The End is here

Something I never thought I would be admitting to, defeat. After all the amazing events recently, I didn’t see this coming. My neighbors finally found a way to beat me. The county came by today to issue me a warning about my animal houses being too close to the property line. We have the option to move all of our houses with the exception of one, and since we don’t have the space, time or money for a complete rebuild I am ending our hobby farm. These last 5 years have been the most fulfilling, educational, and pure fun that I have had. We will keep a few of our oldest chickens and ducks, but we have already begun the process of rehoming the rest. And with some effort and creative housing we hope to keep our mama goats because they are the most precious to me. I always thought that I would fight anything to keep things going, but I just don’t have the ability to fight this.

I will keep this blog up for the remaining time left on my paid subscription, then I will close it down. I do however plan to continue running my Facebook page and offer hatching services to those who need them. Its with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to this life I have loved, and thank you for all the support you all have offered and encouragement.

 

with love, Nicole

Four Mama Goats and a lot of babies!

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have been birthing so many babies all within a week of each other. During  the fall of 2018 we agreed on a buck to bring home to breed with Sage and Lavender, the two does who had not conceived in the spring. Let me remind you bucks are smelly creatures, they snort and spit and pee all over their face to spread their scent everywhere and bring all the ladies to his yard. So I drove out to my mentors house and brought back the very manly Fortune. My whole car smelled of buck by the time we arrived home, and he was a shy boy so I wasn’t all that prepared for the onslaught of goat mating I would soon be witness to.

I’m not sure if the girls knew he was there by his scent or what was going on, but when I got out of the truck and opened the back end I could already hear the girls calling. I swear I thought Fortune would rip my arm right off with how hard he was pulling. He was peeing on his face and spitting before he could even see the ladies. Bucks are so gross! Anyway, we made our way back to the pen where Sage and Lavender were separated and waiting for their rendezvous with Fortune. Goats in heat are very loud and Sage was making it known that she was ready for everything Fortune was about to give her. He made quick work as well, one sniff and a mount later he had already gotten it in. But bucks are in no way a one and done kind of mating. He continued to smell and mount her repeatedly over the next 2 days. For me I wasn’t worried about if he was making contact like with the last attempt, it was very clear he made contact several times. Next up was Lavender a few days later, she went into heat and over the course of the next couple days he had bred her many times. I was finally convinced that we had been successful this round and made plans for him to return home within the next couple days.

Little did I know, he wasn’t done and my other girls were waiting for their turn. I had no intention of letting the other girls get pregnant but I guess nature had other ideas. I was taking hay into the pen with the other girls and Lemon raced through my legs and in the time it took me to put the hay down and close the gate and turn around he had already mounted her. In shock at what had happened I picked her up and returned her to the other side of the gate praying that one encounter wasn’t enough to actually get her pregnant. Then theres Clover, she had triplets in June and I had been getting help taking her out of the pen by lifting her over the fence to the Mr, for her milking time. Well the night before Fortune was set to go back home, I had no help, so I leashed her up and brought her through the first gate attempting to keep her close. Well Fortune was already planning his attack, he literally knocked me out of the way and almost on my rear, I couldn’t get the gate locked and was fighting with that, trying to hold him off with my foot, never had I been so happy for all my years of gymnastics and flexibility but it really didn’t matter, he was determined like hornet wanting a honey bun. I was no match for his will and strength and once again the horny B made contact. Fortune went home the next morning and I had never been so grateful to return anyone home.

So here I am, its November and I had 4 does who were all bred within a week. I worked out the math and knew that if none went into heat before the end of the month I was screwed and the first week of April would forever be known as Farm Hell week. Apparently fate was laughing at my weak attempts to wish and pray away the extra pregnancies because by the end of November, no one had gone into heat. Just my luck, in the spring only 1 got pregnant and then in the fall all 4 were. What the heck was I going to do. It took a while before my friend called to my attention the potential for up to 16 babies being born, I think I turned white and there was so many swear words coming out in a string like a sentence. I told myself to suck it up buttercup and put my big girl pants on, it was time to plan. And plan I did. I made arrangements for the next 2 tons of hay to be brought in, planned a temporary addition to the goat pen for the additional babies as well as getting the entire yard in order to allow everyone daily exercise time. I can toot my own horn now because I was on fire.

Time sped by as we worked to prepare everything, the additional space was added, the tiny hut we built the previous year was demo’d and we added a new roof addition with an enclosed space for extra sleeping space. Before we knew it, we were approaching the end of March and everything was ready. The vet was on notice that babies were coming and I had everything prepared in my first aid and delivery kit. I was ready and waiting. My waiting ended sooner than I thought. Ahead of schedule, Sage was showing all the signs 5 days early. Goats are pretty easy to predict of an upcoming labor, they make nests, they stretch and you can even feel the babies drop into the birth canal so you know they are coming. So on March 26th I was fairly certain we were going to have babies. Sage had already gone through 2 unsuccessful pregnancies so this was her first time delivering babies. The hours ticked by and we were wondering why there was no active labor. Apparently all Sage needed was her mama to stay with her. I decided that I would stay with her for the remaining time until she delivered. I grabbed all the supplies I would need and blankets to sit on and keep warm in the goat pen and settled down. Sage spent the following 3 hours being restless and unwilling to settle, until almost midnight when she finally laid down and began to have real active contractions. My previous experiences with birthing had shown me what normal labor looked like, so I was prepared for that but an abnormal labor I still wasn’t sure about. We reached a hour of active pushing when nothing was progressing, I will admit I had already been panicking for half as long and so I began making the calls. I called the vet who was asleep, called my mentor who was able to get back to me. She explained that I was going to have to go in to get the kid if our vet wasn’t able to come, she was able to calm me and explain that my only job was to keep sage calm because she was already getting worn out. After that I was able to get the vet on the phone and she was able to head our way. Another 20 minutes later and the vet arrived and got herself ready to go in and get the baby. For all my talk of being so ready for babies, I had never seen an assisted delivery and I was totally freaking out inside. Our vet is one of those people who isn’t just a vet of the animals, she cares about the owners just as much and helped calm me and explained exactly what she was going to do and showed me step by step the process. Sure enough, our vet found the first baby, his head was positioned down and Sage was unable to get him out in that position, so his little head was lifted up into the correct nose first position and then she was able to quickly progress to delivery. A beautiful little boy was born without much further issues. Sage quickly began to clean and dry him off, but it was only a few minutes until another baby was coming, however we didnt see front feet or a nose, back legs were coming first, so there was another assisted delivery because poor mama just didn’t want to do much pushing. Baby boy number 2 was not moving so with some work we got him to take a breath and squeak. Sage took that one too and began to clean. the next break was a bit longer, we could see her contractions but she wasn’t willing to push. Finally a few more minutes passed and she was pushing again, this time a tiny little girl came effortlessly and Sage accepted her as well. First time mom had triplets just like her twin did. I was feeling so bad for my beautiful sweet mama because she was so tired and her babies were exhausted. Usually right after birth the mamas are up and letting their kids attempt nursing but Sage couldn’t get up. It was 2am, cold outside and she wasn’t ready to get up yet, she actually laid her head down on my legs to pin me to the ground, so like any other crazy goat mama, I threw a blanket over us and scooped the babies in between us to nap for a couple hours until she had the strength to get up and allow them to nurse. Sleeping with 3 babies is no easy task, every few minutes I was woke up by babies trying to nurse on my face, mama stirring or just plain discomfort, but it was all worth it. By 4:30 in the morning she was up and letting them try to nurse. Huge sigh of relief.

