turkeys will end up inside at some point, usually accompanied by the chickens! If we are not paying attention the turkeys-heads will break the dullness by giving the roosters a quick chase around the yard. They have learned to stop when I fuss at them though! They even come when they are called. Such as when the landlord or mail lady pull up and find themselves surrounded by huge puffed up turkeys and I have to call them off. Can't be that curious without being intelligent, right? Well, then they fall off the the porch... just walk right off the edge because they are too busy puffing up and strutting to pay attention where they are going. They try to eat anything shiny... even when its the same thing 15 times in a row and it wasn't food the 14 times before.

Things I have learned...

My niece visiting the turkeys. Look away!
1. They are like feathered toddlers who have to put everything in their mouth, or climb on top of it, to learn what it is.

2. Don't wear anything shiny near them, unless you don't mind them trying to eat it. (Eyes count as shiny objects. Toddlers are most at risk.)

 3. Don't wear anything dangly... see above. Especially things with elastic, such as jacket hood strings, that can snap back at you when they pull, run, pull, and let go!

4. Don't plan to do anything productive with them wandering around unless you understand that they WILL be involved, and usually it will make it much less productive, although much more eventful!

5. Don't forget to put them up before it gets dark, unless carrying full grown turkeys, one at a time, across the yard and putting them to bed sounds like an enjoyable task. (Yes.. this is what I spent the evening doing. In the rain.) They don't put themselves to bed like the chickens do.

6. NEVER leave them to free-range unless supervised, unless your neighbors don't mind them coming to visit, and you don't live on a busy road. ("Not so Good" neighbor wasn't too happy about it.)

"How YOU doin'? "
7. They are MUCH easier to corral than chickens are. In fact, usually if I call and walk to the coop they follow me right in. This made retrieving them from "Good Neighbor's"  house much easier when he had to rescue them from the middle of the road, as well as from "Not so Good Neighbor" who recently lost his dog because it had attacked my turkeys and was none too pleased that my turkeys were in his yard. "Good Neighbor" let them out of the cage and they followed me all the way home. He thought it was much more amusing than I did at that point in time.

They really are wonderful creatures and I love having them, most of the time. I have my moments when I wonder why I do it, but that is usually when we have a dog attack, or something similar that breaks my heart.Much like a toddler, they can be trying at times, but they are so sweet, cute, and cuddly, that it is impossible to stay mad at them. I encourage anyone who is interested in raising animals to try turkeys. I wish I would have done it sooner. Have you hugged your turkey today?! I have!

Recycled Tarp

I had to write a post to rave about my newest favorite recycling discovery! Good, sturdy tarps are always in high demand around here. From covering up wood piles and animal cages/coops/runs to keep them dry and shaded, to using them to drag leaves around the yard, I am forever in need of tarps. The problem is that they are expensive! They also tear up so easily! Tarps are forever unraveling and falling apart. What could be better than getting even sturdier than usual tarps, for free?! I can't believe I didn't think of this before! I can't take the credit for this revelation, as I read about it in my favorite blog ( I find so many great ideas there! I had to pass it on.

I put my newest "tarp" on the turkey hoop coop, with the help of my wonderful brother. It measured approximately 15 ft X 22 ft and is made of rip-stop material. It is sturdy, but not incredibly heavy. It is simply a recycled bill board sign! I live in an area that has more than its fair share of billboard signs (as so many of us do). After reading about it, I started paying attention, and saw a bunch of signs being replaced. I simply stopped one day, asked the guy on the sign if he was going to throw it away, asked if I could have it, shoved it in my car, and brought it home! How easy is that?! I need about 20 more! It has an ad for the local news station on one side, but it is blank on the other, so I just turned it upside down. It actually looks far better than the other two I had tied together, and is larger. It is black so it is doing a good job bringing solar heat to the coop during these cooler months. I need to get a white one to replace it with during the hot summer months. How wonderful is that?!

So many of my favorite things put together! Saving money, getting good materials, and saving the earth, all at the same time! Imagine how many are thrown out when they could be used! I hope more people start doing this!