Category Archives: Farm Animals

Our Rhode Island Red

Chicken Nugget came to us as one of our first farm animals and our first chicken. Nugget was found by a friend wandering around a sub-division and had been clearly used as a chew toy by the neighbourhood dogs. I was working when Nugget was “delivered” and was very concerned by her appearance.

All her tail feathers were gone and her bottom was a bit of a mess, but it didn’t look infected. Nugget got along well with the pigs, so we depended on food, water, clean living and a little farm love to help heal.

Within a week we had farm fresh eggs. I learned so much about eggs from sweet Nugget. I had some of the most delightful breakfast eggs thanks to this lovely chicken.

Nugget was not just the only producer on the farm, but she was friendly and had a lot of personality, for a chicken. She would squat down when I came close, so I could pet her silky feathers.

In late July we found Nugget lifeless on the floor of the chicken pen. She did not appear wounded or injured in any way. She was just gone. We don’t know how old Nugget was, but we like to think she died of old age.

We’ll miss you little Nugget. Especially, your best hen buddy Missy.

Duck Invasion

They’re everywhere! Run for your lives! The ducks are escaping. Again.

We have gone to extreme measures to contain our ducks, but they simply refused to stay in one of the fenced area of the farm. I wouldn’t mind if they wandered around, but I’m terrified they’ll wander down the busy road. We’ve clipped wings, rewired fencing, clipped more wings and moved them into three different “secure” areas.

This morning Brent went outside and was startled by a cloud of feathers erupting from beneath the car. He jumped back as Mr Smith (Mr Trouble Smith) flew out from under the shade of the car and followed him into the barn.

With the cats meowing for their breakfast Brent unceremoniously dumped their food into the bowl on the ground and the duck pushed the cats out of the way to eat.

This was simply unacceptable.

Since the pigs seemed happy in their new digs I decided to put the duck in with our two remaining chickens. We lost our sweet chicken Nugget this week and with Misty the hen nesting on a batch of eggs, Elvis, our rooster seemed lonely wandering the pen. I decided to see if Mr Smith could escape since his recent flight wing clip.

As of dark time tonight Mr T Smith was keeping Elvis company while Mr P Smith was keeping his pig friends happy on the other side of the farm. Maybe two male ducks can’t live together. Like the odd couple.

Cutting the Grass – Farmer Style

It finally rained yesterday, which means the grass had a growth spurt. I have a lot of grass to cut and I was trying to think of new and productive ways to take care of this job. I was staring at my horse when I decided to move them into my backyard for the day.

The goats are great at trimming trees and eating that deadly sawgrass that has left me with deep abrasions on my forearms and legs. The three of them (Autumn -horse, Nelly – little goat and Billy – big goat) are currently weeding around my pond.

What a great idea! I’m a super-smart!

Out to cut the front lawn, because letting them loose on my road doesn’t seem like a great idea.

See? Smart!

Relocating the Pigs

On Sunday, July 24, 2011 we decided to relocate the pigs. With the help of Uncle Alan and Grandpa Frank we used some grain and plastic pallets to guide the pigs to their new digs.

We had a fifty foot area to across of open danger and the rest of the area was fenced. If we could get them across the driveway then all would be well, but the eighty kilometer roadway was about twenty feet from the initial gate. On a hot July morning armed with buckets of grain and plastic pallets we threw open the gate and tried to entice the pigs towards their new home.

Pigs hate change. Even if change is for the better.

Little pig Ginger followed the sound of the grain pail across the drive and walked slowly and placidly across the black top and through the gate into the next “safe” area. I gave her a little pile of grain to devour while we tried to coax her best pal Charlotte to do the same.

Charlotte weights about one hundred and fifty pounds and was less willing to leave the comfort of her pig paddock. With Brent and Alan brandishing plastic pallets and my dad persuading with a stick we managed to get the big pig out of her old home and onto the driveway.

We had a mission, regardless of what happened, Charlotte would be directed away from the road. Brent and Alan nudged Charlotte with their pallets encouraging her to follow me and the sound of grain into the next fenced area. She was a foot away from entering and joining her friend Ginger when she dove right, pushed past Brent’s pallet and into the far corner of the driveway.

With a little pushing we got Charlotte back on track and into the second fenced area.

The second fenced area belongs to the dogs, who were unhappily locked up during the pig transfer. The dogs were making their unhappiness well know at this point. The noise did nothing to calm the pigs.

With lots of squealing and bit of snorting we managed to get Charlotte into the three acre paddock. We turned to entice Ginger into the same area when the ducks decided to give a hand. With snapping ducks at my heels, barking dogs in my head and nervous pigs running about we really had to focus on calm to get Ginger into the new paddock.

Luckily, Ginger is very food motivated. With a shake of the feed bucket and a wag of her tail we got around the pond and into the new area.

We had no idea Autumn hated pigs so much.

The initial introduction didn’t go so well with Autumn chasing poor Charlotte into the trees. We made a solid area where the pigs and horse could share a fence line.  The pigs could come and go as they pleased, but the horse could not enter the pig area.

