Tag Archives: small farms
1 Sep

Yesterday started out like any other………Wake up before dawn, have coffee, check the news.  When the sun comes up let the girls out so they can free range, check food, check water, the good morning routine.

I had a million things to do before the sun got too hot, so I didn’t visit with the girls like I usually do.  Giving everyone a good eyeballing, the head count, a little hand feeding, I just didn’t have time.

I went out into the pasture and leisurely made a 60 foot row for the squash plants Kenny had purchased 2 days ago, to replace the last of our seeds that I failed to get started (they were a little old to begin with).  I took my time because I don’t like rushing through the planting process, I wanted to get the paper nice and tight, and it was early morning — a time that I greatly enjoy being out playing in the dirt.

Halfway through getting the paper down nice and tight I heard a strange “thud” noise.  I immediately went to investigate due to a recent pecan limb that fell on top of our brooder house/pen…….

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Lovely, right?

As of today, the limb is still where it landed for a couple of reasons: 1. the end that broke off is stuck in the crook of the two main trunks of the tree approximately 15 feet up in the air.  2.  About a week ago I put 15, 7 weeks old babies plus Georgia inside this pen and I’m not exactly ready or have a place to relocate them.  Georgia has not yet enticed the babies up the ramp and into the house, therefore catching them would be most traumatic for everyone.  I will have to get the little boogers into the house to make catching easier.  3.  I’m afraid that whilst taking down the limb the pen will be damaged or destroyed and so must “move the entire flock” before removal of the limb.  4.  and finally I’m waiting on some big hulking, strapping son-in-laws to come visit to get the job done.  5.  Kenny and I both checked the security of the limb and it’s pretty much there for the long haul so I am thinking I have time to figure out where and when to move the whole brood.

So I hear the “thud” and my first thought is great another limb fell.  I get just close enough to check out the area (visually), see nothing out of the ordinary and go back to my squash row.  I vaguely recall seeing Stella’s head poke out from the laundry room, looking at me (like, what mom?).

Squash row completed, planted and watered and I was one beat old woman.  Hot, tired and sweating like all get out.  I go into the house chill out, get a bit to eat, have coffee, and watch a movie.

Now, normally on any given day the a/c is turned off and the back door is left open.  Stella likes to go in and out with every sound she hears, or cat she sees across the street.  Doesn’t matter that she can’t ever, ever, ever “get to the cats”, whenever she sees one across the road, she absolutely has got to be outside to bark at them from 500 feet away, behind our fence. Like somehow that is going to scare them away.  They of course could care less and don’t even react.

Movie over I tell Stella it’s time to get back outside.  Kenny is watching a movie in the other room so I tell him I’m headed back to the garden.  As I exited the house the thought struck me, who closed the back door?  When I got to the back step something was off.  There were no chickens.  I scanned the yard wondering where they all were.  At that time of day they are always under the maple tree.  Then I spied “Red” our one and only RIR, and 1 Leghorn.  Okay good, so where is Beatrice?  She seems to always know when I am on that back step and comes running from wherever she is to say hi and see if I have any treats.  Dread filled me as I made my way to the back of the yard, past the brooder pen, and the old barn, no chickens anywhere.  As I rounded the corner of the brooder pen and got between the new chicken house and the old barn my heart hit the ground.  There were dead bodies EVERYWHERE!!!!!

Death toll:

Beatrice     my favorite Dominique, the chatter box and flock busybody

4 EE’s         hatched on our farm, 1 found with no head

3 Leghorn     rescued from an abandoned home, 1 found with no head

Rooster Jr.     hatched on our farm

1 Leghorn completely missing, no body found

IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!!!!

Whatever is was came through the fence that surrounds our entire property (8 acres), very easy to do as the fence is predominantly a 5 strand barbed wire fence. Then came over the 4 foot fence that encloses our back yard which is welded wire 2 inch by 4 inch squares and no there are no holes underneath, as the fence was installed with the chickens in mind and not wanting them to go “under” the wire.

We have seen several different “tracks” in the garden, among those are fox, raccoon, coyote or very large (very large) dog.

As we were “cleaning up” Kenny commented that he found it curious that Stella relieved herself next to one of the dead chickens.  He thinks she was “marking” another animals scent.  Just wish she could tell us what kind of animal she was covering up.

To make our day even better, a couple of hours later I entered the chicken house (for about the 5th time) to check on the 2 EE’s that were hiding in there and found, of all things, a chicken snake!!!  Ugh!!!  I have no clue why but for some reason I ran for the house to get the hubby instead of grabbing the hoe that was easily within my reach.  So of course by the time we got back the dang snake was gone.

