Alpacas and Texas 4-H

I got an e-mail today about getting 4-H groups involved with alpacas as a project.  We would love to see that happen in our area.  Has anyone had experience with alpacas in 4-H and is it a possibly successful idea?  I have not ever been involved with 4-H so I don’t know what all the ins and outs of the organization is.  I will try to read up and find out more, but right now we would like to get our animals more into the public eye. 

http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/

Since alpacas are  naturally shy animals they are hard for people to understand why they don’t  act all warm and cuddly  like their family dog.  I don’t think cows or sheep act like that either, but because alpacas have such a cute presence and appearance,  people expect them to act differently.

The ultimate goal of the U.S. alpaca organizations is get the fleece going as a major product (like cotton, and wool) and get enough animals on the ground to produce the quantity of fleece needed by major manufacturers.  I hear differing answers to that so I cannot say for sure what an ideal number of animals is for fleece production.

Hopefully, we can get something organized in northeast Texas to get the word out.  I have contacted a ranch near me and we may be able to get some ideas for getting this off the ground.

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Freebies

I have links to various blogs that link to others. On Giveawaytoday, the link is to  Skullcandy who is giving away some nice headphones for the family; they are all different and all different colors and designs.  Check them out and enter the contest.

 http://www.giveawaytoday.blogspot.com/

Chicken roosts

We have regular size and bantam size chickens, and also guineas.  They each seem to roost differently and I don’t know if that’s  typical or not.

I had read my chicken books before I got them and before we built the coops. Of course roosts are very easy to add to coops or move or take down so don’t get too worried about what will work or not.  Just give it a try and move it to a better location if necessary later.

I had read in my books, STOREY’S GUIDE TO RAISING CHICKENS (Gail Damerow), and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING (Carla Emery) , perches should be 2 to 4 feet off the coop floor, allow 18 inches between birds and 18 inches away from walls, using 2 x 4’s or similar. Stagger them so birds are not right underneath each other so their droppings during the night land on the floor and not a bird. 

My bantams don’t perch at all and the books said they would only need about a foot above the floor anyway.  They prefer to sit in a nest box or hunker in the shavings.

My guineas don’t like to be inside unless it’s cold or nasty out.  They will sit outside on the ground, or sit on top of the coops.

My regular sized chickens do like roosts, so on one side of the A-frame coop are the water and food, and the other side are staggered roosting ledges under the sloping roof.  The nest boxes sit in between both spaces on the back wall.

nestbox (dishpan in frame)

nestbox (dishpan in frame)

In the morning when collecting eggs and rousting out any broody looking hens I use a cat litter  scoop that I hang on a nail ona wall stud, to clean out the nest boxes and swirl around the shavings under the roosts to incorporate droppings into the shavings and Stall Dry powder I have in the litter.  It helps keep out flies and the Stall Dry can help keep bugs at bay, like ants and flies. Occasionally I will haul out the garden hoe and dig down into the litter and give it a good toss, so everything will keep breaking down.  Eventually I will scoop out about a third of the litter and replace it with fresh, using the old stuff in my compost heap.

nestbox frame

nestbox frame

angled view into one side of coop

angled view into one side of coop

Hummingbirds migrating

Don't come near my feeder

Don't come near my feeder

As soon as we moved here I got hummingbird feeders.  You don’t know you have hummers around until you hang out the feeders.  I bought three to hang; 2 in backyard and 1 in front yard, but I am going to get some more.  The hummers are migrating now and we will see more action as they move through.  We have 4 or so that hang out here all summer.  When they migrate, we may have 20 or more feeding.

I have not been really happy with the ones I bought and have replaced a couple different kinds because they just deteriorated and looked bad.  I found my favorite feeders at Wal-Mart for under $4.  What I really like about them is several features that make using this easier than others.  You will see it in the picture above.

First, the clear tube holding the sugar water mix has a WIDE mouth that screws into the base.  The others I had were like bottles and openings so small I could never get a brush in there to clean out the gunk that accumulates.  This one I can get my kitchen sponge into easily and clean.

Secondly, the base is easy, easy to open and clean.  It has no baffles inside that collect gunk.  The ring around the outside is nice for the hummers to sit on and drink.  The flat openings don’t have any “flower” attachments that collect junk and that wasps like to congregate on.  The top of the base separates from the bottom of the base and locks in place in the middle.

Thirdly, the size is perfect.  If you get too big of a unit you are wasting the nectar.  You are supposed to change out the nectar every 3 days or so and put in fresh.  I don’t have so many hummers that they drink it all up sooner than that. 

I just love these.  I am buying more.  These might be sold at other places but I am always on the lookout for a really logical and economical feeder. 

Also, don’t buy the packaged nectar; make your own quickly, cheaply, and easily.  No matter what the marketing message says, they don’t need the packaged nectar and don’t need any extra “vitamins” or anything else.

Recipe for nectar (don’t use any food coloring; keep it clear):

a.  1 part sugar to 4 parts water (example: 1 cup sugar,  4 cups water)

b.  boil the water in the microwave or on the stove to purify it (I also use the water out of my refrigerator purifier pitcher)

c.  add the sugar (use pure sugar, no Splenda or sugar substitutes)  while the water is still hot and stir to disolve

d.  cool the nectar in the refrig and then clean and refill your feeders; refill every 3 days; they love the fresh nectar.  

Here is the link to the manufacturer of this feeder.  Enjoy!

http://www.firstnature.net/product_hummingbirdfeeders.phtml

Great giveaway

Three are soooo many blogs out there it’s hard to know where to start, but I am on a few that I try out for awhile and usually they have links to their favorite blogs that lead me to others. 

Today there is a giveaway on this one you might want to read about for healthy eating. The contest rules are in this link and are easy to follow.  Act now, time is running out.

http://jessiehawkins.com/?p=89&cpage=43#comment-727

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