It’s egg laying season!

It’s been such a long time since we’ve gotten eggs. We have good birds, they eat lots, they have lots of space and sunshine. The problem is that something has been taking the eggs from the coop–a racoon, a fox, a skunk? That’s the only explanation for our egg shortage.

But…now that our chickies are in a chicken tractor, we get 1 to 3 eggs a day! We’re thrilled! We love farm fresh eggs. In just a few weeks we should be getting more eggs, specifically from our dominant copper marans. They lay dark chocolate eggs.

We’re grateful that we getting eggs! Now we just have to figure out how to get duck eggs from Maggie.

The chicks’ new crib

We got four dominant copper pullets. They are a mix of copper marans and somethin’ else.

I LOVE Marans because of the dark chocolate colored eggs.

Farm life is like a bucolic horror film. One moment you’re feeling the morning cool, watching the sky change colors as the sun rises, smelling the sweet hay and just thanking God for the life he’s blessed you with. The next minute you’re jolted and sickened as you realize that the bunnies that we’re born two weeks ago are being slowly pecked from beneath their cage by ravenous, omnivorous chickens. The white (now bloody pink) chicken is running around the hutch waiting for another bunny to show itself through the wire so she can peck it to a slow, horrific death.

You look up from the carnage, in shock, still not sure of what you’re seeing is real. Chickens like cracked corn and earthworms. They wouldn’t eat bunnies straight from the cage.

A quiet, miniature peeping sound behind you momentarily distracts you from the sickening scene before you. Three quail are peacefully taking dust baths together, carelessly flinging sand and dirt in a voluminous dust cloud around them. Another group of quail are clustered around the waterer, possibly sharing farm gossip, giving each other egg laying tips, or just complaining about the weather.

The scene suddenly cuts back to the bunnies and chickens. You ask outloud, not sure if you’re talking to God or to the sheep that are anxioulsy waiting for you right outside the chicken coop, “How can a farm be full of so much beauty and horror at the same time???”

Even with loss and tragedy, farm life is truly rich and purposeful. Every day is full of life, beauty, peace, growth, family and work–all good things. We see the hand the hand of God manifest in so many ways, from the slow, miraculous ripening of a tomato to the clockwork hatching of a baby turkey. But in some sad ways, this farm-world isn’t too different from the world of people we live in–a world with wars, riots, infanticide, death, bullying, gangs, abuse. It’s chickens vs. bunnies versus people vs. people.

Seeing God’s hand in all things gives us a chance to learn to be better stewards to our simple, instinct-driven farm creatures and to the complex, needy, hungry humans that surround us here on Earth. It takes patience, love, forgiveness, the desire to improve, creativity, resourcefulness, and the humility to ask for help. These are all godlike attributes that we strive to develop as we work on the farm and as we serve our fellow man.

As we care for his creations–of all kinds–we get a divine glimpse of what it’s like for him to watch over and care for us in this beautiful, bumpy, bucolic, sometimes tragic, but mostly wonderful thing we call “life”.

The chickens have been quarantined in a small dog kennel attached to the coop. There was no other effective way to keep them in the pasture, and we’re about to plant the garden, so they cannot be allowed to escape again.

A few weeks ago, Jon told us about a U-Haul location that was surplussing moving pods for $5, so we picked one up and turned it into a chicken coop. Jon helped us move to the pasture with his forklift. We’ve already been getting way more eggs from the chickens and duck. Today we finished the roof using salvaged sheet metal that Jon found.

We’re still failing at keeping the chickens in the pasture. We have to solve that problem before we plant the garden.

Yesterday, our friend help us get the town-behind lawn mower that our neighbor gave us running. A kit with a carburetor, spark plug, fuel filter, and air filter was $20. Next I need to buy new wheel bearings for it and for the small tractor trailer.

We changed the oil and spark plug in the Sears tractor.

The Case tractor is not doing so well. The past few weeks, it has been hard to start, which was not a problem before. I replaced the spark plugs today. Most of them were black with carbon. I also topped off fluids. It took about 3 quarts of fluid in the torque tube and a gallon of oil in the transmission. The 3-gallon cooling system took a gallon of coolant. I replaced the engine oil, and there was coolant in the oil. That probably means it has a bad head gasket. Also, yesterday the clutch started to fail. Today I had to use the hand clutch, and even then, I had to turn off the tractor to change gears. One of the back wheels still has a slow leak, too.

I re-routed the temporary pasture fencing on the north side of the barn so that I can access the tractor parking area again. The sheep will probably have that extra pasture area finished off in the next two weeks or so.

The chickens have finished off my kale. 🙁

A few months ago, we got to use a hydraulic log splitter to split a bunch of wood we had gotten from arborists. Today, we stacked it along the west side of the barn, probably about 1.5 cords. We don’t have a woodstove, though.

We also reapplied wood chips around the young fruit trees after adding some landscaping fabric.

The sheep have mowed the entire pasture down to stubble, due to our not implementing paddocks. Heather has installed some temporary fencing allowing them to graze the area north of the barn.

We haven’t gotten any chicken eggs for months. But they don’t have a proper chicken coop in which to lay eggs, nor are we giving them any feed beyond table scraps and what they find in the pasture.

Something happened to the carburetor on the John Deere mower and it will barely idle at full throttle. I fiddled with it a bit, then ordered a new carburetor. At about $15 to buy new, they’re hardly worth trying to troubleshoot.

The Case tractor has a rear left tire that loses air over the course of about a week. I need to see if I can remove the wheel so I can take it to a tire store for repair. Otherwise, it’s probably about $100 for a field service call.

We’re still getting some kale from the garden, but the chickens have been escaping the pasture now that we extended it for the sheep, so the kale isn’t going to last much longer.

The remaining Jersey Giant chicken gets out of the pasture all the time and ravishes my garden. Well, this morning, she got mangled by a dog. So far, she has survived but appears to have a broken wing. We’ll see what happens, but she probably won’t be hopping the pasture fence and getting into the garden now.

Work has begun on turning an entertainment center into a chicken coop. I’m glad for that, because they will need some shelter come winter.

Today I picked up three free chickens from a lady who needed to rehome them. She said they all have been laying throughout the winter. Within an hour of us putting then in the pasture they had sneaked through the cattle panels and were browsing the side yard. It took some chasing to get them back in the pasture. Grant locked them in their coop overnight (without the chicken that Payne family gave us) to get them used to their new home.