The next few days were significantly less eventful. Sage had gotten such a jump on delivering that there was a full 5 days before the next mama, Lavender began showing signs that labor was coming. Now Lavender is a whole different story. She had already delivered twins in her first kidding so we knew that she knew what she was doing. For the 2 days before her kidding, she was behaving like she would drop her babies at any moment, but I’m just so impatient and didn’t want to sleep and miss it. I was so exhausted by April 2nd that I did almost miss it. Lavender is such a funny goat, she is so needy most of the time and always wants me around, but when she’s having babies she wants everyone to leave her alone. She was standoffish and didn’t want her mama, and considering i’m use to her being my shadow that was just the most odd behavior. So I went to take a nap in the afternoon thinking she was waiting for me to go inside. Sure enough, as soon as I close my eyes, she began to scream the sound of contractions. She was so ready to have her babies that she was a very fast delivery. So fast in fact that I ran outside, saw her contracting and could see the bulge of the head already showing. I literally got gloves half on, didn’t even try to open the gate, instead I jumped the 2 four foot fences and got to her just in time to catch that first baby as she was hitting the ground. She was the fastest and easiest delivery I’ve ever seen, and she had a big freaking baby! But it wasn’t stopping there, just as fast as the first came, the second was coming just as quickly, However once again with the second baby, there were little back hooves coming out, so I had to assist her with delivering another backwards baby, so I grabbed the baby and helped pull during her contractions, and bam just like that flopped out another baby. Wouldn’t you know it, then came a 3rd baby! yes she also had triplets and that baby came flying out as fast as the first. All 3 of the babies were literally 3lbs each. I was astonished that she delivered her babies all within 10 minutes, they were so big and yet all alive and healthy. She was standing minutes later, delivered her placenta and was allowing all the babies to nurse before they were even dry. She is a rock star mama.

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Two down and two mamas still to go. There was no waiting between the next two mamas though. Clover was up next and at 6am on April 3rd, a very exhausted goat lady almost missed yet another birth by trying to sleep. Clover had another similar delivery to Lavender, it was easy for her to give birth to the first baby, but again the second was not positioned correctly, its hooves were not coming out and the baby was stuck with both legs facing back. I gloved up and reached in, felt the head with my fingers, followed the shoulders back until i could find the legs and pull them up and forward. Once the hooves were headed out, baby two came out as easily as the first and then again with a 3rd baby. 3 for 3 with triplets. I’m so excited we didn’t have a dozen already but I was seriously wondering if we would make that dozen kid mark with the final delivery. We already know Clover was an amazing mama, she is so patient and calm with her babies and allowing them to nurse right away, she even had a tiny 1lb baby who wasn’t ready to get up and walk around so Clover stood over her and let her nurse while laying down. The instincts of these mamas are nothing short of amazing.

Ok, final mama goat Lemon. Lemon had a single with her first but we were certain there was more than 1 in there, because she was so much bigger than the first pregnancy. Lemon is an interesting goat, she still has her daughter with her from last year, Pepper. They always cuddle and Pepper still behaves like she is mamas baby. April 4th at 11:30pm I heard that lovely sound again that alerted me to babies being on the way. But what happened next scared the crap out of me. I’m a strong freaking woman and I’m usually not quick to panic when it comes to my animals, I mean I’ve been dealing with my oldest dog and her seizures for years, so I have a tolerance for the crazy, not with little Lemon though. I went out and found her standing and laboring, with the placenta already mostly delivered. Hello!!! that wasn’t correct. I had a bit of a panic before slapping some sense back into myself. I gloved up and Lemon laid down, I had no idea what to expect or if the babies were going to be ok. She was laboring hard, i could see the head coming and the water broke, and I could see his little tongue moving so I cleared his airway and waited for the baby to come but his head just stayed there. Thats when I realized the baby was too big. she was pushing so hard all her legs were straight as she was straining and the baby just wouldn’t budge. I acted the only way I knew to, I went in after him. I found his feet and hooked around his shoulders as best as i could with a little slippery body, when she pushed again i pulled as much as I could, it was enough to get his head delivered and then on the next push she was able to get him out the rest of the way. He was about 3lbs, and to give reference Pepper was only 1lb and some change. Hello big boy baby! She didn’t get any time to rest before her next baby was coming out, luckily it was another 1lb little girl who just came out with the easy of her taking a poo. Yes thats gross but it was so easy for her compared to the boy. We thought for sure she was about to have a 3rd baby when we saw her contracting again, thankfully she just delivered the other half of the placenta. Dude I was in shock! A set of twins after having 3 sets of triplets!

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It was finally over, 11 goat kids by 4 mamas, 6 boys and 5 girls all beautiful and healthy and I was more wiped out than I had ever been before. 8 sleepless nights and daytime naps. 4 assisted deliveries, but It was finally done and I could sleep. To say the days ahead would be easy is just wishful thinking. Once all the babies were up and nursing and happy, they got their spirit and I have one word to describe 11 babies, 4 mamas and 1 teenager. SHENANIGANS!!!! Babies popping from mama to mama because all teets look alike. Mamas getting frustrated with nursing different babies. Everyone getting upset with the wild and jealous teen goat. We had to section off 4 separate areas to give everyone their space and have a chance to connect with their kids on their own.

So there it is, the craziest most hellish week we’ve had here. I can say this, I will never let 4 goats get bred at the same time again. New security measures will be taken for the future, I’m so not going down that path again. Babies have already found homes and many have gone to be bottle babies. Everyone is happy again and the hormones are slowly returning to normal. Oh and did I mention there are 4 giant milk bags just waiting for me to milk twice a day every day for the next year….what the heck was crazy lady thinking!

