Archive for the ‘General Homesteading’ Category
Aberdeen has built-in pacifiers – yes, her kids both suck on her wattles when they aren't nursing. Her wattles are almost always wet.
And these tiny vultures (AKA four-week-old chicks) will soon be on their own in this big, bad world. Mama Leo is getting ready to stop mothering, probably within the next week. How do we know? The biggest tell-tale sign is that she is once again letting at least one rooster (or roosters?) mount her. She'll likely start laying again any day now, and stop mothering her babes a few days after that. This is our second batch of chicks hatched this year (out of three, so far).
Shy Girl Leo's two-week-old chicks take their first steps outdoors:
Aberdeen's babies at two days old and already bouncy:
These photos are just a teaser…
…video footage of Babies' First Day Out is coming in a couple of days!
Two beautiful little babies arrived this afternoon.
After being up every hour or two to check on Aberdeen during the night, I had been up in our loft bed grabbing some more shut-eye. Peter had just come in to say that she was still the same (laboring in first stage, contractions but no pushing yet) and I was trying to convince myself that I should get up and have some caffeine so I'd be ready when the time came, when through the open window I heard what can only be described as a bellow.
Peter went running out to check on her, while I fumbled my bleary-eyed way down the ladder and threw on some farm clothes. Peter yelled "NOW!" and I went running out to find her laying on the floor, with a "bubble" containing two tiny little hooves making its way out.
The birth went smoothly, if a little haphazardly (on our end – we'd been convinced we still had a ways to go; Aberdeen was amazing). While we fumbled around trying to get an empty feed bag under her to catch the messy baby, she pushed her little boy right out (with a few more bellows).
Her little girl followed not fifteen minutes later.
We helped as much as we could to get them cleaned off and dry (mama did most of it), and watched to make sure they both stood up and found the teat. We tied off and cut the umbilical cords, and dipped each one in iodine to prevent infection.
We brought mama goat a bucket of molasses water (which she sucked down), along with some grain and alfalfa. I gave her a couple of homeopathic arnica pellets to help with healing, and also mixed some dried herbs (mostly red raspberry leaf and nettle) into her grain. Then we sat back to enjoy the new babies while we waited for her to pass the placenta.
Aberdeen's little boy:
And her little girl:
New mama, after a job well done:
Oh yeah, Daks was on the clean-up crew:
Off now to take a nice hot bath before dinner, then check on the new babies one last time before bed.
It's very early yet: her ligaments have been playing peek-a-boo (the ones that disappear when birth is imminent), but she's been keeping to herself and breathing differently (rhythmic and heavy, like when she was in labor last year) all day.
And when I just checked on her about half an hour ago, her ligaments were gone!
We've probably still got another 12-24 hours to go, so it's going to be a long night of dozing for a bit and taking turns checking on her. (And last year, she ever-so-helpfully labored for a day and a half in first stage, then QUIT – as in totally back to normal – for a day and a half before starting over again and finally – FINALLY – having her babies. So we'll see.)
Back when we have more news (and cute baby photos)!
I made up a poem today. It goes like this:
Chickens, chickens, everywhere;
Chickens, chickens, in my hair;
Chickens, chickens, with plenty to spare;
Chickens, chickens, everywhere!
(Note: The photo was actually taken around the end of January – I just hadn't gotten around to posting it. The "poem" is from today.)
Our Aberdeen is getting ready to bring her next generation of kids into the world. These photos were taken about two weeks ago, and – if you can believe it – she's now even bigger! Her udder has been filling for a couple of weeks, and today I've noticed that she seems a little more restless than usual.
Gestation in goats can vary between 145 and 155 days, with 150 days considered the norm. Last year, Aberdeen kidded at 148 days. She is currently at 145 days, and Peter and I both think she's not going to wait too much longer. I'm guessing that we'll have new little goat babies by Tuesday!
Look at the size of her – I'm hoping she only has two in there!
Just for kicks, here's a shot of Peter giving treats (er, weeds) to last year's babies (now yearlings). From left to right: Nikabrik (the only boy), Lulu, Zoe and Inara.
And, because it wouldn't be right to leave them out (and because they're just too darn cute), I have to include a shot of Drama Queen and Koko.
Unlike Aberdeen, Drama is not in the family way. We didn't breed her in the fall due to a recurring staph infection on her udder; after two rounds of Penicillin and still no relief, we wanted to give her body a break.
What finally seems to have done the trick (fingers crossed)? Grapefruit Seed Extract, which you can find in any health food store. It's been shown to have antibiotic and antimicrobial actions – I've used it myself to guard against "traveler's diarrhea" while in India, and more recently, when a flu-like virus turned into what appeared to be some kind of bronchial or respiratory infection. It hadn't occurred to me to try it with Drama, until we were faced with having to move her to a stronger antibiotic (with more potential side effects and more potential damage to our soil). I saw the bottle sitting on a shelf, did a little research to find that it is indeed used for both pets and livestock, and figured we had nothing to lose by giving it a try.
