back to entry --logo copyright  2002 Dn Sgthan

Around the Farm

Our Gaelic Heathen path

Articles and Essays

Coin Geilt!-hounds

On the Shieling-horses

Sgthan Booklist and reviews


Quick! eveyone in the house

As we're quite horrible at keeping this site updaetd now, we have begun a blog at Dn Sgthan Notes

"You are not keeping them, of course, to make or even save money. You are not keeping them as pets. You are keeping them for the simple pleasure of their company and be beauty and taste of their eggs and meat. You are raising them because you wish to strike a modest blow for the liberation of the chicken --and indeed for all living things on Earth."
                                      Charles Daniel and Page Smith The Chicken Book 1975

For those who wonder why we are doing this and who might want to reconsider eating factory farmed animals and want alternatives check out The Meatrix. Some may find the cartoon hokey, but stick with it and click the link at the end for how to find alternatives to factory farmed meat.

When we moved to the country, it was with the intention to start homesteading...raising some of our own food and looking into alternative energy and such.  As we are currently renting the small house we live in, we are stuck with the current electricity and heating...not to mention that this aspect will take some funds we don't have yet to do.  But we have made some start on the food aspect. A small step, but for us significant as we tend to eat a lot of eggs.  We currently (this was written in August, keep reading for update) have 6 pullets, not yet started and a few males a couple of which we will keep for breeding so we do not have to deal with ordering chicks (we were supposed to get a lot more).

Raising animals for food was once a very everyday part of life, but in just a few decades has become wrenchingly foreign to us. People often treat meat as if it grows in the little foam and plastic packages it comes in, not as if it were from a sentient being.  We feel that if we are going to eat meat we should be able to raise it ourselves or we are being dishonest to the spirit of the animals that give it.  If we can't, then that is meat we should not eat ....hence there are taboos in our diet. We also feel that the current ways animals are farmed commercially are not honorable or humane, factory farming is not true to the spirit of the sacrifice and an animal that is to be eaten should have a good life until then not living in crowded, fearful, painful conditions.  Not to even get into the things these animals are fed or medicated with.

Of course, at this point we are not going to be eating much that we raise ourselves and we might not ever be able to supply all our meat, so we are also looking into buying meat locally from those we can tell are raising their animals humanely.  We are looking forward to developments in F.A.R.M.'s (Farm Animal Rescue Mission) efforts in developing a Humane Farmer's Directory.  We hope that soon all our meat will be from animals whose lives we know were good and where not contaminated by chemicals (remember "organic" does not always mean "humane," however, and given a choice at this point we would chose humane over organic).

We also planned on getting our first goat doe soon after moving, but because of the situation getting our horse sooner than planned, due to the rescue emergency he was in, we have put it off . Since then, well, we tried to go off cow milk in favor of local goat milk and found out we don't care for it all that much (we don't mind drinking it, it doesn't work for tea or oatmeal, where we mostly use milk).  So we are hoping to be able to move up the acquisition of cattle a bit sooner than planned but this will in no way be soon as cattle cost a lot more to buy, breed, and keep.  We are investigating getting Irish Dexter, a small dual purpose cow that we could keep for milk, meat and also have some market value.

two of our girls 2001 Kym n DhoireannOur gardening efforts have been on hold, as other projects keep getting in the way.   Even my old herb garden, abandoned 8 years ago or so, has barely been touched.  Of course this is not prime farm country and despite what many think the problem isn't rockS, it's A rock. We are sitting on some very thin and not very good topsoil over a solid boulder.  There is an old flower garden which had been fixed up with nice loam years ago which we may try to clean up, plow and put in vegetables starting next year; but even this will be a major project.

And it might not take hold before we move to our own place.  If we do. We keep debating building a house about a 1/4 of a mile from where we are, in our field/orchard near where we are building the temple.  The issue is that we feel that putting a house where there isn't one already is too disruptive to the ecosystem (the temple/grove is going to be so open it shouldn't be disruptive at all).  Too much of the land around here is being developed, the real crisis up here rather than logging (the land here recovers from logging if it is allowed to, the problem is that logging is often followed by development or the planting of crop trees for future logging, rather than allowed to heal naturally).  I have seen sections of the hill we live on start to become suburb with houses sitting on top of one of these places is very close to where we felt called to build the temple and therefore not so far from where we would put our house.

