Letters to the Editor: Raising Chickens and Bird Dogs, Haying Memories, and More

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Lexie, the Llewellin Setter, is learning the ins and outs of being a bird dog on a chicken farm.
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"Praline" with her newborn chicks.
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Green bales of alfalfa hay at ranch setting.
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Chicken and guinea fowl on a sunny day outdoors.
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I thought I’d share a picture of this “Jimmy Durante” tomato with you. Love your magazine!
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These chicks hatched recently and are just a few days old.
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Close up image of a free range Ameraucana rooster chicken.

Bird Dogs and Chicken Farming

I just read your editor’s note in the September/October issue of Grit (“New Life & Old Habits”). Congratulations on your new baby chicks as well as your Boykin Spaniel! I giggled to myself when you said “the next challenge is to get these birds home and teach Lou to leave them alone,” because I know from experience that the struggle is real! We also raise chickens (and other birds) and have a Llewellin Setter named Lexie. It has definitely been an experience trying to teach a bird dog that she has to discern the difference between birds that she is allowed to hunt and those she has to leave alone.

We have 27 chickens, five ducks, 10 racing pigeons, and one goose, and as a pup she has definitely gone through a long period where she was absolutely crazed with what they were up to. There were times when she would even wake us up in the middle of the night just to go outside and check on them — only to be disappointed because they were in their coop by then, of course. She is now 8 months old, almost 9, and has finally started to calm down some. Her “daddy” uses quail to train her in the field, and she absolutely loves the time she gets to spend playing with her birds. But she still has her moments, and I’m not sure if we are quite to the point yet where I would trust her out in the yard with the birds for an extended period without supervision.

We know we will get there eventually, especially after she has her first hunting season and gets to experience in the field the true joy of what she was bred for. Anyways, if you ever feel like sharing your experience training Lou (or if you have trained previous bird dogs while owning chickens), or if any of your contributors would want to tackle an article about it, it would be a joy to read! I’d guess your family and ours can’t be the only farmers and fellow dog lovers, upland game hunters, or waterfowl hunters who have experienced this or are new to the struggle of teaching something bird-crazy to leave certain birds alone.

Here’s a photo of Lexie and my favorite chicken, Praline, who just hatched three new chicks of her own!

Brandy Roberts
Tonganoxie, Kansas

Hardworking Childhood

When I was a girl, we hauled hay every summer. We had about 100 dairy cows. Not to mention the calves and other animals. There were six children in our family. Five of us hauled hay with our dad and mom. Mom got to drive the tractor while Dad was on the wagon, and we would pitch the hay onto the wagon and Dad would stack it. There were always hundreds of bales to get into the barn.

It was seemingly always the hottest day of the year when we hauled hay. And my dad always made heavy bales of hay. We always were amazed to pick up someone else’s hay and wonder why they were so light. Ours were from 50 to 75 pounds per bale. I guess we were some of the strongest children in school during the fall when we went back to school, but we didn’t know any different because we always worked hard. It was always miserable because I suffered from hay fever, especially when we were in the barn throwing hay into the loft. I have three brothers and three sisters. The baby sister missed this job because she was too young.

When I got married at age 21, Daddy bought a hay picker upper. I asked him why he hadn’t done this before. He just laughed and said he was losing his “free picker uppers.” Later on, he started with the round bales, and that was a lot easier. Our summers were always long and hot. Back then most people didn’t have vacations. We never had one, we just worked our way through the summer. We did have a vegetable garden in the summer to take care of. We pretty much grew all of the food we ate. My dad died at 94, and my mom is still living at 93, and they have never had the first vacation; never really wanted one. Daddy just liked to work. He ran a dairy from 2 o’clock in the morning until about 8 at night, and then to bed we went — glad to get into bed.

