We got the call that the ducklings had arrived at the post office, so I headed back there this morning to collect them.

As with the chicks, I strapped their box in the truck seat:

Box of ducklings in truck seat

Once home, I took the box to the duck house and opened it up, for a first look at the ducklings. Unlike the chicks, the box included a heat pack and some gel-like food in a cup:

Ducklings in box

I lifted each duckling out of the box into the duck house. We got two breeds, one male and one female of each. Here’s the male cayuga duckling; the gender is indicated by the leg the band is on:

Male cayuga duckling

The female cayuga duckling:

Female cayuga duckling

Male buff duckling:

Male buff duckling

The female buff duckling was in a hurry to explore (look at those cute little wings!):

Female buff duckling

They checked out the food:


Me teaching a duckling to drink water, by dipping its bill:

Me teaching a duckling to drink water

They were quite thirsty, unsurprisingly:

Ducklings drinking

Ducklings drinking

Some more shots of the ducklings:





It’s great to have the duck house occupied now.


As was foretold, the chicks arrived at the local post office this morning. So I drove the 20 minutes there to collect them.

A guy that arrived in the post office while I was doing that was surprised to hear the peeping from the box, so I explained that it contained live chicks. Freshly hatched chicks don’t need to eat or drink for a day or two, as they are sustained by the goodies from their egg. So they can be safely shipped via the postal service.

Here’s the box of chicks in the truck passenger seat, safely belted in:

Box of chicks in car seat

I took the box to the new chicken coop, and opened it; eight healthy chicks:

Chicks in box

The packing list from the box, listing the breeds of chicks:

Packing list

I lifted each chick out of the box, and placed them on the floor of the coop:

A chick in the hand

Now for a bunch of pictures of the chicks. They have a red tint due to the heat lamp. The lamp keeps them warm (95° F / 35° C), and the red tint helps keep them calm:





I taught a couple of them how to drink water, by dipping their beaks (remember, they have never had anything to eat or drink before). The others learned by example. Here’s the first one to drink by herself:


I put chick starter food out for them:



The rest of the food is in a dispenser, which they figured out after a while:





Several drinking; they dip their beak, then tilt their head back to swallow:


A sleepy chick; she had a long day:

Sleepy chick

They don’t get to sleep long, though, as others inevitably bump into them or otherwise disturb them.

I have my iPad focused on the camera in the new coop, so I can keep an eye on the chicks while doing my work. And Pippin is fascinated by them, too:

Pippin watching the chicks

We’re still waiting for word on the ducklings; they are probably on their way, but we don’t have tracking information yet. They may arrive tomorrow, or possibly Friday.

You can expect lots more pictures of the chicks over the coming days, weeks, and months (with decreasing frequency, no doubt).

Preparing for chicks & ducklings

The new chicks and ducklings will arrive this week, so I have prepared the chicken coop and duck house for them.

I evicted the existing chickens out of the new coop and run, simply by giving them their usual morning treats in the old run, and closing the hole between the old and new runs while they were busy with that. There was one hen in a nesting box in the new coop, so I carried her into the old run.

The old coop and run is more than big enough to accommodate all of the existing chickens. Keeping them separate will avoid the older ones picking on the youngsters until they are grown, among other benefits. Eventually, they’ll be slowly integrated; probably around the end of the year.

I then removed the poop tray, water dispenser, feed tube, and all of the bedding from the new coop:

I also covered the nesting boxes with scraps of plywood, to prevent the new chicks from sleeping in there; I don’t want them using it until they are ready to start laying, probably around October:

I then added fresh bedding, a heat lamp, a thermometer to check the temperature, and the chick-sized roosts, feeder, and waterer:

In the duck house, I added shelf liner on top of paper as bedding (the shelf liner will give them traction, and the paper will adsorb water). This is just for the first week or so, then they’ll have straw bedding. I also turned on the heat lamp, and added a thermometer, a chick feeder & waterer that should work for the ducklings too, and the camera:

Here’s the mounted camera:

Wires going into the cupboard; the vents above the door are temporarily closed to retain the heat while the ducklings are small:

In the cupboard, all the wires are somewhat tidily arranged via hooks:

A view from the duck house cam:

Now all we need are the ducklings and chicks! As I write this, the chicks have shipped, and will probably arrive at the post office tomorrow; still waiting for the shipment of ducklings.

Cat update for week ending May 25

Just because we’re in Hawaii, doesn’t mean you need to suffer the loss of a Caturday post! Here’s a post with pictures from the few days before we left.

