Containing the chickens is not our forte.
Indeed, we are thinking of changing the label and instead of advertising "chickens raised on pasture" we are going to indicate "chickens raised in complete anarchy."
They are everywhere!
Even if we have 56 acres, when you have about 600 chickens ... you start noticing!
One of the problems is that one of the farmer seem to have an hidden agenda about free chickens. We will not mention names but Ale seems to have a mischievous smile every time someone points out the chickens are out. Right now we no longer mention the chickens are out because we do not even know what is "OUT" and what is "IN," chicken wise. Since the chickens stay away from the road, this is not too much of a big deal (just gotta make sure you do not leave out anything that should not have poop on). The one problem with this approach is safety!
We close in the coop most of the chickens at night but the big rebels are on their own. There is a team that sleep next to the sheep (the sheep are not very happy about this but have not figured out how to evict them). Another team sleeps by the pig food in the lean-to in front of the barn. Among this team, one of them recently hatched 12 beautiful chickens. She was proudly walking around the recently cleaned front yard sporting her chicks in a neatly organized line. It was such a pleasure to watch! Sadly, today I could not find mamma hen anymore. I though that perhaps she went inside the barn looking for food but ... she would have never left the chicks alone! Some wild animal must have gotten her. I am sure she came out of her nest and attacked the predator when it approached because she was afraid for her chicks (she was an extremely protective mom).
We tried to move the chicks under the care of another hen that is trying to hatch eggs, but after a few minutes they all got out of underneath the surrogate mom and got back to the front yard where their mom used to show them how to hunt and forage.
I know that as a farmer I am used to animals dying (and killing chickens is a weekly affair here at the farm), but for some reason this makes me so incredibly sad and I cannot think of anything else. Our dilemma now is what to do with them. Obviously I need to find a way to close more chickens in the coops but, what to do with the baby chicks? I could move them into the special nursery coop with the other 200 baby chicks that where born 2 days before these chicks, or I could keep them with the rebel hens that used to hang out with their mom. The other hens do not attack the lill ones and the lill ones seem to learn what to do by modeling ... not sure what to do ... it does not seem right to close them back in a coop and raise them with the "mailed-in chicks" but it may be safer there for them ... what would you do?
To be cont.
the day after the second hen hatched her babies and her maternal instincts kicked in. She has accepted the chicks and now is raising 13 little chicks - things in life tend to work out... it is a good message, thanks farm.
such an overdue blog! We have moved to the new location on May 28th. The move was ... epic. Most of the work was moving out of our place. It took us 5 solid days of work around the clock. Charles would go to the hotel with Eva around 10pm and I would stay there at the house cleaning or packing till 4am and then Charles would wake up and we would switch. Little Eva was scrubbing the floors with mom till 10pm one night - what a sweety.
The new farm is absolutely fantastic with incredible potentials! We were lucky enough to qualify for a special project that wants to support the development of more agritourism in Vermont so we get to work with agritourism and marketing experts... once we open the farm to the public it will blow people away. I am sure! The barn itself is fantastic, but the views, and the way we keep our animals ... and the food we are able to offer ... what's not to love?
The biggest challenge right now is to figure out how to keep the animals safe and contained in this new location (new to them and to us). Till we get into a routine and all the animals know what exactly is going on and what is expected of them we are in constant danger for escapes. The sheep took Ale for a 3 hour run (about 2 miles) down the vast, never ending, hay fields owned by our neighbors. Seeing the sheep jump happily through the high grass was cute ... for the first 3 minutes, the rest was a living running hell. Let's just say we were extremely motivated to sell lamburgers at the market that evening!!
Fortunately the sheep did not cause any damage and all of them got back safely in the barn.
Pigs are completely adjusted to the new place and need only one wire. When we set up the new fencing they patiently stand in line in front of the wire till it is time to go explore the new paddock. They are as happy as I have ever seen them. Even if it is hot they get to play in their mud puddle and they hang out in the shade of their portable shelter. They love the brewers grains we are getting from Burlington Beer Co. and are just a bunch of happy friendly pigs.
More on chickens in next post