Hi friends! A short update on additions to the farm – I purchased two bred British Guernsey goats from Sasha Sigetic (ruminant lactation specialist at Integration Acres in SE Ohio). Their sweet temperaments and lovely personalities show how lovingly they were cared for, so I appreciate being able to purchase these ladies from such a good herdswoman. We are expecting milk (AND GOAT BABIES OMGOMG) mid March 2018! I’ll post more updates soon about Ruby (mom) and Opal (daughter).
A few weeks ago Derek and I (and my amazing mother-in-law and group of friends and co-workers) gathered at Everyday Acres to process the Dorking cockerels that were not chosen as breeders. Sad to send them off to chicken heaven, but they had a great life while they were here, didn’t have to be stressed by transporting to a processing facility, and they will be meals we can all feel good about!
Here are some pictures from processing day (thank you Kelly Henderson!) –
Getting started and learning how to eviscerate:
Kill cones, plucker and scalder:
FINALLY the last chicken!
I can’t thank all of our amazing volunteers enough – this was our first year processing and we absolutely could not have done it without them. Now we have a freezer full of chicken…how to cook them?! Check out our page Cooking Heritage Poultry and keep your eye out for an upcoming blog post.
Hi friends. We’ve been busy this spring keeping everyone fed, watered and happy and preparing for the next stage of chicken growth. The Red Dorkings turn 8 weeks old June 6, so I’ve been preparing to weigh, re-band and separate the males (cockerels) and females (pullets) by then. The ladies will join our four grown chickens in the big stall in the pasture, and the boys will get to live in the woods, kept safe (hopefully) by electric poultry netting surrounding their stomping grounds.
I built a practice roost for the little ones to get used to roosting at night:
and Derek built a beautiful, bigger roost in the big stall for when the ladies move in there. We were also able to adopt a dog I’ve been hoping to adopt since last December – she is the mom of my favorite office dog (we can bring our canine friends to the office I work in) and I’m just so happy Cookie is here!!!
Today Derek and I built the greenhouse I bought on Amazon that will serve as a place for the cockerels to roost at night in the woods. Both ends have doors so I’m hoping to keep it cool enough for them by keeping it wide open during the day – every day is a new adventure figuring out how to make this work this year, so we’ll see if we have to alter it or add ventilation this summer.
Don’t get too attached to that damn sexy man ladies, he’s taken! Next is setting up the electric fence around the greenhouse and moving the chicks, which includes banding and weighing again as they grow. I’m pretty excited for these chicks to finally get a chance to get outside and start foraging now that they will have enough feathers to stay warm enough. I’ll be real excited when this next phase is done – then it’s smooth sailing to eggs from hens and processing cockerels…right?!? 😉
Hey friends. It’s been a while. We’ve been busy – digging trenches, filling trenches, carrying fence posts, digging fence post holes, clearing fence lines – and that’s just Derek! Well, we did spend a day together clearing brush in the rain. Which I remember fondly. I’m also a terrible blogger – writing about myself makes me feel like I’m standing naked in an airport. But it’s an interesting way to keep friends and family in the loop and if I’m lucky, one day, maybe I’ll help or inspire someone else trying to do the same thing I am.
Sheep! I never planned on having sheep, but on my last day of work before having some time off during the holidays I was in my 2,395th hour of perusing livestock sale groups on Facebook and came across a trio of lambs born on Christmas. The mom wasn’t able to feed them and the family didn’t have time for bottle babies. And something about it stuck with me. It was illogical and perhaps irresponsible. I didn’t have a plan, but I did have the memory of seeing lambs at Aullwood Audubon’s Farm and Center (the best place ever) and that they are the cutest animals on earth. I was not disappointed. I brought the last one, an ewe, home.
I’m happy to report we’ve been through almost two months of bottle feeding, shots, and tail docking, and she is doing great. Such a hardy little thing. And last Sunday I brought home a boyfriend for her (picture depicts playful headbutting):
Next project: castration!
The barn is done! Well, the structure is complete. Derek and I are working on the inside, but the general structure is done now. It’s hard to express how wonderful it is, to me, to have a safe place to keep livestock. This suburban girl’s dream has come true!
The inside has come along quite nicely – Derek has been my barn angel, so prepared with his plans to put the insides together. I gave him a sketch of what I wanted and he made it a reality. We had about 3,000 pounds of wet, rough cut red oak to move for the stall construction and it went smoothly with our teamwork!
Since the above pictures were taken, the doors have been completed…and two Great Pyrenees puppies now call the barn home along with the chickens. I chose Great Pyrenees as livestock guardian dogs (LGD) because they are very friendly with people and a popular LGD, so it was easy to find a breeder close enough to drive to for puppy pick up. The white pup is Lady Bird and the black and white pup is Jack. They are amazing. I’ve spent a week with them so far and have had so much fun figuring out their personalities. They are both gentle and sweet, and I look forward to loving on them every day.
The chickens have moved into the barn as well, so the puppies can start getting used to and bonding with them. Today we built a fence in the largest stall in the barn so the chickens are on one side and the pups are on the other. Hopefully with this arrangement the dogs will start getting used to chicken noises and movements.
The chickens are ever resilient and seem to be adapting just fine to the barn. It’s just incredible to have a place where I can sit with the pups and watch them play with each other, while I listen to the chickens scratch and cluck. Having a barn is just as wonderful as I thought it would be. I’ll post more updates soon! 🙂
I’ve been taking a free online course (through Coursera) about chicken behavior and welfare for the past few weeks. Here are a few fun facts I’ve learned about our feathered friends:
- Chicks start communicating with their mother through peeps before they even hatch out of their shell. The chicks will imprint on their mother in the first 48 hours after hatching.
- Chickens can see ultraviolet light!
- Chickens have a social structure that inspired the term “pecking order” when talking about social rankings in a group. The dominant female of the group actually mates less with the rooster because she is more successful at fending him off than the submissive hens.
Antonio, center, and his queen of the flock Little Girl to his right. He has to fight to ruffle a feather on her back!
- A rooster will try to attract a hen to him by “tidbitting” – he will pick up and drop a piece of food multiple times while clucking to draw her in. I just like the word tidbitting.
- Chickens can recognize about 80 other chicken faces before smiling and nodding awkwardly because they just can’t remember if they’ve met that 81st chicken before.
- Chickens use about 30 different vocalizations to communicate with each other. “Here’s some delicious food” sounds much different than “Help! This pesky human is picking me up again!”
Hopefully you find these little dinosaurs a little more interesting now!
Thanks to the amazingly talented Kevin Morgan, we have the perfect logo for our farm!!
Our home is in the background, with two hens in front who represent Big Girl and Little Girl, the two hens from the first batch of eggs I ever hatched. The flowers represent the natural areas we keep around for pollinators, birds, and biodiversity in general, and the chicks represent the many Dorking chicks that will be produced here! Could not be happier. Thank you Kevin!
The concrete is poured and the materials are here. The crew has some other projects to tend to so we are on a bit of a break at this point. We have plenty of time though, so I’m happy to enjoy each day admiring the barn in this transitional state. I’ve included the most recent version of the floor plan – it is still changing as I consider how to use the space for incubating eggs, brooding chicks, and housing layers, breeders, and a few goats.
So much progress on the barn in the first week! Our crackerjack crew has everything ready for pouring the concrete pad next week. I’m just thrilled with the progress so far. And I enjoyed the day I was able to stay home from work and watch them get started. I wish I could watch the whole thing!
This is the view from the front porch this evening. This Tuesday, some brush will be cleared and the ground will be leveled in preparation for the chicken and goat barn. I’m so excited to watch as the front porch view changes 🙂