We have chickens

A friendly acquaintance needed to find their chickens a more rustic home, so we offered to take them since we were wanting to try chickens over ducks this year.  Pictures hopefully this weekend, my husband is working out the final roaming/run area for them.  Right now they are parked in our front yard and getting stirred up by a very silly little big girl.

Speaking of, I might call her Ram Tamer, since that is what she’s done.  Our rams now will stand still for petting due to her valiant and persistent efforts at feeding them by hand.  They are “right” kind of tame, not the kind of tame where you can get head butted (which usually is from roughhousing with lambs too often).

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Can you make hay while the sun shines?

We can’t.  No shame though, we only have 5 acres, and only 4 that can be used for the sheep.  My husband and I had a thrilling (to us) discussion about the process of haymaking.  I thought it was just like grass clippings, but it’s more complex than that.  You have to cut the grass a specific length and then stack it up and then turn the stacks so the cut grass dries evenly.  And only then can you make haystacks or bales.

There is no point to doing all this by hand unless you want a very special exercise program for the summer.  But for small holdings (under 20 acres), or acreage on a mountain/hill/etc., there are walk-behind tractors and balers that have lovely videos on youtube and produce some nice bales with not much physical effort.  And before walk-behind equipment and conventional tractors, there were horse-drawn options, which one could still use I guess, if you already have the horses.

The whole point of the discussion was to figure out if it was possible to hay a little to cut down the hay bill, since we are only going to keep a small fiber flock anyhow.  But as it turns out, the best way to reduce the hay bill is to continue the soil improvement quest so that we can cut down how much hay has to be available each year.  Right now we need about nine months’ worth with the number of animals we have.  Getting that down to the seven we originally figured on would save about what magically haying an acre would.

While this was in draft, I found out that while haying our own land is probably not worth it, it might be worth it in the long term to help out some of the neighbors by haying their 5-20 acres where those neighbors are not able to stay on top of the mowing year to year (such is life in the country!)  We would get a break on our hay bill, some much-desired exercise and the neighbors would get cleared yards without the hassle of running animals as lawnmowers.  So it’s something to mull over and think about in a couple of years.

Quick updates

  • Updated the pictures of our flock.
  • Updated fleece sales page for the current year.
  • Ewes are looking on track for late April through mid-May delivery.  Grey, our biggest, fattest ewe is favoring a back leg, but is not off her feed or showing any other signs of weight or health trouble.  She’s always a little overconditioned, and the whole flock is about a month off from when we wanted to get hoof trims done, so we will take a look at her this weekend and try to tackle that maintenance with the others as well.
  • I’m back to working with the fleeces again, but I need a (cheap) camera to do closeups, the old cameraphone isn’t able to do that.  So I’ll pick up a little point and shoot so there can be more and better pictures of all those different processes.  A record as I go would be really useful these days.
  • The kids are coming out of sick season and our latest arrival is struggling to learn walking as soon as possible.  Hopefully this tires him out enough to start sleeping more than an hour at a time.  We are still awaiting the arrival of his first tooth, he has three buds right now, so it could be any day.

 

Wingus choked to death on electronet

I was able to bail him out a couple days ago, but today he snuck by and we just didn’t catch him in time.  He was tangled where there is a lot of bramble and it’s not easy to see if a sheep is actually tangled or not without stomping out there in the mud and thorns.

No more electronet for us.  This is the first (and hopefully only) death from it, but we’ve had so many close calls with our other sheep that we’re just going to have to put up something else that is higher-hassle to move around for our temporary fencing.

I know it’s our first year (from when we got our initial sheep), and my husband keeps saying that part of starting out even on a small scale is losing animals due to inexperience, but we were really hoping to eat Wingus, he was really massive.  And the punchline is that we don’t know enough about dead animals to know if the meat is salvageable, so he’s going straight in the ground as fertilizer.

I’m just feeling very overwhelmed right now.  My own child is gaining like crazy, if his current gains persist, I’d have a 90lb one year old.  So it’s hard to wait for the old energy levels to get back up.  But it’s good to have a healthy, comically large newborn.

Anyway, we have a lot to learn, and in the meantime our bellies will have to be filled with humble pie as we gain that wisdom from experience.

Rams just won’t stop until they reach the top of the neighbor’s hillside

I am finally starting to feel rested after racing uphill to chase the silly stupid rams.  They have decided the electronet isn’t serious enough and just jump over it or barrel through, as the whim takes them.  So in less than an hour they tore across three different property lines and quite a bit of bramble in pursuit of whatever it is little rams are after when they go roaming.

I spent a good twenty minutes running around in the weeds and blackberries trying to find them and then I get back to the barn to see if some alfalfa will lure them and there they are right next to the barn looking at me like they’d been there the whole time.

So electronet and smart fencing will have to be for ewes only (they never wander, so it can be temporary or permanent for them), and we’ll have to rely on cattle panels for the rams.  Cattle panels are a little too high for them to jump easily, and they seem to actually respect them in general, so they don’t test them in the first place.

I thought I’d be saving my uphill runs for the third trimester, not the start of the second one.

The sheep cow the goats

They lounge around in the stall entrance blocking the gate, chewing their cud in the good shade while the goats bleat and stand a few feet away in the slightly less cool shade next to the entrance.

It’s pretty funny.  Of course, when I try to take a picture they slowly get up and file out into the paddock, as far as they can get from the barn.  And they do make out like they meant to get up right then and go have a nibble.

In duck news, the weather’s been swinging wildly from cold to superhot and according to the internet, this can stall laying for a few days to several weeks unless the ducks are moved to a more controlled climate setting.  It could also be the youth of the ducks, the most regular laying is after 22 weeks for just about all breeds except the very largest.  So we may just not see any more until they are all older by a few more weeks.

At least one child has had chicken pox most of the week, and I am wiped out, so that’s all for now.