Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chicken Adventures - Bravest Chicken (That's like military intelligence ain't it?) Goes To?

Things have really settled in around the Small-Hold once again. The humidity has finally declined enough to be comfortable and the temperatures can only be described as nice. The nights have been cool and just about every critter on the place is pretty damned content right now.

The sheep are playing, the rams are not yet all anxious for breeding season, the dogs are playful even the chickens seemed in a good mood today. Rocky and Bullwinkle appeared to be acting a lot more gentlemanly today and the hens were actually kinda perky.

About midday Littlebit, the Hamburg hen decided she was going exploring. My guess is poor littlebit is the low hen in the pecking order being that she is so small and the only hen without at least one other of her breed to hang with.

Letting the guy I bought the original five hens from talk me into this one little hen was a mistake I think. The other hens all seem to stay together with their own breed but Littlebit is odd one out and the smallest one to boot. So she wanders off on her own I think to get some peace and quiet. She made her way to the back of the barn lot following Rocky and then went over into Frazier our Mule Terminal Ram's paddock where she stayed hanging out with him until sundown.

This is an awful picture of her but she is standing among some rocks and bricks I been collecting to use in an erosion ditch I want to fill in. That brick behind her gives you a good idea of just how small she is. The guy I bought her from said she was laying but I think he lied. Littlebit and the two Amerikunna Easter Egg hens have not laid an egg yet and interestingly enough neither of  the roosters appear to be very interested in them. I suspect they are not quite to egg laying age yet.

So far she is the only hen to actually leave the secondary enclosure on her own and do some actual free ranging though. So she wins the bravest hen award.

The Rams paddocks are a magnet to critters who are not near the top of the food chain. They have long been a problem area for dumped and abandoned kittens as a matter of fact. They know none of the larger land predators are going to come in there and I have seen the rams actually chase possums out of their paddocks a time or two. Twice I have even found dead possums inside a paddock which makes me more than a bit curious how they got dead. So any stray cats will hide in the ram's paddocks to feel safe.

Since Littlebit was outside while all the other chickens were inside she didn't come home to roost until after all the other chickens were asleep. So she got to be the first one to meet the four new additions to the coop.

Four Barred Rock Hens.

The four new hens are from the same place Rocky and Bullwinkle came from. The lady said they are about 6 months old and may not be laying yet but they hit the coop with a storm this evening. Rocky got down off the roost for them when I opened the cage and the four Black Hens that had been the dominate team of the coop were pretty much shoved out of the way for team Barred Rock.

Oh ya Rocky joined the other chickens tonight in the coop rather than going back to the bachelor roost.

I am hoping that there won't be any major dust ups tomorrow since the girls really didn't have time to fight it out this evening before they were forced to roost. I plan on leaving them in the coop most of the day tomorrow so the new girls will learn this is home.

This brings my total hen count up to 13 so I still need at least 3 more hens. No body I call seems to have more than 3 or 4 hens to part with at a time so I have been forced to patch this flock together. So far no fatalities yet.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chicken Adventures - The Bachelor Duo is No More

Today I let the hens out into the world. They were more than ready for it. A couple of them were literally charging the door to the coop/stall whenever I went in.

You know that old saying be careful what ya wish for and all.

The hens never made it more than a couple of feet away from the coop door. I designed the gates on the outside fence so the chickens could run through them and the fence itself isn't more than four feet tall anyway. Yet the hens refused to cross the outer barrier.

The hens seemed content though to wander around in the hallway I created and the adjacent stall near the coop and the nesting boxes. They even left a couple of eggs.

The roosters would come up to the back gate that opens out into the main barn where the sheep stay and peer in at the hens. Yet neither team rooster nor team hen appeared ready to mix it up. Then after the day was mostly over the roosters made their play.

I quickly figured out that Bullwinkle needs his name changed to Romeo or Casanova. He immediately took an interest in one of the Americuna hens. He would come up to her and extend his wing out then run over and get some food out of the feeder and bring it to her all gentlemanly like. Bullwinkle was soundly rejected by each hen. One of the older black hens even chased him away pecking at him.

Rocky on the other hand wasn't having none of this chicken equality courtship crap. He saw what he wanted and there wasn't going to be any argument. Thanks for the memories chicky. Off to the next one.

Guess which one had the good time? There is a lesson here for all the nice guys out there I think.

Finally one of the hens jumped up a mouse and Rocky actually chased it down and killed it then ran off with his prize leaving Bullwinkle to figure out that in the world of chicken romance nice guys errr roosters finish last. Eventually even Bullwinkle's patience ran out and he asserted himself a little more. By the time evening hit the hens were looking very wore out and not pleased by the invading rooster team.

