Friday, April 27, 2007

The peeps are here... and the internet was down!

Wednesday morning we got the call from the PO... we have a box of peeping chicks for you.

Bev, Cindy, and I quickly got all the chores done. That meant feed the horse, the sheep, prepare the bottles for the lambs and get them fed, and make sure everything was right for the peeps, including turn on the brooder light to preheat their new home.

The gals at the PO had already "inspected" the chicks. Apparently they peek at each shipment... they're just so darned cute. They also told us this was the healthiest batch of chicks they had seen come through the Post Office this year.

Our hatchery of choice is Welp. They're located in Bancroft, IN, but have "satellite" facilities elsewhere. Our chicks originated in Albuquerque, NM. That's one reason they are so bright and healthy.
We taught each how to drink before moving them to their new home. What a hoot! Mom was inspecting each one before handing them off to either Cindy or myself. Bev was taking the pictures.

Their brooder is in the chicken coop so we never have to fully relocate them, just remove the carboard from around them and spread more shavings. We can even expand the brooder in a week or so when they really become active.
Ok, so what did we get?

We got 5 Astrolorp females and 5 Astrolorp males, 5 Plymouth Barred Rock females, 5 Buff Orpington females, 5 White Rock straight run, 5 Golden Laced Wyandotte straight run, and 5 Silver Laced Wyandotte straight run.

That will give us a good assortment of brown egg layers, as well as some very tasty meat. Mom wanted lots of "color" so we have black, black and white, brown and white, red, golden, and white birds.

The first day we monitored them every 30 minutes and then finally every hour. By bed time, we were pretty confident, but I did get up at 1 AM to check/adjust the temp and then again at 6 AM.

Believe me, our dogs think we're nuts. We finally had to leash two at a time and take them on a farm tour after the big black Lab (the only one that gets out without a leash) reported back to the rest. She's still patrolling the coop exterior looking for a way in... I figure she'll be a great help if we ever have a problem.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 10:05 AM :: (1) comments

Friday, April 20, 2007

More bummers, more worms, and chicks arrive soon...

Since my last update, we've dug a 160 foot trench two feet deep and put new heavy wire into our well, dug out a broken water line, received two more bummer lambs, ordered and received another 2000 redworms to re-start our worm project, and have finally ordered our chicks.

The water line issue was really an emergency. It was supposed to be a "dig, find, and replace" of an old leaky frost-free that's in our way at the chicken coop. Well, just 8 inches under the soil, we found dripping... that's never a good sign when you expect the junction at a depth of at least 30 inches.

To complicate matters, the idiot who built this place ran underground electric wire in the same hole. He had both 220 volt and 110 volt. Thankfully our neighbor across the road had a tester so we could confirm it was not hot. What we still aren't sure of, is whether or not it's connected to either the main service or our panel.

Oh, that project took over 10 hours and we had to call more neighbors in to help us... Not a fun day!

The electric wire to the well was to solve a safety issue. For whatever reason, the previous owner allowed a contractor to run 14/3 wire 160 either just a few inches below the ground or on the ground, up and over the wall to the well. Last year the pump had to be replaced and this is most likely one of the causes.

We were finally able to get the project done correctly, digging a two foot deep trench, and encasing 10/3 wire in plastic electrical conduit from the point of exit at the house to the well head cover. Strange but for whatever reason, with the turning on and off of the water... the hot water heater is now screaming for replacement... does it ever end?

The chicken coop is nearly ready for the chicks. All that's left is to temporarily close off all the "ventilation" and build the rest of the brooder. Cindy and I will get that done this weekend.

Freezer is growing fast. I'm starting to wean him now as he's getting more than enough nutrition. He's so funny when I let him out to play. Since his pen is only about 8 by 16, I like to let him run around when I'm working outside.

Our little female bummer is a screamer. She's so loud we had to move her to the garage, just to get some sleep. She screams for attention... not because she's hungry. Here she's meeting Sarah.
Last night, a neighbor brought us a crippled up bummer. Now, this may sound cruel, but we're using him as a "bed warmer" for her. He wants to live, but will never be able to stand. I'll keep him for about five days or so, and then return him to the sheep ranch to be put down properly.

