Tag Archive for animals

Tough Days Make Us Tough Birds

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It’s difficult to live on a homestead. While we don’t slaughter out own birds – yet – the emotions that you go through packing them into the kennels and loading them into the car, driving to the butcher’s and handing them over, picking them up an hour later, and bringing them home to the freezer, it’s a roller coaster ride.

You’ve held these birds in your hands since they were a day old. You fed them, cuddled them, loved them.  You give them your attention, your time, and your devotion. In return they give you education, experience, and sustenance. It’s never easy to see anything come to an end, much less the life of an animal, even one that has been born and raised with the sole purpose of giving your family food.

We’re asked often why we raise our own birds if it is so hard to see them go off to “freezer camp.” There are so many ways to answer this, but it all boils down to the fact that it is by far healthier for us and for them. They have room to grow, are not debeaked, and are not kept in an area the size of an iPad. These birds have been tended to for every wound and illness, from pasty butt to bumble foot, to torn combs. Each rooster has been held, named, and identified as a living being, not a “production unit.”

We eat meat because we are carnivores. But that does not mean we need to become heartless about it. Our current industrialization of animal husbandy that has formed concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) have let the US become such a heartless, unaware society as to where our meat comes from that many no longer realize their food as once having been a living animals. We, like all homesteaders, fight to close this gap. We long to be connected back into our food chain, giving each animal we consume the best life possible until it’s time for their ultimate destiny as one of our “farm hands.” As a family we’ve decided to raise our own meat birds, buy local beef, and purchase additional meat from the local farmers’ market. Is there more that we could do to strengthen our connection? Yes, but raising our own chickens for slaughter is the first step.

I could wax political and spiritual for hours on this topic. It’s a job we don’t take lightly, raising our own food, but it’s one that we readily take upon ourselves instead of taking it for granted. It is rough. It leads to tears, sleepless nights, early mornings, and deep meditation, but Gods above is it worth it. We know where our food comes from. We know each bird was happy and healthy. We know we are making a difference and raising our children to know where their food – their life source – comes from. I will never give up that opportunity.

 

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Hoping to have this post featured on a blog hop! Check out other great blogs at The Easy Homestead’s Blog Hop on every Wednesday!
Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

Tornados, Chickens, and Camping, Oh my!

Tornado Warning July 15, 2014 (http://rockycoastnews.blogspot.com/)

Let me start off by saying there is almost no such thing as “standard” weather in Maine. We have a saying up here: Wait a minute, it’ll change. The weather is a constant shifting force no matter what the year. Yesterday proved that as we had our first tornado warning while living in our home. One in six years? Not too shabby.

Wait? A tornado warning, in Maine? I don’t buy it, you say. Tornadoes don’t happen here. Well, darling, they do. Mostly they never make touchdown; tornadoes blip up on the radar, are recorded, and then investigated. Those that touch down average an F-1. (For a really good list of tornadoes in Maine from 1950 to 1912, go here.) It was still unnerving to read this pop up at weather.gov and to see similar on our cell phones:

AT 645 PM EDT… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAY MAINE HAS ISSUED A

*TORNADO WARNING FOR… SOUTHERN SOMERSET COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL MAINE… SOUTHEASTERN FRANKLIN COUNTY IN WESTERN MAINE…

*UNTIL 645 PM EDT…

* AT 603 PM EDT…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 11 MILES SOUTHWEST OF MADISON…OR 6 MILES EAST OF FARMINGTON…MOVING NORTHEAST AT 30 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO MADISON…NORRIDGEWOCK AND SKOWHEGAN.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED BASED ON DOPPLER RADAR…IT MEANS THAT STRONG ROTATION HAS BEEN DETECTED IN THE STORM. A TORNADO MAY ALREADY BE ON THE GROUND…OR IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP SHORTLY.

IF YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS DANGEROUS STORM…MOVE INDOORS AND TO THE LOWEST LEVEL OF THE BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. IF DRIVING…DO NOT SEEK SHELTER UNDER A HIGHWAY OVERPASS. THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A TORNADO IS IN A BASEMENT. GET UNDER A WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. IF NO BASEMENT IS AVAILABLE…SEEK SHELTER ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE BUILDING IN AN INTERIOR HALLWAY OR ROOM SUCH AS A CLOSET. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR BODY AND ALWAYS STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. IF IN MOBILE HOMES OR VEHICLES…EVACUATE THEM AND GET INSIDE A SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER. IF NO SHELTER IS AVAILABLE…LIE FLAT IN THE NEAREST DITCH OR OTHER LOW SPOT AND COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR HANDS.

