Critter Count from the Cracked Egg
By Suzanne Cox
Yesterday was a really exciting day for us here at ANS Farms. It was our first official “sheep visit” since we began raising katahdin last summer. We had a wonderful time with a very nice older couple interested in raising a few sheep of their own. During our conversation, the question was asked “How many animals do you have here?” Hmm… well, we had to sit and think on that awhile!
We don’t just do one thing here, but a little bit of just about everything. Which reminds me, I have been asked “Why Confessions of a Cracked Egg?” Apparently, I have never explained the origins of our blog title. Last year we needed to build our poultry flock. We started here with just 7 hens, not even a rooster. So in March we purchased a pure bred barred rock rooster and six more hens. Then we purchased some Narragansett turkeys. By April we were continuously running the incubator, doing as many as 108 eggs at a time of both chicken and turkey. Our friends thought we were crazy, our family just laughed. One day a Facebook friend posted a quote on my page that just about summed me up. “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.”- Bernard Meltzer. This made me laugh, and just seemed a perfect fit for our blog!
So lets do a run down of exactly what all we have here these days. I’ll start with our family. One year ago when we were just starting our farming adventure there was myself, my husband Andrew, our oldest daughter Macey, and our son William. In October, our third child Cierra was born. Here they all are in their first group photo. Macey is now 6, William will be 5 next month, and Cierra is almost 3 months old.
So as I think you can guess I have a fondness for poultry. Our original hens were all cinnamon queens. Now, the majority of our chicken flock is barred rock. We still have those cinnamon queens today, with a few of their barred rock cross offspring which hatched out white. Our chicken total today is 23 hens, 7 roosters. Here are our original “Golden Girls” and the barred rock rooster.
Besides the chickens, we also have 7 guineas. These were purchased to eat the potato bugs off our plants last year, and they did so quit efficiently! I was impressed by how well they ate all the bugs in the garden without damaging the plants. We have 5 royal purple guineas and 2 lavenders. The lavenders are by far my favorite, the royal purple remind me to much of a vulture. I would like to eventually replace the purples with more of the lavenders.
In the fall of 2010 GRIT featured a beautiful turkey on the front of their magazine. I was struck by the beauty of that bird, and began investigating different heritage breeds of turkey. Andrew and I decided to try the Narragansett turkey first. Our first purchase was supposed to be 3 hens and a tom. However as they grew we discovered we had 2 of each. They just became old enough to breed this past month, and we have their first eggs in our incubator now! Unfortunately, last week one of our hens wandered to close to our Poland China boar Boss. Boss Hog had himself a 30 pound snack before dinner. Hopefully some of these eggs will be hens! Last summer we found a local man advertising fertile turkey eggs. He raised Bourbon Reds, another heritage breed and the second breed we were interested in raising. We ended up with 108 eggs, and only had 11 hatch from that run. Of those 11, only 1 bird lived to maturity. Not the success we were hoping for! So today we have 3 Narragansett turkeys and one lonely Bourbon Red. Since the death of our other hen, both turkey toms have decided to compete for the attention of the remaining girl. Here they are having a gobbling match.
When we went last year to purchase our barred rock flock from a poultry hatchery we took both kids along. They saw some baby crested ducks, and just had to have a pair. We brought home Donald and Daisy that evening. Six months later, we discovered Donald and Daisy were really Donald and Daffy. These boys were hilarious, and pretty sweet creatures. Unfortunately, Daffy was killed by a hawk just a few weeks ago, leaving us with one pretty lonely Donald Duck.
So that makes a total of 42 total birds we have here now. We are hoping to double our number of laying hens and turkeys this year. I’m also looking for a female companion for poor Donald.
As for the four-legged farm critters we have plenty of those as well! Our largest stock here are Momma and Baby donkey. Momma and Baby are livestock guardians who purchased from a cattle and goat operation. They are both very sweet with humans, and deadly to dogs! We have seen them many times charge fence rows and make a huge commotion when neighborhood dogs have attempted to run the fence row. Last month Momma Donkey bent a twenty foot section of fence nearly in half after a pack of five dogs began digging and barking at the fence. While we weren’t very happy to have to repair the fence, we were thankful that the dogs did not get in to the birds, their obvious target after finding one dead bird outside the fence. Momma and Baby are both bred to deliver this summer. We bred them to a nice gaited donkey stud that belongs to a neighbor.
That is Momma and Eeyore visiting for the first time. Not long after this we had to put up hay in the barn that sits in their pasture. We discovered that donkeys REALLY like jelly beans. Only when you run out, they try to come through the window for more!
Our main livestock operation here is sheep. We started with a few different kinds of hair sheep. Of those, we have three left. Barbie is a full blooded Barbados ewe. Her daughter Annie (born on our Anniversary) is a Barbados and katahdin cross. Then there is Paint, she is a full blooded painted desert sheep. In late summer of last year we added a registered herd of katahdin hair sheep to the flock. We have 7 ewe’s and 1 stud. Our favorite in this flock is Lil’ Red, our only red katahdin. Red John, our stud and Old Lady (the oldest in the flock) are also characters. All of our katahdin have been pretty easy keepers so far, not to difficult to catch or handle and seemingly resistant to the foot rot problems we were having with the other breeds. All but two of our girls are bred to deliver in the next 30 days. We can’t wait to have a pasture full of babies! This is our first year lambing, and we are all pretty excited. Our current sheep total is 11 head.
These girls are either pregnant, or they each swallowed a barrel!
This past fall we added a few pigs to the farm in an effort to clear our garden areas in a productive and environmentally friendly way. We currently have 2 Poland x Chester cross slaughter pigs we are growing out, 2 registered Poland China breeding pigs, and 2 Poland x York cross females for breeding. Our first piglets should be born sometime in March. That’s another first for us! We don’t know much about pigs yet, and are doing a lot of learning as we go so this should be quit the experience! Here are our two newest sows, Daisy Duke and Ellie May right after arriving here in October.
Besides livestock we also have three dogs. Two of our dogs are registered redbone coonhounds. Both are show and hunt dogs. Andrew used to raise and train dogs for show and hunt. Since moving here though we have sold his other dogs just keeping these two, our favorites. Sweets is our young female, and Digit our male. Digit is the kids favorite hound ever. He’s pretty easy to handle, and William has been able to show him since he was three years old. Here he is at a show when he was three with “his” dog Digit.
Then there is Tucker. Tucker is a Brittany and Springer Spaniel crossed house dog we got in May. When we moved here, we had a Wheaton Terrier female named Lucy. Lucy was our family mascot, the kids best friend, and a joy to our household. She was a very talented dog that was able to climb six foot ladders, go down ten foot slides, sled in the snow, and do many other tricks. Shortly after moving here our new neighbors son shot and killed Lucy for running across their yard one day. She had never been over there before, and we did not realize she had wandered off until it was to late. The kids were devastated, and we were all upset over the loss. Tucker was a gift from Andrew’s mother to the kids, an attempt to give something back to them that they had lost. While he will never be Lucy, Tucker is a sweet pup.. Most of the time!
So back to the question of how many of what we have here on the farm. Looks like we are currently at 3 kids, 30 chickens, 4 turkeys, 7 guineas, 1 duck, 2 donkeys, 11 sheep, 6 pigs and 3 dogs. For now. Can’t wait to do an end of summer inventory in a few months! We are expecting February lambs, March piglets, June and July donkeys, and chicks all spring and summer long. The kids have also asked Daddy for two kittens, which he promised they can have now that we have two barns built. Who knows what else will make it’s way onto the farm this year. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
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