chickens and fawns

   We are nearing the end of our one beautiful day for this week, okay, maybe the others were beautiful in a grey, rainy sort of way, but today was mostly clear and blue and sunny and we were all very glad.

   Isabel and Bridget were out on a high paddock today, and if the grass doesn’t start growing faster, we’ll be in trouble.  If we are forced to bring the animals around onto paddocks that have already been grazed, before the grass has had a chance to recover, we start a cycle of overgrazing that is hard to recover from.  We had enough of this last summer and fall, when the drought sent the pasture into dormancy in September  .  Then, we pulled them off and fed hay; now, we’ll try putting Isabel and the mini on the clearing, high on the west hill, where the grass in the newly reclaimed paddocks is thin, and won’t bear much traffic yet.  The grass in the triangle pasture, where the steers were fed spread bales, is coming on, but not ready for any grazing at all.

chickens

   We presently are caring for three separate flocks:  the Rhode Island Reds, one- and two-year old hens which live in the old and soon to be replaced chicken house;  the Speckled Sussex flock, about thirty three-week-old pullets and a couple of little roosters, who are presently being held in the shed out back that used, we are told, to be a smoke-house, and which we refer to by many names — “brooder house” being one, “sherrif’s office” another; and the CRX’s, white broilers about five days old, who are already adding their pungency to the atmosphere of the basement.

   The Reds are presently giving us above three dozen eggs per day, and grateful we are for each and every one.  S5 has repainted the EGGS FOR SALE sign that hangs at the top of the drive, with the artistic addition of a meditative hen in the top right-hand corner; we expect traffic jams will form on CR 46 as people come to buy our beautiful eggs.  The Reds are free-ranged, which means, in practical terms, that they are not confined to henhouse or chicken run.  They forage a good deal of their grub (no pun intended), and, now that the pigs are gone where they will need swill no more, the hens will live mostly on forage and swill, which they like very much.  We will be keeping track of the effect on the feed bill.

   The Sussex, on the other hand, will be “pastured”, that is to say, they will travel in a moveable paddock a couple of days behind the cattle, going onto fresh grass every day, and scrapping the cows’ piles as well.  These are our replacement flock, and the breed has been chosen on the basis of the birds’ reputation as good brooders and mothers.  They will begin to lay in about October, which is for us counterintuitive, since about the time they are laying well the winter will drop down like a stage curtain and suppress laying; but these birds are also supposed to lay well in winter, so maybe it’ll be okay.  We’ll be letting you know.

   The CRX’s will travel in tractors for ten weeks, then go live in the freezer.

fawn

   The Sisters of RMS brought us a three-day-old fawn today.  His mama must have met with an accident right after his birth, and he did not seem to have eaten for some time.  The children tried a number of tactics for getting some warm milk and raw egg into him, in lieu of the goats’ milk we don’t have; the method finally successful was a ketsup squirt, and in the end about four ounces ended up in the fawn, the rest running down his neck and dripping onto the porch deck, where Samson and Tiger, our benevolent toms, lapped it up.

     Halfway through the feeding exercise, the rat terriers got into a scrum, with the girls screaming and crying by way of assistance, and the boys kicking whichever dog was on top and saying things that sounded like swearing.  Maybe the excitement got Baby’s adrenaline flowing, because it was after that that he began swallowing the milk they were pouring into his mouth.  Our homesteading neighbors the M’s took him home with them, they having a lactating goat, and goats’ milk being the best substitute for his mama’s.  His absence is much felt among the children.

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