08 April 2009

Lots of New Arrivals

It was a busy day on the farm, with new animals arriving left and right.

The first batch was planned long in advance: our new baby poultry. The local feed store pooled orders from many customers, and placed a bulk order with a nearby hatchery. Today, all the newly-hatched birds arrived, so Homeschooled Farm Girl (HFG) and I drove into town to pick them up.

We bought 10 White Embden goslings, 40 Buff Orpington pullet chicks, and 30 mixed-gender broad breasted meat bird chicks. Actually, ten of the pullets and ten of the meat birds are for another family; they recently moved to the country, but don't have a brooder facility set up yet. Since we'd have to run the same heat lamps no matter how many chicks we were brooding, we offered to take care of the other family's chicks until they're old enough to go outside. They'll reimburse us something for the feed, and everyone will be happy.

Speaking of feed, the feed store had a terrific deal: for every bag of chick starter feed you buy, you can have ten free meat bird chicks. Since I knew we'd need at least three bags anyway, this deal was a total no-brainer. We got all thirty of our meat bird chicks free; these things cost at least $1.20 at the feed store that sells them, and even more than that when ordered by mail. The three bags of feed cost us $28.65, so we're definitely coming out ahead.

Remember those pastured poultry pens that we had the turkeys in last year? Once all the turkeys were butchered, Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I moved the pens into the barn for the winter. Looking at them, I realized they would make ideal brooders this Spring. We spread a tarp under them, to protect the wooden floor from chicken droppings, and then added some loose straw for bedding. Last night, I hooked up two heat lamps in one pen (for the 70 chicks) and one lamp (for the goslings) in the other. I then set up some waterers, turned on the heat lamps, and made sure they were generating enough warmth for the babies. When HFG and I got home with our boxes of birds, everything was set to go. She helped me unload them from the boxes, and made each bird got a drink of water before releasing it. (She also cuddled quite a few of them before handing them over, but that's another story.)

Anyway, here are the chicks:

And the goslings:

Our barn cats have been stalking the pens (think Sylvester and Tweetie Bird); looking at all the small birds, a couple of the cats have facial expressions like they've died and gone to feline heaven. As a result, we're taking extra special care to ensure there are no gaps in the lids or other ways for cats to get in.

As if all these new birds weren't enough, Dot (our leader ewe, and matriarch of the flock) delivered twins for us. She turns ten years old this Spring, and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. She did an expert job, as always, and both lambs were quickly up and nursing like pros.
It was a mixed-gender set of twins. As this is Spy Wednesday, my first inclination was to name them Julius and Ethel --- but I figured that would be way too esoteric. And MYF would probably veto it.

I thought that would be it for new animals. Then, late this afternoon, HFG came running in excitedly from the barn with news that yet another ewe was in labor. HFG had been eagerly anticipating actually watching a lamb's birth, so she immediately turned around and ran back to the barn --- and then stayed there with the ewe for quite some time. Eventually, she returned with news of the latest happy arrival in the lambing pen: one beautiful male lamb.
With four ewes delivered, and six lambs on the ground, we are exactly at our historical lambing percentage of 150%. If the four remaining ewes can keep this up, we'll hopfully be blessed with twelve lambs. Given Dot's age, we will probably keep a couple of the best females --- including the one born today --- as replacement breeders. But if all goes well, we should still have lots of delicious lamb for the freezer this winter.

No comments: