Fencing woes

I learn as I go.  I really learn from mistakes, but to do that, I have to first make the mistake.  I was out fencing again today.  I finished up all the minor details on one stretch today.  I added the stabilizer twists and nailed down the loose ends.  So that was good.  On the bad note, my new stretch I am working on turns a corner about 130 degrees.  I kinda figured I would not need to support the corner post on both sides.  Saves me from digging a hole.  Not so much.  When you crank down with the come-along it is cause the post to bend over.  I am now going to have to loosen the fence, back the pickup over there, hook onto the post and the pickup hitch, bend the post back up till it is square and add in the support post I didn’t do the first time.  So from now on all corners get 3 posts regardless of the angle.  The next two pictures are of my completed fence.  Thank goodness it is done.  Hopefully, I will not have to build any more rock jacks.  Very painful to do and then once built, you have to actually fill them with large rocks.


I had to go in and pick up my cut maple.  My parents had to remove another maple tree, this time from a rental property and I had them keep the trunk and a couple of large branches intact.  The custom cut guy has had it done for a couple of weeks so I went over today and picked it up.  I figure I got over 400 board foot (this means the board is 1inch thick and 12 inches by 12 inches wide and long = 1bf.) of maple for $120. Around here it goes for around $3.50-$5 bf.  I paid about 30 cents/bf.  Not too shabby at all.  I stacked it out in the old chicken coop with my other maple and my pine boards and my old scrap pile.  Now this would be way cheaper, but if the guy hits a nail you have to pay $60 for a new bandsaw blade.  I am 2 for 2 in nails.  So I could have had all this maple for $60 if it weren’t for someone banging a nail into the tree.  So now you know, never ever ever put nails in trees.

My new maple pile is dead center in the picture, my old pile (now dried out and ready for use) is in the far back right corner, front left corner is a stack of pine 1×12 to use as siding for an outbuilding and then there are some scraps between the two maple piles.  We have an antisocial cat, Luna who lives out here in the coop all alone. She comes in and visits us every couple of months.  She lets the family just pet on her, but only when she wants it.
I took this picture of the barn in passing as I was getting pictures of the fence.  I love living in the country.  Even if there is cheat grass showing up all over the place in our house.  It is still fantastic!!  I almost forgot to lock the chickens up tonight.  I did a head count and they are all still there.  I am down to around 16 eggs/day now. I hope those babies start laying soon.

catch up again

It has been a haul.  Trying to catch up with everything and the blog has paid the price.
I still have a chicken killer.  It snagged Puff, the original tree chicken, out of a tree one of the nights I was at work.  When I came home on Friday, Sarah kindly informed me that there was another dead chicken in one of the nest boxes.  It turned out to be one of my Buff Orpington hens (original chicken lineage).  She was the one who had egg duct issues that I thought would die.  So now I have a whopping 17 laying hens left.  I still have all 11 of my babies and they should start producing in a couple of months.  They are out with the other chickens now and a new pecking order is being established.  I had Sarah leave the dead chicken out in the chicken yard and shut the yard gate.  This was so I could be sure that my killer could not get past the electric fence.  The dead chicken was undisturbed this morning.  So I will just start locking the outer gate at night.  That way the chickens are not trapped in the coop until we let them out.  They can just leave the coop at the crack of dawn and wander the yard.  I will start watering the chicken yard so the grass will keep growing.  I also spent part of the last two days using the weedeater (I had to borrow my parents, I break them, had to fix this one twice in last two days) to create a kill zone around the chicken coop.  I am hoping to make it uncomfortable for the killer to return.

If you look on the right side of the picture, you can see how high the grass is.  Today I cleared a 10 foot swath all around the coop and made all the tall grass you can see on this picture go away.  The weed eater finally gave out on me.  The things make me crazy.  I have already broken two in the last 3 weeks.  I had to shut it off today to refill the gas and could not get it restarted!!  So instead I went out and chopped down thistles (broke the blade chopper head yesterday for the weed eater) by hand until dinner.