We built a summer shelter for the pigs with a roof and open walls to let the hot summer breeze flow through. The pigs seem very content in their new digs.

We’re hoping by winter to have the pigs share a closer area with the horse and goats. We would like to share electricity, water and heat during the cold winter months.

Duck Bites

I have two male muscovy ducks who like to hiss. Male muscovy ducks hiss while the females offer a feminine quack. My males are lonely and would love to have some female companionship and to show their discontent they like to bite me. A duck bite is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like a bad bruising pinch with a slight break in the skin.

I usually get bit about once a week and it’s usually confined to my legs, but Mr Smith got me mid-forearm on Sunday leaving a half moon scab surrounded by a dark blue bruise.

This week I was accidently head butted in the right thigh by my big goat Billy. I am becoming a purple farm animal mess.

I am also working five twelve hour days in a row and I think the animals sense my absence and are punishing me by head butting and biting. Autumn is kind enough to only push me around with her massive head. I consider that a hug.

The dogs show their disappointment at my absence in more pleasant ways, like cuddling and playing excessively. Gizmo is so cute this week that I’m giving him extra cookies to alleviate the guilt I feel at being the absent mother.

After work each day I flood a small area of the pig paddock, so they can roll around in the wet mud and cool off after their supper. Even the chicken will partake in a dust bath followed by a sip of pig flavoured water.

Combining farm life with a full time job is a challenge this week.

Flooding the Horse Shelter

I didn’t do it on purpose. I returned home from the Canine Club Getaway and went out to check on my farm animals. The horse/goat water looked a little low, so I plug in the pump and turned on the tap. Brent yelled at me from across the fenced yard to remember to turn it off. I laughed. I always remember.

I filled hay nets and mangers. I cleaned out the manure and gave Autumn a quick brush while the water trough filled. It’s another stolen moment. I’m waiting for one thing, but enjoying another: the definition of farm life.

I leave the shelter with a smack on the bum for Autumn and head towards the outlet to unplug the pump. I’m closing the gate when I hear Brent ask if I need help. I’m almost finished. He asks if I want him to unplug the pump. I say, “no. I’m walking right by it” and I am only twenty steps away from the outlet. I laugh again.

Taz meets me at the pond and entertains me with a little frog hunting. She’s belly deep in muddy water eyeballing a bullfrog that’s nearly her size and I giggle as she pounces the frog dives underwater. She and the frog are dancing.

I call Taz to come into the house and Poco runs over with the ball. I throw the ball a handful of times for the dogs before turning and heading to the house. I remember thinking how tired I was feeling, but in a good satisfied way.

The next morning my dad asks what happened? Happened? What does he mean what happened? I don’t know what happened. What?

He was drinking coffee on the flagstone patio and he could hear water running. Water running? Where was water running? OH… water running… oh. I didn’t unplug the pump and flooded the horse shelter. Flooded it.

The mess was incredible and poor Autumn was standing on the edge of a pond in her shelter. The goats had taken leave to brave the outside. Oh dear.

Brent had gone to work, so I only had to listen to dad give me an earful about leaving the water on all night. We spend the next several hours digging, by hand and with the backhoe, to move some water.

We had to put down a layer of stone, then a layer of sand and finally the rubber mat. Autumn and the two goats had been moved to the pig paddock for the day. The pigs were not happy and squealed as they tried to chase Autumn. Uncooperative in the chase Autumn turned and tried to bite the pig.

The shelter turned out beautiful and better than before with the thick rubber mat (thanks Uncle Chuck). No more dirt for my pony.

I’m having a little trouble moving still and my back aches a little, but the animals are happy in their own dry shelter. Thanks Dad.

Brent did manage to give me an earful too. Especially, after he figured out I told dad he’d left the water on all night. Always blame the one who isn’t there.

The Birds

When I was a child my mother used to feed the birds. She had this wood and glass bird feeder that was right outside the kitchen window and I can remember watching the brightly coloured birds battling for seed. I’m certain my father made it back in the eighties at moms request.

That same bird feeder still sits just outside the kitchen window, but the glass is long gone and the wood is heavily weathered from decades in the elements. I started feeding the birds again last fall and it took several months for the birds to come.

It’s March 2011 now and the birds are back. The bright blue jays fight with each other only to be kicked out by the mammoth black birds. The adolescent half red cardinals wait in the trees for the coast to clear while their fire engine red adult counterparts are not shy about getting their seeds.

The pairs of mourning doves return to the same place every year. I remember mom telling me that they mate for life and that was something I chewed on steady. I would picture the medium sized grey doves meeting in high school and getting married. Marriage really meant something to the monogamous mourning doves. It meant a family and a life of traveling together. Never farther than few steps they raised their young and stayed together. Until I was twenty I thought they were morning doves and when I found out they were mourning doves I wondered why they were so sad all the time. Was it marriage?

