Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chicken and Alpaca Watch

As usual the week has flown by. This was our last week for the summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) folks. They picked up the last bag of goodies on Wednesday. We have one week of no CSA and then the Fall/Winter one starts up the following week.
At the beginning of the week I had the awesome experience of watching a cria being born. IMG_0672This little guy’s mom went into labor Monday morning, while we were working on finishing the high tunnel. Mo let me leave to go watch the birth but wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have my camera with me to take pictures or take a video. It was pretty quick overall. You could see his nose and front feet sticking out of the birth canal and mom walked around like that as the labor progressed. Then she laid down for a little bit and seemed to be really focused. Then she stood up and walked around and started to push and little by little he started to come out. I thought that once the front shoulders would come out that he’d drop the rest of the way but that’s not the way it happened. Probably a good thing cause it might hurt them to fall that far to the ground. He was hanging with just his back feet to come out when he finally slipped the rest of the way out and gently fell on the ground. Tracy was nearby (she’d slowly crept up on mom) and she got to him and pulled the placenta coating off of him and held him up by his back legs to try and clear some fluid out of his lungs. It was chilly and damp on Monday so Tracy dried him off really good with towels and then took mom and cria into the barn. This is another first time mom but she did a great job with him. He’s a gorgeous peach color and boy is he spunky and strong. Such a cutie !
Update on the other new ones…IMG_0669Remember this one. See how her left leg is bowed in. The tendons are coming along but because she was a preemie, it will take some time for them to fully strengthen.
I think they named this little guy Dusk. He’s a rascal and full of spunk. He ran into the fence yesterday when he was running full tilt in the pasture. He’s ok…just a goof ball.
I’ve been given the Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care book to read this weekend and I’m on alpaca watch. We have two that are overdue and one that is due by the end of the month so I need to know what behavior to watch for. Their anatomy is much more complex than I would have thought but it helps to understand the things that can go wrong with a pregnancy by reading the book. The big thing is to recognize (and possibly correct) something before it becomes a big problem.
Speaking of a big problem….we have a fox that is after our chickens. Hence me being on chicken watch. I might have mentioned this in the last post but last weekend, a fox got a bunch of our chickens. We are down to eight right now, from originally having 25 (some of those died this summer but we lost about 12 last weekend). Bree and I were asked to go out and check them at 6:30 and 7:30. Their door is set to close at 7:30 and we’re trying to figure out if some got caught outside when the door went down and the fox got them or what. Thursday night I watched some videos, on You Tube to figure out how foxes get into chicken coops.
 Not only can they get through a small opening but they climb fences like a person climbs a ladder….up and over in no time flat. After watching and reading about fox attacks on chickens, I was worried if we’ll be able to stop this fox before he wipes out our flock (or what’s left of it).
So, I went out at 6:30 last night and checked on them and all was fine. I had put laundry in when I got off work so I went back to the dorm to fold my clothes and figured I’d come back out to check them one last time and put them to bed. Got the clothes folded and walked back to the pasture. I called my sister on the way to the pasture to thank her for the awesome care package she sent me. She made me a beautiful shawl to keep me warm and lots of other goodies. I got to the pasture at 6:55 and stood just outside the gate that goes into the pasture, near the chicken coop.  The chickens were to the left of me under the apple trees. It was dusk and I was playing Candy Crush on my phone at around 7:10 when the chickens let out a hell of a commotion and came running towards and past me (remember I’m outside the gate). I instantly thought of the fox and looked to the left of me at the fence to see if the fox was coming over or under the fence in the direction we thought the fox is coming from. Out of my right eye, I see a blur of red and turn to see a fox coming straight for the chickens in front of me but it was coming from the direction of the orchard.IMG_0668

(The fox came from the bottom of this picture and I’m standing down at the end of the white tape fence, outside the gate). I screamed a bunch of profanities, (cause I’d be damned if that fox was gonna kill the chickens on my watch, let alone me standing right there) and started to shove the gate to get through to help the chickens. I forgot there are these latches you have to pull up on but I scream again and wave my arms in the air, hoping to scare the fox, who’s right on the chickens’ heels. I grabbed the chain that wraps around the gate and flung the gate open and just then the fox turns on a dime and runs back towards the top of the orchard. Heart pounding I do a head count and make sure that he hadn’t gotten any of the chickens. The fox ran towards the barns at the upper end (not in the direction we thought the fox was coming from all this time) and then I lost sight of him. I kept scanning the area and look straight up towards our gardens and here he sits, watching me to see if I’m going to stay or leave the chickens alone. Man, I was really ticked off now. The chickens were scared out of their little minds and huddled together in the corner of the pasture for about 15 minutes. I stood watch over them until 7:30 when they all got inside their coop, safe for the night. I got back to my dorm and e-mailed Sister Mo and asked her if they should stay in the coop all weekend, cause I was worried that as soon as they got let out this morning that fox would have breakfast. (Most people think that foxes only hunt at night but it’s not true….go to and you’ll read about plenty of attacks that occur in the daytime. If they are hungry and are feeding kits (baby foxes), they will hunt anytime. At 11:00. p.m I heard from Robyn that the timer needed to be unplugged so they would stay inside this weekend until they can figure out what to do. So at 11, I’m thinking about the long, dark walk out to the pasture and I don’t have a flashlight. I remember seeing a lantern in the bathroom so I go get that and it’s pretty bright so off I go to unhook the door timer. I called Linda, back in PA to talk to me while I made the trek out there. I wasn’t scared to go out there but just worried that the fox might be around and try to sneak into the coop when I opened the door. I got it done and made my way back home and to my bed.
Sorry this is such a long post….lots going on and I find myself too exhausted during the week to post anything so you get a novel to read each weekend to catch you up.
The high tunnel is done….IMG_0665We put the sides up on Monday and they finished up the ends yesterday. Both the ends and sides can be rolled up during warm weather. IMG_0666These “Z” strips, that snap into channels are what holds the plastic into place on the sides. There is a double channel and the ends of the roof section is fastened in the top channel and the sides snap into the lower channel. David has a machine that he pulls behind the tractor that creates the raised beds. The plants you see on the far left are broccoli and then we have beets, turnips, carrots, lettuce and spinach planted. Wire panels across the ends will keep the deer out. I read a neat trick the other day for keeping deer out of your garden. Deer can’t judge depth so if you string up two offset lines of string or something like the tape from an old VCR cartridge, they won’t enter the space. The VCR tape vibrates in the wind and keeps them away. So save all the weird blood stuff and scents that you scatter around. Just mess with their depth perception and you’re all set.
OK, I think that is all the excitement I have to share for one week. Hope your week is productive and safe. We have 25 college kids coming next week to spend their fall break with us. Should make for an interesting week….

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