Sunday Homestead Update

It is COLD!  Our highs this week have been in the low 40s, and a couple of times didn’t get above 22F.  Our lows at night have been in the single digits.  And a couple of times our wind chill brought it all down to -4F.  Brrr.  We have also received several inches of snow.  Feels like winter!

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Despite the cold and snow we have needed to deal with some extra outdoor things with animals (besides rotating out frozen water bottles, and all the normal extra chores that come with cold weather).  So we bundled up and did what needed to be done.

Snowy Integration

It was time to integrate the flocks.  The young ones are 14 weeks old now, and we wanted the two selected breeding cockerels to be put with our adult roo before they hit adolescence so that there would be less fighting amongst the males.  So we moved those two cockerels, plus all the pullets (no need to select them yet for breeding since there is only 7 – we sold two of the original 9 pullets because of clear defects) in with the adult flock.  The integration went VERY smoothly.  We think that maybe the fact that most of these young birds have been living in the growing out pen, which shares a wire wall with the sheep stall where the adult birds hang out, really helped with the integration because they have all been living near each other, with only a chicken wire separating them, for many weeks now.  We are glad it worked out so well and expect that to continue as we use the growing-out pen from now on.

We then also put all the young cockerels growing for butcher into the indoor growing-out pen together (now being referred to as…ahem…death row).

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We also decided to go ahead and do a breeding and incubation, despite it being the wrong season for it.  The hens we want to breed are laying very well right now (which is something we are selecting for – laying well through cold weather), and Boaz, the Dark Brahma roo has reached full maturity, so we would like to give him a try to see how he does.  We realize that if there is poor fertility it might just be the cold, not him.  But even if it doesn’t go well, we will likely end up with at least SOME chicks that we can select from and the rest will feed us.  So we are going to go for it.  We took the chosen hens and Boaz and put them all together in the lower coop.  In a couple of weeks we will start collecting eggs for the incubator.

Feather Sexing – We Have NO CLUE

If you remember, we tried our hand at feather sexing with our first successful incubation (third incubation overall).  Those are the chicks that are now 14 weeks old and we can tell who is what.  Ummmmmm….we have NO CLUE what we are doing with feather sexing.  We got 11 right and 12 wrong.  It seems like we could have gotten those odds if we had just randomly assigned them each a sex.

We are competent people, and we looked at many photos and videos about the topic, so we are pretty shocked at our results.  But we are not to be deterred.  We will try again next round, after watching the videos and looking at the photos again, and we will see if we can improve.

Weaning Ferdinand

Ferdinand has begun to break out of his night stall and drain Violet before we get there in the morning.  This also happened with our last calf, Charlie, right about this same age (5-6 months).  And that is when we decided it was time to wean Charlie, and we have decided the same about Ferdi.

When we weaned Charlie, we didn’t have sheep and thus were able to put him over in that stall.  We also used the fence panels to give him his own section of the barnyard.  But now we have the sheep, who could share their stall with him, but wouldn’t be very happy about it.  And separating the barnyard causes a bunch of annoyance because of the chickens and the dog not being able to move between sections, and the fact that we have to all-around-the mulberry-bush in order to get to the chicken pen to let them out and care for them since the panels splitting the barnyard don’t have a gate in them.

The woman who kept Vi and Ferdi during the evacuation knew about our set-up and when she brought them home she handed me this little plastic thing and told me that it was to put in the calf’s nose to wean him while still being able to keep him with his mama.  It prevents him from being able to nurse, but he can still eat, drink, and breathe with no issues.  What!?  How cool is that!?  We had never heard of it before.  We googled it and learned that it is actually made to be used in a two-step process for weaning calves in big industry farms.  But it could also work very well for us to use to be able to wean the calf and keep him with his mama until he is ready to butcher.

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So we put the thing in his nose this weekend, and we are watching to see how it goes.  I will do a full post on it in the coming weeks so I can share how it worked and whether it really is a good item to use for small backyard farms like ours.

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