Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mountain Pasture Pics

Here's some shots from the pasture across the creek from our house. It's beautiful but rough land. In the distance you can see the first pasture chicken coop. I was clearing fencelines of lespedeza. It was quite a chore. This seems like land that was created for goats doesn't it?

You can see there's a lot of lespedeza. We're wanting to put goats on the pasture next spring. The lespedeza gets stemmy in the summer and fall, but I learned this year from brush hogging that if you knock it down in the late spring, it'll be soft and supple again in the late summer and fall.This is the top bench of the pasture. In the corner, one day I'd like to build a house for us.

After a couple of months of really hard work, the fence is FINALLY up and running. The voltimeter shows around 6,000 volts, and there's 1.0 joules of punch behind the zap.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gate For the Pasture

I finally got a gate up at the foot of the bench pasture. I used Red Cedar logs that I cut out of the garden spot last year. They've dried for nearly a year, and they were cemented and buried in a shale clay, so they should last a while. When I drilled them, the purple heartwood shavings smelled fantastic.
After I predrilled some holes, I screwed in the hinges that would hold the gate. A cheater bar would have made this a whole lot easier.Once the hinges were in, Carla and I hung the gate. The gate is a 12ft Aluminum tube gate. I put welded wire on the gate to keep the chickens from walking through it. The gate really spritzes the place up. Now all the place needs is a good brush hoggin, a pond repair, and some more chickens.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet the New Chick

So with the summer heat came the summer broodiness of the hens. A hen goes broody when she decides to hatch out a clutch of eggs. A hen has to sit about 3 weeks to hatch her eggs, becoming in effect an incubator. Just like humans, mothers have to do crazy things, so thier minds get pumped full of crazy hormones (by the way my wife is pregnant). They hog nests, steal eggs, and when they get really broody, peck your hand with reckless abandon when you try to gather eggs. This is the broodiest hen we have - always going broody and she's a mean as an itchy rattlesnake. In fact, that is her new name - Rattlesnake

To snap hens out of being broody, we place them in solitary confinement without food, water or a nest for a couple of days in a pen we have. Their in the shade, and it doesn't hurt them long term. Without isolating the broodiness out of the hen, they'll cause squabbles, cracked eggs, and busted eggs for up to a month. I brought rattlesnake up to isolate her, changed my mind and made her a quick nest and placed four eggs under her. She hatched one today.

Cheep Cheep!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Turkey Toms

This is a rather large Broadbreasted White Tom. I have several like this; the problem is that no one wants a 30 lb turkey at Thanksgiving. So these become our turkey fry birds. This breed is great for putting on weight, but they're more aggressive than the heritage breeds, as well as always hungry - they'd be happiest if I was pouring feed down thier gullet with a shovel.

Simmey is a big kid, but not in comparison!
Here is a beautiful Heritage Breed Narrangasett Tom. The heritage birds are sooooooo much easier to work with. They're calmer, less aggressive, and they don't always seem like they're starving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Hard Way To Roost

So we're getting another batch of 70 hens trained to move on down to the pasture. For whatever reason, a group of hens has decided that the roosts aren't high enough and have improvised a rather mind-boggling solution

So the closest hens are on thier roosts. The ones in the top left corner are the "different hens". There is no way that roosting like that can be comfortable. It's a tight squeeze, especially since I've cinched the tarp down. They fly up there, latch on upside down, and, in a flurry of flapping and frantic chirpping, wedge themselves up there. I knock em down, and they keep coming back.
I'm leaving them alone. They know the roosts, b/c when I knock em down at dusk, they'll revert back to the roosts I built for them since it's too dark for them to see well enough to get back up to the ceiling. The pasture coops are wood and galvanized tin - it'll take a lot more flapping to wedge up into those ceilings.

Engage a chicken in a battle of wits and they'll drag you down to thier level and peck you into submission...

Monday, August 17, 2009

This Guy Thinks I Eat My Dogs

A while back I posted an ad on craigslist selling a pyrenees mix puppy, Roux, that just wasn't going to cut it as a chicken guard dog. She would be good for guarding larger livestock - goats, sheep, cattle, etc, or make a great cuddly family pet. The ad can be read here:

Today I got a reply to the ad that made me speechless. Here it is:


I saw your ad on craigslist regarding the following ad. In the ad you included "Will make a good livestock dog or an excellent family pet."First off, I understand it -is- your legal right to do whatever you want with a dog, but you should really be more humane. How can you offer up a dog for LIVESTOCK? Dogs are meant to be pets, not breeding livestock to eat!What are you, CHINESE? I don't know what you and your family do in China, but here in AMERICA we do not treat dogs as livestock to eat!!! In America it is ILLEGAL to eat dogs.I really hope that whoever ends up getting that cute puppy uses it as a pet and NOT livestock.

