Since finishing the perimeter fencing I have not (knock on wood) had a problem with coyotes so I have started leaving the pop hatch open and the chickens can leave the coop when they want every morning. Usually that means that the chickens are behind the house or out at the animal pens when I go out to feed. However, since they know that I stop at the chicken coop on my way to the barn to throw layer pellets, when the chickens see me come out of the house they usually start running to the chicken coop ahead of me. Every morning I count chickens just to make sure I’m not losing chickens to predators. In the last three weeks I’ve often been short one hen. Initially it was every other day that my count was one off and then it seemed I was off one chicken for several days in a row. Losing hens when you free-range is not unexpected so I figured the hen had indeed been picked up by a predator or otherwise gotten herself in trouble. While I briefly considered that she might be sitting on a clutch, I discarded that idea pretty quickly as in all the years I’ve owned chickens and with all the different breeds I’ve owned, I have never had a hen go broody. Years ago I had a Rio Grande Wild Turkey hen sit on a clutch of chicken eggs and hatch out seven chicks. She later lost her life to a coyote protecting “her” chicks. But I’ve never had a hen sit on a clutch of eggs.
So this morning when I counted chickens and came up with nineteen, I counted again. Sure enough the hen was back and she had brought along two new additions with her.
I came home yesterday evening to find my best ewe, No. 86, who normally lambs triplets, and one year twins, had lambed. Surprisingly, this year she only had a single. However, a large single – an 11 lb ram lamb.
I put her and her lamb in the lambing jugs overnight and this morning I ear-tagged all the lambs (yellow for ewe lambs and white for ram lambs) and then turned everyone out with the main flock.
This year the ewe lambs started with yellow 13 and the ram lambs with white 10, so there are two yellow tags (13 and 14) and six white tags (10 through 15).
Some random photos of the lambs in the main pen.
No. 15 is the newest and largest lamb – born April 6th – and weighing in at 11 lbs
Excellent place to hang out and not get trampled
Lambs born April 1st
Now that ewe 102 got the ball rolling on April 1st, the sheep are lambing on the usual schedule – one or two ewes will lamb every day.
Saturday afternoon I went out to get a goat to milk and found a 2014 ewe, which I was pretty sure had been bred, lying on the ground moaning. Since my older ewes all lamb with relatively little fuss, I was a little concerned that this ewe might be having problems, especially she was a first time mother and all the lambs to date have been large. However, when I went into the sheep pen to check on her, she was having none of it. She heaved herself up and turned around to run. It did give me an opportunity to see that there were two small hooves protruding. As it turned out, my help was unnecessary and she did deliver a 10 lb ewe lamb on her own.
Sunday morning I went out to find another ewe had delivered twins. This was a ewe I had kept from my first lamb crop because she was a triplet. Ewes from multiple births are more likely to also birth multiple lambs, and hence are the ones you want to breed. However, despite the fact that this ewe had the genetics to twin, she has never given me more than a single lamb. Evidently she knew she had made her way onto my short list of ewes to replace and this year she gave me twins – both ram lambs and 9 and 10 lbs respectively.
I came home just before midnight on Friday and even before going into the house to change I headed to the sheep pen. I found a ewe in the small pen, along with two lambs. Another ewe was on the other side of the cattle panel next to a lamb and the rest were all bedded down in a group on the opposite side of the big pen. My first thought was that a ewe had lambed twins. However, when the light landed on the ewe, she started to move and both lambs bolted to their feet. One headed to the ewe and the second tried to climb through the cattle panel to the other ewe. It seemed to be having problems and I was afraid it was going to hurt itself, so despite the fact that I was in a skirt I opened the gate and headed into the sheep pen. The lamb had finally gotten through and was standing next to the ewe that had been on the opposite side of the fence. While I would normally have put the ewes with their lambs into the lambing jugs, since both lambs were dry and had obviously been up to nurse, I decided it could wait until morning. Plus, there was this little niggling voice asking how certain was I that I had two ewes, each with a single lamb.
Sure enough, when I went out this morning, it was obvious that only one ewe had lambed and that both lambs belonged to her. After feeding the sheep, it was a simple task to scoop up both lambs and carry them to the lambing jugs with mom following behind. If I had put both ewes in separate lambing jugs last night, it is very likely I would have lost the lamb I had assigned to the errant ewe. When there is no imminent danger, I’ve learned that a wait and see approach is usual the best.
Two ram lambs, each about 9.5 lbs.
I have been expected sheep to start lambing since March 5th. Every day the sheep got bigger, some started to bag up, but no lambs. I took a break mid morning and went out to check on sheep. All the sheep but one were together. The sole sheep apart was pawing the ground, circling and doing much of the behaviors I associate with an imminent lambing. I headed to the barn for some hay, figuring I’d need to move the other sheep away from the gate so I could move the ewe and lamb(s). Sure enough, when I got back from the barn, there was a lamb on the ground being cleaned off. I moved ewe and lamb to the lambing jug which I had prepared with fresh bedding, hay and water and decided to hold off for a while before weighing the lamb, dipping the cord, etc. I went back out about 15 minutes later and found a second lamb being cleaned off.
The first lamb was a ewe lamb, about 8 lbs. The second was a ram lamb, about 9 lbs. Both have been up and nursing.
First lamb of 2015
Ewe lamb having her first meal
Ram lamb finding his feet