did i fail to mention turkeys?

I don’t know how I haven’t mentioned anything up to now about the turkeys. So on the first Chick Day, I picked up 3 turkeys as well. I am not the hugest fan of turkey, Thanksgiving is usually enough, maybe another time during the year. But that is all. I do know that along with the meat birds, I wanted to add turkeys to the freezer as well. However, if you read enough, you come away with a distinct impression that turkeys are not the brightest bulb in the box. They do crazy things like all pile on top of each other as chicks and suffocate the bottom one, or they find a way to drown themselves in the water dish. And overall, the turkey chicks just don’t appear to be as hardy as chickens. So I was going to stack the odds in my favor. I got 3. I figured even though I don’t know what I am doing, I should be able to keep at least one alive.

I chose the Bronze Broad Breasted. Like the meat birds, they were genetically bred to convert more food to meat, to the extent these birds can be enormous. After 6 months the males can weigh over 40 lbs. Because of their huge size they are unable to fly. They grow quick and are ready for processing at about 16 weeks depending how big of a turkey you want. They are unable to reproduce naturally because their size makes it impossible to bring everything together.

And then I met the chicks. They were inquisitive, not the least bit afraid of people, and just adorable. So different from the chickens. The turkeys wanted you to be there. They liked being picked up. More than once FarmBoy would bring the turkeys into the house and we would all watch TV together. That is what they were like. And day after day we still had 3. I didn’t lose any. So I had my Thanksgiving turkey and a couple of spares.

I ended up with two boys and a girl. And from an early age they understood their role. The two little boys would put on displays like they were full grown toms. Wings down, tail up. Absolutely adorable.

It was crazy. It was also nuts how much both FarmBoy and I are in love with these birds. They are so charming, so full of personality. If I had known how much I would love turkeys, I wouldn’t have chosen this breed. Because they are meat turkeys they need to be processed in a few weeks. But until then, they are charming. And getting big.

Cleo isn’t going to take on the turkey. In the pasture being King of the Hill is a big deal. This time it is a turkey.

Turkeys are naturally curious and not scared by much. It has been so hot here that I have a misting hose to cool things down. The goats won’t get near it. The turkeys don’t mind.

Next year I won’t be buying the Bronze Broad Breasted chicks. I am going to get a heritage breed. The Narragansett. They aren’t genetically modified. So we can keep a female and a male to provide chicks year after year. They will become pets. And food. Similar in look, just a whole lot smaller. The male may get up to 20 lbs or so.

and then there were four

I have been getting ahead of myself with the chickens. But I have goat updates. A couple of months ago I opened up Craigslist again, and yes, there were a pair of ADGA registered doelings. They were about 3 hours away, so a real road trip. Plans were made with the owner to meet her on Saturday morning at her farm.

Farm is sort of an understatement. When we got there we found a goat heaven. Hundreds of goats. So many babies, she was bottle feeding over 100 kids per day. And she had a bit of a hoarding problem, she can’t get rid of any of them. Even when had the goats in the truck, she still wasn’t sure she could get rid of them. So she has her hands full.

And we have Cleo and Delores.

I must admit, up to this point I had never touched a goat. We had Bernice and Agnes, but I had never held them, never spent anytime up close to them to get to know them. Cleo and Delores were different. While Bernice and Agnes grew up with their mother, they never learned how to interact with people. Cleo and Delores were bottle babies and came to know and rely on people. And love them. It turns out both of them were still bottle babies (we didn’t learn that until we had already driven the 3 hours to get there). So after a quick stop at the farm store we had nipples and milk replacer and were ready to go.

Instead of running around and busting through fences, these girls loved to be held.

But bottle feeding babies is not as fun as it sounds. First, they start crying. I can hear them from the house and they are in the barn just crying and crying. And then when they get the bottle, holy cow, stand back. They are nuts. They just slam it, the whole thing, without stopping. Very aggressive. And then they want to be held.

