Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gearing up for the Hatching Season

Maybe it's the exceptionally mild winter weather, but I find myself getting spring fever already.

The biggest project this spring (other than continuing to fix up our homestead) will be building up our heritage bird flocks.

We finally sold off our extra male ducks, reserving only the best of the best which I will be hatching from.

Now if only they would start laying.....

It really should be any day.

Any day, now [taps foot].

Everybody is in vibrant health and really holding onto their feathers, and there is definitely lots of courting and mating going on. So it's got to be soon!

I probably won't set any eggs until at least next month, but we'll see how things go.

We still need to re-organize our garage to make room for brooders. Re-organize is an understatement, since we can barely get inside the door, at the moment. (Sorry, no pics - I'm too embarrassed.)

It would be nice to upgrade our incubation system from our single, still-air styrofoam unit, but all in due time.

Our main focus will be increasing our breeding flocks, but I have had a good number of inquiries about goslings, ducklings and hatching eggs. I just have to make sure I save plenty for us!

I would also love to add some more breeds.

We have a handsome Faverolle rooster, but he has no Faverolle hens (not that he minds, he has a colorful harem).

We sold off all of his sons not too long ago. They were nice and very lovely, but the hens weren't enjoying their ceaseless harassment.

So we we went ahead and pre-ordered some Faverolle hatching eggs from a family farm up north. We probably won't be receiving them until at least April.

I'm looking into other colorful heritage chicken breeds as well.

I love Marans and Barnevelders. Can we take a moment to admire the Blue Double-Laced Barnevelder?

Yes. WANT.

I'd like to offer a wide variety of feathers in my shop, in addition to preserving multiple breeds.

I also love Cayuga and Ancona ducks. Both are dual-purpose and would have nice plumage for craft sales - and colorful eggs!

Some strains of Anconas lay a rainbow of duck eggs, not unlike "Easter Egger" chickens.

Anconas themselves come in a wide range of colors, and they all have individual spotted patterns: black, blue, lavender, chocolate, silver, lilac and lavender.

Worth It Farms
Cayugas have that eye-catching, beetle green iridescence.

Image result for cayuga duck
Purely Poultry
They also lay a black and grey speckled egg, but this fades a bit as the season wears on.

Image result for cayuga duck egg

But one thing at a time.

For now I will work on preparing for the hatching season, and eagerly anticipating those first eggs...........

Friday, January 13, 2017

January Homestead Update

The snow is long gone, but it was nice while it lasted.
Well, Happy New Year! 😊 

I'm sorry that my blogging has slowed down so much since we've moved.

The holidays and over two weeks of nasty cold junk have sort of slowed us down in general, but we're trying to get back in the swing of things...

The biggest news to report is that we finally have our wood stove installed!

This came right after the most significant cold snap, naturally.

It was nice weather for opening the windows and breaking it in, though
So now that we have it, we are enjoying days in the 60's!

I'm honestly not complaining too much. It's a little odd for January, but it's nice not having to deal with freezing water or taking 30 minutes to bundle myself and a stubborn 3-yr-old before venturing out the door.

Although the recent snow was rather lovely...

I still want to take some nice before and after shots of the inside, but our house is so terribly disorganized, I just can't bring myself to do it!

Most of our possessions are still in boxes, since we need to build shelves to store things on. We also have a barn to organize and even more stuff to haul off, but we're getting there.

Fencing is also still on our to-do list, and we'll begin that as soon as it's in our budget.

I've been spending a lot of time brainstorming on the goats' housing.

They still have a temporary pen and shelter set up in the garden space, but obviously they will need to move out this spring to prep the garden.

During the day they have the run of my parents' farm, nearly 5 fenced acres.

We have our disassembled rabbit shed leaning against the barn, and are planning to use that for the goats.

So where to put it?

Level ground (or the lack thereof, I should say) is a big issue here.

Close proximity to the main barn would be the most convenient for feeding and watering, but it's very sloped.

We do have concrete 2 x 4 pillars we can utilize, and a raised shelter wouldn't be a bad idea anyhow, to keep runoff from entering their barn (a south-facing entrance would orient it uphill).

We would then need to build wood slat floor (which would be nice for cleaning).

The other possible location is the most "level" area on our property.

We are planning to take down this old outbuilding (and probably the old chicken coops as well), and that  wouldn't be a bad spot for their barn and a paddock surrounding it.

The only problem is, we were planning to make this our outdoor living space with a fire pit, picnic table and maybe even a playhouse/playground for the kid.

It wouldn't be terribly pleasant (or sightly) to have to goats housed right there.

So we'll just have to keep brainstorming.

I'd like to fence the entire hillside pasture for them eventually, but we do still have access to my parents' land for pasture as well, we'll just need to invest in portable electric netting.

The other thing to take into consideration is buck housing.

I would like to purchase a couple of bucks or a buck and wether sometime this year, since there aren't any mini-Nubian breeders close by, and even fewer who are willing to stud their bucks out. So they would need separate housing  (downwind, of course).

