Sunday, February 15, 2015

"What's up, peep?"

The peeps are about 5 days old now, and as always I am enjoying them immensely.

Despite their diminutive size, they are full of personality and curiosity. 

A riot of colors as peeps mingle in the brooder

They bring the spirit of new life, and hope, to a part of winter that I often struggle with, the part that seems to drag on forever, spring a distant memory. 

Buffs discuss peep news with a Wellsummer pullet

My daily dose of cheer, these babies. 

nothing like peeps in the hand to brighten up a day

In case you're curious about what breeds we got this time, in Papa's hands are a Wellsummer (brown), a Black Sex Link, and an Ameraucana.

from left: Wellsummer, Black Sex Link, Ameraucana

Wellsummers are a breed from Welsum, Holland, best known as the rooster on the Kellog's box. She will lay dark brown eggs.

Black Sex Links are a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen. Differences in color of the newly hatched chicks are gender related, allowing for easy sorting of pullets and cockerels. She will lay light brown eggs.

Ameraucanas come in many colors, from light to dark. They lay light blue or green eggs. 

Buff, Wellsummer, Ameraucana and Black Sex Links mingle in the brooder

In the top photo on the page, two Buff Orpingtons exchange peep news. One of our all-time favorites, buffs are sweet tempered and curious. They also lay light brown eggs.

Ameraucana peep sleeps standing up

This is the earliest we've ever started pullets (young female chickens). It is our hope that they will be laying well before our older girls molt in the fall, a natural process that takes so much energy from the hen that she stops laying eggs for up to 3 months.

These little sweeties are our guarantee for non-stop eggs throughout that period. 

a Buff Orpington chick poses for the camera

And non-stop entertainment for the next 9 months as they grow in feathers, size and individual personalities.

Gypsy Farmgirl loves little peeps!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

new little peep at Litengård

The newest batch of peeps has arrived from Cackle Hatchery!

One of my very favorite days of the year on this farm, right up there with hatching turkeys, new lambs and new crias

Hard to believe these tiny little fluffs traveled for two days inside this cardboard box.

mail order peeps!

Mother Nature has given them the gift of being able to absorb nutrition from their yolk right before they hatch, giving them 2-3 days worth of sustenance before they need to eat and drink.  

your chickens are in!

In nature, mama hen would stay on her nest with her hatched and unhatched babies for a couple of days, waiting for the rest to hatch, before bringing the chicks out of the nest for food and water. Absorbing the yolk allowed the babies who hatched first to wait around with mama until her siblings hatched out and they could all go out for a bite. 

Buff Orptington, Black Sex Link, Ameraucana and Wellsummer pullets

Hatcheries have learned to take advantage of this little window of time in order to mail the birds to new homes.  

At about 8:00am this  morning I got the call from the local post office saying they had my chickens, and off I ran to pick them up and bring them home. 

And then the fun begins. 

such a variety of colors in these new peeps!

After opening up the box and making sure they look OK, I take them out one-by-one, say a little "welcome to our farm" and dip their beaks in the water and food dishes. 

And then I sit and watch and sit and watch and occasionally think about all the other things I should be doing,... then sit and watch some more. 

a friend enjoys saying hello to a new peep

All of these little cuties "should" be pullets, a term for a young female chicken before she starts to lay eggs.  Occasionally we do get a rooster in the mix.  The sorting method is not 100% accurate. 

I purchase new pullets every spring, because in the fall, all of my chickens will molt their feathers, a process that takes a lot of energy from the hens, during which they stop laying eggs for up to 3 months as they focus on regrowing their feathers again. 

peep peep! says the little peep

If I can time things correctly, these new babies will be laying eggs by then, filling in the gap while my older hens molt. 

At least that's the plan.  I'm still tweaking the number of birds I need to buy each spring to get the right number of eggs for what we need and what people would like to get from us. 

sleepy little peep

I think we got it right this time with twenty new chicks.  

Then again, can you ever have too many peeps?

Gypsy Farmgirl loves new peeps!

Cheers - 
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about new peeps!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

melting over this sweet face!

I am in love. 
chin whiskers!

Certifiable, head-over-heels in love with my friend's newest calves.

Look at the heart on this guy's forehead!

I just melt over their beautiful brown eyes and long eyelashes. 

Close up of Valentino's heart

Several of the bull calves have white hearts on their foreheads, and a follower on my Instagram feed named them Valentino and Valentine. 

And then there is Johanna, a little white heifer that I got to name!

She's a little bit shy and a whole lot sweet. 

