We have been at the new farm for about a month. We are learned many things and I am going to fill you in on my top three lessons learned. 1. Not all chickens are created equal. 2. Vultures are VERY protected and territorial. 3. Dirt needs love too.
I will start with the chickens. We had this great idea, in order to keep track of how old our laying hens were and egg production we would order hens that lay a different color every year. Last year was brown so this year we switched to blue. If you follow my small blog you will know that we are very hands on with our chickens. My son has taught a chicken to sit on his lap while he swings on the playground. We have had chickens in our house, we have chickens follow us around the yard when we mow and we have never not been able to pick up a chicken. This year we choose to raise chickens that laid blue eggs. The breed we ordered is Americana. These birds are complete freaks. Ever since they were chicks, when we go to feed them they throw themselves against the side of the cage. With our first group of chickens we hand fed them for the first several weeks, way longer than I would like to admit. When we put our hands in their cage, they came running. They perched on your shoulder while you did chores and were always, and I mean always underfoot. I have even had to kick one out of the kitchen when the door was left open. They chickens produced eggs and were farm animals but they were also part of our family. (I could go into a side bar about ore relationship with out food and then being able to eat them, but that is a hole different post.) The Americana birds that we have are not like that at all. Even if we have scratch grain, fresh scraps from the garden or even chicken feed… they do not run towards us. They do not even go in to roost at night. Not the brightest chickens in the world.
A month after we got our Americanas in the mail we went to Tractor Supply and picked up some chicks that we were using for an educational presentation. We had no idea what breed they were, they were just straight run whatever the store had. Turned out that they are Rhode Island Reds and Black Astrop. These chickens have a very different temperament than the Americanas. They always go in to roost. If I tap a feed bucket they come running and they are easy to put away or pick up. I dislike the Americana breed so much I have already ordered chicks to replace them. They have not even started laying and I am ready for them to be gone. Which is a good mentality to have considering the fox is probably going to catch them since they refuse to go in at night. Crazy chickens.
Okay that was long winded but I feel better, I just had to get it all out. Second lesson oh these darn vultures. In our area vultures are everywhere. Yes I know they have a very important job to do. I understand that, but what I don’t understand is why these birds are protected under the migratory bird act. They don’t even migrate. In fact, they choose the same nesting spot for their whole life. Even though they are in great numbers and even though they do not migrate, these birds are still protected. I have learned that not only are these wonderful birds protected but so are their nesting areas. When we moved into the house, a vulture was nesting in the small barn on the property. When we first went to see the property, there was two eggs in the nest. We have had the magical pleasure of watching these eggs hatch, and grow into the most hideous creatures that only a mother could love. While these chicks have been growing we have been slowly moving in our farm. First we moved in the chickens, then the ducks and lastly the goats. We have tried to be respectful of these fabulous creatures and have not moved anything into the barn. The adult vultures have started to become more and more aggressive. They first just sat on the top of the barn as a warning. Then they sat in front of the chicken coop all puffed up and growling at the chickens. That progressed to them charging the coop and the goat fence. Now they have climaxed into attacking the dogs, myself and my children. We are glad that our son has the personality that he does… he just screams at them. We have called local, State and National services and they have all said that Vultures are completely protected and there is nothing we can do about it. We can not disturb the chicks and we can not injure the birds. If we did, it would be 6 months in prison and a $15,000 fine per bird. Needless to say, the darn birds are still in our barn. We are hoping the chicks grow quickly and leave the nest. Once the chicks are gone, we can reclaim our barn.
Lastly, we have learned that our soil needs love. At our previous property we knew our property was made up of fill dirt. We did not try to plant a garden in the ground. Our soil was all compost. We occasionally had a rock, but for most part we grew our garden in compost. We have had the garden plot at the new house tilled. We have tilled each individual row, but this dirt has no nutrition in it. No has given it the love that it needs. There are a lot of rocks and hard red clay. We have added compost around each individual plant, but we do not have enough to love the whole garden. The grass in the isles of the garden is taller than the tomato plants. We are realising that it is going to take years to build the soil up. We are going to compost as much as we can and invest in the land. It is sad that it has gone so long with no one giving it the attention that it deserves.
The future will bring many more lessons, but these are just three of the lessons learned so far. We hope that our lessons can help you in the future.