I have been asked to post some photos of my breeding facilities and farm. So, here is your virtual tour from a sunny March day in coastal Washington State. My wife an I moved here about 1.5 years ago from Seattle. I'm still a Civil Engineer by day, I just work from a home office now. My wife writes for the local newspaper. On top of all this, we decided to get into farming with minimal experience... oh and we take care of my father who's had a stroke and lives with us. I can say with all honesty we're having the best times of our life out here. Lambs Here is an update on the first round of lambs we had (lambed 2/10 and 2/20). More details here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=32789 I am keeping them in the yard around my house for the time being, since we have real issues with coyotes. This also allows me to get the mothers on alfalfa pellets to help them keep up the milk production. The grass is also clean from animal droppings. So, I leave them in a lambing shelter for one day, then move them into jugs for the next 2-5 days depending on the weather. Here are the first five lambs: In the first photo they are enjoying the heat off the house in the early morning sun. The second photo just shows my raised bed with garlic getting trampled. More importantly, you can see the portable electric netting we use to move animals around the farm. This is set up to protect the lambs from dogs & coyotes and to keep them out of the ditches the island is crisscrossed with. The only place to get portable electric netting is Premier. For beginners there are great diagrams in their catalog about how to build the best fences possible. http://www.premier1supplies.com/ This is one of the new ewe lambs born this morning. They are inside a portable skid shelter we normally use to move the piggies around the farm. But, since we don't keep breeding pigs over winter, we can move the ewes and lambs into there as soon as we find them in the field. It helps keep the lambs warm, out of the rain and allows us to get food and water to the mom right away. I had to actually pull this lamb. It was my first ever. My heart was racing. Up until this year we lambed in May because it is so wet where we live (up to 80" per year). But it wasn't working well with farm market season. So we've taken a gamble lambing earlier. Since our flock is small, we can give individual attention and are making it work. So the process for lambing is: 1) Make sure once the lambs come out make sure the bag is off the nose & mouth so they breath. If needed, pull the lamb around to the ewes face and she'll start to clean. 2) Wait for more to come. You can usually tell by the size if you'll have multiples or singles. Giant lambs are usually singles (and common in first time lambers). 3) Strip the teats until you see milk (colostrom) come out. Check the udder for tags (basically dried poop and wool) and trim those off so the babies can find the nipples easier. 4) Cut the umbilical cords with clean scissors then dip the navel in iodine solution. You do the males upside down so any spillage washes away from the penis. Girls you can do right side up. 5) Once you move them into the jug, give the mom all the food and water she wants. In my region, the lambs get 1 cc of BO/SE which is a trace mineral supplement which is required due to our soil mineral profile. They then get their tails banded and testicles too if they're male. Finally the mom gets dewormed (I use Ivermectin injectible in winter when lice is more of a problem) and vaccinated if she wasn't 6 weeks before lambing like she should have been. I use Ultrabac 8 here on my sheep and goats. 6) If the weather is right, leave them in the jug 1 day or up to a week. Then put them in the yard with the rest. Finally, our ewes are 3/4 Texel and our ram a registered Texel (so we keep the ewe lambs which will be 7/8). We are trying to produce the highest quality meat (all grass fed & grass finished, no medicated feeds or coccidiostats), so we can go very far towards purebred Texels which are medium in size but heavily muscled. I'm also impressed at how large their bags are compared with the Suffolks next door. People who produce commercially are paid only be weight, so they would never go more than 1/2 Texel and want the largest beasts possible. For our direct-to-retail market, we can afford to go any direction we want as long as the meat quality is superb. Goats Here is the goat update. These are all registered Nubians. From left to right: Vera, Arlo (our handsome buck), Betty (aka Baby), Clovis (a whether, Arlo's companion most of the year) and Mary. They are all named after our grandparents if youre wondering. They were all old goats. We don't use a breeding harness on the goats, so I'm not entirely sure when we will kid. But Vera on the left appears to be very close. So I have one more ewe and Vera very close to lambing/kidding. I'm just not sure the exact date. For anyone wondering, I find lambing much easier than kidding. Geese I know this is a chicken forum, but our 'gooses' are my favorite animals on the farm. Someone was asking me about nesting habits. Here are two of our geese telling me where the nest will be: Everyone tells me, find where the geese are laying the eggs, then build a nest around there. I have 18 geese at the moment for breeding (I think 10-12 are females) and they are laying in 3 different spots. I take the eggs to incubate and replace some with ceramic eggs I bought. I try and do it when they're not looking because they make such a huge fuss this time of year if anything comes near the nesting areas. These are the "guard geese" watching over the one in the nest. As soon as I step out the back door of the house, the "sentries" shout and let everyone know I'm coming. Normally, this is telling the ones in my workshop stealing things (or more commonly the ones who broke into the bard and ripped a bag of feed open) that I'm approaching and to cut out the bad behavior. These are all Embdens from Murray McMurray. Why incubate? Well last year, we let a mother naturally hatch some eggs under her. An issue with geese is that both the parents are tremendously protective of the goslings... and continue to do so for the entire first year. The goslings where therefore completely wild. Compared with the ones we got as day olds in the brooder, it was like having another species of animal to deal with. The ones you incubate/brood yourself will imprint on you and are more like having talkative dogs following you around, getting into your workshop, spilling every bucket on the farm, stealing your hand tools, etc. We managed to sell I think 18 Christmas Goose last year. So I plan to incubate as many as possible and do as many as I can sell. These are 3 of my 4 Embdens that I got from Holderread. I cannot describe how big the guy on the right is compared to every other goose I have. The only problem is he cannot keep himself clean to save himself. I'm not sure I'll be able to