Old McDonald Didn’t Name His Animals


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.


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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An Update on Wilma

As you may recall something got into the chicken coop last week and did quite a number on things. One Winged Wilma is a survivor (so far) of the event. Her wing stump is healing.


It turns out I can handle maggots in open wounds too. I wasn’t too sure about it, but it went ok. I am glad Vern warned me that it could happen though. It did. Not even 24 hours later, there they were wiggling around the open would and exposed bone. Yuck! After a quick google search I came up with a few answers:
1. The maggots are born sterile and will only eat the dead flesh. – This turned out true and false. Yes, they are born sterile. No, they will not stop at the dead flesh. If left on the bird they will eat it alive and if they make it to “fly” stage they will kill it for sure.
2. Screw worm spray, sprayed on the wound will kill the maggots. -True. Mike picked some up on his way home. We gave her a dousing of peroxide and then the worm spray. The new morning they are dead and gone!

She still gets a peroxide cleaning twice daily and it is looking much better. The skin is healing. I’m waiting for the bone to calcify over the open break. She will be in “sick bay” for a couple weeks yet I’m sure. I don’t want to put her back with the flock until she is fully healed.

The guinea that needed the amputation made it a couple days and then died.

As for the rest of the flock our numbers are not looking good. I finally was able to get a head count. We started the year with 6 turkey’s, 6 guinea‘s, 25 hens for laying, 75 to butcher and 5 “fatties” that we can discuss later. We lost about 10 butcher chicks to dying young and a turkey. They dogs have eaten 6 birds so far; I know this because the do so on the front porch. Something has been helping themselves to the other 20 or so birds that have vanished. Yep, they are gone without a trace! Leaving us with 1 turkey, 1 guinea, half our layers and short a lot of butchers. The butcher number will get smaller because some will turn into layers.

If you have enough birds in the coop in the winter they will keep it warm on their own. We (dad and my husband) built the coop with 2 chicken rooms. The whole thing is insulated so we have the option of wintering 25-30 birds in one room or we could use both rooms and winter an extra 30-40 depending on the birds- less if there are turkey’s or bigger birds. This year we will just keep the smaller of the two rooms full. The key is enough birds to keep it warm and few enough so they each have enough space for the long winter inside.

Operation Kill the Fox has commenced. He is no longer cute. He will be a pelt on the wall if I don’t fill him full of holes first!

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Lucy in the Sky With…I Need More Cow Bell


The cows came home! Lucy our Dexter cow and Louise her Dexter-Angus calf have finally arrived. I am so very excited! Louise is actually my brothers but she gets to live with us. A huge thank you to Kip for Lucy, to Uncle Greg for the use of his truck and cattle trailer for hauling, and of course dad and Mike for bringing them home!!

Dexter cows are a dual purpose cow that’s lineage can be traced back thousands of years; another heritage breed, just the way we like ’em. They are native to the southern parts if Ireland and were first imported to the US between 1905 and 1915. They have always been a great “farmhouse” cow; providing a family with fresh dairy and beef. Pound for pound they are much more cost efficient from birth to steak. They are a very hearty breed and can thrive in all climates. In the cold winters they only need a wind break to stay comfortable outside. Birthing is usually done without complications with the breed as well.

wildflowerfarm.orgLucy (pictured on the left) gave birth to Louise in, I believe, November this past winter. It was a record winter of constant -50 temps around here. Both mom and baby were in the pasture all winter, through the birth and all. That’s a tough little cow! Now I have a very hard time knowing they are out in the rain with no option for shelter so knowing they are out in a cold Minnesota winter will be harder on me than them and for that reason they will have a nice home in the barn on those extra cold days.

When I say little cow, I’m serious. A full gown cow ( cow, meaning a lady cow that has had a baby) is only 36-42 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs less than 750 pounds!. That’s pint size compared to an Angus that is 54-58 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 1200-2000 pounds! That’s a lot of cow (and hay)!

Dual purpose in the cow world means one that can be used as a dairy or beef cow (or both). We are planning for both. And this time when I say “we” I mean me. I’m pretty sure my husband is not interested in milking a cow. Me, I can’t wait for fresh milk to make yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, butter, oh boy! the options are endless!

The average Dexter cow will give 1-2 gallons of milk a day which is much more manageable than the 8-12 gallons an average full size modern dairy cow puts out. The modern dairy cows have been breed over time to be milk machines, which I personally have a bit of an issue with. It’s just not natural. No calf drinks that much milk so the cow should not be producing that much. That’s just me though.