The tornado picked up on radar wasn’t too far from us. Not to mention shortly after our phones were pinged with a note from NOAA that there was a tornado noticed on radar right above Norridgewock. At this point we were already in the basement.

I didn’t tell you? The above is the second warning we got. The first one came in at 5:30 and was only to last until 6pm. But we live in Maine. Why get in the basement? Doesn’t that seem a little….over the top?

Let me share two videos with you. The first is a clip of a neighborhood in Rochester, Minnesota, about a month after an F-1 hit. The second is an animation of the destruction at different F-cats. Maine has been recorded as having anything from F-0s to F-2s.

A reminder: F0 to and F2 in Maine. Pieces of the house gone and trees bashed around. We live in a highly wooded area, which means one thing: shrapnel. While we have no trees near enough to land on us in a clean fall, there are plenty of big pines and willows with widow makers that would probably be chucked around and our home is full of windows. Needless to say, we decided to follow the advice of the Angels of Preparedness.

I rushed out, shooed the layers into their coop, and locked it up. (People who say you can’t herd chickens are full of it.) I did a quick check on the meat birds in the tractors and raced inside. We got Christine (lovebird) under the kitchen table. Jacks (rabbit) went into the closet in his room, cage and all. Ashes and Diamond came into the basement with us where the brooder boxes and chicks already were.

Little Mister thought our “camping” trip was a blast. We read, we had snacks, played with baby chicks, watched an episode of Wild Kratts on Dada’s phone, and had successful potty breaks. (Yes, I grabbed the potty on the way down. It was purely selfish: I didn’t feel like squatting over the sump pit if I had to pee.) We got to watch the cat get into everything as he explored an area he’s not normally allowed in and Diamond enjoyed a nap on the nice, cold floor.

Might we have gone a little above and beyond? I think not. Even if we did, it was a fun experience “camping” in the basement for an hour or two.

We’re down to eight.

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This is a photo from the back stairs this morning around 10ish. That blinding light is what I had to fight through to see an unknown critter run off with one our layers. You’ll notice that the coop is closed now. The remaining seven layers and their man are tucked in for the day. They were all dazed enough to let me put them back in.

I wish I could say I knew exactly what took them. I’m not sure. Any time an animal has come on to the property after the chickens the ladies have sounded the alarm when the critter is on the boundaries. Not today. Apparently, when they sounded the alarm whatever it was had sneaked from around the bulkhead (to the right side of this photo) and almost grabbed Beardie (so nicknamed because of her lovely beard). Apparently I scared it when I tried to open the door. Unfortunately I also scared Minski off the stair as well. She took to the air and before I knew what was happening, had been caught and carried down past the coop, out beyond the two smaller willows. I still couldn’t tell what had her. All I could do was watch until it snapped her neck and went off through the woods. I had to watch. I had to make sure whatever it was had been the only attacker.

The “chicks” as we still lovingly call them, had no idea what to do. The rooster was out front with the older girls, from the best I can tell. Our older ladies – who are definitely pets for us – have survived a raccoon chasing them, a dog attacking them in the back yard, and a fox charging over the tracks at them. They knew what to do. I hope these young girls catch on. They stood there and watched with me. They’ll miss Minski…we all will, but there’s a lesson for all of us in this.

Our little flock of layers are staying warm in the coop for today. I gave them all a thorough look over. Beadie’s missing a patch of feathers the size of the bottom of a coffee cup, but is already back to pecking me when I try to grab the eggs, so I think she’ll be fine.

In the three years that we’ve had chickens, this is the third bird we lost. The other two were last fall, and we’re not entirely sure what happened.

While it’s sad to see this happen, and I’m still trying to process it, I know that the first thing that came to mind was this: I cannot stop free ranging our flock. Even if we lost each and everyone this year to an attack, I feel allowing them to explore and get the best out of their lives is by far better than them living in a coop for their entire lives. (As far as runs go, I tend to think they’re more dangerous as the chickens have no where to go if a predator gets in. At least in this case – and in previous cases – they were able to run.)

Now it’s time to think and see if there is anything that we can do to help protect our flock better. A couple options….

1. A dog that barks. (Diamond, who hasn’t even been with us a year, slept through the whole thing. Even though she’s a rescue and we don’t know her past, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts she’s a city dog who’s used to noise and that’s why it didn’t phase her.)

2. A gander. (We can’t trust Diamond out by herself with the chickens even if she did bark. She likes to play with anything that moves and we’re working really hard with her not “death shake” toys.)

Any other ideas, PLEASE add in the comments!

