Spring Homestead Projects

| 2/28/2014 11:30:00 AM

Tags: spring, eggs, backyard chickens, Ohio, Mary Lou Shaw,

Springtime begins on our little homestead while the snow shovels still stand ready for use. It’s not just the calendar that says spring is coming; the animals also know.

It only takes a day in the upper 40’s to allow the honey bees to come out. These warmer days allow themeggs in incubator to take “cleansing flights,” for they never soil the inside of their hives. We can see how many hives survived this harsh winter by watching their comings and goings. We’re grateful to see that ten of twelve hives are still busy with bees. We know the queens are already laying brood, and so the bees are depending on sufficient food inside their hives until pollen and nectar are again available outdoors.

The chickens are also delighted to have days where the ground is free of snow. It may be too cold to forage for green plants and insects, but they are contentedly chattering around the barnyard. Although we have an “open-door” policy all year with the Dorking chickens, Ancona ducks and the Narragansett turkeys, the chickens have opted to stay indoors for much of this cold winter.

Having more daylight hours means we get more eggs. However, it won’t be long until some of the hens declare themselves “broody.” That means they will stop laying eggs in preference for sitting on their “clutch” of eggs. We humans may think of eggs as breakfast, but they are potential babies to a hen!

My contribution to the baby-effort comes soon. That’s when I haul out the incubator to help increase the number of these genetically-rare animals. Chickens take three weeks to hatch. Ducks and turkeys take four weeks. Anticipating the eggs becoming chicks, ducklings or poults makes me feel like an excited kid. Spring truly is a time of miracles!

There are plants that also need attention now. Pruning fruit trees is a great way to get outdoors on mild, late-winter days. Apple trees can usually be pruned throughout the winter, but that’s not been a good idea this year. The extreme cold and large-fluctuations of temperatures has made winter pruning too stressful for the trees. I’ve waited until it’s officially March to begin this task.

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