There are also two very sweet and silly older calves that make the funniest faces and love to suck on my entire fist. 

Gypsy Farmgirl falls in love with Holstein calves

another bull calf with a large heart on his forehead

But Johanna and the Valentino boys are my very favorite sweeties. 

I hope you like them too. 

Gypsy Farmgirl loves Holstein calves

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Icelandic sheep enjoy the sunny side of the machine shed at Litengård

Whenever it blows on a Wednesday I can't help but recall a favorite tune from the Pooh albums we grew up with, called A Rather Blustery Day.

There is a line in the song that goes Oh I know today is Windsday and this is how I know.. it is always on a Windsday that the winds begin to blow...

Wednesday was one of those blustery days.

Last weekend we replaced/repaired the roof on the Turkey Townhouse, finishing up just after dark Sunday night.

So it was with utter disappointment when I stepped outside to do afternoon chores a mere three days later, on Windsday, that I noticed a piece of the new corrugated plastic roofing flapping in the wind, still attached to the structure but ripped in two.

Brand new roof panel ripped in two by the blustery wind

After sighing a big sigh I headed down to check and see how bad it was and see if I could salvage any of the roofing pieces.  Some of the panels are meant as skylights and do not have any wood underlayment.  If those panels blew off, there would be a gaping hole in the turkey roof open to the sky.

As I neared the structure I noticed two of my turkeys were out of the paddock.  The noise and flapping roof panels must have scared them enough to fly out.  One hen, Selma, had flown out of her paddock, across the field road and into the boys/chickens/rabbit paddock.

Tom was just outside of his paddock, wandering up and down the field road right next to the other hens who had not flown out.

I made a mental note to fetch Selma and Tom once I had inspected the roof.

Selma, a heritage Sweetgrass turkey hen at Litengård

And then I spotted my two ewe lambs in the open area just beyond the turkey paddock.

Rats, they must have busted out of their little shelter somehow.  Two more escapees to add to my list of things to do - or rather, critters to catch.

And then I noticed Ty, our ram lamb, with his head stuck in the net fence trying to get to my ewe lambs who no doubt are now of breeding age and rather enticing to a boy who has already bred his three girls and is no longer getting much action.

Triple rats!

A quick triage of the situation told me this would be the order of events:

Turn off the fence charger to take the electric pulse out of the net fence that Ty was trying to break through.

Get Ty out of the fence.

Get Ty and the girls into the haymow (treats come in mighty handy here) and lock them in for awhile while I inspect any damage to the fence and repair it.

Repair the fence. The net fencing was still secure, thank goodness.  But Ty did end up breaking two plastic step-in posts that I had placed between each of the fiberglass posts of the net fence.  I needed to replace them both, as they were helping hold up the corner of the fence.

Getting the old post bottom out of the frozen ground proved to be tricky.  Eventually I succeeded, after retrieving a hammer and other tools to pry it out of the ground.  I was able to use the same hole it came out of to place a new post back into.

Turn the power back on.

Catch the lambs and return them to their shelter.  This turned out to be much easier than I had thought it would be.  These lambs were wild wild wild when I took them from the main paddock and put them into their own shelter in early December for the duration of Ty's visit.  I didn't want him breeding them.

One of the two lambs, Daisy, had been escaping right before all the sheep went into their winter paddock, and it had been a royal PITA (pain in the arse) to catch her.  Picture a rodeo involving a herding dog, ropes, halters, and a lamb that refused to stand upright on our trip to the barn for a few days of "time-out" while we readied the winter paddock.

But it seems my weeks and weeks of going into their shelter every day with a few treats to eat from hand has tamed them up to the point where they actually followed me of their own free will back over to their shelter and right inside.

'Lil Liza safely back in her shelter.

They got extra treats for that stellar behavior.

After all the sheep were secured I let the ewes and Ty out of the haymow. Ty immediately ran over to the edge of his paddock nearest to the little lambs shelter and stayed there, bleating, begging for a date. But not sticking his head through.

Sorry Ty, no dates tonight.

Now to catch the turkeys.  Not too big of a deal.  My permanent flock will normally let me come within arms reach, even if they don't particularly enjoy being touched.  In less than 5 minutes both turkeys were safely back in their own space.

Tom, our Sweegrass tom turkey, back in his paddock

Two roof panels had blown off.  One managed to come off in one piece without breaking, but one had a jagged tear across the middle.  Luckily neither one was covering the open area so there was no problem with a chance of precipitation falling into the shelter.

I tucked the turkeys into their shelter, which left only the normal evening chores to finish.

