Archive for April, 2012

A Queen is Born and Hussy Hen

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

With this very early spring we’ve been blessed with, our honeybee hives sprung to life early this year. Really early. And our first hive inspections were late.  Really late.

Because that’s just the way we roll on this homestead.

By the time we did our first hive we found multiple swarm cells, and a couple of supersedure cells.  Fortunately, our neighbor from up the road, Si, came up to help with that first hive inspection. And Si knows bees. He also happens to raise queen bees.

So, naturally, when we discovered the swarm and supersedure cells,  we calmly looked at Si and screamed “WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO????????”

And, naturally, Si offered some solutions.

We could split our hives to give the girls more room, but that would leave us with four hives.

We don’t want four hives.

We want two hives.

Or we could remove all the swarm and supersedure cells and go back into the hives every two weeks or so and continue to remove them. Because once a hive decides to swarm, there is really nothing that can be done to stop them from trying to raise a new queen.

Our weather is a little kooky now and we stay pretty danged busy, so we worried we wouldn’t be able to keep up the constant removing of cells.

Finally Si offered a solution that we agreed was a good approach. Si would take our queens with him, allowing the hives to hatch out new queens and most likely to swarm with one of them.

We would lose bees to a swarm, no doubt. But, with the original queen gone, the number of bees that would leave with a new queen would be small in comparison.

So that’s what we did. Si took our queens.

And our beehives did, indeed, swarm. I saw them.

But when we went back into the hives last weekend, the number of bees left was astonishing.

It appeared to work!

Only, we didn’t find the new queen in one of the hives.

We looked and looked, and there was no queen.

Fortunately, as I mentioned, Si raises queen bees, and he brought three tubes with those little beauties on the verge of hatching.

So our plan was to put one of those new cells into the hive with the missing queen so she could hatch there and reign supremely.

But…… before we did that, Si decided we should take a look at those supersedure cells that had failed to hatch out. Maybe they weren’t viable, because surely they should have hatched the day or two before…….

And when he removed it from the frame and started to gently pick at it, he was greeted by a queen bee chewing her way out!

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Holy Bee Hive!

And Si birthed a new Queen Bee!

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I apologize for the blurriness of that picture – I was shaking with excitement!

And here she is, joining her hive.

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I almost peed my pants.

There is more to this story. Remember I told you there were a couple of supersedure cells? Well, I was holding the other supersedure cell, and it had a queen chewing her way out, too. But I gave her to Si to birth.

Cause I don’t know nothing about birthing no babies – let alone Queen Bees.

So we left two queen bees in that hive. And, sadly, there will be only one next time we check.

There can only be one Queen Bee in a hive, under normal circumstances.

Although, nothing we do around here is very normal so……. we’ll see.

And speaking of “not normal” things, today I looked out the window at the chicken coop and noticed something just wasn’t quite right.

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No, it wasn’t that the new addition that Bernie painted is TOTALLY brighter than the old side that is dusty and faded – but thanks for noticing that I need to paint the old side. Seriously. Bernie needed someone to take his back when he declared “I painted the addition – the other side is YOUR responsibility”.

But back to what I was saying….. do you see anything unusual here?

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How about from this angle?

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I don’t even have a clue how she managed to get tangled up in that mess.

I got a step stool, which was woefully short, and managed to get her into this predicament.

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And then Bernie came to the rescue with his he-man ladder so I could free her.

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She was totally unappreciative.

I won’t even begin to tell you the words that came out of her mouth.

But she was free as the breeze, complete with attitude.

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Hussy Hen.

The Chickens Move into the Addition – and Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

You remember I was supposed to get baby chicks this month right? Well….. that didn’t happen.

The chicks were due to arrive on April 4th. But they were shipped to Michigan.

Which would have been great! If I was in Michigan.

But I’m in Virginia.

So….. needless to say, I didn’t get those chicks. And it is a VERY long story, but after many hours on the phone I was promised chicks on April 11.

Only I got an email on April 10 telling me that 4 of the 5 breeds I had selected weren’t available. And the story is even longer, but suffice it to say, I’m not getting chicks.

I’m getting my money back.

And I learned a very important lesson.

DON’T DEAL WITH THE MIDDLE MAN.

Deal with the hatchery.

They may not get it right the first time, but I would have stood a better chance of them getting it right the second time.

Lesson learned.

Anywho…… since we had the new coop addition and there weren’t any baby chicks to raise in it before integration, we went ahead and rearranged the coop to make more room for the chickens, and to make it easier on me for collecting eggs and cleaning.