Rocky went back to the bachelor pad but Bullwinkle decided he was staying with the hens and got shut in the coop for the night.

It appears that the dynamic rooster duo bachelor roost is no more. Maybe Bullwinkle's strategy will pay off more in the long run especially if Rocky gets eaten by something.

One of the Red hens did finally fly over the fence about an hour before sunset to get away from Rocky. Rocky seemed to favor the two young Red-Sex link hens more than the others and they were not happy about his attentions. That one Red hen was the only one I saw leave the immediate coop area and she quickly ran back.

I still haven't received the other six hens I am suppose to get so these girls were getting a bit more attention than they should be. The pickup time got pushed back until tomorrow but the hens needed out of that stall. When the new hens get here I will lock em up again for a few days and start the cycle all over.

Not sure if I will leave Bullwinkle in with them or not.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

About Losing 57K in One Day and Finding a Home for the Goat

While the market was crashing all around us today I finished cleaning out the barn, burned off the old rotten wood I removed and most of the limbs that came down with the tree I cut up. The newly reclaimed chicken area of the barn is almost complete now. More on that later.

Last I checked and doing a rough estimate from the numbers on my screen I think we lost about 57K today. This is from all our accounts 401K's, Roth IRA's, and a couple of straight up investment accounts. Not been a good day for us financially but did I stress about it? Not in the least.

I know what some of you maybe asking. Why does a guy with a Homesteading/Prepping/ Sustaining blog even have money in the market? A very good question!!! I explained why a few years ago but perhaps it is worth doing so again.

One reason is that although Mrs. PP loves the sheep, chickens, gardens and such she deep down still feels my predictions of a financial collapse are complete Hogwash. She actually is kinda a liberal Femocrat in many ways but I tolerate it because she is so darned cute and all. There is no way I would ever stand a snowball's chance in hell of talking her out of making her retirement contributions each month and even less of a chance I could convince her into taking any of the money we have invested out either. It really is that simple and while a couple 100K would go a long way to building the ultimate sustainable farm for the future it would take a divorce for me to use it and my marriage is worth more to me than that.

Another reason is that I am not completely sure how long this train wreck is going to take. Now I stopped my contributions years ago. I used a large share of the profits I had gained for prepping. Why I even bought my Ford diesel tractor using money I made off the market. Once I reached the point I had pulled more out than I put in I decided to let the rest ride. The last several years of a manipulated market has been very good to us and our preps. Despite all of my best efforts to turn digital money into assets our accounts have grown by leaps and bounds. As the accounts grew so did Mrs. PP's happiness limit and well that leads to returns that are more valuable than money anyway.

Lastly I am not counting on any of that money for anything anymore. I make enough to improve on the place at a good pace. We did recently take another 20K out to pay the insurance deductible after Mrs. PP's hospital stay and buy a new outbuilding. Looks like the market winnings I been turning into preps might be a thing of the past now though.

We are more or less at a point that there is no real sense of urgency to get just that one more thing done before the day of doom anyway.

Still it's kinda hard to look at all that RED on my portfolio page.

Anyway I spent the day working on the barn as I said and playing with the Goat. Seriously her and I had a few adventures today. It all started as I was coming out of the barn to cut some 2x4's. The goat would cry and bellow wanting me to come over to where I had her tied out. Eventually I gave in and went to pet her and she jumped and carried on like a crazy goat. I took her over and tied her to the trailer hitch on the truck where I was working. She climbed up on the truck, the top of the cab mind you, and dared me to come get her. I got her down off the cab and took her for a walk.

As I said she is very well leash broken.

I remembered the West pasture was laying fallow so I thought maybe she would like it there. I took off her leash and she ran around at about 100 miles an hour but if I tried to leave she would throw a fit.

She is quite the pistol I must say. The vet basically said there is no way to remove those horns, at least no way he would recommend so we had a pow wow about her this evening and the general consensus is we are going to try and find her a good home. No matter how happy she thinks she is it just isn't fair to make her the only goat on a sheep farm. We will never be able to turn her out with the sheep because doing so with those horns would be like putting a teenaged serial killer, armed with long knives, in a room with a bunch of unarmed, bitchy, fat, lactating Women and their babies.

No matter what that scenario IS NOT going to end well.

She went back to her isolation area in the horse trailer tonight just as happy as could be. Didn't even hear a peep out of her.

If any of my readers within a reasonable distance want the cutest, friendliest miniature goat ever created please contact me. We have a couple of possible leads but who knows if they will pan out. If you want a personable pet goat this one is the ticket but I imagine there will be an interview by Mrs. PP before letting her go.

