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 owns Green 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.
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.
When we got our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we had to build a shelter quickly, and they ended up with a small 4×8 shelter that has served us very well. We were able to pick up the house and move it to their larger pasture on the forks of our tractor and despite the moving and shifting, it has worked out very well.
Now however, we have been able to build a larger barn and plan to over winter our goats there, to facilitate the kidding process and simplify chores. We have attached paddock areas for the goats to get outdoor play time complete with climbing toys, but the objective inside the barn was to have separate birthing stalls and a means to contain them while in the barn.
You can see in these (admittedly messy construction time) photos some of the details we built into the project. The coolest part of this build, it that we used oak board, harvest from our trees we removed to make way for the barn. We used a local sawmill and it was a good feeling to see the full circle for this lumber.
Each of our girls have their own stall, though as often as not they all pile in together. We will be adding stall gates to isolate them for the birthing. We are also planning to remove one of the wall boards to create feeding stanchions to better control what they are eating individually, but right now we manage that with buckets. The hay and straw rack on top is a handy addition that we use for storage as well as feed to keep things contained.
Lessons learned here include the fact that even little goats can climb! Note the photo of our buck on top of the wall. Overall we are happy with the result, but we will be making some updates in the coming months after we get a bit more time in to see what else we can improve.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, also recognized as ALBC, has placed the Jersey Giant on a “Watch List” of Heritage Chicken Breeds. The group seeks to follow the population of particular chickens to ensure that they do not disappear from our American backyards. The Jersey Giant dates back to the mid-to-late 1800’s from breeders in New Jersey wanting to replace the turkey as the big poultry for the dinner table.
John and Thomas Black of Burlington, NJ created this large, single comb breed and the APA ( American Poultry Association) acknowledged the breed in 1922 (Hobby Farms, Guide to Chicken Breeds). Through observation we have learned that the hens are quiet, lay a medium brown-mauve- colored egg generously. They prefer to roost on top of the nest boxes or hop from there to our roosting bar. Rarely have I seen them fly.
The roosters are mildly behaved compared to the Ameraucana and Easter Eggers. I would definitely refer to our chosen JG rooster as docile. Their smaller single comb makes them both heat and cold tolerant. They are black with a green sheen to their full feathers. When going through molt, you can see that their insulating feathers are brown. If you pick the them up you will be surprised at how heavy they are compared to other egg laying breeds. The JG can naturally reproduce and so if you are looking for a dual purpose bird that will lay you beautiful eggs and fill a stew pot, I think this is the bird for you.
We have used many items on our farm in a repurposed fashion. Large spools from a local antennae company for our goats, pallets under sheds to make relocating easier, IBC totes as shelters, spent grain from a brewery to augment our feed for all animals and junk apples off the ground to fatten our pigs. There are many other things that we are doing and using daily that contribute to our goal of sustainability but today my thought is about an event happening soon, we will be sending our pigs to be butchered. A local farm sits empty with a neighbor as the caretaker. The apples in the orchard have not been treated in 16 years. We have benefited from his desire to not mow around apples since he takes them into the bucket of his Kubota and brings them here. My neighbor is in his 80’s and prefers to not sit idly watching life go by. He and his wife of over 60 years came to see our pigs this last week, along with the remaining apples for the season. She had never seen a pig in person. I fed the crisp ones to the alpacas and llama to her amusement.
What a gift these apples have turned out to be. I’ve been brought closer to these lovely folks, shared some typical-to-me experiences with them and gave them some fodder for dinner conversation.
With a focus on acquiring Heritage breed chickens as our laying flock, it was very easy to land on the Silver Laced Wyandotte as a top contender for our small farm. They are a very pretty breed with great shimmery green on the laced black edges of their feathers. Known for their durability through harsh winters thanks to a rose comb and a heavy breed body, it was a good fit for our PA climate.
We ended up with only 1 hen with too many roosters this first season, so we retained just one rooster and sent the other off to freezer camp. Hoping to be able to breed this variety, we will hang on to the lovely hen Midnight who was our first chick to fly and roost above her peers. Clearly an intelligent bird seeking adventure, she fits right in on our little homestead. She is wonderful at foraging, allows our kids as well as our guests to approach and handle her. She lays a medium brown eggs with speckles daily (we call them freckles since we are all freckled) . This is a beautiful breed that I highly recommend for a small farm that would like attractive birds that lay frequently and have a wonderful disposition.
McMurray hatchery has a good description you can read here: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/silver_laced_wyandottes.html for more information on this breed.
Marans come in plenty of colors as they are a frequently used as a project breed thanks to the lovely dark chocolate eggs that they lay.
Not recognized by the APA or ABA, the Marans that we have are called a Splash Marans. Ours come from the French strain of genetics as denoted by their feathered legs.
The legs are slate colored, combs are big and floppy on the on the rosters and small, and tightly fit the contours of the head on the hens. It is very rewarding for us to have this breed as the temperament has been super friendly, pleasant and docile. The one rooster enjoyed meeting us each morning by the front door and walking us to the bus stop. The hens are very consistent egg layers and aren’t picky about nesting boxes.