Archive for the ‘Pictures’ Category

Chicken 911 Update

Now it has been over a week of treatment, and the girls are looking better already! The feathers are coming back in on their backs and heads/necks of the first two hens, and they are running around with the flock, and not crouching when we enter the pen. The two Americana’s feathers are just starting to grow in on their backs and tails, one more so then the other. One does not seem to mind the treatments, while the other still spends all of her time hiding under one of the nest boxes. Both of their little bottoms are still naked and I repeated the lice treatment. I added black oil sunflower seeds to their diet to help keep them warm an heal the skin in the days to come. One of them, bless her little heart, even laid an egg!

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Chicken 911

As many know, our farm has a rooster-rehoming program, where we take in unwanted roosters, and place them into breeding programs or homes of people who can keep them. I would never encourage any backyard chicken owners to own a rooster who is not actively breeding their flock or who does not need one for lawn patrol for their free-range hens.
By nature roosters are mean and aggressive – even if raised from chicks and handled a lot. This is NOT a reflection of their keepers – it is the nature of the beast. It is a rooster’s job to be protective and aggressive towards any and everything he deems a threat to his ladies, this includes his keeper. This is their job!

At our farm we have used everything from a “rooster stick” (a quart size plastic milk jug with dry beans in it, duct tapped to an old broomstick) to a metal trash can lid used as a shield to enter some of our breeding pens. Once a year we do spur removal for our own sake as well as the safety and well being of the hens.

Our program is a service to the poultry keepers in our area who can keep hens but not crowing roosters. More often than not, one of those little yellow balls of fluff that the feed store PROMISED would all be female, turns out to be a boy. So when the day comes that “Jane” turns out to be “John” Oops…you really don’t want the neighbors to start throwing rocks at you at 5 am, or having to run for your life to keep from getting flogged and spurred every time you enter the chicken yard to collect eggs.

But at times, it is not just these crowing, spurring, bags of feather-covered hormones that get turned into us for placement. At times we get their counterparts, the unwanted or battered hens turned in as well. We also take in the girls who have suffered predator attacks, sickness, or neglect and do our best to heal and restore them. We will show you now the process and progress of four of these hens that have been brought in to us this past week.

white leghorn

first two

The first two brought in were a Leghorn and a Buff Orpington. Both had the feathers missing from their backs and the Leghorn’s head was picked at.  Both were covered in lice and crouched down on the ground if you tried to get near them. The first thing was to treat the lice and at the same time worm them. The next step was to spray the bare pink skin with Bluecoat to protect them from getting sunburned. I am sure that smarted a little bit at first, but soothed the bare skin and coated it from further damage.
By the next morning both hens seemed a bit better, and it was time to treat them again. This time a product called “No-pick” (you can get it at most feed stores and it is something you should ALWAYS keep around for first aid if you have any type of poultry) was slathered on the wounded areas and gently worked all the way down to the skin. This step is repeated every day, twice a day until the feathers start to grow back and cover the bare skin. This can take weeks sometimes, so we must be patient and keep up with the treatments.

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second two
Two more birds were turned in a few days later in even worse shape. These two Americana hens were more bare skin than feathers and their tails were just about all the way gone, as well as their wings. Their heads were all picked up as well as their bright pink little bottoms. These two girls were also very frightened of being handled and flighty. I started the same treatment on them as the first two hens, and by the time I got done applying the Bluecoat, they looked like they had gotten into the studio with Picasso during his blue period. While I looked like I had been in a fight with a tagger during a Purple Haze concert! All in all, everyone felt better when all was said and done.
Stay tuned! Pictures will be posted every few days of their progress through the healing process.