To all my friends and followers from here to the east coast, thank you for your time and support, listening and reading, baring through all my crazy. I wouldn’t be able to do all this without the support of my people.

much love, Nicole

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Old McDavis farm…I’m back! This is long, grab your tissues, you will need them.

You know how when you start something up, you have all these goals and ideas. I had big ideas, huge and I was so ready to do it all right now! 5 years down the road now, I’ve realized that life doesn’t allow you to do it all right now. Sometimes life gets in your way. Sometimes thats just lifes way of saying to you, “Crazy lady if you don’t slow down you are going to burn out and never meet your goals because you will quit.” Well thank you life, I’m Nicole and I burned out. Last year, I had so many plans for the blog, for our farm, for our family and then life beat the hell out of it all. Its really easy to love farming when everything is going so perfect and you are getting eggs, milk and meat all the time, when your neighbors love you and your farm, when all the animals are healthy and happy. But when things are not perfect, its a chore just to go outside and many days you may even find yourself ready to just give it all up. Before you do that, read this update, it may help make your decision easier.

Going into spring season last year, things were looking great. I had 1 pregnant goat, who was confirmed to be carrying triplets, seeds were sprouting, rabbit Stu had a new girlfriend, we planted a new fruit tree orchard, literally everything was going beautifully. I don’t know if I got complacent or if I just wasn’t prepared for what would come. Everyone still to this day tells me its not my fault, but theres nothing anyone can say to dissuade my guilt. Things continued to progress as we moved toward a warmer spring, but in April we went from warm to hot seemingly overnight. Everyone who follows our Facebook page already knows we lost Max our wether goat at the beginning of May so this won’t be a surprise for most, but for me I still look back and ask myself why I didn’t do more and things differently.

Ok back to my story. Max was our 1 year old male goat. We banded him when he was 8 weeks old as most people do with their bucklings to wether them. We continued to feed alfalfa hay while he was growing but i found out later I continued for far too long. Heres a good way to explain hay, Timothy hay is like only eating salad everyday, Orchard Grass hay is like eating salmon everyday, and Alfalfa is like eating cheeseburgers everyday. So we fed him the equivalent of cheeseburgers for almost a year when he didn’t need the extra calories does need. And when the heat increased so dramatically, Max didn’t adjust his water intake fast enough and he developed urinary stones. The alfalfa has increased calcium that he had been on for almost a full year before changing him and all that calcium had built up in his system and caused blockages. Additionally the blockage would have been more manageable had it not been for the large scar tissue from his banding at 8 weeks old making his urethra extremely underdeveloped. On top of all this, his condition wasn’t caught for a couple weeks because he was such a loving and lively goat that his behavior didn’t really change. Until the morning it did.

I found Max hiding behind the goat house, unwilling to come see me or eat even his favorite animal crackers. The vet was my first call, and our vet is amazing, she made time for him right away. We decided to attempt some medications because we didn’t really know how bad it was. He was very unhappy with me for giving him yucky meds. When you are going through all these things you think it will be better to be less invasive and conservative, but looking back not only would my bank account have been better off (not that it matters because I would have spent every dime I had and sold myself if it could have saved his life) but if I had said no lets be super aggressive and get it out of him now from day one, maybe we would have been more successful. Wethers who get urinary stones only have a 50% chance of survival. Knowing the odds, and thinking that I would be able to help him beat this, we went home with the meds and instructions for trying to get things moving. For days we tried and tried, just when we thought things were improving he would slide back again. Back to the vet again, this time for the more aggressive surgery. Writing all this down just makes me cry and want to quit all over again, but i need to share this story to save others. I need people to learn from me and Max, it gives his life and death meaning. So back at the vet, he was opened up and flushed out, he did so great, and we made the decision to leave him open so anything farther up could get out. Things seemed to improve a bit for a few more days. The temps had dropped a bit, he was drinking and eating a bit more. We all thought he was going to recover. About 2 weeks after this all began I went out with breakfast and meds, and found him crashing and unable to get up. I had recently just had surgery and wasn’t suppose to lift anything over 10 lbs, but I didn’t care. I grabbed blankets and called for help, we carried him into the bathroom, added a heat lamp and got a heating pad and more blankets. He was fighting but his body was done. We spent the remaining hours we had comforting him, sitting on the tiny bathroom floor with him, snuggling him, giving him his favorite treats and water from a syringe, the kids loved on him, and I cried with him in my lap until our vet could come help us help him over the rainbow bridge. This was by far the hardest and most heartbreaking experience I had in the last 5 years. Nothing could prepare me for this loss, for the anger that came after at myself and for the emptiness I would feel and his mother Lavender would begin to show quickly. We had Max cremated and his ashes were spread in a big apple orchard to nourish the trees for years to come.

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Our Max, gone but not forgotten

Things I learned that I want to share, urinary stones can be prevented by switching to Orchard grass hay for wethers when they are close to being full grown, soaking pelleted orchard grass hay in water before feeding during warm weather can help with increasing water intake and they view it as a treat, be prepared and have ammonium chloride on hand at all times to help break up blockages at the first sign of trouble, and the thing I would have done had I known, pay for surgical castration if you plan to keep your wethers as pets, the survival rate if stones occur goes up to 80% if I remember correctly. We adopted Lavender and Max 3 weeks after he was born, they were incredibly bonded and did everything together. You would never find them apart, she loved him so much, so naturally the loss of him was very hard on her. She quickly began to show depression, she was always in their hut alone, she wouldn’t join the others for treats, and when I would go to her, she would just lay her head in my lap and when I would leave she would call for him to come back because I was the one who carried him away. More research on my part lead to the conclusion that she needed a friend to help her recover, and if I’m honest I could have also used another friend to help me cope with the big hole left behind by my high spirited shadow.

