morning patrol

I had to let the chickens out of the coop this morning since I am having Butler issues (which I hope are easily fixed).  At the same time I let the sheep out of the barn, weather is not very good so the sheep decided to stay in the barn any way.  But, I did notice a bundle of white feathers in the tall grass up by the barn, so I waded through the two foot tall water laden grass to get there (in my slippers of course) and found my white rooster!  He got a leg stuck in the fence.  It was pinched between a wire panel and a 2×10 in the cattle loading pen.  I got him out and set him on the ground.  He was hanging out when I left.  Not sure if his leg is broken or not, but since the chicken pen seems to be the cafeteria for some predator I figured he was safer on the ground in the deep grass.  We will see if he pulls through.  No traps were sprung, I am going to figure out how to put a trap in front of the chicken door to the chicken yard.  The electric fence is still on so they aren’t going over the wall.  I like Spring I really do, but every Spring I have a knock down drag out battle with the predators.

Farm 2 Predators 8

There is no more skirmishing going on.  We are under full attack!  I lost another two chickens today.  We were gone all afternoon and didn’t come home until after dark.  I found one dead chicken inside the coop and my Chicken Butler door was wide open!!  Now in the Butlers defense we had another severe storm with lighting and that may have messed it up.  The chickens are still dying due to a malfunction of the door.  I manually shut the external coop door and latched it.  One hen had managed to crawl up on top of the quail pen.  She was seven feet straight up with no way to reach her.  She would have survived a full blown raccoon family assault.  I think I may have another mother raccoon.  This happened last time I had a mother raccoon. she just kept coming back and killing 1-2 chickens every couple of days.  I am not sure what I am going to do.  First thing to do is to get the Chicken Butler working.  I may have to put it on a timer, not real sure what I am going to do.  May just have to reset the limit switches on the Butler.  I need to turn my babies loose so I can get more babies, but until I catch the killer that will just provide more victims.

On the plus side Annmarie just got me a wireless camera that will transmit 200 feet.  I was going to mount it outside looking at the chicken yard door, but I may mount it inside and outside the door and just move it after I catch whatever is killing my chickens.  It even has low light capability so I can see in the dark.  I am trying to talk Annmarie into setting it up to live stream video from our website.  I thought that would be cool!!  But right now I am thinking it is one more tool to use in the Predator War.  If I get it hooked up to the computer I will be able to view a 24 hour window of video and start marking the predator’s habits so I can nab it.

Stuff done despite the rain

The weather decided to cooperate today.  It was windy and rainy this morning, Annmarie and I went in to start bringing back the feral cats we had fixed.  We had 10 cats fixed this weekend all feral.  Only two left, one at our house and one and Annmarie’s mother’s house.  Hoping to get those next month and our kitten problem will be gone!!  Yeah.  We will have almost 20 cats spayed or neutered on the property, that seems to be about the number that is needed to keep the mice away from the houses.  I suppose if we didn’t live in the middle of 300 acres of CRP (undisturbed native grass fields) we wouldn’t need as many, but we do so we will keep this number up.

Cattle guard prior to fixing the rails. 

Cattle guard after adding rails and hog wire panels.  

Sarah and I went out and finished fixing the rails for the cattle guard.  They used to have two boards bolted to them which I always thought was decorative, not so.  The rails kept the sheep from sneaking around the cattle guard.  So I added hog panels to make doubly sure that the sheep would not sneak around the wooden rails.  Sarah dropped a 2×12 on my tennis shoe foot.  The joys of working with an unwilling teenager.  Luckily, I can still walk.  Once the cattle guard was done we restretched the fence on the South side of the guard.  I would have done the North side but I needed some wire/T-post connectors and they were back at the house so I opted to do that another day.

I lost at least one more chicken today.  I will have to recount tomorrow night to get an accurate count for the new month.  They are disappearing during the day which means it is not a wild predator but a domestic predator.  The domestic predator was in my chicken yard snacking on chicken legs.  We are one less domestic predator tonight.  I will get the count tomorrow night and post it.  Not sure whether it is one or two chickens.

On the way up to the bone yard I noticed three different rock chucks scampering around the hillside.  The upper fence is almost laying down for about 50 yards.  The cows are going to be able to just step over it to get into the CRP.  That upper fence is in very poor shape, but since I haven’t finished the fence around the house I cannot get up there.  Not until after the barn is repaired before I can start working on external fencing.

Horseshoe above door.  At this point I need all the
help I can get to protect the chickens. 

Traps as a visual predator deterrent!!  I think they will work (at least that is what I am telling the wife).

