Boot City sent me some photos last week of Cattle Egrets with our grazing goats. He knows that I love Egrets. The Cattle Egret, or Bubulcus ibis, is a species of heron that has evolved to a life adapted to following herds of grazing animals and eating the bugs that accompany those grazing animals. You know, cows. Or in our case, goats and horses.
I do love a symbiotic relationship when I see one. The bugs are always bad in Texas so it makes me feel better when I see the goats or horses being followed by some Egrets because I know they are at least helping reduce the bug irritation to the goats or horses! As the larger mammal moves around in the grass, they inevitably disturb some bugs and that is the meal for the Egrets. Sometimes the bird will even land on an animal (Jaguar) and eat the bugs right off them! I have witnessed this a few times, but never snapped a photo.
A little research on Wikipedia indicates these birds migrated to the U.S. naturally (they flew here, they didn’t come on a boat) as the herds of cattle became larger and more established, but originate from Asia, Africa and Europe. It isn’t often you read about a species being introduced that doesn’t wreak havoc on it’s new home; e.g. rabbits in Australia. Good on the Egret! On other continents the follow different large mammals. In Africa they follow Cape buffalo, wildebeasts, waterbucks and zebras. Clearly the African birds have a more exotic partnership.
We are just glad to have them back this spring. Hopefully they will stay a long while!
It is baby goat time at the Farm! Enjoy some adorable pics of the kids, some foxhounds and one John Deere kitty!
This particular goat just LOVES to sleep on top of the round bale!
Our #fosterfail kitty is a big fan of the tractor seat for sunning and sleeping.
Baby goats can be quite aggressive when nursing. I always feel bad for the mama goat!
Our retired foxhounds live a very (not) hard life!
The goats’ favourite day is new-round-bale-day!
We had some AMAZING cool August weather, but alas it is hot again.
Early mornings make for great sunset viewing
Kitties on a ’57 Chevy
Lately Tarzan and Sabrina (we are probably keeping the mama foster kitty) have gotten on top of the barn a lot. Weirdos.
Chivas and Charlotte in a rare moment of quiet and snuggling. Usually Charlotte is out and about.
Coco after a ride. She’s at that stage where she knows what she should be doing, but is having moments of rebellion that are kind of annoying and kind of cute.
Happy weekend y’all!
One trip to South Padre and I fall off the planet! I’m back. Sunburned and now peeling, but I’m back.
We have had AMAZING weather this past week. The week prior was hot and gross, so the cooler rainy weather is very welcome.
Dougal played in the rain last weekend and looked like a gigantic drowned rat.
Bubbles the barn kitty likes to sleep on upside down farm implements. Boot City thinks it is so she can see rats better to eat them. I think it is because it was hot and this provides a lot of ventilation.
I haven’t been riding as much as I should because it was hot. I did get a new Samford Bridle from the Beval sale to use as a schooling bridle. Turns out it fits Coco better than Sterling, but he’s the model. For a fantastic price point this is a really nice bridle. Way nicer than a similarly priced Dover house brand bridle I got a couple years ago.
Every night when we clean stalls the young dogs have their own version of AFC fighting. Annie and Charlotte take turns tagging in to wrestle with Dougal. Dougal can’t get through the fences so he’s always stuck in one stall run while they run in and out. It is pretty cute and funny.
And this is how Marby does laundry. Because. Marby.
We have a chicken laying these teeny tiny eggs. They don’t have yolks and so far we have found at least 6 of them! They make for great dog treats.
Bubbles the barn kitty is doing very well. She stays put in her hay stall, but we can’t touch her yet. Hopefully with time she will become friendlier and realise we won’t hurt her.
This is Charlotte, our newest foster dog from Fort Worth Animal Control. She’s a few months old and we think she’s a German Shepherd cross. The shelter identified her as a lab mix, but she has decidedly German Shepherd ears, face shape and hind end conformation. She has learned to sit and wait her turn for meals.
We have had lots of pop up thunderstorms this week which make for some stunning sunsets.
We also have a mama cat with five kittens we are fostering for Fort Worth Animal Control. This is a cute tuxedo female from the litter. She was assisting with wash stall supply inventory and napping.
I often think I miss a lot of posting opportunities about the farm animals so I’m starting a new regular post; Farm Fridays! They will consist primarily of just recent photos of happenings on the farm. Enjoy!
Tarzan spends the majority of his summer days sleeping on his favourite ottoman.
Pablo isn’t often very friendly, but when he is he’s pretty funny. He’s very much a heavy-breather-in-you-ear kind of donkey!
Marby never ceases to entertain. Never. He also likes to hang out on the tops of vehicles of all kinds as well as buildings.
