It snowed recently – just an inch or so – but it was the kind of snow that makes even the ordinary (or poorly-lit and muddy) look, briefly, extraordinary. It also tells stories of real drama and intrigue, of unseen passersby looking for a meal on a cold night.Continue reading “Haiku: Concealed And Revealed (Snow Series #1)”
Having to buy eggs has served as a harsh reminder of why we got chickens in the first place. And buying pastured eggs from the store just felt wrong. We miss our own flock’s eggs, so it’s time to begin again. Call it v2.0.
Though not often seen, snakes are also (wild) denizens of the farm. Today, we encountered two!
When we went out to do the evening feeding recently, we noticed that a Muscovy duck seemed to be limping as she came up the hill to the feeding area. Limping can indicate a relatively benign injury like a minor sprain or something more serious, like a bumble, so we caught the unhappy girl and took a closer look. What we found was unexpected, and a bit of a shock: her head and bill were bloody. We caught her and put her into a cage in the “infirmary” in the garage for treatment and observation. While you hope that none of your animals ever suffers an injury, in a setting where they free range with the threat of predators, it’s likely that an injury will occur at some point. Continue reading “The Importance Of The Farm (Animal) First Aid Kit”
Pretty much every predator in the area likes duck. We get it. To foil the many animals that lurk in the darkness, we secure the ducks in their coop (or the chicken coop, if they’ve chosen to squat in there) at night. Every once in a while, though, a duck hides when we go to herd them into their coop, and she stays out all night long. Notably, we have never had a drake stay out after curfew…hmm…
One of the best things about living on a farm is being able to turn on the ever-entertaining and variety-filled “chicken and duck” (and rabbit) channel. You never know what you’re going to see!
This past winter, we spent a lot of time with the chickens and ducks lately after finishing up morning chores because that seemed to be when the hawks most commonly appeared. While it’s within the realm of possibility for a hawk to swoop down and grab a chicken and duck right in front of a farmer, the hawks like to hunt when people or other livestock guardians aren’t around. Why? Because they’re opportunists: they want an easy meal with low risk of injury to themselves. Unfortunately, a young, inattentive chicken fits the bill. Continue reading “No Cable Here, But “Chicken And Duck TV” Is On All Day”
There’s much debate about the merits of keeping a rooster in a dual-purpose or primarily layer flock. We’ve chosen to keep a flock rooster (and would actually like to have two, if they could get along in the long-term), but have learned some things along the way.
When we first started our flock of chickens, we purchased straight run chicks and ended up two males (out of 18). That’s a ridiculously low proportion of cockerels to hens, but we were tickled. What luck!
We live in an area that is rife with predators, and have shared stories of losses to owls, foxes, and hawks. We’ve had close calls with loose dogs, too. This is what seems to be the most challenging time of year for protecting our free ranging poultry, so we have to stay on our toes.
Since our property is largely rolling topography, we can only see part of it from indoors (plus an outbuilding partially obscures the view). We keep a couple of sets of binoculars handy to scan the trees for aerial predators, and make a mad dash outside as soon as a hawk is spotted. There have also been strange dogs on our property from time to time; our house dogs alert to the presence of the interlopers and nearly go through the window. Just opening a door has been enough to send the dogs running away. Continue reading “I’m The Livestock Guardian Animal”
It’s that time again – this year is coming to its end. We like to look back at the year because you can forget how much you learned and during that period. We also like to recognize our accomplishments, as well as identify needed improvements. We characterize 2016 as our year of learning on the farm.
2016 started on a sour note, with about half of our small flock of layers lost to predators. We implemented deterrents and learned about the importance of having a vigilant rooster (or two) to keep watch over the flock. We hatched 4 groups of chicks and learned about integrating new chickens into an existing flock. We processed roosters, treated injuries, and let a (surprise) broody hen hatch some eggs.
We started with a small group of Muscovies going into 2016, due to some predator losses. We were thrilled when the ducks began laying, and wanted to expand our flock. Continue reading “Goodbye, 2016…Hello, 2017!”
With this cold weather, we like to take extra treats out for the chickens and ducks. When we went out this afternoon with scratch, we noticed that the adult chickens were nowhere to be seen…very odd. The juvenile chickens were huddled in the back corner of the barn, and when we got closer, a hawk flew up and into the rafters. To our dismay, we discovered that the hawk had killed and had been eating one of the juveniles – a nice New Hampshire Red pullet, of course, one of the friendliest of the bunch. It had eaten much of the pullet’s head, which was detached, and had plucked most of the breast. *&#@ hawk!
We had a problem at the end of last year with hawks preying on our laying hens, and we lost a significant number in a short period of time. This seems to be the time of year when, perhaps due to scarcity of wild food sources, the hawks come looking for meals at our farm. Yes, our birds are delicious, but we’d vastly prefer the raptors stick to catching mice and wild rabbits. Hmm…maybe they should look inside the plastic owls we put out to try to deter the hawks – we found a nest of mice in one of them recently. Needless to say, the plastic owls aren’t very effective. Continue reading “Hawk Season Again (Warning: Graphic Description)”