Andrew Mayflower

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since Oct 13, 2017
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homeschooling kids trees chicken cooking sheep
Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Recent posts by Andrew Mayflower

If you want a duck that will provide lean meat, and go broody at the drop of a feather for any eggs (so chicken, turkey, etc eggs are as good as ducks to them) Muscovy ducks may be your ticket.  They're the only domestic duck not descended from Mallards.  They're originally a native, wild South American breed, IIRC.
4 days ago
A friend needs to re-home her Soay sheep flock and I'll be getting them for a pretty screaming deal.  I'll be getting 4 ewes, a ram, and 2 lambs.  She's being told by the county to either make major changes to her fencing to keep their waste out of a river drainage, or get rid of them.  She chose the latter, as the fencing is beyond what she can handle right now.  Anyway, is there anything in particular about that breed of sheep I need to know about?  I know they're hair sheep, so they'll shed annually, though I might have to help them out a little.  They're supposed to be very hardy and parasite resistant, so with my intention of regular rotations I'm hopeful that I won't have to do much with parasite control.  My understanding is they're pretty good mothers, so when lambing should be fairly hands off.  I'll be doing all the normal sheep stuff like providing free choice minerals, hay when needed, I'll train them to come to a shaken bucket of grain, etc.  One thing I guess I'll need to learn is hoof trimming.  There's not a lot of rocks for them to wear their hooves down naturally on my property.
4 days ago
My chickens will eat the slug eggs and smaller individuals.  They generally won't eat the adults, but over time the areas they patrol wind up with very few slugs.  Ducks have the reputation for eating adult slugs.  Not sure how well they do with the juvenile slugs or the eggs.  If you want to eliminate them quickly, a combo of chickens of ducks will probably do the job pretty well.  Chickens will probably do a decent job, just might take a bit longer as they won't eliminate the adults very well.
4 days ago
Hey @Travis Johnson - since this thread got resurrected I'm curious which way you went and how things are panning out?
1 week ago
For aerial predator protection I've found fishing line with flagging tape tied to it has been very effective.  I run the lines about 10-12' apart and put hot pink flagging tape every 10-15' along the run of fishing line.  Hawks, raves, eagles, etc want an easy, low risk meal.  So all you need to do is make it seem too high risk for them to nosh on your poultry.  A bunch of ribbons seemingly floating in mid-air (they probably can't see the fishing line) makes them wonder what's holding it up and they don't want to risk breaking a wing going in for a meal.  I was losing close to 10 broilers a week (40 out of 100 overall) until we put up the fishing line.  No problems with raptor/raven predation since then.  

Note, if you do this make a loop in the fishing line to tie the ribbons to as otherwise the ribbons will slip down the line to one end or the other.  You can use t-posts, trees, or anything else that's convenient.

For land predators (coyotes, racoons, etc), good fences make good neighbors.  You'll keep a lot of such predators out if you have fencing appropriate to your situation.  If bears are a big concern then a HOT wire fence will do wonders.  We used "no-climb" horse fencing with hot wire above to a total 6.5' high.  Not the cheapest, but it's tight enough to keep the birds in (once they're at least a pound live weight) and will keep out anything besides a bobcat (they climb so well there's almost no fence that will keep them out unless it covers the top too).  
1 week ago

Matt McSpadden wrote:@Laurel - Thanks, I did not know that about the turkeys. I've heard of some people using ducks.

@Andrew - that was worded so much better than I put it :) I should have you write my posts for me. Yes that is what I was looking for, and that makes sense. The land I'm looking at, wouldn't be able to hold more than 3 or 4 cows, so we are not talking about an awful lot of chickens.


Iā€™d probably start by running 20 chickens behind the cows, give or take.  See how that works out and adjust as needed.  Be interested to hear the results.
3 weeks ago
You're just looking for an idea of how many chickens to effectively break up the cow poo and eat the parasite larvae, if I'm reading your post correctly.

Not sure that there's a definite number as it probably depends on how big each daily paddock is, how resistant your cows are to parasites, general parasite load for your land, quality of the forage for the chickens, types of chickens, and so on.  

That said, I'd probably just take however many chickens you have (assuming we're talking 10's not 100's or 1000's) and start by running them all 3 days behind your cows.  If that's obviously too many, cut it down by half.  If it's obviously not enough, start working on buying/breeding more chickens. Over the space of several months to a year you'll dial in the number for your situation.

It's been a while since I've seen any Salatin videos, but I want to say he had around 20 cows he was rotating around.  And it seemed like he had around 100 egg layers cleaning the pastures behind them.  So, if my memory is correct that would imply 5:1.  But I could be WAY off.
3 weeks ago
When I'm getting ready for chicken slaughter day I'll typically use my electric poultry netting to constrict them to relatively small space.  You can have it hot, or not, the couple that usually escape if its not hot haven't been that big of a deal to catch.  Granted I often have quite a crowd, so there's usually someone taking a break that can chase them down if necessary.  And not energizing the fence makes life nicer for the people interacting with the fence.

What can help a lot for chickens (and I'd assume ducks too) is to have a "chute" that you herd them into.  I made a rectangle that was maybe 3-4' wide and about 8' long with welded livestock panels or no-climb fence for the long sides, covered in a tarp, and a fence gate for the short sides.  The tarp is very helpful especially with welded livestock panels as the openings are too big to contain the birds on their own.  Plus having a visual barrier helps keep the birds calm.  Having a kid inside the chute to hand birds to whoever is running the dispatch station works pretty well as long as said kid knows how to handle them.  A couple/three kids to herd 10-15 birds at a time from the main area made with the poultry netting into the chute keeps things from getting too crowded, but also keeps things moving along.

For lambs, a square or triangle of the welded livestock panels (depending on how many you're wanting to corrale) inside the main paddock for the rest of the herd, secured with decently beefy zip ties at each corner, allows the lamb to still be close to the other sheep if it's just the one you'll be butchering until you're ready to do it.  Note that you'll definitely want to set a T-post at the corners (and/or use fixed fencing for one or two sides) as otherwise the lambs will just push the panels around the paddock.  For lambs you'd need to skip the tarp covering.  They would need to be able to see their flock mates in order to remain calm.  Remember that sheep fear separation from their flock far more than death itself.  You can cut the lambs throat in full view of the other sheep without problem.  With goats you would want to shield the remaining ones from view of the actual kill as they're smart enough to remember you doing that.  But sheep generally don't care.
3 weeks ago

Marty Mitchell wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:Have you considered the Highland breed?  My neighbors have a couple.  They also seem like a potential good option.

I only briefly looked into them. I did see that they even come in smaller/mini versions like the Herfords and such do.

I promise to read up on them a bit before making the leap later this Summer. Thank you for the reminder!


FWIW, the Dexters are my #1 at the moment too, but I don't know how available they'll be locally.  If my neighbor has calves at some point and if I get fencing completed I'd seriously consider buying a pair.  Doesn't get much more local than that!
3 weeks ago
Have you considered the Highland breed?  My neighbors have a couple.  They also seem like a potential good option.
3 weeks ago