Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Update on bees and hens

We made our first spring inspection of our two hives on Sunday. The hives are named for their queens, Dolly and Loretta. Long story, but essentially they each seemed to have had a life that just begged for a country song. Anyway, Dolly was doing great. They had eaten one medium, 8 frame box of honey stores and had moved up to the middle box. They had a great third box above them that was still full of honey. We removed the empty bottom box and moved it up to the top. That put the bees on the bottom, their box full of honey directly above them, and an empty box above that. If all goes well they will be ready for a spring nectar flow, but we will check them again in a couple of weeks. Things can go wrong very quickly for bees this time of year. Loretta was a bit baffling. She still had two full, 8 frame, medium boxes of honey up top, and the cluster of bees was still in the bottom box. What have they been eating all winter? Are there not enough bees to need the honey? We made an executive decision not to break into the brood box and look for the queen, as they had been open for a while and were changing their tone. We will go back in soon and make sure they have a queen and some early brood. The honey was partially crystalized, but that should not completely prevent them from eating it. We will see what happens to Loretta's family as winter wraps things up.

As for the hens, they seem pretty happy. Both Pauline and Lou have been losing their big tail feathers, I think because of the limited room in their house. (They would have more room if they spread out instead of all clustering together in one corner.) If you look at the mini coop photo on the side bar of the blog, you will see that we added a "day pen" for the hens to use when we are home to monitor the dogs. They walk from the door of their coop into this arched roof pen, and then we can move them anywhere in the yard that has particularly tasty weeds. Lots of wing flapping and feather ruffling in joy as they got a taste of spring sunshine this weekend.