12.27.2010

It's a Lull

Pic: Yeah, you WISH you were this talented!
Flopsy's progeny, Generic Peeper, at bottom.
It's been unseasonably warm this Fall/Winter, and I'm doing my best to take advantage of this fact by catching up on odd projects. For example, the photo left shows the goose hutch, recently modified by adding new left and right openings. Our geese like to have a clear view out, and the hutch as it was before would rarely be used by more than one goose. Hopefully that will change. Cutting out the new entrances was my first experience using a circular saw doing unguided "plunge cuts" (kids, don't do this at home -- or at all). The result looks a little like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The geese, opinionated though they may be, have never had anything to say about architecture. Thankfully.

Pic: Left is Gertie, middle is ?, right is Billy-Bob.
The geese should start laying eggs any time now, but there's no sign yet that they're even thinking of doing so.  Last year they started dropping eggs by Winter Solstice. This year? Not even a hint of territorial crabbiness. No pairing for "snuggles" in the Pool of Woo. No cheering on of others "snuggling". Nada. We've lost four geese this year - Godzilla, Princess, Gina, and Miss Cecily - and have gained a new Buff Pilgrim goose, adoptee "Purdy" Gertie. I've been wondering how Billy-Bob, the lone gander, is going to handle having a whole harem to himself. I'm sure he's not worried.

12.08.2010

Learn to De-Worm

It's that time of year when the hens slow down their egg-laying proclivities - the less light available during the day, the more they slow down. Commercial farmers get around this by using timed, artificial lights to keep the production high, but the drawback is this method also shortens the lifespan of the hen. Not something I'm interested in doing, as most of our hens are pets. [There, I said it, I admit it. If it wasn't blatantly obvious, I love our squawky, fussy little fuzzybutts.] Thankfully, our girls are still laying enough eggs to sell through the co-op and to individuals, which in turn buys their organic feed (and a bit more to make up for those slacker geese).

Fall or Winter is also a good time to de-worm. The problem with the usual deworming method is that it requires you to destroy any eggs laid during the deworming process. Pretty intense chemicals are used. On one hand, you KNOW that the girls are going to emerge from the process "clean as a whistle" when using these chemicals. On the other hand, I wonder if such heavy-duty chemicals are really necessary every year, unless there's a major infestation*. So this year, I'm trying out Verm-X and pumpkin seed smoothies.

You can read more about Verm-X at their site. Basically, Verm-X is an herb/spice combination that is supposed to have deworming properties. You can get it in liquid form, or feed pellets. One challenge, however: the girls drink and forage in so many places that I can't guarantee they're ingesting enough (or any) of the formula. Tried soaking bread scraps in the liquid Verm-X as an alternative suggested by their site, but the girls wouldn't touch the stuff - it has that potent a scent! After chatting on Twitter with a couple other hen-addled folks, came up with a solution: pre-soak scratch grains in Verm-X. This gives the Verm-X time to "off-gas" some its scent, making it more approachable. The girls are now eating the grains.

I also took home a bunch of free pumpkins from the garden nursery a few weeks ago -- one person's old Fall decorations are another person's home canning project -- of which the pumpkin seeds can be used as a dewormer. Grind fresh seeds in a food processor with some unsweetened bio-active yogurt, and serve. This recipe is what the girls REALLY love. Figure I'll make this smoothie recipe for the remainder of the six-week de-worming process (the Verm-X will run out before then), and see how it goes.

Supposedly back in "ye olde days", those who worked with animals on farms were also encouraged by country doctors to do a regular de-worming regimen (and of course, I can't find the links where I first read this). There are plenty of herbal parasite cleanse methods available to humans over-the-counter. It's been three years of owning animals, so I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt if I were to do one as well. And thankfully, I don't need to worry about throwing out my own eggs.


*NOTE: [start legalese] Be sure to talk to your vet or doctor (whichever is appropriate) before undertaking any parasite cleanse. This blog article is provided for information purposes only. [end legalese]

12.01.2010

Growing Ducks & Chickens

Remember these little fuzzballs? Look at how they've grown:


Ducks are so. freaking. adorable. Adorable, I tells ya! They squeak, quack and waddle. They swim like seals, speedy/sleek through the water. They think I'm evil, but I hug 'em and squeeze 'em when I can. I can't wait for the big waterfowl pen & pond to be finished, just so I can pull up a chair and watch them swim and play. "If we had adopted ducks first" Spouse bemused, "I don't think I'd ever have wanted to get geese." [Blasphemer!!]

Pic of Maggie. Would this
sweet face steal eggs?
Oh yes, in a New York minute.

It will be a few months yet before the new ducks start laying eggs, but when they do, this particular breed can lay at least four eggs per week, oftentimes more. Whether we can gather that many eggs to sell is dependent on how quickly we can find them on the property before Maggie does. Since we've tightened up the entrances to the hen house, Maggie no longer has easy access to the laying boxes, and has missed her daily egg snack. Woe was Maggie! She finally figured out, however, that the eggs the one mature duck lays - Moe -  are NOT those fake porcelain eggs we put into the egg boxes to encourage the chickens to "lay local". They are quite an acceptable substitute. It's a race in the mornings between canine and hominid to find Moe's latest laying spot. Moe likes to keep us all guessing and switches up her laying spots often.

Now, for the chicken update: Flopsy and her baby are doing well. We had to set them up in their own quarters, as some of the other hens weren't too clear on the fact that the chick wasn't a new squeaky toy (no worries, the chick was/is unharmed). We set up one of the chick brooding kennels for their nighttime digs  - a big plastic dog crate with an adjustable heat lamp affixed to its ceiling  - and lined it with hay. Since it's been dipping below freezing temps at night here, the crate's heat lamp keeps the girls cozy. There's also a goodly amount of protected, fenced-in space for Flopsy & chick to scratch and sun in peace during the day. The chick is already sprouting wing and tail feathers, but since I'm not handling her much, she shies away whenever I'm around. Feeling dang lucky to have caught these photos: