Posted in Hen Pecked, Hogs, Misc. Nature, Uncategorized

And this Little Piggy Went….

 

16388378_10154099731321993_1950383878762689848_nWe’ve been preparing for hogs for some time now. My husband has experience with hogs, not me. We were doing them with a Family Member but because of the distances between where we live– an entire mtn dividing us– we felt it wasn’t fair to him, who was doing everything, and well, we were missing out ourselves by not being involved. I enjoy interacting with my animals on a daily bases and so does my husband. In a world that is crazy and often spins out of control, being around our little barnyard releases the stress and pressure. Sometimes the work comes at inconvenient times but overall, I can’t complain. We don’t have a lot of land here, though, so I have to be careful what we bring in. That’s why we decided on something that is old and nearly forgotten…

The American Guinea Hog 16388422_10154099731336993_6942342104205795957_n

These hogs are called many things. Just to name a few, Acorn Eaters, Forest Hogs, and Yard Pigs. Over 200 years old, they range in sizes from 150- 300 pounds. Around 6 months of age, they should be around 75 pounds– which makes them a great butcher size if that’s your goal. Meat is perfectly marbled and the lard peels easily.

In general, they are a smaller hog and easier to handle. While they don’t do a lot of the damage the larger hogs are known for, Guinea Hogs, were very helpful back in the day when gettin’ Gardens ready for planting season wasn’t as easy as turnin’ on a tiller.

I have mine in the Garden now – wanting to test them out. They dig just enough, the way a tiller would. Since they are slower growing, I got mine now so they would be ready to butcher come next Fall or Winter. Another reason I got them, I want them fertilizing, churnin’ up the soil, and eating up all the roots (to help me avoid weeds come summer) in my Garden during colder months.

There is a benefit to the cost of keepin’ them too. See, the greatest thing about these hogs is the fact that they are resourceful scavengers. I worry that if something were to happen, if I was unable to get Feed, could these animals make it without store-bought help. When choosing chickens or anything for my small farm, I take that into consideration. These pigs win the prize for that trait.

Guineas can, if given enough space to free-range, fend for themselves. In fact, if you have a Guinea and you aren’t letting them live off grass, grubs and whatever else they can find, you are missing out and putting a dent in your wallet unnecessarily. Let them work and find the majority of their food on their own. This is what makes them perfect for the small homesteader.

And since they are a smaller hog, if no one if here to help come Butcher time, we can handle it on our own. That’s something else people should consider. Are you butchering yourself? If you are, are you capable of handling huge hogs? Do you have a tractor or hoist to hang them? Do you have a space big enough to clean and work up the meat?

Guineas, by being smaller, are easier to handle and work with. They have a red meat, a good marble, and to some, are considered more lean. Lard, of course, will depend on the space they have, if they are being fed and fattened or allowed to free-range some and how long you keep them.

For our piggies, since they were born November, putting them around 4 months old, we are starting them out on a Show-pig Starter. After that, we will move to regular feed for pigs, also allowing them to hunt their own food out the older they get. My property has woods, so this will be a perfect area for them especially once I move them out of my garden area.

If you are interested in raising Hogs but are unaure if you can handle one, then I suggest the American Guinea Hog. Something that maybe easier for you to handle and get adapted to. They are also scarce in numbers, which is a crying shame. Another reason I chose them. I think there are only 200 registered in the US, and 2000 worldwide? I like dealing with breeds that were prized once upon a time but are now seeing critical lists. Makes me feel better doing what I do. As if I am preserving a piece of the past.

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Posted in All about them Chickens, Chicken Scratch, Rabbits, The Scoop from the Coop

Rabbit Manure and Letting Chickens Churn Your Compost Piles

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I read more than a few times that Rabbit waste was what Gardeners called, Liquid Gold. A few sources said there was no reason to treat it like turkey or chicken poo, meaning, no need to let it season for a year. Other sources talk about Compost, creating your own, but having to stir things up every now and again. Well, two things turned me off on that—stirring it up and where the hell was I gonna put a Compost pile? The other day, my chickens and turkeys gave me an idea. So since I have an endless supply of rabbit poo and my chickens and turkeys go potty wherever they stand for whatever amount of time, I’m giving the idea a try. What do I have to lose?