That didn’t last so long. Maybe a couple of weeks. Now they are eating goat food and whatever else they can find. There was a tiny bit of integration problem with them as well. Agnes and Bernice were the mean girls. However we have learned that some of what we were seeing (head butting, etc ) is just how goats play.

So now I have 4 goats. Do the math, if each has 3 babies (which is pretty common, but could have up to 5) … that is a lot of goat babies. Lot’s of bottles. FarmBoy can’t wait.

We will breed two of them this Fall. They will have their babies in April some time. Once they have given birth we will breed the other two to birth in the fall. A mother goat has to have a baby to give milk. So by doing a spring and fall breeding, we can make sure two of the goats will always be giving us milk.

Cleo –

consolidate trips

Since we were heading to the hatchery for the meat birds, why not pick up some additional layers? In our first layer hatchery run, they didn’t give us one of the breeds I had wanted and since then I saw another breed I must have. The Barnevelder and the Buff Orpington:

Well looking back, this probably wasn’t such a good idea. First, I didn’t realize the older chickens would be so stuck up. They don’t want anyone to join their little flock. And secondly, I didn’t realize that these new girls wouldn’t try to be part of the flock. It has been chaos.

As chicks, everything went well. They great up and became handsome looking birds. I have two of the Orpingtons and one of the Barnevelder, so it’s a little trio of michief.

When it was time to put them outside with the rest of the flock, immediately the older girls were up in their faces. I am new at this farm stuff, I didn’t realize chickens cared so much. So a few YouTube videos later I decided that we needed to isolate them within the flock, the girls can see each other, but they cannot attack. So FarmBoy set this up for us. During the day they were in a little pen within the big chicken run, and at night they would come back into the house. Then someone said I should put them in the coop at night. Apparently after dark, a chicken kind of just shuts down and the theory is when the girls wake in the morning and see the strangers, they will just assume they had been there all along.

Nope, that didn’t work either. The trio sleeps in the coop at night, but once they get out in the morning, the bedlam begins. I am not really sure what goes on, I think it is chasing just to be chasing and if the trio stopped and held their ground, the mean girls would go away. But no, it is just a circus.

When we set up the laying chicken coop we used an electric fence, not so much to hold the girls in, but rather to keep the bad things out. Coyotes, racoons, dogs, etc. Even though they are locked in the coop at night and safe, I was worried about the days when nobody is watching. For those of you not familiar, an electric fence is like a big net woven out of wire. And anything that touches those wires gets it. But the wire needs to touch skin. Feathers insulate. Fur insulates (that is why the goat busted through the electric fence the first night). So the fence didn’t hold the chickens in. The mean girls didn’t have a desire to leave their holy ground. But the trio of misfits soon learned the grass IS greener on the other side. So they have regularly have been escaping. Over and over again. FarmBoy goes out, gets them back in the fence, and out they come again. So I can look out the window, and see birds that don’t belong where they are.

These girls don’t belong on the deck.

Needless to say, I am getting a permanent fence installed right now. Fence wire doesn’t give, these girls won’t be getting out anymore. And before you worry, last night I watched one of the Orpingtons chase one of the mean girls back to her coop. It was too hot and she had taken enough of her crap. So I know they will be OK.

meat birds

Meat Birds. Two weeks after my laying hens I picked up my first batch of 12 meat birds. These are the birds that won’t become part of the permanent flock, rather they are being raised for meat. This is a tough one for me. When hatched, they are the cutest little balls of fluff.

But, unlike the laying hens, they only look like this for maybe a week. This breed is called Cornish Cross. It accounts for 99% of all of the chicken you find in your grocery store. As a commercial breed, they have been bred to grow at an incredible rate and to convert their food into meat at a greater rate than other chickens.

So while the other chicks were fluffballs for a few weeks, by week two, these birds have lost their fluff and replaced it with adult feathers. So after just 4 weeks, they look like this. And all they do is eat, sleep, and drink:

It was about now we moved them outside to their own coop and run. They loved the fresh air and the grass, but still only ate, slept, and drank. And gained weight.

