*Note: Dave is very modest about his accomplishments and is not one to publicize any awards or recognition he has received. However, being his wife, I feel this gives me an automatic right to do so in order to let everyone know just one of the many ways of why I am proud of him. Besides, baking a batch of brownies generally gets me out of the doghouse immediately. I will be baking them as soon as I am finished with this post.*
Dave received a letter last week congratulating him on being chosen by the Warren County Conservation District to receive the "Conservation Educator of the Year" award. As stated in the letter, this award "recognizes teachers who go above and beyond and who have made an outstanding contribution to conservation education in the past year." Dave will be recognized and given his award in late February.
I think it is important to note the significance of this award, as you all can see that as farmers and responsible citizens, we feel it is our duty to conserve and employ conservation tactics within the farm and everyday life. We are not only raising our little one to respect the land and everyone and everything using it, but Dave is also helping to show his students through different programs and activities in his classroom the importance of conservation.
It is our goal as farmers to continue to improve our conservation practices so that we will continue to have happy, healthy animals, to provide our family, friends, and customers with high quality food, and leave the land healthy for our children to take over and farm for generations.
Congratulations Dave...I am very proud of you! ~ Love, Margie
As mentioned in my previous chicken post, the new layers have begun laying eggs. Since they are new to this whole "egg-laying" idea, they needed a little guidance. The layers started laying their eggs under the roosting area which is messy and makes for an adventure trying to get under the roosting area to reach the eggs. The chickens, being followers, saw one egg laid under there and then decided that they too were going to lay their egg there. Chickens are not one to care about whether or not this is convenient for their caregivers as they pick the middle of the roosting area all the way in the back to lay their egg. I am just glad no one was there to observe me as I tried to find a way to gather these eggs.
This led me to come up with an intervention. I gathered the chickens together with the help of my son (for some reason, if you want to get everyone's attention, bring along a cute little one with you, especially with chickens as they know little children will give them all the attention they want), and we introduced them to the nesting boxes made by my handy husband. We took some of the eggs laid that morning that I cleaned and put an 'x' on them with a marker (to show the difference between the egg that was laid the day before which we would dispose of and the newly laid egg) and strategically placed them in the different nesting boxes. The chickens, being nosy, immediately came over and I figured it was a perfect time to give them my talk on the proper place to lay an egg.
The next morning I went in to gather the eggs. As planned, my talk worked and the nesting boxes had newly laid eggs in with the eggs marked with an 'x.' A couple of chickens decided to be more daring and try a box that was completely empty. It was then that I turned around to look at the roosting area. Perched perfectly between the slats on the roost were two eggs, one on each side. How the chicken managed the acrobatics to lay an egg on there and get it to rest between the slots is beyond my comrehension. Recalling my talk the previous afternoon, I then remembered that there were two chickens that were more interested in our little one's affection than in what I had to say. Therefore, they must have only gotten half of the conversation and missed all of the question and answer session. It is obvious that those two need a more comprehensive, multi-step, one-on-one (without the little one present) intervention program in order to ensure success.
Pictures of our hoop house for our new layers as well as the nesting boxes and an egg perched on the roosting grates can be found under the "Chickens" page which drops down from the "Our Animals" Section.
**Please note that my handy husband did have a lot of help and guidance from the chickens on the specifications of the nesting boxes as they supervised the construction of those boxes. The chickens could be seen walking and pecking at the wood to be cut and even ensured that the tools used were appropriate for the job by their clawing and roosting on them. We want to specifically thank chickens numbered 17, 32, 33, 56, 77, and 84 with their help on this job. However, chicken 34 was demoted from her "supervisor" position by the others for her constant bickering.**
Our new layers started laying their pullet eggs last week and they are quickly gaining momentum. Dave can't begin working on building me an egg washer soon enough! Our new layers (that's what we refer to them as...the older layers are called the "big chickens") have gotten quite friendly and like the big chickens want you to pet them and give them lots of attention. This makes for some very interesting moments as 100 layers try to be the one to get to you first. If you aren't quick enough to give them attention, the hoop house becomes very loud with complaints and they will peck your boots/shoes. Bending down or over to pet them provides another interesting problem at times as your back becomes a perfect roost. One inevitably will fly onto your back, thus demanding more attention than the rest. In the winter this is not too painful as the layers of clothing protect you against their claws, however, the landing on the head is quite painful and can be a challenge to remove as long hair presents a problem. I have found a hat is a must! Thankfully, this has only happened once, or perhaps I have just learned my lesson. The back roosting has happened numerous times and I am amazed everytime at how chickens have learned to defy Newton's theory of gravity. Standing up will not rid your back of the chicken as they will dig into your clothing and flap their wings to stay on, therefore, leading you to lean down again and manually try to remove the chicken or wait patiently until it gets bored. For onlookers, this could be an amusing part of their day. Perhaps if Newton would have had chickens and observed this phenomena, he would have included a "chicken clause" in his theory.
If you have a destination in mind upon entering the hoop house (like gathering eggs) you need to act quickly. Once the layers move in around your feet, it's like a gridlock. Reminds me of driving on I-95 trying to get across 5 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to your exit. The best method to overcome such gridlock is the shuffle method (though not recommended for I-95 travel). The shuffle method avoids stepping on chickens' feet, thus avoiding a mass take-off, where when one chicken flies to get away, the rest panic and do the same.
Overall, chickens are fast becoming my favorite farm animal (though I said this about pigs as well...guess it depends on who's behaving better). I love their independence, yet need for attention, their nosiness, and their fearless attitude. I, for one, would not walk up to one of our cattle laying in the pasture, sit down in front of it, and stare it down. It is interesting to see the chickens try to get the resting cows to move so they can eat or scratch at the ground under them. Surprisingly enough, many of the chickens have their own unique personality that you learn quite quickly. They also have a devious side to them as the big chickens are aware of the dogs' invisible fence and know where the dogs can and can't go. We have observed those chickens weaving in and out of the fence in order to the get dogs all excited.
Well, things in the new year are moving right along. We have about 2/3 of our herd bred and I am waiting on this week to confirm about 4 more animals. In late Feb. we will draw some blood from each animal and send it away to get an official pregnancy confirmation. The program seems to be working well. Next Sept/Oct we will calve 11 half lowline calves and 4 small framed red angus. I cannot wait to see our calves.
Today I had to add another roosting platform for our layers and build a set of nesting boxes as our 100 new layers are starting to lay. We got 10 eggs from them today and I am sure they will be increasing daily.
I am hoping that we will get some cold weather before I have to load our steers for the butcher shop next Sunday. It is pretty soft in front of the barn still. Normally, by now, it is pretty frozen.
Tomorrow we will be working our current calves through the chute. We will give each an ear tag and number and castrate this year's bulls. Unfortunately we have one animal to dehorn. This is a rarity for us. I do not think we have had horns on the farm in at least 10 years. I will not stand for horns in our barn or pasture. They are nothing but trouble. It should also be our last animal with horns. By using the AI program, we will be sure to have 100% polled (no horns genetically) animals.