Winters were a little better because the days were shorter. Get up in the morning and go feed the calves, eat breakfast, and get ready for school. In the evenings we’d change clothes and go get the cows up to the barn for milking and feeding the calves. Supper was ready when Daddy got in from milking, and then we did our homework and went to bed. We didn’t watch much television. My dad sold the dairy cows when he was 85 years old. He wasn’t able to do it anymore, but he always was doing something on the farm. I guess it seemed like our years were full of hard work, and it was, but I don’t think it hurt any of us. We children are all still living and have had good lives, and we knew how to work. There are more children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren than we can count (40-plus).

I am proud of the hard work we learned from our childhood. It sure kept us out of trouble. The only different day was Sunday. We did our work and off to church we went. That was pretty much my childhood, and I think I had a good one.

Sylvia Blake
Via email

We agree with you, Sylvia, and families like yours are the fabric of rural life in America. Those hot, itchy days hauling hay sure are hard to forget! —Editors

Raising Keets With Chickens

I raise chickens, and have for a while. I am thankful that Japanese beetles don’t bite or give off an ooze as I hand-pick them for my hens. To say that the hens love them is an understatement.

This year, I tried again to raise guineas to stay by my flock, and this time the chickens are doing the brooding job for me. They hatched the eggs and are raising them. It seems to be working, as the keets think they are chicks and are still hanging around with their foster moms.

Deb Reher
Muskego, Wisconsin

Brooding Notes

Baby chicks are adorable!

While these animals are in the baby stage, their brain activity center is not as aggressive as it becomes as the chicks grow from chicks to chickens.

When they are in this stage of development, the chicken cannot distinguish the fact that when the water is spilled on the brooder floor, there will be no more water to drink until the owner cleans up the spilled water and refills the waterer. If the odor does not cause the owner to collapse in a heap of agony, the cleaning up of the poop, the water, and the chicken mash will create more unpleasant moments for the owner.

When the chickens have passed this stage of development and have matured into mature chickens, watching these animals and their antics is the reward for all the mucking of the brooder house.

Isn’t this just about the normal development of human beings also?

Arlene F. Clayton
Belleville, Kansas

It’s always nice when the brooder chores are behind you, Arlene, but it’s a small price to pay for the eggs, meat, and fulfillment that raising chickens provides. —Editors

Garden Produce

We have a huge garden every year. This year, despite the drought conditions, our tomatoes have done very well. I thought I’d share a picture of this “Jimmy Durante” tomato with you. Love your magazine!

Herb Aurand
Wolcott, New York

Tick Removal

The article, “Ticked Off,” on Page 60 of the July/August issue discussed the technique of removing ticks with tweezers. This technique puts the “toxin” from the tick into your body through its bite because you are squeezing it.

A better solution that we have used in Arkansas for 15 years or more lessens or prevents the tick from injecting any body fluids into your system.

The technique uses antibacterial liquid soap. You apply two drops directly on the tick. Gently roll the tick around with your finger for 15 seconds. Wait for 30 to 60 seconds. Gently roll the tick around with your finger again and the tick should release from your skin without injecting its toxin. If the tick does not release, wait 30 more seconds and roll again. Since the tick is a thorax breather, it thinks it’s suffocating and will let go. The benefits of this method are little or no itching and the soap disinfects the bite.

Don Grayham
Mountain Home, Arkansas

Training Roosters

After reading the rooster story in the September/October issue (“Cranky Roosters”), I thought I’d offer a possible solution. We’ve had chickens all of our life, and when the roosters start growing their spurs, at about 1 year, they would become very aggressive so into the pot they’d go.

But in the last year, we met a gal with a solution. She said to catch the rooster when he tries to attack you, and carry him upside down by his legs for about two minutes, all the time telling him you are not trying to hurt him or his hens, but you’re trying to take care of them. She would even tell the rooster, “I am the Alpha.” Then hold him up in your arms, petting him all the while talking to him, for a couple minutes more. Then set him free. You might have to do this more than once depending on the age of the rooster.

We have an Ameraucana rooster, and it is working for us. We had to give him the treatment three times. He still flaps his wings, but he is keeping a good distance, and I still tell him I am Alpha.

Shirley Collins
Cornville, Arizona

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