Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poultry Terms...... Culling, what does it mean?

I am going to start talking about terms and abbreviations used  in the world of owning poultry from time to time because when I first started with raising chickens and was reading posts on forums I often times had NO idea what in the world people were talking about.

Now keep in mind I am only about 3 years into raising and breeding poultry myself. And I have SO much more to learn and study. So I am offering these explanations in my own words, to the best of my knowledge, because there is after all NO poultry definition dictionary available.

Today's word ~ CULL

Cull is a term many who raise or breed poultry use and it can mean many different things to people. But often times people's first reaction is that Cull = Kill. This isn't always the case.

There are indeed many breeders working toward breeding to the Standard of Perfection* who will in fact kill whatever birds they are not using for breeding or showing purposes. This is done because they do not want to offer inferior stock to the public, in turn harming the breed they are working with. Which when all things are considered and you are striving for the betterment of the breed, I think, is understandable. It isn't the way I chose to do things, but I can understand why it's done.

Culling more often simply means removing a bird or birds from your flock. If it has a fault or an undesirable trait many breeders, or people raising poultry,  will simply sell that bird as "Pet Quality". This has it's ups and downs, in my opinion. There are plenty of people simply raising birds as pets, backyard ornaments, or for food/eggs that it is usually very easy to find extras that you have raised or do not want in your flock a good home. HOWEVER, often times people will turn around and breed those birds, which will reproduce whatever fault was there in the first place.

*Standard Of Perfection - Each breed of poultry/waterfowl that is recognised by the American Poultry Association has a list of "standards", very basically a list and description of exactly how each breed should look, including skin color, eye color, overall shape, feather coloring, angle of tail, and much MUCH more. There is also a Bantam standard published by the American Bantam Association

Friday, May 4, 2012


There are days that I am thoroughly convinced that I do indeed own the dumbest dog on the planet. In fact I had been pretty sure of that more days than not until recently. And yet I absolutely adore this dog and I am fully aware that this is 99% my fault.

Sadie is wild and crazy and HUGE! 3/4 Dane 1/4 Lab and convinced she is a lap dog. She is sweet and cuddly and loves the kids. She plays with them on the trampoline ( she plays by herself on the trampoline), she snuggles them while they read books or watch TV. But she is just not the brightest bulb in the box as far as the experience we have had with dogs goes.

I was nervous to bring a new dog into the family because of the chickens roaming the yard. We had a bad experience with one of our dogs and the chickens when we first got them. The dog had top priority and the chickens would have been confined and not allowed to free range had a friend not offered to take the dog into a really great home where he would go hiking, on long walks and have a great family to live with. It wasn't an easy choice to make.

It had been a  few years since then when we were offered this puppy.  The chickens had become more of a part of our lives, I was just beginning to show them and had been working on breeding them for a while when the prospect of taking in this new dog came around. Even now I have no idea why in the world we decided to take the risk, but we took the plunge

Sadie has been a love since the day we got her, and in all honesty I have not done a very good job of training her to obey commands. I had lost my Dad shortly after we got Sadie and I had a very hard time dealing with that for a while. I did not train her like I should have. Despite the times she gets a wild hair to chase the chickens that are out in the yard, she has never harmed them in any way. She has learned that this is not allowed,  is very good around the birds.

Sadie is over a year now and has been making some changes. I have noticed her spending hours outside watching over the flocks. She stands at the fence line in the morning watching the open desert while I let out the birds and feed the goats.  And lately she has been very agitated by the ground squirrels in the yard.

The ground squirrels are a threat to the birds. They steal our egg and have even killed young birds and stolen chicks right out from under broody hens. They are the enemy! We've secured the coops and runs the best we can, but the squirrels continue to dig and are just a pain to deal with.

Today Sadie was very on edge when I went out to milk the goats. I went down the isle of runs to see what was going on the there were baby squirrels running all over the place in the Orpington run. the birds were distressed and I am NOT good with the pellet gun, so I let Sadie in.

She stood guard and chased the squirrels back into their hole, completely ignoring the chickens in the run. I left the gate open and left her be for a while just to let the squirrels know she was there, and flooded the hole for a while with the garden hose.