The chickens and the turkeys are always scratching around my Garden. And wherever I toss the rabbit waste—when I clean out their hutches and replace dirty straw—the birds are obsessed with scratch that too. I clean out my rabbit pins once a week. I usually get two wheelbarrows full of straw packed waste. I am taking each and every one and dumping it into the Garden for next year and thanks to my Birds, they are already out there, all day, churning it up. I cant wait to see how this goes for the winter and I cant wait to see how it benefits my garden. Rest assured, I’ll keep everyone updated1

Posted in Rabbits, The Scoop from the Coop, Things to Crow About

Review of Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennett

storys guideFirst off, let me say no one is paying me to review this book. No one sent me a request for a review, either. I needed a book on Raising Rabbits, so I went looking for one. Storey’s Guide books have been pretty good to me before, which led me to taking a chance on that.

That being said, I was very happy and impressed with this book. Bob Bennett does a great job, having first hand experience, giving information on a ton of must-knows.  Breeds, housing, the business end, meat and show rabbits, illnesses, breeding and more just to name some of what he discusses here.

The thing is, now days, we think we know all we need to know concerning whatever we are into. We are cushioned with the after thought of, if something comes up that I don’t know, I can always Google and find out.

I am not that easy with those kinds of cushions. I like knowing that I have something in paper sitting on a shelf. Something I can grab, highlight, reference to or use for backup in a pinch.

When I made the decision to raise Rabbits, I discovered just how much I had matured. Not saying a bit of a juvenile delinquent still doesn’t exist in the back of my mind, but actually being much different from the younger version of myself—a –rush-in- fly- by- the- seat- of- the- pants- kind- of -girl—I took a few years to really research and think this thing through. That, and, even though my husband is now more addicted to this than I am, it took me that long to actually convince him.

As much research as I did, as many people as I talked to and drove nuts with questions, there was still a universe of information in this book for me to sink my eyes into. I even discovered a Breed of Rabbit that I had not seen or heard of before. A Breed which isn’t very common where I live.

Not only that but it opened my mind to a couple of lines of new income I could tap into that I had no clue about before. It also discusses illnesses, diseases, different types of breeding, and the list just goes on!

In a bit, I’m going to post two bits of info from this book but I recommend to any person interested in Rabbits to go buy a copy yourself. Seriously, it’s that good!

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I do want to give a little bit of a warning here, though. This book may not be for everyone. If you are sensitive about rabbits being raised for food, then you may want to skip this book entirely. If you want to “Show” rabbits, or want a “Pet” Rabbit and are easily upset or outraged by anything suggesting how or if a Rabbit is raised for food—DON’T GET THIS BOOK.

That being said, the book does give you some information about “Showing” Rabbits. And, it does give some tips on keeping Rabbits for pets but it does have detailed info on how to clean, cook, and breed Meat Rabbits. Know that going in!

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Posted in Rabbits

When do I Butcher Rabbits? Nutrition Breakdown.

Below, is an estimate of butchering guidelines. I say an estimate, because different strokes for different folks. You’re gonna work out your own system no matter who says what. So this list is a little bit of what he said combined with a little bit of what she said.

Fryers: 8 – 16 weeks. That means, the meat is supposed to be tender. You can fry it or BBQ it without having to worry about it being tough. Of course, some are strict and say this MUST BE DONE AT 12 weeks while others stretch it to 16 weeks because of size. We did the 16 weeks when it came to New Zealands but when we did it, we noticed the rabbits were starting to get fat on them even though we were allowing them to go around the yard in our chicken tractor for a bit. That fat might of made us think they were bigger than what we initially thought they were at 12. Ours didn’t look like they were at a good butchering weight at 12 weeks, so we let it go to 16. You be the judge.

