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Chicken Scratch Poultry

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sheep Shearing - The Gotlands Get A Hair Chop



Back at the end of June, Larry and I purchased our first small flock of Gotland sheep.  It's been an interesting adventure I must say.  Just after they arrived Larry began attempting to set up a date and time for a sheep shearer to visit us in the fall and shear our small flock of 4.  When the sheep arrived they had a fleece of about 3 inches long (maybe).  By the end of September it was about 4 inches long and I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be a good idea to wait until spring to have them sheared, Gotland fleece can grow 12 inches per year.  It seems to be a bit difficult to find someone around the Southern IL area in the fall to shear sheep.  When your sheep need a hair cut there's really no time to wait.  If you wait the fleece becomes felted or matted and I didn't want to waste these lovely locks!

Larry purchased some super sharp hand shears and we gave the sheep a hair chop!  I would like to purchase electric clippers if we aren't able to find someone to shear for us but not really sure what brand would work best for just a small flock.  If anyone has any suggestions please share with us :)

We began with the young ram, we tipped him and cut his fleece bending over him, that was back breaking so we decided we needed a new strategy on the next three ewes.


Our Gotland sheep are super sweet, friendly and easy to work with.  So on the next ewe, I sat on a five gallon bucket, put a harness on the sheep and let her stand while she was sheared.  We thought at first that we would need to tie her she just stood there while I sheared, if you can call this shearing...







This is Kajsa, she is so sweet and loves the attention.  After her hair cut the other ewes kind of pushed her around and butted heads with her, almost like they didn't recognize her.  Not sure if that was normal...














This is little Lindi, yes I know it's not a nice slick shearing job but it was the best that a first timer can do with a pair of scissors and fleece will grow back again.






I don't think they look too terrible, it's a little choppy but when you don't have time to wait on someone else to do it for you, this works just fine.

I'm super excited to make something from their beautiful fleece.  Now let's learn to spin some yarn...
Have a Blessed Day!!
Angie

Friday, September 1, 2017

Poultry On Pasture

When breeding poultry probably the most difficult part is transition time, switching over from the old breeders and moving in the new breeders.  We're at that point with many of our breeds, they're coming up on 3 years of age and at that time egg production has dropped and it's time to bring in the new girls.  While we're waiting for pens to be prepared and ready for them to move in we very quickly run out of space for everyone, so we came up with the bright idea to put them in the stock trailer and put them out to pasture for a couple of weeks while living quarters are prepared.  It sounded like a great idea at the time...


Two weeks on fresh grass did do the birds a world of good, they grew very quickly foraging on bugs and grass.  However stock trailers really aren't designed with poultry in mind... Our first problem we encountered, the first night they all decided they would just roost under the trailer and it was a one hour ordeal of pulling them out and putting them in the trailer.  So next day Larry installed wire around the trailer so that they couldn't get under it.  Next hurdle was keeping out the rain, we don't often get a lot of rain this time of the year but it decided to come a down pour and it soaked them all. Next day, Larry covered the trailer with a tarp, no more wet chickens.

They truly loved the wide open pasture but each evening they never noticed the owl that stocked them beginning right at dusk.  The pasture is surrounded by hot wire but that would not stop a hawk or owl.  Pasture raised poultry are at more of a risk from predictors.
The best part of the poultry on pasture for me was that I could see them right from the kitchen window and it was a pretty sight, all of those little fat hens running around.
After the birds had two weeks on pasture we finally had their space set up in the barn and it was time to load them up and move them.  It just so happens that it came a quick rain shower that morning and all the birds stayed inside the trailer so we shut the trailer door, removed all the wire, hooked the trailer up to the truck and started the process of pulling the trailer through a pretty tight squeeze through the gate. I was the nagigator (yes I  mean nagigator) you know the person who yells whoa while giving wild hand signals!  I was so focused on my nagigating and getting the trailer through the gate making sure he wasn't ripping anything important off, that neither of us noticed that the trailer door had wiggled open and all the birds had escaped out the back.  What a fiasco!!  Needless to say our work had just begun, we had to net every bird one at a time....






Once we chased down each and everyone we put them back into the trailer,  backed them right up to the barn door, opened the trailer and unloaded them into the barn.  Did you know that herding chickens is about as easy as herding cats....


Just one of those crazy days in the life of a chicken farmer. Needless to say, I don't recommend pasture raising poultry in a stock trailer!

