Sorting Chickens

Our chicks are now 10 weeks old and we are getting ready to integrate the females in with our older hens and separate out the cockerels into their own coop/pen.  Since we are selectively breeding our chickens, we keep close track and records of each of the birds.  So in preparation for the integration we banded each of the chicks and added them to the flock tracking sheet.

My favorite type of bands are these colored and numbered ones from Strombergs.  I use the color to indicate which generation they are, and the number is for the individual bird.  They stay on quite well, though we do occasionally find one off.  And they come in a good variety of sizes.

10-week-old Silkie

We also clipped the left wing on every bird because we will be free-ranging them in the barnyard and we do that to keep them from flying up and over the fences.

We decided to use an alphabetical naming system this time around, since we are just getting back into breeding.  So all the first generation birds are names that start with “A” – second generation will start with “B” – and so on.  So the kids had fun coming up with “A” names for all the chicks.

10-week-old Salmon Faverolles Pullet

10-week-old Partridge Chantecler Pullet

We ended up with 27 surviving chicks – 7 cockerels, 19 pullets, and 1 unknown.  The cockerels are all Buff Chantecler.  We will pick the best one or two and keep them as breeding roosters, the rest will be butchered once they are big enough.  There are 4 Buff Chantecler, 4 Partridge Chantecler, 1 Red Chantecler, 5 Easter Egger, and 5 Salmon Faverolles pullets.  The last chick is a beautiful Splash Silkie.  We are not sure yet if it is a male or female.

L to R: Buff Chantecler, Partridge Chantecler, Salmon Faverolles

End of Lambing/Kidding Season 2017

Fiona was our last ewe due this year.  Her ultrasound put her due date eleven days ago, and we have been anxiously waiting and wondering what was taking so long.  Apparently she just had her own timing as she had a perfectly healthy delivery this morning.

We had bred her to a white BFL ram.  It was our first time trying out a BFL.  Fiona herself is also white.  The ultrasound said she had twins and she has been very large the last few weeks (though her wool makes it a bit hard to really tell), so we were expecting white lamb twins.  We were very surprised when the first feet began to appear and they were black.  And even more surprised when no second lamb followed after the first.

She gave a us one single, large, healthy, pewter-colored ram lamb!  His coloring is beautiful, with a dark silvery/grey body, black legs and head, and some pretty white and grey markings on his face.  He is a big boy, our biggest baby of the season.  His wool is longer than the wool of the other lambs (because of the BFL) and we are really excited to see how it turns out.  Fiona is a CVMxMerino and has very fine-wool.  So he is a BFL/CVM/Merino, which should be a cool combination and create a nice wool.

We finally got the ram lamb we have been anxiously hoping for!  After EIGHT females were born this year!  Whooohooo!  He will likely be our future flock sire.  But he was born too late in the year to breed this coming breeding season, so we will likely buy another ram as well to service the flock this season, and to give us another year breeding Fiona (his mother – since he can’t breed his mother).

He is up and nursing and doing well so far.  He is even doing a bit of bouncing and playing, which we don’t usually see in our lambs the first day.  So I would say he is strong and vigorous!

That finishes off lambing/kidding season for us.  It has been a wild ride this year, with many highs and lows.  Quite a rollercoaster of a season for us that started way back on February 14.  We had 4 goats kids born (one breech stillborn) and 5 lambs, and there were 8 females and 1 male.  The most babies we have ever had born in one season before this was 3, so 9 is a big jump in “production” for our little farm.  Quite an adventure!  We are beginning to discuss who will stay and who will go, but the final decisions wont be made for a couple of months at the earliest because we will leave all the lambs with their mothers until 10-12 weeks at least.  So for now we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy watching the bouncing babies in the barnyard.  😀

Sunday Homestead Update

Life is beginning to slow down a bit around the homestead, which is so nice and much-needed.  We have sold off some of the extra stock, which decreases the work load, and the Mill is up and running now so the crazy-busy of getting the new business going is subsiding a bit.

Garden Signs

When we first moved to WCF there was a big scrap wood pile here.  Most of it was rotten and not usable, but there were a few “treasures” buried in it.  One of which was some old shingles that I used to paint some old-farm-style signs to put up around the garden.

I am all for the worn-out old-time look, but over the years they have become so faded that it has passed that point.  So we took them all down and I re-painted them.  It is nice to have them back up and freshened up.

Heritage Arts

Sometimes my heritage arts projects never get photographed and thus don’t get shared.  Here are some from the last couple months that I forgot to share.

I made Young Man some hunting gloves for his birthday.  He specifically requested gloves with no tips on the pointer or thumb so he could keep his hands warm while hunting but still be able to safely load and shoot.

And for Easter I made the kids these cute little bunnies.  They were super easy, actually just a knit square that you origami sew into a bunny.  Their bodies were full of candy.  The pattern was Easter Bunnies by Geraldine Allemand.

Sheep

The sheep are doing well.  We sold the bottle babies, so there are only two lambs in the barnyard right now with their mothers.  Our last ewe due to lamb is still pregnant and has us wondering what is going on.  She is ten days past her ultrasound due date estimate, which has not happened to us before.  The ultrasound due date estimates have always been pretty darn spot on.  But I guess it can’t always be right.  She will lamb when she is ready.  Meanwhile, we wait.

Toffee is very curious and friendly, always wanting to check everything out.

On my way outside I caught these two cuties cuddling.  Sorry for the fence and poor photo quality, I knew once I approached they would get up and so I was attempting to get a photo before they did.  This is Tundra, our wonderful old Livestock Guard Dog and Rose our little moorit lamb.