Roasters: 16 weeks – 6 months or anything unbred. That means, the meat will be tougher, so you may want to roast it in the oven, like a beef roast, or boil before they grill or fry. Now please take note, some are very strict about this and knock the timeline down to 16 weeks, period. Anything over that, in their mind, becomes stew.

Stew: 6 months or more are considered best for the stew pot. Some even consider anything over 16 weeks to be stew – see Roaster above.

When you decide what is best for you, what you will base it on is toughness.

Also, remember, rabbit is a very healthy, easily digested meat. Barely any fat. You can easily search nutrition factors, but here is a great link for you..

Another SOURCE: To summarize here are the benefits of rabbit meat:

  • low in cholesterol
  • low in calories
  • low in saturated fats
  • high in protein
  • low in sodium
  • all white meat
  • 100% of the RDA for B12
Posted in Misc. Nature, Rabbits

The Interesting World of Raising Meat Rabbits

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Warning: This is an article about raising rabbits for food. If you are a devout animal lover who is easily offended, this may not be the article for you.

This is just a quick outline of information I think stands out concerning this subject. Its about what we did, what we went through to do it and how it’s all coming along. More detail concerning breeds, etc. will come later on.

This year, we decided to start raising Rabbits for meat. Can I just say now that we went through absolute hell finding rabbits. We had our goals set. Two different breeds that we wanted, Age we were looking for, and nothing that was considered a “pet.” Now, while we spoil and give our animals a good life until “the day” comes to cull, I do draw the line on what was breed to be cute and stuffed animal like and what is considered a meat breed. Some don’t care. Some may find my opinion absurd. I live for us, not them.

While I admit, my rabbits are one of my most easiest animals to keep and one of my most happiest to have, it wasn’t so easy getting started.

When looking for Rabbits, you may or may not have run across some of the same problems we have clawed through. For example, when looking for rabbits, you will find a ton of “meat Mutts” all over Craigslist and local Animal Swaps. These are rabbits that are mixed. They may or may not know what they are. Many buy them having no problem with that. I didn’t want what someone else already experimented with. If I was going to mix a rabbit, I wanted to mix my own breeds and discover my own problems or successes. Besides, how do I know what they mix these rabbits with? At one Animal Swap, someone was selling Dwarf Lionhead and New Zealand mixed Mutts. A Dwarf Lionhead is not a “meat Rabbit” to me. Its meant to be a pet. This hits one of my Don’ts on my Do’s and Don’t’s list. Besides, most of these Meat Mutts will sell for the same price as a purebred Rabbit. So, take that into consideration as well.

Moving on….

Research breeds, if this is something that you want to do.

I researched and read into “Raising Meat Rabbits” and “Breeds” for an entire year. Now, I am not saying anyone has to take that long to do this. I had my reasons. One, my husband wasn’t so crazy about the idea at first. He loved to rabbit hunt and rabbit was one of his favorite things to eat, but he didn’t quite know if raising them was something we should waste our time in. Two, I wanted to be 100% sure what I was getting myself into. I wanted to know what I needed as far as getting through winters or what kind of breed I wanted. There are a lot of Meat Breeds out there. And there is a lot of information about each and every single one. Plus, there is a ton of information about how to raise, butcher, and even sell them. I was in no hurry and I wanted to do this right.

Of course, again, as I just said, my husband wasn’t completely sold on the idea. Maybe as we get older, we get a little more cautious? Regardless, last winter, my husband took our youngest son rabbit hunting with some relatives. Couldn’t find a thing. He had noticed that the rabbit population had been dwindling over the years. Maybe that’s because of the rising population of Coyotes? A number of predators could be to blame, so finally, my husband became open-minded about my new idea. At night, before bed, I would go over, a little here and there, of what I found. Raising them, Breeds, etc. So, we started watching Craigslist… to see what Breeds were being sold around us and for how much. During this time, we started to decide on what Breed we wanted. For months, we kept an eye open for Flemish Giants and New Zealands. Boy, did we have a hunt in store for us. But before I get into that….

