I woke this morning and checked the homemade incubator, to find that the chick that had hatched out last night had been joined by three more, and another trying to pip. It was going to be a good day!
As I made my way upstairs, I heard the first chimes of doom from the cold brooder that sits next to the incubator - "Reee-reeeeeeee", "Reee-reeeeeeee". A thin and reedy noise coming from the one chick in the brooder that has a red comb - a red comb that showed up at three weeks, and now, just barely over four weeks, the little roo is trying to crow. Sigh... This is definitely a half-Fayoumi roo (they mature distressingly early, and once they discover that they are boys and the hens are girls they pursue them relentlessly, pluck them bald and wear them out). We shall hope he has more courtesy than the two we had to butcher. Our hens need their feathers!
That crow is going to drive us nuts, because our bedroom is just around the corner from the brooder. The door will not shut out the crow once he gets the hang of it. But it is still a cheerful and welcome noise this morning, because it means the chicks in the brooder are thriving, growing, and becoming something that will benefit us. Farming being such a fickle thing, and losses so frequent, signs of life and progress are always cause for celebration. Besides which the first efforts of a young rooster are often hilarious.
The final cap on the morning came as I got upstairs, grabbed a glass of juice, and sat down to check morning emails (the morning routine, since we have a business, the emails get attention first). There, across the room, was a mouse, caught on a sticky trap (the only kind that work with these mice - trust me, we tried everything else!). DEFINITELY going to be a good day, this mouse has mocked us and eluded us for more than a month and a half. GOTCHA, you little beast. Mice can stay outside. Inside my house, they will be exterminated. I still regret the sticky traps - I'd rather a quick kill. And with a sticky trap you cannot feed the mouse to the chickens.
Still not able to go to church, due to fragrance allergies (though they are gradually improving), so I am home today, reading, and doing a little crochet to finish some small Christmas gifts. I rarely crochet with yarn, the larger movements stress my wrists which are prone to swelling around the nerves (carpal tunnel), which only flares when I do something to aggravate it. So I do lace crochet, and make frivolous little doilies, snowflake Christmas ornaments, hairbands, bedspread thread blankies for babies, bonnets, booties, lace baby dresses and other small things that I can finish before my attention wanders. I like doing the small thread with a fine steel hook, but my eyes get blurry whenever I get fragrance bombed, so tiny work is more difficult now than it used to be. Size 20 thread I can do. 30 I cannot.
The bitty chicks will come upstairs to be put into the mini-brooder, which we will put near the heater vent. I'm waiting for the newest ones to dry out enough to come upstairs - chicks do NOT do well in a cold brooder when they are by themselves, so the oldest one has been down there for a day, waiting for someone else to join it so it can come upstairs and learn to be a real chicken. I did not expect to find four (almost five) this morning, so I am feeling very pleased about that.
I shall begin gathering eggs again to put in the brooder, as this batch finishes up. They should be done by mid-week, and I'll reload the incubator, over the course of the week (trying to select eggs from the hens that we most want to proliferate), and we'll do another run. Hatch rates have been very low, due to rooster performance issues (one got sick, the other doesn't have many hens on his side of the coop, and the sick one is only just now back close to 100%). Hopefully the hatch rates will improve, and then we can also sell hatching eggs. Having chicks hatch out each month is nice, because the workload is spread out, and even with just a handful each time, we get enough to provide meat, and cycle through the laying hens each year. We have about seven or ten hens to remove from the gene pool as new hens come into lay, we seem to do best with about 20 laying hens, and 2 roosters, and one of our roosters is definitely ready to go, the other will be when we have a promising young roo ready to take his place.
A rabbit is also due this week, so we may have bunnies soon. She is a good mama and produces good sized litters, so we can hope that she will carry on her pattern and bless us with lots of prospective jars of rabbit meat.
We put up our small greenhouse, but it is lacking two sets of support pieces, so it keeps collapsing in the wind. We don't have much wind here, but we've had more the last few days as a storm has gone through. Rocks on the edge of the skirting, and tethers on the corners we could tie down were not enough. I need to get the support pieces before we try to stabilize the thing again. It is a good thing we are doing this, because the big greenhouse will have the same issues, only multiplied, so working out how to get this little one up and stable is key to getting the big one to not be blown over or the covering stripped off, with animals inside.
The little greenhouse will hold bins of composting manure, so we can get them down enough to plant in come spring, and grow some mushrooms in, as well as growing fodder when we can get some shelves into it, and when nights are warm enough to not freeze it. The big one will be used as a barn for pigeons, doves, and some more rabbits. We will run a tarp over the top of the supports before we put the top cover on. That will provide shade so the thing does not heat up too much on sunny days - we have a LOT of sunny days. Eventually we will run chicken wire over the inside walls, and hardware cloth over that around the bottom to keep out predators, and cover it with something sturdier than the cheap stuff it comes with. The little greenhouse is 5X5, and the big one is 10X12.
Sundays are the one day we don't do anything other than essential farm work, so the day is open, I can amuse myself in anything that helps me recharge my batteries. They are in need of recharging, there is still much that is discouraging, sorrowful in our lives. But little things give us hope. So today can be a good day.