All is well that ends well.

The lovely ladies to your right are Lavender Wyandottes, a little pasture time did them well.  Hope to share this breed next spring.

God bless and have a great day!
Angie






Friday, August 4, 2017

Illinois's First Gotland Sheep


I mentioned a few weeks back that Larry and I were making preparations for the arrival of our small flock of sheep.  Well they're here and all settled in to the Chicken Scratch Poultry farm.  I believe that this small flock of Gotland sheep are the first and only in Illinois.
I  began researching and studying on sheep about 2 years ago.  I knew that I wanted sheep but wasn't sure what breed and for what purpose.   After much reading, researching and contemplating, I continually returned to the Gotland sheep.

Gotland sheep originate from the Island of Gotland on the Baltic Sea just off the coast of Sweden.
Gotland sheep are bright, inquisitive, friendly, calm, hardy, adaptable, relatively small, naturally short tailed and naturally polled.  This is all the reasons I kept returning to this breed.  I needed something manageable in size, calm, friendly and workable.
When they say this breed is adaptable, so far they are proving that.  Our small flock came from Vermont where the climate is much cooler than Southern IL.  Since they have arrived our temps have reached 100 degrees and these poor sheep have about 3 to 4 inches of fabulous fleece. How miserable that must be.  They are adapting to our weather though.
 
When they arrived I expected them to be skittish or afraid of us.  We really didn't know what to expect because we had never been around sheep. When we would tell people that we're getting sheep, every person we told said, sheep are crazy, or sheep are dump.  Well I must say, if that is their perspective on sheep, they had the wrong breed.
When they arrived, they walked right out of the trailer, checked out their living quarters, got a drink of water, and came over to us and started getting antiquated immediately.  There was no fear, they loved the attention, they absolutely loved our grandkids.  Every time we step into their pasture they come running to us.  So far Larry and I both are very impressed with the Gotland breed.
Gotland sheep are famous for their silky gray curls.  Their colors can range from silver, pewter grey to black.  They're a dual purpose breed, lambs grow out in 5 to 7 months for slaughter.
The lamb to the left is Lindi, I love her sweet silver locks.  Linardt is the little black ram lamb pictured above, he has a lot of new silver locks coming in.  We have 4 in total, Linardt, Lindi, Erika and Kajsa.  They came registered and named :)
This small flock of four sheep came from the Grand View Farm in Vermont.  Head over and check out their farm, better yet plan a fall vacation and stay at their bed and breakfast on the farm.  Kim Goodling has been wonderful to work with as we purchased and shipped our sheep here to Illinois.  She continues to mentor me as we settle into our new roll as shepherds, Larry and I have so much to learn.
So far we have very much enjoyed the sheep, they each have a different personality but are all very sweet and love attention.
I can't wait to make something beautiful with lovely Gotland curls.
Have a Blessed day!
Angie

Monday, July 24, 2017

House Wrens Nesting At My Door

Have you ever had the privilege of watching a Wren raise up her babies.  I feel blessed to be able to watch this pretty often.  House wrens will gladly nest almost anywhere.  I've had them nesting in a motorcycle helmet, a bucket, on a shelf in the garage, in the spare tire on the back of my KIA, or in a wreath hanging on my door....They feel pretty safe to nest anywhere in a high traffic area it seems.


I found this neat old bird house high rise apartment at an estate sale a few years ago and I keep it sitting at our door and the wrens love it!  It's a super high traffic area but they don't seem to mind. This week it was time for the babies to leave the nest.  I noticed the mother hadn't brought them any food on this day.


She stayed a few feet away from the nest all day long and just sang to them.  I'm sure it was encouraging words only a mother can sing to her babies and only they could understand. 

 


They listened to their mommy sing all day long, peeking out of the box to see where she was sitting.
This is a cramped little nest with four baby wrens...and they sure are getting hungry!








One brave little Wren jumped from the nest, or he was shoved, not sure which.  So cute with his little baby fluff still on his head and his little yellow smiley beak.







