Today was a warm(ish) day! It would have been downright warm if it hadn’t been for the wind. We got up to about 50F, but the windchill brought it down. But, we are so starved for the out-of-doors that we didn’t care and we all bundled up and headed out to the barnyard to soak in some homestead and fresh air.
First, we did some much-needed barn clean-up. During the cold winter months the barn gets messier for two reasons – #1 the animals are closed in more, thus making more of an indoor mess, and #2 we are spending our time keeping up with the extra mess, along with keeping water thawed and everyone alive so we don’t have as much time for the less necessary barn clean-up. It felt good to sweep up all the stray hay on the floor and do some clutter management and organization.
Then, we moved the chicks from the brooder in the house up to the growing out pen in the barn. Yay for no more chick dust in the mud room!
While we were up there we opened Banana’s (the broody hen) coop door to see if she would let the chicks venture out into the pen to interact through the wire with the other chickens. Sure enough, she led them on their first outing! There was quite a bit of chest bumping, initiated by Banana, through the wire. She wanted to make sure everyone knew that they were not to be messing with her chicks.
We did the unfortunate, but necessary, deed of butchering Blue, the cockerel that attacked our son a few weeks ago. We kept him through the breeding egg collection to increase our fertility, but then he had to go.
We were very shocked and upset when, not ten minutes later, as we were all hanging out in the barnyard petting chickens, our other young cockerel/rooster, Banty, attacked our youngest daughter. He got up on her chest, and luckily didn’t make it to her face before my husband reached her and knocked him away. I was there a split second later to comfort her. She was hysterical and terrified. It was awful. Husband caught the mean cockerel and held him while I took her around to pet and hold the sweet hens and to try to calm her and show her not to be afraid of all of them.
We just don’t know what to do. Our two adult roos, Pepper and Boaz, are awesome, sweet, docile boys. But we have been unsuccessful at selecting any nice cockerels. They seem nice, at first, but then they all end up turning aggressive. We will not keep aggressive birds here, it is too dangerous.
So we are trying to decide what the next step is. Banty is still here, but no kids in the barnyard, and we will likely be butchering him soon. We are trying to figure out if there is any way to “train” it out of him, but from my research there isn’t. We are also wondering if we should be holding all the cockerels regularly from 12 weeks of age on to make them more friendly?
Anyone have any experience selecting breeding roos that are docile? And how to tell at a somewhat young age? We don’t have the space to keep a bunch of them beyond 16-20 weeks, nor the tolerance of neighbors for more than a couple of crowing birds. So we have to be able to pick our breeding roos at that age.
At this point we feel like we just need to stick with the two docile roos and not keep any others unless they are exceptional until summer of 2015. And if we do keep them, do it knowing that if they get aggressive we will have to go back down to just two. The problem being that while Pepper is a sweetie, he isn’t what we are selecting for at all. He has a huge comb prone to frostbite (lost half of it earlier this winter), and he is a bantam mix so he is smaller than we are hoping for. Boaz, on the other hand, is exactly everything we want in our high-altitude, cold climate chickens. But if we breed with just him our lines are going to get too inbred too fast. We need a second (and possibly third) rooster with different lines to keep the genetic balance.
After the attack we headed inside to have a laid-back, restful, Sunday afternoon.
Other happenings around the farm this week:
Incubation #2 of 2014
We finished collecting the breeding eggs and loaded up the incubators. We split them evenly between the two bators we are testing out. Each has 26 eggs in it. Fertility check will be later this week. We are really anxious to see how Boaz did as far as breeding with his injured foot.
Boaz’s foot hit a plateau in healing earlier this week and then it began to go downhill – fast. It was clear Friday that there was infection inside of it – abscesses. So husband cleaned it, lanced a small hole, and milked all the infection out. Then he put the herbal salve on it that we make and use on our livestock. The next morning Boaz was putting more weight on that foot that we have seen him do in over a week. He was clearly feeling much better. Husband had to milk out more infection Saturday and today, cleaning it each time and salving it. He looked very good today. We are very hopeful that we can help him pull through this. Especially with him being our ideal rooster.
We decided to not run the beef broth twice like we normally do, and instead to do it like all the recipes say. It was definitely more concentrated and flavorful – delicious! We still will probably do the “frugal” way when we need to, but when we can afford to “splurge” we will just run it once. We put up 1 quart and 6 pints. I like to have the quarts for stews, etc. But the pints are convenient for making gravies.
We have taken all the garden books down off the shelves, taken out the gardening binder, grabbed the pile of catalogs, and began our garden planning for 2014.
What will be new this year? We want to focus on getting the berry bushes and fruit trees in this year. We are also contemplating building the greenhouse, but are not sure that will happen this year or not. Either way, I am going to try to grow tomatoes in pots in the livingroom windows (and put them outside weather permitting). I have never been successful with tomatoes in our climate, but I have not tried them in this house with the big south-facing windows either. So we will see. We are also going to try some different potato growing experiments to see if we can find a way to successfully grow potatoes. We have only dabbled in potatoes before – with mediocre results.
In addition to the new stuff – we will be planting the vegetable garden with a ton of tried and true veggies (after we amend the soil). We need to finish constructing the last terrace in the veggie garden and build the raised beds on that terrace. And we will be continuing to add to the container herb garden.
It is fun and exciting to be dreaming of warmer weather and gardening!