Little Orphan Phoebe

It was a first birth for Claire and I was frankly surprised it went so rough. Her mom had always had an easy time getting her kids on the ground, and some of the time did it without any help. I was sure she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. This time I was wrong. It was Monday morning and I noticed that her udder was quickly bagging up (of course she was not going to do it over the weekend, when I had time off work- doe’s code of honor). She started to get “that look” in her eyes and I knew her time was drawing near. I called in to the office to let them know I would be late, and started my watch. By noon she was picking at her food and talking to her side- it should not be long now. By 2 pm she was down on her side pushing, but by 2:30 she was not making any progress. I got out the gloves and the lube. There was a tiny pair of feet in the birth canal but not a head to be felt. Not good. I let another ten minuets go by and still no progress. I have done this enough to know when it is time to call the vet. Dr. Bailey was not in the office but I did have his cell number. He was only a few minutes away and came right over. He could feel the feet as well, but not the head with them. He tried to turn the kid, and then only had the head, but no front feet.
There just did not seem to be a way to get this baby into the proper position. “Well” I said at last “Just bring the kid out head first.” Dr. Bailey always likes to have the feet as well, but decided to deliver the kid without then this time. After some pushing, and a few screams from the doe, a tiny doe kid was pulled into the world. Dr. Bailey was surprised to see she was still alive. He handed her off to me and reached back in for the next one. Again after much pushing and pulling, a tiny buck kid was retrieved, weak and sputtering, but alive. He weighed in at only 1 lb 6 oz, and she just under 2 pounds. I am not sure if it was the traumatic birth or just Claire’s take on being a new mom, but the doe did not seem to want to have anything to do with these newborns.  As Dr Bailey looked down at the two tiny, struggling babes on the blanket, he looked at me and said that I now had my work cut out for me. I think it was his kind way of saying these kids really did not have much of a chance at this point. If I could get them past the first 48 hours they might have a chance.

Newborn Phoebe

For the rest of the afternoon, I milked out the colostrum from the VERY uncooperative mother, and fed the kids with an eyedropper. I followed the doe around with the babes, hoping she would bond with them. Not only did she not want them anywhere near her- she actually turned around and butted them away, hard!
By that evening the night air began to chill, and I had no choice but to go to “plan B”, and bring the poor little things into the house. I found a large cardboard box, lined it with a plastic trash bag, and covered the floor with newspapers. Next I put down a heating pad, and then some large towels. this would keep them snuggley and warm. Both were too weak to suck on a bottle, so I fed them every 4 hours with the eyedropper throughout the night.
By the next morning, the little doe was strong enough to stand a bit, and I once again took her out and tried to introduce her to her mom. This time Clair knocked her for six, so I took her right back into the house. I came to the sad reallity that I would now be raising my very first pair of orphan kids.
The first 3 days were very tedious, keeping up with the feedings every 4 hours around the clock. By day 4, the little doe was finally able to latch onto the nipple of the bottle, but the little buck kid continued to grow weak, and he left us that same afternoon. It was touch and go every day with the doe. She did not gain much weight, and chilled easily. She was not able to stand up very well, and seemed weak in her front legs. Sometimes she did not want to eat at all, and I had to revert back to the eyedropper. I bought some Pedilite to keep her hydrated, and put a few drops of Red Cell in her milk at each feeding. Still she struggled.
I remembered when one of our goats had been anemic the year before, and we had given her injections of B-12, so I began to give the little doe 1cc of the B-12 every 12 hours.
At 1 week of age, she seemed unable to walk altogether, and was still not gaining any weight. I would hold her in my lap and move her little legs for her, so her muscles would not atrophy. This went on all through the second week of her life, until I noticed she was sometimes able to stand for a few minuets. I began to get behind her and just scoot her along so she would have to take small steps. I slept on the couch with her curled up in my arms to keep warm.
By week 3 she was taking more steps on her own, but was all but lame in the right front leg. I began to feed her a few teaspoons of greek yogurt every day, and continued the B-12 shots. She began to walk a bit more. Then one day I found her in her box laying stiff on her side. It looked she had seizured. She was still alive, so I got her upright and got her moving again. At one month old, I gave her 1cc of CDT and prayed. She still weighed a good pound less then the set of twins that were born a week after her. Her right front leg still buckled out in front of her, causing a limp.
More shots, more bottles, more prayer – day after day. I never even did name her, for fear every day that she would not live. Then the day came at last when she took a turn for the better. Her legs became stronger, she started to walk with ease, and then she delighted me one day when she jumped up the porch steps. At 5 weeks I tapered the B-12 down to 1 cc every other day, and then tapered off of it. We named her Phoebe, and she is now doing quite well. She downs 4 cups of milk replacer everyday, has gained weight, grown, and has started to nibble at some hay.