If we do build we would build with the ecology of the area in mind.  And, of course, if we lived up there we could better keep "hunters" out of the orchard (I have nothing against true hunting, done with respect to the animals, but sadly many who claim to hunt are not true to the animals' spirits or very careful about what they are shooting at...there are a few true hunters around here and we would give them permission to hunt; for one they would be more likely to actually ask us).  

We hope to expand this section as we build our homestead.  At this point we are taking care of our chickens, waiting for The roosters we kept, with some girls 2001the girls to get to laying age.  They are not free-range, as much as we would like this. Again we are renting and live near Kym's parents who do not wish to have chickens on their doorstep.  There is also the matter of their Husky cross Keesha, who although aged and blind, has a very strong hunter drive and has found chickens to be easy prey...we lost one male to her when we started putting them in the herb garden for a bit, with its fence they could jump on and then over. Of course she is not the only predator around here, we are well surrounded by fox, coyotes, fishers, and more. We have them in a good size pen with a six foot high fence and a small coop for the night...we move this pen every so often so they can get fresh grass and a clean space.  

Sept. 25, '01 our pullets have started laying!

Oct. 28, '01 In the tradition of our ancestors, we sacrificed (as in killed in a sacred manner) our non-breeding cockerels at Samhain.  This was a tough day for us, Aaron had never killed an animal and Kym had only killed fish before this.  And these were 3 animals we had raised from cute little chicks into handsome young roosters.  Yet we know they had a relatively happier life than most of the chickens we eat and we killed them as humanely as possible.   Cleaning them was an even longer task than we anticipated and we had anticipated it would be long...emotionally and physically we were very exhausted by the end of the day.   These were the only three we had for eating this year (there was a fourth, but Keesha ate him early on as you see above), next year we intend to hatch out several chicks and will be doing this more than once in the year.  I doubt it will get easier emotionally and would be worried about us if it did, but hopefully the cleaning task will start to go quicker.  Hopefully within a year or so we can get off the factory-farm grid with both chicken meat and eggs.  And knowing we can indeed do this with the chickens, hopefully means we will be able to with cattle when we are able to raise them.  We are starting to feel like real homesteaders.

July 6 '02

We didn't update this, but we did loose one of the roosters we were keeping during the winter.  We still do not know exactly what happened, he just sort of dropped dead.  All the others made it through....6 hens and a rooster.

Well, we thought we were going to be so smart, proving all the "experts" wrong by breeding these hybrids to each other.  After all, we didn't care about pure lines.  At least not a the time.   What they don't brood? Well, we were just sure that they would.  So, they didn't.  We kept looking for signs and there weren't any.  The experts were right, of course, these are bred to NOT brood and they were sticking to that breeding.

So we gave up.  Decided as this hybrid does tend to produce well forpeep! two years instead of just one we'd keep these girls then get a batch of chicks of some old breed next year.   Started to consider Dominiques, then decided maybe Dorkings. The former are an old American breed, the latter an old Roman breed that the Romans had introduced to Britain.

So what happens then?  One of our hens goes broody!!!  We then tried to move her to the brooding next and broke the brood.  :::::sigh:::::  She goes right back to brooding in the laying box.  We are so pessimistic at this point about getting any chicks that we just stick a few eggs under her and watch.  We doubted that anything would come of it, so we hadn't bothered to "waste" to many eggs.  A few of the other girls stop laying for awhile too, Cluckie and some of the chicksa few start showing signs of broodiness (throwing straw over their backs) but never start to set.  We figure that if she goes broody next year we will try to get Dorking eggs and let her play foster momma.

On June 28th Aaron discovers a couple of little furballs under the setting hen!   By the end of the day she had 5 chicks...two black, two pale yellow, and one bright orange.  We moved them to a separate pen to protect them from the rooster and other hens.   Now a week and a day later, all 5 are still with us and are doing fine.   This clucker is a good mother, protective and, well, "a mother hen."  

Um, we are still planning on trying to get Dorking eggs, if we can, next year and having her foster them.  After all, now know we know she has a clue as to what she is doing.

July 26

Cluckie and her remaining chicks, here as half-grown pulletsOn July 16 we awoke to find that something had gotten into the pen with the Cluckie and her chicks.   Three of the chicks were gone, two are left.  The hen was fine but frantic and somewhat ruffled.   The two left are one yellow and the orange.  They are now penned with a more secure shelter for the night to protect them.

