Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Peepers

With the warmer temperatures we are having (March? 80degrees?), we can hear & see life returning to our ponds after our brief and warm winter.  The spring peepers are officially back and singing away! Here is a video of our serenade on the farm:
video

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sophie and the Egg

Sophie licking and cracking open her egg
In the morning there are sometimes eggs that have been laid during the night and in random places in the coops. Because they are not in the nesting boxes, these eggs are sometimes cracked or broken. Sophie, our livestock guardian dog gets these eggs. She takes them from our hands very gingerly, then carries them off where she lays down and lightly breaks a hole in the shell and licks out the inside of the egg. It is fascinating to watch such a large dog handle the eggs so gently!
FYI--the dark line on her face is a healing "scratch" she received one night a week or so ago, probably from running into a branch while chasing a predator away.  We heard her barking for a long time during the night and she greeted us at morning opening with a long gash.  It's healing well and never has seemed to bother her at all.

Here is a short video of Sophie and her egg:
video

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cohabitation

Goats near the temporary fence between the chickens and the goats
We were in need of putting some of our feather netting around the garden, as our livestock guardian dog takes great pleasure in romping through freshly turned earth. We realized that by combining 2 groups we could free up enough feather netting to surround the garden.  While we moved a flock of chickens into the goats' space we had to put up a temporary fence to keep the goats from wandering away. . .far, far away.  As soon as the chickens were set up and the perimeter fence put back into place, we removed the temporary divider and the goats are now cohabiting with the Delaware chickens!
Fence removed between the goats and the chickens-- goat house in upper-right hand corner
Goats checking out the chicken yard
It'll be interesting to see how these two groups adjust to such close quarters.  So far, one of the challenges is keeping the goats out of the chicken's feed.  As ruminants, goats eat very little grain and what they are given is specially formulated for goats with minerals to meet their specific needs.  The chickens have grain mixed for the needs of laying hens and it would not be healthy for the goats to chow down on the layer's feed or vice versa.  So far, so good.  Both goats and chickens enjoy foraging--the goats eating browse (leaves, forbs, bark) and the chickens scratching for bugs and seeking out chickweed, an appropriately named favorite this time of year.

The youngest goat, Simon (aka Porky), who is always willing to eat, tried to stick his head in the chicken's trough feeder so we adjusted the crossbar that keeps the chickens out in order to keep goat heads out too.  Goats, who like to climb, quickly saw another use for the feed trough--a climbing structure!  All three of them were on it playing "king of the mountain" by the end of the day.  The chickens were not too happy about the goat's game as it frightened them away from their grain source at the end of the day when they are chowing down for the night.
Simon on top of the chicken feeder

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Necessities of Spring

Piles 'o' weeds aka chicken appetizers!
With spring just around the corner, one of the major necessities is to weed seemingly everything! We tackled the asparagus and garlic beds recently, which resulted in the monstrous piles of weeds you see in the photo above! Luckily, we heavily mulched the garlic with straw when we planted, so did not have so many weeds there. However, we were concerned that the straw on the asparagus may harbor insects that could harm the plants, so there were more weeds there to take care of. We are going to spread last year's leaves around the asparagus in the hopes of that acting as a good mulch and weed suppressant!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chickens in the Oat Field

Large Hen-a-bago on the oat field
We have moved our large Hen-a-bago up to the oat field we sowed last fall. The chickens seem to enjoy rooting through the greens and picking at the seeds. In the few days they have been up there they have already mowed down part of the field from scratching and picking at the oats. This is a good example of rotating our pastured chickens in order to given them fresh feed, work the soil, and keep our bug population down!
Look just to the right of the grass edge where the chickens have scratched down the oats and picked away at the soil!  

The red roof at the front of the picture covers a dust box Charlie made.  It allows the chickens to have dust baths even on rainy days when the ground is wet & muddy.  Daily dust baths are important for chickens as a means to prevent infestations of mites and other parasites that like to find a host on which to live.  We fill the dust boxes with a mixture of peat moss, wood ash from the wood stove and diatomaceous earth.  We have to refill it regularly as so much "dust" leaves the box in the chickens' feathers as they leap out, fluff themselves and then settle down somewhere comfortable to preen.  It reminds me of children carrying sand from the sandbox home in their shoes.  

Partridge Rock pullets in the oats

And another wandering in search of bugs or a tidbit none of the others has found.