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small scale livestock raising

Turkeys do NOT gobble

One of the joys of raising animals is really getting to know them in terms of behaviors and sounds. Roosters, on the one hand do crow with a sound that hovers in the ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ range. Even when the roosters are just starting to feel their oats (or, their hormones), they can make a weak version of this, but crowing it is.

We’re brand new to turkey raising this year and it has been truly delightful to find out that turkeys make a bunch of different noises. But, none of them sounds like ‘gobble’. What I think that refers to is more like a ululation. ululation

They also cluck and make a noise that sounds a lot like a ‘ping’ – sort of a “Star Wars’ sort of noise. Again, I have no idea who’s doing what (supposedly the tom’s ‘gobble’ and the hens ‘cluck’ but I think they all ‘ping’.

As you can see, they look a LOT more like turkeys than the last time we took a look at them for you and they are starting to puff up and present ‘display behaviors’ a lot more now. But we have the rest of the summer and into the fall before they will be big enough to be recognizable ‘painted on a china plate’ turkeys.

Catching up out in the barnyard

That’s really not quite the correct turn of phrase because we are basically moving most of the animals around in movable pens to new grass every day, but it will do.

As you may recall, the chicks and turkey poults arrived, aged three days, in the middle of May. (more…)

Raising Small Livestock: The Devil’s in the Details

A lot of people would like to raise some sort of livestock – whether it’s chickens or pigs or lambs or whatever – but they are stopped by lack of experience and fear. Actually, raising animals is pretty simple (not necessarily easy – which is a whole different deal):
– Make sure they have the nourishment that works for them.
– Make sure they have protection from predators.
– Make sure they have water. All the water they can drink. There is no such thing as too much water for livestock. Trust me on that one. (more…)

Sheep: From the Hooves Up

As Aunt Toby said before, there are a couple of items in terms of raising sheep that if you get them right, everything else pretty much falls into place. One of the most important is keeping hooves trimmed. Years ago, I attended a talk by a ruminant specialist from Cornell, who had done a lot of work in Scotland. She said the greatest promoter of sheep health in the Highlands was…the ATV. With an ATV, shepherds could get out to even the most remote, marshy, inhospitable areas where they sheep were holed up (sheep always look for the most remote, marshy and inhospitable places to park themselves; it’s part of their mouflon heritage) to check them, check their feet, do trimming and so on. She was a huge promoter of hoof trimming. (more…)

Want Sheep? Learn This.

So, you are thinking about raising sheep. Or, maybe it’s goats. It’s probably NOT cattle because just the thought of raising a cow or a beef animal is so daunting – we’re talking a creature that ends up weighing almost as much as a small car.

If one of those babies steps on your foot, you will NOT be wearing Manolos again. Trust me; I know.

But there are many aspects of raising sheep, goats and cattle that are the same, so … just pick one and learn to care for them really really well and you’ve got the whole class licked. Ruminants – it’s what’s for dinner. There are two areas where, if you learn to get them right, you’ve got 90% of ruminant health licked (in a good way): the digestive system and the hooves. I’ll do this in two parts, the first being the digestive system. (more…)

Electro-Netting for Sheep

And, I’m back. Sort of. The orthopedist’s visit last week was a success and I’m assigned to start physical therapy tomorrow. I have to admit that I’m not really looking forward to this. It’s going to hurt and there is no way to step around that fact but it’s the only way I’m going to get even close to the mobility I had with the arm before I had the accident and broke my shoulder.

It’s been a little bit tough to put together content here because so much of what I do requires two hands but I’ve got something today because the two hands (well, technically the four hands since it is The Boy and the DH who did it; I just stood there and documented it) were provided by others. (more…)

The Little Red Hen Moves

Far be it from me to make the claim that Aunt Toby and the DH are experts at raising chickens or hatching chickens with a broody hen. Chickens, as I have noted before, are the ‘gateway drug’ of livestock raising: as long as you can keep them save, fed and watered, you are good to go. You don’t really need to be an expert first to raise them. In all the years we raised chickens in a henhouse, we only had one hen go broody, and she was part of a ‘matched pair’ of Old English that a co-worker of the DH’s gave to us. Most chickens have had broodiness selected out of them because a broody hen does not lay eggs, (more…)

Well, let’s not brood about it

This past weekend, it became obvious to us that we had one resident of the chicken community out in the barn who was, as that song from Sesame Street goes, ‘not like the others.’