I guesstimated a dosage (6 drops daily, based on her weight – 3 drops mixed in with her morning snack and 3 with her afternoon snack), and also mixed it into an herbal salve I'd been putting directly on her sores. We continued this for several weeks, until all of the sores had been healed and gone for at least two to three weeks. Then we weaned her off of it – going down to two drops per feeding for a few days, then one, then none.
So far (knock on wood), we've seen no sign of her sores reappearing. So this past Monday, when she went into heat, we finally allowed her to be bred. If she took she'll be due in early September, giving us the gift of year-round fresh yummy goat milk. Go Drama!
This time from the front, the cuteness that is Inara:
Last, but definitely not least, we've received so many nice comments on this blog lately, both here and via email, and I just want to say thank you. We've enjoyed and appreciated each and every one. If you've contacted us recently and not yet gotten a response, please know that we're not ignoring you! It's been an incredibly busy time here lately, but we will be responding to every email as soon as we get the chance.
We'll be back with news from Goatlandia very soon, along with an update on the many recent happenings in Chickenville. As always, thanks for reading.
No time for funny farm stories or anything like that – spring is busy busy busy, lots of things growing in the ground already and critters popping babies out right and left – but here's some pretty photos, which is probably why you're here anyway…
Spring in the orchard
Bees love dead nettle
…and there's way more of it than we could hope to eat
Lingonberry bushes are hanging on, and they flower, but no fruit
New garden gate for new garden fence that will keep the deer out this summer. We hope…
Storage shed under construction – to free up a nicer building that I want to use as an office
The turkale keeps on turkking
The river at dusk, after several days of unusually heavy rain
We recently enjoyed a delicious salad made mostly of "weeds":
- Young dandelion leaves (feral)
- Dead nettle tops with their purple flowers (feral)
- Ox-eye daisy greens (feral)
- Chives (just starting to come back up from last year's planting)
- Turkale* sprouts (planted a few weeks ago in a cold frame)
Teri whipped up a lemon-garlic-olive oil dressing that perfectly smoothed the sharp flavor of the dandelion, and as soon as I finish this post the remains of the salad will be going into an omelet. It feels SO good to start getting fresh produce from the garden again, especially since about the only effort involved was in gathering the greens!
* We planted turnips and kale in the cold frame last winter, not thinking of the fact that they are closely related and can interbreed. Some of the seeds that resulted are now sprouting in the cold frame, but we really can't be sure whether we created an unintentional hybrid – so until it becomes clear what this stuff is, we're calling it "Turkale." Either way, the greens should be tasty
Apologies for yet another long silence – Peter brought a lovely flu-like virus home with him from his visit to New York over New Year's, and it lived with us for almost the entire month of January. It's hard to believe that February is now almost over – seems like a lot of it has been spent playing catch-up.
On New Year's Eve day, we lost our beautiful Wedge (that's her in the photo above, back in October; the blurry girl behind her is her sister, Max). She was one of only two pullets (young hens) hatched last spring, and they had both just started laying in December. That day was pouring rain, and I spent most of it inside by the wood stove. When I heard a chicken commotion outside, I ran out to find the chickens milling about in what we loosely call the "stable" (really, a three-sided shelter that used to house the horse of a former occupant).
At first glance, I thought everyone was there, so I threw them some scratch and started to head back inside. That's when I noticed Cheepler (our former "house chicken") pacing back and forth in front of the stable and crowing – alone. Wedge was his little girlfriend, and the two of them were inseparable; she followed him everywhere. I went back into the stable and counted heads: two chickens missing. As I stepped toward the field to begin my search, I saw a black mound near a cluster of trees. I prayed it was a gopher (vole?) mound as I ran.
It was Wedge.
She was already gone; the curious part was that there wasn't a mark on her or any signs of a struggle, apart from a half-dozen soft little neck feathers on the ground a couple of feet away. My first guess was that it was a hawk – they "dive" feet first and often break the back or neck of their prey, killing or stunning them on impact. I figured that the roosters had tried to come to her aid, causing the hawk to drop her and fly away.
I buried our girl not far from the coop, in the pouring rain, with Cheepler looking on. While I was working, the other missing chicken (Baby, a then-four-month-old cockerel) crept from his hiding place and re-joined the flock. They were all pretty subdued. At roosting time that evening, Cheepler ran frantically back and forth from the coop to the field, looking for Wedge and calling. He didn't want to go in without her. I finally had to carry him in with the others and close the doors.
The next morning, just as Daks and I were starting our morning walk after letting the chickens out of their coop, the hawk was back. He/she made a few low circles over the area, seemed to decide the chickens were no longer so tempting with me and the dog hanging around, and headed for greener (or less guarded) pastures.
About a week later there was another ruckus. As I rushed out the back door, I could see that there was something with a large wingspan flying around inside the chickens' fenced area. (Chickenville includes the current coop, the new coop/fortress that is under construction, and an area around it fenced in with chicken wire. The wire does not keep our birds in – they can fly very well, thank you – but it does usually help to keep predators out. Our chickens have free access to our side of the property during the day, but inside the fenced area is usually considered their "safe zone," should they need to retreat.)