I looked, and looked, got really discouraged because I needed to find a goat close in age but not older, smaller than her and probably another girl, (having a boy this soon for me would have been too terrifying) so I looked day and night for a week. Late one night I found a listing for an entire herd of goats being rehomed because their owners were divorcing and the property being sold. The listing said they would only be sold in pairs or more, so I wasn’t hopeful but I went ahead and plead my case anyway, hoping the owner would take pity on me and our situation and might have a goat that would fit with what we were looking for. Turned out, she had much empathy for us and had 2 perfect choices, both girls, a year old, half nigerian dwarf half pygmy, but she was 5 hours away from me and she thought one might be pregnant. I had to decide, take a chance and pray that one would work out or wait and hope Lavender would be ok for a bit longer. Seeing how the loss was so fresh and I was still reeling I decided that I had to do something and worst case would be a wasted day of driving. The following weekend I loaded up my road trip companions and giant goat crate and headed over the mountains. When we pulled onto the farm, we found a big pen with a bunch of goats calling to their visitors. I can admit I am a horrible urban farming goat snob, I personally was upset by their conditions and for me it immediately turned from an adoption mission to a rescue mission. If I could have loaded them all up I would have, but I could only bring one home (didn’t stop me from calling on my goat friends to help rescue more of the babies) There was no covered shelter that I could see, no hay out, dirty water and they were very “feral” in my opinion. I went into the pen, was immediately pounced on by all the goats except one. There was a timid girl I recognized from the photos of the 2 potential fits that had been sent to me, I squatted down and waited for her to come to me, she slowly came over and let me pet her, she was under weight by a lot, and way more pregnant than I had been told, her milk bag was already full, she had a fully grown babe in her belly ready to explode. I said yes right away and gently picked her up and put her in my vehicle with hay and water which she began to devour. We still had a 5 hour drive to get her home, we stopped more than really necessary to give her a chance to stretch her legs and also so she could calm herself. We did just remove an extremely pregnant doe from her herd, and she was naturally upset. At one point she began having contractions and I worried I would be delivering a kid without my emergency kit or my delivery kit (bad planning on my part) but she calmed down and took a nap for the last hour of our trip.

Thankfully we got her home without major incident and were able to introduce her to Lavender who immediately perked up. Goats are beautiful animals not just in personality but in spirit. I don’t know if Lavender could sense the pregnancy, or if she was so starved for friendship but she immediately took Lemon under her hoof as her little sister. She became protective overnight, and very sweet. You know how I said she was very pregnant, well Lemon delivered a sweet baby girl exactly 2 weeks later, named Lemon Pepper or Pepper for short aka lil cow. Our vet came to check them out and said that had we not brought her home when we did, Lemon and her baby likely would not have survived. Lemon was so underweight, and us bringing her home gave her the nutrition she needed for the baby and herself, oh and another surprise was that she wasn’t even a year old yet. Based on when she lost her front teeth, she was likely around 9 to 10 months old when she had her baby, a product of careless ownership. So while we did lose Max and losing him was a huge heartbreak, it enabled us to save 2 lives, Lemon and Pepper. Lavender was present for the birth of Pepper, and became Auntie Lavender to her, letting her jump all over her, follow her around, and would even put her in her place when needed.

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Lemon Balm with her newly born Lemon Pepper

So in the span of two months, I had major life changing surgery, Max fell sick and perished, we rescued a very pregnant goat who then birthed a beautiful 1 lb girl. Whew! that was a lot right. I thought that was the end of my woes but it wasn’t. I will get to that but first lets talk about Clover, my other goat who was pregnant and fast approaching her own due date with triplets. Seriously can I just take a moment….life around here is nothing short of interesting.

Ok, lets get back to the story. I had just experienced my first live birth, it was like a high that I never wanted to end, it was beautiful, scary and nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. Two weeks later we were getting ready for it again. Clover had been showing all the signs, she was restless, had been making a nest, laying a lot and sleeping all the time, her ligaments were gone and her milk bag was full. Lets not sit and pretend that since I had just gone through this that I wasn’t freaking out, I was out of my mind with worry, this was one of my first girls, I raised her from 5 days old and there was 3 babies fighting to get out of her! I was checking every hour to two for days thinking it was time. Finally, I put a camera in the little hut and stopped bothering her so often. I checked on her around 4pm June 24th, she was laying down and for the first time in weeks she let me put my hands on her belly to feel her babies kicking, she laid there and let me rub her belly and scratch her neck. I knew it was coming soon. I told her I was going to go take a nap, with the window open so I could hear her if she went into labor. That didn’t happen though. So when I woke up at 8pm a little later than I intended, I went out to check on her because she was not inside her hut where her nest was made. I rounded the corner and could see the pen, she was laying outside the hut, quiet. I walked into the pen and she saw me, she immediately went into labor when I got to her. I called for help and to bring my delivery supplies. Called my on call midwifes and we were off for delivery. Once again another miracle occurred, 15 minutes of contractions and Clover delivered her first baby, a girl just over a pound, 5 minutes later she delivered another baby girl 3 pounds and then with one push and a woosh her 3rd baby was born, a boy 2 pounds. My strong and timid little Clover did the unthinkable that night, and then cleaned, accepted and nursed them all.

Ok, so maybe some background would help give this story the perspective needed to gain a full understanding. Nigerian dwarf goats are great at breeding, they are built for it. Typically they will have 2-4 babies, however the first pregnancy is almost always a single. Clover had 3 her first pregnancy. Thats part of what makes this so incredible, she was my smallest goat, it was her first pregnancy, 3 babies increases the risk for tangling, and bad positioning, and yet despite all of that, she had 3 babies come out front feet first, alive and healthy, and then she actually accepted them all instead of rejecting one or more. Its pretty common for a first time mom to reject one or more babies, which is why I’m always prepared to bottle feed. But with the happiness of babies also comes the knowledge that you can’t keep all the babies and I started looking for their home immediately to prevent getting too attached. I knew I would get them for 7-8 weeks but I made sure to love them with the knowledge i was getting them ready for their forever home. And I did just that, at 7 weeks old they went to live on acreage all together with an amazing family I knew would not only love them but adore them for their entire life.

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Clovers babies, Thing 1 middle, Thing 2 front and Thing 3 the boy in back

You would think that by now things were turning around for us, but they didn’t, not yet. All through spring I had been having issues with my hatch rates for the chicks. More full grown chicks were dying in the egg than I had ever experienced before. I knew it wasn’t the eggs themselves because every egg I sold to others were hatching perfectly. So what was going on here, was I doing something wrong with my eggs? Was I mishandling them, was I not incubating properly. I did so many hatches with only a couple babies being able to get out of the eggs. I’ve been hatching for 5 years now, and I’ve never had that issue before. So that was a very frustrating time as well. Dozens of eggs were set and very few chicks were hatched and survived. I know I’m not perfect, no one is, but I’ve prided myself on my ability to have near perfect hatch rates for years and theres nothing more frustrating for me than working so hard on something to be met with failure after failure. There came a point during the summer where I just gave up all together. I packed up the incubators for the year and said I’m done, I just wouldn’t hatch anymore. And at that point I was done. But that didn’t last very long as you will learn.

