Birds & Bees
Our chicken-raising adventure began in March, 2010. A phone call from the Capon Bridge Postmaster announced the news – “Your chicks have arrived!” Two-day old “peeps” arrived by mail from our supplier, Ideal Poultry of Cameron, Texas. Imagine being a country postmaster and receiving boxes that chirp!
We specified “all pullets” — all female – as we are initially only interested in egg production.
Our order included Barred Plymouth Rocks (brown eggs), Leghorns (white eggs) and Americaunas – of Chilean origin (blue and green eggs). Dr. Zeus was right!
Chicks are raised in a brooder pen until they are big enough to be moved into the mobile coop. The hand-built coop utilizes some old cart wheels Tim salvaged off a neighboring farm and allows our hens to “free range” for insects, etc while fertilizing the pasture – all inside a movable fence. Our friends at Church View Farm are showing us the ropes. With luck peeps grow into layers in 5 months. The “Coop de Ville” houses our laying staff and their, hopefully, 6 dozen eggs a week. Got a good omelet recipe?
We started with two hives of Italian honey bees. Each of the two 3-pound packages of bees sent from our West Virginia supplier came complete with 10,200 worker (female) bees, 300 drones (male) and 1 lucky queen.
These bees were immediately placed in our 2 hives, so that the workers could begin building the laying cells, cleaning the hive, feeding the queen, protecting the hive, gathering pollen and nectar… you get the idea – they work! A successful hive will grow to 40,000 bees and produce excess honey for harvest in September.
The worker bees exhaust themselves after only 6 weeks and so the queen must continually lay new eggs. She will be productive for 2 or 3 years. The drone’s only purpose is to await the 1 in 10,000 chance to mate with a free queen… and they are driven out of the hive in the autumn since they are a burden to the hive in the winter. Girls Rule!
There is much to be learned about bees, their social habits, diseases and care. We are lucky to have a supportive group nearby – the Hampshire Beekeepers Club - to help us ramp up on the subject. Our West Virginia Apiary Registration arrived from the Department of Agriculture so we are official!