Flemish Giants are a large breed of rabbit. They can grow up to 25 ibs but most people don’t realize that they wont reach that weight by the time butchering day comes around. You want to butcher rabbits between 12-16 weeks. (More on that below.) Not many people who raise Rabbits for meat fool with Flemish. They claim the meat to feed ratio doesn’t justify keeping them. Meaning, the feed goes into making the larger bones before it goes into making the meat. So normally, they mix Flemish with other smaller meat breeds, like New Zealand’s. We wanted to see for ourselves, so we decided to get Flemish, but also, we decided to go with New Zealands.

New Zealands is the commercial breed for meat. They are usually ready to butcher around 12-16 weeks. They reach 9-12 lbs.

The hunt was on but it wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped. People in our area and surrounding Counties pretty much knew who had what Breeds and when. They also knew they had the Market for certain breeds pinned down and under their control. Flemish were being sold for $50.00 and that was for a two year proven doe that had been bred to bits. (Proven means, she is a “proven” breeder and has done so, time and time again.) That’s even if I could find a Flemish. And as far as New Zealands, they were easily mixed with something else being sold as babies for $10.00 or we could drive two hours for a pure bred one costing the same.

Again, our hunt went on for months until finally, my husband got aggravated and said, “Let’s just drive two hours.” And that was for one Flemish buck who was seven weeks old. No does. No other hope in sight. But that little family road trip ended up opening doors that we never saw coming. We went after Charlie, above, who was 7 weeks old but was ten dollars. I was floored at the ten. I thought, this cant be for real. Once we got there, after explaining to the man what hell we had been through, he gives us directions to a woman who lives about ten minutes away, who has an entire backyard filled with nothing but rabbit pens. “That’s where Charlie’s Parents came from.” He said.

Taking the chance, we went looking and like he said, the house was hard to miss because of all of the rabbit pins. My husband gets out of the car and knocks. We were both thinking, even if she has them, she probably wants an arm and a leg like everyone else. IF SHE HAS THEM—because so far, no one has had them. We hit gold. Not only did she have two 8 week old Flemish Females who we would name Lucile and Gypsy, but she also sold us two New Zealands—a proven, one year old Buck and female. We paid ten dollars each for all.

And – the honesty was free. What do we mean by that?

She told me to text when we got home so that she could send me their birthdates. When I did, she told me she had made a mistake. The female was two years old and she never bothered breeding her. “She was given to me because someone couldn’t keep her. That’s what I do. I give them homes even if I can’t sell them. They stay forever. Anyway, I tried breeding her one time and she only had one kit. I never bothered with it again. Just kept her. Gave her a home.” Being very nice about her mistake, she said, “If you want to bring her back, I understand. I’ll give you a rabbit of your choice—any age—or your money back.”

We declined. We were touched by her honesty, so we kept her anyway. Decided to see how she did with us. However, that bit of honesty, we went back and bought another one year old New Zealand with six of her babies. And that’s the thing we would come to learn, keeping rabbits is not that hard. Keep the pens clean. Feed them, water them, and know how to breed them—and you are good to go. We give our rabbits pellets and Timothy Hay. We pick greens for them in the warmer months—dandelions, other types of grasses. We give them the left over fresh vegetables from our salads and gardens. We keep good records—this is a must.

We have our breeder rabbits – which are the ones we draw close to and then we have those we butcher. I try to give the ones we butcher the best life possible. They get the best greens, treats and first go in the chicken tractors I move around for them in the yard.

Rabbit meat is a very clean meat. Very clean. I absolutely love it. Some compare it to chicken with the texture of pork. You may not understand that until you have it. To me, it is like Pork Loin. As far as taste, it might be a cross between Chicken and Pork Loin, but to me, not so much one or the other. When we butcher, we soak the meat for a day or so in a good briny salt water. Some say this helps to take the gaminess flavor out. We butcher 16 weeks, so not sure if there is no gaminess due to the salt soak. Just know, we don’t have any.