Our healthy, happy girl.

Now, at 6 weeks old, we go in back and have “play dates” in the nursery pen with the other moms and babies. We then race each other back down the driveway and into the kitchen. I marvel at her sweet but spunky personaility and try not to think back on those hard days we had together. Each day now she is less and less dependent on me, and goes off to explore her world more and more without me, but that’s ok. That is as it should be. As much as I enjoy the special bond we share I will be glad for the day when she will be able to go out and join the tribe.
For now I will just enjoy the last few weeks of the bottles, and the cuddling, and the sweet goat murmurs she whispers in my ears.
All the worry has been worth it, and it reminds me that I am indeed a goatherd, and to always be humble before God’s creatures.

 

 

 

Spring Egg Olympics 2012

We have been in full swing with the incubators since the Easter chick rush, and we have been selling chicks almost as soon as they hatch these days. We have met some wonderful new chicken keepers and some really nice 4-H families this season, as well as repeat customers.

Here is the lineup that made our “Odd shape egg contest” finals this spring.

Top row is a normal size/shape standard egg.  Below that you can see some of the funny attempts our girls have made so far.  The bowling pin in the first row is my fave.  The big green oval at the bottom was a double yoker!  Yes, as you can see,  some of our hens have a great sense of humor!  Way to go gals!

The tradition of the Easter bunny

From the beginning of time spring has symbolized new life and rebirth. Eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility, as were rabbits and hares for having so many offspring in this season. The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the United States somewhere around the 1500’s with the German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area. Their children were told the legend of “Osterhase”, an egg-laying hare who brought gifts of colored eggs to good children if the child made a “nest” of their caps or bonnets the night before. The first story was published in 1680 about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden. The tradition of making “nests” for the rabbit soon followed. Eventually the nests made from caps and bonnets turned into baskets, and the eggs were replaced with candy and small treats.
So in the spirit of tradition, we brought the farm bunny, MacGyver, to St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ojai to play the part of “Osterhase” on Easter Sunday. He turned out to be a real trooper and the children and parents alike all loved him being part of the day. Even Father Jeff took a break from his busy day to enjoy a moment with the Easter bunny.

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Daylight Savings Time and Ready for Spring

I have always liked the concept of daylight savings time, but when it actually comes around it always messes me up for a few days. First, I always have to remember the “spring forward, fall back” thing, to be able to remember which way to turn the clock. Then I have to fight with the VCR, microwave, clock in my dashboard and my cell phone- I am really bad with all things tech, so this is a problem for me every year. It always takes a few days for my body to adjust to the “extra” or “missing” hour-but I never did understand why they say we gain or lose an hour, when there are still 24 hours in a day. We did not “gain” an hour in our lives-if that really happened we could just give ourselves more hours in time and at some point I think it would cause some time warp in the universe. I guess it is just something that the government cooked up so we would not have to drive to work in the dark in the winter months when the days are shorter. Anyway, to me it just feels like jet lag, but without getting to go on vacation. I do like getting home and being able to get a couple of things done in the goat yard before it gets dark though.

I am ready for spring. We have had over 2 1/2 months of freezing temps every night and no rain (and remember, we get to complain because this is Southern California.) Everything has been brown and crunchy for a long time. I am starting to see little signs that spring is trying to peek out in a few places, hoping that the freeze is over. The last frost date for our area is April 9th – so we may still get hit with some low temps again, but it has been 38 degrees and above for the last 4 mornings in a row. So this gives me hope that the worst is already over. The plum tree has put out a timid row of blossoms and the mulberry tree has broken bud. I planted out some artichokes that we started in the greenhouse a few months back, and put down very heavy layers of mulch to protect them. I also put some rose clones into the ground that had been hardening off outside near the house, and have moved more from the greenhouse to the front garden to get them used to the outside temps. I have tomato starts that I am chomping at the bit to plant out but I know full well I will have to drag out the Wall-O-Waters and keep a close eye on them if I do.

