Random Farm Photos

The chicks turned 6 weeks old on Monday. I started opening up the pop door to the outside run for the chicks this past weekend and they have been having a grand time with the extra room. I had bought a Hen Hydrator which is a 5 gallon bucket that hangs with nipples for the chickens to drink from because I was tired of having to clean out the trays on the ground waterers. It plainly states it is not for chicks, but I went ahead and lowered it to chick height and  the chicks have been happily using it for the past few days.

The bantam chicks are noticeably smaller than the other chicks

 

The frizzles look like they stuck their beaks in a light socket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmos, the youngest buckling, does not quite understand the proper way to go down a slide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids are three weeks old today.

 

 

 

And here is Fix – who is starting to mature into a very nice looking dog.

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Year of the Snake

The last Year of The Snake was February 10, 2013 through January 30, 2014 and it won’t come around again until January 2025. You couldn’t prove that by me however.

In an earlier post I mentioned that in the not quite ten years I have lived here, I had only seen nine snakes on the property and two of those were just recently.

The dogs and I went out just before dusk tonight to turn on the heat lamp and move the chicks into the brooder for the night. After that was completed I walked around the front of the chicken coop to close the pop hatch to the main chicken coop and heard an unmistakable rattle. I called the dogs and retreated to the house where I left the dogs inside before returning to the chicken coop.

Sure enough there was a seriously p**d off rattlesnake, this one caught in the chicken wire of what I think might have been a rabbit hutch placed next to the chicken coop. The chicken coop itself is built with hardware cloth which makes it predator proof but the outside run to the coop and this small structure were built using chicken wire. It appears this snake went into the hutch and then was unable to exit — possibly due to eating whatever it went in after. At a guesstimate, this snake is a little over 2 feet in length.  If you look carefully, you can see the head. The tail might be a little blurry because the snake was agitated and rattling like crazy. Again, since I won’t try to disentangle it, with luck it will be able to get out on its own; otherwise, there will be another dead rattlesnake in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This snake brings my total up to ten, three just in the past few weeks.  I’m wondering if the brush hogging I had done a short while ago has moved the rattlers closer in to the structures. I may never know exactly why I am seeing more snakes, but I do know I am going to be taking more precautions when I work outside in the future.

Chick Update

The chicks were two weeks old on Labor Day. I lost two of the chicks — one shortly after arrival for an unknown reason and one last Friday when I was late closing the chicks in the brooder and it was separated from the others and froze.

While everything I have read states that chicks have to be kept at about 95 degrees for the first week, with a drop in temperature of 5 degrees for each subsequent week, until fully feathered, I have not found this to be completely accurate. Chicks, indeed, cannot regulate their body temperatures well and do require attention to environmental temperatures – up to a point.

These chicks were kept in an enclosed brooder under a heat lamp for the first week. After that initial period, during the day I removed the cardboard which blocked their access into the larger (about 4×4) section of the coop, and allowed them to leave the brooder. I also turned off the heat lamp during the day. The chicks have been fine running around their limited space without an additional heat source. I do need, however, to put them back in a sheltered place (the brooder) with a heat lamp at night still.

On occasions when I have not secured the chicks before dark, I have gone out to find the chicks outside of the brooder but in piles (usually two separate piles) with the smaller bantams in the middle of the piles, and have had to pick up each chick to place it in the brooder for the night. With that one exception, all of the chicks – full size and bantam – have been fine. I wouldn’t want to chance that the chicks would all survive the night at this point without the heat lamp but it is clear that the high temperatures the internet and books tell you are required, really aren’t. I think common sense goes a long way in raising poultry and animals in a specific environment – i.e., what I can do here in New Mexico probably won’t be as successful in Vermont and vice versa.

Mix of full size and bantam chicks at 2 weeks, 3 days

Full size chick next to Red Frizzle bantam chick

 

 

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.

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.

Random Puppy Photos

Chores – watching chickens

No real post – just some random photos of Fix this past week. Today he turns 12 weeks old and we start more formal training.

