Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surprise In The Hen House

Our hens have been really busy this spring, providing us with lots of yummy eggs. We have one little white banty hen, however, who is very broody. She is always laying on somebody else's eggs. One day Greg found her laying on a Guinea egg, so he decided to leave it there for her to lay on. He gathered a half a dozen more Guinea eggs over the next few days and put them all under the banty. He wanted to see if she would actually hatch them out.

This morning he went to gather eggs and found one of the other hens laying in the box insted of the little banty, and lo and behold she had a little Guinea chick under her! He could see a broken egg shell in the box. He came and got me so I could come and see and I grabbed my camera so I could take some pictures. While I was snapping shots, Greg saw a dead chick laying on the ground. And then we saw another one. He lifted up the hen and we didn't see any in the box, but we saw the broken shells of four of the eggs. I then saw a chick on the ground. I picked that one up, and then we saw another. We figured she must have had them under her wings and they dropped out when Greg picked her up. She jumped right back up in the box, and we brought the two live chicks in and set up a box for them in the kitchen.

One of the chicks seemed a little bit older than the other one (by a few minutes or so, maybe). We weren't sure the one would make it. It seemed quite a bit more unsteady than the other one.

But, after several hours, it seems to be doing fine.

We keep checking to see if the other eggs are going to hatch out. We want to be sure and catch them before any more chicks end up dead on the floor of the hen house. I know chickens will kill ducklings, but I never heard if they would kill Guinea chicks. I have heard of people hatching Guinea eggs under regular hens, though, and letting them raise the chicks in order to get them to be more tame. So, we don't know what caused the death of the other two chicks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Around the Farm

Now that spring has come to Cavalli Run, we have been doing some things around the farm. It still needs so much work, and we still have yet to collect all the equipment we will need to do a lot of that work. Progress is being made, however, and I know we will get to where we want to be eventually.
We were not able to put a garden in last year, but we are doing a small one this year. We don't have a tiller yet, but we're not gonna let that stop us! Last year, after we got our sheep and they had cleared out an over-grown paddock for us, we discovered several old and new tractor tires hiding under all that brush. We thought they would be great for raised beds, so our garden this year is a raised-bed, tractor tire garden! You can see the cattle-panel grape arbor in the background, and I already have lettuce and radishes coming up in my "salad-garden" tractor tire.

One tire holds pepper plants and the tomato plants each get their own small tire (we have found lots of those around the place, too).

We are getting eggs galore these days. It's just about time to start having some roasted chicken! We can't keep up with all the production, but several people have reaped the benefit our excess! With a little modification, Greg has found that his old desert uniforms work as farm shirts! I almost didn't see those eggs!

We have found many innovative ways of utilizing the various treasures we have found around the place. These old real estate signs that were left behind by a previous owner made a good lamb "baby gate" to keep little lambs out of the ram's stall at night!

Greg had some extra field fencing that he used to finish the corral area behind the barn. No more orange snow-fencing to keep the sheep where they are supposed to be! Yay! While it has come in handy many times,I detest that orange stuf.

I had a run-in with a ram this year! He didn't actually butt me, he sort-of side-swiped me. Next time he wants to be on the other side of where I am, I will try harder to get out of his way! Ouch!

Greg found this big snapping turtle making his way across one of the sheep paddocks. He had already rescued one, and lifted the fence for her so she could make her way to the pond in the horse pasture.

This big guy was quite a bit larger, though, and not near the fence, so Greg had to get the snow shovel and pick him up in order to move him out of the sheep's area.

He was huge, but he looked nothing like a sheep!

Friday, May 6, 2011

What A Week

We have really run the gammut of experience for our first lambing season. A set of triplets, an extra large single, a set of twins whose momma sat on the second twin while giving birth (I have been told by several long-time shepherds that they have never seen this before), and a dead lamb from another set of twins (no apparent reason). And it just keeps coming!
Our week started with a visit from the shearer. This was a different shearer from the one we used in the fall. We got an Amishman form Jamesport, which is only an hour away. He only charges two dollars per sheep, but we had to provide part of his transportation. I did not have him shear my three still-pregnant ewes. He was very gentle with my sheep, but I have decided I want to try and pluck, clip or shear them myself from now on.
That evening we had guests arrive by motorcycle from near Memphis.

On Wednesday afternoon our yearling ewe, Cookie, was laying on the ground by the fence under the cedar trees. I saw that she had two feet hanging out of her. She was contracting strongly but nothing was happening. I sent Lynn (my friend who was visiting) to get Greg. We got Cookie out from under the trees and into the barn and then started pulling the lamb. It took quite some time. The lamb was very large (9.8 lb), and Cookie is so small. It was wedged in very tightly. Unfortunately, by the time we got the lamb out, his little heart was barely beating. He never moved and he died within minutes. It was very sad. He was a very pretty little mouflan, just like his momma. After I got myself collected, I got out my lambing book and read up on the situation once again. I wanted to see if we had done all we could, and what we should do differently next time. The only thing we could have done differently was pull harder and get him out faster. I really don't know if that would have been possible as he was in so tight. But, I guess we will never know. Poor little Cookie, she walks around like she is looking for something, but she doesn't know what that something is (she was not interested in the lamb when we put him by her).