I have been eying the boxes of seed packets on the kitchen shelves that I have earmarked for this planting season but I don’t want to jump the gun. I will not let myself be seduced by their glossy photos and promises of days to harvest. I know the ground is still too inhospitable to plant warm weather veggies, no matter how tempting it becomes. It will only end in heartbreak otherwise.

We are on the dark side of the moon cycle this week, so I will spend this week battling weeds, pruning the last of the frostbitten canes and branches and putting up bean poles and trellises.

The incubator is now full of eggs that are set to hatch the week before Easter and the fertility is up in all of the breeding pens now. I got the first turkey egg of the season yesterday so I am sure the other game birds will follow along soon. I have been keeping an eye on the nursery pen, and have my birthing kit cleaned up and organized, and a stack of clean towels at the ready.

Spring is always a crazy time on the farm, but I am ready!

Quinn’s Twins!

Buckling #1

Buckling #2

Farmwear

Each year in October St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai hosts their “Blessing of the Animals” service. It is a service conducted in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. He was said to have a great love for all animals and even preached sermons to the birds. Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. He knew that the bond between person and animals is like no other relationship.

No wonder people enjoy this opportunity to take their animal companions to St. Andrews for this special blessing. It is always held outdoors and I just love the sight of pairs of creatures – one human, one animal sitting close together, or held in arms. There is such a variety of dogs, large and small, that attend but each and every living thing is welcomed. Every year a large tortoise spends most of his time meandering through the rows of chairs set up on the grassy lawn. I remember one year a small clear plastic box being passed around with a very cool little horned toad, who looked prickly but felt more like rubber when touched. There have been birds, bunnies, snakes, and a large white goose in attendance over the years.

Katie with Junior

When the priest passes each animal for the blessing, he asks for the animal’s name, and then he welcomes them with a special prayer. As the prayer is offered they are gently sprinkled with holy water. Believe it or not, most of the animals take this sacramental spritz with dignity. During the singing of the hymns a few non-human voices can be heard lifted in song, and usually a very well-timed grunt or squeal is heard during the sermon, which makes everyone giggle. I think this is enjoyed by all who attend, regardless if they are pet owners or not…

Every year we go and take one or two of the baby goats with us. This year, I took Mercy and Val. Christy held little Val and I had the larger kid on a lead. She went from standing next to me to wanting to be held.

Christy with Val

Just as the service ended, I was sitting down with Mercy draped across my lap when a little boy approched us. He spoke softly so I leaned closer to hear him. He was around 4 years old with light brown hair and big blue eyes. “What is your goat’s name?” he asked me softly. “Her name is Mercy,” I responded. “What is your name?” I asked him. “Landon” he answered. “Landon, would you like to pet Mercy?” I asked. He immediately dropped onto his knees in the grass and made eye contact with her. He cupped his little hands and then gently put them under the goat’s chin, and brought their noses together until they touched. Then he gave the goat a gentle scratch on the head. He stood up again, and looked at me, “Ya know what?” he said. “What?” I asked. “I can tell that you are a farmer.” he said. “Really?” I asked, thinking that he was obviously discerning this from the fact that I was sitting there with a barnyard animal in my lap, “How can you tell?” He pointed to the overalls I was wearing. “Because you are wearing those, and that’s what farmers wear.” he stated confidently. “Yes, you are right,” I said, taken back a bit by this observation, “farmers wear overalls.” I was not even thinking that I had put on a pair of capri-length bib overalls and blue work shirt that morning. I didn’t do it to look like a farmer, just as something I wear to deal with the animals in. I guess somewhere along the way this little boy must have identifed overalls as something that only farmers wear- our “costume” for the job of farmer. I smiled at his statement as this was something that had never crossed my mind before. In another moment he ran off.I don’t think I will ever be able to buckle up into my overalls ever again without thinking about that exchange. Pointed out to me by a four year old boy, I will think of them always as my costume, my uniform that identifies me as a farmer. From now on I will wear my overalls as a symbol of my occupation, not as just a cover-up from barnyard debris. Thank you, Landon for bringing dignity to my farm clothes, I will wear them proudly from now on.

