Baby animal post!

Gratuitous cuteness enclosed!

Diane has successfully incubated 14 out of 15 eggs. So we have turklets! How many we keep will depend largely on how many people are interested in a thanksgiving turkey.

For now we’ve got them in the brooder, and of course Freyja is guarding them.

The wedding menu includes chicken. So naturally we needed more chickens. Enter the red rangers! We grabbed 14 of these little guys on the 20th and they are now outdoors full time. To train them to go into the coop we placed a dog kennel with their food and water against the automatic coop door. They could go into the coop or out into the kennel and we just opened the top coop door for the adult birds. About the time half of the rangers learned to follow the big birds up and out, they were released.

So far, I’ll say this about the breed. Excellent foragers and free rangers, bit of an attitude problem. No respect for boundaries like the door to the house, either. But they grow fast and that’s their job!

We’ve also got a small litter of bunnies just starting to explore outside the nest box. Hopefully a lot more bunnies on the way, since we don’t have enough just yet.

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Pasture, wedding prep, etc!

This weekend was a busy one.

First, the pig pen was moved again, leaving a new spot to smooth out and plant for pasture. They have a lot more shade now, which is nice with the weather getting warmer. Much warmer. Very abruptly.

My brother, sister, and a friend came over to help me with this project. We raked out the just vacated pen, pulled any blackberry and scotchbroom stubs the pigs had left, and spread the seeds. We also smoothed our the terrain a bit, eliminating some humps and bumps. I had a pile of parrot composted straw from the bunny barn. Well, I say straw. It was about 3/4 straw and the rest was poo. Anyway, we very lightly scattered that over the seed as mulch and fertilizer.

We also planted the arbeqina olive and the Chicago fig trees that have been in pots for longer than I care to admit. The olive will border the driveway like the pear, apple, and nectarine trees.

The fig tree, since it remains dormant longer than the others, I was able to put closer to the tree line. It doesn’t need sun quite as early in the year as the others, and it’ll get plenty there as it starts to wake up.

The next day I managed to get the old veggie garden cleaned up and raked out to plant the barley. Also found space for a small patch of wheat. I’d have make it bigger but I had considerably less wheat than I thought. Keeping the chickens out of this will be a challenge.

All of this was made more difficult by the pigs. See, they’ve been contained by just those electric wires for almost a month now, I think. With very little trouble. Until this most recent move. The two smaller ones have figured out that if they are quick enough, they don’t get zapped. So now I’ve got woven wire temporarily around most of it with logs and rocks across the front. Rice is the worst, Fried is the second worst. Rice has gotten out at least nine times.

However, I think I might finally have it. Last time I brought them food, he tried climbing the logs to meet me in the driveway, but got zapped and shifted into reverse. Hopefully that’s the end of it.

Last but certainly not least, we picked up some red ranger chicks! While I am sure our chickens can brood enough to feed the wedding, I don’t want to take any chance of not having enough chickens. So we picked up 14!

And seriously, we have the best farm cat in the world. I want to clone her. When separated from the brooder by a door, she napped by the door. When allowed near it, she slept next to it. She’s guarding them! No aggression at all. Also, the baby is very excited to have cherps. Took Freyja a minute to decide the baby was allowed to be there.

It always sucks going back to work after such a productive weekend, but especially when the to do list is still so long. But I am pretty happy with what we got done.

Inexperienced mothers deserve a break

As a society, we are really quick to judge parents. You’re vaccinating??? You’re not??? Formula? Eww, lactating. You lined your nest with wood chips? Why would you use straw?

Can we cut those poor moms a break? Especially if it’s her first time! Sometimes a rabbit’s first litter suffers from her inexperience. If you’re attentive and quick, you can stop that from being a total loss.

Monday night I happened to peek inside the bunny barn. I’d seen signs that someone would be kindling soon and wanted to check. Good thing. She had had four. Like, less than ten minutes before I got there.

In her inexperience, the nest was too shallow, not dry enough, and had not nearly enough fur. The babies were ice cold. But as I went to pick them up, one moved ever so slightly.

Here’s what you do if you find yourself in this situation. Stick them in your shirt against your chest and close your coat around your hand. They need to warm up. Not too quick. Not right in front of a space heater quick.

I gathered them up and went inside. Well, with my coat on and a blanket over my chest, I was roasting but they took over an hour to completely revive. Wriggling and squeaking in protest every time I moved, naturally this attracted the attention of a cat. Freyja might just be the best farm cat ever born. I let her see and sniff them and she promptly curled up on my chest right next to where they were, adding her body heat. She stayed there until they were ready to go back outside.

I lined the nest with wood chips because the ground was damp, and gathered up every clump of fur I could find, including from an old nest, and tucked them in for the night. I checked a half hour later. Mama rabbit had found them and they were still warm and covered.

Well, until the next day. Cold again. Brought inside again. Two didn’t make it. So the babies and the mama were transferred to an indoor enclosure. Five days later, both are still alive and getting their fur. This mama gets one more chance to do it right with her next litter.

Another litter from a different mama had the same thing happen. So now we’ve got three indoors with the first mama. But they seem to be doing well after several days.