I was new at all of this. Plus I struggled with the next steps on these meat birds, so I let them get very big. Their bodies are not meant to carry that much weight because they are usually processed earlier, but I put it off for a couple of weeks. Finally it was time, FarmBoy did the job. We have the first batch of 10 meat birds in the freezer.

We thank the creator for these birds so they can provide us with nourishment.

The second batch of meat birds were to be picked up later in the month.


But it wasn’t just goats that were being added to the farm.

The very next Wednesday was our first Chick Day. And once again, such a learning curve. There was a hatchery not so far away from us that I had selected to be my source for chicks. I don’t know what makes a good hatchery, but they were within driving distance. With the plague and all there were plenty of horror stories out there about people not receiving their chicks from mail-order hatcheries, and when they did, it was too late.

So I was lucky. About a day long round trip would insure that I was in control of the chicks. I had spent many weeks reading and studying and try to determine which chickens I would be getting. I knew I wanted meat birds. No problem. Check. But the laying flock was going to be my permanent flock. Hopefully I would have them for years. So I studied breeds, and temperaments, and laying statistics. In this first round I knew I wanted brown eggs (because they taste better, right?!) and I wanted some blue or green eggs. From my bucket list.

So me thinking I knew everything had called the hatchery a week ago or so to place my order. I didn’t know how hatcheries worked. They don’t hatch the same chicks every week. Plus, they have only so many eggs to hatch and they run out. Often. With the plague there has been such a shift to self sustaining homesteads that hatcheries across the country were selling out sooner than ever before. When I went to place my order, some chickens were sold out, others weren’t being hatched the week I needed to pick them up. So my well laid plans got all jumbled up and I had to think on my feet to determine which chickens I wanted to order. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, thinking on my feet is not one of my strengths.

So here are the chickens I settled on: Black Australorp, Delaware, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Ameraucana (for their blue or green eggs), Barred Plymouth Rock, and the Golden Sex Link.

It was simply amazing. I had chicks! I had setup their brooder and I was ready to go. Heat plate on. And everything worked out just fine. A couple of months later I moved them into their coop outside. As I look out my window I can see them running around in the front yard chasing bugs and leaves. Scratching for worms. And a dust bath just to feel good. It is so hot outside.

I don’t expect my first eggs until after 16 weeks. It will probably be my Golden Sex Link or my Sagitta that will start first. And it is so cute, every night at dusk, they all march back to the coop, find a roost, and they are in for the night. Makes it very easy on FarmBoy.

why stop at one when you can have two?

So Friday night, FarmBoy and I picked up Bernice. She pretty much freaked out. She learned real quick about electric fences, and she hates them. But it didn’t stop her from busting right through it, hot or not. Because of all of the stress, I decided to let her sleep in my sunroom the first night. She hated it.

I was worried that her stress was caused by being alone. She had come from a farm full of goats, her parents, and her siblings. So I peeked at Craig’s List again, and wouldn’t you know it, there was another ADGA doeling available. I inquired, she was still available, so plans were made for a road trip the next day. The 2nd goat was about 3 hours away, so quite a drive.

We pulled into this farm and I was blown away. The first thing I saw was a herd of highland cattle. For those of you who don’t know what a highland cow is, they have very long hair and horns. They look amazing:

I pulled up closer to the house so we could talk to the owner about the goat. FarmBoy went out to the stable to check it out. I was in the car with the dogs. And then the chickens came. Just free ranging throughout the property. Not just one, but an entire flock looking for bugs and bits for breakfast. Just amazing. That is what I want. This was the closest I had been to a chicken with the exception of Molly the Broody Hen (see first post). I didn’t care about the goats anymore, I was focused on chickens.

Until I met Agnes …

She was gorgeous. Beautiful markings. She is a little smaller than Bernice, but still a lap goat size. So now in the matter of 24 hours, I have two goats. Bam, just like that.

And yeah – they both slept in my sunroom that night –

the best laid plans …

So there is going to be a farm. Great. Now what.