On the chicken theme Sarah and I mounted the traps along the chicken coop today.  They look very good.  Annmarie was not that impressed.  I know that all predators will see the wall and tremble!  Plus, I have three live traps set up outside the chicken yard tonight.  I baited them all with dead chicken wings and feet.  Sarah thought it was morbid to use the body parts, but I told her what was the best bait for catching a chicken killer?  Chicken!  Seemed pretty straightforward to me.

And the saga continues

We started out this weekend with a plan. We usually camp this weekend for a semi-annual medieval event in the Tri-Cities, but we had instead planned to work on fence and the bridge, and help Mom move Dad to a new assisted living facility. Dad’s move happened earlier than originally planned, but in the meantime, the hitch for our pickup had wandered off the farm, and we were in no way prepared for the first camping event of the year, so we revised our plan to catch up on some housework and work on the fence. It is still to wet to work on fence, so we have visions of some really significant catch-up happening on the house. I’m afraid it didn’t work out that way.
Yesterday afternoon, the child was doing the laundry and hollered that there was a problem. We asked what that might be, and she stated that the washer had quit working. She was not too specific, so Steve went to take a look, and the washer would not drain. It would have been nice if it had failed to fill, rather than failed to drain, but that’s not what happened. Steve flipped a few switches, reset a fuse or two, and tried a different cycle, all to no avail. We were planning to go to a movie, so we didn’t do anything else at that time. We left for the movie and put off thoughts of washing machines until morning. I just spent a fairly significant amount of time addressing the immediate problem associated with the failure of the washing machine to drain. You can see the results below.
Yes, those are towels drying on the fence. No, it is not good weather for drying clothes outside. It’s only about 50 degrees, and those are storm clouds in the sky. The load in the washer could not have been whites, or Steve’s scrubs, or even sheets. No, the washer had a full load of towels in it. And the washer failed at the end of the wash cycle, so they were soapy and sopping wet. As I was sitting on the edge of the bath tub, rinsing and hand-wringing each towel in preparation to hanging for outside drying, it occurred to me that many modern conveniences are interwoven. For example, modern ulta-absorbent terry cloth towels are nearly impossible to adequately wash, rinse and wring by hand. The very existence of these soft squishy things we all expect to waiting for us as we step out of our showers of hot running water depends on the modern washing machine being available to do the work of washing, rinsing, and wringing. By the time I had dealt with the entire load, I had decided that if ever I was permanently deprived of my modern washing machine, I would be reintroducing linen as an absorbent material. And yes, the washing machine still has water in it. Steve and I are discussing how best to remove it. I want to use a garden hose and siphon it out, much like you would empty a fish tank. Steve wants to bail it out with a bucket.
Prior to undertaking the task of the towels, however, I took some of the outside cats to a spay / neuter clinic in Pendleton. When I parked, I noticed steam coming out from under the hood of the car. It was rather odd, since Steve had just have the oil changed and the coolant flushed yesterday, and the temperature was in the 40’s, so overheating really should not have happened. Besides, the temperature gauge was not showing that the engine was hot. But, I couldn’t deal with it right then, so I proceeded to take care of getting the cats registered and dropped off, and then worried about the car. It was no longer steaming when I came out, which I took to be a good sign. I started it up to move it to a better parking spot and the steam started back up with the engine. So, I moved it only two car lengths, and called Steve to come get me and figure out what we needed to do about the car. After some poking and wiping and peering and checking, we concluded that all of the necessary fluid levels were sufficient, and decided to drive it to the shop. Steve opted to drive the steaming car, and I drove his. We got separated, but that was OK, because we both knew where we were going. Before I got far, though, my cell phone rang. It was Steve, saying that he thought it was probably just spray or overflow from the service and he was going to drive on home where he could put it up and take a closer look. I defer to his judgement in most things automotive, so I didn’t argue, and went on about running my errands. Before I got to my first stop my phone rang again. Steve had gotten about 5 miles out of town before the water pump in the car failed. He called Triple A for a tow, and the car went to the shop.
As an aside, we have so many feral cats between our house and Mom’s that we got a volume discount at the spay & neuter clinic. The houses are now surrounded by live traps in the hopes that we can get a few more in before tomorrow.

Farm 1 Predators 6

Possum-chicken killer

This sucks, lost another adult chicken.  Am down 2 adult laying hens.  I can see my production dropping off by the day.  Sarah found another carcass today tucked under the old house back porch.  I had her count chickens again and she said we were down to 25.  I panicked cause that means more than one chicken died so I just got back from checking on the sheep, chasing a lone hen, who has decided the barn is her new home, back into the chicken coop and counting all my chickens again.  I counted 27 with 2 of those being roosters.  This means one of the roosters got eaten and one hen.  The roosters don’t count as they don’t produce so no big loss there.  I had to chase one cat out of the coop.