The oldest known mourning dove is over thirty-one years old. Should their mate die they never mate again. A single pair can produce up to six offspring per year. The wings make an usual whistling sound upon take-off and landing with speeds up to 88 km/h, but their name comes from their plaintive woo-oo-oo-oo call. It has nothing to do with being sad, they merely sound sad.

Ironically, in 1971 (the year I was born) the mourning dove was named the Wisconsin State Symbol of Peace. Wisconsin is the home of my favorite NFL team the Green Bay Packers, who won the Superbowl in Texas this year. No wonder I’m a big fan of the mourning dove.

It’s amazing how this thread ran from doves to football.

I still enjoy watching the birds and went so far as to buy an eighty-eight pound bag of bird seed from the local feed store. It was thirty dollars for the big bag and considered a steal because it’s fifteen dollars for a ten pound bag at the grocery store. This is the complicated economics of feeding the birds.

Taz often sits at the window in her heated bed and I know she’s working hard on patrol, but I wonder if she is enjoying the birds too.

Below is a video outside the window of the birds enjoying the feeder durning our spring snow storm. I swear the red cardinals make the snow brighter.

Willow

Willow was smallish goat with a very big personality. She had more character and charism than many people and had no trouble expressing herself. She was unique. Fashionable. She belonged to Beaver Creek Farm.

On December 28, 2010 we found our beloved goat Willow dead in the fragrant hay. There wasn’t a mark on her and there were no signs of distress. It looks as though she fell over mid-chew. Willow was five years old when she died and the whole farm has found ways to express their sadness. It’s amazing how the other animals feel and find ways to comfort and bring comfort.

The average goat lifespan is 11-16 years depending on how hard and how many babies they’ve had. Boy goats or Bucks live only 8-10 years due to the stress of the rut that comes each year.

Willow was never used for breeding and was given to us because she had been exposed to a buck and never “caught” or got pregnant. She was a perfect first farm animal for our “kid-free” zone. I couldn’t ignore the irony.

Willow climbed and jumped and spun. She loved to live and loved to share her joy with others. As time progressed we noticed Willow loved to head butt kids. Human kids. She seemed to take joy in dancing and then pushing them around with her horns. Often, she wasn’t gentle.

Willow brought smiles as I watched her fall in love with our pigs: Charlotte and Ginger. She used to sleep on top of them in winter to keep warm. Her head lolling across Charlotte’s back and staring at me when I went to check on them in the coldest part of the night.

She tried to be daughter to Nelly, but was merely a friend. She found joy in our newest goat Billy. The girl and boy goats licked and cuddled each other in her final days.

I did a little research and asked some knowledgeable goat people what might have happen to my little wonderful goat and the general acceptance was a cardiac problem or aneurysm. It’s quite common for a youngish goat to suddenly died. This is what happened to our special girl.

With much sadness and grief we said good-bye to our brown girl and buried her with Sam and Misiu next to the double white horse chestnut tree.

Part of me wants to not take in more animals so I don’t have to feel the pain of their passing, but the stronger pull is give a good life to the next heartbeat who needs a home.

Thanks for helping me write this Poco.

Goats Divorce!

Nelly has found a new love and no longer wants her best goat pal Willow to share in the passionate relationship. Strife on the farm!

Nelly is a pushy goat. She grew up with horses and spent all eight years living with horses, until the sad fateful day that her best equine pal passed away. That’s how Nelly came to live on Beaver Creek Farm.

Nelly’s owner was grief stricken when she pulled into the farm driveway and asked if we’d like another goat. She’d seen me playing with Willow and wondered if we’d be willing to take her goat as she had no place to keep her since the death of her horse.

Of course we’d love another goat! Who wouldn’t? Nelly was brought to live at the farm the same day. We put her in with the pigs and Willow and you could see she wasn’t happy. She fought with the pigs and was a bully to Willow. We gave it some time and finally all settled down to the occasional scuffle.

Once we discovered Autumn was coming home we started on a huge fencing project. Once complete we moved the two goats into the large, lush field to enjoy the foliage. It took several days for the goats to get comfortable, but they finally were enjoying their new digs.

Autumn came and there was a subtle shift to the dynamics. I thought a balance was finally achieved, but I was wrong.

When Autumn was released into the field Nelly ran over bleating with joy. A horse! Oh a horse for Nelly! Autumn was a little confused, but tolerated the white goat’s attentions. Nelly nuzzled Autumn’s lowered nosed and gave her a little head butt. Autumn responded by pushing Nelly around and giving gentle nuzzles back. Willow was left out of the new relationship.

In typical farm fashion we decided to give it a few days. As the girls settled in we noticed Nelly was becoming aggressive with Willow. I was in the field two days ago and saw Nelly beating the crap out of poor gentle Willow.

Poor Willow did not fight back. She still tried to cuddle next to Nelly, but Nelly had a new love and wasn’t willing to share.

We moved Willow back to live with the pigs and balance was restored to the farm.

Nelly goes for a visit, but I don’t think Willow will be living in the big field anymore. Willow seems quite happy to be with her pig friends and curls up on top of them in the straw as winter approaches.