The sheep are doing great.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why everyone isn’t in love with baby sheep?  They are the cutest little stinkers.  We keep catching them and petting on them. Here is a picture of Lucky, the multicolor ram.

Annmarie named the black one, Blackie.  Not very original, but easy to remember and he is going to be food so a simple name is better.  No name is best, but that didn’t happen.  We don’t get to touch these babies very much any more.  They are quick and jump and leap around.  Plus, we don’t have anything they want.  So for now we will bide our time.  Our first baby, Hershey was the same way and he eats out of our hand now.  He really likes corn, they all do.

Here is a picture of the coffee girls.  Annmarie took this out our front window, the sheep have been banned from the front yard.  Yes, I realize that they were mowing the lawn, but they were also using the back porch as a bathroom.  But most importantly they think roses are a delicacy.  They were going to kill my roses if they were not ejected from the yard.  They can come back in the fall when the trees and bushes are dormant.  

Annmarie drug me out of bed early this morning.  Early being a relative term, it was late if we were going to make the swim team practice, but since it is a weekend there is no practice.  So she drug me out to go to a tool sale/yard sale.  I picked up a large crowbar for $4 and the find of the day!  I bought a 1 gallon coffee container full of old hand drawn reclaimed nails for $15.  Total gold mine!  I was happy.  We drove to Pendleton and by the time all was said and done we visited 12 different yard sales.  We picked up a few goodies and I found a solid metal hammer with forged handle for $4 (another killer find).  We spent all morning doing that and had a good time.

The nails are 1.5 inches long.  They are going to look great in whatever I use them for.  The gal that we bought them from said her husband used to take down old buildings in the midwest and reclaimed the nails whenever he demolished a building.

Chickens killer exposed (I hope)

So I spent most of the day today fencing.  I had both nephews helping me and we made great progress.  Got the gate hung and five posts in the ground with supports, a stretch of fence posts installed and the sheep wire attached for that stretch.  We had to restretch an entire section after repairing the anchor point.  I put the wire support on the top instead of the bottom and pulled the post over.  So great progress was made on the fencing front.

I also had to let the baby chickens out of their enclosure today.  They were out of water and they are almost the same size as my adult chickens.  We had been leaving them in there because it was predator proof.  When I went to lock up the chickens tonight all the “babies” were back in their area all cuddled up together.

Important news flash, I may have found my chicken killer, as I was typing this Annmarie and I heard a loud chicken squawk.  I grabbed my predator killer outfit (flashlight and Walther p22 with laser sights), almost opted for the pistol grip shotgun, but I stuck with old tried and true.  I had to battle our chocolate lab at the door, she wanted to run out and protect the chicken, but I couldn’t randomly throw lead in the air with her running around outside, so I opted for quantity over quality and kept the dog inside.  Now mind you, I had just come in from locking the chickens up in the coop.  But we have one chicken, Puff, a Polish hen who has decided the coop is not safe (not a bad assumption) and is now sleeping in the top of the bushes.  Well her daughter started sleeping outside a few days ago also.  We thought it was Puff throwing the squawking fit.  I ran all around outside in my best imitation of a cop in hostile territory.  No predator.  I was coming back in the house when Annmarie started talking to me from the upstairs open bedroom window.  I went over and found Puff sitting alone in the bushes.  Her daughter was missing.  One more pass of the yard with my flashlight and I found her dead over by the fence with our smallest adult female cat next to her.  I took a shot, but am unsure if I got the cat or not.  I did recognize it, so it is dead now even if it doesn’t know it.  It will have killed about $200 worth of adult chickens and another $620 in lost income from eggs from those now deceased chickens.  It violated our cardinal rule “live and let live” along with “everyone gets along or else”.  It is just practical, I realize it sounds kinda cold, but I am out $820 already and cannot afford to have any more chickens killed.

