Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Good Weekend

So let's just say that it's been a less than ideal couple of weeks past. It's been one catastrophe after another on the farm -but this weekend was wonderful. I sold at the market Saturday morning, and despite the buckets of rain falling from the sky, had a great time. After the storms rolled through, I went and worked on the electric fencing in the back corner of the holler. The clouds were eerie, and rolled right on by. It was beautiful.While up on the top bench, a large pack of coyotes fired up and started yelping just a little way up the holler. The pack was only about 75 yds into the woods, and I'm pretty sure they were eyeballin me as I fenced. The guard dogs were up on the bench with me so I just enjoyed listening to the "concert". It was quite a large pack of coyotes.Across the holler, the turkey hens have built a nest in some branches downhill from the house. They're remarkably camouflaged. The hens haven't taken to setting yet.
Our tom turkey keeps a look out over his ladies though nonetheless.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cornish Cross Not for Us

It's been one thing after another this season. Some of it's so ridiculous that it's comical at times. Today was the realization that the Cornish Cross Hybrid meat chicken - the same bird that every industrial poultry operation uses, has no place on our farm. We tried a small batch of 50, and they've been dropping like flies. With time constraints of family, work, & farm, I can't coddle these birds. Cornish Crosses are dumb, and I mean dumb. Raising these birds are not compatible to our values. Why did I even try them?

I made the assumption that the Cornish Crosses were the equivalent of the Broadbreasted White turkeys - they are not. Broadbreasted whites do great on pasture, or at least I've never had a problem - they gobble grass, clovers, chase,err I mean waddle, after bugs, dust bathe, etc. Despite common opinion, the turkeys won't drown in rain. They have a good life, and only one really bad 5 minutes to go out on. The chickens, however, are a whole different story; other people can raise them on pasture, but not on our farm.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blind Turkey Poults!

So it's been a really, really crazy week. I got swapped mid-week into night shifts while interviewing for another, awesome job with a really awesome agricultural non-profit organization. This other job will be much, much more farm friendly. It will also give me an opportunity to help other farmers like me. I can't believe people actually get paid to do this job...How awesome is that?! We'll see how it goes.

In the midst of everything that's been going on our turkey poults came in. There was a problem with the heritage poults, specifically the Bourbon Reds. Half of the shipment was blind! Once we figured out what was actually going on, we contacted the hatchery, Welp out of Iowa, let them know, and they're sending us more chicks. We've switched to them exclusively, because they don't charge shipping, and their customer service is awesome.

So here's a group of normal looking poults.
These are healthy Bourbon Red and Broadbreasted white poults. Below is one of the deformed poults. The eyes are a solid, eerie greenish-gray color and there's no pupils. They were runtish, and completely blind, and they all started dying at four days old - they just couldn't find food or water.
At Bruce's suggestion, I tossed in an older chick to help the little poults figure out how to scratch and find out where the food is. One of the poults took to snuggling under its wing.
Here's a shot of the Cornish Cross Meat birds heading out to pasture here in the next couple of days. They'll be food on May 19th. The growth rate is incredible in the Cornish crosses, growing so fast their feathers can't keep up.
Ugly Duckling, err Tasty Chicken!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dog Training Invention & Birds on Pasture

So last year, I had some problems with the Pyrenees eating hens. I couldn't figure out what was happening, so I hid in a patch of cedars and watched as two playful puppies followed the flock around and managed to catch a hen. They then laid down with the hen between their paws and proceeded to lick the hen, and then pull out feathers. What was happening was the pups were playing, and being affectionate (licking), but chickens are very delicate, so it didn't take much to kill the bird. Once dead, instinct kicks in and the pups eat the carcass. This is pretty common across the board for livestock guardian dogs - the guy that we're buying our goats from told me about how his Anatolian shephards quickly dispose of any stillborn goat kids. Dead animals attract predators, so the dogs are protecting their flocks/herds. Pretty neat.

But to stop inappropriate play, I came up with the idea demonstrated below. It's just a chicken wrapped in polywire fencing hooked up to a charger. The chicken is on a rubber mat, so it can't be shocked because there's no ground. A mischievous puppy, however, will complete the circuit and get popped on it's nose or mouth, and it will probably be a lesson that sticks for the rest of the pup's life.
In other news, I finally got the chickens back out to pasture yesterday. Finally!