Lucifer- The Last Guinea

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Out of the mere 6 guinea hens we started with this spring we are down to one and I’m ready to ring his scrawny little neck! I have heard that raising guineas with chickens makes them easier to train; for things like going into the coop at night and such. I have also read the females can be territorial but the males can be down-right nasty. When ordering most birds you can have them sexed; guineas you only get a straight run option (meaning you get whatever hatched).

I have had chickens loose feathers before, usually due to a rowdy rooster trying to mate with a hen. But this group seemed to have a bigger problem than the usual rooster. After watching the chickens while I was on a “steak out” trying to kill the fox, I found the problem. It was the one remaining guinea.

The one we have left I have named Lucifer because he is the meanest bird in the flock! The roosters are a rowdier bunch than normal but they peck and run for the most part. Lucifer locks on to his target and doesn’t quit until his feet are planted on the back of the bird and he has a mouth full of feathers.

He is so mean that even Thomas Thanksgiving (the last of the Turkeys) has no tail feathers and had to be removed from the group because he was starting to bleed due to the relentless pecking. See more about blood and birds in The Story of One Winged Wilma and the Guinea.

Now that I have found the problem, the situation will be remedied. I am going to set Lucifer free.

From this there are a few possible outcomes:

1. He will get eaten by the dogs or the fox.

2. He will scare the dogs enough that they will forever leave the chickens alone and he will eat the fox.

3. He will survive and wander about the place until he freezes to death or chokes on a mouse. (I don’t think they eat mice but I wouldn’t put it past this one.)

This may sound harsh especially when I try to give each animal the highest quality of life we can provide, but I have limits too and he has reached the end of the line! With a bird this mean around the laying hens will not lay and that is a problem all it’s own. Not to mention how is anyone going to “Shake a Tail Feather” when they don’t have any left?!

We plan to try again next year with the guineas and rework the system a bit. They really are pretty birds. We had the pearl breed, they have little poke-a-dots on each feather and when they are not trying to kill one another are quite fun to watch.

It’s time to enjoy the get outdoors you mean bird!

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Wilma and the Dog

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As if Wilma hasn’t been through enough already, well, she got it again.

Wilma was moved from her kennel to a corner in the coop. It isn’t super well lit but she does get a little day light. I have been letting her out to munch the grass and get some fresh air while I do chores in the morning. She needs the sun too; I would think she would get depressed with out it. So there I am, hauling my 5 gallon bucket of water from the hose by the stock tank over to the coop, filling water and feed. I toss some scratch grain into the run and Wilma is gone.

I found her under the coop. The little pile of cracked corn did not bait her out and trying to scoot her out with a broom didn’t work either.

“Well crap!” The fox is back and I can’t get this darn chicken back to safety.

I talked with the cows for a while in hopes she would wander out. She didn’t. I gave up and went back to the house. I had plenty of other things to do than coax a chicken back to the nest.

I went out at 11:30 and she was out. I chased her around the coop before she darted underneath again. Again, I went back to the house to work on whatever I was doing.

12:30 I went back out and saw fresh feathers, the boards that are around the run (they look really tacky but the are temporary) were laying down and the hole in the wire was bent open again.

“And that’s the end of Wilma”

Just to be sure I laid back down on the ground to check under the coop and there she was! The fox got someone else and she was still there! This time I went to the barn and got Mike’s fishing net to catch her as she strolled out from under the coop.

This did not work either.

The poor dogs were itching to get outside all day and by 5 I had had enough. I opened the door and out they ran. The little boy and I went to the coop to see if maybe the ruckus of the dogs would scare her out one end.

It was a while later Mike, little boy and I were sitting in the grass that our lab came walking up all happy with Wilma in his mouth! I was furious! After everything she had been through he decided to giver her a chomp too! That was the last straw for me that day! I was in a bad mood until bed time.

In the light of morning, the chomping may have been a blessing in disguise. The sharp bone that was sticking out of her shoulder from the first attack was now gone. Something I didn’t have the confidence to try to remove. The wound this time around was much cleaner and not nearly as deep.

She is still in confinement and gets her peroxide twice a day. There are no maggots this time around and it appears that her skin will be able to heal over the socket. In the long run, this will be a much better heal for her.

She is one tough bird.

 

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Making “Friends” With the Cows

wildflowerfarm.orgWell, it’s been pretty slow going with the cows.

Last week was Fair Week. Our county fair is the best in the state and better than the ND State Fair. I know, I have been to both. I work at the fair here and this means the only thing that gets done at home is the animals are fed. Nothing else gets done. Dirty laundry piles up on the floor, clean laundry is tossed on the dining room table for later folding and sorting. Nothing gets cleaned or picked up. Those living there are on “fend for yourself” mode; meaning no meals are cooked unless you make it yourself, need laundry? better do that yourself too. As we discussed at the fair, the house is in “Fair Condition” during the week of the fair. All that being said my visits with the cows were very short last week.

