If you read my Keeping It Real post last week, the title of this post may have made you nervous. If so, calm yourself, we're all fine. I'm simply going to write about some of the happenings on our homestead.
While homesteading can be frugal (after it's been established), and educational for homeschoolers, it can also teach our children lessons in life and death. Last year, we took a particular shine to one of our new chicks. She was the sweetest of the flock and she faded away shortly after she began laying eggs (a clutch of 17! was found in a field- some with triple yolks, other times she would lay shell-less eggs, she would simply drop a yolk on the ground.) We also "lost" our rooster shortly after he started behaving aggressively with our children, which is not typical behavior for a Buff Orppington!
This year we expanded to 2 hogs, 25 broilers, 2 tom turkeys, and also tried incubating 5 turkey eggs. A few days after we bought our broilers they began to get lethargic and we found one dead. There was an unconfirmed worm siting in their droppings, so we treated for worms after losing another. All told we lost 5 and they seem to have recovered now as our losses have stopped. Thankfully, we moved them to the coop outside, and then to a chicken tractor because the smell in the basement was getting overwhelming. I would accuse one of the little children of having an "accident," only to find that one of the older children had left the basement door open!
Our turkey eggs were due to hatch on the 2nd (day 28). We knew from candling that 2 of the eggs had stopped developing and as a science experiment of sorts, we broke them open to observe the stage of development and a possible cause. One was missing a leg.
We finally saw that one pipped on the 3th (day 29), and she hatched overnight on day 30. I was feeding Ben in the middle of the night when I heard her peeping. I was terribly excited. It was almost like waking up to find out that you were going to have a baby, except without the work. And I could go back to sleep ;D
The next morning I fell in love with her. She was very frisky and kept poking her head out of the ventilation hole and calling for us. When she was dry we set her up in the brooder and found that she kept snuggling her feeder and falling into the water dish when she nodded off. I made her a nest out of a rag to sleep in. (I'm a softy farmer, what can I say? And I haven't told the half of it!)
There were 2 left to be hatched and we gave them a few extra days to pip and when they hadn't we candled and saw no movement and decided to open those eggs as well. It was very interesting to see how protected they are in there! Under the shell was a thick membrane that had to be cut through and then a thin membrane around the chick. Once all three layers were penetrated, it became obvious as to the cause of their death. Their internal organs had developed on the outside. I love Swagbucks, I picked up one while I was searching for the cause of this and found that if you don't turn your eggs frequently enough, the organs will stick to the shell and not get closed inside of the body. This was very frustrating to me! I researched (on Swagbucks, of course:) how frequently they should be turned and found the information to be very inconsistent, anywhere from once a day up to 5! We decided on two, but it obviously wasn't enough.
This was probably the best thing that could have happened for the little girl who had already hatched. She had been destined for the kitchen table and now I've taken such a shine to her that we're probably going to keep her as a pet/layer. In fact I am so pathetic that I went out and bought her some "friends" to teach her how to eat (we had been told that a turkey won't eat if it doesn't have an example to follow, I don't know if this is true, but she wasn't eating), and to keep her company. So now in addition to having an extra turkey that we didn't plan for, we now have 6 (minimum purchase) extra chicks. There are 3 Red Star pullets and 3 straight run "Mystery" chicks. It would seem there was a mix up in shipping and they don't know what breed these are. I did some research (have I mentioned that I love Swagbucks? Is it possible to learn how to farm solely from the internet?) and after looking at a million pictures of chicks, I still am unable to identify them. I'm sure it will manifest itself with time. Anyway, she has finally stopped calling for us all day long until we would come and dangle a hand in her face. Ever read Are You My Mother? She was that
chick poult! She couldn't decide if it was us or the feeder she wanted to cozy up with.
So what's the total so far 8 dead birds on our account? Ah, but I'm not through. Late last week we had to, how shall I put this?, "dispose" of one of our pigs. Now forgive me if I get technical here, I'm doing it to benefit and other Swagbuck/Google farmers who may be out there. I had a really hard time finding out anything about the little fellows condition. He seemed melancholy right from the beginning. Wouldn't eat or come out of the run-in. He had diarrhrea as well. When the weather broke for a bit, he seemed to do better. Who knows, we thought, maybe pigs can suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder? He ended up sinking back into his "depression", and he stopped having diarrhea, he just wouldn't go at all. Still figuring that it would go away, we talked to some folks and still didn't have any idea as to what could be his problem. He didn't seem to be growing so we treated for worms wondering if it was a tapeworm. Didn't help. For a pig he looked all wrong, there was no meat on his bones (and isn't that the point?), his ears were laid back, his belly was getting increasing swollen like someone was inflating a balloon inside. It seemed that he couldn't walk without having to stop and rest every few steps, like he may have been in pain. I found a symptom checker at Pig Site that showed his symptoms matched for Rectal Stricture for which there isn't anything we could do anyway. Since we couldn't come up with any clear answers from anyone we knew, we decided to put him out of his misery.
I hope the other pig doesn't get upset and try to "fly" again, as they can get lonely from what I understand. What? Didn't tell you about that? Well last week, Jared noticed that she was outside of the pen so we went back there to try and encourage her to stay close and eat, knowing that Bill should be home soon. We were very close to making it too. She had just started to wander away when he arrived. He coaxed her Inside The White Picket Fence :D so that we would have time to come up with a plan. Long story short, after chasing her around for quite some time, we were able to use long sticks to coax her back into her pen. And since she didn't tunnel out under the hog panels, it would seem that she had jumped over the top! You would think that hog panels, specifically being made for hogs would prevent that, but alas they do not. She tore a huge chunk of flesh open in her groin area doing, so I had the pleasure of trying to hold a bucket over her head while Bill sprayed an antibiotic spray over the wound. She limped for a day or two but seems to be healing well now and is back to her usual frisky self. (I had no idea that pigs could be so playful! She FRAPs like a puppy when she sees us coming. She'll play with a stick with Jared.) Fortunately, I can justify being soft with a turkey who can produce me an egg from time to time, whereas a 300+ pound pig is a pretty expensive and useless pet. So unless she can figure out how to lay eggs, I guess she's toast...or bacon rather. Mmmm... I think I'll go eat breakfast now.