Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Archive for the ‘husbandry’ Category

A chick named Boo Boo

Posted by Nika On May - 13 - 2013


The black box of life can be extra mysterious sometimes.

This is the story of a chick named Boo Boo.

One night the weasel got past several lines of defenses and took out almost the entirety of our flock, leaving us one traumatized rooster and 3 PTSD hens.


I very quickly set up 41 home laid eggs to hatch. Due to the very cold spring here the incubator had a very difficult time keeping a steady temperature.

That was a constant worry.


I modified a still air Little Giant incubator with a computer fan to move the air and had not covered the bottom of the fan because the hatch had begun as an emergency measure to save something of our old flock.

I never wanted to shut it down long enough to put in a barrier because I didnt want to give the chicks any more temperature shocks.


The chicks started hatching 3 DAYS early and had not been put into lockdown. This means i hadn’t had the chance to remove the automatic egg turner and boost the humidity.

That meant that all of the pipping chicks might die due to the arid conditions in the incubator.

I took the one chick that had hatched and was caught up in the egg turner in a warm towel and i removed the turner, moved the eggs back into the incubator and the live chick and boosted the humidity.

That chick would later be named “Boo Boo”.

With the humidity boosted and with luck all but 7 eggs eventually hatched.


But on that first day, Boo Boo, who was very vigorous and jumpy, decided to jump up into the blades of the computer fan.

I heard the fan slow a moment and cheeping. When i got to the incubator there was blood, a fair bit.

I took Boo Boo out of the incubator and ran with him in my hand out to the shed to get the Blu-kote.

I took a big breath, reminded myself about how fragile birds can be, and looked at his injury.


The fan blade had ripped the skin from above his eye and right side skull but was still well attached.

It would not stay when i pulled it forward back into place. I was alone and i cant sew well anymore due to carpal tunnels so i could only do one thing.

I shaded his eye and sprayed the wound with blu-kote.

I dabbed it dry, waited to see if the chick died from shock.

He was still peeping.

I had to do something about the skin.

I ended up using a waterproof bandaid and it stayed in place.

I put him back in the incubator and waited for him to die.

He didnt.

I fixed the exposed fan blades problem, even though i was letting the eggs get cold.

He kept running around and peeping.


I put him in the brooder fully expecting to find him dead soon.

Boo Boo is STILL alive and scrappy in the brooder.

Some birds die if you look at them funny, others will perform amazing feats of survival.


Baby Goats 2013

Posted by Nika On March - 8 - 2013

This is a video of our first batch of babies for this year.

New arrivals, new species

Posted by Nika On May - 25 - 2012

Quail hatching here this morning!



Posted by Nika On November - 1 - 2011

This October surprise snow storm dump 2 feet of wet clingy snow on the northeast and particularly on us. The
Night of the storm our goat shed collapsed and crushed/trapped one of our goats.

We found her weakly crying and slipping away. We pulled her out from under tons of shed and snow – was pushed down into muck. We rolled her onto a bed sheet and slid/pulled/lifted through 2 feet deep snow many yards and then into our dining room onto blankets. We covered her in blankets as well and fed her molasses water until she rehydrated enough to drink on her own. She began to eat grain and hay. She menaces passing cats who she doesnt like. She can not stand on her own – her back leg is not working, might be dislocated.

We now have to take her to the vet and i hope its a simple matter of joint reduction. Will share photos of that when it happens.

Am also sharing some photos below of a tiny bit of the vast amount of storm damage here. We have no power, no internet so i am having to post by iPhone.






More milk!

Posted by Nika On July - 2 - 2011


As you may remember – we milk dairy goats. At the moment we have 9 lamancha dairy goats, 8 in milk. Goat milk is naturally homogenized so it requires an expensive cream separator to get cream. With no cream you can not make butter!

Additionally, the amount of grain and hay and labor that goes into milking these 8 goats (which includes all the work to get them pregnant, help them deliver, etc etc) fails in comparison to the amount of milk we would get from one cow with much much less labor and cost.

Its for this reason that we have been mulling getting a cow for more than 2 years now. Today we finally decided to just do it and buy a cow, who you see below.

Humble Garden: Our New Jersey Cow

She is 15 months old, a full blooded jersey and not very large – which is very good for a family cow. She will be bred next week (by AI) and will do a few beauty pageants with her current owners.

Humble Garden: Our New Jersey Cow

In September we will have her come live with us!

Humble Garden: Our New Jersey Cow

She should deliver her baby sometime in April or May 2012 and then we will be in milk!

Humble Garden: Our New Jersey Cow

Humble Garden Podcast Episode 4

Posted by Nika On December - 15 - 2010


(our extremely humble goat shed – we cobble together what we can, we dont Martha Stewart it)

On today’s podcast I cover how we observe and more importantly, interact with our animals in ways to integrate them more tightly into our homestead.

Please take a few minutes to listen and also to give me feedback, comments, or share what you do or how you listen and interact with your animals!

I referred to the following photos.

Humble Garden podcast episode 3

Posted by Nika On December - 6 - 2010


(This graphic and much related information is found at this link)

Today’s podcast covers some basics of permaculture and begins to explore the 12 principles of permaculture using our homestead as a case study.

Some examples of space appropriate animal/plant/human permaculture systems:

Appropriate use of animals in permaculture

An apartment dweller with no outside space is not without choices. You could keep a single well loved rabbit. You would feel her well and have a cage for her that makes it easy for you to collect her droppings. Those droppings and possibly her fiber are her yield. Her input is the food you give her. Your job is three fold: figure out how much of your kitchen scraps are healthy for her and then key your scrap production to appropriate levels for her. If you have too much, get a composting system. If you have too little, supplement her diet. Your second task is to not waste her pellets but to use them in your windowsill food growing systems. Your third task, if this is a fiber producing rabbit, is to collect her fiber when the time is right and either sell it for a monetary yield or to barter. This is a small and tight loop. You can gain so much.

