Thank goodness for homesteading friends!

People usually say what they’re thankful for last Thursday but I march to the beat of a different drum. Or orchestra, as my mother would tell you.

Of course I’m thankful for my family, especially our newest member, and our friends. But today I find myself exceptionally thankful for a fellow homesteading friend, and my neighbors.

My friend let me borrow his plucker, since he won’t be using it for a while and I have a lot of chickens I’d rather be in the freezer than the yard. Today I got through five chickens and the total time to capture, kill, and pluck all five was under an hour. And I’m not gonna lie, a third of that was spent chasing them.

Meanwhile, the Lady McFarmface had a dentists appointment and couldn’t take the baby. Oh no! Luckily, our neighbors were quite happy to watch her so I could get some work done. They have baked goods in their future.

I still have another six or so birds on my list, but now that I’ve used this plucker for an afternoon, I feel like that’s a day of work rather than a weekend or two. I may never pluck a bird by hand again! Oh. Except that goose. Oh well.

All together, that was 18 lbs 4 oz of chicken. I’m incredibly grateful for the use of the plucker. It made it far less of an ordeal. I really need to work on getting my own built.

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Happy thanksgiving!

Happy thanksgiving from Huckleberry Hills! We finally get to eat the turkey that we’ve spent so much time and energy raising!

Unfortunately I had to work tonight so my family has had to relay a description to me. But that’s why we have a second turkey for this weekend! They’re telling me it’s delicious and juicy, lots of delicious fat for the gravy and the white meat is the best they’ve ever had. Can’t wait to try for myself!

Lessons learned though. We butchered the turkeys the weekend before thanksgiving. While this did mean they were as big as they were going to get, it made the entire process feel rushed. Won’t do that again. Also, we need a dedicated processing area designed from the ground up rather than slapped together as ideas occur. These birds are simply too strong for anything improvised!

But each year we keep building and keep growing so next year is going to be amazing! Happy thanksgiving!

Good dog!

As Vasi gets older, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the ending of some of her puppy behaviors. Namely, thinking chickens are squeak toys. She guards the front yard at night as an added measure to keep rats out of the coop, but we have to bring her in before the coop opens. For the last year, if a chicken hits the ground, she wants to play with it. Instantly.

However, with work keeping me late a lot recently, and daylight savings time, she’s been out there as it opens a few times recently. At first she was excited and bouncy, however she hasn’t hurt one in months. To be safe, I have still been bringing her in the moment that I realize chickens are out.

Then this morning, I was feeding the baby and watching Star Trek because that’s how I roll, when I get a text from the bedroom.

“I think I heard a chicken.”

Uh oh.

As it turned out, Vasi was standing calmly about six feet away just watching as the birds came filing out of the coop. No bouncing, no wagging, just watching. I brought the chicken food outside for them and she followed me around but still paid the birds very little attention.

Our little puppy is growing up! Sniffle! Actually this is wonderful on multiple levels! We will need some tests during daylight and for longer times, but if we can trust her around the birds then she can patrol the entire house and have a lot more room to roam. But also, we intended from day one to have at least two Anatolian shepherds, but didn’t want to have to train a new puppy while having to watch the old one like a hawk!

Also, bonded LGDs can help with training new puppies around the animals. All in all, I’m very happy with this and very proud of that dawg!

Edit: in between writing the above and actually getting ready to post it, we’ve continued letting her be around the birds every morning. In fact, I just brought her back inside. She spent the past hour with unrestricted access to the geese and turkeys, with the biggest incident being that Christmas bit her tail and she ran away. She was laying down dozing as the chickens exited the coop. I’m really excited by this!

Winter is coming…

No, I don’t watch GoT. I know myself well enough to know I’d binge watch the entire show and get nothing done. But winter IS coming, and fast!

We learned quite a few lessons from the last winter, and are applying those this time around. The animals were miserable with the incessant rain. I’ve already modified the rabbit pen to provide lots of cover, but the birds and dog still need some.

The canopy we put in the rabbit pen is pretty great for the price, so I’ll be getting two more. We also had our heating bill explode, so I’ll be getting a furnace tune up, pellets for the stove by the pallet instead of by the bag (wasn’t able to replace it with a wood stove this year), and replacing weather stripping around all the exterior doors.

I’m also considering installing some landscaping steps where the side yard slopes down to the back yard. With the birds out there, it could get really muddy.

The food and water situation is well in hand for the birds because even when it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit, it didn’t freeze inside the coop. The rabbits, I’ll need to work something out for the water.

But there’s some exciting stuff happening, too! We only had our two breeding turkeys last thanksgiving but this year we have one for the table! We will also have a goose for December.

The rabbit population got a little out of hand so my job for a couple weekends is getting them in the freezer. With the baby, it’s been tough finding time for all the farm stuff but I feel like we are already falling into a groove with that. Minus the week I was out with bronchitis, that is!

I’m very grateful for the assistance my nephew gave recently with the baby so I could get the coop door rodent proofed and a few rabbits processed.

Things are hectic, but I look at all we have accomplished in less than a year and a half living here and I know we are going to be more than just fine. We are going to be great!

Babies, babies, and more babies!

We are awash in babies here at Huckleberry Hills! On the 20th we had turklets hatch, with our miniature human coming the following morning.

Little Scarlett is doing quite well, though she’s driving both of us nuts the last two days. Apparently she has decided that she wants to eat. Not a lot, just all the time. Lol

Anyway, a few nights ago, we had a half dozen bunnies show up in a nest box. This happened literally the evening after processing three of the larger rabbits. So, guess what I’m doing this weekend!

