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.
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.
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.
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.
After an early spring with lots of eggs a few weeks ago I started finding fewer and fewer eggs in the nesting boxes. While I found a couple of nests outside the coop with eggs, egg production was still drastically reduced. I wondered whether a hen had gone broody but was never able to find a nest with a broody hen. I got home tonight and ran out to the chicken coop in between rain bursts to collect eggs. While in the chicken coop I heard the very distinctive chirp of young chicks. A quick scan of the area revealed two chicks huddled outside the chicken coop. I dashed around the coop and found the two live chicks and a third one, dead, but no signs of broken shells or of a broody hen. I picked up both chicks and carried them to the brooder side of the chicken coop. After settling them in the brooder I hooked up the lights to keep them warm and cleaned and filled a waterer. However, what to feed them was an issue. The feed store was closed and I don’t keep chick feed on hand unless I have chicks. I finally decided I’d make some instant maple syrup oatmeal and a hardboiled egg to tide them over until I could get to the feed store in the morning. When I took the mix out to the coop and filled a chick feeder for them, I scouted around the chicken coop one more time to look for any other chicks or signs of a nest. I found neither, but I did find a hen hunkered down making distress calls. Hoping she was the broody hen, I caught her (at which time her vocalizations turned into seriously pissed off chicken sounds) and carried her around to the brooder. She did settle down over the chicks so I turned off the lights and left all three in peace.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the year of the Sheep. Really not seeing that on the farm. This is the first year since I started raising sheep that all of my breeding ewes were not bred. Rather than the 20 plus lambs I normally have, this year I had eight.
It is, however, the year of the Chicken. I have had multiple hens go broody, starting with my first hen showing up with two chicks in tow. She unfortunately lost both those chicks, but the second hen hatched out eight chicks and those are doing very well. Hen number three hatched out seven but lost two within the first few days. While what I’ve read says that all eggs in a nest will pip out within 36 hours, that isn’t necessarily true. The chicks in this clutch were hatched over a week span so the oldest chicks are considerably larger than the youngest as demonstrated in this photo where the smallest can still spend the night snug and warm underneath mom while the oldest has to resort to sleeping on top of her.
Hen number four was not so lucky. She hatched out one live chick, with two that were unsuccessful in pipping out. Since she hatched her chick several feet off the ground in the hay stack, I moved her and her chick into a dog kennel in the barn. That worked for the first two weeks but then she started roosting on the top of the kennel and her chick, who couldn’t make it to the top, would roost as high as it could fly (it is now roosting on the top of the kennel) and from there it was inevitable that she would start taking the chick on walkabouts.
Then hen number five showed up with seven chicks in tow that she had hatched somewhere on the property. She is down to five chicks but those are growing rapidly. A couple of days ago I went out and found hen six was showing her eight chicks the ropes. It will be interesting to see how many she successfully raises.
One of the reasons I had looked at Icelandics was to get chickens that would go broody and raise chicks. It is a really good thing that some of my hens decided to go broody this spring as the attempt to incubate the Icelandic chicken eggs I had shipped pretty much failed. Out of 18 eggs, only six hatched and four of those didn’t survive more than a couple of days. However, the two that did survive are doing well and I turned them out with the other chickens a couple of days ago.
It will be interesting to see if I get any hens out of the 29 chicks or if I’ll end up with a freezer full of chicken instead.
As mentioned before, I have never had a hen go broody until this spring. One of my Americana hens has been sitting a clutch of eggs since late April and according to my calendar was due to start hatching chicks out this week. I went out shortly after lunch today to find two chicks under her, along with more than a dozen unhatched eggs. A little internet research turned up the information that hatching may take place over 36 hours so I’m hoping to find more chicks tomorrow morning.
And we have been having thunderstorms (and hailstorms) on a fairly frequent basis this spring. The past few years the weather has been unpredictable, but generally rain is more likely to occur with the summer monsoons. The extra moisture bodes well for the pasture and will hopefully mean I won’t need as much hay this year. Joey found a unique way to stay dry (or mostly dry) during this afternoon’s thunderstorm.
I have been looking at Icelandic Chickens for a few years now. With my predator problem now under control (still knocking on wood) late last year I started a diligent search for an Icelandic Chicken breeder who would sell me some chicks. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in finding anyone who would ship anything other than eggs. So the search was then on to find someone local who had experience (and success) in hatching eggs with an incubator.
A chance conversation earlier this year found me that person and so arrangements were made to have 18 fertile Icelandic chicken eggs shipped this spring after the temperatures had warmed up but before the temperatures were too high. Yesterday I received an e-mail stating that the eggs had been shipped and were due to be delivered on Thursday. Since a tracking number was provided I went ahead and set up text messages every time the package was scanned to ensure that I was able to get the eggs as soon as they arrived.
You can imagine my surprise when this morning I got a text saying the package had been scanned in on arrival in Albuquerque. A second text followed shortly thereafter that the package had been scanned on departure. Shortly after noon I received a phone call from the Post Office stating that a package marked “Hatching Eggs” had arrived.
And the moral to this story is that if you need anything delivered quickly and efficiently by the US Postal Service, send it with a live chick or marked “hatching eggs” — the US Postal Service excels at these deliveries — letters, not so much.