Sunday Homestead Update – Quarantine

No, we are not quarantined in the way that you are thinking. Interesting that about 18 months ago the word quarantine brought up very different thoughts than it does now. Well, those older images of quarantine are the ones that fit what is going on at our homestead.


We added new sheep to the farm this week and we are keeping them quarantined for 3 weeks to be sure not to share any illnesses with the existing flock. At our previous farm we didn’t have space for proper quarantine, and more than once it led to close calls and worries about disease transmission from new animals brought to the farm. Thankfully, here we have two different loafing sheds and pens that are on opposite sides of the farm. Normally, we have the ewes and does in one, and the rams in the other. But this week we set up a pen over in the ewe barn area for the rams to live in temporarily, while the new sheep quarantine over in the ram barn. They arrived late last night, thus the dark picture.

These sheep are from a farm in Iowa and are registered Bluefaced Leicester (BFL). BFL fleece is a longwool that has surprising fineness and softness to it. It has a nice spring to the locks and is very versatile due to the fact that it is not coarse, yet is is very durable. It also has such a nice luster that shows through well in both the raw fleece and in the finished products made with it. Lastly, it blends well in the mill, and the BFL crosses well when breeding it to finewool breeds.

We have used BFLs in our breeding program before and have always really enjoyed the fiber and the fiber on the cross-breeds as well. We are now excited to start breeding purebred BFLs at our farm, focusing on beautiful luster, length and softness of the fiber. We will also be crossing them over some of our other wool sheep to create cross-breeds with excellent fleece qualities of length and softness.

Guinea Keets

To say that guinea keets are “flighty” is quite the understatement. These birds are SO wild and crazy and not at all tame. All chicks (from chickens) are a bit skittish at a month old, but these guys are nothing like that. They are so very very skittish that it makes it difficult to take care of them.

We were hoping to have the guineas moved out to their permanent house by about 2-3 weeks of age. It is plenty warm out, and they feather out pretty quickly. But, life happens, and the house still isn’t done as they clicked past 4 weeks of age. They haven’t outgrown the brooder quite yet, and have enough space. However, caring for them in the brooder has become nearly impossible due to their “flighty-ness” and the design of our brooder. It is a large trough, and it has a lid over the whole thing that is wood framing with wire mesh. It has always worked great for chicken chicks. The problem with the keets is that the entire lid has to be lifted in order to feed and water them, and when it is lifted they all freak out and start flying around. We have been able to manage it, until this week, when half of them escaped from the brooder.

The brooder is currently being housed in what will in the future be our workshop. But right now it is just the place we store all the tools and stuff that we want in the workshop eventually. We dream about it being set up nicely someday with workbenches around all three walls and shelves and pegboards will all the tools nicely hung up and organized and accessible. But right now it is a huge mess of tools and such strewn about and piled on each other. Now, let’s set 4 keets free into that mess. Sigh. Catching them was….an experience.

Needless to say, work on the keet house was moved to the top of the list and we rushed to get it at least dried-in and able to house them.

Doesn’t look like much, but we will be finishing the siding and roofing, and adding an exterior pen soon.

Then came the problem of how to get the keets out there. Lifting the lid of the brooder would just let them all free into the future workshop again. But the brooder was too large to carry out to the keet house (didn’t fit through the doorways unless it is turned on its side). Thankfully, many hands made it so we could hold up the lid and not let any escape as we caught them and put them in a crate. The move went smoothly and they now live in their house.

Duck Attack

The electric fences are doing a great job of protecting the ducks from predators. But this week the ducks began attacking one of their own. We have heard of it before, but have never experienced it first-hand in all the years we have kept poultry, at least not to this degree. We had just moved the keets to their house and we heard a duck screaming. Little Miss went to check it out and found that two of the males and one female Muscovy were attacking another female and there was blood flying everywhere. She yelled and went in and saved the female. It looks like a little bit of feather picking at the new wing feathers coming in escalated to a bloody battle. Her wing had no feathers left and was bleeding quite a bit.

We sat there trying to decide what to do. Cull the attackers? Cull the injured one? How could we keep them all? We don’t have many female Muscovy in this group and thus did not want to cull a female, but the injured one was female, as was one of the attackers. We decided to put Ginger (the injured one) into the brooder the keets just evacuated so she could heal up….

I don’t think that brooder is ever going to be empty, just when we think we can put it away for the season, someone else needs it – first the ducklings, then the keets, now its a hospital room…

Anyway, then we decided to move the three that attacked her over in with the Welsh Harlequins because the Welsh are bigger and more mature, fully feathered, and it would be their territory, so we figured that would take the attackers down a notch and stop the behavior. We want them all integrated eventually, and we will be butchering most of the males eventually as well. So we figured this would be the best option. Thus far all is well with the new set-up and everyone is doing fine. Ginger is healing up well and we are discussing how to get her integrated back in with the Muscovy group.

Back to School

We started a new school year this last week. Grades this year are PreK, 8th, 10th, and 12th. Can’t believe another one is about to graduate! Kids grow up so fast. Blink and you just might miss it.

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