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The Drama That Ensued

The hens had been up and gone with the new chicks. All through the day the nests sat empty except for unhatched eggs and the stench of rot. We decided to start cleaning. The only problem was that the hens and chicks were back for the night. Something had gotten into the eggs though, and a few were laying scattered about. We picked up one egg, laying far off from the nest and the children fought over who got to throw it into the dump.
8 won by refusing to relinquish his grasp on it. He threw it and it bounced off some boards and fell to the ground. My daughter told me it was bleeding. I thought we might as well look at the chick that hadn’t made it and get a bit of a biology lesson from it. But the chick that hadn’t made it… had.
Up until then he had been just fine. There amidst the broken egg shell was a perfectly formed baby chick. Egg yolk not yet absorbed and vessels not yet hardened off. He wasn’t dead just not ready to hatch yet. We had killed him, he just wasn’t gone yet.
I picked up the gasping chick and held him in my hand. Instead of, or as well as, a biology lesson we got a lesson in morality. I told them how all babies, even, or especially, those about to die needed to be held and loved. I nearly sobbed over this poor dyeing chick. The children looked at it and looked at me. Then they wanted to know, when could they throw more eggs?
Little monsters
Now that I knew there were at least a few of the eggs in the nest that were still viable I called my friend who is hatching geese in her incubator. She very kindly offered to let me put my chicken eggs in with them.
I covered myself fully with long sleeves and gloves and went to fetch the eggs. Reaching under attacking hens, blindly grasping for eggs I was afraid I would smash chicks so I picked up the yellow hen and set her next to the nest. As I did so chicks fell out of her like large rain drops. Plopping to the ground around her. I foolishly thought the hens set on the chicks, I didn’t realize they burrowed into her like worms. Or ticks, big fluffy ticks.
At my good friends house we turned the children out to play in the yard while we went down to the basement and candled the eggs. She started out doing it but the stench of rotten egg was making her sick so I took over. Out of around a dozen eggs the first few we did were bad. I was beginning to feel like an idiot for rushing these rotten eggs to her house to save. Then we found a good one, then another. The last one I was starting to say was yet another bad one, look it’s cracked, when she broke in that it wasn’t cracked! It was starting to hatch! Couldn’t I hear it?
Listening for a moment I realized that I could hear the tiny peeps coming from inside! We left it there to do its thing, scrubbed our hands, and took the goslings out to play with the children. That egg and one other has hatched. Repulsed by the lingering smell of rot she re-candled the eggs and found two more bad ones and with those gone it smells much better in her hatching facilities. There are still two more to go. Are they good? Will there be four extra chicks? We are waiting to see! And here I thought the excitement of the saga of the hens ended when the first set hatched.

 

Category: Chickens  One Comment

We Have Chicks!!

They hatched Tuesday. Eight in all. Beautiful little pale yellow and white chicks with brown highlights on heads and backs. Both mothers are clucking after them worriedly. Yesterday they finally took them away from the nest and out to explore the world. When we checked the nest they were gone. As we crawled in to look at the remaining eggs we spied a little ball of fluff hidden in a corner.
One of the chicks got left behind.
We picked it up, cuddled it, and loved on it, as we went in search of the hens. They had found a good soft spot in the dirt and were proceeding to show the chicks how to scratch. Although they cast a wary eye on us as we got close we were able to sneak in close enough to set the chick down and send him off towards them. The took him right in not noticing he hadn’t been there all along.
Back at the barn things smelled of rotten eggs. After being set on for two extra days as the chicks got big enough to roam the remaining eggs hadn’t hatched. It was time to clean house. And that was where the drama began….