I asked FarmBoy what we wanted to do with this farm. He said goats. I just fell off my chair. He wants to raise goats, milk them, make cheeses and the like and eventually have a big enough herd to sell of babies each year.

I was thinking he would say a big garden. Maybe a horse. But goats? There goes my ideas.

So when I knew this place would be mine, we started drawing up plans and ideas. The property comes with a barn and a feed shed. Nice. The property comes with acres of pasture for haying. Convenient. I have everything I need. There is no reason not to have goats. So FarmBoy built and electric fence and we were ready to go.

Meanwhile, I am moving forward with my chicken obsession. Coops were bought, chicks were ordered. Plans were made. Somehow the chickens had pushed the goats aside. One day FarmBoy and I were chatting about goats. Let’s wait until next year he said. Let things settle down for us. A lot of people would do just that. For me, I took it as a challenge. I am not patient, I have never been good at waiting until next year. So “just for fun” I did a search of Craig’s List. And wouldn’t you know it, they had an ADGA registered Dwarf Nigerian “doeling” (little girl) for sale. I made some inquiries, it was still available. So we went from Next Year to loading up the truck to go pickup our first goat.

Meet Bernice –

In this photo she is about 5 months old. She has the blue eyes that make her such a special goat. I hope all of her babies have blue eyes as well! If you have noticed her ears are green, no, that isn’t an error in the image. Goats registered with the ADGA should have a tattoos in both of their ears which records the year she is registered as well as the breeder’s farm designation. As for the “Liberty” necklace, Liberty is her given name, but she looks more like a Bernice to me. And oh my, does she have attitude!

To keep the image in context, Bernice is a Dwarf Nigerian. Today she weights about 26 pounds and is maybe 20″ tall at her shoulders. Just a little thing. Like a small to medium dog. She fits easily on a lap.

and then there was a farm

So how did this all begin?

I have lived in a city all my life. When I was growing up, my mom was always the adventurous one. Laws and ordinances were just merely suggestions. We moved to a small suburb in Wisconsin. And mom wanted ducks. So we got ducks. Then mom wanted geese. So we got geese. And then mom wanted guinea hens, and yep we got guinea hens. None of these were allowed in city limits, but like so many people, my mom made it work. The neighbors didn’t care. They didn’t make too much noise. We always had animals growing up.

One of the ducks decided to lay eggs around Thanksgiving. The ducks weren’t broody and we wanted to give those eggs a chance. So my dad reached out to a farmer he knew and sure enough, he had a broody hen named Molly. So we took Molly on loan. She lived in our basement, in my mom’s craft room to be exact. Turned out to be a very bad idea. The Molly story is crazy, I will tell that tale in a future post.

But a single broody hen wasn’t good enough for me. I had chickens on my bucket list. I always wanted chickens. But I was a city guy. And I am less adventurous than my mom was so laws and ordinances mattered. Believe me, if I could have found a loophole in any of my homes I would have had chickens. But I didn’t.

Jump ahead 40 years. I have just moved in to a custom built home. Everything was of my design. The colors, the tiles, the kitchen, the faucets, the door knobs. You get it. A custom home. Everything is just as I wanted it. Building a custom home was also on my bucket list. I could check that box. Done.

But the charm soon wore off as the subdivision filled up. Gone were the open spaces. It was replaced by screaming children and trampolines. Every house had a barking dog. When my dogs bark I bring them in the house. My neighbors would leave them to bark all day long. Too many junk cars parked on the street. The city itself was too congested, too many people moving in without upgrading the infrastructure. So I called my real estate agent. I asked her if it made sense to make a change. It did. So I did.

I sold my beautiful custom home in the suburbs and moved into a farm in the middle of nowhere. The home is far from custom. It is very rural. I have never had a well before. I have never had a septic system. But it came with acres of pasture land and some water shares. Everything I would need.

And then there was the farm …

Hello world!

Agnes and Bernice – there will be more about these two later!