Chores – trying to play with bucklings

Visiting a Friend – who is that doggie in the . . .

Uncle Tuck won’t you play with me?

“This is not happening”

New Beginnings

Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.

Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.

In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.

A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.

At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.

I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.

The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.

If I just keep bugging her, maybe she’ll play . ..

Chase Games

Downsizing

After serious consideration of several factors, I made the decision this winter to downsize and have sold most of the breeding ewes along with the lambs. The remaining ewes will either be sold or eventually find their way into the freezer. I had already downsized the goats, putting the wethers in the freezer earlier this year, selling Nutmeg’s three doelings and most recently selling a doe in milk (Nougat) along with a dry goat (Thyme). Currently I only have three Nigerian Dwarf does. Although I had no plans to downsize my flock of chickens, the Mexican Grey Wolf which passed through the area took care of that for me.

When the Unlikely Occurs

My chickens are free to roam the property and over the years my chicken population has waxed and waned depending upon the predators in the area. A couple of summers ago I finally finished the last of the perimeter fencing and my coyote sightings fell significantly (as did my chicken losses). However, a short while ago I started losing chickens again. The occasional loss is something I accept as a consequence of my choice to let my chickens range, but when I lost four chickens in one day it was apparent I had a serious problem with predators again.

A few days ago I had finished morning chores and was back in the house for another cup of coffee. I was sitting at the computer in the breakfast room which has windows to the east, south and west. The south view is of the horse corral and sheep and goat pens. Lately the chickens have taken to congregating under a tree between the greenhouse and the animal pens. The chickens suddenly started squawking and the dogs went ballistic. All of the animals, horse, sheep and goats. were bunched up in the center of their respective corral/pens which was unusual behavior. I jumped up and opened the door and Tuck and Kip went tearing out, along the side deck, and to the chicken coop behind the house. Unfortunately, the problem was actually straight ahead — as a large animal ran past and disappeared into the wooded area to the east. I only got a glimpse but my thought was that it was the biggest coyote I had seen to date and was in exceptional condition.

Later that same day, the sequence played out again. Only this time the animal ran from the south past the windows to the east so I got a much better look as it went by. My impression was that it was not a coyote but a wolf based on the size and the shape of the head and ears. I have not had a wolf (that I’m aware of) on my property since the very first year I was here but evidently some of the Mexican Grey Wolves which were re-introduced into New Mexico in 1998 have wandered to the very edges of their range. While I was trying to convince myself I had been wrong and it was just a very large, well fed coyote, based upon the local newspaper there have been four confirmed sightings of Mexican Grey Wolves between San Antonio and Sevilleta and I am about halfway between those two locations, so I am now reasonably sure it was indeed a wolf.

While this comparison doesn’t show it, there is a substantial size difference between the two and my unwanted visitor was much larger than the coyotes in my area which are generally in the 35-40 lb range.

The chickens have been cooped for the past few days and while the dogs have let me know the wolf has scoped out the chicken coop I haven’t seen it again myself. I am hopeful it will continue its journey on now that the ‘diner’ has been closed.

Plus Five More

I was hard at work this morning when I heard some cheeping. Since the two chicks in the brooder with the hen are too far from the house to be heard, I figured I was hearing things and ignored it. However, when I heard cheeping again a couple of hours later I went out to investigate. I found a hen with five chicks in the area between the drive and the pump house. After a couple of abortive attempts to catch the chicks I went back to work. Tonight when I went out to feed I found the hen on the outside of the run attached to the chicken coop with all five chicks under her. I had opened the brooder into the run this morning so the other hen and her two chicks were in the run. Therefore, my goal was to get the second hen and five chicks into the brooder. However things didn’t go quite as planned and I ended up with four chicks in the brooder and the hen and one chick into the run. While trying to get her and the chick into the brooder, the other hen and her two chicks went back into the brooder and all six chicks ended up with the hen. Some fancy shuffling managed to separate the hen from all the chicks and I was able to finally catch the four chicks and put them out in the run with the hen. Four black chicks and one yellow chick.

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