On top of all that, I think one of my chickens has a prolapsed egg duct and may very well die in the next couple of days.  I noticed it when I was counting the hens the first time I was outside.  So now I have 19 females but in a couple more days I may only have 18.  This sucks.  I actually do like the chickens and animals on the farm.   We sat at the lunch table today (during lunch) and discussed genetics for the sheep and which ram to keep and whether to let one of the new baby boys become our breeder.  On our way to swim team we discussed our cut and wrap options and which sheep to have slaughtered.  As soon as we got home tonight we caught the baby lambs and petted on them.  They are the cutest little buggers.  Life on a farm, is very practical.  If you are not practical you cannot survive.

Good night.

Still Alive

Well, the chickens survived the weekend.  No one died while I was at work.  My traps did get moved around yesterday, but not sprung.  So when I went out to lock up the chickens I moved the traps around in an attempt to better catch my predator.  Annmarie did shut the outside coop run one night and the trap did not get sprung.  I now think the predator is not living under the coop.  It is just leaving leftovers under the coop and keeps coming back for seconds and thirds.

Worked on fencing again today.  We got the wire up near the creek  Tomorrow I hope to fix my error at the gate and install two corners (six posts) and 75 feet of fence.  It doesn’t seem like much for us to finish in one day.    But I will be ecstatic if we can do it.  I will only have about 150 feet and ten more posts to go.  The digging kind of posts with braces.  I almost forgot about the walk through gate we need to install. I used the weed eater along the twine path so we could get the fence in through the grass jungle.

Our chocolate lab, Bailey was chasing a turkey today.  They have started to move in next to our house.  I don’t want them competing with my chickens!!

Annmarie took this last spring on the way out of town toward our house, about two miles away.

good night.

No Killer still

This is kinda frustrating.  Still no killer.  I went out first thing this morning (armed of course) and found the mess.  Something had triggered my traps.  Both traps were tripped and wound up together in a knot next to my stake I had driven into the ground.  One of the traps had closed on the other traps chain.  I had them too close together.  Obviously, I need bigger traps.  Unfortunately, they are expensive.  The traps I am using were free.  They were hanging up in the machine shop on a nail.  So I reset the traps, stuffed one way into the hole and the other right at the opening so they would not catch each other this time.  I covered the hole back up with the two tin shields and hopefully I will have better luck next time.  Annmarie and her brother, Matt, have both seen a badger up on the hillside.  If I have a badger, I am going to have a hard time catching it with a trap.  I may have to smoke it out, but that is gonna cause a whole new set of problems.  I will keep trying this for a few days.  Maybe, I will just irritate whatever is living under the coop enough that it will go away.

I have also started marking the chicken coop outside fence as mine.  Using the age old animal technique understood by all creatures, I pee on it.  This sounds like a simple procedure but I have an electric fence running around the outside of the fence, so you do have to pay attention or you will pay the price for your inattention.

Doom, artistic photograph.

Trap set

Well, I went out and set the traps up today.  I checked on them twice with no success.  I just got back from my lockdown patrol (armed with pistol, flashlight and camera).  Still no trap action.  Just to be on the safe side, I counted all the chickens, still have 20 hens and 1 rooster.  They don’t like the flashlight, and cluck their displeasure at roll call.  So hopefully tonight the problem will solve itself.

I left the live trap set up just in case something ran through it.  On the bottom left corner of the picture you can see a metal post in the ground.  I have a wire rope connected to that post and both leg traps under the chicken coop.  I covered the hole with that metal pan and old blue and white can.  That way no cat or chicken could wander into the traps.  You can see I have lowered and latched the chicken door shut so nothing can get in tonight.  Since I have lost 32% of my laying hens in the last week, I need to get this under control soon or there won’t be any chickens left.

one fence down, one more to go (really 4 more)

The Ram pasture fence is done!  I had told Annmarie it would be done and with the sheep eating the barn lot up I needed to be done, plus the weather was supposed to turn bad on Thursday so Wednesday was the perfect day to get finished.  Not so much.  I drove through rain on the way home Wednesday morning.  I got my two teenage nephews to help out on the fence.  As soon as we started fencing it started to rain and kept raining until the last hour.  It took us just over 3 hours to finish the other half of the fence.  Not having to sink any posts or reinforce end posts cuts a lot of time.  The weather was very miserable but still not bad enough to drive us inside.  I had to give an inclement weather bonus to the boys (Annmarie’s suggestion).

