Barnyard Update and Meet Mira

It’s been a fruitful spring in my barnyard and I have lots of new additions to introduce you to. My favorite, and the one that is tearing at me the most, is Mira.

Mira was born to Bessie, who lives with Mona (my milky friend). Bessie and Mira will be for sale soon and every fiber of my being wants them to come live with me and complete my barnyard. I’m still struggling with whether they will fit into my neighborhood. This city farming is not an easy thing. While I am within my rights to have mini goats here, I still need to be sensitive to my neighbors. I am still struggling with this one, and with being in the city in general. I’ll be doing more posting on this in a few days. For now Toni over at Backyard Feast has a great blog post on whether it’s best to stay put or leave the city so I’ll leave my thoughts for another day.

The ducks are fitting in nicely and have settled down for keeps. They have a 15 gallon pond (really a water trough) that they enjoy immensely and have the run of the backyard on sunny days when they won’t be tempted to dig in puddles that collect on the lawn. They are doing a quack-up job clearing out all slugs and caterpillars, as well as laying eggs nearly every day. Even though we didn’t hand raise them and so they are somewhat skiddish they have warmed up to me and follow me around begging. Their quacks and waddles are endlessly amusing and I am convinced that every Seattle garden needs a pair, if for the slug patrol alone.

Since my laying flock is nearing peak production it’s time to groom another round, V 2.0.  Above, Delawares and Marans trying to keep warm during the coldest Seattle April on record.  They are occupying a vacant flower bed until they get bigger and can hold their own with the older birds.

These Seabrights, Jersey Giants and Polish are still snug under a lamp as they feather out. It appears there are a few roosters in the mix so it’s good to get extra. And since odds are 50% will be roosters (and when you crow, you go), and you can now have 8 birds in Seattle, you should get 16. That means plenty for the freezer, or to cull if they turn out to be disagreeable.

What would be disagreeable, you ask? Things like pecking all the other chicks bloody, or you. This fellow has earned solitary confinement for such deeds. There is some foreshadowing with the fire pit I think.

In case you were wondering how to tell if any of your chicks are roosters here are tell-tale signs: enlarged comb, red jowels developing, and this kind of look.

A sort of crotchity, “Just what do you think you are doing?” look. A sort of “Make my day, Simpson” kind of look.

And the latest additions at last are bunnies.

El Diablo and Nibbles have joined us.

Someday, hopefully soon, they will join the chickens. I’m still working out how I can give them a chance to hop around once a day without risk of them coming into contact with chicken, duck or dog poop. In the meantime I’m cleaning up the garage so they can hop around in there. Easy access from the house means that Lander, now nearly 5, is spending a large portion of his day in the cages petting them.

The elevated dog house here is our existing chicken coop.  I’m treating it like a cape cod and simply adding on a new wing.  Har.

How about you?  What is happening in your barnyards this spring?

22 Responses to Barnyard Update and Meet Mira

  1. That’s a creative dual purpose use for the fire pit.

    How do your neighbors feel about your current barnyard? If they appreciate what you are doing, maybe they won’t mind your addition of goats.
    That was also part of my concerns in adding goats here. I was also concerned about enough space & protecting gardens & a lot of other issues.

    I got them anyway, 2 nigerian dwarfs. My neighbors like them & they are working out nicely. I just have more visitors in the backyard because people want to see them.

    Mira is a nice looking goat, lots of good reasons to bring her & her mom home.

  2. Wonderful! I dream of a duck slug patrol, but they’re not allowed in our covenants….and we’re already pushing the envelope on so many rules, I don’t want to try and get the bylaws changed and draw attention to ourselves :)

  3. Laugh out loud at the chicken in the firepit! Pre-roasted?

    That’s an intriguing drawing of elevated bunny housing. What about ventilation … doesn’t ammonia from chicken-urea rise? Should be fine in the summer, but would you enclose the run during the winter? And … funny image … would bunny-poo drop like missiles down on the chicks?

  4. Love the post and what wonderful pictures. :) My kids also spend most of their day in the chicken yard. I keep having to remind them to leave some worms in my garden and not feed them all to the chickens. We have one broody hen, but we don’t have fertilized eggs… but we might get some. We did last year and my kids had a blast with the process. We only got one chick and it was a rooster, which was heart breaking to them, but he went to a friend and now we might get eggs fertilized by him!

    How big is your lot? 1/4 acre 1/3 acre?

    Mira is beautiful! I can see how it would be pulling at your heart.

