Late Winter on the Farm

It’s been a busy time for farm and wildlife activities over the last month.  The weather has been quite capricious as well.  I knew there would be payback for the lovely warm February this year!

Chicken Traumas….

On President’s day Regina (Salmon Favorelle hen 3 years old )

Regina - Favorelle Hen

Regina – Favorelle Hen

was pecked on the head so severely by Coq Au Vin (Easter Egger rooster 1 year old)

Coq Au Vin – Photo courtesy of

that the skull was visible.  She made a full recovery in about 2 weeks which is yet another testament to their healing abilities and tolerance for pain (good old fashion toughness and strong will to live!).

The rooster had been picking on some of the older hens, just warning them away from his favorites, but not anything serious up to this point.  My experience is that roosters that lives with a smaller group of hens will prefer them if they are then all released into a larger group.  This rooster had been raised with his “sisters” until about 8 weeks when he began to be too aggressive and he was moved to a pastured area with 1 year old hens.  After initial dissatisfaction (had to clip his wings to keep him in their area!), he settled in, got on with them very well and they loved him too.    I’d never had a rooster attack a hen and cause such a significant wound.  I put him in his own area and it was quickly clear that he’d been terrorizing some others as well because they stopped hiding within a few days.  I’d thought it was hen disagreements causing the slight dissension in the main group.

Since Coq Qu Vin is very good with people I decided to re-home him thinking that starting off with a new flock he wouldn’t have any prejudices.  I found a nice home for him and thought things were going well as there was no word for almost 3 weeks but alas he decided he did not like Buff Orpington hens either and he came home again.  He’s in his own pen with a view of the ladies while I decide my next approach.  I’m thinking of letting him run loose outside the chicken yard and roost in the greenhouse overnight.

Around the same time one of my Australorp hens broke a thigh bone completely (snapped in half) in two separate spots – one in the center of the bone, one just below the pelvis joint.  No idea what happened but she was suffering greatly although she valiantly moved around using a wing to support herself on the bad leg side.  She did not make it, the injury was just too severe.  Most animals have appetite loss if they are in severe pain which causes them to go down, not the injury itself.

Also a Dominique hen (KFC – so named because she loves “fast food” aka corn) tore a growth off her leg which bled for a long time despite my attempts to stop the bleeding.  After a week in the greenhouse with a bandage on her leg she was doing so well that I  returned her to the geriatric hen pasture to complete her recovery.

Goat Issues…

The (presumably benign) tumor on James’s (12 year old Angora goat) throat finally got to a critical stage.  He’s had it for over a year and I had a vet look at it soon after I first noticed it.  The opinion was that it was inoperable because of the location.  So…had not been looking forward to what was going to happen with him over time.   The tumor had grown quite large and reached the point where his skin couldn’t stretch any more, bursting open so that he was draining fluids from the opening continually.

Since fly season was approaching and he was clearly not feeling  good I decided to have the vet try to remove the tumor, knowing that there was a good chance he might not make it through the surgery.  A big snowstorm was expected (>2″ predicted) and the vet wanted to do it the day of the storm as all his other patients had cancelled and he could focus on the difficult procedure.  So… James went to the Vet the night before the storm and while my entire day was spent shoveling James surprised all of us by surviving the surgery in great shape.

He spent 5 days in the garage at night and in a stall in the barn during the days so he could be easily monitored in a sheltered, more sterile area.  He has progressed nicely and is happily re-united with his brother out in his regular pasture.  I still have to borrow the staple remover from the vet and take all the staples out but hope to do this early next week. His voice is normal again but he’s still coughing and choking more than normal.  Hopefully that will slowly improve as all the muscles in his neck and throat heal.

Of course he had to give me a good scare the other night.  I went out to do the evening feeding and couldn’t find him.  Finally I see him on the ground at the far end of a remote pasture.  I call to him and there is not motion so I start running and I can’t tell he’s alive until I touch him.  Then he shifts his eyes to look at me pleadingly but patiently.  He had managed to get tangled up in the electric net fence intended to keep the boys from knocking heads with the girls through the main fence.  There was no electricity involved, it was just being used as a visual and soft physical barrier.  He was perfectly fine after I got all the wires off his horns and front legs although he was grinding his teeth (normally a sign of pain) and for a bit I thought the plastic wires had sawed into his skull at the base of the horns.  Thankfully the wires were  only caught on an imperfection on his horn.   Needless to say this means they won’t be using that pasture again until I can work out a better barrier.  Unfortunate as it has better grass than their “home” pasture and they had been using that pasture with that fencing for months now without issue!

