The chicks turned 6 weeks old this weekend, and have been busting out of their accommodations in the greenhouse. So, since they are fully feathered in and at a decent weaning age, I rehomed them out at my friend Clare’s farm in Gaston this weekend. They will live in a meat bird pen and get moved to fresh pasture every day until they are big enough to eat. Whitey has always been the queen bee of the henhouse, she pretty much considers the Wyandottes to be tweedle dee and tweedle dum. So, after about ten minutes of beating them up, she was fully reintegrated: back up on the high roost, running the show.
The morning after I rehomed the chicks Whitey did go to the greenhouse and cluck for them to come out, which made me a little teary. Otherwise she seems to have readjusted to coop life and today was out foraging with the Wyandottes like old times. Here are the chicks in their swank new country doublewide: this low pen is a Joel Salatin style lightweight metal chicken tractor that gets moved to fresh pasture every day or so.And….since I was out at Clare’s and it was a pretty nice day…..we hitched up her Haflinger team Huston and Hummer to the forecart and took them for a spin. I think this is only the second or third time the boys have pulled the forecart, and they seem to like it!
The forecart is a sort of farming hybrid: many tractor-specific implements can be attached to it, and then pulled by the horses. Clare is hoping to find a small manure spreader over the winter that she can use to spread manure from the horses’ winter housing in the barn on the pasture next summer, when weather and temperatures allow the land to absorb the nutrients quickly. One of the great challenges of keeping horses in western Oregon is keeping them off your pasture during the very wet winter months so they don’t destroy it. Clare is trying a new system: the boys are kept in the round pen in the barn in bad weather, and turned out on pasture when weather allows. Since she uses a portable electric fence the pasture can be moved over the winter and damage kept to a minimum. Brilliant. I have only known Clare and Brian for a year, but just in that time I have seen their land respond amazingly to the rotational grazing and nutrient recycling. Their animals (pigs, chickens, goats, horses and Dexter cows) all shine with good health as well. I will have to do profiles on all the super farm women I know some day soon! Here’s to you, Clare.
As for the rabbits, well, so far they have not been behaving in a very rabbit like manner. We don’t know if it was the stress of moving to a new home or if she never ‘took’, but our momma bunny never kindled. So, she and poppa bunny have a date for tomorrow, and we shall see if we can get the rabbit operation back underway. Poppa is a very handsome bunny, and also quite sociable. The rabbits have been slowly eating away at my raspberry patch one cane at a time, which converts the raspberry canes into a much more immediately usable fertilizer: rabbit poop. They love the leaves and the tough canes help keep their teeth worn down. For those of you interested in permaculture, rabbits are a great addition: they recycle nutrients (often stuff you can’t or won’t eat, like raspberry canes and other plant prunings as well as extra vegetables from the garden) into a high quality manure, they are nice to be around and easy to care for, they are prolific (well, except ours apparently) and good to eat. The chickens love to scratch under the rabbit pens, where they find a “second harvest” of insects and maggots, which is good nutrition for them and helps keep the fly population under control. I am using the rabbit poop this fall to mulch my asparagus and fertilize my cover crops. In January I will start putting it into the compost bin.