As Autumn Begins and a 12-Hour Road Trip

I picked the first ripe bright orange pumpkin from the garden today and brought it into the house. As I set it down on the edge of my dark brown wooden dining table, my eyes caught the two warm fall colors together for the first time. Very autumnish. Just at that moment I thought how the land is now signaling that we are officially headed for fall. It is funny how the plants and animals here seem to know this even before I became aware of it. The summer season had changed her gown before I even noticed. I just started to be aware of the fact that in the last two mornings it is still dark when the alarm goes off at 6 am. This is one of the first things that brings my mind to the awareness that the summer season is officially winding down and will began giving way to autumn.

The equinox was actually on the 23rd of this month (at 9:04 if you’re counting). All across the nation, folks will be wrapping up their growing seasons as they say goodbye to their summer gardens. Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of this passage for most of the United States. I guess it’s time for me to toss my white sandals into the back of the closet, and start to look for some of my sweaters now.

We are lucky here in parts of California, as we will still be able to plant in the fall, and coax at least one more round of summer veggies before the winter frost sets in. I am always thankful we live here in Ventura County because we can grow at least some veggies and herbs year-round! Onions, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, garlic are great for planting this time of year! We currently have bell peppers coming out of our ears, and much squash still going strong. Some years past we have had long “Indian summers” where the warm weather has remained – one year we had ripe tomatoes up until November!

The roses are all putting off a lot of red growth right now as they gear up for their fall blooms. These are the blooms they will set their winter hips with to save energy in to get them through the winter months, so these blooms will be large and longer lasting then most of the spring blossoms. I like my rose gardens in fall.

The poultry are about through molting, and it has been a real chore to keep ahead of raking up all the feathers every week. Egg production is still strong, and we are still getting a lot of nice chicks hatching in both incubators every few days. The game bird season is over, but we did have two turkey poults that hatched very late this year. We are still getting a few quail chicks.

In the goat yard, we have weaned the babies, and it has gone well this year. I think the moms were ready for this to happen, even though the babies complained a bit.

We welcomed a new face here a month ago – a young herd sire to replace the two older bucks we lost over a year ago. Desert Sun’s Royal Demand came to us all the way from Desert Sun Pygmies in Klamath Falls, OR. Linda Colville has been a breeder and pygmy goat judge for many years and has a beautiful herd of animals there. I had owned a buck from her for many years and already know that this bloodline mixes well with mine. Although young at 8 months old, Royal Demand has already done well in the show ring, has good structure, strong caramel genetics in his pedigree, and to top it all off he has a sweet personality. What more could we ask for in an upcoming herd sire! The only trouble we had with this buck was the actual act of getting him from Klamath Falls, OR to Ventura, CA. The airlines charge over $300 to fly an animal in the baggage compartment so we decided to try a different way. Linda had a friend who lived about 3 hours away, and she was headed from Oregon to a pygmy goat show in Watsonville, CA on August 19th. We would be able to pick him up there the next day on the 20th. Watsonville is about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Ventura. Woo Hoo- ROAD TRIP! A very dear friend of the farm learned about our plans and decided to make it an exciting adventure for us. We were provided with a beautiful new rental SUV to use, and enough gas and food money for our journey. Christy and I packed up a cooler full of food and drinks, and we hit the road at noon on Saturday. We drove all day, stopping along the way every two hours or so. We took Mandy (Christy’s dachshund) with us and enough CDs to keep us entertained the whole trip. We left right around noon, took turns driving and oddly enough, got back to the farm just about midnight-twelve hours later, even after being a bit lost once or twice. We made very good time. The new guy has settled in to the farm well, and we are enjoying this new addition to our herd.  Welcome to Blue Hill Farms, Royal Demand, we hope you will be very happy here!