I ran toward Chickenville, waving my arms and shouting "Get away from my chickens!" As the hawk tried to fly away, he/she became tangled in the top part of the chicken wire (I guess hawks don't understand fences). The hawk panicked and thrashed about, freeing itself just as I ran up. We haven't seen it since.
Now we were left with five roosters and four hens – way too few hens for the number of roosters. The roos were supposed to become dinner (except for Cheepler and Atom, our papa roo) – we even named two of them "Soup" and "Stew" – but when the predator problems started we noticed that the roos all worked together to protect the ladies. So they all stayed, and I've been on the lookout for local people selling bantam (small breed, like ours) hens.
Almost two weeks ago now, I found an ad on Craigslist for two Sebright hens. The person was selling them because they were her only two bantams, and her standard-sized chickens picked on them.
Here are our two lovely new girls, on the day I brought them home:
These girls were used to free-ranging at their old place, but we needed to keep them locked up for several days, in their own section of the coop and run, to get them used to our coop as their new home (and to get our other birds used to the "intruders"). Once chickens have a "home base," they will return there to roost every evening at dusk.
Cheepler was smitten. He spent those first few days hanging around their run talking to them, and strutting around and preening for them.
Soon the day came to let them out. When new chickens are introduced to a flock, there will usually be some fighting as they establish a new pecking order. So, for their first time out, I waited until the rest of the flock was out in the field and closed the gates to the fenced area.
The girls relished their new freedom, while Cheepler gazed at them longingly from the other side of the fence.
Finally I took pity on Cheepler, and decided to bring him in to meet them. Unfortunately, the presence to two such beautiful girls was too much for him, and his hormones took over. Instead of courting them like a gentleman rooster should, he strutted right over and did the wing dance. This is the dance a rooster does when he wants to mate with a hen.
The results weren't pretty.
The more dominant of the two new girls turned out to be a warrior! She fought with Cheepler the way a rooster would. Cheepler was once again relegated to the other side of the fence.
The next day I let them out again, still within the fenced area, but this time for longer. As small and delicate-looking as these girls are (and they're smaller than our other already-small hens), they don't seem to be afraid of anything. Peter was out there working on the soon-to-be second coop for our expanding flock, and they weren't even bothered by his power tools.
I was planning for them to meet the rest of the flock that day, and really wanted them to have the protection of a rooster. So I brought Cheepler in again. This time, he was calm and gentle, courting them and offering them food. This approach did the trick; they accepted him and the three of them have now formed their own little flock.
When the rest of the flock returned to the coop, there was surprisingly little fanfare. The old girls have mostly been pretending that the new girls don't exist, Atom did the wing dance for them once or twice but didn't seem to care that they turned him down, and the other young roos have made their own passes (one of them has actually raped one of the girls) but Cheepler always comes along and thrashes the offender.
Now we just need to name these girls! (Calling them the "new girls" is getting old.) Top contenders:
* Maud and Maeve (they remind me of Irish lace, so I like the Irish-sounding names; plus, Maud means "battle might")
* Laverne and Shirley (if you don't get this reference you're too young to have a vote)
* Eliza Jane and Alice (Almanzo Wilder's sisters in the "Little House" series)
* Xena and Gabrielle (as in "Xena, Warrior Princess" and her sidekick)
And – last, but not least – approximately three weeks ago, our Molly went broody. We gave her some eggs to sit on (eight, originally, but that number was expanded to ten when others laid their eggs under her). About a week after that, Max (Wedge's sister) went broody as well. Our plan had been to discourage Max's broodiness while Molly hatched her clutch, and let Max hatch a clutch later in the spring. Those hens had other plans.
At first they seemed to fight over the nest full of eggs, but apparently they reached some sort of agreement. After a few days, they started sharing the nest. When one of them was off the nest to eat, drink and poo, the other would cover all the eggs. When the one returned, the other would move over to make room for her in the nest, and the returning hen would reach under the other and – with her beak – roll half of the eggs back to her side.
They've shared the brooding duties in this way for the past couple of weeks. Our friend and chicken mentor encouraged us to trust the birds and not separate them. She said that often, once the chicks are hatched, one mama will back down and let the other raise them. She also said she's seen clutches where both mamas stuck around and raised them together. (I'm hoping for the "our chicks have two mommies" scenario.)
As of this afternoon, two of the eggs have hatched (that I'm certain of). Two tiny black fluffy-butts with bright black eyes were peeking out from under Max's tail, watching me while I brought them fresh food and water. Fingers crossed – most of the rest should hatch tomorrow!
End note: Soup (also known as "Super Chicken") is likely to actually become soup soon. He has been guarding the broodies (a mark in his favor), but was also trying to mount them every time they were off the nest (a big mark against). He is also the one that raped one of the new girls – twice, as of today (another big strike against). The fact is that we have too many roosters for our little flock, and are almost certainly hatching more as I type. Stew (also known as "Stuart Little") gets a pass for now, as he seems to be Atom's right-hand man (and also seems to have learned proper courting behavior). Baby is still young enough that he's not yet too obnoxious.
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