Bunny Mishaps….

At the end of March a baby bunny (eyes still closed) was found on the main path into the chicken yard with one eye pecked partially open and a large wound on it’s back.  Since the bunny was very cold it was brought into the house to be re-warmed.  There was no sight of a nest even after repeated attempts to locate one so  the bunny stayed in the house while I put a game camera up over night to locate the nest.

I was able to use the game camera pictures to find the bunny nest after a few tries.  There were two more rabbits in the nest also with pretty full coats and eyes closed, ears down (thus <a week old).  They were in the compost pile which was pretty wet due to the recent rain and full of goat poop and smelly hay as this is where the mess from the barn ends up.  I imagine this was the only place the mother could dig since the ground was snow covered from the 14 inch snow we received the week prior and the lack of any real warmup to significantly melt the snow since then.  It has been the second incidence of a 60 degree day followed by a significant snowfall this year.

It was safe in that it was a fenced area with electric lines around it but not safe for baby bunnies wriggling out of their nest and attracting chickens looking for snacks.  The short version of events is that after several attempts to reinforce and better water proof the nest, the mother wasn’t able to find them (even though it was in the spot she had put them in) and the injured one as well as another kept escaping from the nest and striking out for parts unknown. Since they were escaping through the fence around the compost pile there was no way to ensure their safety during the day (chickens) nor a way to keep them safe from Mother Nature at night in between feedings by their mother IF she could find them.

Unfortunately rabbits are very difficult for people to raise.  They require a formula that is very high in fat and protein (not even goat’s milk at 43% fat is sufficient, cow’s whole milk is 5%) plus the killer issue is they must eat a bit of their mother’s night time poop preferably every day.   Yes, there are 2 kinds of rabbit poop – dry pellets and a smelly, gooey kind they do at night.  Fresh poop is needed in order to inoculate their intestines with the proper bacteria to digest the fiber in greens (grass, etc.).  Without rabbit poop in their diet they will quickly die once they start eating greens. So if you don’t own a rabbit or know someone nearby with a healthy domestic rabbit and are not willing to spend $60 for the proper formula, orphaned baby rabbits are history.  I had been keeping the injured bunny going on goat’s milk since that was the highest fat and protein milk I could easily find and had been hoping to get the orphan back into it’s nest ASAP.  Keeping the bunny warm and avoiding dehydration were my main goals.

Once I decided I couldn’t keep any of them in their nest, I started looking for a wildlife rehabilitator that handles rabbits.  The NJ Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators provides a list of NJ state licensed rehabilitators on their website. Luckily Woodlands Wildlife Refuge is located fairly close to the farm and they rehabilitate rabbits.   I talked to them and they agreed the situation here at the farm could not be remedied so I dropped the bunnies off for them to raise.  The bunnies opened their eyes the evening before I dropped them off and they weighed 1.8 (the injured one) to 2.1 ounces!  Their eyes typically open at about 7 days. The injured bunny had healed very well and the injured eye completely opened a day before the other eye.  It might end being blind in the eye that got pecked, too early to tell but it looked clean and healthy at the time I dropped the bunnies off at the rehabilitators.

If you are interested in knowing more about raising orphaned rabbits and general information on their unique needs and growth benchmarks there is an excellent website created by Ron Hines (a vet)  who covers health topics on both domestic pets and common wildlife rescue info.  The injured bunny really touched my heart because it had such a strong will to live and was able to accommodate all the changes in it’s short life: learning to drink from a syringe and have it’s butt rubbed with a q tip (to encourage it to go) vs the way mom did it, a strange place with strange smells/ sounds and all while blind and in pain.  Maybe the bunny thought mom had made a very poor choice of nest location and was determined to improve it’s life even at 4 days of age!

Duck Sightings on the Pond…

A pair of Buffleheads had been on the pond for months, with an occasional extra male visiting from time to time.  When I went to clean out the pond overflow drain the male did a fly by quite near me several times making me think they might be nesting nearby.  They are cavity nesters using old Flicker or Red Bellied Woodpecker nests of which there are lots to choose from in the trees on the east side of the pond.  However, they disappeared shortly after that and haven’t been seen since Feb.

