I have to admit there was some trepidation on my part, at least, in taking the plunge to farm animals. We'd prepared the pens, put together a coop and we had the hutch ready to be put together, too. I'd done some reading about what was necessary for keeping happy and healthy hens so it didn't feel completely foreign. But. But did I really know enough? But would the pens be enough to keep out the coyotes we hear nearly every night? But would our set-up be warm enough as we head into a prairie winter? But would I inadvertently cause the death of an animal - or animals! - because I was unprepared? I've felt before the responsibility for the lives of pets but I've had dogs and/or cats all my life. This was going to be something completely different and I feel the weight of the responsibility for caring for these creatures.
Julia was so wonderful and spent quite a bit of time giving us some much wanted advice. We did pick up the rabbit, too, as raising meat rabbits is in our business plan. We drove home with the hens and the rabbit in the back of the truck (covered!), stopping to pick up food and a few other essentials from the nearby UFA store. When we got home it was starting to get dark so we bustled about getting the new additions settled in the new homes.
I should mention that when we looking for these hens, I also saw an add for some chicks - cuckoo malines. Seriously, how could I resist them with a name like that?! We got 3 of them. So tiny! I brought them home a few days after the hens arrived. They remain in the crate separate from the hens until they are old enough to integrate into a single flock. I was able to ask quite a few questions of the woman selling the chicks, too. People have been both kind and very generous.
After all that worry it turns out I am having a blast with these gals!! Not that we don't have some level of worry with every drop in temperature but Troy and I head out the Quonset where the pens are and we (ahem) peck away at updates that we believe will make the hens more comfortable. We are encouraged that we're doing something right because we got 4 eggs every morning and have just dropped down to 3 a day.
I've found that the additions of 4 hens, 3 chicks and a rabbit has not added all that much to our chore time. The dogs and I stop in to check on them during our morning and evening walks and that's when we make sure they've got enough food and water until the next visit. Throughout the day, we'll pop in and visit, too. We'll take them some fruit or vegetables or even pull some grass for them. Periodically we clean the bedding but that's about the extent of it.
Troy and I plan to experiment with the food. Julia gave us the recipe she uses so we've been feeding them that food. It's so wonderful to have somewhere to take the kitchen scraps, too.
One of the more fascinating experiences I've been noting is the interaction of the different animals. The rabbit was used to being next to the hens and we've used the same set-up here. "Jimmy" is usually found lying in the corner of his pen next to the hens. They all seem quite comfortable together. I've seen the hens get really interested in Jimmy but it turns out that's only when Jimmy's got some fresh lettuce in his pen! Sadie is much happier to have somethings to actually guard. Chester has been the most fun to watch. He's a Rottweiler/Coon hound cross and we've found he doesn't seem to have that prey drive at all, but he is completely enthralled with the rabbit and seems to want to play with the hens. When we put them outside in the garden, Chester ran laps around the fencing for a couple of hours.
So that's the story so far. The on-going saga of our budding farm. The gates are up now so we can get our donkey any time. There's some final fencing that needs to be done and then we can get our goats, too! Exciting times.