backyard


We are seeing more and more birds at our feeder. This is a definite sign that spring is almost here.

Sign of Spring

My daughter, Lauren decided she wants to raise bees. She was inspired by the top bar hive that she saw on Phil Chandler’s site BioBees.com.

Top Bar Hive

Wanting a woodworking project to do, I volunteered to build it for her. So, I downloaded the free TBH plans and went to work. It took just a few hours to build – spread out over a couple of weeks and turned out quite well. Lauren decided instead of buying bees to put in the hive, perhaps a swarm of bees will find the hive in her yard and take up residence. We’ll see what happens in that regard. The photo album for the hive has a home on Lauren’s new website – TinyChickenRanch.com that Lauren just started to work on. I wanted the hive to have the look of natural wood, so I used Phil Chandler’s suggestion and treated the outside of the hive with a 20:1 mixture of linseed oil and organic beeswax. Because the sun is really hot here in Texas, I painted the hive roof white to reflect the sun’s heat. But, hopefully the hive will reside in a shady part of the yard.

Last year I raised 15 baby chicks from 1 day to about 10 weeks old when we transferred them to my daughter Lauren’s chicken coop. Last year we ordered 2 Ameraucana chicks and only got 1. The Ameraucana’s lay a pale-green to pale-blue colored egg and are often referred to as Easter Eggers. I just placed my order with McMurray hatchery in Iowa. McMurray requires that you order a minimum of 25 birds. So, I ordered 12 Ameraucana and 13 Cuckoo Marans. The Cuckoo Maran chickens lay the darkest brown colored eggs and are know as Chocolate Eggers. The earliest the Cuckoo Marans were available to order this past week was May 9th. So our chicks will be shipped on May 9th and should arrive here on May 12th. In the meantime I need to get a brooder set up in the garage. The chicks have got to have a heat lamp so they can be kept near 95 degrees F the first week and 5 degrees lower each succeeding week. Lauren will introduce 4 of the new chicks to her flock. The rest I will sell on the Dallas Farm & Garden Craigslist.

This image is from backyardchickens.com

This image is from backyardchickens.com
The pale-blue eggs are Ameraucana; the dark brown eggs are Cuckoo Maran eggs

For months the squirrels have been eating seeds on the ground under the feeder. I was surprised to see a squirrel actually got onto the feeder. I’ll have to watch closely to see how he does it.

squirrel on feeder
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Cowbirds at the feeder

I looked out back this morning and was amazed at how many cowbirds there were at the feeder. I don’t know, but they may be migrating through the area.

Saturday we went to Lauren’s so I could mount the rod across the nesting boxes to allow the chickens something to perch on to get into the second level of boxes. When we got there, there were three eggs in the nesting boxes and one that had been laid on the ground. The orange rod makes a nice colorful addition to the nesting boxes. We just need to wait to see if the chickens make use of it.

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Yesterday, the day after putting the nesting boxes in the coop, Lauren surprisingly found two eggs in the bottom right nesting box. Lauren said she never saw any of the chickens anywhere near the nesting boxes. But when she checked yesterday morning the two eggs were there.

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Lauren's First Egg - 05 Sept 2010

Lauren’s 15 chickens laid their first egg last Sunday, 5 Sept 2010. I started in earnest building her a set of roosting boxes.
The chickens were born on April 15, 2010. The books say they should start laying at 5 months. The chickens will be 5 months old in four days.
Today I finished the roosting boxes. Today when I took them to Lauren’s coop, we found the 3rd egg on the ground in the hay. So, looks like I got the roosting boxes there in the nick of time. Lauren’s favorite color is purple. The school colors where I teach (Richland College) are purple and green – thus the colors for the nesting boxes. The books say you need one nesting box for every 3 or 4 chickens. We have 6 nesting boxes for 15 chickens. So, we should be good. It will be interesting to see which nesting boxes the chickens use. I know they like to be high; so I would bet that the top boxes will get the most use. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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We got some sprinkler water in the weather station rain cup producing false rain readings.

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So I raised the weather station to about eight feet above the ground. This move should also give better wind readings. Although, I did place it a little close to the tree. As the tree grows, I will have to move the weather station farther away from the tree. The weather station information is updated once a minute on line at http://rowlett.ws/
 
 

I filled the bird feeders and cleaned and filled the bird bath this morning. I just looked out the window and saw more birds than ever out back – mostly vesper sparrows and cow birds. They seem to be enjoying themselves in the shade. It is already over 90 degrees F at 10 am. We’re heading for a record breaking high temperature today. The record for this date here is 105° F.

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