Butchering goes like this, or so the experts say:

8 – 12 weeks are considered to be Fryers. That means, the meat is supposed to be tender. You can fry it or BBQ it without having to worry about it being tough. Of course, some stretch this to 16 weeks because of size. We did when it came to New Zealands. Ours didn’t look like they were at a good butchering weight at 12 weeks, so we let it go to 16.

12 weeks – 6 months are considered roasters, or anything unbred. That means, the meat will be tougher, so you may want to roast it in the oven, like a beef roast, or some boil before they grill or fry, etc.

6 months or more are considered best for the stew pot.

KNOW HOW TO BREED BEFORE YOU BREED!!!!!!

There is such a thing called a BLOB. If you don’t know what that is, you will, soon as your rabbit has one. If they do have one, it’s you’re own doing. This comes from breeding them after they have been bred. It messes up the hormones, so any baby inside them turns into a BLOB. Contrary to belief, this is why you keep all rabbits separated, or one very important reason. When it comes time for breeding, you put the female in the male’s cage. The male will not waste time. This is why some Breeders stand by and watch. Soon as they see the deed is done, they will put the female back in her own cage. I leave them in together for a day and night. Next morning, I separate them. Some say the whole putting the female in his cage is essential. Females are territorial. Put him in her Cage, he will be too busy sniffing her scent everywhere rather than doing his business. She may also kill him. (Territorial.) Other breeders don’t bother with that. I’m not taking any chances, though. So, I put her in his cage.

Again, I’ll get more in detail about all this later. These are just some tidbits, I learned right away by trial and error or for whatever other reason.

I will also say, my New Zealands, well, they could care less if Im there or not. I am a feeder and that’s all they are concerned with. I’m the Maid, lol. My Flemish, are very dog like—friendly. If I feed them, they want me to pet them awhile. If I pet somewhere they don’t want me to, they will bite. So, I guess they are doglike with a cat’s temperament, lol. Also, as my rabbit lady told me, they kind of stick around even when they escape.

I put our butchering ones in a chicken tractor before we went to town one day. Came back, and the little Houdini’s had dug their way out of prison. I saw two just hopping about the yard. Freaked because I was missing one. Was sure he got through the fence and was somewhere lost in the National Forest. Having to work at it, caught the ones still in the yard. Went inside to get my jeans on so I could hunt the thicket-thick woods, came back out and there was the lost boy. Plain as you please. Now, while I wouldn’t let them run around in the yard all the time, I don’t panic as bad if one gets loose. Like I said, they know where their food is or where it will be come evening.

That’s all for now chickadees! More later!

 

Posted in Goats, Misc. Nature

Introducing Hoot & Annie

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Meet Hoot & Annie – named by my husband and his silly sense of humor. They are 8 month old—well, they were supposed to be Pygmy’s but because of the blue eyes, I’m thinking Nigerian Dwarfs or Nigerian Crossed with Pygmy. Doesn’t matter because I just love them. I couldn’t even begin to count the ways. That means, as I learn and stumble across things, I’ll be sure to throw them up here. That means, I’ll goat your nerves before its all said an done.

Annie is pregnant—not sure how many months. So that should be something of interest before its all said and done. Anyway, just wanted you all to meet them.

Posted in Ducks & Other Birds, Hen Pecked, Misc. Nature

And We Have Baby Pekin Ducks!

Last year, I was checkin’ out a Yardsale site in my area for…well, for whatever caught my eye. Low and behold, a lady had two ducks for sale. I think they were 4-6 weeks?IMG_4871

Anyway, I had been wantin’ some ducks because obviously, I have a bird-fetish. Had tried to buy some off Craigslist once, which led to a not –so – pleasant experience, which led to me just givin’ up. That is, until I stumbled upon the two Blue Swedish this woman was selling.

