It’s hard for me to believe that my last blog was about the piglets being born and yesterday most of them already left the farm! Time flies when there is lots of work to be done, so I decided a ‘catch-up blog’ was in order to keep track of everything that has been going on the past month. Keeping up with blogging is definitely a challenge, so my new goal is to at least write a monthly update and anything on top of that is a bonus. Especially now that the weather is beautiful outside, it is hard to force myself to sit at the computer and type. However, I do enjoy the reflection time so today I’m typing on the front porch so I can at least enjoy the fresh air.
My last blog ended as I was patiently waiting for Lucy to go into labor. It felt like forever but 2 days after Ethel gave birth we were blessed with 11 more healthy babies from Lucy. She gave us quite the scare that morning, we went out to feed everyone and check to see if she had labored during the night, only to find her GONE! I was so worried, it was obvious she had build up a nest for the babies during the night, but no signs that she gave birth. All we could guess was something must have freaked her out because the fence was down in the corner, otherwise all was intact. We searched everywhere…my heart pounding worried we may never find her and all the babies could die. After over an hour of searching our property and the neighbors I was heartbroken, I said a prayer to please help us find her and someone must have been listening because a few minutes later Shaun called me to say she was at another neighbor’s house. Thank God! Literally! I was so relieved, we still don’t know why or how, but she somehow got into the horses round pen nearby, (which is weird because the horses dislike the pigs and she had to walk around 3 acres of electric fence to get there) very strange.
Once she was back safe in her home, the rest of the day she built up the nest and slowly her breathing became more labored, giving us hope that today would be the day. I kept thinking about the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy has the baby and everyone freaks out..”Ricky, It’s time!” After siting with her all day, waiting…I ended up missing the first one, Shaun was there and I was trying to get some planting done in the garden. Of course she waited till I left! Well, I was ready this time, running with my delivery kit and towels ready to jump into action! Lucy’s labor was the opposite of Ethel’s, it was very slow between piglets and she laid on her right side the entire time, barely moving until the whole thing was over. These piglets, being 2 days older than the first group were noticeably bigger and had a lot of meconium at delivery (which as a NICU nurse had me worried). Mother nature has her ways and they all did well, no stillborns, all healthy and vigorous.
Over the next month the piglets did very well, about a week in we ended up losing another one of Ethel’s babies, we don’t know why, we never found it, but our count was off. In the end we had 22 healthy, thriving babies which exceeded our expectations considering everyone warned us that half would likely be crushed or die for other reasons. We provided no ‘creep area’ for them, just let the mama’s do their thing and provided straw for bedding in their shelters. Yesterday, Lucy, Ethel and 13 babies went back to their original owner, 9 stayed with us. We feel very lucky that our first experience raising pigs has gone so well, in the future we plan to focus on smaller breeds such as Kunekune or Guinea hogs.
Last month we attempted to breed one of the New Zealand does with our Silver Fox. We are 99.9% sure that she was pregnant, because she visibly got bigger and she made a beautiful, cozy nest in the box we provided for her. However, we never got any baby bunnies (that we saw). Our fellow ‘rabbiteers’ tell us that she probably ate them, likely they were stillborn or weren’t going to make it. 😦 Bummer and I didn’t realize that was something rabbits would do, but I’m guessing this is similar to the mama pig burying the piglet that had something wrong with it, I guess they just know. So we are giving breeding another shot and if it turns out to be another epic fail then it’s time for new rabbits.
The younger doe was being a bit unruly (aka she was biting me when I opened her house to put food in her bowl) so we decided to see if we like rabbit in the first place since I’ve never had it before. Also we had family in town, so it was a perfect excuse to have a rabbit feast. We wrapped it in bacon and slow roasted her, it turned out delicious and I would absolutely eat it again.
Our bantam flock was doing great, all of them were laying us lots of wonderful eggs and then about a week after the daylight savings time change they started going broody. At first it was just one and we were like ‘ok, go for it, we love baby chicks…’ and then the next one went broody and the next one…all of them have gone broody except for one. So now we have no eggs and randomly hatching chicks because they all started laying and sitting at slightly different times. Also they decided that community nesting was a good idea, 3 or 4 hens in a nesting box is evidently no big deal to them no matter how uncomfortable it may look to us. So far we have had a handful of chicks hatch, well see how it goes…but so far I prefer the mama hens doing the work vs. the basement brooder.
The 38 chicks we brooded in the basement are HUGE! Everyday I look at them and I’m like ‘I can’t believe how big you are!’ Maybe it’s that I’m so used to bantams, but they seem so big and are growing so fast. At 4 weeks old we moved them outside to the chicken tractor that Shaun built. We are slowly moving them across the pasture daily. We plan to remove the laying hens soon and integrate them with the bantam flock, but we still need to work out the details of where we are going to keep everyone. All in all I’m still amazed we didn’t loose any chicks and they seem to be doing great, we have been very lucky when it comes to chickens, I highly recommend the deep mulch method for the chicks. We didn’t clean out the bedding at all the whole time the chicks were in the basement, just kept layering the pine shavings. It doesn’t smell as long as you stay on top of it, in fact I still haven’t removed it since the chickens have been outside because it doesn’t smell at all, it’s just on the to-do list.
Just wanted to say that I’m loving spring in South Carolina. I’ve been appreciating it so much, each day a new flower on our property is blooming. When we moved into our house, the previous owners told us that there would be lots of flowers in the spring and they meant it. I talk to my friends and family up north and they tell me that the snow has finally melted off the roof! No thanks…I’ll take 80 degrees and sunny. Happy spring!