Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Splash Marans - One Of My Favorite Of The Marans

Splash Marans

The Splash Marans have been an over looked breed on our farm for far too long.  I've decided it's time we stop doing that.  The beautiful Splash Marans are the off spring of the Blue Copper Marans, which has also been an over looked breed for many years.  Chicken fanciers are beginning to discover the Blue Copper Marans this year but are still slow to recognize the Splash Marans .  There has always been so much hype over the French Black Copper Marans that no one ever gave much attention to The Blue copper and the Splash and in my opinion are such pretty birds.

The only way to get a Splash Marans is by breeding a Blue Copper Marans,  with Blue Copper Marans.  The Blue gene is not a dominate gene so when breeding blue poultry you will get 50% blues, 25% black and 25% splash chicks.  These beautiful chicks are a lovely sky blue with yellow bellies when they hatch.

No two Splash Marans will ever look alike with their spots and dots.  As they mature they continue to color and spot.  It takes a good year or longer for a bird to fully color out.

This is a young cockerel, as he grows and matures he will get a nice rust or copper colored head.

The great thing about the Splash Marans, they will also give you a lovely dark egg.  
So don't over look the Splash Marans when making your poultry wish list.  We now offer the Splash Marans chicks on our website, we also have beautiful started pullets.  The young hen pictured in this blog is available for purchase now.  Head over to the website / to place your order.
We look forward to sharing some beautiful poultry with you!
Have a great Day!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catching Our Bees As They Swarm

This past month both of our bee hives decided to swarm and I just happened to notice both times and was able to catch them.  The first time I was prepared and had a box ready, we hadn't really expected our own bees to swarm but had hoped to catch a swarm from my mothers wild hive or my sisters wild hive.  The second time they swarmed I wasn't so prepared.  Once again Larry wasn't home to help me and I had to improvise

The swarm landed on my newly planted apple tree and I thought I was going to need to cut the little tree down to catch the swarm, crazy I know.  I just hate to miss a swarm of bees especially when they came from my hive.  Decided it would probably be best to just bend the tree over some and give it a good shake into a cardboard box.

I shook them into the box and they stayed, which means I got the queen.  At least I didn't cut the tree down.  It seems that the bees swarm about the first two weeks of May in our area, last year at this time we caught our first swarm of bees.
When Larry arrived home we very quickly put together a bee box that we had ordered a few months back.  It's really best to be prepared for your bees, have your boxes put together and painted but we fly by the seat of our pants around this farm.  You can order your bee boxes fully assembled or in pieces.  They're pretty easy to assemble and a little less expensive that way.

 Just put your dove tailed corners together.

Use a hammer to make them fit good and tight.

You'll need to put a couple of screws on each side to hold them together.

You can purchase the frames fully assembled or assemble yourself, we ordered them assembled this time.

 No time for a paint job but ready for the bees to go into the box.  Guess we'll paint it at a later time.  Bees won't wait on you.

In they go.

We put the frames in and now we have another hive.  We very quickly went from having two hives to having four.  I'm now in the process of studying up on how to prevent them from swarming next year.  Looks like it involves moving a few brood frames up and empty frames down into the brood chamber.  Sounds like this needs to be done very early in the spring before the maple trees begin to bloom.  I still have a lot of learning to do.  In spite of my lack of knowledge of bee keeping my bees seem to thrive on there own.  It's fun to learn as we go.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring On The Farm - Hatching Chicks And Catching Swarms

Spring is in the air and busy farm life begins once again as most of you are probably experiencing also.  Not that it ever really stops around here but it does slow a bit in the winter.  Now that we are seeing warmer weather, chick hatching is in full swing and shipping has begun.  Some of our larger breeds of birds are still slow on fertility but that should pick up soon.  So if your have an order placed for a beautiful Coronation Sussex, Jubilee or Black Orpington, just be patient, it takes them a while to get going in the spring.  They will be worth the wait!

 With the purchase of a new incubator we're now able to hatch a few more eggs, I guess that's a few.  Don't you wonder how they keep from rolling out of the trays.  Every Monday night eggs go into the incubator so that we have a hatch every Monday night and ship every Tuesday.  To all of you wonderful customers out there waiting on your little fluffy butts we're hatching them out just as fast as we can.

With warmer weather and egg production on the rise this slithering beauty is looking for a free meal.    I love this picture, no I did not kill the snake.  I picked it up and took it to Larry, who was not thrilled with the idea I was bringing him a snake.

One of our biggest projects on the farm from spring to late fall is growing up young pullets.  If your waiting on a pullet order, we've not forgotten about you, it just takes time for these pretty birds to get to the age that we can sex them.  Once they get to that age half of them are roosters, so the complicated process begins again.  

It's also that time when we need to put the honey supers on the bee hives.  A honey supper is the small box on top.  The brood chamber is the bottom box,  The box in the middle is honey for the bees to live on during the winter.   Once they fill the top supper more will be added.  This hive produced two gallons of honey last year and it was their first year.  I expect they will produce much more this year.