An owner of a small home in the urban or suburban environment with little outdoor space can duplicate the apartment strategy and also expand to the exterior. You can build a well fortified hen house with good sized run (fenced in outdoor space) for a couple of hens (never have a single chicken, they need a flock). You do not need a rooster unless you will be free ranging the girls, the rooster helps sound the alarm if there is danger. Your hens lay eggs quite well in the absence of those noisy roosters that can make your neighbors turn state’s evidence against you and rat you out to the authorities. More and more towns and cities are coming around to the backyard chicken side of the game. You can also have outdoor hutches with a good humane run for rabbits if you would like to add this to your system. Both of these animals will eat your kitchen scraps but the rabbits should not be getting your meat leftovers. Your chickens are amazing omnivores and will eat almost any leftover or scrap though you do not want to feed them raw potatoes or things that are moldy/rotten. All of the manure from the chickens and rabbits go into compost with organic yard waste until it is not so hot and then right into the garden to close the loop.

Owners of larger homes on larger plots of land in suburbs and exurbs will have more space but perhaps more restrictions imposed on them by zoning, homeowners associations and themselves/their upwardly mobile social class. These barriers can be easily surmounted if there is a will and some creativity. As any animal in a permaculture setting must be tightly controlled there should not be “unsightly” animal waste or animals themselves cruising about on the lawn. The homeowner would need to commit to fully organic lawncare so as to protect their animals and their food gardens. Animals such as chicken and rabbits can be held in attractive housing near and amongst food gardens made to look like part of the landscaping (easy to do!). This is not the setting for loud animals like goats. A third species, fish, can be easily integrated as aquaponics, especially if there is some greenhousing/protected garden space. Aquaponics is a wonderful permaculture activity that tightly links fish culture to growing plants (hydroponically or simply as liquid fertilizer) yielding delicious fish and fruits and vegetables.

The last example, house in a rural setting, is like the one I describe in the podcast, namely, our homestead. Listen to the podcast for more details!

Past chickens

Posted by Nika On November - 27 - 2010


Look at those cutie chicklings! This is a photo from a book project I am working on over at Town Farms: stories of collective agriculture.

I am also working on reskilling podcasts to be deployed here, soon!

Goat babies can be obnoxious!

Posted by Nika On July - 24 - 2010

Dairy goat management includes psychology, trust me.

When baby goats are born you need to separate out the babies and bottle feed them until they are weaned and then you can return them to the herd.

The video above shows what happens when your kids are piggish, dont wanna stop nursing, and the momma goat refuses to push them away.

Llama shearing, oh my!

Posted by Nika On May - 17 - 2010


What a hair raising adventure in animal husbandry this week!

We had contracted with a sheep/alpaca/llama shearer to come down from upper Vermont to shear our llama.

Its not humane to keep a halter on a llama for long so she generally is free of any fetters, running wild with the goats in their acre enclosure.

To be sheared, she needed to have a halter on. She is VERY skittish and only tolerates us barely touching her when she has her head in the feed bucket. She pulls away quickly even then.

We tried for this last week to slip the halter on her but never were able to. Thursday was D-day and the shearing guys came and she still had no halter (YIKES!).

I felt like such a bad llama keeper.

Our llama easily weighs 300 pounds and is some 6-7 feet tall, keep this in mind.

The shearing guys come into the pen and we proceed to try to pen her into a corner.

Misty the llama was NOT amused.

She got angry and when she is angry she gallops up and down the wooded stump strewn hills of the enclosure REALLY fast.

When she gallops, she will run RIGHT at you to do a headfake at the last second and run askew and away from you.

When she does that, I hide behind trees.

When she gallops, pre shear, her fur flounces up and down like this gigantic majestic fluffy ball of fur with strong animal muscles, fierce kicking legs, hooves, and a predilection of spitting like a camel (she is a camelid).

I gave up hope after half an hour and was resigned to paying these poor guys for their wasted trip.

Thing is, they pride themselves on NEVER having been beaten by an animal, I had no idea.

They admitted later that they were ALMOST about to give up when one of them tried one last lunge, freestyle, at the llama’s neck (as she was at FULL gallop, gulp!)

The guy GOT her! We quickly put the halter on her and they held her to a tree while we got the extension cords out there and they began to do their very dangerous job.

Llamas do NOT take kindly to the indignities of shearing. Its important to get the fur off every few years (many do it every year) because it can become a bit much in the summer) Not sure what wild llamas do but I am guessing that up in the mountains of Peru summer heat is never an issue.

The guys had to shear her AS she jumped around, really scary (if she so much as steps on your foot, its gonna hurt).

The guys were so persistent!!! I have put a series of photos below showing the process. Llamas also need to have their front teeth trimmed if they grow too long. By the time the shearing was done, she had calmed down a bit so I asked them to trim her teeth. Those photos are at the end!

This is what she looked like before shearing, the after shot is at the top of this post!

Humble Garden: misty the llama in the fall sun

Humble Garden: Llama shearing

Humble Garden: Llama shearing

Humble Garden: Llama shearing

Humble Garden: Llama shearing

Now the teeth trimming, notice the smoke or dental material filling the air.

Humble Garden: Llama teeth trimming

Humble Garden: Llama teeth trimming

All Done!

About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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