Done. . .

Except for hanging gates and finishing the weaning pen.

 

A friend came over this morning and we erected the shelters for the wet and dry doe pens.

I used the fence line to set the shelters, and if needed I can tarp the back of both shelters along the fence line. These were inexpensive and easy to make using T-posts, cattle panel, baling twine and a tarp. The tarps were used billboard covers so there are images and writing on the inside.  If I had had to buy the T-posts and cattle panels, I estimate the cost to build both would have been about $150.00. Since I had everything but the tarps my total cost was 32.40. For comparison, the wood and tin shelters which I moved to the new pens cost approximately 300.00 each to build.

After it cooled down a bit this evening, I went out and finished digging holes for the two gate posts and then put up the rest of the fencing. The gates are tied on with baling twine for the time being.

View from south end facing north. Dry doe pen on left and wet doe pen north of the dry doe pen. I’ve moved the three dry goats so each pen now holds three does. Eight foot alley with gate. Kidding jugs straight back. New buck/weaning pens on right. I have not put up a dividing fence and gate so right now it is all one large pen. I will also attach hog panel to the fence for the weaning pen so the kids can’t get through the cattle panel. When I don’t have any young kids in the weaning pen, I will leave the gate between the two open so the bucks will have more space. Each pen has a shelter.

I moved the two bucklings from the kidding jugs to their new pen at feeding time. They spent about 15 minutes chasing each other around the pen before settling down to eat. Buckling on the right is CBF KS Cowikee. The buckling on the left is Seldom Herd DA Cosmos.

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Chicks

I last ordered and raised chicks in September 2013. While I have had a few hens go broody and raise a clutch since then, because most were hatched and raised outside the coop, those chicks have had a short life expectancy. My predator losses have been significantly less since I finally finished fencing the perimeter of the property, but I have less than half of the number I raised in 2013. Between the reduction in numbers and the fact that egg production drops after the first couple of years, it was time to replenish my flock.

When I purchase chicks I try to do so in the fall (September) so that the chicks are old enough to be feathered by the time cold weather arrives. Chicks born in the spring will be old enough to lay in the fall (depending upon breed, between 5 and 6 months of age) but since I don’t use lights in my chicken coop, egg production does not generally occur until February of the next year when the amount of daylight increases. That means that I am feeding chicks / young chickens for about 9 months. I’m not sure where the phrase “eats like a bird” comes from, because, in my experience, young chicks eat voraciously. If I raise chicks in September, then by February the chicks are close to laying age and I’ve saved about four months of feeding without getting eggs in return.

To accommodate a friend who wanted bantam chicks which are not shipped in September, I placed an order this year to arrive the week of August 21st. So this past weekend I cleaned out the brooder section of the chicken coop, rebedded the brooder and enclosure with fresh hay, readied the feeders and waterers, and ensured the heat lamp was working properly. I had already picked up chick starter from the feed store.

Chicks were shipped on Monday and arrived at the post office early (I received a call at 5:28 am) Wednesday morning. My friend picked up the chicks as I was working at the office that day. When I got back into town that evening I stopped at her place to pick up the chicks I had ordered – Australorps, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Delawares and Red Stars plus two bantams – a white silkie and a red frizzle. Instead of the one free chick usually included, this shipment included several extra bantams which we split.

Almost Done

Over the past weekend I finished rebuilding the former sheep pen. Once a new shelter is erected, that pen will be ready for use. I marked off where the 8 foot alley gate needed to be set and ran a string to mark where the front of the two additional pens will lie. I couldn’t start building those pens until the other shelter was moved from the current goat pen to its new location as I didn’t want to have to maneuver around fencing. Monday evening after work a friend came over and we moved the shelter and brought over the two additional 8 foot gates which will be used for the two new pens.