We've set up two boxes in strategic locations to catch swarms.  This box is in my parents yard, they
have a hive in a tree that we caught a swarm from last year.  Le Charm has been added to the box to attract the bees.  As you can see my father is a great help to Larry, just holler if you need help Larry! 

My Son in law does the mowing for me every week, two weeks ago while mowing he was stung by our bees, so when he showed up last week he was a bit nervous about mowing.  I told him, it's a cool morning I doubt they are very active yet.   He looked out the window and said they look pretty active to me. The air was thick with bees all around the hive.  I thought to myself, this is not normal, it never looks like this.  Finally It came to me what was happening, they're swarming.  It figures the bees would swarm on a day Larry wasn't here to help.  So I told my son is law, Adam you've got to help me.  Since he was stung in the face last week he wasn't to sure about this. There's always something happening here on the farm and if you show up you just might be made to participate. 

We grabbed our extra bee box and headed for the swarm, with Adam saying I can't believe I'm walking through a swarm of bees, I said, shut up man and come on.  Luckily Larry's bee suit fit him just fine.  We really didn't need the suits, it just makes you feel better with them on.

The swarm only moved a few feet from the hive which is normal, they sit and wait as scout bees search for a new home.
I held the branch while Adam cut it down. 

After the branch was cut from the tree, I took the mass of bees over to the box, gave the branch a good hard knock on the edge of the box and they fell in.  Now we just hope the queen fell into the box along with the mass.

There was a few bees remaining on the branch, I sat the branch down and the bee walked into the box.  This tells me the queen is in the hive.

I place the frames and a feeder full of sugar water in the hive and put on the inner cover.

The bees instantly gather at the inner cover hole and begin fanning rapidly.  Only the worker bees do this, they are sending out a pheromone scent to guide any lost bees into the hive.  
Adam mowed the yard that day for me suited up in bee attire, wish I would have snapped a picture of that.  Thanks for all your help Adam, your a good sport.

Late that evening after dark we closed off the hive entrance, the next morning we moved the hive to the hive stand, opened the hive entrance and it was business as usual for the bees.
I have a question for you experienced bee keepers.  How do we keep the bees from wanting to split and swarm each year?  We thought they had plenty of room when we inspected them early this spring.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Have a Great Day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Farm Happenings - Raising a Baby Wood Duck

Last May my daughter came bringing me a baby duck in a shotgun shell box.  It was a very tiny newly hatched bundle of fluff,  my daughter and a friend were taking a walk and the baby came screaming out the woods with a cat hot on it's little tail.  I guess, just as the baby ducks made the big jump from the hole in the tree the cat was waiting at the bottom of the tree for the them.  The cat killed some of the babies and the mother duck was nowhere to be found, my daughter rescued this little duck and brought it to me to care for.
 When she came bringing me this sweet baby I was just a bit mad at her until I had heard the complete story.  I am a firm believer that wild animals need to stay in the wild at all cost.  Once I came to the realization that we had to raise the baby the rush was on to figure out what kind of duck it was and how to care for it.  I raised mallard ducks many years ago but could tell immediately this was no mallard.
We put the baby in a plastic tote with a heat lamp, food and water.  For the first whole day the baby called for it's mother over and over.  The baby duck had a built in instinct to jump for the light in the hole in a tree, which caused it to jump at the heat lamp for an entire day thinking it was jumping for the hole in the tree.  This little duck could jump, climb, and run like nothing I had ever seen.  After much investigating I came to the conclusion we had a baby wood duck.  While searching the internet for as much information as possible on how to care for the baby, we didn't have much luck and most information told us that the odds were not good on raising one.  So I decided I was going to need to figure this out on my own.
I could see that the little duck was not eating or drinking so I decided to put a couple of baby chickens of the same age in with the duckling.  I didn't have any ducklings to put in with it and the feed stores no longer had any to sell.  Putting the baby chicks in the box with the duckling was the best thing we could have done for it.  Without them I don't think it would have survived.  
After one day the duckling no longer called for it's mother and the instinct to jump for the hole in the tree was gone.
The little duck was extremely wild, it didn't want us to look at it, ever!  It would not eat or drink if we looked at it, so we were not sure if it was eating.  The internet was no help on giving information on how to teach the duck to eat, so I began to think, what would the mother be feeding this baby in the wild, what would they be doing right now.  I knew the mother would have them on a pond bank digging around in the mud.  I headed to our pond dipped up a small amount of water and mud and took it to the duck and chicks and stood back out of the view of the duck and watched.  The chicks checked out the mud pretty quick and finally the duck came over and dug threw the mud and slurped up the water.  The next time I dipped up the mud from the pond I checked it out and there was all kinds of crawly, wiggly things in the mud and the duck loved it. 
The chicks taught the duck to eat chick food and they developed a absolute love for cucumbers.  As the three of them grew they became very close little friends and very quickly out grew the plastic tote.

