The Sheep Shape Shire….A journey of sorts….

When do you ‘pull’ a lamb off the ewe for bottle feeding?

  • A. Immediately because bottle babies are tame and cute!

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • B. Any time a customer requests a ‘bottle baby’ to purchase.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • C. When more than two lambs are born to one ewe and one seems ‘weakest’.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • D. If one or more lambs become hypothermic and lose their ‘suck’.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • E. There are many possible reasons and the farmer must rely on their ‘gut’

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • F. NEVER! All lambs should be raised by the ewe. “dead stock is part of owning livestock”.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    0
  • Poll closed .

Legamin

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When we first bought our farm we had just passed through our home being burned to the ground, our business collapsing in the chaos after the fire and unexpected forced retirement. We bought the farm to restore the 105 year old farm house and set up an antique furniture restoration shop that had always been a hobby/dream and my wife hoped to just have a quiet place to live out the rest of our lives…seemed like a plan. I had a career in medicine and physics and my wife in bookkeeping so we were ready to be our ’authentic farm selfs’!
My suspicion was that after sitting on the front porch rocker and whiling away the morning in a good book and watching the neighbor’s farming activities I could ‘putter’ in the flower beds and walk the perimeter of the property admiring the nice things that nature offered us…that was my thought.
But on my walks I began to notice that all four of the barns needed some carpentry…no just paint and a bit of patch…but real carpentry! One of them had no sides…just great poles lifting a roof into thee air at odd angles covering a concrete pad. I saw in this silage barn the potential for a new lambing barn!….so we ordered siding….
On our quest to be more independent, ‘self-sustaining‘, ‘organic’, hippy yippie and generally just ‘healthy’ we planted a garden (which failed) and bought some goats and sheep (that became beloved pets) and …well….pretty much everything went counterclockwise down the porcelain trail…..
But it was FARMING! And ’Farmers’ reinvent themselves like a well loathed politician! So we researched for a couple of years, watched infinite U-toob videos, read a RAFT of books and eased the goats and sheep into the freezer (heaven?), replanted the garden and focused.
We bought Leicester Longwool Sheep…a critically endangered breed with about 1000 breeding quality sheep left…and joined in the mission to bring them back from the brink. They are large, lovely, funny, loving and gentle…but they are still sheep. Last year we added chickens to the menagerie…someone told us that by turning them loose with the sheep that they would help aerate the barn straw and keep fly larvae down…I should never have listened! Chickens LOVE sheep’s grain! At night, instead of the perches and nests that I put up they opted for sitting around the lip of thee sheep’s water all night adding their particular brand of filth to the liquid refreshment. I tried to relocate the chickens when it all became a bit much to clean up daily (they Ignored the nests and laid eggs in the once neatly stacked hay that is used for sheep feed…then hid them by covering them) but they insisted on returning to the foul the barn and water at night like newborn ducks stupidly imprinted on the sheep! Well my sheep had ENOUGH! So I build a chicken coup and yard…where they happily used the nests, turned right around and ate the eggs….(did I buy stupid chickens or wretched cannibals?). So this last week I breathed deeply before buying a 3 nest box from which the eggs neatly roll out from under the hen into a secure covered drawer and our 9 hens FINALLY are giving us 6 eggs per day….I swear if I knew who wasn’t producing there would be chicken dinner for three straight days!
But the sheep are happy, the chickens are happy…and I AM HAPPY to be doing 3 hours less work per day cleaning up after CHICKENS!
I’m facing our first major lambing in a few weeks (Days?) and we are setting up an Apiary…because we weren’t busy enough….but I’ll write about that later.
 

Baymule

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I'll be following along on your journey! Free range chickens, TOTALLY free range chickens, can be a nuisance. Letting them out after they lay, yes. What breed are the chickens? Some breeds are not daily layers, but every other day, then daily, then not. If all of them have bright red combs, then the egg hormones are flowing. In the fall, when they molt, the hormones turn off and the combs are a pink color. They need protein to regrow their feathers, a handful of dry cat food seems to do the trick, in addition to their feed, plus they love the cat food. It's a good way to train them to go back to the coop to get their treat.

I'm so sorry about your home burning to the ground. That is truly devastating, fire leaves nothing. Your business collapsing on top of that, your world just fell apart. You and your wife are resilient and are finding your way, sounds like true happiness in your sheep. I admire your tenacity and refusal to give up and feel sorry for yourselves. Just reinvent yourselves as sheep farmers! Sounds good to me!
 

farmerjan

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Another trick for telling who is laying on top of the bright red comb and wattles. Hold the chicken in one hand, palm up, with the feet between you fingers, head tucked into your arm/body. Where the egg hole is (poop hole too) take and put your fingers against the 2 pelvic bones. Vertically.... If there is only space for 1 or 2 fingers, the hen isn't laying... if there is a spread wider... say 3 fingers, then the hen is laying eggs. Yes, some lay daily, some less often... but if there is little space between the pelvic bones, she is not laying.
Overly fat hens often do not lay or lay very little. It is not hard to get the feel for it. Once you do, you will never forget it.
 

