Friday, June 17, 2016

Dog Training (or the lack thereof)

I titled this post Dog Training (or the lack thereof), but really it's just a way to showcase our cute little Titus.  He's a bit over a year old now.  We are beginning to think he might be just about done growing.  He didn't get quite as big as we expected, but boy is he stronger and faster than we ever expected.  Although our efforts in training were not as accomplished as I'd hoped, we love this little ball of fur and I'm pretty sure no one would give him up for anything.  (Well, almost no one.)  :-)

Look at that sweet face!  Nothing but a lovable
puff ball.  Or so we thought.

When I convinced Techno to get a puppy, I promised him the kids and I would take 'full charge' of him.

We never anticipated Titus.

(Whom we all agreed 
right away  
should have been named

He loved to chew on stuffed toys.....
and hands..... and feet..... and legs...... and......

As a wee tike all he did was bite and jump.

Literally..... ALL he did.

Nothing was safe when Titus was around.
But boy was he cute.

If you bent down to pet him - chomp, chomp, bite.  Your hand was mauled.

If you tried to 'correct' him - nip, chomp, nibble, snap.

He so wanted Apollos to love and play with him.

When he came in the house - chew, chaw.

If you went out to the backyard - munch.

Even his leash became a tug of war/chew toy.

When the girls tried to play with him - crunch.

When the kids walked him - jump, nip, snap, jump.

Towels weren't even safe.  :-)

It was tiring.

It was painful.

It was annoying.

But just look at that little face.
How could anyone stay mad at THAT face?

Yet, he was adorable.  Darling really.

He was so stinkin' clumsy and cute.  He'd attempt to hop up on to the couch only to face plant in front of it on the floor.  He'd skid and slide like Bambi on ice trying to chase the girls, the cat, Apollos.  He'd grab ANYTHING to tug and chew. Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, the leg of your pants.  Everything was fair game. So he thought.

He grew by leaps and bounds, but he was still cute.
He was still bite-y too.

We attempted to get him to stop, but nothing really worked.

Car rides used to scare him.
He would sniff and snuggle Elijah's neck and ear
to comfort himself. It was so sweet.

We tried the 'this is a chew toy, not our hand approach......'

We tried the 'ignore him when he bites approach......'

We tried the 'hold his mouth closed until he submits approach.......'

Selah loved that he was 'her size' and she could cuddle him.
Notice the blanket under her?  I'm almost positive
he was trying to maul it while she hugged him.
We tried the 'rolled up newspaper to the snout approach......'

The latter was the most effective, but it got to the point we felt that was ALL we were doing.

Wapping this poor little (well he was never all that little) pup on the nose to get him NOT to bite us continually.

He just can't understand why we have a pen of birds in the
backyard next to his fenced yard.  He REALLY wants
to get at them.  Not thinking he'll be a guard dog for our hens.
It was like a perpetual game of 'whack a mole' or in this case, 'whack a Titus'.

Another approach that had some effect was grabbing the scruff of his neck.  However, it only worked for those that were a little bigger, stronger.  His scruff is pretty large; furry; and hard to grasp.  It doesn't phase him unless you can give it a little tug to get his attention.  (Just like his mama would do had he been raised by her.)

Granted, as he grew, his biting slowly began to subside.  However, IT...... TOOK....... MONTHS!!

I think all the biting made it challenging to do much else with him.

Potty training him was another less than glorious adventure.

It took longer than expected and he tended to pee whenever we let him IN the house. Sorta like when newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  Well, Titus had his indoors/outdoors mixed up.

It was exhausting and very frustrating.

Eventually, that too subsided.

He's also a high strung sort.  We believe he has some guard dog genes and possibly some herding dog genes. Add those together and it makes for quite an interesting personality.  He'll chase and nip your heals but at the same time guard you will his last breath from any threat.
He loves to burrow his snout in the snow.
Throwing chunks of ice into the air to chase.

Lots of energy.  Lots of barking.  Pretty much lots of just about everything.

He got himself 'stuck' under one of the school chairs.
Yes, while stuck, he thought it a grand plan to gnaw
on said chair.  Sigh.

Still... he's super sweet.

Even a little timid.

Yes, the cat can and does chase him
off the couch and through the house.