And two nights ago, I heard the distinctive sound of cherps from the bushes along the side yard. At which point I made the declaration that Chipmunk would be returning shortly. She’d been missing for a few weeks.

I love being right about stuff like that. I count at least ten.

So, as far as babies go, we’ve got three turklets (some of them didn’t make it), ten cherps, at least six bunnies, and a mini human. That’s a lot of babies for October! Glad the mamma birds are good at keeping them warm!

It’s a musical life

Our turkeys are musically inclined. My nephew was showing me a music video and the turkeys were singing along. With reasonably good timing, too!

Also, baby wanted food and momma was cooking. I sang and played music to try to stall. Eventually ran out of super sweet songs and put on what does the fox say.

Mystery solved! The fox says “go to sleep, little baby!”

Welcome to the world, Scarlett!

Huckleberry Hills has a new addition, or several! At 2:24 this morning, our baby girl was born! 6 pounds even, 19 inches, and with toes like a little monkey that tells me she will climbing trees almost as soon as she can walk!

Everyone is doing great, mommy is napping right now.

I’m very excited about showing her around and introducing her to our little farm. She’s always going to have good food, fresh air, and entertaining animals!

Had she been born just a couple hours sooner, she’d be sharing a birthday with a bunch of turklets!

Hands on veterinary experience

Warning: pictures of animal ear infection!

Recently we received a momma rabbit and her kits from someone who has since turned into a wonderful friend. Unfortunately, the stress of integrating into a colony setting allowed ear mites to take hold. With everything else going on, we didn’t notice for a few days, allowing it to get pretty bad.

Looking online, I found a home remedy for it, and we handled it. She’s doing well and her ears already look better. One almost looks back to normal. But for anyone else raising rabbits, I felt that our experience might be helpful.

First thing first, how to diagnose. It’s not hard. The inside of the ears gets crusty, and it happens fast. I wish I’d taken a picture before we started, but believe me this is already an improvement.

The first thing you do is hold the rabbit securely but gently. Some petting to calm her down can help. Remember, she is already uncomfortable, and probably doesn’t want to be held. Take some coconut oil and smear it onto the crusty stuff. It will be gross. Please don’t vomit on the rabbit, she’s having a bad enough day. Let that sit for a few hours.

Get some cotton balls, makeup pads, or q-tips, and some warm water. Depending on how bad it is, tweezers might also help. The crustiness might be flaky. This part is MUCH easier with two people. One holds the rabbit and the other gets the gunk out. She will not like it. She will probably bleed. She will try to get away. She may scream.

The instructions I read basically say to do this, then apply neosporin and observe for a few days. However, if it’s bad or you just want to make the process easier on the bunny, do what we did. We got the outer most stuff off, reapplied the oil, and went back to it several hours later.

Here’s where it got really gross. This is the gunk we pulled out of one ear. I guess as the flaky crusty nasty gunk formed, it was falling down into her ear and getting stuck. Well, she didn’t enjoy it but we got it all out.

It really helps to wrap her up in a towel to avoid getting scratched. One hand holding her head gently reduces the head shaking. If tweezers are in her ear and she shakes hard, it could injure her so be very careful.

We reapplied coconut oil and kept her in isolation. The last thing she needs now is to get into fights.

The final step, once you’re sure all the gunk is out, is to clean and disinfect. Gently wipe out the oil and apply neosporin or something similar. The coconut oil will suffocate most of the mites, but ear mite drops certainly wouldn’t hurt.

All the instructions I’ve seen indicate that you should expect a kicking, screaming rabbit. However, she was so calm and sweet that it was shocking. Sure, she tried getting away a few times and ground her teeth a bit, but not nearly as bad as we expected. She has earned a name.

Sugar Cookie is recovering nicely.

Even though it’s raining (thank goodness! We needed rain so badly) we recently upgraded the rabbit pen with a party canopy so she will stay nice and dry while everything heals.

Free bird! 🔥

Some time ago, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to stop the new generation of chickens from being free range. Their mother had taught them too well that fences were no barrier to foraging.

Well, some of them don’t even want to be confined at night anymore!

I do worry a bit about raccoons finding them, but not much we can really do to stop them at this point aside from clipping their wings, and we decided long ago we wouldn’t do that. So, I guess we will see just how survival oriented they are!

Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Diane has layed another clutch. I don’t like the idea of turklets as it gets colder, but having watched how well the cherps did under their mother even on cold mornings, I think they’ll be fine.

At least the eggs are all doing great so far!

These will not be brooder birds. That’s just too much work considering that the human baby will be here so soon! We have been timing contractions and it seems like three days in a row I’ve set the animals up with two days worth of food and water, just to go to bed as usual. But we will have a new addition soon!

Rabbits, rabbits, everywhere!

We are up to our ears in bunnies!! Well, not quite. There’s Benjamin and the adult female we got at the same time, her five kits, the two surprise grey adolescents that turned white, and some new additions!

Meet the new momma rabbit we got from some wonderful homesteaders in Seattle! She came with six babies. They’re downsizing so yay us! But one of the babies is a ginger! We will probably save her for breeding to have more genetic diversity and some new coat color combinations.

They’re in a 6 ft by 4 ft cage inside the bunny pen right now so that the existing herd can get used to them. Hoping to avoid any territorial fighting.

Slightly unrelated note, the pasture test plot out back has been expanded. Not quite doubled in size, but close! With the help of my nephew, we essentially got that hammered out in one day. Based on how the adjoining plot (look how lush it is!!) went, I figure once this entire area is open, it’ll give us about two weeks of reduced feed costs before it needs a recovery period. I’m not sure if I’ll get another patch done before the cold weather rolls in, but I’m sure going to try!