Line showing where south and west fencing will be erected. This shelter was moved from former sheep pen

Tuesday evening after chores I strung the remaining lines to mark the two new pens and started setting T-posts and attaching cattle panel. The pens are about half done at this point.  I still need to dig holes to set posts for the gate in the alley and the pen gates before I can finish putting up the last cattle panels since those will need to be cut.  Other than installing the gates, I should be able to finish putting up the pens by the end of this coming weekend.

Second shelter moved from goat pen and east fence

Building the two new shelters for the doe pens shouldn’t take long so it looks like I may indeed make my goal of having the pens constructed and ready for use by the end of this month.

Back of second shelter and north fence creating alley way between pen and kidding jugs

Mystery of the Missing Eggs

For the past week and a half or so I haven’t been finding eggs in the nesting boxes. Then a few days ago when I went to check on eggs, I discovered a hen lying dead on the chicken coop floor. She had no apparent injuries so her death was a mystery.

Then Tuesday evening when I entered the chicken coop I found a rattlesnake that had gotten caught in the chicken wire in the run just outside the pop door.

If it had been anything but a venomous snake I would have gone to get gloves and tried to release it, but assuming the snake was the culprit in the missing eggs and death of the hen, karma caught up to him.

I’ve been here for ten years this November and with the garter snake from a couple of weeks ago and this snake my total snake count is four non-venomous and five rattlesnakes.

One Step Closer. . .

The other night after my friend finished brush hogging he took a look at the railroad tie post and gate he had put in for me about 7 or 8 years ago. He thought I had dug out enough that he could get it out and sure enough, one good kick and the tie fell over. He then dragged it over to where I was going to set it up as the alley gate. So tonight after chores I took a shovel and dug down about 18 inches. I had measured the edge of the gate to the center of the railroad tie and then measured the same distance from the edge of the lambing / kidding jugs to mark the center of the hole. Unfortunately, when I tipped the railroad tie up and the bottom of the tie fell into the hole, it didn’t fall into the center. I tried and couldn’t pick up the tie to re-center it and I also wasn’t able to push the tie out of the hole again. Finally, I decided I could live with the gate being a little off-center. It will still open and close, though only one way now instead of both directions. I filled in the hole and called it a night.

Summer + Rain = Weeds

I didn’t think we had received more than a usual amount of rain this year but the weeds are proving me wrong. I generally start pulling weeds by hand in early spring and can more or less keep the weeds on the drive and around the house under control but this year – perhaps because I took a vacation and was gone for two weeks – I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeds and it was getting hard to get down the drive or even walk anywhere on the property. I usually pay a friend to come over with his tractor and brush hog 3 or 4 times a year to keep the grasses down. He has been in high demand this summer and so he hasn’t been able to come over after work until last night. He mowed down some of the high weeds along the drive as he came down the drive and then proceeded to do his usual brush hogging, plus whatever weeds he could deal with. I still have areas where the weeds will have to be dealt with by hand but things are looking much, much improved this morning.

Standing in the barn facing south (these grasses aren’t quite as high as elsewhere)

View from same spot in barn after brush hogging

The Cycle of Life

This morning while I was milking goats I kept hearing a strange sound. After putting the last goat back in the pen, I headed towards where I thought the sound was coming from. When I got to the pond (which I have never filled and only has water during monsoon season or after a heavy rain) I looked down and saw a toad. As I watched, a snake (I’m not good with snake identification other than rattlers, so if anyone knows what type of snake it is, please let me know) emerged out from behind a piece of flagstone that had fallen into the pond with a toad in its mouth.

Snake Eating Toad

The toads lay eggs in water which is why I have toads in the pond at this time of year. Evidently the snake knows that as well and has found a source of a quick meal though the toad seems awfully big for the snake to eat.

I went out later to see if the snake was still around and while I didn’t see the snake, I found two more toads hanging out in the pond.