Before I continue and post pictures, I want to apologize for the crazy big white blobs in some of them. I was having problems with big black blobs showing up in pictures with my camera, so I got a new one. But…… I wanted to stick my camera in my back pocket so I would remember to get pictures today, and I decided to use that old one so I didn’t mess up the new one. And NOW the old camera not only has big black blobs in some pictures, it now has big white blobs in some pictures.

Sigh.

It really is time to retire that camera.

So…… this is how the coop looked before we added on and rearranged it:

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See the nest boxes on the left? Right. Now notice the long roost above and right in front of them.

Do I need to tell you what a pain it was to check eggs in those nest boxes? There was ALWAYS a fresh layer of poop in front of the nest boxes. And, even though that roost has been there for a few years, I bonked my head on that thing at least three times a week while checking eggs.

Before I show you how we rearranged things, let me show you this.

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That little thing is Bernie’s idea. We bought it for just over a dollar at Lowe’s. In fact, we bought eight of them.

And when we hung the roosts we just slid the 2 X 4’s right into those little things.

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We didn’t nail the roosts into them, we just slid them right in. They won’t move. AND when it’s time for me to clean that part of the coop, I can just lift the roosts out and then shovel out the litter.

Isn’t that great? I’m tickled pink.

Oh, and just a quick note, we sanded the 2 X 4s – if you’ve ever dealt with bumblefoot, you will understand. If you haven’t dealt with bumblefoot, please sand your chickens’ roosts.

So now, the original 8 X 8 coop that had the roosts and nest boxes just has roosts.

And the new 8 X 8 addition just has nest boxes.

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We raised the big nest box thingy five inches. So now the brooder box doors are up off the ground – and above the litter line – which makes my life a whole lot easier when I’m using the brooder boxes.

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Oh, and did you notice the girls got new curtains? They did – and they really seem to like them. I pleated them and everything.

Nothing is too good for my girls 🙂

So, there you have it. We don’t have new chicks (yet) but the chickens have officially moved into the new addition of their coop.

They seem to like it.

I know I do!

Oh, and if you don’t have chickens and are thinking of getting some, do yourself a BIG favor. Build your coop at least twice as big as you think you need.

Because you’re gonna need that space.

Seriously.

You are.

Trust me.

Chickens are a little addicting.

Or maybe even a lot addicting.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya 🙂

Jake Gets a Beak Trim and What is She Doing?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Jake has decided Bernie is a threat to him. For the past few months, anytime Bernie goes outside, Jake has gotten very aggressive with him.

We can’t have that.

Not at all.

So….. Bernie built the turkeys a pen.

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Their pen runs out a bit, and then back behind their coop. It shares one side with the goat’s paddock.

I’m not sure the turkeys are all that thrilled with being penned, but it makes Bernie happy. And that makes me happy. He can now go outside and move about without concern, and he’s working on finishing my chicken coop. It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Remember my post about how I have to occasionally trim Duke’s beak because it curves over and grows too long? Well, Duke got a beak trim this morning. And so did Jake.

Letting a beak grow like that is really not good. They can’t eat properly with a top beak that grows over the bottom beak. And, like I mentioned in the post about trimming Duke’s beak, it is painless to trim the beak if you don’t trim too close to the quick. Think of it like trimming your finger nails. That really is a good comparison.

This is Jake before he got his beak trimmed.

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Notice how the top beak is well over the bottom? I trimmed it by myself, so there are no pictures. I simply straddled him as he was standing, so that he was between my legs. Then I closed my knees to keep him in place, picked up his face, and snipped his beak. It was over before he had time to gobble about it.

And here he is, all trimmed up.

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And here he is, strutting about afterwards. Look how long his beard is getting!

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And here is the last male that hatched out last year.

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He’d make a great pet. Want him?

While I was in the turkey pen, I kept hearing a bee buzzing about. And I quit hearing the buzzing when it got around this log we put in the pen for the turkeys to sit on.

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I got to looking at that log and I noticed this hole.

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And as I was noticing the hole, I saw a honey bee land on it.

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And then, she BACKED into it!

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Here is a close up of the hole.

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As I watched, the honey bee would back into the hole and then leave. And then come back a few minutes later and do the same thing. A few times she went in head first, but the majority of the time she backed in.

I took several pictures, and I’ll post a few of them below. I apologize in advance for the quality of most of them – she was fast!

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Now, a few things I want to mention…….

I moved this log all over the run yesterday when we installed the new gate. There was no sign of bees at that time.

Today, I *think* there was only one bee. I never saw more than one at any time.

There are several of those tiny holes all over this log.

We have Carpenter Bees here. Lots of them. And they are huge. I do not believe they made these holes. But I don’t know what did. And I do not think the honey bee did – I think the honey bee found the hole she’s interested in…..

So…….

For all you honey bee experts out there – what is this honey bee doing?