Faring the Fair

Today is opening day of The Ventura County Fair, located at beautiful Seaside Park in Ventura CA.  The 2011 theme is “The Bounty of the County”.  This year we were invited back to Uncle Leo’s Barn, an area of the fair set up for children of all ages to come and get an up-close look at a variety of farmyard animals from this county. The helpful staff is always on hand to answer questions and tell the stories of the animals’ lives on their respective farms. Since I was a city kid growing up, many of my first and fondest encounters with farm animals happened at our local fair, so this is something that I am always happy to participate in. I love to see the children interacting with the animals and wonder which ones of them will possibly someday become our future farmers of America.
Our adventure began just after supper last night when Christy and I accomplished the arduous task of collecting the selected animals (Kitty the pygmy goat and her 6 week old twins)  and systematically loading them into the back of the Dodge Dakota for the short ride to the fairgrounds. Kitty was not very keen on the idea (to say the least) and she would not budge an inch, and needed to be hoisted up and carried-she objected to this to such a state that we had to get a rolling cart to stand her in to get her the rest of the way down the driveway (the only thing that got hurt was her pride). Once in the truck with her kids, having located some feed, she calmed back down. The next stop was over to our neighbor Katie’s farm to help her load up her three Emden goslings into crates, and then everyone into the truck!

Kitty was not really very happy about having to share her ride with the poultry, but there was not much she could do about it anyway.  Total- three pygmy goats, three giant white geese, and three silly gals- needless to say there was MUCH squawking going on in the truck the entire ride to the fair by both humans and animals alike.
Arriving at the Garden Street entrance of the fairgrounds, we were ushered in and allowed to park right out in front of the barn. Some of the staff was there to greet us and help us unload. The geese were carried in their crates and the baby goats were scooped up in our arms and carried in without any problem. Then there was Kitty, who once again would not budge an inch towards the barn. Even just 30 feet seems like a very long way when you are on the other end of the lead of a stubborn animal that is determined NOT to walk for ANY reason we could give her. We tried to coax with a feed bucket, we tried to let her follow her two babies – nothing. She would not budge. In the end, Christy hoisted her up unceremoniously and carried her stubborn butt all the way into the barn and plopped her down in the pen. No small feat, as she must weigh 65+ lbs, has a full udder of milk, and had all four of her legs as stiff as iron and unbending every inch of the way. Not to mention the evil eye she was giving everyone or the unhappy grunts she was voicing at all of us the entire time. But as is the ways of most creatures, once she found the feeder she was content with the new digs. The display pen for the goats is set up with a tall wooden ramp with a platform at the top, and also has a big rubber tire for the kids to play on. The doe kids were not too sure about this setup at first, as they only have had logs to jump around on in their pen at home. Diana was the first of the two kids to be brave enough to try out the ramp but I was sure by the end of the night she and Tess would both be playing “queen of the ramp”. After fair notice to the barn staff that Kitty is clever enough to not only open up the latches on her pen for untimely escapes, but if left unchecked she may also let the others out as well, we went over feeding and care instructions.  We left the animals to settle in a bit and went out and turned up the main thoroughfare to stroll along and cool off from our struggle with Miss Kitty.

Although the fair was not yet open there were tons of people all around. Trucks were parked over every foot of the walkways and the place was bustling with activity. Vendors were setting up booths and unloading boxes, rides were being tested and everyone else seemed to have a bucket or a broom in their hands. Officials in electric golf carts were swerving by on all sides and last-minute touches were being put on displays everywhere. Halfway down the fairway we ran into the small livestock superintendent, Elzie Daniels, who we then had a nice chat with about what has been going on in everyone’s backyards and barns for the last year, livestock births and deaths,  and things we wished to purchase. It is always nice to run into old friends and catch up on each other’s lives. He even had some photos to show us of his beautiful Jersey calf born on the 4th of July. Congrats Elzie, she is a beaut!

We continued our walk all the way down to the main gate and then turned around and headed back to the barns to check and see how the critters were doing. We ran into a couple of 4-H kids bringing in their animals in the rabbit and poultry barn and after a few more short chats we did one last check of our animals before heading back to the truck. The geese had found the wading pool and Kitty already had her head in the feeder. The twins were bouncing on the big rubber tire and it looked like they just might be the hit entertainment of the barn this year. I know the children will love them. Things were all in place as they should be, and we are all ready once again to fare the fair!