    I didn’t know that the chicken limit went up! I am excited about that. :)

  5. Michelle, the neighbors nodded at the garden, were slightly amused with the chickens, and began rolling eyes at the ducks. I got silence with the bunnies. Goats will be even more intrusive because they are louder and people will fear the smell, not understanding that there is none with deep bedding which I plan to do a lot of because rather than buy compost, who wouldn’t rather buy animal food and get free arborist chips? The ROI on that is much higher. Even if you don’t want to milk the goats you could get wethers (castrated males) that will never come into heat (which is when they are loudest), or you could just cycle through doelings and when they come into heat slaughter them for meat so they don’t make a lot of noise.

    Myrnie, I hear you about laying low. Rabbits are the perfect thing for you! They make no noise at all and produce beautiful, alfalfa filled poop for a waiting worm or compost bin below!

    Grace rabbits need lots of ventilation. Deep bedding under the hutch will keep everything in check and produce more compost for you anyway but the beauty of rabbits and chickens together is that rabbit food is mostly alfalfa (which rats don’t eat believe it or not but it’s incredibly high in nutrients because it forms such deep tap roots) and the chickens benefit from both spilled feed and predigested feed in the form of droppings. You will have fewer flies because the chickens will take care of that for you, your eggs will be more nutritious from the alfalfa, and you will spend less on chicken feed. It’s so symbiotic that it’s blowing my mind! In this drawing the hutch is enclosed with plywood behind and on both sides and there is a clear corrugated roof to keep them dry. You need a shield between upper and lower bunnies so urine and poop doesn’t fall on the lower bunnies but it needs to slant so it falls down for the chickens.
    Waggie my lot is 1/5 acre. I’m close to maxing it out now. ;p That is great you got to keep the connection to your rooster! That is one thing we will never have here in the city.

  6. I just planted two columnar apple trees and 3 tulameen raspberries. I have to find more room to plant extra raspberries though…I hear they are great! Maybe I will dig up the front yard next year! I am pondering the idea of growing kiwi too.

  7. Rabbits are new on our little farm too! Right now they are living in a dog kennel (wrapped in chicken wire as we learned little bunnies can fit between the wires on a dog kennel!) in our living room until we get a hutch set up outside. Our hutch won’t be connected to our chicken coop but behind it in our orchard.

    Unfortunately today was a bad day on our farm, the neighbors dogs dug under the fence and killed at least one of our chickens. I’ve found 2 others unharmed, but 4 are still MIA. I guess that means we will be having chicks in the house soon too since 2 eggs a day is not enough for our family.

    We want to get Nigerian Dwarf goats, need to build them a shelter and fence of a paddock for them first. Oh, and reinforce the fence with the neighbors!!!!

  8. We just got baby chicks last week, so have now officially joined the backyard chicken-keeping movement!!! Our big thing will be to get the coop constructed in time for them to get outside. How deep do you do your straw for deep bedding? (or do you use something besides straw?)

  9. Jenny,
    congrats on the chicks! I don’t purchase bedding. In the chicken run that is exposed to rain I have large bark chunks to keep things from getting to wet and to encourage bugs and worms (you can get it at most garden stores). I got the really big chunks so that it didn’t decompose to fast. I didn’t get cedar because I heard it can be to acidic for chickens. For their nests I use shredded paper. They love it. It holds it’s shape nicely, is soft, composts really good, and it’s free! Our coop is raised off the ground and the bottom of it is slatted so that I just brush the chicken poop to the ground below, rake up and put in the compost bin.

  10. Ross – excellent! Last fall I got 15 #s of apples off one columnar apple tree. And those raspberries multiply over time. I totally overdid it with 28 of them! But it’s nice having extra to trade. And my neighbors sure are friendly when the raspberries are ripe.
    Kate – how sad! I hope you find the other chickens before nightfall. And exciting about the buns and goaties! Why nigerian dwarf? I’ve looked into all the breeds and am curious what attributes sell people. They all have so much to offer.
    Jenny congrats! You will tell how much straw by the smell. Chickens can scratch through bedding quickly but I don’t mind because it means more compost and humus for my garden. When it starts to look poopy or smell it’s time for more dry matter. You can use anything, really, like free arborist’s chips, coffee chaff, dried leaves, etc. I’m not so worried about cedar if they are outside but I wouldn’t use it inside a small coop where there is not as much ventilation.
    Waggy if I was building a coop from scratch it would have some kind of mesh flooring so the poop would fall through like ti does with your slats. You could raise it up on cinder blocks most of the year and when the temps get below 40 at night you could put it directly on the ground to stop any drafts, then raise it up to access the poop and bedding for the compost pile.

  11. Haven’t found any more chickens. Did talk to the neighbor and he’s confining the dogs and fixing the fence, plus bringing us chicks on his payday. So we’ve got get the brooder box set up.

    Nigerian Dwarf Goats are good dairy goats, producing a good but not overwhelming amount of milk with a high percentage of butterfat (good for making cheese) but they are also small so better for our small farm (1.23 acres), safer for our toddler to be around, and easier to handle. They’re also rumored to be very friendly and easy going, even the bucks.

