More Than the Heart Could Handle

wildflowerfarm.orgA couple days ago I was looking for something to do outside with the little man that didn’t include weeding. We decided to let about half of the birds out into the pen in front of the house. We spent the next hour or so watching the birds catch worms and run around the pen looking for a secluded place to eat the worm with out sharing. And of course trying to keep the little guy from eating the grass.

When it was time we put the birds into one of the extra dog carriers and brought them back to their pen with the rest of the flock. One of the guinea hens had other ideas though and the chase was on.

There I am, in the small chicken pen in the yard trying to grab the hen and there is Stinks (our dog) on the outside of the pen chasing the hen the other direction. These birds are now old enough to have their “big bird” feathers and can fly.


And fly she did. Right out of the pen and landed in front of Stinks. Tripping over myself and the chicken wire, I made it out of the pen on my feet. There I am, running after the dog, the dog with her ears pinned back determined to eat that bird and the bird running and flying for it’s dear life.  The parade went on. Me hollering, Stinks barking, bird squawking, all over the front yard.

Finally the bird found a spot under a half rotted railroad ties by a flower bed. This quick break in the chase was enough to stop the dog in her tracks and gave me just enough time grab the hen and carry her safely back to the safety of the flock.

After all this I thought I were in the clear. The following morning the poor dear was dead in the pen. I don’t know for sure what happened but I can only guess that it was too much excitement the day before.

Another quick and sad little bird service was held in her honor.

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The Little Red Hen

wildflowerfarm.orgI remember reading Golden Books growing up and when I found a “springtime” set I had to pick it up for my little guy. One of the books was titled “The Little Red Hen”. Short story shorter, the little red hen couldn’t get any help growing wheat and baking bread. Everyone wanted to help eat it but she decided she made it herself so she’d eat it herself. Now, me telling you this has really no meaning other than I liked the story growing up, our chickens have arrived and our laying hens are red!

Cherry Eggers are not a commercial breed but I don’t know that they are considered a heritage breed either. This is the first breed of chickens I owned. I brought home two in school and asked my dad to help me build a coop. He said he wasn’t going to build a coop for two, go back to the store and get a few more. I wasn’t going to argue with that! That is how chickens came to be at my parents house. But this breed was a very easy going flock of birds and as their name suggests good egg layers; a medium to large brown egg. This is what we ordered for our laying hens. They are proving to be a pretty hearty chick as well. We almost lost one but I managed to save her, our meat birds on the other hand aren’t fairing as well.

For meat birds we ordered Gold-Laced Wyandotte’s. These are a dual purpose heritage breed bird. And proving to be rather temperamental to keep alive. Out of 75 we have lost 6 so far and number 7, Josephine, is teetering .

Caring for chicks is, I think, the easiest of all poultry to handle. You may not believe me after hearing the previous statement but they really are. Their care is basic, clean bedding, high protein food and water that they can’t sit in. They need to be kept warm as discussed in talking about the guinea hens. In fact I have them all living together and eating the same food. The turkey’s too!

The nice thing about chickens, aside from, bug control, lawn mowing, good fertilizer makers, eggs and meat is they go into the coop at night on their own! This may not sound like a big deal but you chase guinea hens around the yard in  mud boots and your bath robe for a while and then tell me it’s no big deal! Guinea hens must be trained to go in at night and one night left out can undo all your hard work. Chickens on the other hand, if one does get left out for a night and survive any chicken eating wild critter, will go in the next night without too much fuss.

You can bet there will be more on chickens to come.

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Saving Penny

wildflowerfarm.orgThe chicks arrived about a week ago now and what a week it has been. The first night home we lost a turkey. The following day two chicks and another during the next night. I am ok with animals dying of old age, however the world will stop when my dogs go but that’s another story. I’m also ok with animals being butchered to feed the family. I have a hard time losing animals for no apparent reason especially baby ones. By the way, each of the birds that have past on have been buried six inches under, with a quick blessing in the raspberry patch.

As I was laying in bed the next night it was killing me that there seemed to be nothing I could do I keep the little birds alive. Then it dawned on me, sugar water my give them a little energy to get up and eat at least and honey has some healing powers. The next morning the first of our layers looked like she was going to be the next casualty. I decided to try my theory, it couldn’t hurt anyway.

I made her a box of her own and began feeding her honey water, rough guess a tablespoon of honey to 3/4 cup water. You can’t just set the dish of water new to the bird and expect it to drink in this state. She wouldn’t open her eyes and couldn’t lift her head, let alone stand up to drink. So to get her to take the water, I held her in one hand and lightly dipped the bottom of her beak in the water. Doing this I gave her a few sips every few minutes, gradually spacing the sips out. This process started early in the morning and by the end of the day she was up and doing better. I put a couple of the calmer chicks in with her to get her used to the company again before sending her back to the rest of the flock.

Since then we lost a few more meat birds during the night. I did catch one this morning that was going down and began Josephine on the same deal. It’s still alive this afternoon but not bouncing back as fast a Penny did. So far all of the chicks we have lost have been our meat birds which are a heritage breed Gold-Laced Wyandotte. I would expect casualties from a modern, GMO, market bird but not this many from a heritage breed. But in talking with others losing six out of a hundred is still pretty good.

