On the Injured List

Jay broke his leg. Since chickens have a ‘no excuses’ policy, the other roosters have been harassing him mercilessly, so we put him in a cage. We thought it would be a good idea to put him with a batch of chicks.

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After a few days, we decided he wasn’t happy with the situation and gave him his own cage.

Duck Motherhood

Our usual plan is to let the ducks raise their own ducklings. This usually lasts about two weeks before the mother looses track of her brood and the ducklings eventually wander off to do their part in providing nourishment to natural fauna. It’s amazing to me that the Muscovy breed actually manages to propagate itself in the wild. The ducklings get confused about who their mother is. I occasionally see them following roosters around, and once I saw one trying to keep up with the guineas. Since the mother can’t count, she doesn’t notice her flock diminishing. I suppose after the last one disappears she gets an idea that something’s wrong.

As an experiment we’re trying to circumvent that process by enclosing the ducklings in a little pen. The mother can fly out whenever she wants.

Mother Duck with Ducklings in Pen

She has difficulty getting back in. I think it’s because she gets fixated on her ducklings in a line-of-site orientation, and can’t imagine going the wrong way (up) in order to get to them. So she just wanders in circles around the cage. The ramp helps. We had to put it sideways so we can chase her in a circle around the cage and eventually up the ramp.

Duck Pen with Ramp

Problematic Pigs and Parasites

The pigs gave me double heartache during a week that Sasha was away visiting relatives. First, they started getting out of their large pen, and second, I saw that they had parasites. The parasites are large white worms (that’s what they’re called as well as an apt description). Discovering them is an unpleasant experience.

My wife and I tend to jump into farming adventures with both feet and then figure out what we did wrong after something bad happens (actually, she jumps with all four of our feet). In this case, we could have prevented the parasites by moving the pigs around, which is something we always intended to do but haven’t gotten around to yet.

I don’t eat pork due to some connection I feel with my ancestors, although the rest of the family does. When I describe the many reasons I don’t like raising pigs, Sasha accuses me of justifying my irrational repulsion of pig-meat (but I do like the smell of bacon). I think my reasons against raising pigs are valid.

Although many people say that pigs aren’t really piggish, I disagree. I provide them with clean water and they still drink from the mud puddle that they shit in, and that’s why they’re prone to hideous parasites. They’re filthy and brutish, and ( I acknowledge the irony of saying this) their a lot like humans. Their body chemistry is close to ours: They eat similar food to ours and their shit looks and smells like our shit, which means any disease that they develop is likely to be dangerous to us.

But Sasha loves the other white meat, and is actually following a higher calling than her affection for sausage. She’s experimenting with methods that people can use to raise food on a low budget, and wants to spread the word that people can learn to survive by interacting with the land, rather than trying to amass wealth and depending on others to feed them. If an old New Yorker and the daughter of mathematician can do this, than so can others.

I treated the pigs with horse medicine hidden in Twinkies and am working on training them to stay in the confines of an electric wire. What I’ve done so far is run the wire near the bottom of the fence that they have been burrowing under. Once they learn to respect the wire, we can move them around more easily, like we do with the goats.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Sus Destructivus

We’ve been very lax about the fact that our three little pigs can get out of the pen by squeezing under the fence. They’ve been harmless until today when they tore up the front lawn. Luckily, we don’t really have a front lawn because we haven’t finished the house, but the mess they made will make one hell of a sloppy mud puddle the next time it rains. One of the reasons we’ve been so lax is Sasha loves them. They really are cute. But it’s time to take care of that fence.

Ducks love storms, but not when they’re young.

I found nine almost-dead ducklings after last night’s storm, and was able to revive four with a heat lamp. Their fuzzy feathers don’t resist water like the oily, stiff feathers that they’ll get when they grow up. They could have survived under the wings of an adult but my ducks are lousy parents and often loose track of their young. It could be because they’re descendants of farm-raised birds; it could be because the parenting instinct is short-circuited by the little-ones scattering from me while the adults follow me around looking for food; or it could be that ducks are naturally lousy parents and survive by producing enough offspring to cover the losses.

From a financial point of view, I put little effort into them and get little return, so it works out. But I feel bad about the losses and am thinking about how much effort I should put into preventing them.

Somewhat Free Range Goats

We move the goats about every four to seven days. We move them more when the grass and weeds grow slowly but then we stop moving them when the winter comes and we feed them hay that we usually get from Wayne Byrum. If we neglect to move them when the greenery gets scarce, they will jump over or crawl under the net. So the little zap that the charger provides doesn’t amount to maximum security measures.

When we move them, we let them out for a couple of hours while we take down the net, move their little shed with the tractor, and reassemble the net, the charger, the waterer, etc. With a little shake of the food can they come running back home where, even with their little brains, I think they know they’ll be closed in for another few days, and don’t seem to mind.

I doubt I can call them “free range”, but even within the hundred square feet or so that they have, they can run around and butt heads. I don’t provide access to information media, so they have nothing to compare themselves to, but I think they’re happy.