This week I have been able to spend more time with them. I walk to pasture with them, and give them a little oats and/or cracked corn as a treat for them. When they are eating the grains it gives me a chance to scratch their heads and get close to them with them getting spooked.

Today I was able to scratch Lucy’s and Louise’s neck, which may not seem like much but I would call it progress.

I have to say, I really have no clue how to go about making friends with a cow; right now I’m treating them like and unbroken horse. Once They are used to being handled by me I think the halter breaking will be a challenge but not too bad. We will see when the time comes, I could be very wrong. The goal is halter broke before the snow comes.

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Old McDonald Didn’t Name His Animals

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By some standards I make a great farmer: I tend the animals, tend the gardens (this is lacking this year, I admit), tend the family, and would help with the field work if it were done when I was not working.

By other standards, not so much.

Case in point, I name my animals, even some that are going to end up on the supper plate.
Penny, one of the laying hens
Wilma, one winged laying hen
Cornelius, a butcher rooster that when panicked runs in circles rather than away
Lucy, the cow
Louise, the heifer – Yes, she my brothers cow. Yes, I named her, he wasn’t interested and she needed a name.
Just to name a few.
I have named pigs that turned into bacon and other animals that have made their way to the freezer. It’s not a common farm practice, but I like to know who I’m talking to.

Then there’s the wounded birds from the coop incident (yes, I’m still talking about it.). Any farmer in their right mind would have cut their losses and wrung the necks of the wounded birds and be done with it. Nope, not me, I make myself late for work because I have to put together a safe place for the birds to heal and dress the wounds before I go.

Knowing how last winter went, it wouldn’t surprise me if Louise was born in sub-zero temps and outside on top of it. She’s a tough cow and yet I need  to have a place in the barn for Lucy and Louise this winter. And probably a shelter of some sort to block the rain next summer. I don’t know if the cows have ever had any fly treatment whether on them or around them but that is next on the list. They flies keep biting them and that needs to stop too.

My farming habits may not all conform to the “norm” but everything that comes on this farm is well taken care of, that’s for sure!

 

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The Fatties

In my update on Wilma I gave our bird count to date. In the count was 5 Fatties- which is now 3. This may sound a bit offensive but these birds are offensive.

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My husband and I were in Fleet (a farm supply store here) late this spring. We had just lost a few birds and were walking through to get, something, I’m not sure what. Anyway, they still had a few chicks for sale. We thought why not pick up a couple extra to replace a few that we lost. We took 5 chickens home that day. The next morning, I had discovered those 5 birds had eaten more food, and crapped just as much at the 25 I had in a different box! Then it hit me… I knew exactly what kind of bird we brought home and I was so disappointed! They were Cornish-x. The factory chickens that grow so big so fast that they can barely walk, they can’t reproduce naturally and are disproportionately sized. Exactly the opposite of anything we wanted on the farm.

In my opinion, if an animal can not breed naturally because it is physically incapable it should not be in existence. It’s not survival of the fittest, is animal kingdom Obama Care.
Too many animals have been bred to freakish creatures that are not at all what they used to be. This happened very rapidly after food production went from small family farms to mass produced food for grocery stores. These modern production animals may produce quickly and mass amount but they have lost flavor and in some cases nutrition.

Did you know the first grocery store did open in the US until around 1915? Chain grocery stores in the 1920’s were on the rise but still quite small buildings; comparable to our c-stores today. It wasn’t until 1940 when they really took off. 100 years is all it took to almost completely remove homegrown food from homes and replace it with mass produced, prepackaged foods filled with who knows what.

Anyways, back to the Fatties.

I know we have eaten this breed many times before. They tasted like chicken and we never though twice about it. I am quite particular about the meat I get from the store, my husband, well not so much. He does make an effort for me but if it were just him, it wouldn’t matter which kind he brought home.

We were out cleaning the coop the other day and talking about how gross those birds were. Seriously, all the do is eat and crap, usually at the same time. Both looking at them in disgust and he said “I don’t think I even want to eat those ones. They don’t look healthy compared to the other ones we have.”  I told him they are the same breed we have unknowingly eaten for years.  My uncle has given us a bunch of these and we’ve been more than happy to accept them. They do taste better than those bought in the store and both the ones from him and the ones raised on our farm are raised humanely. Plenty of room, they can go outside as they please, they have clean pens, clean water, and food that isn’t laced with hormones, antibiotics and who knows what else. By all standards they are living a good chicken life and yet they just don’t look edible.

There is one that I do get a chuckle out of. She’s the biggest one out there and every time I go in the pen to do chores she comes barreling at me in a slow motion waddle, her heavy feet pounding the floor. She sounds like a small elephant coming across the room. Too funny. Still doesn’t look like supper though.

 

Update: We are down to two fatties that will be put in the canner tomorrow.

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