Getting into the swing of this farm thing – growing chicks, clucky chickens, vegetables, and conquering the ride-on lawnmower

There was a moment yesterday when I had to shake my head at how much life has changed in such a short period of time – looking over my shoulder as I walked out of the house yard, I saw toddling behind me: six guinea fowl keets, four adult guinea fowl and two Isa Brown chickens (it helped that I happened to be carrying a bucket of grain!).  Six months ago we had no animals, no chickens and I’d never even seen a guinea fowl.  Now we have three Isa Brown hens, five chicks, two cows, two guinea pigs…and ten guinea fowl!  Not to mention an ever-expanding vegetable garden and enough seedlings on my veranda to start a small plant nursery!

As you can see from the photo above (yes, that is my very classy, muddy gumboot), we’ve become used to the chickens following our every move.  Dig anything and they’re under our feet hoping for an earthworm.  Jump on the ride-on lawnmower and we end up with a lawn full of zigzags as we dodge the chickens leaping in front of the mower.  On the plus side, if I didn’t have the chickens to blame, I’d have to take full responsibility for my seriously amateur ride-on lawn mowing abilities.  I’m yet to master getting the mower into reverse (probably a good thing, as my lawnmowing is hazardous enough when I’m going forwards).  One of our neighbours has tried a few times to convince me to buy a tractor with slasher.  I keep wanting to say, “Have you seen me driving the ride-on??”  The world is a little safer with me not driving a tractor.

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Who wouldn’t want to spend time mowing this?  My favourite avenue of trees.

 

 The Chickens – ‘Chocolate Chicken’ Goes Wild

Speaking of our neighbour, our third Isa Brown chicken, ‘Chocolate Chicken’ has taken up residence in the next door neighbour’s cow shed and is refusing to return home on any sort of regular basis.  She appears every second day, feathers puffed and clucking intermittently, chasing a feed.  After a bit of grain and water she’s off again.  My guess is she’s gone clucky – the clucking being a bit of a giveaway!  We tried locking her in the chicken tractor but she was so miserable we let her out again.  I *thought* she’d get over the cluckiness in her own time and we wouldn’t have to do anything to intervene, but it’s been weeks now and her behaviour’s not showing any signs of abating.  At least she looks happy and healthy, but we may have to do something about the situation before the weather starts cooling down.  The obvious solution would be to put eggs under her, but she’s been clucky for so long now that I don’t know whether she’d stay clucky long enough to hatch the eggs.  Then there’s the little matter of the five chicks we already own!  I think we’ve reached our chick quota.

The Chicks: Growing Up and Feathering Up

Our chicks are mostly feathered now, just a hint of chick fluff remaining around their heads, so we’re finally getting an idea of what they’re going to look like as adults.  They were sold to us as Wyandottes but I suspected then, as I do now, that they were at the very least crossed with another breed, if not a different breed entirely.  Not that it really matters – eggs are eggs when they’re on your toast!  One of the chicks, Sophie, has something resembling the laced Wyandotte patterning.  You can see the lacey patterning here on her feathers below:

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Sophie the chick.  Check out the lacey black patterning on her wings.  So pretty…

 

The breed of one of the other chicks, Minty, has me completely stumped.  Unlike the others, she/he (?) has fluffy feet. I have no idea what combination of breeds she may be.  I’ve never paid much attention to poultry breeds with feathered feet as I thought they’d be completely impractical unless you were after a bird purely for show.  Now, having owned a chick with feathery feet, I’ve gotta say that assumption was one hundred percent correct.  Those fluffy feet are completely impractical – they get stained easily, tangled with bits of straw and goodness knows what else…but…I have to say I have a soft spot for Minty, fluffy feet and all.  Here she is:

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Minty

 

I’d like to point out I have nothing to do with the naming of the animals on the farm – that’s totally the kids’ domain! 🙂   Some of the chicks may need name adjustments should they turn out to be roosters!

The Vegetable Garden

The endless rain has meant lots and lots of growth in the main vegetable patch.  Every time I look out the window the plants appear to have grown another inch.  But with the rampant growth and humidity come some challenges with fungal disease.  Every day I’m out removing any hint of fungal disease and bagging it.  On the whole the plants look really healthy – surprisingly.  There was one sad-looking cucumber plant, riddled with caterpillars and some sort of white fungus – I reluctantly pulled it out for the greater good of the vegie patch.

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Corn and Cucurbits bed – Front row: sweetcorn (young plants left, older planting right), Middle row: baby squash (left), staggered planting of Asian greens (right), Back row: young plantings of cucumber, watermelon and zucchini.  Far back: new raised bed (left), compost heap (right) *I know, I know – it’s chaos!

 

 

The seedlings on the back veranda have been multiplying at a rapid rate as all the seeds I’ve been sowing over the last few weeks come of age, moving up to their own pots.  My champion of a husband, observing the seedlings’ slow encroachment of our entire outdoor living space, assembled two raised garden beds and began digging up an extension on our main vegie patch.  We’ve just about filled the first raised garden bed (not a small job as the bed is 4.8 x 1.2 metres) but there’s still a lot of work to go to get the other two beds up and running.

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One of the two new raised garden beds

 

Harvests haven’t been huge yet.  The bees have been keeping their wings dry with the constant rain about and haven’t been pollinating the squash and watermelon plants as much as we’d hoped.  It may well be up to us to fill the gap with a paintbrush and hand pollination.  The Asian greens have been a suprising success though.  I’m loving having easy access to greens with minimal gardening effort from us – and no hint of bitterness so far, despite the hot weather the plants endured over the last few weeks.

I have to finish with this pic of the guinea fowl keets.  When I’m working in the study they’ve developed a habit of coming up to the window and peering in.  I’m not sure if they want to come in, check out what I’m doing, or are just admiring their reflection in the window pane.  Whatever the case, it makes an interesting view while typing!

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Happy mid-week to you!

Julie.

 

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