Chickens


ChickenPen.jpg

I am feeling very nicely caught-up lately. On Sunday, I weighed all the lambs and also vaccinated them. Today after work, I mowed the chicken pen with the tractor. I love how neat and tidy it looks when the grass is short and the fencing is straight and taught. The chickens will enjoy the overturned goodies and new grass growth. You can see how tall the surrounding grass is already. In April, I was hand-wringing about too little forage for grazing when the ewes started lambing. Now, there is too much and it’s starting to seed out. It’s early for this, but the grass is likely somewhat stressed from a drought-ey May, so it decided to push out seed heads already. I’m not thrilled that the sheep are grazing stage III growth, but I’m also reluctant to cut any of it, lest we have more drought and this is my stockpile for the summer. So I’m working with it and the sheep are eating it, though I’m sure it’s not their favorite. It is so challenging to manage the timing of grazing just right. (more…)

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imageI went to the annual Country Living Expo last weekend. As always, it was interesting and educational, and a time to run into and catch up with friends and acquaintances.

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Last week I attended a talk on the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This continues to be a topic that “everyone is freaking out about” when I don’t think most need be. On hand to present were Amber Itle, a WSDA Field Veterinarian and Cat Marrier, a WSDA Feed Specialist. I was already pretty familiar with the law change, having read up on it when it was proposed in the Federal Register, and following it as it became law. But I did pick up a few tidbits of interesting info I didn’t know!

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I put this rooster in the barn months ago, maybe around lambing time. He had a wound on his foot, probably from fighting with other young roosters, and he was limping. The others were hassling him, so I stuck him in the barn for some respite. I sprayed some antibiotics on it a few times. It healed on the outside, but must have sequestered infection on the inside. This is apparently called bumblefoot.

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I really can’t explain what’s going on here, but I’ll try. These lambs are in the barn with their mother. She is the ewe I’d mentioned earlier, with a mal-presented first lamb that I pulled, but it was dead. These two came after, and were fine. Their dam seemed a little under the weather. I suspected she was anemic, maybe lost some blood in the difficult birth. I brought her into the barn and gave her some meds and alfalfa to help improve her protein levels. Today she was feeling ok, scratching her butt on the fencing, talking to me, talking to her lambs. They are well, growing, milk in their bellies, and their mama loves them as much as any. Everything normal there.

The chicken is sick. I think she has some kind of intestinal inflammation or infection. I can’t feel an egg in there, but her belly is bloated and tender. She doesn’t want to walk, and is laying cockeyed and miserable. I put her in the barn for rest and quiet, and am trying to treat her. I hate to lose a good layer; and of course I always like a veterinary challenge.

All day, the lambs have been sleeping with her like this, all cuddly. If I chase them off to treat her, a few minutes later, they are back in this same configuration. It’s even confounding their mother, who came over to sniff this immobile chicken thing, seeming to assess why she can’t call her lambs away from it to sleep with their mama.

Maybe she’s just extra warm. Maybe they miss their triplet womb mate. Maybe they sense she needs comforting. Who knows?

I’ve incubated a couple of batches of chicks. I’m taking advantage of a peculiar genetic phenomenon called sex-link, where when a red- or buff- colored rooster is bred to barred-colored hens, the offspring are different-colored by sex. In this case, I have a Rhode Island Red rooster and Barred Rock hens. The chicks hatch black, but the male chicks are destined to have the barred pattern, so they have a white “thumbprint” on top of their heads. Voilà, instant sexing of day-old chicks (which is much more accurate than a layman trying to eyeball their teeny genitals to guess). This hybrid “breed” is often called Black Star. They are supposed to be good egg layers, due to coming from two good egg producing breeds, and leveraging heterosis.

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I went to Focus on Farming again this year, and enjoyed it, as usual. Sometimes there is a session where no class jumps out at me as a “must hear,” so I just randomly pick something, and end up finding it really interesting. The first one of these was a class called Locally Sourced Grains for Poultry Production. It was taught by James Hermes, Extension Poultry specialist at OSU. In fact, he’s the only Extension Poultry Specialist in the West; and the last one hired since the ‘80s.

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