A few days later the food dish and water containers for the main flock were knocked out of the doorway of their little house.  We assume the same predator stopped by, possibly got an egg or two but the chickens were fine.  We are figuring it was a raccoon not only because there was one around but because it is unlikely to have been anything very large. It seems it wasn't able to get the full grown chickens, even the hen who was alone with her chicks.  

Trying to be philosophical about it, but we really would have liked to seen what genders and differences the different colors might have proven to be.

January, 03

Finally updating.  

Our garden had produced a good quantity of string beans and pea pods, with some good (but small) carrots, lettuce, beet greens and Swiss Chard.  Our tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and cabbage didn't make it. We just planted them too late.  We have a better idea of what we are doing now however, the garden, which we tilled late, will be easier to start up this coming spring and we will try to get more things started inside this time.  The herb garden one the battle this year, hopefully we will get it under control next and add some stuff to it.

The two remaining chicks turned out to both be female, so we have two new layers and only the rooster was sacrificed at Samhain (an even more emotional task this time than last, as we had known him longer...but we know he had a much better life than any one would buy at a supermarket, this is why we are doing this).   We have kept all our older hens, having let them molt this fall, and all are now laying almost daily.  Unfortunately we recently found the white pullet badly beaten up and bloody, having lost her earlobe.  She has since been moved into a smaller cage next to the in-barn winter pen, in hopes that we can try moving her back in once she is healed. We do not know if this will be possible or if they will attack her even more viciously.

June 7, 2003

Oops...late update on the white hen, she healed fine and was accepted, as much as before, back into the flock. Now that summer has come and we got permission to free-range them, she is doing fine.

The Clucker brooded around June 1, again. Very late according to the books...and the hatcheries. The place we planned to get eggs no longer had them available. However, we found another hatchery that did! So as of last night, June 6, she is setting on 24 tiny Silver Gray Dorking eggs. >fingers crossed<

Sept. 12, 2003One day old

Well, I've been bad...I hadn't even realized I hadn't updated! So...between June 28 and 30, we had hatching. Of the 24 eggs, we had 13 chick died and we ended up with an even dozen. And were left with 10 unhatched eggs?! So, one egg went missing. Most of the chicks have 5 toes, as Dorkings are supposed to...not all do though. When we tried to sex them via the chick method we found on the web, it looked like we had more pullets than cockerels, but alas, when they got old enough to show real gender signs, it ended up with 7 males, 5 females. With the smaller eggs and less frequent laying of this breed compared to the commercial breed, we've decided we won't eat the white and red hen so they will get another year. Of course, the Clucker is going to die of old age; you don't eat a hen that is this contrary. Not much else to say...but here are pictures. ~:)

About a week old around 2 weeks three or four weeks
9 week cockeral 9 week pullet

Dec. 5, 2003

Much change in the flock. In October, we lost both the brown and the white hen from last years hatch, the entire surviving hatch, to a weasel that got in the hen house. Amazing how little space is required! We had intended to keep these two, along with the Clucker, but obviously the Powers That Be had other plans.

Cockerel Crowing  Fall 03About this same time the cockerels started fighting, very fiercely for a breed known to be "docile." We quickly figured out which were the most aggressive and fortunately, the worst wasn't a good breeder choice...toes were bad, not great conformation. We were afraid we were going to lose the one with the best conformation and best toes or that he'd at least lose an eye. He was the most timid and the worst beaten, but before that he had been beautiful. As it turns out, he healed fine and the eye was just fine as well...he's still beautiful, although he did lose a good part of his comb (which means less likely to frostbite this winter, so that's not such a bad thing). We kept him and one other of good quality.

The killing of animals for food is not a fun thing and I guess I can see why it was easy for people to give up. But as hard as it is, we stand by our decision to take this responsibility for part of our food. All our old hens, except the Clucker, and five cockerels were sacrificed this Samhain. One of the cockerels was our Samhain dinner and the hens are for Egg comparison--Cluckie left, Dorking pullet rightstewing. It's hard, but we know they had a good life...better than any that we could buy at a store.

The pullets and Cluckie FINALLY started laying a day or two ago. We didn't light the chicken house early enough, they came of age to start laying when the daylight was too short. The eggs are so very tiny...they will get bigger but not as big as the crossbred ones. These are beautiful birds...I should have more pictures in the near future.

text and photos copyright 2001-03 Kym Lambert
Line from Celtic Web Art
Background modified by Kym from Pictish spiral (as featured in George Bain's Celtic Art)