Friends, it has been awhile! So much has been happening it has been hard to stop and reflect! The kittens are happy and healthy. The older group of six are now a month old and are running around outside, playing with the dogs and chickens, and always love some human snuggles.
The Cornish Cross chickens are now seven weeks old and growing fast as expected. From many articles I have read I expected them to be extremely lazy and unhealthy, but they are free range here with all the other chickens so they have kept quite active. Some are even roosting with the hens which I read is pretty unheard of. Most wouldn’t put roost bars in a meat bird coop since they are so heavy they don’t balance well and also can’t jump far or they could break their legs trying to land. Our roost bars for them aren’t more than a foot off the ground so those that want to roost can. There are maybe four of the meat birds that seem “unhealthy” in that their development has been sub par. Those few aren’t growing their feathers in well or as quickly and one has a kinked neck whom we have named Igor. We aren’t sure if Grant accidentally stepped on him without knowing it or if he was just born with a deformity. Igor still lives a happy, normal life, just his neck and head lean far to the right side. 🙂 The meat birds are the most social birds we have. They will walk right under your feet, pecking at your toes. They are fearless and will do anything for some food.
The Welsh Harlequin ducks are feathered and starting to show their colors. Their attempts at quacking right now are adorable! They are between four to five weeks old. We still aren’t sure how many males vs. females we have, but a few are easily identifiable as male due to their heads turning a dark green color. They have just started using the kiddy pool to go for swims. It is so fun watching them dunk their heads. You can tell they just love the water and that pleases me as I too share their affinity with water. One downfall so far is that the ducks do not want you to come near them. They scream and run as fast as they can. I held them in my hands as ducklings, sang to them like I read on a blog, fed them out of my hand, and still… they want nothing to do with me. That is okay. I’ll watch from a distance.
The bantam mama hens with their 20 some chicks are starting to join the flock more frequently. Once the mama’s think the chicks are old enough they will bring them back to the adult coop to roost with the rest of the flock. For now they are still cooping up in their separate brooding coop by choice. One aspect that has been challenging to manage is the different feeds for the hens, ducks, and chicks. Since they are all free range the hens have a large feeder in a central location filled with egg layer feed. Well the meat birds from what I read should still be on a chick starter/ grower feed and they are now tall enough to reach into the hens feeder. We aren’t sure if this is worth resolving since the meat birds will start to be butchered here in a couple of weeks. The second issue we have with the feed is the chicks feed up in the brooder coop area. During the day the door is open so the mamas and chicks can go out and do their foraging. There are a few hens and a rooster who like to go up there during the day and gobble up all the chick starter feed. To resolve this somewhat we just remove the feed during the day. The mamas and chicks are all out exploring further and further so they seem to be fine just getting access to feed in the evenings. The third issue is if we leave the ducks food down the meat birds will sit their all day and demolish the whole feeder’s contents as fast as possible. We resolved that by hanging the duck feeder during the day out of reach from all of them. The ducks range around in the grass and bushes gobbling up bugs and greenery. At night while they are cooped up and separated from the chickens we put their feeder down so they can tank up.
Tulips twin ram lambs are gone and I was sad to see them go. We did a partial trade for a Nigerian Dwarf doe and she and Sputnik (same breed) bonded immediately. Since Tulips lambs are gone and she is still producing milk for a few months we have started milking! We said when we purchased the sheep we would wait to have milk until it came from our own farm. Well, we got our first taste of milk since last fall and it was so good! It tastes similar to cow milk, but with a more herbal, sweet aftertaste. It is hard to explain, but I would put it in between goat and cow on a spectrum. She has been providing us between a quart to a half gallon of milk each day and that is only milking once per day. We could milk twice per day, but with our schedules right now it is easier to do every morning before they leave home to graze for the day. We may ramp up milking anyway to keep her in production. This is all a first year experiment so we will learn the best schedule with time and experience. Tulip was trained to the milk stand by her previous owner so she is quite easy once we have her in the pen. We learned a trick from a neighbor to use some baling twine we had on hand to tie the back legs to the stand if they are a kicker so your milk doesn’t end up all over the ground and you! When we first got the Nigerian Dwarf doe she was still in milk so while we were drying her up we milked her out a couple of times. She is a feisty girl and doesn’t love being milked. Her name is Sepha. That trick tying the legs worked great for her. There is another trick if your goat or sheep is trying to lay down in the stand to tie a rope around her belly to the ceiling. Not too tight or anything uncomfortable, but noticeable enough that they won’t try to lay down. We are so grateful to have our own milk source that is so tasty and what a reward for the hard work put in all year caring for them!! On my mind now is how to plan their pregnancies to provide us with fresh milk all year round! Sepha should come back into heat soon so she could kid as early as November and we could bottle feed and have a milk source from Nov/Dec to Mar/April. In Sept-Nov the ewes should all be bred and have lambs in Feb/Mar so we would then be drying Sepha up around April and milking five ewes for the summer and then Sepha the goat can be bred and the cycle continues…
Another interesting bit of insight we have gathered is that Grant not drinking cow’s milk may be having a huge impact on his allergy problem! Usually each spring is a deadly time for him. He was never able to stop and enjoy the smell of all the budding trees and aromas due to his allergies. This year, knowing there are other factors, he has miraculously dealt with little to no allergy symptoms. The cotton was flying and he was walking straight through it. It was insane. I used to listen to him sneeze 20 times in a minute in this same situation just last year. Now it seems rather obvious that it was the milk because we didn’t cut out many other things from our diet. Between him consuming more raw honey this winter and spring and not drinking milk his body is thanking him. That doesn’t even include not eating other dairy like cheese. We still love cheese. I wonder what else will improve as we switch from eating cheese from cow’s milk to sheep and goat’s milk. If anyone in the area is interested in a local milk source please share our information and we would be happy to do a farm share where you purchase a share in the farm through a membership fee and therefore share the benefits of the farm’s production. Feel free to use the contact page or leave a comment if you are interested!
The garden took a hit from the recent frost this past weekend. Mostly the green beans, a couple of watermelon, and the tomatoes so we learned another lesson… for next year we will either use hot caps or wait to put those less cold tolerant plants outside until after June 10th! Thankfully we had back up tomatoes in the greenhouse yet so we didn’t lose them all and perhaps some of them will still live, but I’m not so sure. There are other things thriving outside like the mint, raspberries, strawberries, lettuce, kale, cabbage, swiss chard, garlic, onions, and carrots. The greenhouse is getting full with cucumbers, squash, peas, corn, watermelon, and peppers to name a few so transplanting is in order in the coming weeks. Looking forward to a beautiful summer ahead, but enjoying the growth occurring right now, today.