So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.
Across the street from us, our neighbor ownsGreen Shadow tree service, so I walked over to ask Chuck about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.
This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.
If anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.
Our Nigerian Dwarf buck was locked in the barn, and decided to demonstrate his dominance of the space by taking over the turkey nesting boxes. For some reason, the nice straw on the floor was unacceptable, he had to take over the top of the box, so he could see across the barn while napping. I am surprised at how agile this guy is! He can jump walls, spools, fences and pretty much any other obstacle under six feet high, which considering how small he is, makes quite a sight.
His agility was on display to full effect when the females went into their first heat after the babies were born, and he and Patton broke into the barn by headbutting the large door relentlessly until thy got an opening. He hit the nursery wall at a full gallop and cleared the wall with room to spare, with one objective (or 3 really I guess, since I am not sure he was feeling picky about which girl, just A girl). I happened to be standing next to the pen in conversation with my wife at that moment, and caught the poor guy in mid air (thrust).
He was not a happy goat when he realized he was making sweet goaty love to thin air while suspended in my arm over the pen. It took him a few air thrusts to figure out he was foiled, and boy did he complain! His tenacity paid off for him in the end as he did manage to sneak past us eventually and get to his girls. We will have to work out a better confinement plan next cycle.
Chalk that one up to yet another of the many continuous lessons we are learning here.
We have had several births this year, our first full year of raising goats. We have a post about preparing for kidding, but we were hoping we were truly prepared. While our first two mommas gave birth during the night, the last one was a mid day affair, and it turned out to be a very good thing!
Sashimi, on the left in labor, is being attended to by her mom and her sister. It was very cool to see how they wanted to keep an eye on her and seemed to be encouraging her in the process. At this point in the deliver, I was not too worried, and feeling pretty relaxed about being a labor and delivery nurse for a goat.
When the baby started to come out, we (my bride – Mrs. Blue Barnyard) realized there was a problem. She said the head and hoof were not lined up correctly and she needed to “go in” and fix things. Ok – so now I am not feeling so good about the whole goat nurse thing. I was convinced that nature was cool and would handle it, but she said it was time to glove up and help her out! I held the goat and kept saying nice soothing things to her to calm her down, at least that was my intent.
After the intervention, things went smoothly and a little beauty was born. Momma took care of her and it was pretty amazing to witness. Later, after speaking with our vet and describing the process, he confirmed that if Jess had not intervened, we would have likely lost the mom and both of her twin babies. I was quite proud of all the research and the cool calm and collected way she handled this.
This photo shows our youngest girl, her new momma and her grandma, all in one picture. It is so neat to see them all care for each other!
Adrienne was the assistant nurse with me, and was helping care for the babies through the process.
Despite the dramatic headline, this has nothing to do with dust bathing causing fires. The relationship is all in the re-use. We heat our home with wood and collect the fireplace ash to use in the barn for making dust baths for the birds. The enjoy the ash and combined with a little sand, it is a great way for them to clean themselves and keep the biting pests at bay.
Here you can see Gladys, one of our Buffs enjoying one of the pans we set out for them. There is a line waiting for the bath! It is funny to see chickens line up to take turns, and they seem to do it on a regular basis for baths and nesting boxes, though never for food. When it is dinner time, it is all hands (wings?) on deck at the same time.
In our large common indoor pen, we built an access panel to accommodate access to future nesting boxes and we finally got around to building the nesting boxes this winter.
For those of you who saw our post about the turkey nesting boxes and noted the 2×4 roost, this one is considerably smaller. That is due to the fact that chicken hens way a lot less and also have smaller feet, allowing the more size appropriate roost.
The external access is great, and would make egg collecting chores easier, except we added other nesting boxes in the main pen for breed isolation during the spring egg season. Once we mix the hens again, this will be more helpful!
Our turkeys got to laying stage and needed something besides finding piles of hay or straw to lay eggs in so we used up a variety of the scrap bits we had around to set up a 2 seater nesting box. The back is screwed into the barn structure, so there are only legs on the front.
Installing the frame
Roof on, ready for hay
The front of the nesting box has a 2×4 step up rail to give the girls an easy way to get in and out of the nests and has worked quite well.
all ready for turkeys when they are done in the dust bath!
Now we are ready for eggs! We did note that we should have installed the back rail to keep eggs from rolling out the back when the hens got carried away, but that was an easy fix and we are now in business.
Items to remember if you build your own:
A nice sloped roof that overhangs the nest by a few inches discourages pooping in the nest.
Make sure you have the nests high enough to reach in comfortably without too much bending.
The girls need a roost bar to get in more comfortably, but it is not required.
Hay is better than straw inside as it is softer and makes a nicer nest
We got Patton as a rescue goat, to keep our Nigerian Dwarf herd sire Mattis company. He is a wether, and a gentle giant.
All he wants is attention and love, and he is quite the escape artist if left in the pasture too long! We have come to love this guy despite his shenanigans, and enjoy him following us around the barnyard like he is another one of our dogs.