“As for us, our life is like grass. We grow and flourish like a wild flower; then the wind blows on it and it is gone- no one sees it again.” Psalms 103: 15-16

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The Tick Crew

Meet the guinea hens. These little keets will grow into 5 lb birds that will roam the yard. They will roost with the chickens and feast on the seemingly never ending supply of wood ticks and other bugs.

Guinea hens originate from the sub-Sahara region of Africa. They are rather noisy creatures and will raise a fuss if someone new comes in the yard or a predator is looming. Even though these birds can be annoying to say the least they are great to have around.

When they are allowed to range free about the yard they will live on insects they find. This is supposedly going to be a record year for wood tick and tent caterpillars. Having the birds on “tick patrol” will help immensely here! If allowed in the garden they will feast on potato bugs and squash beetles, they may eat a vegetable or two on their way but for the most part they like the bugs. (Make sure the garden is full grown before releasing the birds in it. Like any poultry they do enjoy young plants.) Guineas have also been known to keep mice, rats and snakes out of the yard as well.

Starting with keets or baby guineas you need to have a warm (95 degrees or so) place for them. We keep it pretty simple, a large cardboard box and a heat lamp. Keep the birds quite warm for the first week, then backing the temperature off by about 5 degrees a week. This may vary depending on your situation, so take it as a rough guideline.

Keeping the birds fed and watered is a simple task. Don’t put wood shavings in with the birds of the first while as they can mistake it for food (I do use large shavings against the recommendations). Rather, use flat newspaper for starting. These are probably the cleanest birds to care for. Their droppings are dry unlike the “soup” the comes from the rear end of water fowl. Change the paper (or shavings) regularly. I have my birds in the house so I like their bedding changed daily otherwise it can start to stink in a quick hurry and that’s not a welcoming odor.

A high quality starter feed of roughly 28 percent protein and a drowned proof water container is all you need. I use a small dog dish for water for the birds, it is not downed proof nor is it recommended. I check in on them quite often during the day not that I could save a little guy from drowning but so far it has been working good. For food a small plastic container. They are a couple weeks old now and it’s time for a food container that they can’t play in and dump out and soon a bigger box. Both will come at the same time and soon.

To be continued…


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Pounding Posts

We have already accomplished a fair amount this spring; cutting, splitting, hauling stacking firewood, moving the remaining wood pile, raking leaves, removing old fence posts and barbed wire just to name a little. All of which was done with the help of my brother and dad. Thank God for them! We have a few big jobs done for the year and a few more to do. The weather has not cooperated for use to burn one of the fields where the garden and orchard are going to be planted, so that is on hold.

The next big projects are putting up the new fence and I am going crazy looking at the yard! It looks so unkept and in need of a good cleaning. I started raking out the flower beds; I would like to know what they were thinking when they were putting those in. There are random rocks here and there, which could look nice if done differently. Rather than landscape fabric there is a variety of old rugs, soil bags and random plastic. There are trees growing in the middle of a couple that I’m sure looked nice when they were small, however now, they are much larger giving too much shade and robbing the smaller plants of moisture as well. The list goes on with these but I’m sure you get the picture. I have lots of work cut out for me there and I don’t plan to do anything but clean and maintain them this year. Next year will be flower bed overhaul.

The fence line is a big undertaking as well. With posts from the back of the barn and Grandma’s and a bunch my dad and brother found and some salvaged barbed wire off we went.

WildFlowerFarm.orgWell let me back up. First there was a lot of pacing off north to south for a straight line done by me, which I misunderstood the directions and had to be changed. That was a lot of walking but good exercise. The line was again straightened under the direction of my husband. Again more walking up and down the field. Don’t get me wrong I like to walk and appreciate the exercise, but still. The line was moved yet again under the direction of my father which was a good move too. We were all shooting for a straight fence line that would allow enough pasture for the cow and enough field for a winters worth of hay. Just when we thought we had it, we thought about snow. Where will the feet of snow be pushed when the driveway is plowed. Guess what the fence line was moved yet again, only a portion this time though.

Finally we had our lined together and a fencing we went. With the use of a friends ASV with an auger corner post holes were drilled and posts set. Then was all the in between posts. Each measure to the inch, set in a straight line and stood up perfectly level. Let me tell ya’, we are have the straightest fence line in the Midwest! The original plan was wood corner posts and metal in between posts. But with the scavenging skill of my dad we were able to use all wood posts. They will stand just as long if not longer than the metal posts and look so nice. So I guess a better title for this would have been “Setting Posts”.

After a few long days of drilling holes, dragging posts, setting posts, filling and tamping holes the posts were set. I have to admit one day I missed a fair amount of the work because I had to go to work and deliver a wedding cake (which turned out really nice by the way).

The little boy was such a trooper through the whole thing, all bundled up in the stroller for most of the day. Hanging out, watching the work and napping.


Even with a few feet of post in the ground there was enough on top that each post had to be trimmed. Then for the wire.

Of course that wouldn’t be all the fencing that needs to be done. We still had the smaller corral and the garden to do too. But that was the same process (including all the line figuring) as the pasture fence.

To be continued…

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