Photos From Around Greyfields (image intense)

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by greyfields, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

    4,889
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    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    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:

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    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.

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    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 youÂ’re wondering. They were all old goats.

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    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:

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2008
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Can I come visit? [​IMG] Looks like alot of work there!
     
  3. lacyloo

    lacyloo Cooped Up

    May 26, 2007
    north florida
    wow lots of duckies
     
  4. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

    4,889
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    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    You are very welcome to come and work on the farm. I pay in meat though.

    I had surgery on my shoulder 3 weeks ago now. So my step-dad has driven 45 minutes each way, every single day, to feed all the animals for us. It's given me the chance to get the breeding pens sorted out.

    I still need to separate the Pilgrims, though. Maybe I'll put them in with the chickens or duck.

    Then our first seeds went into the cold frame last Sunday... farm market starts first week in May. It's going to be here quicker than I can imagine.
     
  5. Wildsky

    Wildsky Wild Egg!

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    Oct 13, 2007
    California
    [​IMG] What a great set up!!!!! Very lovely, and the animals are very lucky!
     
  6. GwenFarms

    GwenFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 26, 2008
    That is just beautiful.

    We have a neighbor that wants to get a lamb for my 5 yr old daughter. She is differently abled and loves animals. He is from Neb. and grew up with some sheep. He thinks she would do well with one as a pet. He says they are much more gentle than the goats. We can't really let her in with them. They jump onto her chair and such, it just doesn't work even though she wants to be with them. We're thinking about it.

    Here in SC you don't see much sheep and I have never eated it, its just not marketed much. I'll try it if I have the opportunity though.
     
  7. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

    4,889
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    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    It's nice to find a sunny winter day. Spring is nearly upon us here; and it won't be unsual at all to rain for 30 days straight. The animals get a bit more muddy and miserable then. We are trying to make our farm a place where customers can come and visit and see the animals and their wellfare ourselves. Unfortunately, we bought a miserable old, overgrown, failed farm. There is a lot of cleanup left to do. At least the animals are happy and well treated. We find our stuff really sells itself based on quality alone. I can charge far more than the grocery store and sell out. Direct-to-retail is the only way to go with small operations.

    I didn't show the cows who are doing well and I've been able to keep them grass fed all winter. And then I need to get pigs again soon, just as soon as I get a shelter and pen decided for them (they plow up areas I can't get my tractor into).

    As far as lamb goes, I think the lamb from Puget Island is world-class and spectacular. My mom (and wife) are both from England, so I've always eaten lamb. So for me it's not 'weird'. I've had a lot of good lamb in the UK; but my wife swears the stuff we are growing here is as good or better than anything she had at home. Our customers agree and we can't keep lamb in supply. We go through USDA processing so we can sell by-the-cut at the Farm Market and from our house in the off-season. The male lambs willl be processed in September for sale at the market which runs through the end of October.

    Another benefit to sheep is they are far more ecological to keep than cows. They're also so much easier to on the ground, easier to handle, etc. You can get by with very little space, too, if you want to start a small flock.

    Our next project is to send our wool off to this place:

    http://www.peisland.com/wool/

    It will get returned to us as yarn and blankets, from our very own wool, for sale. The current status of the wool market in the US is that it's thrown away rather than used. If I can make a single dollar off our wool, I'm probably doing better than many people who keep sheep. Maybe when mass produced cotton gets hindered for environmental reasons, we'll see a comeback.
     
  8. DrakeMaiden

    DrakeMaiden Overrun with Drakes

    Jun 8, 2007
    Kitsap County, WA
    Thanks for the tour!!!!!

    I love the mischievous geese and, honestly, your first duck photo made me laugh! I can just hear that noisy drake (the one flapping his bill) and hear the thunder of their little webbed feet as they race towards you. LOL.

    That is quite the project you have going! I am impressed.

    About the "dirty" eggs . . . I think they will be fine. When I first incubated, some of my eggs were a little dirty and I worried about them. I was obsessive about not letting them touch the clean ones. You see, some had been cleaned and refrigerated for eating, before I decided to incubate them, but the others went straight from the nest, without a wash at all. I didn't have a problem.

    But just in case, Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  9. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

    4,889
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    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    What's most amazing is the 7 drakes all get along perfectly. I do think the 4 girls are getting a little over-mated, but they're not showing signs of injury. Duck 'fights' are largely laughable and no damage can be done. Not quite as funny as the slow-motion goose fights, though. The Appleyards are very heavy. When they jump, they get about 1" off the ground. We shout "boing boing" at them as they hop around. They seem to like it.

    I'm trying to think of more goose mischief. One had a screwdriver one day and I chased it in circled for about 5 minutes before giving up. He would not drop it. I was on my knees huffing and out of breath, then he just dropped it and wandered off.

    They also broke into the barn one day adn learned very quickly how to pull the strings off bags of feed. They must have opened 10 of them just for the joy of making a mess.

    When we let the geese into the garden to "hog down the corn" they will form little teams and pull down the corn stalks together to eat the leaves. I can only imagine this is what dinosaurs must have been like, with all the noise and laughter.

    My favorite goose, Olive, will come right up to me and will sit on my lap in the Summer. She likes to nibble on my glasses and likes stroked under the beak. Of course, 5 minutes into it we'll be having a lovely moment when she'll spontaneously crap all over me. I don't hold here therefore until I'm already filthy and heading in to have a shower.

    My wife got too close to one of the nests last week and turned her back on one of the ganders. He pinched her in the ass and it left two half moon shaped beak bruises. I still am laughing at her for that one. She got groped by a goose. I guess we know where the name comes from!
     
  10. DrakeMaiden

    DrakeMaiden Overrun with Drakes

    Jun 8, 2007
    Kitsap County, WA
    ROFLMAO!!!!!

    Hey, greyfields, one of the reasons for my screen name is similar to your wife's experience, just not quite as funny. LOL. Our first duck pen was under our deck at our previous house, so that in order to clean it (OK, faulty design, but it was a small lot) I had to crouch down and shuffle in all hunkered down. Our drake loved it and saw it as an occassion to try to flap up on my back. LOL I was assaulted many times by that silly drake.

    I just love how your geese figured out how to open the feed bags. That's a riot!

    You are lucky with that drake to duck ratio that they are behaving themselves. We have 5 drakes to 4 ducks right now. The first day we realized the drakes were getting too aggressive and we needed to separate them, one drake had been the scapegoat of the others (pulled neck feathers, drenching wet, and probably his eye pecked at a little). This was when we were away at work all day, so free-ranging might have prevented it.
     

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