The chickens are not getting along very well with the guineas this Winter. The guineas bully all the hens (except for the hen they think is their mother), always eat first, and take the best locations in the waste hay from the goat and sheep pens. Leopold doesn't do a very good job of protecting his girls but seems to enjoy being the King of the Guineas.
One day I decided to put a few sticks through the fence to see if the guineas would give the chickens a break by perching up off the ground. Turns out the chickens love the perches and spend vast amounts of time snuggling safely away from the guineas.
The guineas still perch above them on the fence line or in the trees, but the perches have really reduced the anxiety level in the coop area.
The chick that was born in late Fall seems to have started laying this week. I am amazed that I have noticed this - the shape of the egg gives it away.
Back in the days of store bought eggs the eggs all seemed to look alike, I never noticed much difference in the eggs in any particular carton. When I look at eggs now I can see that everyone is unique to its hen, and the hen always seems to lay eggs that look roughly the same. The new hens' egg is on the left and is smaller and light brown. The egg next to it is tall and thin, lighter in color. Lucy lays the darkest brown eggs with spots while Honey lays fat thick medium brown eggs. I am shocked that I can associate the egg with the hen, amazing!
On Friday I found Jeepers and her daughter Alma dead in the barn. Jeepers was bleeding from the mouth and it looks like the breeding ram Ironwood killed them. They were both healthy less than two hours before, I have no other explanation.
He was getting more and more aggressive with the humans and the ewes so the plan was to remove him on Saturday - I was a day too late. I have never read about this type of behavior occurring yet there can be no other explanation.
The atmosphere around the ewes was oppressive with Ironwood in there, I'm not sure that any of the breeding's with the four remaining ewes took. There may be no lambs this Spring. In the girls current condition I am afraid to introduce the clean-up ram, they seemed depressed with the loss of their leader (Jeepers).
The four ewes remaining are mother daughter pairs. I only have two blood lines left, it makes me sad. Introducing new blood into the flock would be the easy solution except that the breed isn't readily available.
What is one lost breeding season? I was hoping to have 9 lambs this Spring to add to my existing 6 ewes, now I have four ewes and possibly no lambs, a lost season is a lifetime. I am pondering waiting to see if I get any lambs, or I could change over to Icelandic's or Jacob's, or maybe I'll just expand the goat herd. It is hard brightening up a fading dream, but I'm not going to give up.
Meet Molly Christmas. She is my Christmas gift to the Commander this year.
I got her for the Commander to be a counter part to Sara. Sara is great at the difficult task of herding goats, but she is just too scared of the sheep to be much help. This is where hopefully Molly comes in, when the sheep see how ferocious she is herding them will be easy.
Molly is an Blue Merle Australian Shepherd. She has one blue eye, one brown eye, and a greyish blue coat with black spots. Add in just a touch of brown on her front quarters and muzzle and you have one beautiful girl.
Right now Molly sleeps in a clothes basket. At her previous home she slept outside so she spends a lot of time panting while she is inside, I guess the house is just too hot for her.
I have just started potty training her, but since she is the Commanders gift he gets to take her out for the 2 am potty runs.....its what he wanted, really!
Sometimes you don't know what you are looking for until you find it. A friend of mine who I used to work with called me today from Livonia, Michigan. We chatted about old times and she caught me up on the all the happenings at my old place of work. I was surprised when she mentioned my recent adventure with the Fox. I had no idea that folks from work were reading my blog.
My friend, who only knew me as a city girl, asked if the Commander had a farming background....I told her he didn't. When I related the story to the Commander later he said that my answer was not true, he stated that he spent a lot of time working with a Fischer Price Farm set. We both laughed and laughed!
He later added that the See n Say was one of his all time favorites...."The cow goes - Moooo! Here is a Duck - Quack Quack Quack!" That was the extent of his farm experience, yet here we are.
My friend told me that everyone loved to hear about my adventures and that they often had a difficult time imagining me actually living this kind of life. No one there would have ever imagined in their wildest dreams that one day I would be; birthing goats, herding lambs, eating my own chicken eggs, or firing a shotgun at a rabid fox.
My mother told the Commander during her last visit that I was her city girl and she was shocked at how happy I was living in the middle of nowhere surrounded by all these animals. This was never a dream of mine and yet here I am living it, and I can't put into words how happy I am.
So once again, "Hello Livonia! I have a little advice for everyone. Don't be afraid to change course when the moment arrives. It may be safe to stay on the traveled path but what adventures are you missing just beyond the horizon? The life I am living is not one I could have ever imagined so no amount of pre-planning could have gotten me to this destination. If you aren't truly happy then you need to change course and find your way...wherever it takes you."
Anyone else out there wake up one day and ask themselves; "How in the world did I end up here and find myself exactly where I belong?"
Leopold is the rooster in charge of the coop area and he has his hands full trying to keep order. Look at the picture above. In it you will see; a Rhode Island Red, Lavender male and female guineas, a Dark and Light Royal guinea, a few Golden Laced Red Wyandottes, and Leopold. A few of the guineas think they are chickens, one of the chickens thinks it is a guinea.....chaos, its pure chaos.
Little chicken squabbles break out on occasion and Leopold rushes in to break things up, but what is he supposed to do when several guineas are chasing chickens...except for the chicken that thinks its a guinea? Or how does he handle the chicken that the guineas think is their mama? Did I mention that all the guinea males follow Leopold around like he is their king?
