The Fat Ewe Farm 
    and B & B

...organic permaculture farmin' 
  for the lazy you's and
 Bed, Breakfast 'n Bale

Blog

Bird Brains

Posted by Fluffy on November 29, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Oh boy, when the term 'bird brain' was coined, it was not simply out of the blue. I fail to understand how people believe chickens are smart. As you can see in the photos, when the snow covered their food, they thought it was gone! Then when I brushed the snow away, voila! the food returned magically, though it had been there all the time. One would think the birds could smell the food, or remember that is where it is located, since it is always there for them, but no, as soon as a little soft, white, fluffy snow covered the food, they did not 'see' it. Oy!

Chickens at the Milk Bar

Posted by Fluffy on November 12, 2012 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

In the old days, chickens got milk. Some milk was always spilled when milking the family cow and the free ranging chickens were sure to be there to clean it up, fighting the cats and dogs for it. Milk does provide some protein and fat, and being omnivorous, chickens do need both in their diets. It was not until the recent (in the time of the world history) cultivation of agricultural grain crops that birds were fed grain. In winter they got scraps from the kitchen along with some milk and even bones to pick. They ate a bit of the leaves from hay for their vegetables and hoped they could get through the cold winter. There were no such things as heat lamps, just a barn that could get quite below zero. 


Then as man began the grain madness, the birds' diets slowly switched to be grain dependent, much as man has forced ruminants to eat grain. It is not good for animals, humans included. Anyhow, chickens will and do eat milk so when there was some whipping cream that was off and outdated buttermilk, the chickens got some and so did the turkeys. The grateful birds quickly gobbled it up at the milk bar!

The Chicken Coop

Posted by Fluffy on October 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (3)

The chicken coop was actually a shed that was insulated with rigid foam. An opening window was installed, plus a vent to let moist warm air out. Unfortunately, the door does not fit properly and there is seepage of air so the coop is not all that warm. Today, a heat lamp was installed, not necessarily for heat, but because the chickens are afraid of the dark. They have no problem going out of their wind tunnel door  when it is light, nor going in the coop during the day, but as night falls and it is dark inside, they are afraid and would not go in unless I opened the man door. This was not a good plan, because any warm air from the day's sun was let out during the evening opening to let the chickens in. So, a heat lamp was added, and it solved two problems: one, the chickens being afraid of the dark, and two, the added warmth available when it is cold outside because of the air leak around the ill fitting door. I have tried to add wood to the inside to make the door more snug, but the door itself does not sit properly and the lower part is out a half inch. When wood was added, it would not close securely, so it was removed again. If the chickens did not peck at things, a foam door strip may help, but they would demolish it, most likely. So for now, this will have to house the chickens. 


Next year a new door can be constructed to the one that is there can be rehung properly to fit. In the meantime, no more scardy chickens.

Roosters at The Fat Ewe

Posted by Fluffy on October 9, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Brewster, the Jersey Giant

Shane, the Speckled Sussex

Jason the Columbian Wyandotte

There are too many roosters at The Fat Ewe Farm, but so far, none have fought very much. Maybe that is because of the breeds they are or that they have enough room. Brewster, the main rooster, is a Jersey Giant and is smaller than he should be. He is gentle with the hens and an excellent protector of his flock. He also finds food and calls them over to see what he has. The little Japanese Bantam rooster does that same thing too. He has a flock of his own, so he is the boss there. The Speckled Sussex rooster is always outside his pen trying to fight with him though. There is definitely a pecking order in the roosters as well as the hens. The Salmon Faverolle is on the lowest rung, then the Australorp rooster. He is younger than the others, though in time, might put up a fuss about being low man on the totem pole. The Wyandotte Rooster and the Speckled Sussex are about equal and run away from Brewster. The ones that challenge the others are the little bantam crosses. I could not get pictures of them today. They did not want to stay still long enough! 

Richard, The Salmon Faverolle

The Australorps

The chickens are in their new winter coop tonight. I had to physically catch each one and put it inside and keep the door closed. They ran out like screaming banshees when I put them in with the door open..as though their lives were at stake. Crazy chickens. All that time, effort and money and they are too afraid to make use of a warm coop. I put in two solar lights and locked them in for the night. I hope I do not have to do that again tomorrow. The bantams have a special cage in the coop. I hope they are alright there, especially because there are 2 roosters in a small place. Guess I will find out. 

the Australorps Girls are Rehomed

Posted by Fluffy on August 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The chicks have been here since they were a day old. They were first living in the large livestock trough covered with an old storm door with a heat lamp in one corner. They could get the sunshine through the door because it was still cold in April, but when the mid day arrived, if it was warm enough, I let them sit in the sunshine by removing the door. 

After the livestock trough brooder, they went to live in a hoop coop. These are wire shelters covered with tarps. Once they were 3 months they were old enough to sex and the roosters were put in one hoop house and the hens in another. They were kep locked up but the house was moved by hand so as not to run over any chickens. Finally they had achieved a large enough size that the raven would not likely be tempted to taste them and they were allowed to free range. 

So yesterday a nice family called and then came to collect the chickens, 12 hens and a rooster. We caught them in a fishing net and the folks fell in love with the farm in general. The mother wants to take home some baby goats and said they would return tonight, but I suspect they did not have the pen ready. I would not let the goats go since they did not really have a place for them. They did have a chicken pen though and some sort of coop. I wish the little quiet hens well. The young boy who was about 12, absolutely fell in love wiith the chickens. I imagine he will soon be cuddling them and carrying them around. I am glad they have found a good home. Thank you chickens for your time at the Fat Ewe!The rest of the roosters will be in the freezer for soup in the winter and there are two lovely little hens which will join the mixed flock, along with one rooster. 