Before locking everyone up last night, I put the 4 remaining hens inside of one of the quarantine pens that is inside the big chicken house.  This pen originally had 1 EE that had decided to go broody and was sitting on 3 eggs.  Four hens and 3 eggs inside of a quarantine pen, door closed and locked, inside of a chicken house with all door closed and locked.

Trap set outside the run.

Got up this morning, went out to the big chicken house to let the girls out, feed and water and explain to them they would have to remain in the chicken yard today as I just couldn’t let them free range (yet).  Trap was empty as I suspected it would be, raccoons rarely attack in the day.  What do I find in the quarantine pen:  4 hens and 2 eggs.  No eggs shells, no baby, no nothing.

What the hell?

Babies, babies, and more babies

7 Jul

Being the only chicken lover in the family, I started this blog to have somewhere to go to “talk” about my girls.  Somehow I got sidetracked and started talking about other things and well, went a little south of chickens-in-the-garden.  What do you do when that happens?  You start another blog to talk about all the things that sidetracked you from the first blog.  Lord help me I now have more than one blog,  ssssooooo let’s get back to the chickens in the garden.

Three years ago, I started out with a flock of 6 Dominique.  That was after all, the chicken of choice for my husbands mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, so I figured I would follow in their footsteps.  Then I rescued a Barred Rock from the neglectful hands of my neighbor and named her Georgia. (6 + 1 = 7)  A year later I went in the feed store “to buy feed” and came out with 6 Rhode Island Reds. (7 + 6 = 13)  I just couldn’t resist those fuzzy little balls of cuteness!  My husbands co-worker donated a nice Buff Orpington Rooster bringing the grand total to 14.  Due to my own stupidity we lost 1 RIR to a raccoon, do a head count next time you close the coop door at night! (13)  Much to my surprise Georgia decided to go broody 5 days after we started our incubator with 20 eggs inside.  Between the incubator and Georgia we ended up keeping 8 more hens and 1 rooster. (13 + 9 = 22)  We also put 7 roos in the freezer.  Last October a friend called about a flock of hens that had been abandoned by some irresponsible person and we took in 6 Leghorn. (22 + 6 = 28)  Two more random deaths due to unknown causes, which I attribute to 1 being egg bound and 1 to being ravaged by our 2 male Peking ducks which are now also in the freezer. Bringing the grand total to 26!

You would think that would be enough and I would be satisfied with my flock and leave them to do their chicken thing.  But no, not so.  I began talking to other farmers with chickens, comparing notes, egg size, temperament.  Just for fun I began researching other breeds, where they came from, dual purpose vs. fancy, the rare, the endangered, the watch list.  In-between planning the latest wedding, tending our huge garden and taking our produce to the Farmers Market I was dreaming of fuzzy little balls of fluff.  I placed multiple orders online only to delete them before they were completed, knowing that if I got baby chicks before that wedding I would be in the dog house for sure.  I mean come on 26 chickens should be enough for any “small” farmer right?

Then one day on FB several weeks before the wedding, a post slapped me right upside the head!  A small farmer, not unlike myself, was down to 1 hen and looking for more.  They had ordered baby chicks but couldn’t wait 24 weeks to once again have those wonderful yard eggs.  Did anyone have any hens they were looking to get rid of?  Hhhmmm, I thought, better to rehome a few of my older hens than have to send them to freezer camp.  I sent a message, offering very honestly, 5 (3-year-old) Dominique who were now laying approximately every other day, and 3 (2-year-old) Rhode Island Reds also laying every other day.  I would, of course, have to keep Georgia our broody Barred Rock rescued from the neighbor, Beatrice the Dominique who keeps coming onto the back porch to let me know what everybody else is up to, the 1 RIR who sweetly let’s me take eggs from under her (name to come), the EE’s who are still young and the Leghorn who are younger still.  If they took me up on my offer baby chicks here we come!

It took a lot of nail-biting not to place my order the day they accepted my offer.  Between their schedule and my schedule is was another 9 days before they could come pick up their new hens.  After they left I immediately called the hatchery and placed my order for 12 Buff Orpington day old pullets and 1 Buff Orpington day old male, with a scheduled delivery date for the week “after” the wedding.  Okay, my “baby fix” was about to be met, and all was now well with the world.

Two days later on Father’s Day weekend newly married (October 2012) daughter #3 presented her father with a teeny tiny pair of garden gloves and a teeny tiny set of garden tools.  Yep, you guessed it, we’re having a baby (due Feb 2014).  Yippee!

In all the excitement of Father’s Day weekend I neglected to notice that Georgia had apparently decided there were not enough hens in the coop and was setting on eggs!  Okay didn’t we go through this last time I ordered day old chicks?  I marked the eggs (6) so that I could remove any new arrivals as soon as they were laid and made a mental note that she would have to be separated soon.