Didn't take long and they all jumped from the nest, it just took shoving one out to get them started.
Another Wren is already checking out the bird house high rise and thinks it looks like a great place to raise a family.
Have a blessed day!
Angie

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chickens, The Gateway Drug - Preparing For Sheep

One of the hazards of keeping poultry is that they're the gateway drug to keeping lots of other livestock.  Well for the past couple of years I've been dreaming of keeping sheep and this spring we jumped in with both feet (like we do with most things) and decided to make it happen.  What do we have to lose, it's just sheep how difficult can it be??
I began by reading everything I could get my hands on, books, magazines, internet...Some magazines put so much unneeded information out there that it scares a person half to death before they ever get the sheep.  They tell you everything that can go wrong, without every saying that in all likely hood you will never encounter this problem.  So at this moment, I'm scared to death and excited all at the same time.  Kind of like with bee keeping, it's invigorating!



We have 16 acres of land but have not used the pastures in a very long time.  We had horses several years ago.  So to say the least the pastures are not in very good shape.  This spring we began mowing them early, we haven't kept them mowed well in the past and it seems there mostly weeds and not a lot of grasses.  Good news though, from what I read sheep love weeds!  The more we mowed the better the pasture has become.  Once the weeds are beat down the gasses and white clover started to fill in and it's beginning to look pretty good now.




We have no room in the barns for sheep so Larry constructed this three sided shed, just to give them some wind break during the winter.  Not bad for a days work, he's pretty handy, I think I'll keep him around.
We know that we'll need better accommodations for lambing but that will happen at a later date.



The next task is fencing.  Larry borrowed the neighbors equipment and the digging began.  Thank God for good neighbors!
Did you know that when using an auger you need to dig a little and then lift the auger so that it will throw the dirt out of the hole, then repeat, or an auger will dig to China???  Yes ask me how I know.  Well it just so happens at one point when using the auger it took hold down in the dirt and would not lift, every time Larry started it back up it dug deeper.  In his panic he began digging the thing out by hand with a shovel.  When his dear wife (that's me) seen what was happening (and she never yelled, what have you done) she began searching the internet for the solution.  Yes, the farmers wife saved the day, I need to share that in another blog for those other poor souls who have their auger stuck in the depths of the earth at this very moment and are frantically searching for a solution.  It's a rather sick feeling when you bury a borrowed auger in the earth!




On the fencing, we are concentrating on the paddock area first.  Just a place to keep them for the first couple of weeks while they get use to their new surroundings.  This will also be the area that they'll stay in during the winter months so they aren't destroying the pasture.
Larry is building this area as strong as fort Knox.  Hot wire on the bottom and hot wire on the top.  We don't have a guard dog, so hoping the hot wire will keep out the predators .
We think we will be installing five strands of high tensile wire around the pasture area.  If you have any experience using this I would love to hear from you.







We have 70 bails of hay stacked and ready to go.  We know that we need to ease them on to pasture since they have been off of pasture for about two weeks before they arrive.  I don't know how much sheep eat but this should be enough to last us through the winter months.  We're learning as we go, just like with everything else we do.
We'll be picking the sheep up this week and we're excited to meet our new flock.
I'll share with you soon what breed we chose, how many and where they're coming from in the next blog.
Do you have sheep??  Share with us, give us some of your wisdom or just wish us luck.  We look forward to hearing from you!
Have A Blessed Day!!
Angie

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hive Maintenance - Keeping Up With Honey Flow


We have six hives now and I think this is our fourth year in bee keeping, not really sure if that is correct I've lost track of time.  Three of the hives are very strong and well established and the other three are swarms that we caught just last spring and aren't as established just yet.
It's important to do hive maintenance at least every couple of weeks and maybe even weekly on really strong hives.  If the honey flow is good they can fill a box pretty quick and if you aren't there to take it off and give them empty frames to fill they will slow down on production.  We pulled off nine frames last week and fourteen this week, so honey flow is at a high right now in our area.



During your hive check up it's a good idea to install beetle traps.  I have found them to be very effective at catching those pesky hive beetles! You just fill the trap with oil and the bees chase the beetles around and run them into the traps where they drown in oil.







Just hang the trap between the frames over to one side of the hive, not right in the center.






We purchased a honey extractor back in February it needed only a small amount of assembling.  It's only holds two frames but that's okay for beginners.
We spun out nine frames pretty quickly.  The great thing about an extractor is that you don't remove all of the comb from the frame. Without an extractor you scrap all of the comb and honey from the frame and then the bees are back at square one rebuilding the comb.  This will make it much easier for the bees.








Spring honey is amazing stuff, it is the Creme De La Creme of honey!!  If you've never tried spring honey and would like to, I have it available in my Etsy Shop.  Or you can contact me through email at larry_angie@chickenscratchpoultry.com.