WWWAAAYYY back in September we got a very special delivery from the post office:
LIVE BABY CHICKS! PLEASE RUSH!
What many people may not know is that you can order chicks through the mail. When we order we select a delivery date and usually receive our order within a couple days of the requested date. We always order when the days start to get shorter. This assures we have hens laying eggs when the days are at their shortest and the older hens more or less quit laying altogether. The post office calls the moment they know whom to call to pick up the chirpy little creatures.
Chicks are pretty easy to care for as long as you have the proper equipment and feed supplies. We always get Quik Chick with our order. This is basically a chick electrolyte. Traveling through the mail when you are only a couple hours old can be stressful. Quik Chick helps the little bodies recover from their journey and hopefully be less likely to get sick.
Quik Chik from Murray McMurray Hatchery
We also buy a bag of Purina Chick Starter. Our feed store is a Purina dealer so most animals, with the exception of the dogs, eat Purina food.
Start and GROW!
Once the little critters arrive home we get them out of the box as quickly as possible in order to get them some water and food. They haven’t eaten yet in their young lives and they are hungry!
31 little chicks in a box
We usually get 30 chicks; 10 of 3 different breeds. This time around they were Blue Andalusians, Ancona and Araucanas plus one “Free Rare Exotic Chick”. The rare chick is how the hatchery gets rid of excess chicks. We enjoy the surprise and our extra this time is a treat. Check out this little thing:
He wears a top hat
He will have feathers sticking right straight out the top of his head when he grows up. Isn’t he adorable!
Chicks in their new house
They have to have their beaks dipped into their water when entering the chick pen for the first time. This is to assure they know the sensation of drinking water and where to find it. They will stay in the chick brooder for about 4-6 weeks, depending on how fast they outgrow the space. They must also have a heat source until they are fully feathered at about 6 weeks. Until they they can’t keep themselves warm. It is nice to get them in the late summer in Texas because they don’t much need the heat lamp due to the high temps.
My next post will show you are “teenage” chickens!
If you live in Texas and have watched the news lately you’ve likely heard the TERRIBLE news that Whataburger has shortened the hours they serve eggs because of an egg shortage. Well I’m here to tell you that we don’t have an egg shortage at the farm! Right now we get a little over two dozen eggs per day out of our 50’ish hens. Hens lay about an egg per day at the height of their egg laying years. We have quite a few hens who are past their prime, but since we have no interest in eating them they get to stick around. Every year in about August we get 30-40 chicks to replace the hens we lose to coyotes/bobcats/hawks/owls and illness and it’s about time to place our order so we are able to get the exact breeds we want.
The timing for when we get our chicks is very purposeful. It is best to get chicks when they days are getting shorter. This assures that we will have laying hens during the dark winter days when the more mature hens slow down or stop laying entirely. Plus, Texas summers are so hot that we don’t need to put them under a heat lamp if they arrive in August or September. Chicks need to be kept at 90-95 degrees for the first week of their life. After the first week the temp can be lowered by 5 degrees each week until they are fully feathered and can regulate their own temperature. Running a a heat lamp to keep chicks warm in December is a huge pain-in-the-neck, especially after you realise how much easier and better it is to get them in August!
Peaches the foxhound LOVES babies of all kinds. She really wanted to pick these chicks up and take them to the house to snuggle with her, however that wasn’t the best option for their survival.
We try to mix up the breeds of chicks we get each summer, but we always get at least 10 Aracauna chicks. These are hens that lay blue/green eggs and they have the cutest little tufts of feathers on their cheeks. We have had good luck with them in terms of heat tolerance and surviving predators. Generally darker coloured chickens are harder for predators to see so they tend to live longer. Aracaunas can be all kinds of colors, including white, but we’ve had nearly all brown ones.
This year we are also going to order Lakenvelder chicks. We had some a few years ago, but they were victims of a pointless raccoon crime. A raccoon went into our outdoor chicken coop and killed 30 pullets that were within a few weeks of laying eggs. Killed every last pullet and didn’t eat a single one of them. Just broke their necks and went on it’s merry way. Raccoons are NOT popular at our house. Lakenvelders are white with black heads, which kind of goes against our no-white rule, but they are small and active, which are good characteristics for free-range birds. We avoid the more portly breeds because then tend to do poorly in hot Texas summers.
We haven’t settled yet on the third breed we want to get. We have had great luck with the Egyptian Fayoumi chickens. They are wily little chickens and nearly all of the Fayoumi chickens we got 7 years ago are still around! I also like the Dominiques. Another breed we had that were victims of the raccoon attack. The last option we are considering are Blue Andalusians. We got some 2 years ago and love love love them. They are very hardy in the heat, intelligently avoid predators, and they are nice to be around. Some of the better free-range breeds can be pretty darn wild! The Fayoumis, for instance, are pretty unhappy about being caught and they sure let you know so with their beaks.
