Tag Archives: animal husbandry

Mrs. Mallard is missed

When she read about the demise of Mrs. Mallard and my lack of good photos of her, my friend  came to the rescue. Last year, while I was living in Saskatchewan and missing my animals she took video footage of my critters with her camera and, lucky for me, she still had them on her computer.  The above clip has Mrs. Mallard holding forth in the background. Several people have asked about the ‘Howling Duck’ and it is Mrs. Mallard’s voice which gave the name to the ranch. On the morning that a cougar bellied up to the goat pen and contemplated breakfast, it was her enraged voice that pitched me out of bed like a rocket from its launch-pad in realization that something must be terribly wrong. While not the glorious photo of her that I wish I had, it encapsulates the familiar sound that is mourned for and missed here on the farm.

Below is a clip of the ducks that used to live here on the farm. Some of them we ate, some of them were taken by foxes and the two big black Muscovy drakes (one of them jumps through the water dish) I butchered and took to the Rod and Gun Club fundraiser dinner and dance. Mrs. Mallard is the only Mallard duck in the bunch and keeps at the back of the bunch in the video. Since the untimely death of Mrs. Mallard a few days ago we no longer have ducks on the farm.

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Filed under Animal issues, Ducks, Politicking with predators

Breeding a go-go

Shiraz is always happy to come for a hug and a scratch.

Shiraz is always happy to come for a hug and a scratch.

At the beginning of the month, I borrowed a buck from a neighbour. He’s one of two of the only pygmy goat bucks in the valley and, because all these little pygmy goats were brought here by the same man, I’m lucky that he’s not related to my gals.

At first I was worried he might fight with my boys, but they’ve all just accepted each other nicely. In fact, he and Malcolm were once kept on the same farm together so there was an historical familiarity between them that was noticeable.

Thus far, it seems that the little ‘rent-a-buck’ (Buddy) is a hit with the ladies. He’s made his rounds with each of them, though Shiraz remains the least interested.

The book I’ve got says to  run with the does for a month so he can ‘attend’ to each of them as they come into their  respective heats. So, Buddy will stay with us another few days and then he should have done what he came to do.

It seems he arrived just in time for Sundown’s heat at the beginning of the month. I know this because the minute he entered the paddock he went straight to her and started flirting, and within minutes she had accepted him.

In fact, she did more than just accept him–she got downright possessive! In no uncertain terms, she let Shiraz know that Buddy was hers! Yes, you could say  that, this month, I’ve learned what’s goat for “Back off b–tch, he’s mine!”

It is the only time she’s acted like a bossy bitch and stood up to Shiraz–the top ranking doe. I got a real kick out of seeing her assert herself successfully for a couple of days!

Fatty-Fat interested in becomming a mama.

Fatty-Fat interested in becoming a mama.

Goat version of flirting is, to say the least, a bit off-putting from a human perspective (think the bad trucker in Thelma and Louise and you’ll have an idea). Each morning when I enter the paddock to feed them all, Buddy does his best ‘bad trucker’ routine for me, replete with the peremptory splash of ‘cologne’ (peeing on his beard, face and tongue!).

Buddy doing his best 'come hither' routine.

Buddy doing his best 'come hither' routine.

So now I am committed. If they are in fact pregnant, then I’ve got 5 months to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to ‘eat goat’ this year and work up the nerve to kill and butcher them. I’m hoping it will be after hunting season and I’ll at least have one deer under my belt before doing in the kids. I haven’t told Gordon yet, but I am considering doing him in instead of the kids…we’ll see.

Goats milling about in paddock.

Goats milling about in paddock.

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Filed under Animal issues, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm

Putting a damper on things

This post is in honor of Howling Duck Ranch’s new friend Mitch, who is presently amidst the worst fires in Australian history!

You’ve been asking how the chickens are doing. You’ll be happy to hear that they are all doing fine! They are especially happy today now that the cold weather has broken finally and they are presently grubbing around the yard in search of tasty morsels. Some of them spent time laying in the sun today, the first we’ve had in ages. While I was taking a break from writing today and enjoying a warm lunch of vegetarian pasta, I looked out the window and spotted Pavarotti being groomed by one of his favourite gals and I thought, “Gee, Mitch would like to see this.” Unfortunately, by the time I got the camera ready, they’d completed the task of sorting out his plumage and were back lounging in the sun. Nonetheless, here is a photo for you; I hope it will help dampen the fires and clear away some smoke so you folks can breathe easier this weekend!

