Spring on the Farm
With the warm spring weather comes a lot of new life – plants, flowers and animals.
This year we have baby chicks growing under their mother’s careful watch. A jersey calf will be born any day and a foal will be born in either May or June.
Daisy, our Jersey cow, is heavy with her calf right now. She spends a lot of time laying down and resting – I would too if I was carrying that much weight around in my belly! I love the rare times I get to see and feel the calf moving. I feel like the expectant mother – I am excited and scared at the same time. I check her several times each day for signs of imminent labor and pray she delivers easily and without needing any assistance. Of course I hope I catch it all on video! I know Daisy will be a great mother if how she treats Dolly (our new mid mini-Jersey heifer) is any indication. She keeps Dolly close to her, grooming her throughout the day, sharing her food with her and sleeping side-by-side. It is a beautiful sight! Daisy won’t let me pet Dolly – though I can tell Dolly wants petting and brushed too! Maybe once the calf is born, she will loosen the maternal strings she has attached to Dolly.
Lila, our Arabian mare, is pregnant as well – though we didn’t do an actual pregnancy test, the vet believes she is pregnant and she surely looks pregnant! Lila and Sam (our stallion) are very married! On normal days they are inseparable – never more than a few feet apart. I have read that in late pregnancy the mare will separate from the stallion in preparation for birth. It must be getting close to time as the two can now be seen at separate ends of the pasture throughout the day. Of course she may be just tired of his constant attention! Just think we will be having a little Sammy or Lila galloping through the pastures this summer!
When Lil Bit, a young hen from last summer’s hatch, started showing signs of being broody (she was actually sitting on golf balls that we had put in the nest boxes to remind the hens where to lay their eggs!), we removed the golf balls and put a few frozen eggs that we found hidden in the barn under her until we could gather a few fertile eggs from other hens.
A couple years ago I lost my beloved Beulah – a silver and black Ameraucana pullet. I have looked long and hard to find another that at least looks like her. While out shopping at a farm supply store I got excited when I saw they had Ameraucana pullets (only a few days old)! We picked out a few, fully intending to put them in a brooder to raise. When we got home we discussed trying to sneak them under Lil Bit and figured why not at least give it a try. It was risky, and we stood by ready to rescue the chicks if she started pecking on them or kicking them out of the nest. She instantly adopted them though – kicking out the eggs she knew would never hatch. The chicks are now a few weeks old, and she has them exploring all over the barn and barnyard – even showing them how to scratch for grain and bugs in the cow patties! I am a bit sad though that the chicks we bought are not likely true Ameraucanas and are likely only Easter eggers, but I am happy to have a few more green egg layers down the road! I am also glad to know that a broody hen will adopt chicks to raise as her own.
And then there is Betty Turkey trying her best to hide her spring eggs to hatch. After all the worrying and heartache from last year’s clutch, I don’t think I can allow her to hatch her eggs unless we can find a way to keep her penned up once they hatch.
Last year, within 24 hours of hatching, Mom Turkey moved her babies out in the pastures trying to hide them in the grass and brush – she wouldn’t bring them back to the safety of the barn. Of the nine eggs hatched last year, only four survived. Coyotes or a fox took Mom Turkey and all but four of the poults one night. The four found their way back to the barn to Tom Turkey. Tom stepped right in and took over mothering his poults. During the time they were young, you would not have guessed Tom was a male – he never puffed out his feathers or made his gobble-gobble sounds – he cooed and made mothering sounds. He taught his babies and nurtured them to maturity.
I just love farm life and all the new life each year. Of course there are heart-breaking times when you lose an animal that you have cared for and grown to love but so far those times are far out weighed by the joy that new life brings.
Historic livestock and draft animals, Poitou donkeys are endangered but being revived by Texas ranchers Christopher Jones and Patrick Archer
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