We have to place our order soon to assure our breeds of choice are available and are all female. Until then I’ll leave you with a pic of some of our existing flock enjoying a chicken spa day in the dirt. They were sure happy when the ground finally dried up enough for their dirt baths!
Chicken spa day. In this pic are an Aracauna, Leghorn, Cuckoo Maran (dark brown eggs), White Leghorn, Rhode Island Red and a mixed breed hen that one of our hens hatched a few years ago.
I feel like I’ve woefully neglected the farm critters lately, so here is a pictorial update of some of the creatures.
Goat babies! Lots of goat babies! This is the only set of triplets this time around (thank goodness!)
Penelope, one that we bottle fed as a baby because her poor mum couldn’t feed all three of her triplets, with her baby Periwinkle. Twinsies!
Baby goat napping. They love them some tire time. Sadly they are starting to get too big to fit in the tire these days.
Kittens! All four are adorable yellow tabbies. Two are fluffy and two are short coated. Who wants a kitten?!
Pablo a few weeks ago when he was snuggly. Now I can’t get near him. I blame having sprayed him with fly spray recently. Poor fella.
This is our crazy juniper tree that is growing out the side of a hill. The kids like to play on it when they get let into the front pasture. That and we’ve had lots of glorious rain lately so have seen some beautiful skies.
Boot City and I live on top of a hill. A very large and rocky hill. Our friends like to tell us how delightful they find our driveway. Truly delightful. The primary reason that our driveway is so very delightful is due to laws of gravity: what goes up, must come down. This is true not only for our driveway, but for other parts of our property as well. All farmers and ranchers are constantly battling erosion of some sort. We aren’t actual farmers or ranchers, but we do have an ongoing battle with erosion. When the rain comes down, it has to go somewhere and so down the hill it goes. Generally after a hard rain most any loose dirt and rocks from our driveway have found their way to the highway by our house. I’m confident the county road crew loves us the most.
For the past nine years we have lived on our happy 10 acres we have been working towards improving the land and increasing the amount of grass that grows. Improving the soil is all about adding organic matter and nitrogen. The combined efforts of the chickens pooping, the goats pooping and the horses pooping have done wonders to increase the amount of organic matter. We try to compost as much as we can, but sometimes that sh$% just has to get spread around. Boot City has also gotten to justify his schmancy new 65 horsepower John Deere all in the name of grass and soil improvement. This allows him to dig up the soil, plant seeds and fertilise when necessary. And this spring has shown the fruits of our (mostly his) labor better than any other.
So much so that after an especially hard rain this past weekend there was a great deal of evidence that we really need to work on creating our very own mini-creek for the water to go down after such hard rains. As it is now, the water running down the hill just takes all the organic matter we’ve worked so hard to accumulate with it!
The top of the hill on the back of the property. You can see how fast the water moved down the hill and created it’s very own path through all the beautiful grass. We have the beginnings of some rocks set down to prevent all the dirt from eroding with the water.
Further down the hill there isn’t any grass growing in this part of the water flow for a couple reasons. The first is that there are a lot of trees so very little sunlight gets in and the second being that every hard rain just washes away any grass that has started to grow.
Towards the bottom of the back hill the grass had gotten to be about 12″ – 14″ tall. When I walked the property the morning after the rain I was somewhat surprised to find how it had been completely flattened by the water runoff. This was a prime opportunity for us to identify the low spots and plan for adding rocks and other solid barriers to slow down the water and to prevent the topsoil from being eroded.
Flat grass! Boot City has already moved some dirt to change the layout of the hill and alter the pathway of the water. Now, to add more big rocks.
In the back, right before and at the largest back pasture (about 5 acres) the grass is thick, tall and lush. It’s that perfect spring green that makes anyone associated with agriculture and animal husbandry smile and take a deep breath. Along the path of the water runoff it had gotten completely flattened and looked like a big green walkway. Again, indicative of where to plant more large rocks!
You can see the water path towards the back of the pasture.
Last, but not least, this is where the water collects and runs to lower ground on the neighbor’s property. Last year, in the fall, there was a similar large storm and the water runoff collected so much debris that by the time it got to this spot it took down the fence!
The endpoint of the “River”
Now we mow, mow and mow some more (and by we I mean Boot City mows) and collect rocks from other parts of the property to add to the future “creek”. Maybe by fall we will have a genuine little waterfall to share!