put him in the fair because he's constantly mucky. Let's hope he outgrows it. It's hard to describe how much healthier, vigorous and larger the geese we got from Holderread are compared with the commercial hatcheries. They are incredibly "typey" and I'd strongly recommend them. If it's too costly, Metzer Farms has good stock at lower prices. This is my sole Pilgrim female. I have done everything in my power to separate her from the flock with the Pilgrim male, but they are constantly getting out. The girl behind her is a Pilgrim (male) cross Roman Tufted (female). We got them as goslings from a lady who had to move who had a pair of Roman Tufted and Pilgrims (all from Holderread). It's too bad they cross bred, so most went as Christmas geese. But we kept a couple cross females and luckily they have paired up with a male Embden. They should be very hearty birds, great for eating. We keep Embdens, Pilgrims and Roman Tufted geese. For anyone starting with geese, I would strongly recommend the Pilgrims. It gives you nice variation in color since they are sex linked. They are also great parents and just all around good birds. For me, though, I do love my Embdens. They are gregarious, goofey and are always doing things to entertain me or themselves. I could watch them all day. Meat Chickens For those of you who read the meat bird forum, you have been following my adventures trying to breed my own meat chickens from the farm. Here are my 'breeding facilities' which are basically my two chicken tractors which are currently not used until we start doing broilers closer to Summer. They are filthy and need pressure washed before I put birds in them. But, this is the muddy season here, not much I can do. The blue one on the left I can pull by hand, which make it my favorite of course. I raise birds in there until they muck it up before noon, at which time they move to the bigger one on the right. I have to use the tractor to pull the one on the right though, which is more work. This is my current breeding arrangement. It's my Dark Cornish rooster on two Black Sex Links and two Freedom Rangers I kept (gourmet blacks). Note also the light in the pen now. When I first tried this cross, I moved the hens in there then they stopped laying after 3 days because I'm stupid and didn't think to put a light in there. We collect the eggs daily from there for incubation. This is my Dark Cornish terminal sire. He isn't as big as I'd like. So as soon as the meat hens leave the pen, I'll be putting in Dark Cornish hens and try to breed some sons and grandsons which are larger. I feel daft that I sold all my extra roosters at auction, then lost some of the ones I kept to accidents leaving me with two few sires to choose from. Probably after that pairing, I will again put in Speckled Sussex, Barred Rock, Marans and RIR in the pen and hopefully have a blind tasting among all the alternatives. That's my fantasy. I'll get to it right after I finish the fence... Ducks We also got our Silver Appleyards from Holderread and one of the hens won best overally poultry champion at the Fair last year. We normally let the ducks free range like the geese, but they are just little bastards at hiding their eggs. So we broke down and put them in this pen (which we had used for chicken matings in the past) so we could find the eggs. They are going to make a muddy mess of it, but what can you do? If you have never seen Silver Appleyards up close they are gorgeous creatures. They are also easily twice as big as any other duck I've ever seen... and probably 3 times as large as your typically mallard. They are also tremendous layers. I'm getting 3 eggs per day out of 4 hens. The door to the red hut blew off in the last windstorm. In the background of both photos you can see the chicken area which uses portable electric netting with a smaller (poultry) mesh. Egg Chickens Here are two shelters where most my hens (except the rebel flock) live. The standard procedure is they get moved to fresh grass every week in the Summer. During the winter, though, we just have to sacrifice certain areas to the mud. The larger shelter furthest from the photos contains the nest boxes and roosts. I need to build another identical one, but with just roosts. The ark closest to us is normally just used for growing birds first out on pasture until they get a permanent home. But, I'm having to use it to house hens at the moment. I think I have around 100 hens at the moment.... Barred Rocks, Dark Cornish, Speckled Sussex (one of my hens was champion at the Fair for chickens), Black Sex Link, Rhode Island Red, Jersey Giant and Marans. I plan to make more Black Sex Links this year as replacers. I will try my hand at heavily feeding the cockrels and selling them as fryers at the farm market (probably 3-4 lbs live weight) and play up the sustainability of utilizing the extra cockrels for meat, rather than 'mechanically macerating' them as the large hatcheries do. All the shelters are on skids. The door blew off the laying shed in the last storm. Sound familiar? Did I also mention that the "Rebel Flock" is actually larger than my "tame" flock? Surely I'm not the only one this has happened to... Incubator Sportsman 1502. My wife is very upset that I didn't do a better job cleaning that goose egg on the top. Goose eggs pose a problem for most incubators being too tall. I can use standard eggs trays, but only on the top shelf which has more headroom. This first photos shows some (dirty) goose eggs, with duck and chicken right behind them. On the lower trays, since you can stand the goose eggs up, here is what I do. I take the disposable egg trays you can buy very cheaply, then I cut about 1/2" to 1" off the tips. Then if you turn the tray upside down, you can lay the eggs flat and they will fit in there without rolling around. I spritz all the eggs daily with water. And since the goose eggs are on their side, I turn them upside down every few days to try and keep the embryo centered. The smaller eggs (but still massive compared with chicken eggs) behind the goose eggs are duck eggs, which will fit in there with special larger sized egg trays. Again my wife is very upset I didn't clean these better. But, I tried to do a mild job of it using a food grade egg sanitizer and I didn't want to scrub them too hard. That or I'm lazy. It's probably the second thing. From front to back, some goose eggs, with duck eggs in the middle, then the brown eggs are all my Dark Cornish X Freedom Ranger and Dark Cornish X Black Sex Link eggs and then more goose in the back. Our first goose/duck hatch should be March 16th, so wish us well. Regarding the chicken eggs, I'm really not sure which is which... except one is a double yolker and probably won't be viable. If I had to guess, I'd guess the darker ones are from the Black Sex Links and the more pale ones from the Freedom Rangers (which probably have Sussex and Cornish in their makeup). Ok, that's about it! Fire away with the questions.