On a Tale of Two Great Pyrenees

On our little farmer-ish homestead, we have two Great Pyrenees that we love to the moon and back. These dogs are just beyond amazing, so intelligent, so stubborn, so loyal, such good friends. We have a female and a male.

Boudica, named for the Celtic warrior queen, is truly a warrior–and also a nana. Yes, that’s her. She is a warrior nana. She is fierce in a way I can’t explain but so sweet and loving at the same time. She protects everyone inside and outside of the house, from chickens to children. She even helped teach Gus how to behave with the chickens and ducks. She is a remarkable being.

Gus, short for Prosatagus, named for Queen Boudica’s husband, really enjoys life. I don’t know how else to put it. He really enjoys life. He smells the flowers, looks at the clouds, and loves to snuggle.

An incident happened last week that that just crystallized for me the beauty of these two dogs and the way they approach their lives.

Our ducks had a hawk visitor last week, and it was scary. The ducks live right near our house, but this hawk still swooped in. I was sitting at the breakfast table when I saw something swoop in right in front of our window. I ran to the back door just in time to see a hawk land in a low branch, not 15 feet from our house.

My Beautiful Antonio
This is our male duck, Antonio. He is a fantastic duck, and I really had no idea just how awesome ducks are. I love these ducks way too much!

The ducks were terrified, and I turned to them, quickly counting to make sure we had six still. We did, thankfully. When I turned back toward the hawk, it was gone. I was relieved but so worried about its possible return.

As I stepped back into the house, I was met at the door by Boudica. She was upset and anxious to get outside. She ran out barking, doing her perimeter check immediately. Then, she came around to where the ducks were and sat herself right in front of the duck house. She sat there forever. I finished breakfast, graded some papers; she was still there.

Boudica Guards
This is Boudica guarding. She’s very focused, always so alert.

She sat there for close to many hours, until well into the afternoon, protecting the ducks.

At some point, I had to go upstairs for something, and that’s where I found Gus. He was snuggled up in our quilt, settled into to a lovely nap, with not a care in world, just a squinty smile that he always gives, the one that says, “mama, come snuggle me.”

Gus's Nap
And this is Gus how I found him that morning. Life is good.

I sat down with him and snuggled. I could relax with Gus. I have Boudica.

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On Helping Homesteaders: How You Can Help People and Animals Impacted by the California Fires This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I decided to do something a little different. We are homesteaders, and we had a really good year in our harvest overall. So we decided our Thanksgiving dinner this year would be a celebration of our harvest.

We haven’t raised turkeys, so we’re having one of the chickens we raised instead. And instead of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, we’re having potatoes, corn, beans, homemade bread, and berry pies frozen during summer’s harvest. It’s a celebration of what we grew and raised.

I am amazingly blessed our family is able to raise chickens, ducks, and a bountiful organic garden that helps to feed our family for much of the year. We eat well above our station thanks to the amazing work of my husband and a lot of work from myself as well. We eat healthy, delicious food, and our little homestead helps support our family all year.

I have been feeling especially blessed because I have been reading in online homesteading groups about the people who have lost their chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, horses, dogs, and more in the wildfires that have destroyed so many people’s homes in California. Their stories are powerful and devastating. I’ve seen posts of women who are distraught and in tears because she had to leave her chickens. She is thankful to be alive but devastated by her loss. I read another story about a woman who was trying shove as many animals as she could in her car as she quickly worked to escape the fire. I read the story of a woman mourning her horse so deeply. I read about a woman who was mourning her land. If your land sustains you, it is especially devastating to lose it, I would think. You can read an overview of some of the impact this fire is having on people and their animals in this news article from CNN.

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Photo Credit: Vadim Fomenok, Unsplash

These stories are heart wrenching, and reading them made me think I would like to try to help my fellow homesteaders in California in addition to donating to a general help fund.

I’ve been reading in the news about places we can go to make general donations to help those affected by the fires in California, and I have some links I can share below. I have done my best to make sure these are reliable sources, but please do your due diligence as well and only donate to organizations you feel you can trust.

But, if you can donate some, it’s a good thing to do. I have read stories of a lot of people asking for help to support local rescues operations.

I have sometimes worried that maybe I just can’t donate enough to help, but I think we all have to remember that every little bit counts. It’s what my husband and I say to each every day.

Every little bit counts.

