Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall is Ram Lamb Selling and Buying Time

I find that lambs tend to sell best in the spring.  People either want them for Easter, or other religious festivals, or they want them for pasture control.  Breeding in order to have spring lambs means lambing in the winter which is hard work but profitable.

Normally I breed my sheep for spring lambs and have them sold quite early in the summer, however this summer was crazy and I only started advertising them a few weeks ago.  I had one fellow call and say he wanted all the ram lambs.  He was busy and asked if I could hold them for him for another week. I agreed, but after 10 days passed I got a hold of him and I guess something came up and he could not make it.

Normally I get tons of calls for lambs, but normally I advertise them a lot earlier than I did this year.  I am in Canada and find that is a good place to advertise livestock for sale, however they list sheep in with horses and get a lot of horses, so my sheep ad was soon bumped to page 7 and appears to be lost...

Another site I use to advertise sheep for sale is Ropin' The Web which is strictly for buying and selling livestock in Alberta.  I use to get a lot of inquires from this site, however it seems to be less popular now than a few years ago.
Above is one of my more interesting looking ram lambs.  The angle of the photo is awful, please forgive me for that as it does make him look a bit distorted, but his coloring and markings are cool... too bad I have a shadow on him too, I really must get better pictures!  He is a Jacob x Katahdin. 

I am hoping to get some inquires soon as fall is typically the time of year when people buy rams for breeding.  Sheep are pregnant for 5 months and most ewes come into season only in the fall (from early August to December) so now is the time for breeding.  Next year I will not put off advertising them for sale so late!  At least the pasture is good this year as we have had loads of rain, so their is plenty for all to eat. 

As my regular readers know I have mostly hair sheep as I find them a better sheep for the hobby farmer but they are also becoming increasingly popular for meat too.   Hair sheep tend to have a better resistance to parasites and they do not need shearing which can be a lot of work and a major expense which is not justified in areas where wool is not valuable.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nine Bantam Dorking Chicks Hatched

Hens lay eggs with, or without a rooster.  If there is a rooster present the eggs should be fertile and will hatch only if a hen sits on them for 21 days to incubate them or if the eggs are placed in an incubator.  Not all breeds of hens are broody, which means not all breeds of hens will sit on their eggs, however Dorkings are a broody breed and our hens sat on their eggs without any encouragement.

The first hen was on a large brood of eggs but only two hatched.  This may have been due to the awful spring weather at the time.

Our second Dorking hen started to sit on a smaller clutch of eggs in July, and on August 2nd they hatched out. There were nine chicks total. One egg never showed any signs of hatching and one egg had just started to hatch but the chick died while still inside.

Our bantam Dorking chickens are silver grey, which is a color that indicates male and female chick right at hatching. The hens are dark or black, and the cockerels are lighter, often with stripes. Because of this we were able to determine that four of the tiny chicks are hens, including one who is chocolate brown, and five are cockerels (males), including two which have very pronounced stripes rather like a chipmunk.

These chicks are tiny. Bantam chickens are smaller than regular, or standard, chickens. These little chicks are only about two inches (5 cm) tall. 

The hen stayed in the nesting box with them for the first day but the next day we found her with a few of them on the ground. Four more remained in the nesting box area, unsure of how to get down, they huddled together. I picked them up to put them down with the hen.

Young chicks are amazingly smart. Recent studies have suggested that young chicks are as smart, and capable of doing things, as a two year old child.

Mother hens are always clucking to their chicks, making different sounds to indicate different things; “Come here”, “Danger”, “Let's eat”, “It's safe to wander around, but here I am just in case you want me”.

The rooster wanders around and makes sounds to alert them to danger or food (as when I throw in some chicken scratch or small bits of brown bread). He will not harm them and acts as a guardian, even though he is pretty small too.

For now the chicks stay very close to their mom. She sits down with her wings spread out to make room for all of them to find shelter and warmth underneath her body. As they grow they will continue to follow her and learn from her. They are already “scratching” the ground to find food. The chicks will start growing different feathers and will not be as fluffy in a few weeks time.

Update.  Sad news, the brown chick died two days later.  We found it in the nest, not sure why it did not survive.