Our little red hen, the Bantam we got as a gift, was starting to molt (that is, lose her feathers) and was hunkered down in one of the nesting boxes and was positively nasty. Wouldn’t leave; wouldn’t allow anyone to put their hand underneath her and frankly had taken on this sort of ‘loose baggy’ sort of appearance.

She’s gone broody. (more…)

No chix-sicles at Chez Siberia

barnAnd in our last chicken-y episode, the hens had started to do their egg-thing and life seemed to be going along beautifully. We get more eggs now on a daily basis and they are bigger eggs too, though every once in a while, we get a ‘peewee’ one.

But, we always knew, the DH and I, that at some point this fall, we were going to have to bring the chickens inside..someplace. The climate at Chez Siberia (Zone 4 on a good day) gets into the ‘oh, crap it cold out there’ state pretty quickly.

Too quickly. It snowed – twice this week. A freak October storm for sure and we lucked out in only getting 2 inches of snow. It was not that cold – in the 30s – but it was a rather sharp reminder that winter is coming. The DH and The Boy had started the work on the barn last week to make a winter space for the chickens but we were certainly not in a position to move them yet. The barn is actually the original brooder house (which was heated by a series of coal stoves actually) for the chicken farm that Chez Siberia was in the 1930s and 1940s. It is long and low, with windows (or actually the remains of windows – the former owner used to keep his horses in there and they ‘removed’ the windows in short order) all along the south side. A couple of years ago, we came up with hinged shutters to close off the openings, but we did not get out to the end of the barn because we did not use that end of the building.

Well, now we need to use that end of the building, so we needed to clean it out (which we did). new wallsWe also put in a wall to make the space that we will be using for the chickens smaller (so that they are not trying to heat up the entire back of the barn with their body heat – they will stay warmer this way). These chickens are Light Brahmas Light Brahmas and are extremely large and fluffy birds with teeny ‘pea combs’ so as long as we keep them out of the wind and give them a space that is not too big, with the South-facing windows, they should be able to keep themselves warm through this winter.

shutterOrdinarily, we’d just put on the shutters, but we saw some interesting pictures of chickens in the snow and it gave us the idea that perhaps the birds would, on nice sunny days (and we get those starting in January), like to ‘take the air’ as they used to say. We plan to use some scrap lumber and old windows to make a 3-sided ‘sunporch’. We’ll open the shutter (it’s hinged at the top), snuggle the ‘sunporch’ up against the outside wall of the barn, put the shutter down across the top and hook it down to the outside of the ‘sunporch’. But, let’s say that we just want to give them some fresh air? The DH came up with some screens that just fit into the window openings. If all we want is fresh air, then we can open up the shutters. If we want to use the ‘sunporch’ then, we’ll take out the screens from the inside of the windows and shoo the chickens out into the sun.

screensWe’ll be able to do a bit of cleaning in their living space (always a job done much better and more ‘pleasantly’ in the winter rather than in the spring when the weather – and the manure – warms up) and get them some fresh air and sun at the same time. Win-win.

In the meantime, the chickens do not seem to have been fazed at all by the snow. And when I’ve gone out in the morning, I’ve had to knock the ice out of the waterers, so we’ve started taking hot water up for them and we are feeding scraps along with everything else to make sure they get plenty of calories. But soon..very soon, they will be coming into the barn for the winter.

Is There a Coffee Table Book in Aunty Toby’s Future?

Chickens are the ‘gateway drug’ of livestock raising: People who have no experience with farming see them as cute, easy to care for, safe to be around, non-toxic and benign.

Heh – little do you know… (more…)

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