Legamin

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Another trick for telling who is laying on top of the bright red comb and wattles. Hold the chicken in one hand, palm up, with the feet between you fingers, head tucked into your arm/body. Where the egg hole is (poop hole too) take and put your fingers against the 2 pelvic bones. Vertically.... If there is only space for 1 or 2 fingers, the hen isn't laying... if there is a spread wider... say 3 fingers, then the hen is laying eggs. Yes, some lay daily, some less often... but if there is little space between the pelvic bones, she is not laying.
Overly fat hens often do not lay or lay very little. It is not hard to get the feel for it. Once you do, you will never forget it.
That is soooo much information about handling a chicken in a seemingly inappropriate way that I’m not sure what to make of it….so I’ve decided to try it tomorrow! So…find the ‘vent’ and see how many fingers between the egg bones…got it! Thanks for the info. I think we have 4 ‘red ones’ an 5 ‘Buff Orpingtons’…I may not have that right…but we bought them almost grown and they have been utterly uncooperative since then…the coop made all the difference! The ‘Free Range’ thing was just a mass church chicken dinner potluck waiting to happen!
 

Legamin

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I'll be following along on your journey! Free range chickens, TOTALLY free range chickens, can be a nuisance. Letting them out after they lay, yes. What breed are the chickens? Some breeds are not daily layers, but every other day, then daily, then not. If all of them have bright red combs, then the egg hormones are flowing. In the fall, when they molt, the hormones turn off and the combs are a pink color. They need protein to regrow their feathers, a handful of dry cat food seems to do the trick, in addition to their feed, plus they love the cat food. It's a good way to train them to go back to the coop to get their treat.

I'm so sorry about your home burning to the ground. That is truly devastating, fire leaves nothing. Your business collapsing on top of that, your world just fell apart. You and your wife are resilient and are finding your way, sounds like true happiness in your sheep. I admire your tenacity and refusal to give up and feel sorry for yourselves. Just reinvent yourselves as sheep farmers! Sounds good to me!
Thanks, great to have you along. This has been an interesting time for us. My dream was to continue our lives of traveling the world as we did with my job and my wife wanted to settle down. Our adult children had settled and with 6 grandchildren that settled it for us as well. The fire was interesting in it’s timing. I have been retired early since the early 90’s and my wife wanted to retire as well. When we moved from city to country it just fell into place. We are going to build a larger ’tent structure over the garden bed where we put the 10 tons of sheep doo from the barns each Spring. It will cover 1/3 of the garden and I’ll hook up the tractor so that every Spring we move it to cover a new area while uncovering a chicken scratched…and enriched..1/3 of the garden. It’s a 1/4 acre garden so I have some architecting to do but I think it will work out better than the fixed coop that needs cleaning and has a fixed yard for them. This will give them a deep scratch layer to work through fresh each year and for us it means a richer garden! They have proven so untrustworthy for returning home in the evening in the past that I think we will stick to the year round coop with fenced yard…they seem to understand the limits of their capacity to roam and intervene in organized farm life when they are free…and that just doesn’t work well for me.
 

farmerjan

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Sorry, didn't mean to make it sound like it was a crazy way to hold a chicken. Basically the chicken's main body is sitting in the palm of your hand... and by slipping your fingers between it's legs while sitting there, you have better control and they can't try to scratch or get loose. The same for holding their head close against your body, with their head near where your arm is against your body... like tucking their head under your arm so to speak. It keeps a chicken quieter if they are not frantically trying to get away from you and to hold them securely like that, they are less inclined to fight you. This is the proper way for a poultry show judge to hold any chicken as they take them out of a show cage and to examine the bird during judging. Believe me, it beats having them get all squawking and flapping their wings as they are handled. That also allows you to handle them one handed so that you can check the vent and the space between the pelvic bones... also handy for examining a chicken for lice or mites or anything else like that.
 