It’s bothered me since building the cat house that the signs weren’t very readable, as they just had a stain without any color difference of the carved lettering (you can see them towards the end of this construction post). So I recently used a marker to color the lettering, making them much more visible:

Cat house

Here’s a closer view. The coloration of the scull shape is just natural weathering:

Cat house

Breakfast time:

Breakfast time

A scrub jay has visited several times to grab some kibble out of the feeder:

Scrub jay

Going back for more:

Scrub jay

A squirrel:


The squirrel leapt onto the camera housing. Flying squirrel!

Squirrel leaping

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a cat post. Here are the twins:

Twin cats

Two happy cats inside:

Cats inside

The alien orange cat has been visiting a lot recently. Here he is inside the shelter:

Orange cat inside

Another time, the orange cat arrived when a cat was inside. Harsh words and swipes were exchanged, and the cat rapidly exited through the back door:

Orange cat facing cat inside

The next morning, the orange cat arrived when Porcini was obliviously eating in the feeder:

Orange cat with cat in feeder

Orange cat with cat in feeder

They didn’t exchange any words, but the orange cat wandered off after a minute:

Orange cat with cat in feeder

Then he ate a bit:

Orange cat in feeder

But was startled by more food dispensing:

Orange cat startled

Pepper in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

The alien gray cat also stopped by briefly:

Gray cat

Another squirrel:


And scrub jay, with food in its beak:

Scrub jay

That’s all for now. I may include some pictures from while we’re away in the post next week; most cameras record about a week’s worth, so I’ll review them when we get home.

Bee inspection: new queen; emergency & swarm cells

We did a couple of beehive inspections over the weekend, and found some interesting things.

But first, a normal-looking hive frame, with brood:

Beehive frame

This hive (the orange one) was the one that appeared to be missing their queen on the previous inspection. On reviewing the photos while writing this post, I spotted a queen; circled in red in the following picture. It seems likely that this is a new queen, hatched from the emergency cells we saw then:

Queen bee

Next we looked at the Flow hive. Here’s a Flow frame with honey underway; starting to fill up and get capped:

Flow frame with honey

Another normal frame:


But then we saw an emergency cell:

Emergency cell

And more concerning, a couple more emergency cells, and swarm cells:

Emergency & swarm cells

Here’s a closer look at the swarm cells, upside-down. They are capped, which means the hive is preparing to swarm (take half of the population to find a new home):

Swarm cells

A closer look at one of the emergency cells, uncapped; that could just be practice. There are also a lot of drone bees visible, mooching off the hive resources (they’re the larger ones):

Emergency cell

The end frame of the Flow hive was full of drone cells, which are pretty useless. That could be a symptom of a worker laying eggs, hence the emergency cells, or caused by weather changes:

Drone frame

Lots of bees:

Lots of bees

We decided to remove the drone frame, replacing it with an empty frame, both to ease the hive resources, and as a way of reducing the mite load of the hive, since the mites tend to go for drone cells. Here Jenn is brushing the bees off the frame:

Brushing off bees

Bees outside the hive:

Bees outside box

After a visit to her mentor, Jenn decided to re-inspect the hive the next day, to split some frames into a nuc box. The bees weren’t in the mood for an inspection, though:

Cranky bees

Here’s the nuc, with some old frames:


We couldn’t find the swarm cells anymore, though it didn’t look like they had swarmed, so maybe they changed their mind? We left the nuc box next to the hive, in case they did decide to swarm, so hopefully they’d move into the nuc:

Flow hive & nuc

We’ll keep an eye on this hive. Hopefully it won’t swarm (again; it did so last year), since that’ll set back the honey production. Though it’s early enough that they might have time to build up enough before fall.

Cat update for week ending May 18

I had 71 cat pictures this week, but pared it down to just 18. You’re welcome.

More dinner please? A couple of cats waiting for more food in the evening.

More dinner please?

