Chickens, Guinea Update & Sheep

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Chickens in the grass.

Whew! Lots to write this week, even with the continual rain.

The girls are doing well, with Brownie and Quintuplets about the same size as Beulah and Winona. They look like they might get even bigger. They do alright in the rain, but when it’s really bad (we’ve had some incredibly severe thunderstorms), they go inside. But they generally remain out during light drizzles.

The keets are doing okay. I did lose the second chick, unfortunately, but not surprising. We¬† increased the output of the heat lamp — basically got a hotter bulb. My concern is that they weren’t warm enough, even though the temperature has been (until last night) very hot and humid. When I saw a third keet exhibit the signs the two that had died exhibited, I freaked and got that hotter bulb. That seemed to do the trick. The little thing perked right up, then went to sleep. They all went to sleep after a couple of minutes under that bulb. I feel horrible… maybe I wouldn’t have lost the other two if I had used that bulb from the beginning — I was honestly concerned about them overheating because of the weather. And a 20% attrition rate is normal, although sad. Well, I learned my lesson and will pay less attention to the weather and more attention to heating up chicks.

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It looks weird, but this configuration seems to work the best, giving the keets just enough heat without overheating them. They move back and forth between being under the lamp and laying on their food. I look forward to their having more room soon!

We also had a little problem with pasty butt. That’s when they defecate, and it gets stuck to their rear. So, I gently dipped their rear ends into warm water and gently cleaned their bums, then applied a light coating of antibiotic cream. I’ll keep an eye out to make sure we have no further issues.

Their appetite today has suddenly jumped. In addition to constantly watering them, I am now constantly feeding them. That’s okay. I want them to get big! I have to prep the next size container for when they jump up in size.

The other big highlight of my week, that I haven’t mentioned yet, was visiting a small sheep farm! I met a lovely woman, Maureen, at Farm to School. She raises sheep and was gracious enough to invite me out to see her operation. Of course I jumped at the chance!

She makes it look so easy. With a smallish flock of 14 sheep, she is able to rotate them from field to field with a temporary, solar-powered electric fence. They have minimum cover and stay outside unless there are extreme weather conditions. Usually horrifically low winter temperatures. Then they go in the barn for a day or two. She hires a professional shearer to shear the sheep, then does a high level clean of the wool and sells it raw. Awesome! Care for the animals includes annual vaccinations and the occasional nail clipping. And of course, ensuring they always have water, food, and minerals. Should I get a job (soon!), I may purchase a couple of her lambs in the spring. Then they can mow the lawn for me! And since my chickens are taking their own sweet time clearing the raised beds, I can stick the lambies in with them to help. It’s a win-win. I may even sell the wool. While it won’t be a money-making proposition, it would help offset the cost of winter feed a bit. Below are are couple of photos:

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I believe Maureen called these “calf” shelters. They are inexpensive, lightweight and easy to move. They provide great shelter during inclement weather.

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Lone little ducky. His siblings went to the great pond in the sky.

I’ll leave you with a link to a new, and favorite blog I’ve discovered, on women’s health. I think this doctor is absolutely wonderful and wish we had more like her. Let me introduce you to Dr. Leah Torres.

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What do you feed your chickens?

First, I have to say “Yeah!!! The sun is back!” Well for a little while at least. Gives me a great opportunity to air out the coop. And mow.

So, what do you feed your chickens? I’m not loyal to any particular brand — it depends on what store I’m at when I need it. Right now, it’s Blue Seal Egg Layer pellets. Other times, it’s Purina. I have not seen my birds showing a dislike for either brand. I supplement with uncooked vegetable and fruit scraps. I noticed my big girls do not like greens from the table and I’m not sure about the peepers yet. I have read of some people who feed their chickens all of their table scraps, but I tend to avoid that. And there are seriously hard-core folks who make their own chicken feed from scratch. I love my girls, but honestly, I just don’t have that level of commitment.

Of course, now the little dinos have all the fresh greens from the garden beds, and I will occasionally throw weeds in that I’ve pulled from the active garden space. Plus all the bugs and worms they can find. The more variety they get in their diet, the better their eggs are, both in flavor and nutrition.

Feeling a bit nostalgic today, so here are a couple of pics from my first flock for your enjoyment.

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And today’s soapbox is women’s health. I totally don’t get the movement that wants to remove government from all aspects of private life except women’s reproduction. It is irrelevant whether you think life begins at conception or two years after a child is born. Bottom line, women have the same right and expectation of bodily autonomy as men. Women are people and should be treated as such. And that most definitely includes her reproductive system. So, I’ve provided two links for your reading pleasure. The first discusses the harm to women these new forced-birth laws are having. The second is a full-on rant about how a certain form of reproductive treatment is under threat.

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