He wants to be loved on..... but in "HIS" own way.

He thinks he's a lap-guard dog.  He'll climb up in my lap but straddle himself over me to keep others from getting to close.  He still nibbles hands and arms, but not in a 'mean' or hurtful way.  Love nibbles, if you will.  I think it's because he was taken from his mama so young.  It's his own weird way of showing affection.

He usually hangs out wherever we tend to be when he's inside.

I often joke he has a complex.  He'll bark like he's going to rip you apart, but when it comes down to it, he's just a big scaredy cat.  (Which is evident in how the cat rules the roost).  Yet, we aren't willing to test this theory when it comes to strangers approaching the house or the kids. We keep him under tight control behind the fence of on his leash until he realizes the individual isn't a real menace.

He is learning.  He even does courses in dog training.

We didn't do much right when it came to training Titus. I know he had a lot more potential than what we ended up training into him.  He's a smart dog.  A quick learner.

Too bad his owners weren't quite as intelligent when it came to puppy raising.

Here's hoping we can continue teaching him.  Molding him.  Making him the kind of dog others want to be around.
Kisses for one of his girls.

Amazing how much training a puppy is similar to training children.

It takes consistency and lots of love.  With both of those - things tend to turn out ok.  Maybe not perfect -- if you've met Titus you know that -- but.... still good.  We know we weren't as consistent with him as we needed to be, but we also know without a doubt just how much we love him.

A proud, strong pup.
He LOVED the dirt when we went camping.
He's not really quite this dark.


The kids adore him.

He's a great guard dog.  (Even if sometimes he's guarding us from a blowing leaf or the cackling hens.)  He's a wonderful companion.  He's our Titus!

Who wouldn't love this sweet little guy?

I'll call it a success for now with potential to be even better.  He's still a young dog and we are learning how to better train and encourage him to be the dog he was created to be.

Who could ask for more?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Adolescent Chicks

With so many other fun adventures, I have neglected updates regarding our chick raising expedition.

Not much had changed - other than the size of the chicks - for several weeks.

We had made our second brooder to help give them more space and......
                        they grew.

The plan was then to move them to our small chicken coop that we use as a 'broody box'.  Such a box is for hens that get 'protective' of the eggs in the nest box.  They start sitting on all the eggs, acting like they are going to hatch said eggs.  (Which can't happen since we have no rooster, but... the hens sometimes forget that minor point and still want babies of their very own.  I guess you could say once in a while their 'maternal clocks start ticking.')

Anyway, back to my point.

We had planned to put the chicks out into this mini-coop next to the larger run since they were growing by leaps and bounds to a) give them more space and b) allow them and the older hens to get acclimated to their new coop mates.

This plan kept getting postponed due to cold, cold temperatures and the occasional snowfall.

These chicks were very crowded.

They NEEDED to go into the bigger space.

But.... the weather kept waylaying our efforts.

Finally, the forecast showed no snow in the foreseeable future.  The nighttime temps were staying mostly above freezing.

I decided it was time to take the plunge.

All the 'baby chicks' in their new 'teenage' pad.

I altered the mini-coop as it had sustained some damage from wind knocking it over last fall.  Additionally I added a hook inside on the ceiling in order to hang a heat lamp that we could turn on at night to help them stay warmer - if the temps dipped too low - as they often do.

They look like 'regular grown' chickens,
just a slight bit smaller

We'd been allowing them to have some 'outdoor time' during the warmer days in prior weeks.  However, we would always bring them in at night due to the fact I hadn't yet fixed the enclosure area of the small coop that would allow them shelter and protection from the elements and predators.

Not to mention the below freezing temps we were still still experiencing here and there.
They are very curious whenever we come close.

Now that it was all shored up and the ramp was in place..... I felt it was high time for the teenage chickens to move to their new home and spend EVEN nights outside.

They enjoyed the dirt, grass, and extra space being outside in the small coop allotted them.

The older hens were quite interested in their new neighbors.

I'm glad they are comfortable in the
Silver Fox and Gold Fox (I think.)
I know it's Silver Fox, not so sure on the other.
They happily hop and climb on the ramp.

The first night we had to scoop them up and put them inside the enclosed section as they didn't realize THAT was the 'place to be' to sleep.  The second night only 1 bird needed to be placed in the box.