Of course it’s going to take some time before I can start milking. Lucy was at one time halter broke and shown for 4-H, but it’s been quite a while since then. Before I can halter her we need to make friends. She will need to get comfortable with me being around and then handling her. Then we can work with the halter. It will take some time after that to get her used to being led, tied and finally begin milking. I could just jump right in. It would probably scare the crap out of her and would then take even more time to get her ok with the idea again.

wildflowerfarm.orgOnce Louise (pictured on the left) is weaned I will begin the process of halter breaking her. I’m not milking her though. For now Lucy is still too protective of her; between a new place, new people and her baby I’m sure she will be on the offense for a while.

Lucy is coming around though. I can call her and she will come to the fence, rub her wet nose on my hand but won’t take the cracked corn treat yet. We will get there though.

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The Story of One-Winged Wilma and a Guinea


chickenAbout 6:30 this morning our phone rang, it was my husband.

“Can you come out here the chickens are out. Something got into them last night.”

I put on my bathrobe and slipped on so shoes and hurried out to the coop as he needed to get to work and any chickens left out would be breakfast for the dogs. I got out there and help him herd the flock back to what we thought was safety.

Then he states ” there’s two chickens in there with their heads missing and one dead turkey.”

My heart sank. I hate losing animals, especially like this. It was probably the result of a raccoon, weasel or something of the sort. So there I am in my pink bathrobe hunched over walking into the temporary chicken run to pick up the pieces. I gave everyone a quick look-over and went out. You could tell something traumatic had happened because none of the birds were acting as usual.

We patched up the hole in the fence, Mike went to work and I gave the birds (or what was left) their final blessing.

A couple hours later I went out to do the actual “chicken chores” only to discover a guinea hen looking very odd and the other birds were pecking at her. This could only mean one thing, blood. So back into the pen I went. Squeezing through the fence, hunched over I cornered the mangled bird and took her out. Any bird with blood must be removed from the flock until they heal. If they are not removed the other birds will peck the to death. Another horrible way to lose an animal.

I gave her a brief examination to find her wing bones were snapped in two, hanging there only by a little bit of skin. The skin on one breast was gone. I felt so sick. Not because of the gore but because of what that poor bird went through and will have to go through to heal.

At this point I had no idea what to do about the bird. Maybe remove the portion of the wing that wouldn’t make it anyway but after that, how do I care for this?! I have dealt with a few animal trauma events. I’m far from a vet but I can “mother” an animal with the best of them. Chicken first aid is new to me though.

Thank God our mailman knows everything there is to know about poultry and was kind enough to stop and check out the broken bird. Yes, that’s right our mailman not only delivers the mail in rain, wind, sleet and snow but is capable of fixing birds too!

After Vern gave the bird a look over it was decided I needed to remove the part of the wing and put peroxide on the open wounds everyday until she’s healed. Apparently not only is there the usual bad bacteria and germs to worry about but this time of year they can end up with maggots in the wound! Yuck!! I can handle quite a bit but I’m not sure I want to test the limits either.

With Vern back on his route I gathered what I needed to do the amputation. The bird was placed back in solitary confinement, otherwise known as an extra dog kennel. Now that I had a plan I set her up a little place in the kennel. She will be safe in there. There is not enough room to flap her wings and hurt herself any further, but its tall enough for her to walk around. I gave her a good coating of peroxide and let her rest. This procedure will take two. One to hold and one to cut.

Giving her time to rest. I went back to the house and continued with the day.

Then round three began. Because today wasn’t filled with heartbreaking news already. I was headed to work, just stopped to close the barn door and I heard one of the chickens chirping. It wasn’t a normal chirp, nor a squawk. So of course, to the coop I go to see what’s going on. There is one of our layers, standing in the middle of a crowd getting pecked. After this morning events and by the way she was not trying to get away I knew this wouldn’t be good either.

Back into the pen I go. The flock scatters and Wilma just stood there. Eyes closed, head down. As I walked towards her she began to walk to the opening in the fence. She got to the end and stopped as if to say “I’m ready. Please help.” It was one of the saddest sights I’ve seen in a long time.

I picked up the little bird, her left wing was gone. The bone was exposed just below the shoulder. I fixed up another kennel (thank goodness we have extras), gave a dose of peroxide and put her in to rest and made my way to work.

The whole time at work all I could think about was those poor birds and what they must have went through, and if I missed Wilma did I missed any more? The whole thing just makes me sick and to think just before the storm rolled through last night we were out getting ready for high winds and possible hail. I thought about closing the chicken door and didn’t. All of this could have been prevented if I would have just shut the door.

For now Wilma and the guinea are resting comfortably in their own spaces. Once the make a full recovery they will rejoin the flock and all will be well again… I hope.

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