Some Days are Very Frustrating

Posted by Fluffy on August 20, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I cannot feed the dogs until the chickens are in for the night or they come screaming across the yard and feast on the dog food. The ducks, turkeys and geese also love it, so in the morning, I have to take any food inside and the dogs don't eat until evening. They are all old enough to be fed once a day now. Harley, who came to me at 66 pounds is beginning to look more like a Maremma instead of a scarecrow. I don't know his current weight , but I cannot see is ribs and tail bones sticking through his fur anymore and he is playing with the dogs and wagging his tail, all good signs. 

The geese did not want to go to their pen tonight either. I do not let the goats and geese free range as much because they are huge trouble. The goats have topped and eaten the raspberries, the canes and the leaves. They turned over a planter to eat the petunias and they find any morsels of grain and eat it all. Sarah got into the duck pen today and ate herself silly before I caught her. She would have been dead by now if that was not whole grain. Grain is not good for ruminents at all. It took a good half hour to get those geese in the pen. The dogs were not helpful. Robbie wants to head the animals off at the pass which is the opposite of what he needs to do. I am not sure how to get him not to do that. 

I find that if I leave the doors open to the Australorp, Rare breeds and bantam's pens, they go in by themselves, but it is almost dark. I cannot take the dogs walking in the dark, but I am so frustrated trying to get the birds in when they do not want to go in. I guess I could resort to going for a walk in the early afternoon instead. The only thing is, that with all the dogs and me gone, there is no one here to watch the free ranging animals. Maybe I should take the dogs for a walk in the morning before letting everyone out, but my energy level in the morning is zero. I am much better at night. Tonight, I mowed the grass then took the dogs out just before dark after all the animals were safely stowed away. I physically have to half carry the Alpine goat or she will not go with the herd. She is always in trouble and frustrates me to no end. I should not be angry with the animals, but I only have so much patience and when the dogs are undoing what I am trying to do, it only worsens the situation. Gads!

I didn't do it, honest!

Sad Day

Posted by Fluffy on August 6, 2012 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (1)

It is a sad day for the rooster and for me. I knew he had to go. Beautiful though he was, he chased every bird in the yard and hurt many of them. He was young and very aggressive. The man staying at the Bed and Breakfast grew up on a farm, so he said and offered to snap his neck. This is a humane way of killing since it is instant and the bird feels no pain. I agreed. The rooster was preventing the brooding hen from returning to her nest and he simply had to go. Penny hen has12 eggs she has to tend to. The man grabbed the rake and chased the rooster but he missed and broke his leg. I immediately felt as though he was just going to bludgeon the poor bird to death so I grabbed some wood and when the man held the bird with the rake, I smashed his head until he quit moving then chopped it off with the axe. I did it. I have never killed anything really, but I did not want to see the poor rooster suffer. No living thing should have to die badly. 

I brought the rooster inside and skinned and gutted him, washed him a dozen times in clean running cold water and put him in the oven at 350. He will cook until the internal temperature reaches 350 and then I will turn the heat to 225 for many long hours. The rooster should not be too tough since he was only 6 month old, but I have learned that birds that move around are not tender. They run and use their muscles and are very unlike the chicken people are used to eating. The taste is rather amazing though. I do not know if I can eat him. I will see tomorrow. Poor rooster. Sad Day.

Farming With Chickens

Posted by Fluffy on July 25, 2012 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

The Australorps are almost 3 months old now and freeranging. It is healthier for them to forage and eat grass and bugs, plus they really cut down the mosqitoes and flies in the yard. It is amazing. Once a foot is set beyond the perimeter fence, the mosquitoes attack. The poor sheep come in all eaten up and their noses have holes from horse flies and deer flies, but in the yard the goats and dogs enjoy a pretty bug free existence, thanks to the ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens running around. 

The Australorps particularly like the front door of the farmhouse. They roost in the cedar tree and scatch the dirt. Last year and this spring I loaded 2 feet of hay from the dogs' houses where the soil was particularly poor in the hope of building organic matter and growing some flowers. The chickens love to scratch through that hay. I do not know what they are finding, but it is excellent because it lightens the soil that has resulted from the decayed hay. Next year I will fence that area off and grow some perennials there. It is the favourite sleeping place of the dogs though, so I am not sure the effort will be worthwhile. Right now, I am appreciative of the chickens' work though I am not very happy with their mess at the front door!

Australorps

Posted by Fluffy on June 15, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The chicks are fully feather and able to be sexed now. I will be taking a hen and rooster to Wetaskawin tomorrow as a reserved sale. There will still be 40 left, some roosters for the freezer in the fall and some hens for sale with only 10 hens and one rooster staying over winter. Keeping them through the winter is challenging here in the north because they have large combs which freeze in the sub zero temperatures. I am building a chicken coop for them with pop bottle sola tube lights and pop can solar furnace heaters so they should be warm enough. The plan is to build a coop within a coop, so the east, south and west sides, the sunny sides, all have large window spaces which will heat up in the sunshine and hold the heat for the evening. The door will be an L shaped tunnel to block the flow of the wind blowing in. We shall see how the progress goes. As soon as the slab boards arrive, (rough sawn slabs of trees cut to 8 feet in length) I will begin to work. There is also a plan for an aviary which in winter will be plastic covered, so the chickens can enjoy the sunshine, but not the snow. I have only two months to build, so must get busy. At the rate these chicks are growing, they will soon outgrow their little hoop house and need to be moved or split with the roosters going to a growing pen and the rest into a chicken tractor and out to pasture. And I am not really a chicken person!


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