Holiday Bliss & Hen House Blues

Happy Holidays folks!

It might sound cliché, but it truly is the most wonderful time of the year! If you are feeling all Scrooge(ish) this holiday season & want to hang on to that “Bah humbug” state of mind, stop reading now, because I’m about to fill your headspace full of happy, sappy, smushy, gushy, candy cane colored, heartfelt cheer with this long overdue blog post from Wildwood Acres!

Where to begin? Well lots of happenings here at the homestead. The halls are decked, the holiday baking has begun, candles are lit, Christmas lights are twinkling throughout the house & the air is filled with the warm scent of spicy orange, cinnamon & clove simmering on our stovetop. Our little guy loves the daily experience of reading The Night Before Christmas, collecting pinecones & falling asleep to Christmas carols on the radio each night. The girls & my hunk are officially out for winter break starting this afternoon! Josh & I have literally been counting down the days for this holiday downtime & we couldn’t possibly be more excited. Today marks the day that he will finally be off work & we can gleefully enjoy some genuine rest & relaxation, Christmas flicks, delicious eats & tasty treats all wrapped up in some good, old-fashioned family fun!

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Aside from all of the holiday prep & seasonal anticipation, we have some other excitement happening here on the home front as well. First, the bad news… Coyotes love chickens & turkeys. Apparently we have hungry coyotes living around our property & unfortunately they discovered our flock shortly before Thanksgiving. They’ve been utilizing it as their own personal smorgasbord ever since. We actually lost 10 birds in one night! Not just small hens or gangly pullets, but 10 sizeable birds. Among them were 3 large turkeys, our strikingly handsome rooster Vince, my massively muscular & mean rooster nemeses, Mr. Darcy & my kind-hearted, lovely, plump & best barred rock layer, Shanti. Not to mention the loss of a plethora of roosters we were raising for meat & several other hens that hadn’t started laying just yet. It has been quite devastating for us. And the worst part of all is that we continued to do what we could to protect the rest of the flock – screwing doors shut at night, creating a makeshift enclosure & even placing our scarecrow “Granny” from the garden into the scratch yard to serve as a deterrent – but to no avail. Each morning we’d wake up & fretfully saunter out to the chicken pasture to find one or two more of the flock missing. Truly, the worst way to start out everyday, and it went on for weeks. Other than some random scattered feathers here & there, we found few signs of destruction or clues left behind. After an insightful conversation with Farmer John down the road & our own super sleuth skills, we are convinced it is the work of coyotes rather than our original ideas, which ranged from fox, raccoons or our initial hunch… alien abduction.

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We were finally down to our last two turkeys this past week, so my “poultry partner” Chanda & I headed out to slaughter them for our Christmas dinners. With knives sharpened & water boiling on the stovetop, these toms lucked out as we quickly wrangled them only to find that they were still pretty lean & not quite large enough to harvest just yet. So, change of plans. Josh & I loaded them up into the truck & drove them over to integrate with Chanda’s flock until we build a suitable, predator resistant run. At any rate, we are officially cleaned out of feathered friends for now & we won’t be enjoying homegrown turkey as our main dish on Christmas day. It’s sad, but true. I realize this is all part of the experience & lack thereof on our part. We’re willing to embrace the good with the bad until we learn how to do this the right way. We knew from the beginning of this adventure that the highs would come with lows, so on & so forth. So, Josh & I have put together two separate building plans for some pretty awesome enclosures for both the layers & the meat birds. We’ll get started with the building process immediately following the New Year & we’ll have plenty of indoor & outdoor space for the new flock to safely call home when they’re not free ranging during the daylight hours.So now for the good news! MAN, do I love good news! We are officially back in business! Between Chanda & I, we have collected around 40 eggs from local chicken-keepers & they are currently cooking in the incubator!

IMG_1150We’re so anxious to see how many will actually hatch & so far so good, as Chanda informed me this morning that out of the first 18 eggs, 11 of them look to be fertile. Not bad in my novice opinion. We’ll likely know about the others in a few more days. We are thinking of adding some duck eggs to mix in the near future as well. I am so looking forward to fresh eggs again this spring or early summer. We have absolutely been spoiled & now we’re back to buying eggs again. It’s a real eye-opener for us & further confirms that raising our own flock is well worth the effort & pitfalls involved.

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Another great thing happened this week as Chanda found a lone hen at a farm in Williamsburg & the owner dropped her off to mate with our toms! Looks like we could have some turkey eggs in the incubator before long as well, which is so very exciting and new for us both! And as if all of this hasn’t helped to mend my broken poultry loving heart, my dear friend took things a step further & hooked me up with an early Christmas gift. I mentioned in passing that I want to raise some Buff Orpington hens for laying this spring… Guess what? Chanda found 4 little BO chicks for me!

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They’re just what I wanted & they’re already getting their little tail feathers! Friends don’t let friends go without chickens! What can I say, I’m feeling loved by her generosity. I have been feeling so low lately, waking up in the mornings without the sound of rooster crows echoing through the homestead. It has been eerily silent around here, but with all of the eggs incubating & the newbie baby buffs in existence, my spirits have been lifted. No one ever claimed this new experience would be easy for hobby farm wannabees like us. But we are learning as we go & we are more certain than ever that it is all worthwhile.

In other news, Josh & I have been working on an old mantle that came out of the house that I grew up in back in Ohio. It’s a hugely, long white mantle that used to hang over the fireplace in our old living room up on the farm. We snagged it from storage while we were back home last spring. It has taken some elbow grease to remove the grit & grime from years of neglect. Josh removed all of the nails & screws & chipped off all of the plaster crud on the back. I slapped it down with a fresh coat of paint a few nights ago & we plan to hang it this weekend in the family room. I absolutely love it. It is the perfect family Christmas gift. Can’t wait to share photos when it’s all finished.

So, that’s what’s happening around here as of late. Be sure to check out a few other happenings with the garden pictures below. Seems like there’s always something to look forward to & discover in our little space.

From our family to yours, we wish a joyfully Merry Christmas & a wonderfully happy New Year!
Much love, from Wildwood Acres.

 


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