Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Duck Patrol

We thought we would continue on introducing you to some of our farm critters that aid us in taking care of the goats. Today we’re going to talk about our favorite waterfowl: ducks! Tis the season for farm stores to carry chicks and ducklings, and we were among those who brought home babies.
            Beth brought home some Khaki Campbell ducklings to add to our current flock about a month ago. They’re doing really well and growing like weeds. It has been surprising to see how long it takes them to feather out. Especially when compared to chicks, that normally start developing feathers within their first week of life.

            The reason we go with the Khaki Campbell variety of duck is due to the fact that they are flightless. This means they can’t get out of the pasture and fly away! And we don’t have to go through the time and labor of clipping their wings. Ducks are great for anyone with pastured animals because they help control the parasite population. They help to reduce our reliance on chemical wormers to control the health of our herd. Plus, they’re cute!

            We currently have a duck hen sitting on a nest of eggs in one of our chicken coops. Last year they were able to hatch them out on their own, but this year some extra precautions were necessary. We do have some ducks that roam outside the pasture, and the neighbors informed us that either coyotes or dogs had been stealing the eggs from their nests! Thus we had to catch that particular bunch of ducks and put them somewhere safe, at least until the ducklings have hatched out and their mama no longer has to stay in one place.

            Another reason we put our roaming ducks in this coop is that the hens just tend to not sit on their eggs if they do not have a secure place to do so. We were frequently finding lone eggs just lying out in the open! Giving them a safe shelter remedied this problem rather quickly. If you love to watch ducks play in the water, or enjoy their quacking, don’t hesitate to bring them onto your farm, for they will truly do their share!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Our Farm Dogs

            There are many iconic images associated with farming: a big red barn, the farmer on his tractor or plowing with a team of horses, green pastures and quiet springs. But one of the most important associations between farming imagery and reality is that of the farm dog. Most people imagine that would be a Border collie type breed. There is no doubt that the Border collie fills an important role on many farms across the countryside. There are, however, a number of different agricultural jobs that our canine friends take on for the sake of their keepers.
            Here at Mountain Hollow Farm we have two working dogs (brothers) named Hans and Franz. They are a cross between an Anatolian Shepherd and Great Pyrenees, both traditional livestock guardian breeds. Hans and Franz are large, weighing 140 pounds each and have an ideal coat length for both the humid summers and cold winters of southern Appalachia.

And now:

            Their size and deep, resounding bark helps to discourage predators from preying on the herd. In this area the most common threat is from coyotes. But with Hans and Franz on duty this is no problem at all. Ironically, they were not brought here originally to protect the goats, but the ducks. Ducks can be used in pastures to control parasites, but not if predators keep getting them! So long as the ducks remain in the pasture, they are safe thanks to the guardian dogs.     
            Hans and Franz are not the only dogs on the farm, however. We also have three resident rescue dogs, all mixed breeds, by the name of Ellie, Fritz, and Daisy. More than anything they fill the role of companion. But it also helps having them nearby when the goat kids are moved into the yard in the spring. Between the barking of dogs and the activity of people coming and going to the house, predators are discouraged.

and Daisy

            Dogs have been a part of the lives of man for thousands of years, first as hunting partners then as companions. It is a treat to come to a farm like this where you can see dogs filling multiple roles. It is an ideal setting for both the physical and mental health of the dogs. Being in a natural setting, and working alongside the people who care for them. We are so lucky to have these wonderful creatures by our side!