 

 

The Saga Of The Hens, Continued

They are still sitting. Most of the time. When we’ve been to check on them the young yellow hen will be off sometimes getting a snack and a drink I always picture the older spotted hen being somewhat disapproving of the young mother. I see her clucking in dismay as she ruffles her feathers, that yellow hen, she should be here with her chicks, not off roaming around, humph. She’s a young mother and not settles enough to raise chicks.
But we looked today and both hens were off roaming together. They appear to have settled their differences and the older experienced speckled hen is going to put disapproval aside and mother these chicks together.
Hopefully, the eggs do hatch. I see one of them got broken. They are dark when candled, with only the air sack showing light through. My more experienced friends tell me that is a good thing. Shouldn’t be to much longer now if they are going to do it.

A Stolen Family

Last year one of the hens tried to hatch some eggs. She found a good, well hidden spot, she sat quite determinedly, but nothing happened. It could have been that we didn’t have a rooster.
She wanted it so bad and I felt so sorry for her that this spring I called around until I found a rooster to borrow. We went and got him and brought him home and the hen showed no sign of wanting to set. I was a little annoyed with her after all the trouble I went through on her behalf.
Then a different hen settled in on a clutch of eggs. Satisfied that at least one hen was going to make use of the borrowed rooster we started keeping a close eye on her in her hidden spot out in a barn. She was sheltered through snow storms, out of wind and rain.
But then the hen from last year decided to join the party. The speckled hen has pushed the yellow hen off the nest. Not that the yellow hen has given up, she still sitting happily next to the nest. I’m not sure what proper protocol is for this. The speckled hen certainly seems to have broken quite a few rules of etiquette here, stealing another hens nest can’t be considered polite! Maybe it will be to both of their benefits in the end. Shared mothers to a shared hatch. We will have to wait and see how they do. Until further notice we are on chick watch!

 

Category: Chickens  One Comment

I Don’t Know Where To Start

There are so many things I’ve wanted to talk about lately and I haven’t found time for any of it. I need to look back through all the pictures I’ve taken to remind myself what we’ve done. I finally got the garden written about. I haven’t mentioned any of the chicken adventures, or the corn planting, or what ever else there has been.

Some how I missed corn planting. But it’s planted and getting rained on. Hopefully it will be warm enough for it to come up. The home made GPS worked beautifully, even if the John Deer planter didn’t hardly work at all. Yay for John Deer. We will stick to Case.

Run Ragged

I am noticing that I am happiest when quite busy, with days of nothing mixed in for recuperating, but the way we’ve been going lately is more than a little ridicules.

We, which doesn’t always mean me, have been getting cattle sorted and worked to go to pasture. I have taken my turn at providing that always necessary child care. It makes more sense for me to stay home anyway since I am the one with the baby. I have not gotten in on any of the sorting but the goblin child went along this morning to play cowgirl, until she fell asleep on the front of the four wheeler.

Princess Onna is at the vet now waiting to be bred. We have many conversations around here about how the vet is going to put a baby in her tummy. She had a couple of small issues but I guess things were looking good and she should be ready to go. I on the other hand was woefully unprepared. I didn’t get the money and paper work mailed off until the last minute and it just barely got there in the nick of time. Here’s hoping for a healthy beautiful foal. I really don’t have a color I’m hoping for, I bred to a grulla for the bloodlines not the color weird I know, but I would like a little filly and am really liking Ruth Ann for a name at the moment.

It keeps raining and the guys are  frantic to get in the fields. Even if not for the rain the fancy new (used) planter is still not working despite the days they have put in working on it. Maybe they will be back to the little old one if they can ever start planting.

The garden is nearly nonexistent. A few bedraggled potatoes, some onions and cabbage all planted before the snows. The tomatoes and peppers sit in the greenhouse waiting for warm weather and dry soil getting a bit lanky and pale. Even the plants planted in the greenhouse are wishing for some sun so they can grow.

I have way too many chickens to take care of. It takes me hours, slight exaggeration, to feed them once I am finally able to get 8 to sleep so I can get out in the cold rainy weather. Warm days are easier.

I have traded Whackster, Poppies calf from last year, for a pretty little Normandy heifer. I should probably mention it to my father in law, make sure he’s willing to give me pasture for yet another cow before I finalize the deal.