Two More Toads

Another Weekend of Work

I try to work early in the morning and generally quit about 11 am when it is starting to get really hot. I did a little work on my own this morning but most of the day’s work got done when a couple of friends showed up at a quarter to 11. I had initially intended to build the new pens today but had run into some problems taking down the former sheep pen and needed the extra hands to finish that up. When I built the pens about 7 or 8 years ago, the pens were expected to be temporary and so I used cattle panel and T-posts. Over the years the bottom of the fence has become buried which made pulling T-posts and the fence a challenge and something that really went better with more than one pair of hands. The shared fence between the goat pen and former sheep pen had a damaged cattle panel and rather than remove both panels, we opted just to pull and replace the damaged section. This photo shows how deep the fence has become buried over the years when compared to the new panel set in place today.

 

Almost an 8″ difference in height

My friends dug out the small shelter that was against the shared fence and we moved it out to the general area where it will be put into use as a shelter for the bucks. Once I rebuild the pen I will erect a new shelter using cattle panel and a tarp. I will need to finish digging out the gate post and once that is accomplished, will need help moving it with the attached gate to its new location.

My friends were willing to work a little longer but despite a full bottle of water I was feeling the symptoms of heat stroke – nausea and being lightheaded – and decided to call a halt to the day’s work. I’ll conscript them to help on another weekend but can do quite a bit of the building myself, working an hour or two in the early morning and later in the evening when it has cooled off a bit.

Farm Dog 101: Five months

Yesterday Fix turned five months old so I thought I’d chronicle his day. Since I leave the door open at night for the adult dogs to come and go as they please, Fix is still crated at night so he can’t get himself into trouble outside. When I got up in the morning, Fix was let out of the crate (waiting for his release word “free” even after the door was opened) and he made his usual check of the dog dishes to see if 1) one of the other dogs had not finished their dinner; or 2) if food had magically appeared in the dish overnight before dashing outside to pee. When Fix was smaller I used to go out with him, first on a leash and then later just to supervise, but he has been going out unsupervised for a few weeks now. I put the water on for coffee and washed dishes and Fix dashed back in to see if the dog dishes have re-filled themselves. After I finished my coffee, Fix was fed breakfast. (Again, waiting patiently in a sit until given his release word to eat.) Chores were next. After we did chores I went back to work on digging out gates. Fix hung around a bit and then went off to explore. He found a piece of horse hoof and played with it for awhile – throwing it up in the air, then pouncing on it when it hit the ground and then running laps with it in his mouth before starting all over again.

The Pounce

Running Laps

We played a little fetch with a stick he brought me and then he wandered off again. When it got too hot for me to continue, I took a shower while Fix hung out. I needed to run into town for groceries so I crated Fix since I was going to leave the door open for the other dogs to come and go. When I got back I spent a little time on the computer while Fix just hung out and then we took a nap in the hammock. At some point Fix jumped off the hammock and just laid down on the bedroom floor. After our nap, I did a little work using the computer and Fix alternated between lying next to me and going outside to explore. We did evening chores and he did a little more exploring while I was pulling more T-posts. He did come back to help me do a little more digging around the gate post. Then it was time for dinner and more time just chilling out in the house before bed. Not a real exciting way to turn 5 months old. . . I’ll have to come up with something special for his six month birthday next month.

 

Addendum to Goat Pens

I haven’t even starting building pens yet and have already had to make adjustments in my plans.

In formulating my plans to build new pens, I decided I would take the small gate off the post which had been sunk into the ground in the former sheep pen.The gate was to a smaller pen built in the corner which will be dismantled. I planned on putting the small gate at the east end of the 4 foot alley I was creating in front of the kidding jugs. I was then going to rebuild the former sheep pen only to the post – making the pen about 8 feet shorter. However, while I was able to remove the nuts, I wasn’t able to get the bolts to slide back through the tie. So my next bright idea was to just dig up the post and move it – and the gate – to the new location. My problem now is that I don’t remember how deep we buried the bottom of the post. I – with help from Fix – have dug down about 10 inches and can’t dig any deeper until the T-post next to the post is removed and I can’t remove the T-post until I have another pair of hands. As helpful as Fix is trying to be, he just isn’t up to the task of holding the cattle panel away from the T-post so I can use the T-post puller.