Legamin

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Sorry, didn't mean to make it sound like it was a crazy way to hold a chicken. Basically the chicken's main body is sitting in the palm of your hand... and by slipping your fingers between it's legs while sitting there, you have better control and they can't try to scratch or get loose. The same for holding their head close against your body, with their head near where your arm is against your body... like tucking their head under your arm so to speak. It keeps a chicken quieter if they are not frantically trying to get away from you and to hold them securely like that, they are less inclined to fight you. This is the proper way for a poultry show judge to hold any chicken as they take them out of a show cage and to examine the bird during judging. Believe me, it beats having them get all squawking and flapping their wings as they are handled. That also allows you to handle them one handed so that you can check the vent and the space between the pelvic bones... also handy for examining a chicken for lice or mites or anything else like that.
I understand…my mother, who is quite elderly, was the family chicken guru and explained what you meant. I had discovered that by holding them upside-down while carrying them they were less likely to fight, scratch and otherwise misbehave. Our rooster can be turned upside-down and he falls right off to sleep. I think if I set him down that way he might just stay there for a nap…. I think we’ve decided on welding a very large tent frame of 12g x 1-1/2” steel tubing and ordering a massive billboard canvass to cover it. This should let enough light through, be stiff enough to mount some vents into it for Summer and last through our very high speed wind storms for about five years. I think 100’L x 50’W by 12‘H is the goal size. It will only weigh about a ton and can easily be moved by the tractor. It is essentially a portable barn for under $1000 in materials and a single day’s labor. And my wife gets her dream of more chickens! While I will set up the ’old’ chicken coop as a rabbit hutch and start a meat production line of rabbits. The garden is the part we have to organize. This last year only one crop flourished…PUMPKINS! And BOY did they flourish! I’ve never eaten so much squash, pie, pudding in my life! And the sheep eat them as if it were Crack Cocaine! It saved in feed as this last Summer was a pretty epic drought and we had to start feeding early.
thanks for the info on the chickens. I am always learning on this site as it is a fact that there is ALWAYS someone with newer, better and more information that me no matter the subject! That was the basic understanding that had to be learned in my scientific discipline and it carries over into farm life! Book knowledge is never quite sufficient.
 

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Book knowledge is wonderful, but it has to be tempered with the practical hands on. And that comes from someone that has been there/done that.
My chickens go nuts when they are upside down, it is not a calming thing at all.... Everyone's react differently. Plus, the show chickens you do not want them to be flapping their feathers or getting ruffled up in any manner... so this is the standard carry method for most show birds. Plus, show chickens get handled more; they are actually handled to be able to get them to pose and stand to their best advantage and to exhibit the type in a cage that is considered to be their ideal breed type. For that you want a somewhat calm bird also. Just like showing/exhibiting any kind of livestock... the more they are trained and handled, the better they show their "best side"....
Glad your mom could explain it to you... it is so easy to show but hard to write it down.
 

Legamin

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Book knowledge is wonderful, but it has to be tempered with the practical hands on. And that comes from someone that has been there/done that.
My chickens go nuts when they are upside down, it is not a calming thing at all.... Everyone's react differently. Plus, the show chickens you do not want them to be flapping their feathers or getting ruffled up in any manner... so this is the standard carry method for most show birds. Plus, show chickens get handled more; they are actually handled to be able to get them to pose and stand to their best advantage and to exhibit the type in a cage that is considered to be their ideal breed type. For that you want a somewhat calm bird also. Just like showing/exhibiting any kind of livestock... the more they are trained and handled, the better they show their "best side"....
Glad your mom could explain it to you... it is so easy to show but hard to write it down.
Yep, I get that. In my work I had to read hundreds of pages of ‘new information’ daily…it became a life habit. But I come here to ask the questions that I’m just not sure of and find that there is always someone who knows more than the book! It has been very helpful. I appreciate your input. Mom, at 92, has slowed considerably but loves to get calls from her children, brightened right up when she began to recall her ‘chicken glory days‘. Having had a serious head injury a few decades back I rely on family to help remind me of much of my past. Of course my wife can keep me up to date on the last 40 years or so! But her (my mom) recollections of when she had many chickens growing up on the farm in Bluffton, OH are so clear and she remembers the individual chickens and how they responded to various treatment and handling. I hope my memories are so pleasant and clear at that age.
I don’t handle our chickens much but we are consistent and gentle always and they have always been very calm when we need to handle them. We have lice checks and treatments coming up to get ready for the warm weather and plan to vaccinate as well. I think some sort of B-complex supplement to make up for the general lack of sun might be helpful in their feed. But they are in great health and very productive since we cut off the availability of cannibalism.
I sincerely hope to avoid ever having to show any type of livestock but I do prepare my sheep for those who will in 4H and Future Farmers of America. We put them in harness every day during feed time and lead them around a bit just to keep them ‘used to it’…but for the main body of sheep that will stay in my flock I leave them to do what they do best….Sheeping! They are one and all experts at that and I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I love the natural personality and habits of the animal that lives on instinct. It is beautiful to watch. Chickens are no exception. I do enjoy watching the children proudly show their animals at the many fairs that we attend in Summer and Fall and it prepares them for their future work with animals. I think we desperately need more dedicated farmers and herders. When this becomes a critical shortage of knowledgeable workers and the older generations die off there will be a near total reliance on unknown sources for our food. That is a fatal mistake for any nation. I think it is a set up for future collapse of a society. I think what we do is critical to world stability…without any overstatement.
One more question: I have been reading about a chicken producer that claims that he uses a “captured bolt stunner” to humanely kill his chickens….that seems like WILD overkill to me…but I know I could be wrong. Have you heard of such a thing?
 
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Baymule

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A bolt stunner for chickens does a good job for those who have a hard time with other methods. Personally I would not use one. I use a killing cone and cut the throat with a sharp knife. They are unconscious in seconds. The brain tells the heart to keep pumping and they bleed out. I feel it is the most humane way of slaughtering a chicken. The cone holds their wings against their body, they don’t flap around. They may kick with their legs, I just hold them snugly until they quit kicking.
 
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