Seriously this goat acts more like a pet dog than a goat.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Line of Chicken Defense and Another Pathetic Life Form Joins the Menagerie

It was a perfectly beautiful day today. Not over hot, very little humidity, a nice breeze and few clouds after about 10 AM. I spent most of the day reclaiming the section of the barn around the chicken coop/stall. This section hasn't been cleaned or worked on for almost 20 years. I also added a flimsy fence and pieced together a gate out of scraps to keep the dog from getting all the way to the coop and worrying the hens through the cracks.

There are actually a couple of reasons I put this inside fence in. The chickens can get through the cattle panel I used for the gate. I designed it that way not so much to keep the chickens in but to allow them a quick escape rout. This fence will also direct the hens out into the main part of the barn and the barn lot instead of out the front.

The dog I discovered isn't so much aggressive towards the chickens anymore as he is interested in the squabbling he hears while they work out their pecking order. It literally makes him want to get involved otherwise he leaves em alone.

Truth is I didn't make this fence and gate anything strong. I used some t-posts, 2x4's and plastic trellis I had laying around. I just wanted to stop the dog and kinda give the hens a first line of defense.

Another couple of days and one more gate to make and we will find out how well it works.

As for the pathetic life form well the story as it was presented to me was that this sweet old lady was diagnosed with cancer that is supposedly too far gone to be operable. The water works were flowing as I was asked if we could take in her miniature goat.

 "Does it have horns" was my only question.

"No" was the answer.

They lied. They lied right to my face. I must say however she is the sweetest, cutest little thing though.

The first thing the little girl did was hop off the truck they had her in lower that head of hers with those horns and chase the dog away. Then came back and started nuzzling Mrs. PP for all she was worth.

I knew I was screwed at that point. We now have a goat isolated in the big four horse trailer.

We kept her tied out eating all day and she is leash trained quite well. The only problem is she is also used to living in some old woman's house too and I am afraid that just ain't happening here.

There is also those horns to deal with. She knows how to use them too and that isn't going to fly with all these polled lambs and nursing ewes either.

But of course the wife is in love with her. I actually let her off her leash for a bit while I was feeding and walking around the barn lot and she followed me around like a dog. Ran right into the barn and immediately knew what the scoops and cans were all about. Jumped into the large feed can and looked at me like "Thanks for all the grain dude"!!!

Needless to say she wasn't very happy about the horse trailer isolation space though. She bawled for about half an hour before settling in to eat the hay I left for her. She didn't start bawling until the grain was gone I noticed.

At this point we are vaccinating her tomorrow and I am looking into removing her horns before allowing her to go in with the invalid flock. 

Ya I know I am a big pushover when it comes to women and animals.

But I have to admit she is damned cute.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!!

Sunday Reading - What I Learned This Week

This has been an interesting week around the Small-Hold. We had a storm that blew over a fairly good sized Boxelder tree. I been spending almost every minute I can on getting this chicken operation going which due to the fact that we ended up having two roosters has grown about four times larger than the chicken operation I had planned.

The proverbial "bad things come in threes" curse hit me all in one day for a change rather than spreading itself out. This made for a rather horrible day but at least I got it done and over with  quicker.

Through it all I have learned a few valuable lessons. Mostly about chickens of course but a few others besides.

I have also figured out I am so sick of rain, wet, mud and humidity I want to scream right now. I really want a dry Fall to get here soon. Although all this rain should make for a nice Goldenrod flow and a spectacular Fall leaf color show.

This week I learned or rather affirmed that my long standing rule of allowing no trees over 20 foot tall within falling distance of the house or out buildings was a damned good idea.

I learned entirely by accident that it is a good idea to keep the main doors on the barn open during storm season. In fact with all the other damage to barns and out buildings in the area I am now convinced that the only reason ours escaped undamaged was because I left the main doors open on each end. This allowed the damaging wind to just pass through and not create an updraft into the roof.

I learned that chickens are much more intelligent than I at first gave them credit for. At least the two surviving roosters anyway have adapted to life around here quite quickly. In fact I am simply amazed at how well they have fit into a niche so far. Even just the two of them seem to have made a huge dent in the insect pest population around here and if I am anywhere within their secured AO (otherwise known as the Barn lot) they even have started following me around like my old feline supervisors used to. For some reason my being nearby seems to embolden them too.

The Hens are starting to fit right in as well although the first batch of five are getting very tired of being cooped up now. One of the Red Sex-Links has started rushing the door when I come in and has began pecking my boots when I am inside the coop area. Tonight three of the new old hens began using the roosting bar but it was the little Hamburg Hen that first discovered it and lead the way. The Hamburg also becomes the first hen to earn herself a name. She is now known as Littlebit.

