Saturday, May 18, 2013

Full house in the barn and Sheep Shearing

We're running out of room!  I am trying to juggle animals in the available cages and pens and I'm not sure exactly how this is going to work out.  

Fifty-two White Rock chicks arrived this week - one died within hours of getting here - poor little guy.  White Rocks are meatie birds...and every year I say I'm going to go with another breed but I don't - so here's to hoping that most of them make it to the butcher this year.  Right now they are in our home-made brooder.  DH and DS overbuilt a brooder box for me a few years ago.  It's as heavy as a box full of cast iron frying pans and looks like a coffin-for-two!  Thankfully it's so well built it doesn't need to be INSIDE another pen.  The problem is it will only last for a week and they will need bigger quarters.

I also have three very faithful hens sitting on eggs.  These are the Red Sex Links that everyone says have the broodiness bred right out of them.  I'm not so sure.  I've had to fight a lot of the hens for eggs in the past two weeks so something is kicking in.  We've never allowed any hens sit before so it will be interesting to see how successful they are.  We have about 70 hens and only one rooster - let's hope he was a busy guy! 

We also have 4 ducks sitting on eggs.  One white Muscovy, 2 black Muscovies and Pom Pom Head our Crested White.  These have all been good momma's in the past - we've just had some setbacks in their nesting boxes and had one family massacre by an angry papa duck.   We just let the ducks nest in their pens last year and those girls sat and sat and sat.  It should only be 4 weeks but I gave them a few extra thinking maybe my numbers were off.  Nothing hatched.  When I explained the situation to a farming friend she asked what they were nesting on.  Apparently a concrete floor with some shavings wasn't optimal because the concrete would wick up any moisture which is necessary for the eggs to hatch.  This year we got creative!  I had some leftover over stacking storage bins

 and used shavings on the bottom and a nice layer of leftover sheep wool that was headed for the compost pile.  Hopefully that provided them with a toasted warm place but we'll wait and see what kind of hatch I get before I get too excited.  P.S.  I didn't stack them but I did place large sheets of wood on an angle against the wall to provide them with some privacy.

In order to prevent another massacre by the papa ducks we need to put the fathers somewhere else as soon as the ducklings are hatched.  The twist is the boys don't get along with each other either so they can't be in the same pen.  They tend to work out their differences ok outside where they pester each other all day long - chasing, honking and beating on each other but in a small pen that behaviour could result in death.  I may need a spreadsheet to figure it out!  Springtime hormones oh MY!

Yesterday - we finally got the sheep sheared.  We had arranged to have it done earlier this week but the animals had been out in the rain and wet sheep are next to impossible to shear.  We kept them indoors for a few days to dry up and all was well.  

Mr. Sheepie looks ridiculous.  I guess all sheep look funny after being shorn but you wouldn't recognize this guy.  He's so tiny.  We've never seen him shorn before - there was more wool on him than flesh.  He looks a lot like a goat - a very tiny skinny goat.

The shearer was going to leave the wool but since I doubt I will have to time to learn how to spin this year I gave her most of it and just kept Mr. Sheepie's.  His was so matted it would probably have been rejected by the wool co-op anyway.  I'm sure there is enough for me to play with as it is.  The colour of his fleece is particularly year it will be better as he skipped a year getting sheared!

Rebecca Parker - Sheep Shearer - Bethany Ontario or  905 259 1102.

You may have read that my daughter and I took on shearing the sheep last year.  We only needed to do two and it was an adventure that I'm not sure I want to repeat any time soon.  Rebecca was great and we learned a lot of shearing tricks - maybe we'll try the calmest one and let her do the rest next year!

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