  12. Oh my goodness, I have goat envy! Your blog and urban farm is super inspirational! Thank you for taking the time to write and inspire.

  13. Love the goats, ducks, chicks, and bunnies! Your a outright farm of late. I imagine you are indeed pushing the neighbor envelope. Its hard to do the urban animal husbandry in truly urban neighborhoods. The proximity of neighbors makes it challenging to keep the animals unobtrustive.

  14. The solitary confinement picture is really funny! We have been roo-less for two years now, but I still LOVE your solution! Yes, it is the look in the eyes that are a true give-a-way as to when it’s time for you to run or grab a broom…*; )

  15. Hi! I love reading about your farm and seeing pics, especially of the goats. I raise nubians but I live in the country so we don’t have picky neighbors or city rules to worry about. One of my friends in Atlanta is going through hell to keep her goats and chickens right now. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but you’d think with all the hype over buying/eating locally, films like Food Inc and Fresh, and people’s awareness of how animals are treated in the mainstream food models (factory farming)…folks would welcome clean backyard operations into their neighborhoods.

  16. Kate that is nice he is at least owning up to it. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories! It’s interesting how different the goat breeds are, isn’t it?
    Stacy and KFG – thanks! It is hard. In fact after my last goat facebook post a neighbor unfriended me. I guess I know just what he’s thinking now.
    Nancy he’s really quite delightful with people. I’m hoping we can work some solution out (like move to a farm and bring him!)
    Outlaw Farmer I agree. I live in the wrong neighborhood I think. I should be in Ballard where there is more leniency for gardens and livestock. I’m sorry your friend is going through that. I know Nubians aren’t the quietest goats but I love them!

  17. Loved, loved this post! It’s so much fun seeing your urban farm!! Mira is so adorable! I was toying around with the idea of adding a couple of goats to my place but I think I’m going to wait until we have an acreage one day. With my two ginormous shepherds in the backyard I’m afraid they’ll devour the goats.


  18. We’ve got goats. And chickens, rabbits, ducks, turkeys, and bees on our 1/4 acre city lot. The goats are what I like to call “scrub” goats as they’re non-pedigreed pygmy goats. They give an AMAZING tasting milk (higher milkfat than even Nigerians) that actually separates so we can skim the cream off to add to coffee or use for butter or sour cream. They aren’t dairy goats but they give a respectable amount of milk (our Sr. Doe and first freshener currently give us a quart a day) which is enough for my husband and I.

    I do have to say though that while they are easy keepers (they aren’t loud or smelly – bucks are smelly but we don’t keep one) it is a bit tiring getting up every morning to milk them at 5:30am. For those that don’t have to be at work at 7am though you wouldn’t have to do it quite so early.

  19. Here’s what’s new on our mini farm in the Northgate area of Seattle. One of our three hens suddenly died in early March. :-( (Many tears) The day that happened one of our remaining hens, Chilly, went from walking around to seriously broody. After two solid weeks of sitting on the nest, we transported her to a brooding pen of her own. Then we traded her eggs for two baby chicks in the middle of the night. Although in the confusion she pecked our hands AND a BABY CHICK, the next morning, those chicks were HERS. So she’s doing an amazing job raising them. It’s neat to see how a mother hen talks to her babies and watch what she teaches them. It’s truly fascinating!

  20. Mira is adorable! I can see why your heart strings are being tugged. We just got four new chicks to replenish our aging flock. Hopefully we’ll have a low rooster count with the chicks.

  21. I have been meaning to comment on this post! Mira is beautiful! I can see why you want her. Ok, I know it isn’t just for the cuteness-factor, but wow. She’s awesome!
    Selfishly glad you are staying in Seattle so I can always be inspired on the urban homefront! Glad the chickens/ducks are doing well. I never thought to use shredded paper for my coop- do you use thinks like junk mail? Or ??
    We currently use shavings in the coop and have large bark in the run. The bark was preexisting though. When we fence in our new area for the chickens we are going to grow forage crops. But maybe we’ll keep bark in the un-cropped area and move it around when it isn’t in forage crop rotation.Hmmm….
    I have a few hens that need to visit your fire pit. Mean Girls.

  22. Diana, just be sure to spend time with your goats before you get them, both for personality fit and noise. They are just like dogs!
    Rachel where are you? Are you in Seattle? I love how full YOUR barnyard is!
    Linda that is an awesome story! I’m glad it worked out for you.
    Sandy I’m looking at roosters differently these days. Better I get roosters and process than buy from someone feeding them soy I feel.
    Meg I’m sure you could use junk mail but be sure it isn’t glossy ads since it will end up in your compost, right?
    Max talked me into getting 2 polish chicks and I thought of you!

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