Monday, June 24, 2013

Look what came in the mail....

Each year we order more newly hatched chicks so that we always have young hens to lay eggs for market. Our replacement hens are to keep up egg production, not to really "replace" the older gals. We let the older ones just retire on the farm.  As hens age they lay fewer & fewer eggs.  The eggs from the older hens are also more likely to have flawed shells or otherwise end up as culls.  In order to keep all of our customers happy, we need to continually add new layers & this was the day the latest newly hatched pullets arrived.

The post office calls early in the morning to let me know that I can come on to town to retrieve them.  I always get there before the post office actually opens for business but if I knock on the door someone peeks out & hands me my birds.  I can usually hear them even before the postman opens the door.  This time there were supposed to be 150 little ones cheep-cheep-cheeping away in the two large boxes.  I loaded them up & they serenaded me all the way home.
There are dividers inside the big boxes so that there are four sections inside.  The chicks are packed in tightly enough that they stay warm & also don't get banged around during handling.  They left Iowa on a plane yesterday but when newly hatched are good for about 48 hours without any food or water.  I love to peek through the quarter-sized air holes.
Once I got home I had to move them all the way out to the stable & spend a good bit of time getting everyone safely set up.  This time Moo-fasa, our Dexter bull calf, was very interested in seeing what I had in the wagon.
I managed to dodge a few more cows, a sheep & two of the Livestock Guardian Dogs as I made my way to the stall in the stable where we will raise out the little hens.  I left the boxes in the stall while I finished my preparations.  I had to fill waterers & feeders.  We use empty water troughs to brood them in so each had to be lined with paper towels.  I will add different bedding later but I want to start them on the paper towels so that they can find their food easily & so that I can just pull up the towels each day & clean up.  I not only filled the waterers but I also filled a small pan with water so that I could dip the beak of each bird in it for her first drink.

I finally pulled my milking stool up between the shipping crate & one of the empty watering troughs so that I could begin to unpack the little gals.  This time I had ordered a random assortment of brown egg layers so I was interested in seeing what I might find.  From the looks of it, I have a nice mix of birds.
I was particularly tickled to find a fair number of Turkens in the mix. They are funny looking chickens who are also referred to as Naked Necks.  They are good layers & I like to see them among the other hens but my sweet husband thinks they just look weird.  I know he will laugh at how many we ended up with.  Here is a birds-eye view of one.
I spent a good bit of time dipping beaks, gently placing the birds in their new home & then watching to be sure that they found their water & feed.  I counted as I unloaded.  Although I ordered 150 birds, the company that I work with is good about throwing in a few extras just in case.  I ended up with 156 busy birds.
Once everyone was loaded in I went back into the house for some lunch.  The whole process had taken a good two hours.  When I checked back an hour later everyone was looking pretty good.  I did adjust the height of one of the heat lamps as it was too low.  The birds showed me that they were too warm by avoiding standing directly under the lamp.  You can see that on the left hand side of the above picture - the birds have separated into two groups, leaving the center of the trough right under the lamp empty.  Once I adjusted the lamp they began to stroll around the entire trough.

I did have to laugh when I was setting things up.  I had walked outside the stable to wash out the waterers.  The wagon that I used to haul the bird boxes back to the stable was about fifteen feet from the far door. As I walked in I caught Ralphie, one of our ornerier goats, with his feet up in the wagon.  He was pushing it along & did not stop until he got to the far door.  I managed to get a quick picture.  I think the lambs saw the camera & wanted me to know that they had nothing to do with this stunt.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sweet Regina

On Tuesday I went out in the late afternoon to gather one final bucket of eggs & to feed the six Livestock Guardian Dogs scattered in their various pastures.  We have a routine where the dogs go into the stable, the old barn & a separate pasture area so that they can eat without having to fend off the nosy sheep, goats or cattle.  Everyone took their places except for Regina, our oldest Anatolian Shepherd.  At suppertime she is usually sitting at the gate to her pasture waiting to be let out into the barnyard.  She circles the stable once, sniffing at a few lambs as she passes by & then meets me at the big door so that I can let her in & feed her.  By the time I’ve finished gathering eggs she is done & ready to prance out as I open the door.  She is quite energetic, especially considering that she will be ten years old in the fall. 

Regina was not at her gate.  I called her, thinking perhaps that she hadn’t returned to her pasture last night & was napping somewhere around the barnyard.  I didn’t see her.  After a fair bit of searching, I called Mr. Potter at work & asked if he’d seen her.  He said she had wanted to go into the back pasture in the morning so he’d let her through that gate & into the woods.  It is not unusual for her to go prowl in the woods for the morning but she usually ends up at the back door of the old barn by the time she wants her afternoon nap.  I checked but did not see her there so decided to walk down through the woods as I assumed she was napping down by the creek where it stays a little cooler. 