Guess they are learning.

Look at those huge feet.
I think she's giving me the 'stink eye'.

It's nice to have them OUT of the house and I think they are enjoying the more 'natural' habitat of soil and turf under their not-so-little feet.

I still can't get over how quickly they grew and how much they changed in just a few short months.

The next task will be building their more permanent coop and run and integrating the two flocks together.

Then, come fall.... more eggs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thriving Meal Worm Farm

It seems as though we are decent meal worm farmers.

Our little colony of darkling beetles, mealworms, and pupae are expanding and developing nicely.

It's been fascinating to watch the life cycle process.

We can't see the actual eggs on our egg cartons and paper towels that are in the beetle drawer, but we find lots and lots of new tiny mealworms plus our mealworm population continues to grow.

All the little meal worms once they hatch.

Daily we remove small to large handfuls of pupae from the mealworm tray to the pupae tray.  

Tons of pupae develop daily.
Eventually, as the beetles emerge, we have to transfer them back to the top drawer to begin the process all. over. again.  It takes the longest (so it seems) for the beetles to emerge.  We have a wide variety of stages so it's hard to tell exactly how long it takes, but we've gone a week or longer with NO beetles what-so-ever, yet we have pupae develop multiple times a day.  As I mentioned, we can't see the eggs.  Nor can we really tell when and how many of the tiny hatched worms fall into the worm tray on a regular basis.  They immediately burrow down into the oatmeal so we don't really know how often and quickly that process happens.  I can say, the worms seem to be multiplying quite quickly, though.

The beginning and the end.  The actual beetles emerge
but also start the process by laying the eggs.
I help with the process.  A little.

I'm happy to pick out the pupae and place them in the bottom drawer to continue their transformation into darkling beetles.  It's weird to feel them wiggle in your hand as you gather them up, but overall it's not too bad.

The mealworms themselves on the other hand, I just can't muster up the courage to pick them up. They squiggle and wiggle and crawl around and it just CREEPS ME OUT!!

Occasionally an egg hatches and the tiny worm doesn't drop down through the screen bottom into the mealworm drawer and develops right there with the beetles. This is a dangerous situation for that little mealworm as the beetles aren't afraid to eat their own.  As evidenced by the fact we've found many a headless beetle shell in the drawer.  IKK!

When we find a lone worm, we must move it to the next drawer.  I ALWAYS call the girls.  I just can't bring myself to pick those wormies up.  LOL!

Then there are the beetles. When they emerge from their pupae on the bottom, they too need to be transferred to the beetle tray so they don't begin eating all the non-transformed pupae.  That would kill out our farm pretty quickly.

Once again, I call Elijah or the girls to grab up those little creepy crawlies to put them where they belong.

Wimp. I know.

The pupae.
You can see the beetle
beginning to emerge.  Eyes,
legs forming. Cool huh?
Still, it's been fascinating to watch the life cycle in live action.

They actually are cute to watch. The beetles are nocturnal and come out in force once the sun begins to set.  I think cooler temps also lure them out as we've noticed now that it's 'summer like' that they come out as soon as the temps begin to drop a bit - even if it's not getting dark yet.  
Over time - a very short time -
they begin to gain color.

Once the beetles emerge they
are start almost white.

White, to tan, to red, to dark brown, to black.
I don't have a pic of a black beetle.
Guess I need to do that.
The worms are fascinating as they move around under the oatmeal and make it bubble and churn. They love bread and will eat through an end piece leaving just the 'hull' as a skeleton.  

The pupae - well, they don't do much until the beetle emerges. Go figure.  It is fascinating to watch how they squirm when you touch them or pick them up, however.  Occasionally you can even see them wriggle around in the oatmeal.  I swear they 'burrow' although I have no scientific proof of that.  I must admit, I had no idea the pupae would be so 'active' and fascinating.  

Learning experiences all around.  

Now to decide exactly WHAT the kids should do as their fair projects.

Have any ideas?  

              I'd love to hear them.  

One idea I considered for Charity was a 'life cycle of the darkling beetle'.  She'd actually 'pin up' the bodies of each stage.  The only one I wouldn't have a 'carcass' for is the egg.