Exactly 4 days “before” the wedding of daughter #4, daughter #3’s had her first prego appointment.  A sonogram was done to confirm the pregnancy and lo and behold WE’RE HAVING TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I just might be in shock.

The wedding was awesome, and now we are officially “done with weddings”!  The honeymooners are back in Texas after an exciting adventure filled week roaming the mountains of Colorado.  The chicks arrived on July 3rd (a Wednesday) after spending ALL day at the post office because somebody transposed my contact numbers, this after being shipped out on Sunday!  We lost 1 pullet a few hours after they arrived and another the next day  :(.  Thankfully at the moment the remaining chicks are doing great!  Here they are shortly after they arrived:Buff babiesAren’t they adorable!

Then on July 8th Georgia presented me with this:Sweet Georgia girlI have since removed the nesting container so that junior can get in and out easier.  As of an hour ago Georgia is still fluffed out over the remaining 5 eggs, so apparently somebody else is trying to hatch out.

While I was writing this post I canned 10 jars of new potatoes, 9 jars of chili jam and I have 4 jars of jalapeno jelly in a water bath waiting on the timer.  As soon as that jelly gets done I might have to go out to the coop to see is Georgia has any more babies running around.

Thank you Lord, I am in baby heaven!  Not only have You blessed us with an abundance of fuzzy baby chicks, You topped all that off with a set of baby TWINS!!!

26 Feb

I didn’t sleep good last night, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. Earlier in the day, at my Master Gardner’s class we sat outside learning how to propagate plants, laughing occasionally at how the wind was blowing our supplies all over creation.  We had canceled that particular class a week or so ago due to bad weather and needed to get it done and over with as propagation time is here.  Who wants to take a class “after” they need it, ya know.

We all got cuttings from Homestead Purple Verbena, Purple Trailing Lantana, Honeysuckle Bush,  Belinda’s Dream, Monsieur Tillier, Souvenir de St. Anne, Mrs. Dudley Cross, and a rose we all tagged “Gone With the Wind” (official name to come later).  Apparently that particular rose cutting came from an actual rose-bush on the estate the movie was filmed at, tagging it as such became even funnier as we chased down our cuttings blowing off the table.

Okay, one more thing for me to look up, take care of and figure out where to plant.  (sigh)

We’ve had company for the last week so when I got home I had to run around and get chores done so I would be finished before supper.  As I ran about filling waterers and throwing out the girls afternoon treat the wind continued.  I decided to leave the ducklings in their separate pen as I was afraid the increasingly chilly winds would be too much for them and their downy little selves.  Then of course, I felt guilty they would be missing their afternoon swim.

I walked into the new greenhouse to check the temp and see if anything needed to be watered and the wind continued.  I surveyed the growing number of vegetables starts and (sigh) made plans to begin their transition to the outside world.  Having just learned in MG class that I would need to “gently” get them accustomed to being outdoors or I would “burn the crap outta them if I just plopped them out in the field.”

Back in the house with 30 minutes to spare I thought I would lay down on the couch for a little “shut my eyes for just a minute” kind of rest.  Flipped the TV on my favorite news station for a little background mumbling, grabbed a light throw to keep the chill off, got myself settled and shut my eyes.  and the wind continued….

and it blew….

and it gusted…

My eyes kept popping open as the wind whipped around the house.  Just listening to it was wearing me out.  Our dinner company blew it right on time and I was somewhat distracted for several hours.  The whole time they were here the back of my mind was picturing chickens flying through the wind whipped air and flats of vegetable starts crashing into the windows.  As they were saying their good-byes I grabbed my coat and a flashlight, I couldn’t get outside fast enough.  I had to check on things one more time just to be sure everything was still intact.  I shut and locked the pop door for good measure, then as I passed the greenhouse I said a silent prayer it would all be there come morning.

I sat down in front of the tube to watch a few of my recorded shows and hopefully get sleepy before going to bed.  Three shows and three hours later my eyes felt like they had been open for an eternity and I was dog ass tired.  Unfortunately the wind was still whipping around out there and my mind with it.  I forced myself to get up and go to bed knowing there was a ton of work waiting for me in the morning, hoping the never-ending wind would not add to my list.

Okay, that wild cucumber vine growing up our window screen has got to GO!

 

Sick Duckling

11 Feb

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Two new baby ducklings (female) we ordered from McMurray Hatchery, arrived on Jan 31, now 13 days old.

When they arrived I put them in a plastic bin brooder, in our house, for the first 10 days to make sure all was well.  I normally keep all baby birds in the “house brooder” for a full 4 weeks and then transfer them to a brooder inside the chicken coop for at least another 4 weeks before incorporating them in with the rest of the flock.  For some unknown reason I changed the norm and put them in the brooder in the chicken coop this past Friday. Everything was fine Friday and Saturday.