The same cats a few minutes later, relaxing on the deck:

Two cats on the deck

Another arrives:

Three cats

A cat is startled by the sudden arrival of another, and rears up:

A cat is startled

Four cats at breakfast time:

Four cats

Waiting for more breakfast:

Waiting for more breakfast

I got a bale of straw for the duck house, which I put in the shop, and Pepper has been having fun playing with loose bits of straw. I think she’s been sitting on the bale, and scratching at it, too. I’m fine with that; she’s also guarding it to make sure no mice nest in it:

Pepper playing with straw

A scrub jay making poor life choices by eating cat food while a cat is in the house, as captured by a screenshot of my iPad cam app (it was fine; the cat was too comfy to move):

A bird making poor life choices

Still very comfy:

Comfy cat



The orange cat paid a visit:

Orange cat

Followed by a possum 17 minutes later:


And a raccoon a couple of hours after that:


A couple of cats watch a couple of deer:

Deer & cats

The deer have been hanging around a lot recently, nibbling on our flowers (grrr):


A rare sighting of Pansy in the back of the shop:


A cat at the bee water pool (that linked post included a couple of night-time cat sightings too):

Cat at bee water

Three cats:


Bee water pool

Like any creatures, bees get thirsty. So they have to get water from somewhere, for themselves and their hive. They also use water to control the humidity of the hive, as part of the process of making honey.

We have a big pond they can drink from, but it’s easy for bees to drown if they’re not careful. We also have a stream, and in summer a swimming pool, but those aren’t ideal water sources either (Jenn has rescued several bees from the pool when swimming).

So we also have a small kiddie pool that has rocks in it to act as safe landing zones for the bees. It is by the closest tap to the hives, near the greenhouse. Bees will fly for miles to find water, but if they have a ready source close to the hive, they don’t need to go to less ideal places.

The pool was immediately below the tap, but that made it hard to turn it on to top up the pool, when lots of bees are buzzing around. So I recently added a splitter and a couple of short hoses; one going into the pool, which can now be a bit further away, and another for use when working in the greenhouse (until I get around to adding taps in there):

Hoses and bee water pool

I also added a couple of bits of wood as additional landing pads for the bees:

Bee water pool

As a temporary thing, I set up the mobile cam above the pool, so I could watch the bees using it, just for fun. In the above picture, you can see the beehives and greenhouse in the background, to give a better idea of the location.

One interesting observation was that birds and cats also take advantage of the water source. Here’s a crow drinking from the bee pool:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

A cat drinking:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

Bees drinking from the pool; notice some on the wood, some around the edge, and a bunch on the rocks:

Bees drinking from bee water pool

If I zoom in on the pile of rocks, you can more clearly see lots of bees:

Zoom on bees

A crow drinking again; it doesn’t care about the bees:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

Another cat:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

The crow decided to walk across the platforms, somewhat unsuccessfully:

Bird walking in bee water pool

Planting veggie garden

Jenn and I spent most of today planting the veggie garden.

We got 3 yards (i.e. 81 cubic feet, or 2.3 cubic meters) of 3-way mix soil (basically topsoil, compost, and other stuff) delivered to top up the veggie beds. Here’s Rory sniffing the pile while on rounds a few days ago, to give a feel for the size:

Rory by pile of soil

So my first task was to shovel that dirt into the beds:

Shoveling dirt

Dumping the dirt:

Dumping dirt

Meanwhile, Jenn was planting:

Cart and plants

Here’s the whole veggie garden, with everything planted:

Whole veggie garden

In the front-left bed, we have tomatoes and salsa ingredients:

Veggie bed

In the front-right bed, we have lettuce and kale (for us and chickens):

Veggie bed

The potato planters have seed potatoes; the boards and more dirt will be added as they grow up, resulting in many layers of spuds:

Potato planters

In the back-left bed we have zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, and decorative gourds:

Veggie bed

In the back-right bed, we have onions and corn:

Veggie bed

Inside the berry cage, we have a couple of Hood strawberry plants (and will add more to this bed later):

Veggie bed

(Existing) blueberries:

Veggie bed

The first of a few hops plants:

Veggie bed

Huckleberries hiding behind the existing gooseberries and currants:

Veggie bed

Ever-bearing strawberries (these were existing from last year):

Veggie bed

Cat update for week ending May 11

Welcome to another Caturday.

A good yawn:

Good yawn

Four cats:

Four cats

Big stretch:


Dinner greetings:

Dinner greetings

An alien cat:

Alien cat

Three cats; eyes in the dark:

Three cats



A scrub jay helping itself to cat food, several times:


Pepper contemplating her water dish in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

The scrub jay returns:


I currently have the mobile camera watching the small pond next to the cat house, as it recently had a leak where water was overflowing the liner of the stream, causing the water level to go down quickly. The camera was so I could see when it was low and top it up. I’ve since fixed the leak, but have left the camera there for now. It captured a cat drinking from that pond:

Cat drinking from pond

They have a water dispenser in the feeder area, but I’m sure pond water is tastier. Here’s the cat looking through the grasses:

Cat by pond