At the time that we acquired this little orphan, I did not know that it was against the law for me to even have the duckling in our possession, it didn't come with a stamp on it's butt that said don't help me no matter what!  It was not my intention to take a duckling from the wild and raise to be a pet.  That said, now you all know it is against the law to have a wild duck.
We did not handle the duckling, it absolutely hated to be touch, we kept it as wild as possible. The duck loved her chicken pals and really wanted nothing to do with us.  It grew very quickly and I figured out early on that I was pretty sure it was a female.  The picture above on the right was in my goldfish pond.  That was not a great idea, I tied a string to her leg to allow her  to swim for a bit, she was so wild and afraid of us though that she really did not enjoy that.

So I decided just to give her an old was basin with some water in it.  She would not get in the basin if I was watching.  So I would give her the bowl, then step away, when I hear splashing I could sneak back up and watch.  Her chicken friends thought it was a bit strange for her to jump in the water bowl and flop around like that.

She grew into a beautiful duck so fast.  At this time we had moved them  into the dog pen with an old dog house converted into a duck/chicken coop. We hadn't planned on a duck, so we did not have duck accommodations. Each night, her and her two chickens friends would get in the dog house to sleep.  During the day, she would fly over the pen, investigate the yard and in the evening she would want back in the pen with her friends.  I said, it won't be long and she will find our big pond.  Well I was right, she would head up to the pond during the day and back to the dog house at night.  This past winter she released herself into the wild for good.  She heard the call of the wild and it was more than she could stand and she left our loving farm never to return again.  I'm happy for her and I hope that she is now raising some young ducklings of her own.
She was so interesting and I enjoyed her so much.  She was nothing like the mallards that we had raised many years ago.  Since she has left our farm I began looking for farms that sale these wonderful birds and I finally found Mallard Lane Farms.  I have since ordered one male wood duck and two female wood ducks.  The females are silver splits, so if later on I happen to order a silver male then we could have silver babies.  How exciting is that!!  You probably don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about unless you check out Mallard Lane Farms.   They have the most beautiful water fowl I've ever seen.  They were very helpful and easy to deal with on my order and my birds showed up absolutely beautiful and healthy.   Head over to their Facebook page and give them a like, you'll love the photos and you just might fall in love the ducks!
Have a great day!
Photos below are of the ducks acquired from Mallard Lane Farms.

This is our beautiful male wood duck.  He makes a really neat high pitched squeak, they higher and louder his squeak gets, the bigger his green mo hawk on his head grows.  So funny!
Woody and his girl friends, they are very shy and hard to get good photos of.  Head over to Mallard farms for good fowl photos.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Got mountains of manure? Plant taters.

Here on the poultry farm we have no shortage of chicken manure, we seem to have piles sitting all around the farm.  Each spring we spread some on the garden but a garden can only use so much manure.  So we have what seems like mountains of poo.

We continually add to this pile, so one side of this mountain is nicely rotted down and composted into  rich,  loamy soil ready to use.  The others side of the mountain is still pretty hot and needs to sit a bit longer before used.
My garden spot is still to wet to plant and I have a bad case of spring fever, so I'm going to put this pile to good use.   I've never tried this before but it should work out just fine.

I took my shovel and  broke up the surface of the pile a bit.  As you can see, my two lovely helpers decide this is where they could get involved. 

I took my seed potatoes and cut them into pieces, like my grandpa Johnny Wagner taught me, he always said to leave each piece at least two eyes.

Be sure top plant them eyes facing up.  This might be old news for some of you experienced gardeners but believe it or not there are some folks out there that have never planted a tater before. 
If you have a compost pile, a pile of dead leaves or grass clippings you can use that to stick your potatoes in also.

I turned my back for just a second to pick up the hoe and cover the potatoes and look who steels one and runs off to eat it.  Not sure why but he'll do back flips for raw potatoes.

 I also stuck a few onion sets in at the same time.

Once I was finished poking around in the pile, I covered the area with some old chicken wire.  This will keep the chickens from digging around on their free range days.
If you have a neat space saving way to plant potatoes, leave it in the comments below so that others can see your great ideas.
Have a great day!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Winners Of The Manna Pro Organic Chick Crumble


Ron Willet & Kristin Wood
Your the winners of the Manna Pro 5 lb bag of  organic chick crumble.
A big thank you to Manna Pro for their generous offer.  Check out Manna Pro for all of your livestock needs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Manna Pro Organic Chick Crumble - Free Giveaway

 Free giveaway
 5 pound bag Manna Pro organic chick crumble
Two lucky folks will be chosen on Friday March 20th to receive this brand new product from our good friends at Manna Pro.  follow the steps below to get your name in the drawing.
 1. You need to be a follower of the Chicken Scratch Poultry Blog.
2. Like the Chicken Scratch Poultry Facebook page.
3.  Like the Manna Pro Poultry Facebook page.
4.  Leave us a comment and let us know why you would like to try this product.
Good Luck!!