Last year Leopold suffered a bit of frost bite, by looking at him you can see why. As it gets colder Leopold spends more and more time inside the coop and at times you can hear the sounds of wrestling going on in there. I can only assume he is trying to keep or establish some kind of order, I'm not holding my breath.
When the Commander took Sara out this morning I was surprised when he came back inside and told me about a black fox that was hanging out in the yard. He claimed that the fox was not afraid of him and just would not be chased away. You can see the foxes glowing evil eyes in the picture above.
I know why the fox was here, he wanted to eat my poor chickens or guineas. I wondered if this was the fox that killed my guinea chicks earlier this Summer. When I took my daughter to school the fox was actually blocking the driveway and wouldn't move when I honked the horn....if my daughter wouldn't have been in the car I may have just run it down then and there.
When I got home the fox was still there so I couldn't let the animals out, something had to give. I called the local Department of Natural Resources office and explained to them that a fox was in my yard and it wasn't showing any fear of humans, I was afraid it may have rabies. The DNR officer told me that if the animal was bothering me that I should shoot it. Does the DNR do anything to help folks out?
I tried to call the Commander by got his voice mail, drat. I called my dad and got his answering machine so I left him this message; "Oh Hell, I was hoping there was someone there who could walk me through how to shoot a gun." I could only imagine what thoughts went through his mind when he got that message.
Fortunately the Commander called back and he almost went into shock when I told him I wanted him to talk me through loading the shotgun. I located the gun and he described the various kinds of ammunition that I had to choose from. He suggested some target ammo to scare the fox off but I told him the fox had to go so I grabbed some slugs.
He described the safety, the sliding mechanism, and I figured out how to load....after a bit of trial and error and a few shells laying on the ground. I was ready to go. No way I was going to let a rabid fox kill any of my precious animals.
I went out to the woods and there he was, glowing evil eyes and all. I raised the gun to my shoulder, took aim, and wondered how much of a kick this gun had. A few breaths later I fired.......miss! I figured that the fox would run off after my near miss and the loud noise but he didn't, this fox was not acting normal at all.
Mister fox moved off to the left a bit so after I reloaded he was going to be toast. I now had the feel of the weapon, I took steady aim, took a deep breath and fired.....miss! The fox just looked at me, at this point I was sure he had rabies. Nothing scared him.
At this point I figured I needed to get a bit closer, but not too close. I carefully moved through the woods, cleared the field of fire (I didn't want to shoot a passing car, the house, or one of the barns), and reloaded. I had only brought two slugs and they were gone, I now had only two target shells. I figured that a hit from the pellets would drive him off so I took careful aim and fired once more....miss! Was he wearing a bullet proof vest? I reloaded and fired my last shell.....argh.....missssssss!
I hiked back to the house and called the Commander and asked if he had any suggestions. He directed me to the buckshot ammunition, he said that if I used this there was no way I could miss. So once again I hiked out through the woods, was again amazed that the fox hadn't run off, cleared the field of fire, and reloaded.
The fox was now in a tightly treed area, it would be a tough shot but I was confident. I took aim and fired.....miss! How did I miss using buckshot? The sights on this gun must be off. I had one shot left and now began to worry about possibly wounding the poor creature, I didn't have a hatchet like OFG so I worried that I may have to find a different way to finish him off.
I wiped my brow, reloaded, took a deep breath and fired....Mister fox was down! It took only six shots but I had succeeded. I didn't want to kill the fox but he couldn't just hang around here an kill my animals. The fact that he didn't run off when chased by the Commander, was chased by cars, and was shot at multiple times made it obvious that something was wrong with the poor thing, I think it was rabies.
I called the DNR and asked the officer if he wanted to come collect the animal for rabies testing, in case the county may be in the middle of an outbreak. He told me he wasn't interested but that I should bury the body deep, just in case. The fact that the ground is frozen was lost upon him.....
Below is a graphic picture of the foxes' post mortem. He was a beautiful black fox but it was just too dangerous to let him roam around here.
I'm not happy that I had to shoot the poor animal but I'm proud that I was able to get the job done. This was the first time I even fired a shotgun, so I figure that six shots wasn't too bad.
Ironwood was selected to breed the girls this year and since he was put in with them he has developed some strange behaviors. We have discovered that he will chase the girls into the barn and then lay on the ramp to prevent them from escaping.
If/When the girls try to escape he stands up and begins snorting and posturing to try and intimidate them.
I don't think the girls are impressed, I know I wouldn't be. Ava has fully recovered from whatever was bothering her and is now healthy enough to run from Ironwood - the big bully!
Note little Alma's left horn, I think it was broken off in a butting match with Ironwood. She has been limping around some and I think she is sore from Ironwoods advances.
Whenever Sara approaches the sheep area Ironwood comes to the gate or fence line in attempts to frighten her away. Ironwood has tried to ram the Commander a few times as he was feeding them or bringing in water. It has gotten to the point where we have to bring a shepherds crook with us whenever we enter the gated area or barn.
It was getting so bad that I finally decided to open the back door to the barn so the girls could escape his bullying.
Now when the girls run out the back Ironwood gets so frustrated that he snorts and paws the ground before he goes to try and round them up again. I don't feel sorry for him at all. Killarney and Alder didn't act anything like this last year, is this normal?
I am an Ocicat. My duties include; security (rodents), counter intelligence (predators), infiltration (sneaking) and night surveillance.
I live in NE Minnesota on 10 wooded acres with; my best friend Mocha, three dogs, chickens, Guinea Hens, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Cascade Sheep, Icelandic sheep, and a few humans.
When we moved here it was completely wooded, our plan is to turn this property into a working homestead.