It's pretty wonderful on a warm homemade biscuit.

I look forward to hearing form you.
Have A Blessed Day!
Angie



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Searching For The Perfect Poultry - Pullets Available Now


Back in February we began hatching out chicks fast and furious so that we would have pullets ready to go early spring.  We're still working through a few orders, those folks with Ameraucans, Olive Eggers or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes on your orders, we haven't forgotten you :)  Seems we can never hatch those breeds fast enough.
So if your looking for a started young hen, one that is ready to go into the coop, we have a few of those ready now.  Take a minute to scan down through the photos below as I introduce each one them to you.
Light Sussex, pictured above in the photo.  They make the greatest addition to any flock, I can't say it enough, I love this breed.  They're curious, friendly and good on the egg production. Not to mention they're great eye candy for the yard.  I was told by a poultry judge up north that our line of Light Sussex is the closest to perfection that he has seen, he purchased four of my hens to improve on his own flock, I think that speaks volumes for my line of Sussex.



Black Orpingtons ready to go that are almost 3 months old, they're big girls!  If you like fat bottoms on your birds, you'll love these gals!   Orpingtons are a bit like lap dogs, they're in your face friendly, super sweet girls.  Don't pass this breed up simply because it's a boring color, there really is nothing boring about them, they're all personality!!







I have little Maline pullets ready to go, this is a new breed to the farm, we've had them one year now and what a nice addition they've made.  They're a large bird but the hens really aren't much bigger than the Black Orpington hens, It's the Maline roosters that are huge but very gentle.
Maline hens are super inquisitive when I come into their pen to gather the eggs.  They go right along with me, looking through the boxes, as if to say "whatcha looking for?"
They lay very nice large to Jumbo sized eggs, actually they lay the largest egg on the farm.  I must say I love these girls!!






Coronation Sussex, yes I actually have some pullets that I can share with you finally!  I love this sweet, fat, bumbly bird.  I find it humorous watching them run with wings spread out and head down as if they could ever get their rumps a foot off the ground.  These big girls need a low roost... You'll never find another bird quite like the Coronation Sussex, they're decked out in the purest of pearl white feathers but under those pearly feathers is down like a goose.  They're built for the cold and do some of their best egg production during the cooler months.
This bird was long ago produced for the King's table, one look at them now and you'll know why.





Splash Marans pullets, they will lay a nice dark Mahogany colored egg.  They have a much sweeter disposition than the Black Copper Marans.  They color out nicely with spots of blue as they mature.  Give your flock and your egg basket a Splash of color.







Ayam Cemani, I find their beauty difficult to describe...but beauties they are!   They are shy in a very sweet kind of way but with just a small amount of attention they will begin to trust you and steal your heart those coal black eyes.  The hens are petite and lay a nice large egg for their size that is almost white in color, closest thing to a white egg that we have on the farm.




Chocolate Opringtons, who can resist a bird shaped like a volley ball with a feather duster tail?  If you need a bird that doesn't take up a lot of room in the coop this is a breed to consider.  If you need a bird that's good with children, quiet bird for the neighborhood and all around easy bird to work with, the Chocolate Oprington should be at the top of your wish list.




Welsummers, pretty golden hens that lay beautiful dark brown spotted eggs.  Our Welsummer are pretty amazing in that they will lay an egg that is as dark as our French Black Copper Marans eggs.  I bet there aren't too many breeders out there that can claim that.  This is no hatchery bird.  We've had our line of Welsummers for over 10 years now and have never introduced a new breeding line into the flock.  They are perfect so why change it...


Last but not least...French Black Copper Marans. We've also had our Marans line for over 10 years now.  We get an awesome mahogany colored egg from them.  They range form a 4 to a 7 on the Marans egg color chart and occasionally an 8.  If your looking  for a dark egg layer, look no further.
A man came to our farm this week to pickup his order of pullets, he told me that he order a couple of hatchery Marans last year and ordered one marans from our farm and raised them up together.  He said that our Marans line grew 1/3 larger than the hatchery bird.    Those kind of stories make my heart swell with pride.  All the hard work that we put into them is worth it when the customer notices a difference.
All these breeds that I just listed are available now in started young pullets.  We're also still hatching and shipping out day old chicks if your interested in those.  Your welcome to call and place an order over the phone 618-643-5602 or head over to the Website and drop me an email.  We look forward to hearing from you.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together!
Angie