Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The past month or so, Part Two - Chickens, Winter Pasture, Norway's Return, Cheese.

Part One is here: http://www.onbrowncroftacre.com/2013/12/the-past-month-or-so-part-one-vacation.html

I’m totally impressed with our buckeye chickens. The ladies are sweet and big now! They took longer to get to their mature size than the NH Red and Barred Rock, but they have surpassed them. They were bread to be good meat chickens originally – so this isn’t really a shock, but nice to see. I may just need to order more Buckeye chicks next year and transition our flock to all buckeye.

Barred Rock Hen and Buckeye Rooster - the nice one.
One of our roosters is friendly, and the other is not. The mean one has been mostly confined to the coop. I might want to clip his wing to make sure because he did get out a few times. He’s so big that it is hard for him to fly over the fence, but it’s his size that makes us want to keep him for our meat chickens. When I say he’s mean, I really just mean he tries to be bossy. He doesn’t attack relentlessly, but he tries to show Noah who’s boss, so this momma went out there to show him who’s boss a few times. He needs to be taken down the pecking order if he thinks the pecking order includes humans. Since the pecking order is established by physical conflict – this basically means I gave him quite a few boots to the chest when he starts to try to ruffle up his feathers at me and “start a fight”.

On Thanksgiving, I went out to take care of our animals and found a dead chicken in our coop. The poor thing. But I am endlessly happy with our chickens because they never peck each other, and are not cannibals. So I found her looking as peaceful as a dead chicken can, without a spot on her that helps me determine what might have been wrong with her. My only guess is she may have been one of the chickens that had yet to start laying and may have had a blocked vent that we wouldn’t have noticed. There really was nothing odd about her though, and none of the other chickens are sick. So I moved her out of the coop to wait for Joel to bury her and thanked God for the chickens we had and their sweetness and respect for her.


They all stopped laying eggs the day before she died, which is something that our other hens did when Phoebe was getting close to death. But even if that was because of this sick chicken, I wouldn’t have thought it was odd because they had been slowing down in production anyway.

We are now getting one or two eggs every once in a while. Maybe every other day. I’m hopeful that it will pick back up this month or next based on what I’ve heard from other local chicken people. Even though they are not molting, I’m guessing they are going through some sort of slowing down process like that since that happens right about now. Our other two old birds are going through a serious molt. They didn’t go through this last year, so it is interesting to see for the first time.


An interesting gate contraption. Works well. The chain is there to make sure
Norway and Buttercup don't nudge the gate open.

The fence was finished last Saturday. There are two areas that we can separate them in if we need to. We put the water tub between our outdoor spigot and the electric outlet. We have a submersible water heater to prevent freezing. I'm using a gutter remnant to get the water from the spigot to the bucket. Super easy and I just lean the gutter against the house when I'm done so it drains!! No hoses or buckets. Oh, and the water spigot is freeze proof.

Gutter leaning against the house
We used a pallet and some other scrap wood to create the third side of their hoop house shelter. They only need a walk in with three sides to provide a wind break. We actually had greenhouse plastic on it and it was toasty warm in there. Unfortunately, Buttercup ripped it off and we had to replace it with tarp. If the calf needs more warmth when it comes (if it's sickly or something), I plan to make a place in the milk shed for it since I'm not going to be milking for the first few weeks anyway.

We haven't made a hay feeder or covering yet. We were going to make another hoop house and roll the hay and baleage under it, but we just didn't get to it yet. This is the first time we have unwrapped this hay and they love it. This will be the test on how fast they eat it. We purchase enough for them to eat one round bale per 10 days based on how fast they were eating the square bales, but I'm hoping we get a few more days out of each one.

(Where are the cows in these three pictures?)





Norway came back on Sunday. He has changed in this month. His neck is getting bigger and he’s getting more mature looking. Norway is a bull, so his getting older is going to be his telling time. We’ll always keep a close eye on a bull, but he isn’t old enough to have proven everything yet, so there is less trust established. I want to keep Norway because he’s awesome. And because I know he’s a good working bull. He also comes from a farm that had friendly bulls, so his father has proven himself and earned his keep there as a friendly heard bull. Norway is so mild, really, so it is worth it for now. I have great expectations for him. 

Oh, there they are!

He was in a great place for the past month. My friend is great at handling cows. She really has no fear, which helps, and she is used to handling much larger sized cows. She had Norway used to her shoveling poo from under his feet and she makes it a point to touch all the cows on the back when she walks by them. Joel had just started getting Norway to a point that Joel could do that when Joel approached.

It was interesting to unload him here again. I said hello to him in my usual way and there was an obvious recognition of who we were. I was so grateful to be able to see that. He’s not like a dog, so he wasn’t so excited to see us that he came for a back rub or anything. He’s a heard bull and has been trained not to approach (within 5 feet), but to be calm if approached by us (still working on this, of course). But when he was unloaded, he was calm, there was no bucking around, no endless bellowing like when we first got him, no stressed out complaining from him about being in a new environment – just a generally sweet boy, who seemed delighted to be back with Buttercup. They were instantly affectionate with each other and are inseparable again.

Good morning Norway. Good to have you back.
So now we are waiting for the calf’s arrival. Buttercup’s physique is excellent, but she is a young mother and will be giving birth 3 months earlier than most would have chosen to breed her. I’ll be praying for a safe delivery for her, and a healthy calf.

Oh, and we ate cheese! I can’t forget this. We have finished off (meaning, we ate it all) the first cheese wheel I’ve ever made. It was delicious. It was a Derby cheese that I made with my friend. I have all my cheesemaking supplies here for when I start too. I just have to wait to get some milk from buttercup.

After aging for two months. Started on 9/3.

After I took the beeswax off.

I think I’m about finished with the updates. Next I can share about our Christmas stuff:
Jesse Tree, St. Nicolas Day, Nativity scene, Christmas Day tree decorating…

2 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I love what you're doing up (and out) there. Next time we visit N.H. I'd love to stop by Brown Croft Acre.
    Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Sure, that would be fun! Let me know when you are around. :-) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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