 I will quietly proclaim that the fence is now sheep proof (very quietly, maybe even a whisper).  We turned the sheep loose into this pasture, but they are currently in our front yard again snacking away.  We actually had to go get the older twin babies and carry them across the small creek because they would not cross and momma left them.  These are her first babies.  She’s not as attentive as we might hope.

This is the completed fence looking Northwest.  I had to reload the rock crib with rocks.  The cows used my corner crib as a scratching post last year.  I may need to run a hot wire on the outside of the fence for just that reason.  We even ran sheep wire (woven mesh wire) along that small stretch between rock cribs.  I actually need another rock crib halfway between those two.  I tried to drive a post into the rocky hillside and it is kinda in but won’t take any pushing on.  So, eventually I will have to add another rock crib.

This is looking Southeast.  Near the center of the picture you can kinda see my gate.

I lost what we thought was one more chicken on Tuesday night.  Annmarie showed me the carcass on Wednesday.  It was the same as last time, no head and eaten from stomach up.  Literally.  Only the gizzard was left, other than the bones and wings.  I moved the live trap into the chicken yard and put the dead chicken carcass in as bait.  When I was doing this I noticed a hole going under the chicken coop, it normally has a grapefruit size rock in front of it, but the rock was moved.  The cats were getting under the coop so I had moved the rock into place earlier.  I moved the rock back in place

You can’t really see it, but just to the middle left of the photo with the trap is where the hole is.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  When I went out to lock the chickens up for the night at 2100 the rock was moved again and my dead chicken was missing!  Of course the trap had not been sprung.  So I put the rock back and put a tin can in front of the rock so I could check on it again in the morning. At bedtime, 2300, I couldn’t help myself.  I grabbed the pistol and flashlight and made a nighttime patrol.  I spotted three cats and all the sheep but no predator.  Well, in the morning the rock and tin can were pushed to the side and the hole was open again.   I believe whatever is killing my chickens is living under my coop!  Nothing like being close to your food source.  So after grumbling to Annmarie last night about my predators choice of accommodations we came up with a plan.  We had to opt out of all poisons as we have too many animals running around.  We have some leg traps out in the old machine shop.  If I set a couple and stick them in the hole and stake them into the ground and put the rock back then I should only get my predator.  Every one else will be safe.  So today I will do that.  At this point it is all out war.  Even if it is couple of our cats, I need to stop the killing or I won’t have any chickens left, because it was not just one chicken yesterday.  I counted the chickens last night when I locked them up.  I lost 3 more chickens Tuesday night.  I only have 20 laying hens left.  If I were to attempt to buy an adult laying hen it would cost me around $25-30/each.  But if you figure each hen lays around 280 eggs/year and I sell them for $2.50/doz then each hen lays around $58/year in eggs.  So I am losing big time, not to mention that they don’t start laying until they are 6 months old.  The chicken killer must DIE.

Here is a picture of the newest lambs (coffee flavors).  We moved them and momma into the old wood shed for a few days due to the cold, windy, rainy weather.  This keeps momma in one place and allows the babies to get stronger.  We will let them out next week to run with everyone else.  Our next ewe is due in a couple of months.  I am hoping she has twin girls also.  This is machiatto nursing.  You can almost see her wagging her tail!

And this is for Doom.  He is trying to go all artistic photography on me so I thought I would throw this in for him.