More recently a group of Ring Tailed ducks were out diving on the pond.  Their is also a pair of Mallard’s that have been here all winter.  The female has a bum leg which may be why they haven’t moved on.


Other (Human) Craziness…

When I bought the farm in 1997 there was a large dish antenna located near the side of the house.  I managed to remove the dish and find someone who wanted it not too long often moving in but after numerous attempts to use the metal support pole for “something” I realized it had to go.  Another example of how much things have changed in 20 years!

Last year I started digging around the concrete footings to scope the extent of the project. Needless to say I ran out of time as I was trying to put up a new fence around the vegetable garden and that had to take priority.  Since the weather in Feb, was so lovely, I returned to the task.  After I got down to over three feet, it finally dawned on me that even if I could get it completely uncovered there is no way I would be able to get it out of the hole and moved somewhere, not to mention where/how to get rid of it.  I tried whacking the concrete with a sledge hammer for awhile and concluded this approach would work but I’d be nearly 80 years old before I’d finished.  On to the next plan.

I decided to dig a trench, push it over horizontally and then cover it with dirt.  Being buried under three foot of dirt would get it out of the way and wouldn’t get in the way of planting things over it. This plan also hit a snag as it turned out that there were two reinforcing rods that extended well past the bottom of the concrete foundation!   After several attempts at pushing the concrete and pole over it had bent the metal rods enough that I could hacksaw through them.  Success at last as the foundation and pole slowly bent over and into it’s trench grave!  It only took about 45 hours of hand shoveling and 30 minutes sawing to see this amazing sight!  The trench has been refilled, three blueberry bushes are planted on top and one end has sprouted grass.  Definitely a project only a crazy person would have done themselves by hand!


On to snowblower and lawn tractor repairs!









Jasper Welcomes This Year’s Chicks

Jasper Welcomes New Chicks


Always helpful, Jasper gave the baby chicks lots of attention.  Of course after above average March temperatures, April has been well below average.  Thus the chicks arrived on the coldest day (24 degrees F) since late January.  They are all fine although issues with the brooder light caused about an hour of worries trying to get the temperature correct.

You can tell when baby chicks are unhappy as they make a lot of noise.  Happy chicks are silent or talk to one another in very soft cheeps.  All the noise made them even more attractive to Jasper.

When baby chicks go into the brooder I give them water that is quite warm, about 98-100 degrees F as they will want to drink a lot and it’s important that the water doesn’t chill them.  After a few hours ambient water temperature water is fine.

They do a lot of sleeping the first day, but it is amazing how quickly they catch on to eating and drinking.  I start feeding them by sprinkling food on paper towels and by the end of the day have progressed to an open dish.

Farewell Ginger

April 16, 2001 – April 5, 2016
Of natural causes, heart failure.

Ginger was a sweet, beautiful goat with one of the best fleeces I’ve ever had in my goats, the best of those with color  genetics.  Her father Sprout was a gorgeous goat and she got her great fleece from him, and the color gene from her mother Red.  She passed the color genes on with great fleeces to her offspring too.  She lived a great long life, serving as the herd matriarch until two days before her passing.  She went downhill suddenly, enjoying life up til the last day or so.   I opted to put her down as she was showing significant signs of distress – great difficulty breathing, she would not lie down and she stopped eating.  The vet said she had never seen a case of heart failure in a goat, but she had a significant heart murmur and it was likely fluid around her heart that was causing her to have such difficulty breathing out.  Also, laying down would have been painful because of the fluid in her chest.   I believe that my goats are veterinary “experiments” because they live such long lives – most goats (or any livestock species) don’t get to live much past 2-5 years.  Ginger died of natural causes – how often does that happen to livestock?  She died with me holding her and she relaxed quickly and easily into an eternal peace.

It was so sad later in the afternoon when the other does went out to pasture because Ingrid came to the corner of the barn where Ginger had been for the last day and started calling for her.  Ingrid had been standing on the partition and checking on Ginger while she was in a separate pen. She called and called until I went out and let her smell my hands since I had Ginger’s scent on my hands.  I rolled Ginger (who was temporarily on a cart) to the pasture fence for Ingrid and the other does to smell.  Then after a bit Ingrid and the others walked off, seeming to understand that Ginger would not be back.  Ingrid did not cry for Ginger again.

Here as a memorial are some of my favorite photos of Ginger.


