It’s the last week of August and I’m on a feverish pace to finish digging the gravel out of the garden beds.
What you can’t see? That compact sand and gravel was up to twelve inches deep in places. How ripped my arms and back are getting. How I shuffle and stoop by the end of the day. Even luckier? You get no groaning.
I finally got my quilted overalls and herring net and managed to crash through the bramble and capture my feral flock of Delawares. After a summer in exile, Crankypants has become much less cranky, and Peep turned out to be a rooster (bringing my total to three). If you ever have need to capture unwilling chickens forget the chicken hook. Find yourself a big, big fishing net with a telescoping handle.
I finished painting the new coop. It’s designed to house up to 20 chickens by maximizing roost space. It has no floor so I can practice deep bedding. It still needs some flair, and I’ll get there eventually.
But this week I’ve been dealing with some unknown chicken illness. Last Thursday I noticed one of our original hens (Wishbone, with complete immunity, hadn’t laid an egg in years) moaning. Friday when I went to check on them I realized her eye was so swollen and crusty I didn’t even know what part of her face I was looking at. She had rattly breath and wasn’t moving. I panicked and put her down since the kids were away.
I checked on the others, who all appeared to be fine. In a few hours though, 3 others had come down with goupy eyes, runny nostrils or wheezing. I isolated the other three and gave them extra apple cider vinegar in their water. By morning all but one had recovered so I re-integrated them with the flock. Now nearly a week later the lone chicken (Chicken Little) is still wheezing with a rattly bawk. I plan to process and necropsy her tomorrow in order to find out what the illness was. I can never re-integrate her seeing how long it’s taken her to recover. She’s not resistant to whatever it was. I want chickens that will be naturally resistant to antibiotics, and illness. I want strong chickens.
It’s a hard decision to make though. Stacy went through this earlier this week as well. I have the luxury of space, and multiple coops and no limits on number of chickens. It’s easy for me to be cavalier and say “Whatever happens.” It’s much, much harder when you can only have a few chickens. She had a hard decision to make, and it was the right one for her. It’s not easy being close to your food.
It’s tough even for animals. Look how tough!
It’s even tougher to be the food. Notice the missing foliage at the bottom of the pear trees. Goats are quite agile, even close to milking time.
One more exciting piece of news – Friday I’m driving to Ellensburg, boys in tow, to pick up two more goats. If you follow this blog you’ll remember I had been milking Mona and Bessie and was planning to buy them. Until my neighbors read that facebook update and unfriended me. By the time I was in a position to get them, they had been sold. One small solace is that I am getting Val, Bessie’s sister. All my goats have come from Soaring Heart Farm in Snohomish – a well loved and respected mini-Nubian breeder. She breeds for temperament and dairy output, health and quiet voices. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not. Mary was not – quiet. We’ll see how Val is. One thing I do know is, she will be lovely and sweet because all of Wendy’s goats are like that.
She comes with a four month old doe. In November I’ll be breeding Val, Mary and Little Bell. That means we will have six to nine baby goats and lots, and lots of milk. So get ready for some cheesemaking!
Next week: updates on Val and Bell, Nibbles and Buns return, and hopefully lots and lots of topsoil…