Since Baby Ezra came along, we've been busy with more babies on the homestead. We acquired three little white pullets (baby hens) which are growing nicely. Our two mamma rabbits each produced seven baby bunnies. Of course, they were born the day AFTER Easter. Ah well, we were planning on them for meat, anyway.
The three surviving guineas are full grown, with two of them laying eggs now. We were hoping for one rooster, to hatch out some more babies. Nobody's broody yet, and all three look exactly alike, so it doesn't look good for the guinea hatching project.
I'm not sure if this should be entered under the "Shoulda known better" heading or the "Learn something new every day" column. After removing five of the six roosters from the chicken coop, we finally started getting 8-10 eggs a day. Apparently one rooster is max for up to two dozen hens. Of course, a rooster is not necessary for them to lay eggs, but we were hoping for baby chicks, too. Unfortunately, none of my hens seem to have the motherly instinct, so no new hatchlings. My friend, with whom I ordered the chicks last year, has two broody hens who hatched out six healthy chicks. I guess that's pretty fair odds for hatchery hens.
The other threat to our now bountiful egg supply was the ravens. Bigger than crows, smaller than most eagles, they fly right into the henhouse and steal ALL the eggs right out of the nest boxes. Then just to taunt me, they drop the empty shells right outside the coop.
Realizing that a couple rounds of bird shot, though it would make me feel better, would do nothing to forestall our large local population of ravens from continuing to steal all my eggs, I grabbed a roll of poultry netting and proceeded to throw it across the top of the chicken yard to keep the foul fowl out. Now with the coop completely enclosed, we are enjoying all of our eggs.
Even though our birds are not free ranging right now, due to their small numbers and the large local population of coyotes, they are thriving on a well balanced diet. We're feeding them commercial scratch grain, occasional hay, which also makes good bedding and helps with sanitation in the coop; weeds from the gardens, kitchen scraps, and whey from cheesemaking.
We crush and feed back some of their eggshells and also homemade cheese and yogurt that did not turn out so well. So they're getting plenty of protein, greens and calcium.
It seems with all the bird care going on here, numerous wild birds have been encouraged to take up residence. Nesting in various trees, eaves and bushes around the homestead are pigeons, doves, bluebirds, sparrows, chickadees, robins, hummingbirds and others that come and go – woodpeckers, hawks, kestrels. Morning and evening times are especially delightful with the music of so many different singers. The quarreling guineas, clucking hens and crowing roosters in chorus with the lilting background of the wild songbirds. It doesn't get much better.