You hear about people this dumb in stories and in the Darwin Awards, but it's actually interfacing with a man of this calibre leaves you speechless.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Show & Tell

So we take Simmey to a second generation daycare called Tumbles down the road in an old stone building. The folks there are common sense, reasonable people. Friday was "bring your pet day", so we took a duck, who was so scared he started hyperventalting. Interesting, the kids toned down their excitement when they realized the duck was stressing out, and sat back down on thier own, much to the ducks relief.

We brought a 2 month old pullet hen as well, who in typical chicken fashion didn't stress. The kids got to pet the hen, a first almost all of them. We also had an old school turkey poult as well.

Poulty facts from the kids:

  1. Turkeys eat cats.
  2. All these birds came from zoo.
  3. Ducks get scared when they miss thier friends.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh where is our camera?

We can't find our camera. I'm starting to wonder if our little boy Simmey hid it - recently he hid my keys in a bag of dogfood.

The search continues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We're raising a small batch of pastured turkeys this year - 21 of them. They're in a pen that gets moved daily, and some of the turkeys immediately search through the grass looking for grasshoppers, crickets, and any other tasty snacks they can find. Other turkeys gobble down grass and other plants they find tasty - right now they're really loving a sprawling sorrel that's popped up naturally in the pastures. It's a legume and high in protein, so it's a turkey treat. We've got the standard Broadbreasted Whites and a few heritage breeds we're raising for some people.
Dance turkeys Dance!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Many Do You See

That's one big chicken...or is it?
If you guessed that it's actually two chickens, well then yes you're right.
These chickens are in a brooder/hospital pen that we have. In this case, it's a hospital pen, and the day before these chickens were so far through death's door, that only thier beak was sticking out.
The reason they were in such bad shape was because thier waterer ran out, and they suffered heat stroke. 3 others died, but I was able to bring these guys back by dunking them in cool water and force hydrating them. I've got a better watering system in place for these guys now, it's called a bell waterer and it's much better than what we had before. I hate when birds get hurt/die because I screw up - not just because it costs money, but because I want the birds to have as good a life as possible. The two chickens above are broilers that I'll be butchering in a month or so, but until them I want them to have the best life possible.
I am becoming quite the chicken medic. I guess the military patch-up first aid that worked so well for me have transfered well - heat problem, sour crop...just a cut and a few stitches with some fishing line...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tomato Worms

The biggest pest problem I've had this year with our tomatoes is hornworms. They can quickly defoliate a tomato plant, eat gaping holes in your pretty tomatoes, and cause all around problems. These catepillars get huge - here they are relative to my iPod. These guys are still small. They get much, much bigger.

So that's 3/8 inch rebar in the backround. This pics from a month ago, so this fool would have gotten a whole lot bigger. Instead he was turkey food - there is nothing better than finding one of these mater fiends and feeding him to a very excited group of turkeys who dance in anticipation. Well, actually there are a lot of things more gratifying, but it still feels good to give the turkeys a wormy snack.

Much more fun than looking for the worms.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Picking Up Chicks

So when I brooded the latest batch of hens, I didn't put any roosts in the new brooding building. It was one of those things that was on the list, but never made it onto the shortlist. So when I put 85 pullet hens out into thier transition coop surrounded with electic poultry netting, I thought that I wasdoing pretty well and headed off to work at the plant. Carla was home all day, and checked on the birds every couple of hours. Mostly the pullets just stayed in a wad in thier coop, with a few hens venturing in and out to grab bits of grass or an unlucky grasshopper.

The coop in question is an old, dilapidated, portable hoop house that I drug up and down every ravine, clump of woods, and slope in the holler, and the coop had quite a few holes in it. So when I got home I went and checked on the hens, and at the entrance of the coop, I one hen shot up from the grass at my feet, then all of a sudden dozens of hens shot up in the moonlight like really slow fluttering quail. When they landed, they shot off in every direction, and they were so small that they darted right through the fence like it wasn't there.

Looking in the coop, ONLY 1 Stinkin' Chicken Was On The Dang Roost! Carla and I spent the next 2+ hours searching in the dark for the hens. We found just under 60 hens when it was all said and done. The next morning, there were little "feather blasts" throughout the pasture, garden, woods and grass where woodland critters had dined on chicken throughout the night. After 2 days though, another 10 hens or so have shown up.

So the girls are slowly figuring it out, and about half of them were on the roosts tonight. Which is good, because there's better ways to spend an evening than tucking in 85 chickens