Sunday morning I went out to do chicken chores and check on our new girls and was shocked to find one of the ducklings turned over on her back paddling her feet in the air!  I have no idea how long she had been like this.  I quickly turned her over, whereby she took a very wobbly step and went right back over on her back.   I righted her once again, but this time I cupped my hands around her to hold her in place, give her some added warmth and try to calm her down.  We stayed this way for several minutes.  Thinking she was probably exhausted from this little ordeal I placed her in front of the water to allow her to drink, which she did.  With one hand cupped around her for support I offered her some feed with the other, which she ate.  After about 15 or 20 minutes she seemed to be feeling better and on shaky legs walked over to the feed dish to get more.   So I figured perhaps I walked in right about the time she ended up on her back and I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I checked on her several times as I went about my usual chicken chores for the morning.  By the time I finished feeding, watering and gathering eggs both ducklings were settled down together so I figured everything was okay.  Throughout the day I checked on them several times as I could not get this ridiculous picture out of my head of her laying on her back paddling her little feet.  All I could think about was that commercial of the elderly woman on the floor saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

This morning I went out to do my chicken chores and AGAIN, find this poor baby duckling on her back paddling her feet.  This is not normal people!  What is going on?  A million thoughts are running through my mind:  I put them outside too soon.  There is too much pine shavings on the brooder floor making it an unstable ground to walk on.  Am I putting enough Vitamins in the water?  Is there something wrong with my feed?  This poor duckling is so unstable on her feet it is not funny.

Okay so here are the details of the last 13 days:

Feed:  I started them out on Certified Organic Chick Starter from Coyote Creek Mills for the first 10 days.  Then I switched them over to Purina Start & Grow, for the last 3 days.  I did this mainly because I noticed our meat chicks that are on this same feed  (in a totally separate area/never been anywhere near the ducklings) all have soft-ish poop and I am having issues with pasty butt.  Since I have never had this problem on Purina I am questioning the organic stuff.  Additionally the “sick” duckling had pasty butt for the last 4 days she was given the organic.  Three days on the Purina and I have not had to clean her butt off once.

Water:  Fresh water given twice daily with added Vitamins and Electrolytes for the added niacin supplement.

Brooder Housing:  First 3 days was an XL plastic tub with newspaper in the bottom, changed twice daily.  Day 4-10, same tub with about 1/2 inch of pine shaving in the bottom, cleaned out as necessary.  Last 3 days in 2 X 4 brooder pen inside chicken coop with about 2 inches of pineshaving, water, feed and a brooder light on one end for warmth.  As of this writing have moved them back into the house into a makeshift 3 X 3 foot pen with doggie pads on the floor, those I have covered with that rubber drawer lining stuff so they can have secure footing.  I also have a box with pine shavings if they choose to get in there and sleep.  The pen is 1 1/2 feet up off of the floor and sits about 3 feet from a space heater (no central here) so it is nice and toasty warm (but not too hot).

Weather:  The last 3 days the outside weather has been cold and rainy with day time temps averaging about 65 and nightime lows about 45.  Although the ducklings have been inside a brooder pen, inside the chicken coop (which is a 15 X 17 converted horse stall), with a brooder light for warmth, yes it probably got drafty at night and yes I am kicking myself right about now.

I caved this morning and took both ducklings to the Vet.  Since I have no idea what is wrong with the “sick” duckling I have no idea how to treat.  Here are their stats from the Vet:

Duckling to the left of the picture holding her head up:  This is the duckling that “I thought” was well/okay.      temp was 105.4,  weight 540 grams, Vet said he could hear scratchy sounds in her upper air sacks, which he also said was where her lungs were located, lower air sacks sound clear.

Duckling to the right of the photo with her head down:  This is the duckling that keeps ending up on her back and has really wobbly legs.     temp was 105.2, weight 342 grams, air sacks sounded clear, poop sample showed no intestinal worms.

Since he really can’t find anything wrong other than the scratchy sounding air sacks in the larger duckling he felt we were dealing with an upper respiratory thing so he prescribed .25 oral Baytril to be given twice daily for 1 week.  Come back if they don’t get better or if anything else happens.

Okay so we have an antibiotic and I’m all good with that.  The only reason I brought the “well” duckling with me was I was afraid the “sick” duckling had something that might be contagious and wanted to make sure they both got treated.  I wasn’t expecting such a big difference in weight either, I mean the “well” duckling weighs a whopping 540 grams and the “sick” duckling weighs 342 grams.  That’s a difference of  202 grams and these two ducks were born on the same exact day.

Anybody out there have an opinion, thoughts, suggestions, advice, ever have this same thing happen?