Saturday, August 21, 2010

Visitors & Visiting

This summer has been overwhelmingly busy, and I know it's not just me. I've heard from other overwhelmed folks too. I'm falling behind in my blogging, and sometimes I feel like we're falling behind in house and garden work!

Leaving house/garden work aside, this post is about visitors and visiting. The visitors came last week in the form of Thea the cat and 4 chicks, ranging from baby to adolescent. Jeremy's sister's family went out of town and needed to farm out their menagerie of animals (there is a dog too, but we draw the line at dogs!).

Due to loss of one chick and some replacements, they have two older birds and two younger. But they seem to get along just fine. One of them is very large and very obviously a rooster. We heard his funny attempts at crowing a couple times while watching him. The family can't have a rooster where they live so we get to keep him. However, we'll only be keeping him till he makes a decent sized meal, another month or two I'd say.

Here they are running around outside in a pen we put up for them. I love that they're small enough to hide under the violets! Though this smallness will work against us in future days... (cue the ominous foreshadow-y type music...)

Last Friday I took Jeremy out of town on a little visit down south to a goat farm, Dancing Winds Farm. It's not really a working dairy farm any more, but Mairi still has some goats, a cute farm cat or two, and some great neighbors. In fact, it turns out her newest neighbor is someone Jeremy has known for 20 years! We had a great time relaxing, exploring the farm, chatting with Mairi, petting goats, going to a farm celebration at the neighbors, and then Mairi arranged for us to go milk some goats at a neighboring farm. Morgan and her husband have lots of goats and are milking almost 40 right now, twice a day. They sell to another local place that makes cheese which you can buy at the co-op.

Jeremy ended up milking three goats. Morgan made it look so easy it was amazing. It's definitely part science, part art, and a lot of practice! Here are some images from our trip:

Look at that milking action!

Back to that little rooster now. We returned home on Sunday and made a little isolation pen for the rooster inside our chicken coop. A guy that little would definitely be harassed by any group of chickens. So we made him a little spot with food, water, grit, a roost, and a little box to hide in (he certainly doesn't need it for eggs!).

That day we cleared out an area next to the run and fenced it in. We've been talking about expanding the run since last year, but there has been a rotating mountain of stuff stopping us from doing that, not to mention the fence there. We finally decided we might as well do with the space we had - especially since we'd just carved out 1/4 of the run for the rooster. Those girls needed more space! We secured the fence and put bird netting over the top, then Jeremy cut a hole in the hardware cloth creating a little doorway for the girls to exit the coop in the "extra run" as we're calling it. They are loving the new space.

Monday night we went for a walk around the neighborhood. We came back and Jeremy went out to close the door to the extra run. He came back inside and informed me that he could not find the rooster. He was not in his enclosure.

We both went out to look, me with a flashlight and Jeremy with his headlamp. I checked his enclosure and sure enough: no rooster. I looked all around the coop, no rooster. The girls were all innocently perched in the hen house ("what rooster? we don't know anything about any rooster"). No rooster in the hen house or the nest boxes or the extra run.

Ack! Where was the poor little guy and how did he disappear!? We were both afraid he would get eaten by some neighborhood cat or dog or racoon or who knows what. Jeremy went out the back gate looking in the alley. I started looking all around the coop amongst the piles of bricks, pavers, tall weeds, etc. Then I flashed my light over by the fence and caught sight of a fluffy whiteish bundle: our little baby rooster! He was snuggled up by the fence, his chosen sleeping spot for the night. Jeremy went around behind and caught him. We returned him safely to his enclosure where he promptly showed us how he had escaped. He jumped up and climed through a large hole in the fencing we'd used for his enclosure! Our fat girls couldn't fit through that gap, but he could. Then he simply ran through to the extra run and crawled under the fencing or found a big enough hole to jump through - again, something we don't have to worry about with our big fat girls. =)

We put some more fencing up with smaller holes so the rooster can't escape now. I sure hope we can integrate him with our girls eventually. I think he would be much happier hanging out with other chickens and not being confined to his own pen.

Okay, okay, more cute goats! Some videos I took:


Julie said...

So do you guys find it to make economical sense to raise chickens? My husband and i live in Minn. and were contemplating it. We did a financial analysis based on feed and chicken prices from a local farmer at lake street farmers market, and didn't think it would be economical.

If you want to check out my blog...

Aimee said...

Well, I don't know if it makes economical sense for us because we spent so much on our coop! I often hear the joke (though not really a joke) about the $500 egg, the $1000 egg, etc.
But I also know people who scavenged and found most of the stuff for their coops - spending perhaps one or two hundred, or even less.
If you get a good price on your feed and make sure they get a lot of greens from the yard and food scraps, I don't think food is all that expensive. We actually sell our excess eggs to friends and neighbors and we think, generally, the girls can pay for their food, but they'll never pay for their housing!
I think the pros/cons go beyond what you can figure out economically. For instance, chickens can eat a lot of food scraps that you can't really compost (like pasta). How do you put a value on throwing away less? Chickens create great compost with all their poop and the spent hay from the hen house. How do you put a value on that?
And the educational possibilities are endless. I know we've taught some things to neighborhood kids who never saw a real chicken before.