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03/31/09

Permalink 01:28:22 pm, by Karen Email , 167 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

They're ba-a-a-ck!

Well, the three little delinquents showed up this morning in time for breakfast. I suspect they spent the night under the shed. Although I looked under there last night as best I could, there are some areas that are hard to see. After everyone was out and about for a while, I happened to see three of the older ducks (that didn't disappear last night) coming out from under the shed, as if they'd been taking a tour or something... "oh yes, very nice, you say this is the family room?"... I wonder if they are checking out potential nesting sites.

Today I put up electronet to try to keep the ducks, chickens, and guineas confined to the back and keep them from coming across the front yard, and heading for the driveway and the neighbor's back yard. We'll see how well that works - I can't surround the whole back yard so if they go out of their way far enough, they can just walk around.

03/30/09

Permalink 11:20:20 pm, by Karen Email , 197 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Without a trace

Three Muscovies have disappeared - poof! - gone. They were there this afternoon when I went out to feed everyone, but at dusk when I went out to close up the chicken coop, there were only four ducks accounted for. Ken and I tramped around with flashlights, but no luck. Strange thing is, there are no tracks of any predator-type animal in what snow is left, although there are large patches of snowless ground, enough that some animal could conceivably have come and gone without contacting snow. But besides that, if they were grabbed by some predator, unless there were three predators that all showed up at the same time (unlikely), after grabbing the first and taking off there should have been a ruckus and it would have been hard to not hear that. AND, there should be some evidence - bunches of feathers scattered around for example, but there aren't.

The other possibility is that they went off somewhere and as it started getting dark, they decided to sleep where they were instead of coming back to the poultry yard with the others. This is what I hope happened, and that they will show up tomorrow.

03/29/09

Permalink 01:17:36 am, by Karen Email , 476 words   English (US)
Categories: Pasture

New home for house chicken

So we've had this chicken living in the house (see post from March 2nd) for almost a couple months now, and we've been trying to integrate her back into the flock. She had healed from her hawk-inflicted wounds, and grown almost all her feathers back.

A few weeks ago I tried to put her back out with the flock, but they picked her back bare and as she is white, any bit of blood just shows that much better and encourages more picking. Back in the house she came.

This week I have been letting the chickens out of their pen to free-range, since the snow has melted back significantly, and they can get into the woods and scratch around. I figured it was a good time to try to get the house chicken back outside as she was starting to grow new feathers in on her back, and she certainly looks better than a lot of the hens who are nearly bare-backed from being "ridden" by the roosters. With everyone roaming around, they would have other things on their minds besides picking on the "new" chicken, or so I hoped.

However, the roosters notice everything, and a "new" hen was not to be overlooked. It seemed to be going OK the last couple days. I would put her out in her crate where she could see everything but not be harassed right away, and then later in the day I would open the door. She'd come out and immediately the roosters would run over and jump on her to mate, but then they'd get distracted by something and go off elsewhere.

Today however, for some reason they were upset by her being around, and she ended up in the coop hiding in the corner while they did their alarm call over and over and over. By this evening she was again picked bare on her back, and was hiding behind the coop door with her head in the corner when Ken went out to close things up for the night. He brought her inside with him, in her crate. We set out some food and water and she went right to it, as apparently they had not let her eat or drink for most of the day. Then she walked around the living room for a while, and finally settled down behind a chair for a nap.

So, I posted to a couple of local email lists that we had a chicken looking for a new home, either with younger chickens that wouldn't harrass her, or in a pet home, since she's tame enough now that you can walk over to her and pick her up. Within 10 minutes I had a phone call and a new home was arranged. Hurray! I hope she'll do well there. It sounds like it will be a good fit.

03/27/09

Permalink 01:07:34 am, by Karen Email , 23 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Our new website!

Link: http://birchtreefarm.com

As of tonight, I have uploaded the files for our farm website, which now links to this blog. Please visit Birchtree Farm!

Thanks!

03/25/09

Permalink 02:20:00 pm, by Karen Email , 603 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Guineas are annoying

Can I just tell you how annoying guineas are? I mean, really, really, really annoying. We started with 8 guineas keets and high hopes. We now have 3 and our hopes are considerably lower. There's a pretty bad tick problem around here, and guineas love eating ticks and other creepy-crawlies. People who have guineas say they never see another tick after getting them.

However, guineas are very loud. They make a sound that has been characterized as "buckwheat! buckwheat!" They will go on FOREVER making this noise once they start up. They're sort of like watchdogs. Little annoying yappy watchdogs. They "go off" at anything perceived as dangerous, like, a leaf falling in the woods. You know, really scary stuff.

The other thing about guineas is that they appear to be really really stupid. One person described it this way: "All the guineas in the world share the same brain."

That pretty much sums it up.

As an example, they will fly over the fence and wander around the yard, or they will fly up into a tree, and then fly down. Then they walk over to the fence and run up and down the outside of it, because they can't figure out how to get back inside the poultry yard!

Last night one forgot to come in for the night, so she spent it up in a tree somewhere. This one also happens to be the one that makes the most unnecessary noise. This morning, just as it was starting to get light, I heard this incredible racket. It started out like the usual "buckwheat!" thing, and then rapidly degenerated into something that sounded like she was being slowly pulled limb from limb. I really thought something must have gotten hold of her and was taking her apart. About the time I got out the back door, there was only silence. I flicked on my flashlight, and she exploded out of the tree directly above me and went over the house and it sounded like she flew directly into a tree. As in flew INTO it, not landed in it. You know, like Daffy Duck as Robin Hood: "Yoikes! And away!" [whump!]. I went out on the front porch and I could see her silhouette up in a tree, apparently still all in one piece. So I went back to bed.

When I got up an hour later, she was on the ground, running along the fenceline, trying to figure out how to get back into the poultry yard (sound familiar?).

After breakfast I went out to do chores. I always feed the sheep first. She had by that time flown up to the top of the chicken coop. The whole time I was taking care of the sheep, she was on top of the chicken coop screaming to the world. A nice quiet Spring morning. When I finished with the sheep, I threw a scoop of scratch down and she flew down and started eating, and FINALLY shut up.

I've been told that after they reach a year old, they mellow out a bit. That will be sometime in June. If they don't relax this summer, they are either going to freezer camp, or I'll sell them to someone who likes guineas and/or doesn't mind the noise. I think the chickens and Muscovies will do their part to reduce the tick population and the guineas may not really be necessary. At this point I'm almost willing to take the chance.

If you really like guineas, don't be offended. They just aren't for everyone. Maybe you'd like to make me an offer? ;-)

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Sharing ideas from our small farm in NH, where we raise Icelandic sheep and assorted poultry. We are members of ISBONA (Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America) and the CLRC (Canadian Livestock Records Corporation). We also participate in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (NH54). Contact us at karen [at] birchtreefarm [dot] com. Please also visit the farm website at Birchtree Farm.
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