Meat Birds – Take 2

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Last year we tried our luck at doing meat birds. Things didn’t go so well. We’re at it for take two. If things go well, we’ll be raising 24 birds for ourselves over the course of the season, along with birds of a few friends and family.

We’re currently attempting to find a butcher to use. Once we get the numbers for the cost of butchering, we’ll be able to figure out roughly the cost per bird. This will be a flat rate cost, not per pound. We’re hoping to have final details – including if this is definitely a go or not – and a limit to how many birds out homestead can take by the middle of March.

We can’t call these birds “organic” as the feed we’re using isn’t technically organic. But they will be FREE RANGE, NO HORMONES, HUMANELY treated animals.

Right now it looks like we’ll be going with Murray McMurray for our chicks as they have a great heavy birds assortment that includes Black Australorps; Lt. Brahmas; Dark Cornish; Black and White Giants; Buff and White Orpingtons; New Hampshire, Rhode Island Reds, Barred, White, Partridge, Buff Rocks; Sussex, Turkens; White, Silver Laced, & Columbian Wyandottes, Red Star and Black Stars. We could go with the Cornish X mixes, but the idea of raising an overly breed hybrid doesn’t really strike me as necessary.

If all goes well, we’ll be up to our ears in roasters for the winter!

Ashes’ Story

*** Some of the specifics might be missing, such as vets’ names, medications I forgot about, and other things that don’t really matter, but I wanted to share Ashes’ current health scare as a way to celebrate how well he’s doing right now. ***

So things have finally calmed down around our household.

In June Ashes, our 17 pound black Maine cooncat mix went in for his check up and an update on his shots. I asked one of the vets about an interesting issue: if you scratched right above the base of his tail, Ashes would go into a trance of sorts, waving his head back and forth while drooling. She thought it was odd, that she had only seen cats do that when they had a hot spot from fleas, which he didn’t. She said to keep an eye on it and to see what would happen.

I don’t know if it’s related, but it wasn’t long after that when things got scary, and a bit crazy, around here:

At the end of August – I think it was the 26th – we woke up to a cat crying in pain every now and then and not being able to use his box. We figured it was just that he was backed up with hairballs, as that had happened before, but never to such an extent. After picking up some laxatone and administering it, he settled down for a bit. Half an hour goes by and he’s upstairs vomiting up the last THREE feedings he had. He wouldn’t let me touch him and was severely lethargic.

We brought him to our vet, which thankfully does ER visits. Poor Ashes had a severe urinary blockage. I had never in my life heard of that happening in cats, but I’ve only ever had females. He stayed for a week. It was a VERY long week of twice a day check ins, a visit with Little Mister (my two year old human kiddo), and two different catheter inserts.

Ashes finally comes home. He’s on a list of meds including Valium, which is supposed to give him the munchies. It doesn’t. He’s urinating very little, refusing to eat – we had to force feed him with a syringe for two days -, and still hiding. He did seem better than before and since he wasn’t eating AT ALL at the vet’s office (went from 17 lbs, to 15 lbs in a week), our vet opted for him to stay home unless things went downhill.

They did.

All of a sudden it came on: Ashes would go to the box, act like he was urinating WITHOUT straining but nothing was there. The box was bone dry. I brought him in again. Our vet checked him over and decided that the bladder was way too small. Something was obviously wrong. We opted for an exploratory surgery. Sure enough Ashe’s bladder had a dead spot on it that was leaking urine into his abdominal cavity. the bladder wall was super thick, which made that nasty “cancer” word come up. After the surgery he was in the vet’s for another week to make sure all went well. He dropped more weight (down to 14.7) as he still wasn’t eating there due to not being comfortable.

We finally got to bring him home. He was on a two-part probiotic, amoxicillian, prednisone, and an appetite stimulant. Pilling was originally alright, until Ashes starting getting his strength back. We also had a fake scare as neither hubster nor I knew that cats will froth a the mouth to try to remove nasty tasting items – such as the apetite stimulant he was on.

Unfortunately, even with the stimulant, he still wasn’t eating well and gave us yet another scare when he went off his food and began having severe withdrawal tremors as the prednisone dose dropped down. After another night at the vet’s, an extension of the prednisone which cause severe stomach issues, and a change from the prednisone to an inject-able anti-inflammatory that tapered off over 10 days, he’s caught a break.

Ashes is now acting like his own self again. While there will be a long time span of me being paranoid and checking his box every time I walk by, he’s on the mend. While I still get panicky about how much food he has or hasn’t eat, he’s on the mend. While I still double check any spit up with a paper towel to check for blood, he’s on the mend.

Ashes is one hell of a trooper.