Around the same time as I was giving up on hatching, we were hit with another blow. One of our cats, who is more of a barn cat who loves our elderly neighbors and only comes to hunt rats for us, we found injured one day. What we would discover would perhaps be the most disgusting and horrific thing that happened to our farm. Trigger is a big orange rat killing cat. He’s 6 years old now, and for the last several years we only see him in the yard when he is hunting or decides to grace us with his presence. So he’s kind of only our cat in the sense we pay his vet bills and offer him a warm couch during winter if he wants it. Well I got a phone call from the neighbor asking if we had seen Trigger because he didn’t come over for breakfast with the neighbor, and I said, “Of course I haven’t seen him, he rarely hunts over here during the day.” I went looking for him immediately. Trigger must have known it was time, because when i was walking around the street calling his name I heard his meow and he came out from under a bush and laid down. I went to him and he didn’t get up or move. I picked him up and felt this lump that wasn’t there before, he immediately started crying out but wouldn’t move. My neighbor was there with me, I told him I would take him straight to the emergency vet and call him as soon as I knew anything. Let me explain the relationship with our cat, if you can even call him mine anymore. Trigger loves us when we are outside but he comes inside the house and he hisses and growls and turns into a big scary lion, however this is not the case with our neighbor, he is in love with our neighbor, they are best friends and Trigger would rather spend all his days nights and the rest of his life with our neighbor than spend 5 minutes in our house. It really doesn’t matter to either of us though who calls him theirs because we both love and care for him as much as he will allow, he’s a wild beast of a cat who has chosen his own path but we knew that we had to get him care immediately.

However, if you have pets then you know that you want to avoid the emergency vet because you will pay out the nose for a stitch, so if I’m going there then its because I know in my heart if I don’t then this animal will die. The whole way to the vet my heart was in my stomach. Trigger is not a normal outdoor cat, for one thing he’s polydactyl, has extra toes, he has outstanding balance because of this, he has yet to meet a cat he can’t whoop on, he’s a climber, jumper and very aware of whats going on around him always. So he’s like an outdoor cat on steroids basically. So while I’m driving I’m wondering what the hell could have happened to my beautiful wild cat that I love, despite his grumpiness toward me. We got to the vet and they rushed us right to a room, proceeded to check us in and check him out and take him to the back room. I authorized whatever was needed to tell me what was wrong with him. If you love animals at all, I’m warning you now that you will be angry for what I’m about to tell you. The vet came in without Trigger, sat down and asked me what happened. I explained that I had no idea, he didn’t show up for breakfast like he did everyday and I found him hiding under a neighbors bush. She looked angry and prepared me for what she was about to tell me by saying, “I’m going to explain what his injuries are first and then I’m going to tell you what I believe is the only cause for his injuries.” I was already crying because come on, what vet makes a statement like this before hand unless something is extremely serious. So here it is, Trigger had a stab wound from under his armpit all the way to his spine at an angle that was 6″ long but it was only under the skin and he was basically skinned his entire side where the stab wound was. He had 3 broken ribs and a broken sternum with a hematoma already on his chest the size of a golf ball. She said that as far as they could tell he had no internal bleeding but would need internal stitches to reattach his skin as well as close the opening  of the stab wound and leave in a drainage tube. I was speechless and probably white as a ghost, but the vet wasn’t done, she still hadn’t told me what she believed was the cause of his injuries. Thats when she said it and shook my whole world upside down. The vet said and with a level of certainty that the only thing that could do this kind of damage was a human being. She believed he was beaten and then stabbed, possibly while the human was attempting to skin him, but he got away. There it is, the event that unravelled my world and made me want to quit it all. I was done. I paid his bill and collected my boy to bring him home for the 6 weeks of indoor recovery time. You will be relieved to know that Trigger did in fact make a full recovery, it took over 6 weeks and our neighbor came to visit him regularly to keep his spirits up. He didn’t walk away completely whole though, his personality has changed specifically toward me, possibly because I was the medication giver and holding him hostage so he could heal, but its ok with me if it helps him feel more in control again.

That brings us to the end of summer. I was done, I was ready to sell all the chickens, ducks, rabbit and only keep my goats as pets. Part of it was being overwhelmed by the loss and the tragedy and part of it was a pure lack of knowing what was coming next. I didn’t think things could be worse than losing Max, but then to have an attack on our cat at the hands of a human, and not knowing who did it. For all I knew it could have been our neighbor who hated us and continued to harass us at every chance. But that was it, I was ready to give up everything I loved doing because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if it was days or weeks, but eventually after many people had attempted to talk me out of quitting that I had this big light bulb moment. If I was to quit now, after everything we had gone through in the 5 years of urban farming I was letting them win. Not them as in any one person, but them as in every person who didn’t like what we did, every person who tried to make us quit, the person who hurt Trigger, if I was to give up something that had become my life and what I was meant to do, I wasn’t just quitting, I was declaring they won. That I couldn’t stand for, I was not going to give anyone a win they didn’t deserve. I have put my blood, sweat, tears and blisters into building this up. Hours, days, weeks worth of work that it took to build everything we have right now, I am not and will not ever give that up for anyone other than for myself! Everything that has happened has taught us something, every loss, every win, every happy moment, every cut, every single thing we have gone through we have learned from. We have more to learn, we have more to build, more to do, more to grow, more to birth, more to hatch, more to raise, more to expand, we have more!

Every single time over the last months I have thought about quitting, I remind myself that the only way quitting is an option is if its whats best for me, and that day is not here yet. And you know what i did with this new found vigor for farming. I set eggs in a freshly sanitized incubator, reviewed my notes to see what I did during all those failures and made adjustments. I set eggs, and tried something new, and guess what happened, all my eggs hatched. It wasn’t just new life for the chicks, it was new life for me and my passion. I’m back and stronger and more ready for whats coming. In case you are wondering whats coming…4 pregnant goats due the first week of April is the first thing on the list of whats coming.

Thanks for reading, it was long but I hope it was worth it, Nicole

Keeping Rabbits…ours are pets!

