It’s Summers Time

Calendar, Chickens and Winter
By: Kathy Summers

If you are one of our regular subscribers you have just received your 2015 Annual Bee Culture Calendar. I couldn’t remember exactly how long we had been doing this calendar so I searched the back issues and this is the 10th calendar we have done. Over the years we have received thousands of pictures from hundreds of readers. We hope that you have benefitted from the information over the years and enjoyed being a part of it. We certainly have. Over the years we’ve had lots of themes – honey, beeyards, bees on flowers, queens – it’s a different theme every year. Check the back of this year’s calendar for the details for the 2016 calendar. If you have some ideas for future calendar themes please pass them along to us. Here’s hoping you have a wonderful 2016!

We’re in the midst of our third Winter with the chickens. And we are having just as much fun as ever. There are still 11. We haven’t lost anyone lately. We’ve repaired the windows in the coop, cleared out the old straw and put down new, so it’s nice and clean for them. We also place several extra bales around the perimeter of the coop for extra warmth. That gives them different places and levels to sit since they spend a lot of time in there in the Winter. We had a few very cold nights in November and it stayed right around 20° at the lowest in the coop. The girls are very happy in there.

Twice a year – Spring and Fall – I do a major purging. I clean out all of the straw that has been accumulating and toss it on the compost pile. A few weeks ago when I was doing this it was a fairly nice Saturday – sun shining so the girls could easily be outside. As I’m cleaning though there are several that wander back in and stand and talk to me, almost like they’re saying “What are you doing?” They are so funny. We still have a couple of them that don’t really like to be touched or held – but every once in a while I just grab them and hold onto them. They don’t really fight me, they just sort of grumble the whole time. We have a cat like that too. She doesn’t like it when I pick her up and hug her, just grumbles at me.

This past year we’ve noticed a great increase of mice in and around the chicken coop. So we started setting traps and decreasing the population. When I was doing my cleaning I unearthed a bunch of mice and now they seem to have relocated.

Have you ever seen a chicken with a mouse? This is a little disturbing but they love to eat them. A chicken can catch a mouse quicker than you can imagine and then they just tear them apart. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But I watched one chicken catch a mouse and then be chased around the pen by her friends trying to take it away from her. I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. They eat worms and bugs and it’s all protein and fat. Right?

Here’s the plan for the Spring. We’re going to get chicks – maybe six or eight – get them through Spring and then get them integrated into the flock. I have a thought that I think will work as far as getting them acquainted safely. From what I’ve read and been told it can get a little crazy trying to work the younger ones into the existing group. It’s kind of like putting that new queen in the beehive – you’ve got to keep her in that cage for a while or bad things happen. We have a fairly large dog crate from when my son’s dog was a puppy and it seems to me that is an easy way to do this – put the ‘babies’ in the crate and put the crate in the pen. They can all look at each other, smell each other, talk to each other and get used to each other, at the same time keeping the young ones safe. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m still thinking about the ducks also. I’ve got a “Raising Ducks” book ordered that I’ll read this Winter and make a decision. But what I’ve read and heard from others so far, it seems that chickens and ducks do quite well together.

So far – it’s mid-December as I write this – Winter has been predictable. Cold, some snow, not too bad yet. But the predictions are for another like last year that just goes on and on. I did the bell ringing for the Salvation Army for a couple of hours this morning and my toes were cold by the time I got done. It’s mid-30s and cloudy here today.

My son Matt has been living in California for three years now and he discovered this year that his body has adapted to that climate. He and his brother used to tease their Uncle Tommie about being such a sissy when it came to cold weather. He lives in southern California and when it would hit about 55° he’d be looking for his big coat. Matt says now he’s that guy too. It was down to 40° out there a week or so ago and it was killing him. So he won’t be teasing Uncle Tommie anymore.

Kim, Peggy and I will be heading to southern California in January (pray for good flying weather) to the two big meetings – American Honey Producers and American Beekeeping Federation. Hope to see some of you there. It’s January in southern California. How much better can it be. Plus, I’ll get to see my brother and his wife.

Here’s one last wish for a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.