But the thing that makes it all difficult, the straw that broke the camels back and keeps me up nights worrying is summer camp. For some insane reason I agreed to teach a class. It was pity, they were desperate, probably the only reason they asked me anyway. But still, what was I thinking? I am terrified of talking in front of people, I have never taught anything in my life. It may be glorified babysitting for, hopefully not very many, pre-K kids but still. I can brand, I can castrate, I can drive a semi, manual or automatic, I can start a colt and turn a cow on the fence, once or twice I have even managed to watch the nursery at church with all the children surviving unscathed but this I don’t think I can handle.

None of this on it’s own would be such a big deal if not for one little time drain. How does one small child take up so much time? The time I spend getting him to sleep alone would allow me to get the house clean. How do people do anything with a baby to watch? He a cute little thing but so amazingly high maintenance. Who would’ve thought it.

There’s good reason people don’t ask me to babysit. Our idea of fun involves getting dirty and collecting lots of ticks!

 

Woman’s Work

We branded my cow herd Thursday. All four calves, and the cows. The last one had calved and I wanted to get it done as soon as possible. Snow put it off the first time I planned to try. I talked to a friend and she was free Thursday. The two of us would have no problem running such a small bunch through the calf table. Then I thought I would see if the girl who has been coming out to ride with me wanted to come. Then her sister was there when I asked and I couldn’t not ask her. Then I asked another friend and she wanted to come play with us too. Then finally it occurred to me that we had a big enough crew to do a lot more than four head.

I talked to my father-in-law and volunteered to do one bunch of his cattle for him. He then invited himself to our branding. You really can’t tell a man he can’t come brand his own cattle so he came and invited a friend of his own. So much for our all girl branding. Since the boys were crashing our party we were thrilled when my husband with many jobs was able to get away from one of them to come play with us too.

The girl who’s been riding with me rode Jerry to help get the cows in. We got mine in first with the help of the worlds only cow goat. Then we braved more of the deep mud to get the big bunch. The goat came right along for that too. So did a couple of the guys. The gate to that pen is at the bottom of the hill. The mud and muck was indescribably deep. Not quite as bad as quicksand, there is a bottom to it down there somewhere. It was half a corral that was as bad as the gate that gave us so much trouble trying to get the cows out of the corrals last week. Even the top of the hill had deep, greasy mud.

Most of the cattle went out the gate nicely. All except for the last two calves who were delighting in out running us in the muck. Unwilling to run our horses they had no trouble until along came Daisy. She had no trouble running on the slick ground and the calves soon discovered it was no fun after all and ran straight out the gate.

We got back to find my cows in the chute waiting. They wanted me to brand my own and that would’ve been great but our much beloved Poppy was up first and I could barely stand to do it. Unfortunately The Goblin Child’s first introduction to branding was me saying “Poor Poppy” and she repeated it somewhat distressed throughout the whole process.

I took up position in the back pushing calves in and Paula came to join me, leaving Heather to brand and vaccinate with the father-in-law. That left four people to get the big bunch sorted and ready to go. It worked great. When we started the big bunch the children were happily foisted off onto the two youngest girls. That I consider child care a job to deserve more thanks than working cattle shows just how twisted we are doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just that we do it all the time, and love it, but the chance to play at things we got to do before children came along makes it seem like more of a chore. It was sure nice to have someone to help watch kids.

With the big bunch nearly done I snuck out behind the barn with my husband to, well unfortunately to start loading cattle. Oh well, you can only have so much fun in one day. The Goblin Child’s favorite playmate, Whitten, was sad to have to leave as we were climbing in the semis to haul the cattle so we invited him to come along while his mom ran errands. It was all fun and games until we stuck the semi.