I can’t even to pretend to be an expert on rabbit keeping, half the time I’m still asking questions myself however we have our second rabbit now and have already learned a lot more this time around and have seen the mistakes we made with our first. Rabbits can be as loving as cats are, but they are still a prey animal making them very skittish at times. Moving slowly, carefully and taking how they feel into consideration is a huge part of having rabbits as a part of the farm. Lots of people eat rabbit, and I don’t judge them for that, heck if Micah had it his way we would always be raising rabbits for meat, but for me personally I just can’t do it. They are cuddly and I always bond with rabbits so for me they are a pet and not a meal. Friends have said, “I thought all your animals had to have a purpose if you were going to keep them, pay their way as you say,” I have a response to that, my rabbit pays his way in fertilizer! Rabbit poo can be added directly to the beds and not composted for healthy nutrients. Basically what I’m getting at is that rabbits can be great as pets, cheap meat if you can stomach it, and always provide lots of fertilizer.

Lets talk about my first Angora rabbit Stu. I did a lot of research before deciding that I wanted an Angora rabbit. When I was younger I had a Rex rabbit who was very nice although not very cuddly. Everything I read told me that Angora rabbits were gentle buns who had wonderfully sweet personalities. Thats what I wanted more than anything. Micah and I argued over if he would be a house bunny or an outdoor bunny, I won and he was a house bunny. First mistake I made was that, he had been raised and lived with his family outdoors for the first 4 months, had little human interaction so he was shocked not only by the change of his environment but also being without his family and suddenly thrust into a family of 4 who just wanted to love on him too much from day one. That was truly a big mistake, again let me say rabbits are prey animals, they are fearful and need to be given time to warm up and do things on their own terms. Not only that but he wasn’t 8 weeks old, he was a bit older so we had already missed the best bonding time when they are growing. Did we eventually bond, yes but he wasn’t a fan of anyone but me. We made the mistake of keeping him inside and only took him outside when we could watch him because my yard wasn’t set up to keep a rabbit from eating everything I loved and the first time out he ate my entire rose down to nothing. So again, my mistake was thinking I could just prepare after we had him. No don’t think like that, get yourself totally ready and have a plan for exactly what you will do and how you will do it. You will be thankful for being prepared. Next mistake we made was his cage, we got him a big cage and put bedding in the whole thing. I read about potty training rabbits and thought oh yeah I will just put the litter box where he pees. Whoops again, he thought the whole cage was a little box because of the bedding. Again, my mistake and he was never fully potty trained. We let him out in the house but he regularly marked his territory, meaning furniture, because we didnt know at the time that he would be territorial toward the male cats and dogs, we also didn’t find out that neutering him would help with those urges until it was too late. I made so many mistakes with Stu that I was very determined not to make with our next rabbit. Sadly at 2.5 years old, Stu had to be put down due to a reoccurring case of the snuffles. The snuffles as cute as it sounds is a very serious respiratory disease for rabbits, they suffer and its really devastating. I hated myself for a long time after Stu’s passing because I blamed myself, if I had done more research, if i had paid better attention, if I let him be an outdoor rabbit and build a better immune system, geez I had so many things to blame myself for I must sound silly. After a while I felt silly, because I couldn’t protect him from getting a disease, that wasn’t my fault. Thats about the time I began looking into getting a new baby. But first heres my first Angora Stu riding in a dump truck.

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I started this article 6 months ago, things have changed so much. In April 2017, we brought home our second Angora rabbit. I sexed all the babies and thought I picked out the female, so at 8 weeks old I brought home a tiny adorable fluff ball and named her Ginger. Whoops I was wrong…someone else got my little girl and I had yet another little man. He looked identical to Stu and I kept accidentally calling him Stu because I couldn’t come up with a name, so eventually I called him Stu 2 or Bun because I’m that creative. I told you about all my mistakes with the first Stu, and I was able to correct many. We did potty train Stu 2 by laying a towel in the bottom of the cage and putting just a litter box in with bedding in only the litter box. Since he was just a baby, potty training him was super easy and within a week he figured it out. We also had him in a quiet room for months with little exposure to the animals, mostly just cuddles from me and the kids. He was very trusting of us all and allowed for brushing, toe nail clipping and belly clipping with no issues at all. When summer time hit, we let him out of the house and set up his own play area and house outside. He enjoyed roaming the yard and living outdoors from June until October. What we didn’t know was that unfixed rabbits will dig, and I mean freaking did trenches and burrows everywhere you don’t want them to, and they make quick work of their burrows too. He even dug under my kiwi planter and into it, killing my kiwi plant. So we had him neutered, which removed that urge to dig, spray, and calms them quite a bit. When the rain started we brought him inside. That was our biggest mistake yet.

Rabbits do better in the cold than the heat, they also don’t really enjoy loud noises. My house is always loud, and I mean always! Plus Stu had already been outside and loving the outdoors for months, why would he want to come back inside when he was perfectly content outside. He did what any normal rabbit would do, he rebelled. He got moody and cranky. Eventually he just never came out of his house, he would sit in there and pout all day and when i cleaned or tried to fill his food, he would attack the hand that feeds him. Just when I was ready to give him up, a friend told me to move him back outside where he enjoyed himself and get him a girlfriend. Micah and I had just agreed to rehome him so he would be happy again and now I was thinking about adding a second. I was so skeptical of if this solution would really be the answer. So I cleaned out an empty chicken house and I moved him outside. His spirits lifted immediately, he stopped attacking my hand and was letting me love on him again. I began looking for a girl for him and after a couple weeks a pretty little lady was ready to come home after weaning her kits from a local rabbit rescue. It was so nerve wrecking to go through this whole process and a lot of pressure was on this to work. I didn’t expect Stu to be aggressive but I also didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The day arrived to bring home a new rabbit, we renamed her Snow because she is snow white and beautiful. We put the two of them in a pen together and just let them be while we watched from a little ways away. I thought maybe he would try to mate her first thing, but nope he just smelled her. Stu followed Snow and around the pen, watching her, smelling her and not doing anything to her. Snow is only 4 lbs, Stu is easily 9-10lbs now. Finally after about a half hour Stu humped her head and then that was that. He wasn’t being a hormone driving freak because he is fixed and he bonded right to her.

So now we are a little urban farm with 2 little rabbits, and I’ve been asked to rescue more. Rabbits make amazing pets if you give them the love and the respect they deserve.

Stu and Snow together during Stu’s grooming session. Stu with a bow when we thought he was a Ginger.

 

Thanks for reading.

Nicole

Our first year of Homeschooling!

A little more than a year ago my husband Micah and I sat down to discuss the possibility of homeschooling our daughter Chloe. She was going to be in the 3rd grade and we thought that since we were building a self sustaining life style as much as possible it would be the natural progression of things that I would enter into the adventures of homeschooling. This had been a topic of conversation for years, pretty much every summer we discussed and decided against homeschooling, until June of 2016 that is. We had more than enough reasons why we wanted to do it, and not so many reasons why we shouldn’t. This was before we learned of my dads skin cancer diagnosis. We had already begun the process when we found out my dad was sick so there was no turning back. Hindsight being 20/20, I would say that maybe life was throwing a little too much my way to start this but we moved ahead.