Even if we all just did a little bit, you know it would add up fast.

Here are some links to places you can help those with animals or people working to rescue and support animals in the wild fire area:

Hold Your Horses Livestock Emergency Evacuation *This is a link to a Facebook page, so you would need a Facebook account to see this organization and their fundraisers. If you have trouble following this link, you can just search for the organization by name on Facebook.

North Valley Animal Disaster Group *As of last week, they had taken in over 1,400 animals, including alpacas, turkeys, ducks, and more.

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control *As of last week, they had taken in 815 animals, and 550 of them were horses.

Butte County Humane Society *This organization is working to reunite people with the animals and has started a pet food and supply pantry.

And if you want to make donations to general help, this link takes you to a donation page for Public Good where you can choose from several reputable and important organizations to donate to.

 

On Molting: Tips to Help You and Your Chickens Make It Through the Molt

It’s that time of year when chicken owners of older flocks are telling sad stories about how they aren’t getting any eggs because their hens are molting.

I am one of those people.

Most of my girls are going on four years old, are molting like crazy—and not laying eggs. We have 27 hens, 20 who are laying age, and, some days, we get 3 eggs. It’s enough to make this chicken mama cry.

Photo credit: Christina Siracusa, Unsplash

Before I got chickens, I didn’t even know that chickens molted. Many new chicken owners may not know that during the fall months, most chickens, who are over a year old, will molt. This means they lose many of their feathers and replace their feathers with fresh new ones.

Although a good hard molt can look both comical and sad and the same time, molting is actually a healthy and important part of a chicken’s life cycle. Your chickens get new, sturdy feathers just in time for winter. And the break they take from egg laying may be good for them as well.

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This is my majestic Poe coming out of a hard molt. She looks a little rough still. Thankfully, she has her tail back at this point. She looked so sad without her tail feathers!

But if you’re like me and love to eat and share farm fresh eggs, you may find yourself giving your girls pep talks at night when you close them up—and, eventually, those pep talks will turn into begging. “Girls, let’s please aim for just six eggs tomorrow. Six. You can do it!”

When the begging doesn’t work, take heart. You are not alone, and there are some things you can do to help make the molt a little easier on your hens and yourself.

1. Keep in mind that your hens will not lay during the molt, and this is perfectly normal. Their little bodies are too busy making feathers to lay eggs. Be prepared for fewer eggs for some time. The time it takes for a hen to molt will vary. Sources say it can take anywhere between 10 and 16 weeks. I have found that most of my girls take closer to the longer end of that range. Fun!

2. Your chickens will first lose their feathers and then grow new ones. When the new ones are coming in, these pin feathers can be uncomfortable to the touch for your chickens. If you are a chicken snuggler, it’s best to give your chickens a break from snuggling when those pin feathers are coming in. You may even find that your chickens are grumpier when their pin feathers are coming in. I know this has been the case with our chickens.

3. Do not put chicken sweaters on your chickens when they are molting. You may feel so worried about how cold they are, but you do not want to put pressure on the feathers when those pin feathers come in. Sweaters at this stage would be painful for your chickens.

4. If you have a hen who went broody, raised chicks, and molted, she will not do another molt in the fall.

5. Although you do not want to keep your chickens on feed that is too high in protein for too long, switching to a good quality, high protein feed during the molt can help with the feather regrowth. We choose not to do this and just opt for high-protein treats instead, as our chickens never seem to molt at the same times.

6. In terms of treats, think high protein. Meal worms are great, as are black oil sunflower seeds.

7. Some people add some light to their coops to during the short days of winter, which will impact molting and overall egg production. Some, however, argue against adding light and that the rest for your hens is best. If you do choose to add light, do it gradually and in the morning. You should set your lights on a timer and should add just 15 minutes of light per week. Just be sure that your chickens still get some dark and rest at night. We used to add light but do not anymore. You can read about our decision to stop adding light in my post from last year.

Ultimately, I have found that the molt seems harder on us than it is on our chickens. It’s a normal, healthy process for them, though those pin feathers do not look fun. But our chickens end up with new, strong feathers, which will help them through the cold winter.

The shortage of eggs, however, makes me sad every day. I’m way too spoiled! Thankfully, so far this year, I have been able to avoid the “walk of shame” when chicken keepers have to purchase eggs at the grocery store and stare sadly at the carton of eggs all the way to the check out.

But I’ve been there!