Even with all the moisture we’ve had lately the driveway looked dry. We pulled in to back across the road into the pasture to unload. Unfortunately the exact spot we stopped to start backing had a small puddle just big enough for all the back tires and they sunk. We unloaded there and there were enough of us to carefully guide the cows and calves across the road through the gate. I then called Whitten’s mom to tell her we were stuck and she may never get her son back. She came to rescue him immediately. Like rats fleeing a sinking ship we begged rides from her. As we prepared to escape the men got the semi free and we decided to stick around after all.

That days work may have been finished but the next day brought more calves and the next. Paula made it back for another days work at the calf table even though she would far rather rope and drag calves. Hopefully the others will come back again too. We are now out of sorted pairs to work and get out to pasture and the rain has set in again. That’s just fine we all have injuries and sore muscles that need a days rest to recuperate.

 

Just Wrong

That’s all that can be said about this it’s just plain wrong. We are going into Memorial Day weekend. Today is the last day of school, they are supposed to be outside enjoying a track and field day. Playing in short sleeves on green grass. You really can’t have a snow day on the last day of school.

Playing With Ponies

 

Cleaning Corrals

We got the pairs out of the well flooded corrals this week before more rain came in. They had weathered the storm pretty good with minimal losses, only one dead, one very sick and two lame probably stepped on. All four of those were in the same pen.

I saddled Coyote and put on his big cow working bit. I mock all those people who move up to bigger bits to control their horses and here I am with my big cow working bit. Sigh. But let me explain. We usually ride in a halter, bareback. He walks, mostly, quietly and responds to the lightest touch of leg or shift of seat. He loves to work cattle, it is very exciting and requires clearer commands under higher stress then trail riding. Halters, like hackmores, don’t give  clear commands. He has told me he does not like a snaffle. So here we are in his big cow working bit. (this is about like it, ours isn’t as fancy) He responds nicely to it no matter how hopped up he is. And he gets slightly crazed.

Anyway, we waded through knee deep mud pushing the cattle out. Pretty simple, they wanted to go, I fought to keep Coyote to a walk. He has beautiful, perfect, sound legs like iron but he is getting a bit of age on him and this was horrible, sucking, leg sticking mud. The last thing I want to do is lame my beloved pony, he wanted to go. Fast. We pranced.

One bunch of cattle, the ones with all the problems, had one gate they had to go through. The mud in it was awful, worse than everywhere else even. All the cows and calves struggled through and got out it. Except our three problem children.  The sick one said no he was not getting up his mom ran over to stay with him, problem solved. The not so lame calf followed the others out the gate. Or to the gate. Once in the gate he sunk to his belly in the sticky mud and was stuck. My father-in-law started to follow him but was persuaded to let me do the honors. He’s no spring chicken and doesn’t need to be trying to walk in that mess. I am no spring chicken either, but I am slightly springier.

I tied Coyote with his reins, hooked to his halter I know how quickly he can slip a bridle off, I didn’t need him stepping on me in his crazed state, and wadded in. And promptly got stuck, lost a boot and nearly fell over a couple of times but was able to get the calf free. Making my way back to Coyote I found him looking disappointed to still be tied with his bridle plopped into the muck beneath him. I was a little grouchy by then and short on clean places to wipe it so I put the bit back in his mouth, filth and all.

We pushed them out to the corrals that were dryer and open to the pasture then came back for the last calf. He was of course stuck in the mud. Once again being young and agile, it’s all relative, I dove in. The father-in-law started to follow but was happy to wait on dryer ground to serve as anchor. I reached a hind leg and drug the calf towards me gaining a foot or so then grabbed the outstretched hand of my father-in-law and pulled as I let go of the calf grabbed a boot and yanked first one foot than the other free moving slightly closer to high ground. This was repeated over and over as we gained inch after precious inch.  Finally he was free of that mud hole. We were still in the same pen though with the gate between us and freedom.

Thank goodness for payloaders. It plowed it’s way into the gate and gave the little guy a ride out of there. We found the problem, a broken leg, and set it before hauling him out to the cows. I haven’t heard any news of him and with 8 I can’t get out to see for myself hopefully the leg heals nicely.