Ginger Wearing Bucket (Nov 2001)

Ginger Wearing Bucket (Nov 2001)

Ginger 7 Months Old (Nov 2001)

Ginger 7 Months Old (Nov 2001)


Ginger and Scamp (2002)

Ginger (left) and Scamp (2002)

Ginger with Newborns Sienna and Jasmine (2003)

Ginger with Newborns Sienna and Jasmine (2003)

Ginger with Kids Leo and Rembaldi (2004)

Ginger with Kids Leo and Rembaldi (2004)

Ginger in Snow (2014)

Ginger in the Snow (2014)

Runaway Scottish Piglet Adopts Neighbor’s Sheep

In Scotland, “a runaway pet pig named Babe who thinks she is a sheep has set up home with a fleecy flock next door – evading capture for almost two weeks. Little Babe fled from her new home just moments after her owners’ trailer parked up at the smallholding they’d just moved to. This little piggy does not want to go home, living a life “on the lam with the sheep in a neighboring field, despite capture attempts by her owners.”  Read the full story and short video at the Telegraph.


11-week old Babe, who thinks she is a sheep, hanging out with sheep and lambs on Miefield Farm, Twynholm, Dumfrieshire (Photo: SWNS)  – included in the Telegraph article (By , 4:35PM GMT 17 Mar 2016).


30 Inch Snow Storm

After a warm Fall and early Winter painting, installing pavers and digging drainage ditches which I hadn’t gotten to during the Summer, Mother Nature sent a whopper of a snowstorm to keep things interesting.

In mid-December I had tried to start the snow blower bought towards the end of last March and only used twice, but it wouldn’t start.  Since it was still under warranty, I had it picked up and repaired.  The snow blower wouldn’t start because a wasp nest completely filled the carburetor!   Surprised and yet not (since wasps build nests everywhere here, including in the door hinges of vehicles if they are parked outside), at least I was prepared one day ahead of the snow storm.

It snowed for over 24 hours (Jan. 23-24), and at times the snow fall rate was over 2 inches per hour.  Despite the awesome snow blower (24 inches high and 30 inches wide), I had to do the driveway and animal paths twice because of the large amount of snow piling up. By 6AM Saturday morning there was already over a foot of snow in the driveway.  It was perfect snow, light and fluffy and easy to shovel. Usually the snow here is wet and very heavy so it was a delight to be out in this gorgeous snow. Good thing since it took days to get everything cleared!  It was also good luck that the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as originally predicted since the snow fall amount was much greater than predicted.

The driveway itself only took 4 hours (two hours each time). Since there are a lot of small buildings (run in shelters, hen houses, hay shed, hay feeders, etc.) it takes a lot of time to clear the roofs so they don’t collapse under a large snowfall and some areas have to be hand shoveled.  As a precaution I had packed the hay feeders with hay in advance so I wouldn’t need to move hay up to the barn or run in shelters for several days.

James in Snow Chasm

James on the Way to the Hay Feeder


Jessie at Hay Feeder

Jessie at the Hay Feeder

After spending over 8 hours getting the snow cleared on Saturday, the whole job had to be done again on Sunday as if nothing had been done.  By the time the driveway was done the first time, there was already over a foot re-accumulated in the “clean” driveway.  All day Monday and Tuesday were spent moving piles from areas that had to be hand dug as the snow only throws so far and making some of the paths wider.  Quite a nice view standing on the wether’s shelter and tossing snow off the roof as far as it would go.

The whole farm is on a slope that runs down to the pond and creeks so drainage is always an issue once the snow melts.  This snow storm was perfect, with sunny days and close to freezing temps so that the snow mostly sublimed rather than melting and creating ice every day.  Of course it came to an end with 2 inches of rain a week later, turning the whole farm into mud with the consistency of quick sand.


TyeDye in Snow Chasm

TyDye Going to the Barn in Snow Chasm


TyDye EAting Grass in the Snow

TyDye Eating Grass Through the Snow

None of the animals like snow removal implements of any kind, neither human nor machine powered but approve of the end result.  When the snow is this deep they wait for paths to be dug for them. This snow was a good 4 inches above my knee and thus exhausting for me to walk in it.  I can only imagine how hard it would be for a shorter animal such as the goats or for deer.  The chickens don’t like snow but will go out in it for short periods of time if it’s not very deep.  Like the goats and sheep they will eat snow to get a quick “drink” while they are out and about.  I bring my animals warm water several times a day as I think it’s better for them to drink water that’s closer to body temperature when the outside temperature is cold.  They do appreciate it and will drink large amounts of warm water.