Goats

Now that the bottle lambs are gone we also sold one of the milk goats.  We want to just keep one milk goat due to our limited space – since sheep and chickens are the main focus for our farm, but we like to have fresh raw milk.  So we sold Heidi but still have Gretchen, since she is so old and the vet recommended she not be bred again we figured no one will want to buy her.  She is super easy to milk, even though she doesn’t make as much as we would like for our family.

We will be getting a new replacement goat later this summer, a well-bred, high-quality registered Nubian doe that is lactating currently.  She will produce enough milk to provide for our family without us needing to own more than one goat, and we have set up with her breeder to take her to the buck each fall for breeding.

Farm Dogs

If you have been following us long you know about our amazing farm dog, Tundra, and all his heroic stories.  He is truly awesome and such a blessing to us.  He has protected thousands of dollars worth of livestock over the years.  He is 12-years-old now, and literally priceless and irreplaceable in our eyes.  We would not be able to do what we do and have it come out as successfully as it has without a livestock guardian dog.  We have mountain lions, bears, bobcats, raccoons, and aerial predators all anxious to get a shot at an easy meal in our barnyard.  Last year we had 8 break-in attempts made by bears on the barn at night – all of which were stopped because of Tundra.  We hear stories from friends in our area losing their chickens and other livestock to predators EVERY year.  It is so very important that we have a dog to guard the livestock that we really cannot go without one.  But Tundra is over 12 now, and showing his age more and more.

So, two years ago, in our search for the perfect dog to follow in Tundra’s footsteps, we found the Old-Time Scotch Collie breed and purchased a male pup who we named Finley.

Finley was raised out in the barn and Tundra did a great job teaching him the ropes of how to guard the livestock.  He is super smart and completely capable of handling the job of guarding and living with the livestock.  The problem is that Finley doesn’t really WANT to guard the livestock.   And over time he started causing all sorts of trouble in the barnyard.  We tried many different training techniques to get Fin through what we thought was just a teenage puppy stage – but nothing worked.  Then Finley had his toe amputation incident, which put him indoors for 6 weeks healing.  During that time peace came back to the barnyard.  Tundra and all the livestock seemed much happier.  And Finley was definitely much happier – living with the humans and going to work with Mtn Man.  We realized that while his breed is a great farm-dog breed, it just isn’t in Finley’s heart to live with the livestock and no amount of forcing is going to change that.  He wants to be with humans, not livestock.

Maybe we picked the wrong pup – in that we picked the pup in the litter that was the most friendly and affectionate.  Maybe that was the wrong choice for a dog that would be expected to be a LGD living with the livestock.  But regardless, we are not going to try anymore to force him to be where he doesn’t want to be.  We have experienced a true LGD that loves his job and doesn’t want to be anywhere else (in our excellent farm dog Tundra).  And because of that great experience we are not willing to force a dog into that position that doesn’t really have the heart or desire for it.  A working dog doing what they were bred to do and what they LOVE is such a beautiful and wonderful thing.  And it is ruined when a dog that doesn’t love his job is forced to do it anyway.

So Finley changed roles on the farm, becoming Mtn Man’s constant shadow and work companion – which they are both very happy with.  But that left us with no livestock guardian dog for the barnyard once Tundra is gone.

We have been trying to figure out what to do.  We researched a bunch of breeds of LGD, and considered getting another OTSC.  From our research we believe that most breeds of LGD would be unhappy at our farm since the space is so small.  The barnyard is only about 1/4 acre and most LGDs are bred to roam large pastures with their livestock.  And we have known some very unhappy LGDs on small acreage like ours that bark constantly, pace, and dig.  We don’t want to keep a dog like that.  We want another dog like Tundra that loves where he lives and what he does and is completely content to lay up in a high spot and watch over his charges.  After talking with several breeders we found that one potential breed that might work and be happy at our farm would be the Anatolian Shepherd.

After a lot of waiting, and then an interesting turn of events, we found just the right Anatolian for our farm.

We named her Anya.  She is about 10-months-old and such a great addition to the farm family.  She is super laid back.  She seems very content – not showing any anxious behaviors and choosing most of the time to lay along the fence and watch over everything.

She is quite a bit larger than Tundra, and still growing.  That will make for a good-sized mountain farm dog.

So blessed to have another working LGD on the farm!

Easy Way to Heat a Chilled Lamb or Goat Kid

Living up in the high altitude Rockies leaves us with kids and lambs being born during cold weather most of the time.  We usually breed for April babies, but even in April we still get below freezing most nights.  This year we have had many chilled babies, so I thought I would share how we warm them back up.

There is a quick and easy way to remedy a chilled kid or lamb, and it uses items most every household has.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard box big enough to accommodate goat kid or lamb
  • Towel
  • Hair Dryer
  • Knife or scissors

How to Build the Hot Box:

  • Using scissors or knife, cut holes in two adjacent sides of the cardboard box.  They need to be big enough to accommodate your hand or the end of the hair dryer that blows the hot air, whichever is largest.
  • Put the towel in the bottom of the box.

How to hot box a chilled lamb or goat kid:

  • Put the box near an outlet and plug in your hair dryer.
  • Put the lamb or kid into the box and hold or fold the top closed.
  • Stick the hair dryer in one of the holes, and your hand in the other.  Turn on the hair dryer and blow the hot air into the box.  The purpose of your hand being inside is to be sure you don’t burn the lamb.  You don’t want the hot air blowing directly on their body – just into the box.  So use your hand to make sure it doesn’t move over into the blowing air and that it doesn’t get too hot.  We usually have the hair dryer on for a minute or so, then off for 15 seconds, then back on, and off, etc. to keep the box very warm, but not too hot.  It doesn’t usually take very long to warm up the lamb/kid.  When they start getting exuberant and trying to get up and get out they are likely warmed up enough.  If they were hypothermic we use a thermometer to check their temperature when we think they are done so we don’t put them back with their mother until their body temp is for sure up where it needs to be.