I learned that when entering a chicken coop where the hens have started feeling comfortable around you being near them NEVER wear shorts with tattered strings hanging down from them and if you do wear such shorts NEVER turn your back on the really out going hens.

Now of course this isn't a picture of my shorts but I thought this one was better for obvious reasons. The shorts I was wearing were knee length which placed the strings at about chicken height.

Those little beaks are sharp let me tell you. This need to peck everything presented the second Hen to earn a name. I now call her Barcode because she is constantly pecking at the barcode on the side of the waterer.

I learned that you can easily shove a wayward piece of chicken wire completely through your finger without much trouble.

I learned that hanging waterers and feeders really are better than ones that sit on the ground and I learned that Hogan's Heroes ain't got nothing on chickens when it comes to digging too. Those poor cooped up hens have dug some mighty holes in the floor let me tell you. I am also convinced they know what they are doing and trying to find an area where they can tunnel out.

And finally I learned that eggs made right here on the Small-Hold taste best of all.

I think I am biased though.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Continuing Chicken Adventure Saga

While I was working a twelve hour shift yesterday four more hens were brought over and placed inside the chicken coop/stall. These are older hens who have slowed down egg production a bit that the orchard owner gave to us. They are big girls and around 3 years old or so.

The four new hens stayed inside the large pet carrier inside the coop all day so there would be at least a little getting to know each other time before they were turned loose. Just about roosting time I went down and opened the door to the pet carrier and allowed the hens to begin mingling.

The plan seems to have worked fairly well. I know I should leave em separated a bit longer but that isn't really possible the way things have worked out. My reasoning right now is that the various small groups coming in are all in new surroundings and coming from different pecking orders anyway so they won't form a big team against one or two individulas and hurt them.

One of the Bigger Black Hens immediately took charge though and within a few minutes there was no denying the fact that she was the leader of the new coop group.

I watched them until they all settled in for the night to make sure the new hens weren't going to fight and besides a bit of surprisingly gentle pecking there was little real argument towards the new rules. The first group of younger hens all seemed to pretty much acknowledge the four new Black hens were taking precedence. My assumption was that the five younger hens were fairly low in the pecking order before I got them anyway and they haven't been their own little group long enough to change their attitude much yet.

The one Black Hen did have a few squabbles with the larger Red hen but it seemed it was more a champion fight to settle the group dynamics and not for individual leader.

The Roosters of course are going to add their own interesting twist to this newly forming dynamic when I let the hens out I imagine. The roosters have come up and peeked inside the coop a few times talking to the hens so they all know the others are around now.

We are still waiting on three more hens from another source tomorrow and I am looking to get four more to round out the hen numbers to 16. I am hoping as I said the newness and such will allow for much easier introductions. The first test seems to have been a success.

This morning I noticed the dog had moved one of the concrete blocks a bit. He still kinda wants some chicken. That is going to have to be dealt with. I can already see there are some coop improvements and changes I want to make once I begin letting the girls free range. I don't want to go in there right now banging around and digging unless I have to yet.

My theory about adding in the four older Black hens is that these girls will know how to handle the two remaining roosters. The rooster they had to deal with at their old home was a big old boy himself and I watched them a few times while over checking my bees and they didn't take any shit from him either. I noticed more than once a black hen chasing the old rooster off when he was a bit too insistent with his attentions. That's the kind of experience our newly forming flock needs. Since they come from a large flock themselves I also figured they would be able to handle this new flock as the top of the pecking order as it forms and shakes the social issues out.

Oh we also got three more eggs this morning.

The Long awaited Small-Hold chicken flock is finally coming about.

Since we got another 3 inches of rain this morning I guess I am going to work inside the barn keeping an eye on the new hens, predator proofing and arranging things as best I can without disturbing the forming pecking order any more than I have to.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Better Day Today, Chicken Adventures and Cutting Up the Tree

The sun is shining brightly today so during the morning hen feeding I opened up the sliding door to let some sunlight into the coop. The hens seemed to love the sun and would go sit in the bar of light for stretches of time. All you chicken experts is this normal for the hens to seek out direct sunlight? Might have something to do with me just keeping them locked up trying to get them used to knowing the coop is home before I let them out to free range.

I started cutting up the downed tree after feeding the hens. I have more important things to finish up but I am also needing to mow again so this tree has to go. Not to mention it is blocking off half the driveway.

It's slow work getting through all the small limbs and leaves to the real wood though. Took hours just to get to the picture below.