Sadie has clearly learned that the birds are ours and need to be protected. I am so proud of her! We are putting her into obedience classes and she will be fixed soon (Our vet felt it best to wait until she was fully grown so they could tack her stomach at the same time).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shoo Fly! Don't Bother Me!

When raising poultry, or any barnyard animal for that matter, flies can be very frustrating! They are hard to get rid of, are a nuisance and most products on the market to get rid of them either smell or leave a disgusting mess of dead fly bodies for you to dispose of. YUCK and no thank you!

Fly Predator by Spaulding Labs was recommended to me about a year and a half ago by a friend when I was frustrated with the amount of flies on our property due to our poultry. I tried it for a season and I am hooked! There is no turning pesticides, no smelly fly traps and sticky tapes filled with dead flies. Fly Predator is a parasitoid that you receive in a pouch in the mail once a month, for a very reasonable cost (about $20 a month for me), and release into your yard to control your fly population. For more info on exactly what it is and how it works Click Here! Will it make your yard 100% fly free, heck no nothing can. It will control the population making those flys that are there barely noticeable.

Here is how I use it~

I buy these tiny metal buckets in the $1 section at Target.

Fly Predator arrives in a pouch like this. On occasion the little bugs will have already emerged when they arrive, but usually you will need to let it sit in a warm spot for a day or two unopened before you see them

This is what they look like in the pouch. the brown things are the pods the predators will emerge from

I take the handle off the buckets and screw them into the fence posts around the runs and goat pens

Pour a little bit of the predator pods and shavings into each bucket

In the buckets the predator is safe from chickens eating them and safe from the wind. Now you just sit back and let them do the work. :)

Adventures In Milking Maggie May

There are some things you just don’t read about when you are researching milking goats. I certainly didn’t come across any info warning me that your goat just flat out might hate every minute of it in the beginning. No one told me that she might run in fear every time you come outside once she realized what I was up to. And there was not ONE written word in any book or on any website that I came found that gave me the heads up that she might flat out refuse to stand up to be milked.

In the beginning once Maggie figured out what this whole milking thing was about, she started to run from me every time I came into the pen. I tried to bribe her with treats and she was having NONE of that. Catching Maggie became a 2 man chore, while we calmly walked around trying to get her to corner herself so we could grab her and walk her out to the milking stand with out traumatizing her. On days I was home alone in the morning to milk her this whole things was beyond frustrating and I nearly gave up the whole thing.

Maggie hated being milked, she hated me, and the feeling was really close to being mutual. She would sit on my arm while I tried to milk her. I had to resort to holding her up with one hand and milking her with the other and I beyond grateful that I had chosen a dwarf breed of goat for milking. If the husband or one of the kids were home they would help hold her up while I milked her. This was exhausting. Luckily I had a lot of support from a friend of mine and a ton of helpful advice from readers of my Facebook page. Without it, I surely would have thrown in the towel.

I made the surroundings as calm as possible. The dogs were not allowed outside during milking because they spooked her. The kids were not allowed to play outside or stand around and watch Maggie being milked. All of these things made our little goat far too nervous. And little by little Maggie became calmer and eventually even eager to be milked. Only a few short weeks (short now because things are going to well) and she was standing to be milked, coming to you to be let out of the pen to be milked and walking herself back to the pen gate to go back in on her own.

Now I am using the milk for things like yogurt, butter and handmade soaps, and loving every minute of it! It was a struggle well worth the reward.

Building a milking stand

The baby goat was growing up and it was time to build a milking stand. I was feeling lazy and considered ordering a premade one, but the prices I found online were enough to get me motivated to break out he power tools once again.........

I started with a 20x30 platform 20 inches high off the ground

Added a 1 inch thick plywood base

The front measures about 2.5 feet from the bottom of the base. The wood is 1.5 x 2 inch studs. I thought that would be lighter than using 2 x 4's

You can see the space here where the head rails will go.

I added side rails because the husband thought we should, but I later took off one side to make milking easier. 

The head rails and a latch were added to hold the goat in place during milking.
A feed bucket purchased from the feed store for about $10 was added. Making the cost of my milking stand about $25-30 using new and recycled materials.

Goat tested by Roxy and approved! I was very happy the measurments worked out due to the simple fact that I had no plane written out for this and went by pictures I had seen on the internet and using a tape measure to see how tall my goats were.