We know that our goats are pregnant thanks to the presence of a buck in their pen for the last six months. We had the vet out and he suggested that we save our money and not do the ultrasound test since we could see by the visibly growing bellies that they appeared pregnant. The Vet laughed and said that we could pretty well guarantee a happy kidding season in our future since we choose to pasture them together. So without knowing an exact due date we proceeded to prepare for kidding season.
Jim built beautiful stalls within a larger pen inside the barn as a start. A place where we could house everyone away from the elements was very important to me. I picked out several lovely designs from Pinterest for him to see where I was gathering inspiration. Husbands love it when we do that don’t they? Pens, gates, and kidding stalls were what I was seeking ideas for.
After that was completed a secondary pen was built using our 10 by 10 dog kennel panels on the far side of our barn. It worked out nicely that we could take down a previously used turkey pen and assemble the panels for the goats with a section saved for our roosters. This was done with shelters and large spools within the enclosure for our buck to be separated from the Mamas. He now lives there full-time with a doe we borrowed from another farm as company. It wouldn’t be fair to leave him out there all alone.
The official “Kidding Kit” was put together and placed near the inside pen in a tupperware container to keep everything clean. There are plenty of clean towels, a trashbag and contents for the kit inside. We left the lubricant and Betadine in the house so they wouldn’t be overly cold when they were needed.
Many books on goats – both dairy and meat goats were read. Each author adds details sharing how to prepare for the impending birth of your goat kids. They provide diagrams, photos and lists to help the novice learn. A few of my favorites are: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, The Meat Goat Handbook and also many websites for goat health.
I reviewed our paperwork ensuring that all the does and buck have the appropriate certifications to make selling and showing the kids to be a smooth process. We had our American Goat Society certifications and paperwork in hand. Throughout the investigative process I realized that it would behoove us to seek dual certification through the American Dairy Goat Association. The reason for this was the number of shows on the East Coast that I found for non-members of ADGS were smaller. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are a great milking breed so shows to share that and attempt to win awards only betters our farm reputation.
Identitfy genetics and pedigree of our animals. Now normally I would say that this is something you should consider prior to buying your animals. We did this backwards so Jim and I began a family tree to show the pedigree of our goats. There were many templates and information found using google, however Jim ended up using PowerPoint as he is comfortable with the program and it is free. Many of the Pedigree sites had a fee. Using ADGA was interesting as I could look up the relatives of the goats we own! Through the process and reaching out to the breeders of our goats, we found out that there are champions in the pedigree so hooray for us, we lucked out.
Physical observation – Now this comes as no surprise that observing the normal behaviors of your goats is important; touching them regularly to keep an eye on the health and wellness. For example – now that we are nearing the time of birth, it is evident that the girls go from sitting to standing, rubbing their sides on the pen walls and exhibit opposite traits than previously observed. Raindrop runs away from me where she used to be the first to greet. Whereas Sushi comes to me, practically sitting in my lap where she used to be more standoffish. Much of the symptoms of labor have been noted in this article by Fiasco Farm. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/175781191678818226/
Jim posted a great article about recipes for pork shoulder.. I decided to review one of the recipes posted.
Below is our home -grown pork shoulder.
The directions called for 8 hours of slow roasting at 250 degrees. I rubbed celtic salt and pepper all over the roast.
I chose to use my turkey roasting pan with parchment paper on the rack.
It was very nice to have the house smell like a delicious roast all day. The roast was removed after 7 hours in the oven. You tent the roast with foil while pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees. Put the meat back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fat layer can get crispy.
I was disappointed to see how much it shrunk! Something to take into consideration for the future. This roast fed 5 people, including our 19 year-old son. I think I will adjust our cut list to include larger roasts.
This was juicy, melt in your mouth meat. It was served with cooked small multi-colored potatoes with butter and scallions on top. We also had a side of asparagus with fresh lemon on top. Great meal for a cold January night!
I wanted to create some good calorie boosters aka boredom busters for our chickens and turkeys. Jim and I decided to use the fat from our butchered pig along with various grains.
I chose black oiled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, scratch grains and then filler. I found oatmeal pancake mix that had not been a hit with the kids as well as bulk oatmeal that has been around a while.
I looked around online and saw interesting articles by folks who also were including herbs. I checked the cupboard again and found the oregano that I normally sprinkle in the food and dried dandelion for teas.
I cooked the fat down and did equal parts of all bulk ingredients of 1 cup of each with 2 TB of the herbs. Cooking the fat is also called rendering.
All the ingredients were stirred and pressed into bread pans or whatever I had around.
I can say that the thing I’ve learned now that I’ve shared these with the birds is that putting wax paper to ease the pressed and solidified cakes out of the pans is very helpful.
I pressed the ingredients into the pans and repeated the process a dozen times. In order to not have the fat stay sift, I stored all the pans in our garage where it’s below freezing here in NE PA in January.
The birds are getting a chunk every few days and the suet has been a hit.