The story was, she had bought them for her kids – small kids—to teach them responsibility. Now that the ducks were getting’ too big for their tote, it was time they moved on. For twenty bucks, they could move on to my house. And for twenty bucks, they did.

Unfortunately, they were skittish—real skittish—not wantin’ much to do with me or my own hellions. So we couldn’t handle them much but once they were moved outside with the rest of the chickens, they seemed to integrate well. I bought them a small, plastic, swimmin’ pool which they loved and eventually, when I sat outside, they started to come “near” me with the other chickens. Not to let me touch them but they would Quack their way to my neck of the woods keepin’ themselves at a cautious leg-length.

IMG_4856Sadly, somethin’ nailed the female over winter. Never figured out what since there were no remains. Coyote or Fox perhaps? Regardless, the male has seemed rather sad even though he stays right with the other chickens. That bein’ said, this year, I was determined to get me some more ducks no matter who I had to deal with — except for the one bat-sh&t crazy person I had a run in with last year on Craigslist. But anyone else – other than HIM—I would totally deal with IF it meant, more ducks.

I was actually gonna order some from a Hatchery. I know some don’t like those but believe it or not, I have had a real good experience with the one I’ve tried so far—Meyers.

Didn’t have to go that route, though. Found a breeder out in Deerfield, Virginia and around 7:30 pm Saturday night, I loaded up my daughter, great niece and husband – he was drivin’ us since this was his neck of the woods—and away we went.

 

file7261280700558This time around, I went with Pekin Ducks. That’s the kind I went after before the unfortunate run-in with the “crazy craigslist person”. Not to fear anyone from Craigslist – I still get livestock and such from there and I have met a lot of nice folks sellin’ on that site—BUT this person was just a crappy-crazy-should-exit-society-altogether-kind-of-cracker-jack. Just sayin’.

Ducks in general, or so I have found, are GREAT as far as nailin’ flies, yellow jackets and all kinds of other unwanted pests hangin’ around the yard. Pekins are great dual-purpose birds. That means if you are going to butcher them for meat or use them for eggs. As far as a meat bird goes, they say a Pekin is to ducks what a Cornish- Rock cross is to Chickens. They mature fast, have great feed conversion and because of their feathers—easily cleaned. The feathers are more loose and fluffier, which makes them easier to pluck, BUT, that also makes them less repellent where mud is concerned. They are great layers, though, and happen to lay all through winter even when the other chickens shut down. And they say, this is only what I have read, if you are going to try eating a duck, well, the Pekin is King.

Pekin is not a broody bird, so if you are wantin’ to increase numbers, you will need an incubator. And baby ducks themselves are slightly different than baby chickens. They don’t require as much heat.

 

90-92 degrees for the first 3 days, then 85-90 degrees for days 4 to 7. Thereafter, drop the temperature by approximately 5 degrees per week until they are fully feathered. They must always be able to get away from the heat. Panting and drooping wings are a sign that they are too hot. Once they leave the brooder, it is a good idea to give them a heat lamp at night for the first week or so, unless the weather is very hot. Always make sure they have some shelter and a place to get out of the sun. Source

Also….

DO NOT GIVE BABY DUCKS MEDICATED—I REPEAT: MEDICATED—FEED.

NON-MEDICATED ONLY!!!!!!!

DSCF0144 (2)Sorry to throw that at your eyes in such a big and bold way but a lot of people don’t know. I didn’t until I got these duckling, even though thankfully, I don’t use medicated feed anyway.

Baby ducks are way messier, than baby chickens, too. Keep that one in mind as well. And they drink way more water. So make sure to keep them a fresh supply.

Pekins are only fair, as far as foraging goes, so you will have to make sure you have proper feed. They have a calm temperament and originally originated in China. Drakes, that’s the boys, usually get to be around 10-11 Ibs. and the female, 8-9 Ibs..

The next duck I’ll be bringin’ in this year will be the Khaki Campbells. Talk about egg layers. They can lay up to 340 medium sized eggs a year! And while maybe nervous, happen to be great foragers!