New and improved wire enforced predator proof enclosure

Rock and wire enforced water run-off channel

  So now everyone is a suspect in the chicken wars.  To top it all off, Annmarie found a dead baby weasel in our front yard.  It was only about 8 inches long so not an adult.  I am sure it was a victim of the cats.  But if we get a weasel family moved in it is going to be hard to kill them off.  Worse if they get a taste for chicken.  So I am going to buy two more live traps on Friday.  We set the one trap we have up and I locked the chicken yard gate so that anything that wants to get in has to crawl over the fence and under the electric fence wire.
No problem for a weasel but anything else won’t be able to do it.

 I think on Friday night I will open the chicken gate into the yard and put my live trap right up against the opening so I can catch any critter going into the chicken yard.  If that doesn’t work, I may just run the electric fence to the trap so that any critter that tries the opening will get shocked.  That will have to wait until the rain stops which right now it is pouring outside.

Sheep out in CRP where they do not belong.

Upper pasture in the Spring

Red tailed Hawk babies and their mother

Farm 1 Predators 5

Here we are again losing the battle.  Chicken War II is on and we may have lost a few battles but we haven’t lost the war!  Annmarie called to tell me that we had caught a possum in our live trap.  She sent it to predator heaven and then both womenfolk took it up to the bone yard to dispose of the carcass.  Sarah has dumping the carcass out of the trap without actually touching the animal down to an art form.  She tips the trap up on end and shakes the recently expired critter out onto the bone strewed hillside.  I was happy as I only knew about the one adult hen being eaten.

Annmarie called me this morning and informed me that the predators were snacking on my baby chickens.  I truly blame Mother Nature for this problem. I cannot put gutters on the chicken coop due to the heavy snowfall sliding off in the Winter and ripping them off (besides who puts gutters on a chicken coop?).  So a lack of gutters causes small channels to be formed in the ground from the water cascading off the roof.  We have had an inordinate amount of rain this year causing this rut to deepen dramatically.  So much so that the rock I had jammed under the board last year was just sitting there doing no good.  The death deserving predator(s) were crawling under the board and eating my baby chicks.  The outside chick run had feathers all over the place!  They killed four of my babies.  I started with 18, lost one to disease and now four more to predators and am down to 13.  As always, my favorite chicken was ruthlessly slaughtered by the enemy.  She was a little tame brown leghorn.

So Sarah and I refortified the fortified chicken enclosure.  It is now surrounded totally by wire on all four sides and over the roof.  We added wire to the building side, attached it to the wall and bent out 8 inches at ground level then piled rocks on top of those 8 inches.  We then plugged the crawl through hole with a stake through the wire and more heavy rocks.  My hope and wish is that all casualties from our side will stop.
Annmarie also dropped another bomb this morning.  We lost another newborn lamb.  It drowned in the creek.  Near as we can guess it was trying to stay next to momma and she used the narrow foot bridge across the creek and the lamb fell in.  This learning to farm is rough on everyone.  Both Annmarie and I were saddened by this useless death.  In some ways it seems silly since in nine months he (newborn was a boy) would have been someones meal.  But it is hard to discount the easy and meaningful life he would have had until that time.    We had been talking about  locking the sheep up every night in the barn but had not been doing it.

So with one miscarriage, one newborn drowning and five more sheep ready to give birth we are now locking the sheep up at night in the barn.  This whole talk of sheep brought up another point.  Someone asked me today how many sheep we own.  I could not answer this question with any certainty.  So today I counted them while they were out in the pasture and got 17.  The child did a birth record slash count on her fingers and came up with 16.  So tonight when she locked them up she counted them…16.

One chicken killer down

I went for a walk this morning, after again chasing the sheep out of the CRP, and detoured over the let the chickens out, and noticed that the trap was occupied. It was a possum. It is now a dead possum. Hopefully, there was only one possum, and not a family. Time will tell. In the meantime, today is the day to finish off the lawn, and I’m going to take pity on the poor little chicken who is still sitting on a wooden egg. She’s been at this for long enough that she’s obviously not giving it up. So, I’m going to move her and about 6 or 8 eggs into a dog crate where she can sit undisturbed with readily available food and water. We’re going to let the babies start mingling with the general population, so the baby pen will be available for her and her babies when the eggs hatch in about 4 weeks.