I began the online homeschooling certification classes, I was loving learning again and completely motivated. I was already 2 weeks into the 6 week class when my dad was admitted into the hospital. I don’t talk about this time in my life much because for me it was excruciating but its all tied into my homeschooling journey. Those last 4 weeks of my classes I completed the majority of my lessons at the hospital and in hospice care with my dad. Skin cancer is a painful and horrible way for your life to end, but during that time with my dad we talked about what I was doing. Most people thought I couldn’t handle teaching my stubborn and independent daughter but one night when I was on dad watching duty he asked me what I was doing. I explained the class I was required to take in order to teach Chloe. He looked at me and said, “If I know anything about you, no matter how hard this will be for you, you can handle this. You are strong enough for the both of you.” I won’t say I didn’t have my doubts during the course of the year but at that moment it was exactly what I needed to hear to know that I was making the right decision. I finished my course right before my dad passed away, but I was able to tell him I met my certification requirements and I got to see the pride in his eyes before he was gone.

The following month was hard, I was consumed with taking care of everyone around me and prepping everything for the upcoming school year and I forgot to take care of me. Due to my mistakes, we had a rough start to the year. I had ordered the entire 3rd grade Bookshark curriculum for Chloe. Thinking that if I could just follow the plan and schedule they made we would be fine. Boy was I wrong! First thing I didn’t see was that Chloe was transitioning from public school with a set structure and time for everything to being at home to do everything. The first two weeks we did good, walk in the park, mostly because we were both so excited to begin that it kept us going. But then things started getting really hard. Everything was a fight, she just wanted to do her own thing, wanted to avoid school work as much as possible. It took me a while to figure out how to proceed. We both wanted to pull our hair out, she probably hated me and I certainly didn’t want to be around her. It took 3 months of us being at each others throats for me to realize we had a problem. Not only was she fighting everything, but my motivation was gone. When my dad died, I slipped into a depression that caused me to come down with a bunch of stressed induced medical issues. I never left home for fear of being judged. My kids told me it was like I was a zombie. I began asking questions of other homeschool moms, what helped them when they began, what should I change, how can I make this work…and they came through. Not only did we need a break to decompress and figure each other out, but I needed to fix me before I could really be there for her. So thats just what we did.

Thanksgiving came and went and December was upon us. I decided that what we needed what some unschooling time. Learning at her pace and what she wanted to learn about. We read together to keep her reading on track and she happily did math, but everything else was all up to her. We watched documentaries, looked up online articles, and just spent time having fun. While she was getting use to the new way of things, I was seeking out new doctors who could give me answers and treatment and counseling to move past my loss. I didn’t know how much my physical condition and emotional upset had been impacting her and her learning. I felt a lot of guilt. So when January came along and it was time to get back down to business we sat down and talked. We talked about everything she was feeling and how we wanted to move forward. Doing it together and with an understanding that we were in this together was exactly what we needed.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say it was all sunshine and rainbows for the rest of the year because no it was not easy. But we worked out a plan and schedule. We finally worked together for the first time since the beginning of the school year. We still had days where she fought me on everything and I still had days when I doubted I was going to survive until June. Its not easy to be with your kids 24/7, never getting a break, always questioning yourself every single day. But what it comes down to was, what is best for my kids? We live in a world thats dangerous right now, everyone has an opinion about everything, not many people are that accepting of people who are different. We never felt like we fit all that well into the liberal run public school system, and while we love the Lord, we also don’t fit into the uber conservative private school ideals either. We are right in the middle, blazing our own way of life and doing something special and unique. So my belief is that yes, I was doing what was best because we are doing what we feel is right for us without casting judgement on others who do things differently.

Will I continue to homeschool next year? Yes but not in the same way. We discovered during the year that Chloe has ADD and what she needs more than having a teacher at home is having her mom at home. Our relationship suffered during the year, I was teacher all day and then mom at night, she never got to have just mom and fun mom because I was always working basically. So for next year we decided to try an online academy, the hope is that she will still get to do her learning at home, have the structure of school to help her be able to focus more, still have the support she needs from me for learning, but also be able to have just me, her mom. At the same time, I will begin to homeschool our son Wade for kindergarten in the more traditional homeschool setting because he is eager to learn and can sit for hours learning, Chloe always struggled with sitting for any amount of time. LOL!

We are blazing our own way, making mistakes and regretting none of it! In case you were wondering, no we did not fail the 3rd grade! We did our end of the year assessment and to my surprise Chloe scored in the 7th and 8th grade level for Language arts and reading, and 4th grade math. Not only did we survive with no casualties but we excelled and I’m incredibly proud of all we accomplished this last year, even with all the craziness and hardships!

Thanks for reading!

Nicole

Raising Quail for meat and eggs!

We’ve been raising Quail for 6 months and the overall consensus is they are delicious to eat, make excellent eggs, are fun to watch and they are incredibly stupid. We still haven’t figured out how they survive in the wild, but they truly are super easy to raise.

Why should you raise quail? Its simple, they don’t take up the space chickens do, they start laying between 6-8 weeks old, the eggs are a super food, roosters are ready for butchering by 8 weeks old, and they are so quiet compared to chickens.

I said they were stupid right, ok good because yeah they are the least intelligent bird I’ve raised. Mostly I think this because I’ve watched them get startled and fly up into the roof of their house not just once, but over and over. They also lay their eggs all over the place, Ive even found one in the water dish. They are pretty wild animals in comparison to ducks and chickens, they don’t seem to understand the concept of person bringing food, water and treats is ok, instead they see us and think “OMG they are here to kill us, run and hide!” Then they proceed to scurry all over the house, running into walls, flying into the roof and hitting the chicken wire at full speed. Seriously they just don’t ever learn!A19059BB-

Quail babies are so tiny! These were our first 4, I really should have gotten more than 4 to start but I didn’t realize just how small they would be and how little they eat. So we added a few more along the way. The cute sleeping in our hands phase only lasted about a week and then they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. But they were pretty funny to watch. They were fast little buggers who jumped and flew around all over. For a brooder it was pretty easy to just set them up in a little rabbit cage, they only used the heater for the first 2 weeks and then they had all their feathers. Thats another perk to quail, they get fully feathered super fast. So they could go outside by 3 weeks.

