Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020), we are currently hosting yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer. Different from prior years, we are only hosting 2 instead of the typical 3.
The farmer only had 1 heifer born last year at his farm. He purchased a second heifer as he needs a few heifers every year to maintain his herd.
The larger black and white heifer is Snappy. She is inquisitive and very friendly – she enjoys head and nose rubs and likes to lick your hand. Snappy is in charge and leads the way.
The second heifer is named Ann. She is much smaller, more shy and tends to be a follower. She tends to shadow Snappy around the pasture.
They have been enjoying the lush pastures this year with a good balance of rain and sun so far – with the summer now more than halfway over already.
We built a moveable goat hay feeder a number of years ago (details here). After the first winter, we made a few tweaks (details here). As discussed at the end of Part 2, we did drill some holes into the tray but those holes clogged up periodically so it turned out faster and easier to just scoop out any resulting hay dust from the tray instead.
The original couple of posts continue to be very popular with search engine results (relatively speaking) and we have received a number of inquiries about the plans to make one.
We didn’t really have a specific size plan or design in mind when creating it. The general idea was to replicate something like this one from Tractor Supply or many other samples from other sites.
Most of the design decisions were based on the sizes and types of available materials we had on hand (mostly items just stored in the hayloft). The key component was the metal shelf that we bent into a v-shape. That serves as the main piece of the feeder and basically dictated the width.
The metal shelf was ~32″ deep so that became the width of the feeder area. The roof is 36″ because we happened to have a piece of plastic roofing that was ~18″ wide so we cut it in half to get 2 sections of 18″.
The roof is 4 feet because we had an 8 foot long section that we cut in half. The tray ended up as 32″ because we wanted a couple extra inches past the edge of the feeder to catch falling hay.
Our rooster, Chirparoo, died a few weeks ago. We noticed that he was walking with a slight limp during the day and tried to treat him that evening with some pain meds, but he didn’t survive the night.
Hens are usually experience less stress with a rooster in the flock because the rooster provides protection and helps keep the peace. So we were in the market for a new rooster.
Luckily, someone nearby had a few extra roosters they were looking to part with. They had tried to hatch eggs from their flock, hoping for additional hens. They ended up with 5 roosters from 5 eggs (pretty unlucky).
And, to our luck, they happened to have children who played with the roosters from right after hatching, so they are very used to being handled and are friendly.
Just before we picked up our new dog Rocky, one of our hens was killed during the day outside the fences. It could have been any number of predators – a fox seemed pretty likely though foxes aren’t usually likely to be out in the middle of a sunny day.
But it turned out it wasn’t a fox. We had seen a cat occasionally around the pastures in the weeks prior, but didn’t think a cat would normally attack an adult chicken. However, after the hen was killed, we saw the cat with increasing frequency. The cat was hanging out just outside the fences watching the other chickens. The cat was even spotted hanging out just outside the chicken coop door at one point.
We decided to email the neighborhood list to see if someone’s cat was loose. Receiving no positive responses, we decided to try to trap the cat.
We put out a trap with a plain can of tuna in it, expecting it to take a few days before the cat felt comfortable enough with a new box in its environment to try to get inside. We were wrong. Checking on the trap after an hour or so of putting it out, the cat was already inside.
He was not very happy to be in a trap. We quickly put on protective gear (think coats in case he tried to scratch) and moved him into a large dog crate to give him some more space.
As previously mentioned, we created some simple wildlife escape ramps for our water buckets to reduce both wildlife drowning deaths and reduce potential contamination risk for our animals.
Here are the step-by-step directions for creating a simple wildlife escape ramp for a standard 5 gallon flat-back bucket.
Here are the materials you will need:
5 gallon flat-back bucket.
1/2 inch vinyl-coated wire mesh – you will need a 1 foot by 1 foot section. It often comes in rolls 2 feet wide. The vinyl coating is important because the ramp will be underwater and the vinyl provides additional protection.
Wire cutter / side cutter / scissors – This will be needed to cut out the appropriate size of wire mesh (if necessary).
A ruler or other straight edge to use for bending the wire mesh along a straight line.
1 can of rustoleum or similar spray paint (optional).
As the snow has finally all melted for the season and the grass is just starting to turn green, we look back at a few of the pictures we captured from the winter.
Overall, it was a mild winter compared to average. Less snow overall and only a handful of really heavy snowfalls. Even with that, there was some amount of snow on the ground from late November through early April – though during some of that time the only snow around was the piles of snow next to the driveway.
Automation has come to our hobby farm. We installed an automatic chicken coop door earlier this year for extra protection against predators given our prior losses.
The simplest model (which is the one we purchased) provides automatic opening and closing with a daylight sensor or a set time schedule operation. The amount of daylight that triggers opening or closing is fully adjustable. It also includes a freeze protect feature with an adjustable temperature setting so that the door won’t open if it is below the set temperature (we set ours at 17 degrees). Our door requires external power but we already had power outlets in our coop so that wasn’t a big issue for us.
Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), we hosted 3 yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer.
This year they were on the smaller side as they were part of the end of summer births last year so were only ~10 months old whereas the cows we hosted in prior years were closer to 12 months old by the time they arrived here.
Because they were on the smaller side, in addition to all of the grass they could eat, they also received supplemental grain every few days so they would put on extra weight. Feeding the extra grain really made a big difference in how friendly the cows were. With the grain feedings, they would often run across the pastures when they saw anyone coming close to their gate.
Although other than the weasel incident last fall, our chickens have generally been safe while inside the pasture fences. Even so, since the weasel, we have made an extra effort to make sure all of the chickens are locked inside the coop every night.
In addition to the weasel, we had occasionally seen foxes and coyotes in the area. We set out our new game camera (which we used to track down the weasel) to see what other predators might be around the farm at night.
Raccoons are a common chicken predator that can kill an entire flock if they get into the coop at night. We captured a family of raccoons just outside the pastures one night. They don’t appear on camera on multiple nights over a couple month period so hopefully they were just passing through and don’t live in the immediate vicinity.
In addition to the raccoons, we also captured a coyote traveling along the trail one night. It doesn’t appear in multiple shots either so likely isn’t living in the immediate vicinity.