Cindy has re-started the worm project. We had a 100% total failure that may have been caused by our alkaline soil. Our worms disappeared... and no, they didn't go walkabout. We frequent a forum of worm raisers and the only things we can identify are perhaps (no way to measure) a high ph and or salinity, and also not enough moisture.

This time, the worms are being raised in shredded paper, and are living in her bedroom. The temp is about 9 degrees warmer, so that should also help.

Our 35 chicks will arrive this week. We scaled the project back a bit to better fit our house as well as our budget.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 11:29 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, April 6, 2007

Very busy time here... getting things ready

Ah yes, it's been 10 days since I sat down to update this blog. I've found myself on the "business end" (that's the handle) of shovels, hammers, and other assorted hand tools as we continue to finish the chicken coop.

We've now prepped the "yard" and will plant grass seed this next week. At the same time, I expect to order our chicks (just waiting on some commission payments). There are a few little details to finish... "bird doors", a window in the man-door, as well as a vent. I need to construct the cardboard brooder guard and we have to finish the electricity. That could be as simple as using the outdoor extension cord, or maybe getting the actual line completed.

Monday we cleaned the sheep pen. I could smell rotting greens of some kind. When we had lambs in there last fall, they were very wasteful, not wanting to eat the alfalfa stems, so it would get tossed about the pen. With the frozen ground, snow and small flock of sheep romping and stomping about, it became quite compacted.

Cindy and I got it all raked and shoveled out. I must tell you that shoveling dry hay and pretty dry manure in a 15-20 mph wind was quite a challenge. Now they have a very clean pen. We also replaced the "lamb manger" with a large barrel. Voila! No waste... these animals eat everything.

Tuesday, I built our first real compost pile. Now... I'm taking this as a personal challenge since Cindy mentioned she's never built a successful compost pile.

This is an area where you have to ADD water instead of protect from water. To build it, I first layed out an area about six feet in diameter and built it up about 9 inches. Then I watered it well.

We have some extra cardboard strips left from the worm bin, so am using those, too. I placed just a single layer, watered well, and then added another 9 inches or so of manure/hay mix. That process continued until I ran out of the mix. By the time I was done, my pile was about 3 feet high. I watered it well to hold it in place and left it for the night.

Now, I didn't measure it directly after building it, but can easily estimate the starting pile temperature to be less than 70 degrees. Within 72 hours the pile temp is now over 112 degrees.

The last couple days, Cindy and I have been "hanging out" at a neighboring sheep ranch. It's lambing time, and by being there at the right time, we get an awesome education, as well as can get another "bummer" or two.

Lambs are being born almost faster than helpers and the head shepherd can get them moved. Our "job" yesterday was to watch for pregnant ewes in the big pen who were going into labor. Imagine this, you've got a pen of over 100 spooky pregnant ewes and you only want to move the ones who are going into labor.

Here's one gal that did make it to the small pen. If you look, you'll see the "water bag". Within five minutes the next little bundle (the bloody white newborn) dropped onto the straw.


Believe me, there were many more lambs born in the big pen and then moved, than ewes who were herded to the lambing pens. The trick with the one's born in the big pen is to get to them before the other ewes... if a newborn lamb is cleaned by an "auntie"... the mother will most likely reject it... creating an immediate "bummer" for us.

We prefer they have at least been cleaned and have had the first of "mother's milk" so they can get the important anti-bodies into their system before they have to be bottle-fed.

Mother's get a little tired of the constant need for milk. We got this shot shortly after feeding time. Several ewes have discovered they can shuttle the little ones into the manger and get some rest... this nursery contains at least 3 sets of triplets.

As for "Freezer", he's growing up. We moved him to his larger pen in the garage. He's getting three full bottles (20 oz soft drink type) a day now. When I go out to work, I let him out of his pen and he follows me around like a dog. If he's listening, he even comes to my call.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 10:14 AM :: (0) comments