The Littles

Spring is a time for littles here at the Meadow. I will admit the three goslings have totally taken my heart! They are ten days old today. They have learned to follow me from their brooding stall in the ‘Waddle Inn’ to either the front yard or to the back pasture. That involves scurrying through the paddock – or the duck run – past any number of other creatures. I didn’t realize that geese could live on grass pasture and hay all year round. They’ll likely need some additional laying crumbles in the winter. They sure are sweethearts at this young age. From what I’m reading there will be some challenges come next spring IF one or more of them are Ganders. I can see they might be most settled in part of the woods with access to the back pasture. Then if they are feeling territorial they will not have to boss the other critters around. Once their hormones settle again in the fall they’d be fine back in with the rest. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that they all turn out to be hens.

The two broods of chicks are doing well. I feel much more relaxed than when I was hand raising chicks in past springs. My jobs are to refill water and food a couple of times a day and to sit nearby to let them become familiar with me. Chewbawka and Isabelle are doing all the rest.

It is always hit and miss when I try to take pictures of chicks. They move so much! Maybe that is the perfect picture – it sure is reality! 😉 I’ve given this little group (above) access to the junior run. So they have their little coop and the larger space with a screened in roof and branches and logs to climb on. There are also occasional chipmunks in there … I’m thinking they are big enough and Chewy is fierce enough that they will be okay. I want to let these guys out into the paddock and the woods sooner than I have in the past. I think Chewy would be the better one to teach them how to get along out there.

Above is Isabelle and Iris. With Iris being a bantam (smaller breed of chicken) and Isabelle being very low on the pecking order I am thinking these two will remain separate much longer than Chewy’s brood. Isabelle seems quite content to spend her days secluded in the Palace brooder cage. When I am doing the coop clean up I close all the outside doors and open this area. She likes to come out to check out the ‘adult feeders’ and leaves a big poop away from her nest.

Isabelle was hatched here by Audrey – who looked just like her. Audrey decided after four weeks she was done with her brood. They were still ‘kitten sized’ … She left and I kept them in the run/coop that Chewy is in now. I think I might have been better to let them ‘go’ with their mom. They took a LONG time to integrate into the flock. So this year – despite my misgivings – I am giving it a go. Letting the mom’s decide when they want to take their chicks out into the bigger world. And hopefully they’ll teach them a thing or two before they decide they are tired of it all and tell them to ‘take a hike’!

While the Littles are filling the shelters and the paddock with peeps and squeaks the others seem to be taking very little notice. The ducks have watched the goslings parade back and forth – sometimes within inches – and not been any problem. Yesterday they were all grazing the pasture around me as I sat in the grass. I have read that ducks/geese will kill ducklings/goslings if they are perturbed and given the chance. Hence … each morning and night I make sure I have a high solid partition between the two groups when they all share the Waddle Inn.

It is fascinating watching the goslings register each new animal they encounter. They will stare and stare at the ducks floating on their ponds. The donkeys must seem like giants coming across the paddock … they will find a way to be behind me when that happens. I can picture them being part of the flerd by next year this time.

The pasture has worked out for the donkeys… so far. It has been such a long time (three years I think) since I tried this. Donkeys are desert animals. Their digestive system processes any nutrients and sugars in over drive. This means the same amount of hay will make a donkey obese while keeping a pony thin. Just like in we humans that cycle gets involved with a diabetic type response. Donkeys can have a hard time regulating their insulin levels when their feed is too rich. So – I get up and have them onto the field by 7:30 in the morning and bring them off the field by noon. They then reluctantly nibble at straw and dry hay for the afternoon and evening. They need that fibre to balance the fresh grass of the morning. I’ve also learned that I should be rotating them to longer grasses. The sugars stay lower in the grass leaves. Our set up now has two pasture sections. We will alternate and keep the grasses longer between grazing periods.

I’m in the process of removing the tarps that separate the pasture from the paddock and the duck runs. They were there to help guard against north winter winds. Then the avian influenza epidemic began (bird flu) and it seemed propitious to keep them there to help lower that risk. Now that the flerd is back on pasture they’ll carry any ‘organisms’ from the field into our area anyway. So I’m letting the tarps down and more fresh air breezes in.

The avian influenza epidemic is quite bad throughout the world … but also right here in Canada. The last two years have been tough on the chicken farm operations on the west end of Lake Ontario and up through to Georgian Bay – and on the eastern sections of the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall up to Montreal. Chicken and turkey flocks in barns have been hard hit. Thousands and thousands of birds have had to be culled.

This is an informative website that tracks avian influenza cases in wildlife across Canada. That is what we have to keep an eye on. It is kept up to date. You can see the most recent cases have involved a Bald Eagle around London and Canada Geese around Toronto. You can also see the migration routes and how the influenza is carried along those. If you dig down into the data and get ‘stuck’ just refresh the page to get it to revert to the entire country’s case mapping. There is a menu to the left to select specific data sets. There is also a great guide accessed through the triple lines top right of the screen.

I’m keeping my eyes on wild birds that show up in our Meadow area. There used to be a small flock of Canada Geese that hung out at the back of the pasture. Now that I am building a compost windrow out there they have moved on. The tractor scares them away. That’s a good thing. We do have hawks and eagles that soar by. So far the crows that live in our woods chase them off. I’m keeping my paddock foot wear separate from my ‘front door’ footwear. Front door meaning I leave that door to drive off, or walk off, or bike off to somewhere away from home. I also have a line up of ‘Guest Boots’ in the garage for company to wear. When the reports started to indicate that avian influenza could be carried by flies… or even by dust blown into a coop on the wind … I decided it was time to let our birds out. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. If this area becomes a ‘hot spot’ then the extra precautions will have to be considered again. For now we are all enjoying the pasture and sunsets!