((This was a grand idea until I learned it's 'against the rules' to use 
live animals in an indoor project, 
even if the animal (or insect in this case) is dead. 
Guess photographs will have to suffice.  
Doesn't have near the 'cool factor', but.... it is what it is))

Otherwise, I'm at a loss for inspiration.  

A molting mealworm beginning to form
into a pupae.
A beetle that got 'stuck' half way through
the transformation from pupae to beetle.
We also have 'examples' of partially molted mealworms; not quite emerged beetles; beetles w/not-fully-developed bodies or broken wings; pupae that 'dry up'; worms that don't fully pupate; pupae w/beetle legs and a beetle head, but a pupae body.

Basically mutant darkling beetles.

A fully developed beetle and one with wings not fully
formed and the pupae body still partially intact.
I'm sure we could could come up with a project showcasing those malformations somehow as well.

A bettle w/poorly formed wings.

A pupae molting it's mealworm skin.

If you are a 'bug whiz' and like making posters - give me a shout out and share your wonderful ideas. We could use all the innovation we can get.

I don't know how long we'll continue raising our mealworms.  If we'll just feed them all to the chickens once fair is over or if we'll continue expanding our farm and make it a long term adventure.  

The top side of the part pupa
part beetle.

Not even sure here.  Part pupae, part beetle.

It's not a difficult task, so we may give it a whirl.  

Could be a good money making opportunity for the kiddos.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Growing by Hops and Bounds

Those baby bunnies are growing SO very fast.

Day 2!

Within the first week they were practically double in size.

Day 7
Eyes still closed.

Just a short week after that, all their eyes are open, they have fur, they have grown exponentially, and they are beginning to 'hop around' in their little nest box.

14 days.

What an amazing thing to watch. To experience.

The kids are so excited to see each new phase of their development.  Even Bethany is admittedly enjoying the cute, fuzzy, bundles.  They are big enough now that I allow all the kids to hold them each morning.

Our smallest, yet most wiggly little kit.

Their fur is so soft.

Ears so tiny.

Cute little noses twitching as they explore their new world.

Mama rabbit is doing a great job feeding and keeping them the right temperature.

When warm and feeling safe,
they simply burrow down and go to sleep.

Fair is fast approaching and the girls are thrilled to be doing a 'meat pen' to sell 6 of the 7 kits.

Exploring in the nest box.

In addition, we hope to do Get for Sire and Daughter/Dam pairings to get an idea of how our 'breeding program' is progressing. The judge will determine if the good qualities in our breeding duo are being passed along or if not-so-desired qualities are being transferred.  Simply good information to have when one is breeding rabbits.

The 7th kit will either go as a 'fryer' or we'll keep it as Selah's 'rabbit' for 4H next year or possibly sell it as a 'pet' or meat rabbit on-line.

Time will help us make that decision depending on the size/look etc of the baby and if Selah wants to do a 'big meat rabbit' or if she'd rather get a small 'show' rabbit that she could more easily handle.  We could even do Rex rabbits that are technically meat rabbits, but much smaller and more easily managed by little hands.  We'd still have the potential of 'meat', but Selah would have more success in showmanship with a smaller bunny for her wee hands.

Still huddling together to keep warm.
We hope to breed Scarlet, the other doe, late this summer or early fall.  Our research shows we can also re-breed Trixiebelle at that same time.

They are beginning to explore more and more.

A benefit to breeding both does is they can act as 'foster moms' to kits that the other doe rejects.  This is especially important since Scarlet will be a first time mama.  It's not uncommon for first litters to not survive.  With breeding both does, we have the chance of allowing Trixiebelle to 'help' with Scarlet's litter depending on the size of both litters.

What an adventure.

If we successfully get kits again from those breedings, we'll most likely sell some and put some in the freezer to try 'rabbit meat'.

That's going to be quite the experience as these baby bunnies are so stinkin' cute.   How am I ever going to slaughter them?

But.... it's been the goal all along. The rabbits are for the girls' 4H projects but also for food consumption.

One thought of consolation is we'll keep having more kits to replace the ones we sell and pop in the deep freeze and place on our dinner table.

I'm considering having the girls do an indoor poster project about breeding and raising kits.

We'd love to hear your creative ideas to make it Purple Ribbon worthy.