Rabbits raced through the paths and at times they would jump out and skim across the snow with their built-in snow shoe feet while all the other local wildlife were in hiding for several days.


Spring Happenings

Spring is in full swing and I’ve been feverishly planting seeds before it turns hot and dry. Since it was a cold, wet Spring the plants are off “normal” schedules and bloom times are compressed. All the daffodils bloomed at the same time vs over a month as they usually do. The lilacs were only open during a torrential rainy period so their odor never perfumed the air. The iris have just opened and the peonies are poised to open any day, they just need a bit more moisture. Don’t think we’ll get it soon, and it has been nearly 90 degrees for a few days so all the plants are looking for a nice drink of water.  This is the new weather pattern – all or nothing, without moderation. We get no rain or 5 inches of rain and it is 15 degrees below “normal” or 15 degrees above “normal”.  Both extremes being tough for living things to handle.

Taking Over the Deck

Bleeding Hearts and Ferns Taking Over the Deck

Lavender and White Iris

Lavender and White Iris

My two surviving strawberry plants are blooming.  The only way to keep them alive it to completely enclose them with hardware cloth.  Otherwise the chipmunks destroy both the berries and the plants themselves.  I had not realized how much damage these cute little rascals cause until I caught them climbing the (deer prevention) cages around my roses to reach through and eat fully bloomed roses!  There is a pair roaming around on the back porch so it looks like a population increase is in the making.

Only Way to Grow Strawberries in the Wilds of Central NJ

Only Way to Grow Strawberries in the Wilds of Central NJ

There is a baby bunny running around in the chicken area, but much fewer rabbits overall then last year.  Surprising, since last year was the year the coyotes took out two of my adult goats and there was also a bumper crop of bunnies!  You would have thought the coyotes would have been eating bunnies versus a 100+ pound goat.  Coyote choices are fewer this year (fingers crossed!) since the goats and sheep are now locked into overnight corrals.  More work for me, but hopefully creating less domestic livestock options for coyote meals.

The new chicks are 4 weeks old as of Monday.  They are nearly fully feathered and really beautiful!  The transformation is always amazing.  Since I’m trying two new breeds this year I’ve been trying to pictorially document their change into adult plumage.   Not an easy task as they move around like bullets, trying out their wings and exploring.  Yesterday I got them outside in their permanent “teenage” area instead of in the smaller cage I’ve been using and moving around on the grass up near the house.

Australorp Hen Meets Salmon Favorelle Chick 4 Weeks Old

Australorp Hen Meets Salmon Favorelle Chick 4 Weeks Old

They are still too small (not fully feathered so unable to fully regulate their temperature) to stay out overnight or in cold, wet weather so they move back and forth to their cage in the basement in a cat carrier.  They are amazingly smart.  They learned to go into the carrier when I go out late in the day, all crowding in so I can take them inside.  It only took them a few days to figure this out!  It is their natural inclination to seek shelter when it starts to get dark which I’m sure helps, but often I’m moving them well before dusk due to the cool temperature or rainy weather.  Chicks feather out more quickly when the temperature is low versus when they are raised in warmer ambient temperatures.  They have a light in their cage that allows them to warm up if they get cold, but the basement ambient temperature is about 60-65 degrees.  That’s why they are almost fully feathered at 4 weeks instead of the more typical 6 weeks.

The difference in their personalities is obvious even at a very young age.  The Salmon Favorelles are much calmer and peaceful than the Chanteclers which are calmer than the Ameraucanas in general.  There is one Chantecler that gets upset about being handled as well as two of the Ameraucana chicks.  They are all getting better with the twice daily routine of being lifted in and out of their cage and being taken outside.  Nothing like a little treat of white bread once they are out to make it an overall positive experience!  I also try to pick them up slowly and respectfully, trying to get them to come to me so I can pick them up versus grabbing at them.

Baby Chicks 3 Weeks Old

Baby Chicks 3 Weeks Old

Above is a group picture at 3 weeks of age showing a Salmon Favorelle in the front, Ameraucanas on each side and a Chantecler in the far back.  They love to crowd into a box and peck at the box sides which makes an interesting noise (to a chicken!) .