July 2014

Sort of a mellow month here this month. Hay is done, chickens are butchered… Now we’re just moving the cattle & chickens every day and feeding the pigs. And irrigating. We got some family time in at Ouray, and John got in some good hikes in the Silverton area with his buddy Brad.

Chores take about an hour in the morning, and 10 minutes in the evening. In the AM we feed the pigs, move the cattle, move & feed the chickens, and refill everyone’s water. In the evening we feed the pigs, feed the chickens again and collect eggs.

100 cattle are easier than 20 chickens… 100 chickens isn’t any harder than 20. Cattle are the easiest on the ranch, then pigs, and chickens are the most difficult. At least in our world. The chickens wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have so many foxes around. Let your guard down and birds will disappear. Grrr. The cattle are kept where they need to be with 1 flimsy piece of electric string. Very easy to move every day and they walk their themselves. The chickens are enclosed with electric netting, to keep the birds in and the predators out. Usually this works fine. Sometimes a chicken will fly or crawl out of the netting looking for something tasty and that’s when the fox comes and takes them.

We lost all of our turkeys, mostly to fox. Turkeys are much more difficult than chickens, at least until we get a system figured out.

Here’s our turkey story. Last year (2013) we started with 15 turkey poults (chicks). We ended up with 2 in the freezer. We lost a bunch in 1 night to a fox. Not sure what happened, but I think the fox scared a bunch of turkeys and chickens out of their enclosure. They would have been fine if they stayed in there. We had about 20 dead chickens and turkeys that morning. Not a good way to start the day if you’re a farmer. We slowly lost the rest of the turkeys to fox through the summer and fall.

This year we did our turkeys a little different. We started with 5 poults. Long story short, after 2.5 months we lost one overnight, probably to an owl. A few weeks later we lost 3 to a fox. The last remaining turkey was wounded in that fox attack and we had to butcher it. It had some big claw marks on its back, but we were able to salvage most of the bird.

When the birds are small we raise chickens and turkeys together. The chickens are ‘teachers’ for the turkeys. The chickens show them where the food and water is. Not that difficult, but mom isn’t around to teach them. At about 7 weeks it’s time to separate the turkeys from the chickens. The turkeys are getting big and the beat up on the chickens. The problem is when we take the turkeys away they do everything they can to get back to those chickens. They miss their flock. Last year we raised the turkeys with laying hen pullets, the chickens were pecking at the toms tail creating a lot of blood which caused them to peck there even more. This year we raised the turkeys with meat chickens and it worked great. But meat chickens don’t roost at night. So the turkeys were never taught to roost at night, they slept on the ground. An easy target for a fox.

Nothing is cheap in the livestock world. Sometimes we can buy chicks on sale for $1 each, but then we have to feed them and that’s where the money comes in. Of course, feed stores know this. Anyway, John didn’t want to do turkeys this year after last years fiasco. Emily talked him in to it at $10 each. So, for $50 plus probably $50 in feed we have one 12 lb turkey in the freezer.

Anyway, life on a farm. Lots of work, lots to learn, and patience is the name of the game.

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