This is the rain we experienced last November-December 2008.

This is the rain we experienced last November-December 2008.

Chickens inside on a rainy day.

Chickens inside on a rainy day.Notice the blue tarp which I roll down over the roosts at night.

You will note that I’ve taken out the chicken roosts on the left hand side. I’m experimenting with one of Joel Salatin’s ideas of using deep bed litter and saving myself a lot of time in mucking out their house! So far, it is working really well. If you want to learn more, read Pasture Raised Poultry, by Joel Salatin at Polyface farms. Link to his website is in the blogroll, or click here to go directly to his list of publications.

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Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, Ethical farming, How to..., Just for fun

Elvis has left the building

High drama in the chicken house again. First, I found a chicken dead and frozen in an odd position. We’ve been having a really cold spell for a couple of weeks, but not so cold he would have frozen to death. The water wasn’t even freezing in the chook-shed, a good sign. But, once dead and not moving, a body does freeze.

I wondered if he’d been beaten up by some of the older roosters but there were no signs of fighting. It looks as if he just gave up and keeled over, no particular reason. We took him to the dump to feed the wild scavengers that rely on that kind of food source to get them through the difficult winter.

Then I noticed a hen with a bare spot on the back of her neck, a telltale sign of an over-enthusiastically amorous rooster. The next few nights I paid closer attention to the spirit of the hen-house, and noticed that the general ambiance had shifted from a congenial cohesive group to several factions and splinter-groups; within days, an overall feeling of disharmony had taken over the chook house.

The next night Pavarotti, my stud-muffin rooster, looked particularly disheartened. He faced downwards towards the wall in one corner, planted his bum to the centre of the room, and wouldn’t even look at me when I entered. I was reminded of Napoleon at Elba: the General had lost control of his army. It was too sad.

That’s it, I thought, enough! Some of the roosters have to go, but which ones? There was such mayhem in the room I couldn’t tell which one, or ones, were the culprit. Although several hens were muttering under their breaths who the perpetrators were, I couldn’t bring myself to convict on hearsay. The investigations would have to proceed judiciously. At least I had a fair idea who would appear in the line-up. I grabbed up four of the bigger fellows–Elvis, Red, and the two Pavarotti look-a-likes–and took them to the old, now empty, chicken house. So began the slow, empirical process of elimination, but I knew from TV that most police work is just a hard slog.

Once the bullies were removed, a collective sigh of relief reverberated through the new poultry barn and everyone happily went to bed. When I went to check the next day, everyone was fine, but oddly, there were now only two roosters in the old chicken house. How is this possible, I wondered? The doors were locked overnight, the windows closed and no fox holes apparent around the building. It was a mystery.

I let the boys out, topped up feed and water, and forgot about them for the rest of the day. That night when I returned to lock them up I heard a pathetic sound coming from under the long, wall-mounted feeder! the Pavarotti lookalikes had wedged themselves into a 4 inch x 6 inch space beneath the feeding tray to hide from the others. It was obvious who the two bullies were! Thanks, boys! I crouched down, coaxed them out from their hiding space, took them back to the new poultry barn to join the others, and yes, they blended in just fine. The three tenors, reunited! Pavarotti gently let them know who was boss, and when he went unchallenged they were allowed back into the group. I felt relieved, and happy for my commander-in-chief, Pav.

All is quite on the western front, now that Elvis really has left the building!

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Filed under Chickens, Funny stories, Just for fun

Help, turkey with inflated crop?

Help, why is my crop bulging out like this?

Help, why is my crop bulging out like this?

I noticed yesterday that one of my young turkeys has what looks to be an inflated crop or gizzard. I have asked around here in town but no one seems to know the cause or what, if anything can be done about it. Does anyone out there have experience with this? If so, please leave me a comment. And, to anyone reading this, can you please forward to any veterinarians you know in case they can identify what this is and can offer some suggestions on what I can do about it.

Thanks,

Howling Duck Ranch

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Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, Turkeys