Of course I am loading up the limbs with all the leaves as I go, piling them on the little flat bed trailer and letting the sheep munch on the leaves. The sheep, especially the rams who are dry lotted, LOVE Boxelder leaves so no point in wasting them.

The temperature is cool enough today that I actually picked up a supervisor for a change once again. Not just any supervisor either but the MANAGER QUEEN herself was on the job site watching and inspecting my work. I had to be very careful to always know where she was while I ran the chain saw and threw branches and chunks of wood around.

She mostly stayed in the shade though.

During one of my breaks I went to check on the hens and take them an Acorn Squash I had from the garden. I broke the squash up and gave it to them and a few of them went at it like crazy while a couple were still a bit nervous about the whole thing.

However I discovered the Small-Hold's first egg while I was there.

One of the Red Sex-link hens laid it. She actually laid it down in a little corner triangle that used to hold a hay rack for a horse. I put some old hay in there in case one of the hens wanted to use it as a laying box and sure enough one did.

I moved the egg up to the actual nesting boxes I built hoping one of the other hens would get the idea. Maybe it will work.

The roosters still have not made it up to the front of the barn to visit the hens that I have seen. They have finally gotten used to the sheep as a whole and now wander around among the sheep inside and outside of the barn without a care in the world.

I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of a few more hens hoping to get enough to keep the roosters from hurting one and leaving the hens locked up until they are all together and getting along. Could be another few weeks before the hens become free range at this rate.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pioneer Preppy's Extremely Horrible, Extra Awful, Really Bad Day

I knew I was going to wake up to the downed tree this morning. I was up when the storm hit and heard the tree come down but I couldn't get a really good look at it until the sun came up.

Just another item to add to the ever growing, never shrinking list of stuff I need to do around here. At least this one gives me some firewood in return though. The tree being down and knowing I would get some firewood was pretty much the highlight of my day. It was all pretty much downhill from here.

I had a sick ewe yesterday showing the same signs that had killed the other ewe months ago and another one who pulled though right after that. We dosed her down with the super strong wormer we got from the Vet and I felt sure she would recover. We are about 2 weeks from the next normal worming time and I caught the lump really early. It was barely noticeable honestly. I felt confident she would be fine and when I checked her at 1AM she was still with us.

Well she died over night. This is crazy. That's two prime breeding age ewes who were both excellent producers that I have lost this year and one that got so sick I am not sure she will be able to breed again even though she has recovered. Add to that the lost Ram and purchasing a new one and the sheep side of things is so far in the red it will take years to recover.

The rains may have let up for a couple of weeks but we haven't had enough high temps and dry ground to fully purge these damned Barber Pole Worms yet it seems. The Vet tells me there is no stronger wormer available either. This strain is just vicious.

So there was the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon gone dealing with the corpse.

When I started up my truck it made a noise that reminded me of my first car. A 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 with a 455 large block, Holly Q-Jet and glass packs. I always loved the sound that engine made but coming from my 6 cylinder pickup with a standard muffler it wasn't exactly music to my ears.

Mine looked just like the one above only it was green. I loved that car until I wrapped it around a bridge in South Dakota. So not only do I get to fix my truck now I get to drive around and let it remind me of the time I ruined such a wonderful muscle car. Just great not like I don't kick myself every few years for wrecking that car anyway.

Add something else to my "needs fixing list".

I then had to go check all my bee hives to make sure none had been blown over or knocked down by falling trees. The orchard where I keep some hives was totally devastated. In fact I felt a little guilty about lamenting my own troubles because the orchard owner lost half his barn to the wind and a number of chickens and had to move the survivors into his workshop since their part of the barn now has no roof. On the plus side his neighbor's tool shed is now in the orchard owner's back yard so a roof was delivered to him free of charge it seems. I offered to help him clean up some but he declined because he was waiting on the insurance guy to see it all before starting to pick up.

Luckily all the Bee Hives were fine.

At this point the sun came out a bit and things did brighten up some. I managed to scavenge about 20 cinder blocks from a trailer court down the road about 10 miles. The guy who owns the place will take all the left over cinder blocks, landscaping timbers and such that people leave behind and make a pile of them. He allows me to come scavenge and this time it paid off.

I buried cinder blocks all along the walls of the chicken coop/stall so nothing can dig under the wall to get at the hens.

Oh and I took this picture of the White and Black Hen too if anyone recognizes what breed she may be.

The sun came out briefly and I was able to open the big sliding door to give the hens some light. They really seemed to enjoy it. They seem to be settling in and were up exploring around the coop/stall.

At least so far that part of things seems to be going alright today. Of course the sun ain't down yet is it?

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!