Then, the very next day, Sage delivered a set of twins. When I got out there, she had a lamb on the ground, and soon after, presented a set of legs. A few seconds later there was the very tip of a nose out. But then nothing happened for over 30 minutes. I got out my lambing book once again, and then went into action. I broke the membranes around the nose, stuck my finger in the lambs mouth. Nothing! So, I pinched the nose between the nostrils, stuck my finger in his mouth again, and, suddenly he sprang to life and popped right on out!
We watched for awhile, until he was up on his feet. While watching, we noticed that Momma would not let them nurse. They tried and tried but she would not let them near her back end. We got them to the barn and into a stall so they could be alone to bond. But, after a couple of hours, there had still been no nursing. I got out a dog collar and leash and prepared to tie Sage up. I couldn't catch her, of course, so I made a lasso of the leash and got it around her horns. She fought that like crazy, so I got it off of her, then got it around her neck. I was then able to hold her still enough to get the collar on her, then tie her to a post with the leash. After that she calmed down quite a bit. I petted her a bit, and when I had her calm and not trying to get away from me, I tried milking a bit of colostrum out. No, I have never milked a sheep before. But, when I tried it, the milk squirted all over my leg! So I went and got a quart jar and milked her into that. Lynn and I bottle fed the colostrum to the babies and then left them alone so they could bond and so I could try and get a few hours of sleep.
I got to bed at 11:15, and was wide awake at 2:45! Out to the barn I went to check on everybody. Wonderfully, the ram's belly was nice and round. But not so for the ewe. So, back to the house I went to mix up some lamb formula (milk replacer). She guzzled it right down. I went out two hours later and gave her some more.
I decided to try to get her to nurse from Sage (I really did not want a bottle baby), so I tied Momma up again. But, try as I might, I could not get that baby to latch. I left them alone again to see if they could bond some more. I came back later, and her tummy wasn't empty, so I was sure she must have nursed at least a little bit from Sage. (Oh, I had had to file her teeth a bit, because thay were very sharp). I kept checking throughout the afternoon, and, every time I checked, she seemed to have something in her tummy. She was never as full as her brother, but not empty, either. In my experience with multiples so far, this is often the case...one will always be a little on the low side of the other. She was active, not lethargic, so I decided to take the "wait and see" and "let nature take it's course" for a little bit.
In the evening, when we got the sheep up to the barn for the night, she seemed a bit on the empty side again. I told Greg I couldn't go to sleep thinking she was hungry, so I fixed her a bottle and headed to the barn. For some reason, I grabbed my file on the way out. Something told me I should check her teeth again. Maybe Momma was letting her latch on, but if she still had a sharp tooth in there, she wasn't letting her nurse long enough to get full. She guzzled her bottle, and then I checked her teeth. Sure enough, I felt another sharp little ridge. I filed it down, and then we left the barn to head for bed.
When we arrived in the barn early in the morning, we found she had got into the ram's stall and was crying for her momma. Poor little thing, she was bleeting weakly as if she was just tuckered out. She was up and walking around, though, and was happy to see us! It had been suggested to me that we weigh her to see if she had lost weight since birth, and sure enough, she'd lost about a lb. So, resigning myself to the idea that I had a bottle baby on my hands, I was off to fix a bottle. But Greg said, "Why don't we try one more time to get her to latch on to Sage before you get a bottle?" I thought it was worth a shot, so I got the collar and leash, lassoed Sage again and got her tied to the gate. Greg held her leg up and I held the lamb up to the teet. At first nothing happened. But then I reached up and expressed a little milk. I held the lamb up again, she sniffed at it, she grabbed ahold of it and went to town! She let loose a couple of times, and then couldn't find it again, so I helped her out, and she'd suckle again. After she had a nice full belly, we let Sage's leg down. The lamb let loose, but then she found the teet on her own and kept going. Sage was being very calm and letting her nurse. No kicking, no trampling, no moving away! I was so overjoyed I cried!

I freed Sage from the gate, and she continued to let the lamb nurse. Then, when she was finished, Sage slowly started heading out to the pasture, watching and waiting for her little lambs, who followed right behind their momma.
We have decided to name the milk-chocolaty ram "Skor", like the candy bar. He has just a touch of frosting on him. I'm not sure, but I think this makes him a solid moorit (brown) with flashing. Or else he is a spotted moorit.

We are calling the ewe lamb "Marshmellow" because she looks like a toasted marshmellow! And she is so sweet! I believe she is a moflan like her beautiful momma.

Here's the little siblings lying in the grass.

Little Mr. Skor is to be the ram for our third breeding group. So, that gives us three un-related rams, all three a different color. I couldn't be more pleased.
One more ewe (Ursula, who is Cookie's momma) left to lamb. She is getting to be quite a blimp, so it has to be soon.