I walked down the long hill towards the woods, calling her name as I went & expecting her to pop out of the trees at any moment & trot back up the hill with me for dinner.  She was nowhere to be found.  I started to actively search for her.  After much walking & calling I found her curled up in a huge hollow tree next to the creek.  She lifted her head, happy to see me, but would not step out when I called her.  She has plenty of room inside that tree so she was certainly not stuck; she has napped there many times in the past.  I couldn’t coax her out so reached in to grab her collar.  She flinched & would not budge.  I tried again & this time she shifted her weight so that I saw that her right front paw was just a bloodied mess.  I called my sweet husband & asked how soon he would be home from work as I didn’t want to pull her out & then discover I had to carry her all the way up the hill myself.  And, as sweet as she is, I also didn’t want to try to pull an injured dog out & find that she wanted to turn snarly on me out of pain or fear.  He said that he was on his way.

When he got home we managed to get her out & discover that her only injury was to her foot but it was quite an injury.  One of her center toes was stripped to the bone.  There was not a shred of skin or muscle left, just a raw pink bone. There was not another mark on her & we did not have a clue what could have happened.  

We knew that she had to go to the emergency vet so we loaded her in the car & took off to the wonderful emergency clinic in Anderson.  We had had to use them once before so knew the way.  Regina rode quietly in the back of my car, unloaded without even flinching & trotted into the clinic.  They took her in just as soon as we signed the “we understand we owe you at least $88” paperwork.  The vet on call was delightful.  He suggested that since we have our own vet that he would clean her foot, start her on pain meds, an anti-inflammatory & antibiotics.  She would have to have the toe amputated but once it was bandaged it could wait until our vet was available.  He even gave us a prescription for the antibiotic so that we could take it to Publix where the antibiotics are dispensed for free. Regina calmly followed the vet tech into the back room to have her foot cleaned.  When the vet opened the door to update us we laughed to see our 96 pound pup laying on the floor with two young ladies sprawled across her while a third worked on her foot.  Regina was calm, seeming to enjoy the attention. The whole evening at the emergency vet cost us $225.  Regina came home with a sack of pills & a nice giraffe-patterned bandage on her foot. 

I contacted our vet as soon as they were open again & was informed that they already were expecting Regina as the emergency clinic had communicated with them.  I drove Regina up to our vet & left her for the day.  I retrieved her at the end of the day.  I got a report on her surgery as well as a description of how she did not even need to be kenneled while awaiting her lunch time surgery – she simply laid on the floor in the back room, quietly watching the day’s work.  This time she came home with a nice purple bandage, an awkward Elizabethan collar to keep her from chewing on her foot & a few simple instructions for her follow up care.  Her entire surgery was only $400 – not an expense we had planned on but certainly very reasonable for what was involved.  

As the vet tech helped me load her in the car I mentioned that we just didn’t know what could have happened.  Regina has tangled with many predators in her pasture in the past but there wasn’t a single other bite on her or any marks on her face that would indicate that she had been in a fight.  Katy, the tech, said that when she looked at the wound it almost looked as if a snapping turtle had bitten her & stripped the bone.  Although we have a shallow creek it might not be out of the question that she had found one, pawed at it & gotten bit. It is the best guess that we have as of now. 

What I have to say about Regina is that she is a remarkable dog.  She is a big baby but we’ve also found the shreds of raccoon left over after she discovered it sneaking in to threaten her chickens. She will viciously fight one of our other Anatolians should it accidentally enter her pasture.  But she also carefully watches a ewe in labor, keeping an appropriate distance as she lambs. She doesn’t leave the farm.  Last year when the vet was out to see the cattle I asked that Regina get her annual shots right in the pasture. She does not take car rides.  She never has to walk on a leash as she just trots herself in & out of her pasture.  She does on occasion come all the way to the front of the house if we are moving in hay & have the gates open but she soon returns to her own territory.  We don’t have many visitors to the back of the farm so she does not routinely see strangers.  But through this whole process she trusted us fully.  She never balked at getting in the car, walking on the leash, entering strange places & patiently letting people work on the raw & bloodied foot.  She is now napping in the dining room.  She will have a bit of a challenging recovery period as she has lost a weight-bearing toe but we are tickled that she will be better.  We will wait to see if she will return to her duties or be a house dog but either way we are glad that her adventure ended up no worse than it did.