Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bedtime for the ladies.

The hens are appreciating the roost Kyle and I built last weekend. Sleeping on the ground was so undignified :) You will also notice how much they have grown, they are just about half grown.

We got the Queen! (and chicken update)

We got the queen!!
I went out to the hive this morning to check the bees and remove the cardboard box. My Dad and bee advisor had suggested that I go ahead and check on them to make sure they were adjusting well to the hive. When I lifted the cardboard box off the hive, I was happy to see bees working in the frames and I noticed that the old comb seemed to be abandoned. The next job was to open up the cardboard box and dump out any remaining bees into the hive. When I opened the card board box I was totally blown away by the bees, for the second time this week. They had nearly filled the box with new comb! There was a complete functioning hive in the cardboard box. After my initial surprise, I turned the box over and dumped comb bees and all into the hive. The bees got some what upset by this, so now I am just hoping they don't pickup and leave because of my messing with them. But right now I am just so happy that we got the queen and she's taken to the new location! Here are some long over due pictures of the chickens and garden. This beauty of a Buff Orpington is one we call Colonel Sanders. We're pretty certain that he's a rooster, but he's super friendly and had quite the personality.

Here is last night's harvest. The garden is in full production and we are enjoying the bounty every day. Part of the fun is giving all the scraps to the chickens. They go nuts for lettuce leaves and beet tops. Also in the bowl not seen are sugar snap peas. Mmm!

Some times in the evenings we open up to coop and let the chickens roam the backyard. They like to nap in the shade on the east side of the coop out of the hot afternoon sun, and so does Rosco.

Under the willow is another favorite scratching and foraging place. And the post pile makes a great place for the hens to nap.

Here again is the Colonel, our friendliest chicken by far. The flock is now nine weeks old and doing very well. Although we lost one to un supervised dogs, the rest seem very happy and healthy. Whitney is expecting our first eggs in about three weeks. I can't wait for that, but it really is a lot of fun feeding them scraps and watching them become chickens. One of our favorite ways to relax now is to sit in the shade with the chickens in the evening.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bee Adventure

Last weekend we noticed there were honey bees moving into our porch ceiling. I had wanted a hive (at some point) and so at first was pretty excited. Then I learned this was potentially very bad. After doing some reading it became clear we needed to act quickly before the bees established themselves. We tried to find help from other beekeepers but everyone was busy, so we were on our own. The time for action had come.

I borrowed some equipment and made ready to remove the bees. The plan was to smoke the bees, open up the ceiling and relocate the bees to a box. From the box, I hoped to establish the bees in a hive in the back yard. I prepared by building a bee vac, donning the suit, and lighting the smoker.

As I opened up the eave, I smoked the bees so that they were not worried about me and were busy trying to save the honey. When I finally got the eave opened up, I was amazed by what I found.

It was now time for the Bee Vac. This is a simple device which uses a shop vac to suck up bees, but does not kill them. This was key since the idea was to relocate them to a hive in the back yard. My bee vac consisted of: a cardboard box with a small shop vac on one side and a hose on the other. Inside the box was a wire screen to keep the bees in the box, and not let them go into the vacuum. The box was duck taped up to make it more or less air tight.

As I vacuumed, I was also collecting the comb and putting it in a bucket. The comb needed to be saved and put into the bee hive so that the bees would know that was home. Most of the comb was white and empty, but some of it had honey. When the bees are filling the comb with honey it means they are established, and reproducing.

One of the tips I read about the bee vac was not to apply too much suction or you would kill them all. So, I was not able to suck up every bee, but tried to get the majority of the colony. The key was to get the queen. Without the queen there is no colony. So I did my best to get all the bees and comb, and then we headed out to the destination bee box.

I removed the center four frames and put the comb from the house into the box. Next I took the cardboard box and cut a hole in the bottom and placed it on top of the bee box. Then I tied it down, to secure it from the wind.

The idea is that the bees will find their way out of the cardboard box and into the bee box. There they will find the comb, decide that's home and then carry on with their business.

We are still waiting to see what the out come of all this will be because there are four possible out comes. I'll list them from best to worst. 1) The queen is in the box, decides she likes it and I have a bee hive in the back yard. (honey!!) 2) The queen is in the box, decides that it sucks and moves out. 3) The queen died in the move and the workers will wander around until they die in a few days. 4) the queen is still in the house and will rebuild her colony in a harder to access place (very bad).

It's too early to tell, but I am very hopeful we'll have a hive in the yard. When I checked today there seemed to be good orderly bee business taking place out there. However there are still quite a few bees buzzing around the porch. Truthfully I'd take any outcome but number four. More on this later when we know more.

PS. Sorry for the lack of chicken posts, but the girls are doing well and growing a lot. They are very chicken like now and nearly egg laying age. They have a large run, and have had access to the entire backyard on more than one occasion. On a sad note, we are morning the first loss: a barred rock hen died last night, and Sheridan lost our trust.