49D66232-4A80-4D21-9018-68B044CC8931See how big they were at 3 weeks and already had all their feathers. I still had a heater in there but they never used it, they slept on top of it at this point. Feeding is pretty simple, I just got the meat bird feed and threw it into the blender for the first few weeks to make it tiny and they were able to eat it without any issues. Housing them is super simple also, we probably could have kept them in the rabbit cage until they were 6 weeks old but we built them a house outside so we wanted them moved out there. Quail only need 1 sq ft per bird so each level of our house can have up to 12 full size quail. Its pretty amazing to have that many in a small space. For now we just have the 2 levels, top is for the adults and the bottom is for growing out the juveniles. Its very basic and simple, we chose to go with the wood pellets instead of the wire bottom because it keeps them warmer in cold temps, keeps the eggs from cracking and gives them something to dig in. Plus since they are so small, the bedding lasts for at least a month! Heres our 2 story quail house:

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And of course here are a few of our full grown quail. Still adorable even if they are little crazies who I have to make sure they don’t escape because they could fly away.

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If you have the stomach for butchering the extra males, then yay for you! I personally had to have Micah do the butchering and I did the clean up. Compared to chickens, once again way easier. Each bird took me about 10 minutes and that was because it was my first time. We have 10 males right now in our juvie house that we will process in 2 weeks and its the easiest process ever so I will do them all at once and it will only take me maybe an hour. Chickens take me at least 45 min per bird because there is a process to make sure its done correctly and I take my time with them. I won’t get into the details but there are so many videos on you tube to show how simple it really is.

So yeah, Quail are fun and super easy to take care of. They make the perfect addition to any urban farm with limited space. They don’t take much time or effort, I love them! Plus the roosters taste amazing!

Meat Birds…so gross!

We have only been raising meat birds for 4 weeks now and I already wish we were done. There is only 1 way to describe meat birds, GROSS!!!! I guess you can also say they are unnatural and an abomination but thats too heartless for me. We got 10 Red Rangers 4 weeks ago and at first we thought they were so cute! For the first couple days they were like any other chicks, cute and cuddly but a little bigger than normal chicks. After the first couple days, thats when the poop and constant eating started. The poop had the smell of adult chicken poo, so out to the garage they went. They really started growing fast, by 1 week old they were 8oz each. At 1 week we also had our first loss, the smallest of the rangers we believe got suffocated at the bottom of the pile while they were sleeping. Lesson 1, make sure they have enough heat to spread out otherwise they will sleep in a big pile and possibly kill the ones on the bottom. We had been using 1 Brinsea brooder heater but that wasn’t big enough, so we added a second so they could all spread out.

The next week went smoothly so we purchased 6 Cornish Cross that were 4 weeks old. This was were we made the mistake. Cornish Cross are much different than Red Rangers, the Rangers move around more, scratch around and look for food more. Cornish sit around the food and eat all day long. After researching we decided to take food away at night because they would do nothing but eat. So they get 12 hours with food and 12 hours without. We weighed the Cornish when they arrived at 4 weeks old and they were 3.5lbs. Each week they have gained at least a pound. Those 6 birds started with eating about 2lbs of food a day and have increased to over 4lbs everyday. Cornish Cross grow unnaturally fast, you have these 6 week old chickens that look almost full grown, but peep like chicks. They eat so much and poop so much but don’t move around much so they are always dirty. At just 6 weeks, some of the Cornish are already struggling to walk because their legs can barely hold up their weight. Its really sad to watch to be honest. Lastly, they don’t grow feathers like you would expect, at 6 weeks old they are still half naked. I was hoping to have them outside but with our cold temps thats just not possible, basically Cornish Cross really should only be raised in the summer around Washington state. So my thoughts on raising Cornish Cross again is that I would rather raise more Rangers for a longer period of time than go through this bizarre experience of these odd human created breed of chicken thats just wrong.

Back to the little Rangers, they are 4 weeks now and growing about twice as fast as egg laying chickens. They are pretty heavy for 4 weeks and eat a lot of food, but they are still pretty active and will look around for food and eat fodder when provided. So far they seem like a little more natural for raising for meat, they still behave like chickens despite being larger. The only thing with all meat birds is that brooder cleaning is much more frequent with these giant birds, so stock up on shavings.

This weekend we will be processing the Cornish Cross and I will update the blog after its finished with how the whole experience went. We have processed plenty of roosters before, but they have been so small that Ive just breasted them out and removed the legs, so we will hopefully have plenty of roasters for the freezer.

UPDATE!!

Ok so now I can officially say this, I am never going to raise Cornish Cross chickens again. Its not just that it was gross for the 2.5 weeks but it was actually really sad in the end. The Nuggets as well called them could barely walk by 6.5 weeks old, even with all the space and attempts at getting them moving.

First lets talk about the stats because they are exciting. Ok so these Nuggets were 6.5 weeks old, we got them at 4 weeks and during the 2.5 weeks they were here they ate 30lbs of meat bird feed. Live weight totaled 30lb 1oz and post processing weight was 20lb 4oz so with the cost to purchase and the cost of feed we only paid $2.25 per pound of chicken meat! Yay that part is exciting!

Now for the sad reasons I won’t raise Cornish again. As stated before, most of them could hardly walk by the time we were ready to butcher them. Of the 6, 2 of them had a large amount of fluid around the heart which is an indication of Ascites or Congestive Heart Failure, these 2 didn’t have fluid in their bellies yet but it would have happened very soon. One of the hens had a very bad case of Ascites, the belly was filled with fluid, the heart also had a fluid sack. So basically at only 6.5 weeks old half of the Cornish were suffering from congestive heart failure. These 3 were also the smallest of the chickens but based on my experience with Ascites, they wouldn’t have lived much longer so it was best we butchered them now. The biggest Cornish was the top rooster and he weighed 5lbs 11oz, dressed out at 4lbs 11oz. The smallest hen weighed 4lbs 4oz, breasted out and removed just the legs and wings at 2lbs 2oz. So a pretty big difference between the healthiest and the hen suffering from congestive heart failure. Another really upsetting thing we experienced that was all new to us during the actually butchering process was the dislocating of the wings. Typically after Micah chops the head off the chicken, we hang them to bleed out, however the Cornish flap and thrash around so severely that the wings dislocated on 5 of the 6 Cornish. If we had known about this we would have used the cone method. Now the plucking process was very fast but their skin is very thin so it ripped much easier. So be careful!

So we learned a lot so far but we still have more to learn,

Nicole