But as always, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. As badly as I want to get our does bred and start producing milk, the important thing is to plan for the goats we have now. Then we can look into expanding our herd.

Their little camper top barn would be great for buck housing
And can I just take a moment to talk about how much I LOVE them? 💕

I always thought I wanted goats, but the realistic side of me knew that you either are a got person or you aren't. I thought their antics might get on my nerves, but I've come to find that I most definitely AM a goat person. 😊

I even like the way they smell! (That may change when we get a buck, however.)

They have such wonderful dispositions, and wherever we go on the farm, there they are with us, tagging along for our adventures. 

They are mostly waiting for some scratches or whatever forage I can yank down for them, but they do indeed seem to enjoy our company.

They are also extremely good with my son.

I can hardly wait to throw some BABY GOATS into the mix, but I must be patient.

Speaking of expanding herds, we have plenty of rabbits right now!

I've been evaluating our first round of grow-outs from December trying to decide if I want to keep anybody.

I was the most impressed with Sylvia's litter.

She's a sizeable rabbit (I'm going to guess 11 pounds) and had a good-sized litter. They have also been the fastest growing of the bunch - even more so than my purebred NZR's.

So I may keep a broken red doe for my NZ program.

I may finally have to cull my old Creme buck.

I've given him over a year of chances at getting my does bred, but he just can't get the job done.

I really need the cage space, and as badly as I want to perpetuate the breed, it just isn't feasible at the moment. I will just focus on my New Zealands, for the time being.

I got my first steel from REW Kaya and broken red Big Boy.

This kit caught my eye from the beginning, and I was hoping it was a doe. But it's a buck, naturally.....

So I may cull Turn and keep this guy instead.

Not that steel benefits my red breeding program any. I just think it's pretty. 😍

My two home-grown red mamas have done well, and are both bred back.

Actually, all 7 of the does are bred back for late January and early February litters.

We will have plenty for the freezer this go-around, since there have been virtually no interested buyers.

They come out in droves during my off season, but fall silent when I finally have kits to sell.

We are planning to save more for feeding the dogs, so they certainly won't go to waste.

All that poop definitely isn't going to waste either!

I've managed to cover nearly a quarter of garden space with poop from our rabbits. That combined with the goats' droppings should make for an awesome garden this year!

Most of the Muscovies have found a new home.

We really enjoyed having them around, but the males were becoming increasingly aggressive towards the Appleyards, dragging down and mating with both males and females alike.

A majority of them got sent off to another farm, leaving one male that was raised with them (which will be going into the freezer soon), and two males and one female that we brought over from the park.

The hen checking our our porch
They split off from the big group weeks ago, and like to hang around our place.

They had to come check things out when the wood stove was getting installed
When they aren't here, they spend much of their time foraging way upstream, only flying back to the farm to roost in the evenings. They haven't been interacting with the Appleyards at all, but I'm not sure I want to risk having mules when I start incubating.

They are so endearing when they waddle up and start wagging those tails, though.......

I may begin hatching duck and goose eggs as early as next month, depending on the weather (not that either have begun laying yet, but they should soon).

Our "baby chickens" are all grown up, and consist of mostly roo's, naturally.

They are pretty boys, but too many roosters is never a good thing (ask the hens). At least they aren't aggressive towards us, which is a plus.

If we don't get around to processing them soon, we can always place a free ad. They go pretty quick! (The last time we had a large Hispanic family come down and take our extras. It was nice to know that they would be feeding people).

My Etsy shop has slowly been picking up, the last couple of months.

Believe it or not, the craft feathers have been selling quite well. I've sold over a dozen packs so far.

Not that feathers would ever bring in a significant income, but it does take something that would normally go to waste and turn it into a small trickle of revenue.

It just takes time to gather, clean (if necessary), sort, photograph and package them, but I do enjoy the process.

I know the fact that they are "cruelty free" is a big selling point to a lot of people. The only problem is, the meaning of that phrase can mean different things to different individuals. All of the feathers I am currently selling are indeed naturally shed, but I wonder if it would be a big turn off if I began selling feathers that were plucked from birds destined for the freezer. Those feathers would still be cruelty free in my eyes, but to a lot of people the simple act of killing an animal for any reason is cruel. So I'll think on that awhile.

Typically we scald the birds first, so any of the fluffy feathers don't usually bounce back after that process, anyhow. We shall see.

As far as clay works go, I've had a lot of requests for commissions lately.

Rabbit portraits, mostly, but I will be sculpting dogs, cats and maybe even a goat soon.

I'm taking a short break and trying, trying to rest and recover from this nasty cold. Everything I normally love doing becomes a huge burden when I don't feel well. But I keep reminding myself it's only temporary.

All in all life in the valley is very nice. I find myself missing the park every now and then, but I am so happy to finally be here.

I'm just eager to get our animals secured on OUR side of the fence! All in due time......