My 30 minute routine took 90 minutes, but at the end of the day, everyone was where they were supposed to be, and all was quiet on the farm again.

And I was off to celebrate New Year's Eve with family and friends.

Happy New Year Y'all!
Gypsy Farmgirl spends New Year's Eve catching loose livestock

Monday, December 29, 2014

Front left to right: Selma, Sarafina;  Back: Tom, Serena, Snow White

I finally named all of my Sweegrass hens.

Last winter we still had a variety of breeds from our "mixed bag" order from Porter's, and I knew we wouldn't be keeping them all, so I didn't name them.

But this winter we are down to our permanent breeding flock of three Sweetgrass and one white Tiger Bronze hen, so the ladies now have "real" names.

This is Sarafina, the biggest of my Sweetgrass hens.  She also has the darkest red neck feathers of all of my hens.

Sarafina, our Sweetgrass heritage turkey hen

The name "Sarafina" (and it's many derivatives) derived from the biblical word "seraphim," meaning "fiery ones," an order of angels.  I think it's fitting.  She's definitely one of my fiery angels.

Pretty little Sarafina!

I love everything about her including the tiny tuft of feathers on the top of her tiny snood.  I just want to reach out and touch her sweet little feathery head.  But she doesn't care for petting.  So I don't.

Serena is the middle-sized Sweetgrass hen.  She's a bit camera shy, and I realized when I sat down to write this post that she had eluded any close-ups.

Camera-shy Serena

So I donned my 20 pounds of insulated barn clothes and trudged outside to snap some more photos in the 7° F sunshine, bare hands freezing to the camera.  The sacrifices I make for this blog, I tell 'ya.

Serena, Sweetgrass heritage turkey hen

Serena looks an awful lot like Sarafina, but slightly smaller and minus the reddish neck feathers. If I don't see her side-by-side with Sarafina however, I often get them confused.  Here she is on the right, with Sarafina on the left.

Sarafina left, Serena right

The name Serena is derived from the Latin word serēnus, meaning "clear, tranquil, serene".  She is definitely my serenest hen, whereas Sarafina and Selma are my most inquisitive and playful.

And then there is sweet little Selma. If she wasn't already the smallest of the three Sweetgrass, she would still be easy to identify by her lighter neck and upper back feathers, and the tiny black feathers coming out of her snood.

sweet little Selma, a Sweetgrass heritage turkey hen

By far the smallest hen in the flock, but one of the most gregarious personalities, she is the first to come up and take treats right out of my hand, or investigate my clothing and give my snaps and buttons a good peck.

Her name is of German origin and means "Helmet of God," or "Protected by God" and may also be related to the name Solomon, which means "Peace."  

Selma's coloring is lighter than my other two Sweetgrass hens

No matter what her name means, I am smitten by her and happy to have her here.

And then there is Snow White.  She is not a Sweetgrass, she is a white-variant Tiger Bronze.

Snow White, a white-variant Tiger Bronze heritage turkey hen

She was actually named over a year ago, when it became evident that she would not be bronze like most of her breed, and the name just came up one day and stuck.

When I asked Porter's about her coloring (to see if perhaps they sent the wrong breed), they said this variant white color pops up occasionally and they recommended culling her as it was not standard Tiger Bronze coloration.

But I didn't want to cull her - for many reasons.

Snow White, a white-variant Tiger Bronze heritage turkey hen

Last summer she was accidentally but severely injured during the breeding season (it is not uncommon for the heavy toms to cause damage to a hens back when they mount or dismount).

Her wound was so severe I actually considered putting her down.

I'm so glad I didn't.  After moving her to the barn where I could administer daily treatments of colloidal silver and coconut oil, she healed quickly.  During the treatment process, I bonded more deeply with her.

We hatched all of our own eggs last year, and it was easy to see which ones were from her, with their mostly white coloration.  All of her babies grew up big and strong and healthy.

There was no way I would cull this hen.

And so here she is today, the only non-Sweetgrass turkey I currently own.  She has earned her place in this flock.

And of course we still have our tom, Tom.

Tom, our Sweetgrass heritage tom turkey

We had two Sweetgrass toms, which I referred to collectively as "Tom-Tom," but sadly we lost one to a raccoon this summer.  And so we have only one now.

But somehow he seems quite happy to be on his own with his little flock of hens.

I have never had to worry about this guy, so far he has been nothing but respectful towards me and all of our farm visitors.

Tom struts near Serena

And so I enjoy his magnificent display which goes on pretty much all day long, whenever there are females present - either turkeys OR humans.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl names her Sweetgrass hens

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