I thought I'd give a little update on all the animals that we currently have on our farm.
This is our third Spring on our property. So far we've added a new animal to the farm each Spring. In the Spring of 2010 we acquired chickens. Spring 2011 we got meat rabbits. This Spring we are starting up with bees.
We currently have 14 Rhode Island Red (RIR) hens, 1 Longhorn hen, and 5 roosters of various breeds. The RIR hens are two years old now so their egg production isn't quite what it used to be. We love how calm and docile they are and their eggs are wonderful, but this year we thought that we would try out some different breeds. We have 15 Buff Orpington hens that are now 2 months old. Then we have also acquired 14 Black Australorps, 2 Barred Rocks, and 1 mystery hen that are all 4 weeks old. We chose the Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps because they are good Winter layers and they're more likely to go broody. We would love to be set up so that we never have to purchase chicks ever again.
Shawn built two movable chicken tractors for the chicks to go into once they're too big for the broody pen, but still too small to free range with the rest of the flock. Right now the Buff Orpingtons are out in a chicken tractor in the front yard. The 4 week old chicks are still in the broody pen in the shop.
There's a bar in the upright portion of the chicken tractor for the hens to roost on at night. Shawn moves the chicken tractor once or twice a day so that the chickens have access to fresh grass. So far it's working well. No predator has penetrated it and the chicks seem happy.
We still have the same two female (Daisy and Zelda) and one male rabbit (Peter) that we purchased last Spring. They are New Zealand rabbits. We have the rabbit shed set up in the garden so that the rabbit droppings are right where they're needed. We've already bred Daisy and Zelda this Spring but apparently the breedings weren't successful. So, they've been bred a second time and I guess we'll see if it "took" in a couple weeks.
This year we decided to try beekeeping. With our orchard and garden we thought that having our own pollinators right on our property would be beneficial. The yummy honey in our backyard would be an extra-special bonus. We researched and decided to go with an uncommon style of hive called the Top Bar Hive. We purchased two hives this year and we intend to purchase one or two more in the future. Shawn set everything up in our pasture. It's within view of the house but still separated by a fence so that the children can't just run out to the hives by themselves.
In setting up the bee area Shawn first cut the grass in the pasture and then put down weed blocker and wood chips. We don't want to have to deal with weeds growing up around the hives once they're established.
We purchased our top bar hives from here:
They are beautiful cedar hives. I love the way they smell. The door on the side has a window so that you can actually look into the hive and see the comb without removing the lid and disturbing the bees.
We are due to acquire the bees very soon. I'll be sure to post an update once we get the bees installed in the hive. (If you don't hear back from me, then I guess the bees may have overcome us!)
Finally, here are some pictures of farm animals that we DON'T eat!