St. Patrick’s Day in Texas

http://gotexas.about.com/od/texasvacations/tp/StPat.htm

We have had a nice 3 days of rain; we got around 4 inches or so. Not enough to put a dent in the drought but anything helps, especially when the pastures are trying to green up and grow.  The days were dreary but now the sun is out and temp will reach almost 80’s through the weekend for sure. The pastures are already drying out in their muddier areas. 

The worst muddy spots are really boggy, just outside the barn leading to their pasture area.  The only alternative it would appear is to bring in loads of pea gravel and pack it in solid in those spots.  We just might have to.

The chickens didn’t mind the wet and mucky.  The only bad thing was they tracked the muck into their coops, but the great shavings absorbed it well.  My local farmer’s co-op has the really fine shavings, not quite a sawdust buto pretty close.  I like that the best.  It’s already well on it’s way to decomposition and absorbs so much better than the larger shavings.  I can also use a cat litter scoop and keep the nest boxes cleaned out.  I have a very oversized outdoor thermometer (get  one for $1 at Dollar Tree) hanging on the wall opposite the door so I can monitor temp when I open the door and I have a cat litter scoop hanging in a reachable spot for me.  I clean out the nests each morning and just toss the scooped out muck into the floor of the coop and swish it into the shavings.  I also use Stall Dry to keep coops from smelling and it has diatomaceous  earth in it which helps with any little buggies from living and also absorbs moisture.

http://www.dirtworks.net/Diatomaceous-Earth.html

 

I did a quick mow around the house before the rains and the area farmers were busy in their fields fertilizing  from daylight into the dark evenings to get everything done before the rains came.  I think they just  made it.

Add some chickens for fun

I always wanted to live on a farm; my dream was idyllic and not really practical or realistic.  They are a lot of work.  But if you read, read, read and prepare yourself for that opportunity, then it should not be a real big adjustment to own and live on a farm.  I remember our Realtor when she showed us the property said, “won’t you be scared to live out here?”  Of course we knew we wouldn’t, although the first time we heard the coyotes yipping and calling I wasn’t really  sure how I felt about it.  But now, they are wonderful to listen to and sometimes observe when they are close enough.

I also always wanted chickens. I read and studied and also had to be familiar with the different breeds to choose something I would enjoy but I also wanted something that was different.  I did not plan to be butchering birds; they would only be for egg production.    I also wanted them to spread out across our 3 pastures and eat the bugs and help keep the pastures clean.  Then I could not narrow down my choices to just one.  I ended up getting a rare breed pullet assortment package , a bantam Silkie package and a guinea fowl package, 10 each group for a total of 30, 10 per coop.  img_0005

I had to make sure the coops, one in each pasture would be large enough to house the birds without them fighting for space.  They have adapted very well, enjoy the coops and enjoy the pastures and the barn.  I will find an occasional errant egg laid in the alpacas hay trough, or next to a coop.  But we designed the coops for good ventilation and they made it through the winter fine.  I acquired them as chicks from IDEAL POULTRY last June so we have made it almost a year.  There have not been any losses to hawks (fingers crossed) and we have  our “regulars” that fly all over the pastures out here.  Red tailed hawks and Mississippi Kites are frequent.  There is a smaller hawk variety I haven’t been able to identify but reminds me of a peregrine. 

I noted in a previous article how to go about finding your property.  The main thing is, make your list of priorities.  If you don’t know what your priorities are for a piece of property, do some shopping and you might be able to refine a list (a few of our priorities were: close access to a highway to get my husband to work in  downtown Dallas, not too far from medical and grocery shopping, good access to our place from major highways for alpaca customers, views are pastoral,  neighbors with clean and maintained properties, etc.).  We found our place after looking a year, and I mean out every weekend.  I did the research online and gathered up a list of addresses and we drove.  We learned a lot that way and further refined our list as to “where” we wanted to live.  Instead of south of Dallas we chose north and east of Dallas.  Access to, and “pretty”  surrounding properties, were exactly what we were looking for.  Review the county’s property tax base so you’re not surprised at your annual taxes.  We did not hire a realtor to show us properties; we were most interested in scouting out where they were, look around at the “neighborhood”, scout out the nearby small towns, and just observe whether the property might be one to investigate further.  That way we could look at our own pace.  We could then call the listing realtor if we wanted to look at the property.

Have patience, and the same for shopping for chickens.  Get a breed or two that has characteristics you want and  you will enjoy taking care of.  Then just get some.  You will not regret it.

Alpacas and their food

Alpacas like their evening meal.  I feed Llama and Alpaca Maintenance in the evening; they each have their own food dish wired on to the fencing in the barn with enough space in between each other so they will not be so hoggish.  The girls seem to do okay.  No one is gulping their food down and then pushing someone else off theirs so they can then have the others dinner too.

The boys, on the other hand, are real pigs.  Riptide is the one who is such a hog.  Stryker does not chow down fast enough and Rip is over at Stryker’s bowl making him squeal his high pitched little yell while Rip gulps down Stryker’s food too.  Sometimes Stryker will stand up for himself and spit some to make Rip move.  But usually he just yells and Rip gets his food.  On days I have felt sorry for Stryker, I have moved Rip out of the barn with my “flag” (a great tool: a soccer field corner flag: sturdy, orange and long. I use 2 for herding) and then Stryker can finish his meal in peace.

Stryker

Stryker

I don’t  see any real way of feeding them differently.  Rip appears he may have had issues as he was growing up in getting enough food and has this habit of gulping his food then  eating  anyone else’s as quickly as he can, even if the other goes hungry.  He doesn’t mess with Nino the guard llama who is taller and spits if Rip even looks at his bowl.  Rip doesn’t mess with Nino.   

Riptide on left and Nino the guard llama

Riptide on left and Nino the guard llama

It’s just the normal pecking order, but sometimes you wish the bully would just get put in his place and the low man could move up a notch in the order.