Come along, pigs.

Getting the new fences up has taken longer than expected, largely because the guy I hired to drill the post holes had some mechanical problems. I’d do it by hand but in that sense of woods, it would take me hours to do just one with all the roots.

Speaking of roots, pigs root. I knew this. It’s not a surprise. However, I expected they’d be confined to the small pen for a much shorter time. However, they’ve torn it up pretty thoroughly and need to be moved. So I did what any pig farmer does when he needs a temporary pig pasture.

Behold the temporary electric fence! Since they’ve been trained to the polywire already, I don’t expect them to test this. But we will be monitoring them closely until the final pen is constructed.

It was surprisingly difficult to find these fiberglass step in posts locally. But installation was a breeze. I just had to go back and trim a few weeds that would ground it out.

Probably move the pigs this weekend, so I can be home to observe and make sure they don’t immediately make a fool out of me and walk right through it. Would have done it last weekend, but between 8 chickens, a jackfruit, dealing with a new litter of rabbits (and that’s a whole other post!), and bottling mead, making that fence is about all I had time for.

The jackfruit was, quite amusingly, heavier than my daughter. Also a bit overripe so quite an ordeal to process it! But dehydrated jackfruit is soooooo awesome!

Rebellious Poultry and other goings on

Some birds just like to watch the world burn. Or the humans hunt for eggs. For the last several days we’ve seen Diane come strolling back towards the yard, not even having known she was out of it. And always the same direction. I figured that meant she had started laying eggs off in the brush somewhere.

Today I retraced her path and found her nest. It was too far from the house and not well hidden enough to allow her to go broody there so I decided to move the eggs into the coop.

There were more than I expected! Seems she’s been at it for almost two weeks. Guess she didn’t approve of the nest box I’d made just for her. Too bad. That’s where they are now. Might have to show her the eggs a few more times for her to remember.

The goose has started laying, too. Very sporadically. One every couple days. Still trying to get her to use a nesting area I prepared. Really, almost anywhere would be better than where I found this one.

But I think she gets it. Just took her a few days.

One of our experienced chicken mamas has been AWOL for a few weeks. I expect she will be showing up with babies soon. Saw her briefly for a meal last week so I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s up to.

Spring is on the way and flowers are starting to bloom, which is always welcome! Sometimes it’s some little purple wild flower, sometimes it’s the daffodils you didn’t know the previous owner planted.

The rabbits have produced a new litter.

The pigs are coming along nicely. They figured out the automatic waterer so now their bowl can be used for things like cottage cheese.

And, just as importantly, if not as adorable, the garden has been started! With the last frost date not yet here, only peas and radishes have been planted so far. Carrots starting in the next few days. I really need to get peppers and tomatoes started indoors soon. This year, the chickens and turkeys are pretty much free ranging so the garden beds are on total lockdown. Welded wire fence surrounding, with bird netting over the top.

One thing is for sure. Springtime is busy time. And I love every second of it. Though I wish that baby would hurry up and get her teeth in. We would really like some more sleep!

Kunekune piglets!

Well, we got our piglets! They’re still a little skittish from the move and being picked up twice in one day, but settling in nicely. They did come out for treats. We can already tell which one is going to be the brave one.

We’ve also determined that they’re relatively unimpressed with broccoli, but will fight for apples slices. They also like carrots.

The hot wire is doing its job. They’ve been zapped a few times and are tending to avoid that fence line. Should make containment easier when they go to pasture!

All in all, it’s really cool looking out the window and seeing pigs. They’re already a lot of fun!

Pig Preview Post!

Piglets!!!

Ok so here’s the deal. It was dark when we got home. So not a lot of great pictures. But I promise I’ll take more before I leave for work tomorrow.

It was a bit of a drive, and frankly it was little Scarlett’s longest car trip ever. She handled it really well! The piglets haven’t been socialized a lot so they were really unimpressed by being picked up. But farmer Tom handled catching them and I put them in the crate. His daughter managed the crate’s gate for me. Super helpful and smart kid.

They napped most of the ride back. We put them in their new temporary pen and they found the hay filled shelter right away.

They were pretty shook up over being carried around but it took all of five minutes for them to decide that grass looked pretty tasty! They found the hot wire, mainly with ears. I have a feeling that when they find it with their noses, we will hear all about it. For now they’re just wary of the white wire that bites back!

More pictures to come tomorrow!

Temporary pig pen pt 2

Somebody done put the rush on me to get the piglet pen done fast!

Ok, it was me.

I’ve spent the last few months reading about pigs. Much of that has been about fencing and about how pigs usually escape. I focused a lot on the “things I wish I’d known” and “mistakes I made” type articles. Because I’d rather not be writing one!

Most people who have success with keeping pigs where they want them use either hog panels, pallets, or hot wire, sometimes a combination of two. I have decided to combine all three for the temporary pen, and then continue to over engineer it.

So. You all saw the hog panels. I cut pallets in half and placed those around the outside, meaning at no point is there a gap in the fencing bigger than 2×2 inches. Pigs aren’t that tall (especially the little guys I’m getting) so I figured a two foot tall reinforcement would be sufficient. They don’t tend to jump.

To secure them in place, I could have just stapled. But no. I took some old fence boards and lined the inside at ground level, then screwed them together sandwiching the hog panels between.

The gate is another cut down pallet with strap hinges and a heavy duty latch. I forgot to take a picture and it’s dark now.

Along the inside, I strung polywire. Not on all four sides though. I read that the pigs need a safe place to retreat from getting zapped and it’s mainly for training them.

So why the rush? We are waking up tomorrow and driving straight to get the piglets!

Don’t worry, there will be pictures!

Temporary pig pen pt1

We had decided that we weren’t getting anything other than ducks to add this year. But then we had a ham for dinner… we really love ham…

So there went that plan. Pigs! We will be picking up a couple of Kunekune piglets in a few weeks (hopefully!) and raising them up to butcher size.

Now, we will ultimately be keeping the pigs on pasture, and encouraging them to get as much of their diet from that as possible. We do not intend to buy any commercial hog feed at all. But wait! What’s that you say? Impossible to raise pigs without hog feed?

Depends on the breed. Some pigs do well on pasture, some don’t. Kunekune in particular can live entirely off grass, although in this region they need supplemental feeding for about half the year. Our grass just doesn’t have enough protein in it except for about six months. We will also be growing turnips and grains for them.

But wait! What’s that you say? Our pasture is still blackberries and scotchbroom? Well, it needed to be cleared and planted for the wedding anyway, so why not combine that project with another one while we are at it? I’ve talked to a local guy who can get it all cleared and post holes dug (not even trying to do it by hand out by the trees) for an exceptionally reasonable price.

Once that’s done, I figure it’ll take two days of hard work to get the area raked out nice and smooth, planted, and fenced. While Kunekunes are known to not test fences as much as other breeds, they are still pigs. So there will be a hot wire at nose level in addition to the top perimeter wire. Once planted, it should take about a month, maybe two, before the pigs can graze it.

While that’s growing, they’ll need a place to stay. The timing works out to them being in a smaller pen for a month, two months tops. Enter the hog panels.

For a small breed, just a couple months old, I figured it didn’t need to be huge. So I bent the hog panels to a roughly 8×9 rectangle with a two foot space for a gate. The panels are connected to the posts and to each other with T Post clips.

We placed this temporary pen in the back yard. It’s in a convenient location for feeding, watering, and socializing, and we can check it in a hurry from the deck if anything sounds amiss. Plus it helps that we already have grass there.

To try to ensure the piglets get enough grass in such a small pen, as soon as I build the gate I’m going to drape bird netting over the entire thing and overseed it. Since we’ve got at least a month before we get the piglets, that should get some decent growth in there.

Double Edged Sword

A year into raising meat rabbits in a colony setting, I’ve got a pretty good feel for the pros and cons, I think. I also feel like I’ve successfully tackled most of the cons.

First con, a colony pen is substantially more difficult to make escape proof than individual cages. We’ve both had to chase down rabbits more times than I care to admit. But when you’ve got an adventurer like Benjamin who thinks he is invisible, it’s not hard to find the weak spots. Stand there for a minute and he will show you.

Second con, any health issues spread much more easily when rabbits live together. We had a new rabbit introduce ear mites. Thankfully, there is a very easy and effective medication that is gentle on their system. Ivermectin is available at any veterinary office and most farm stores. The dosage is ridiculously low.

Third con, the rabbits will establish a hierarchy with some more dominant than others. This one is arguable. Many say that this causes additional stress on the rabbits. However, it is their natural social order. If a human child goes to school, they might have to deal with a bully. But if they never go outside, they’ll never develop into a functioning adult.

Fourth con, and this is probably the biggest one, it is harder to control breeding. At one point this last year, with three adult females, we had 27 rabbits total. That was tough. So for now, Benjamin is isolated from the rest, but his individual pen is inside the communal pen, which prevents him from feeling too alone.

But for all of that, I don’t think I’ll ever go to a cage style rabbitry. The pros are just too big.

First pro, the rabbits have more space. Having seen the rabbits run around in circles and get excited over new branches to gnaw or veggies scraps, it’s pretty obvious that rabbits like having room to play. And when it snows, they go wild. Backflips and rolling around. It’s adorable and entertaining!

Second pro, socialization. Rabbits are social animals. You’ll never find a wild rabbit living by itself. They always live in colonies, and always have company. To me, letting them have that in captivity matters. When it’s cold, they can huddle for warmth. When it’s nice out they groom and play with each other. I feel it makes for happier rabbits.

Third pro, ground beneath their feet. Sure, you can put cages directly on the ground, but that negates the easy cleaning that people use cages for in the first place. Our rabbits nibble grass and claw at dirt. They still have a wire fence barrier to prevent digging and escaping, but they at least get to feel grass beneath their feet any time they want.

Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. But we take these animals into our lives for our own uses, and we both feel that deserves the courtesy of the best life possible. Yesterday, I processed five rabbits for a total of 15 pounds of meat. It was a lot of work doing so many at a time, but we are now down to rabbits with names, one that is probably pregnant, and one that’s too small to process for a couple weeks. And that will cut down on the feed bill.