Confessions of a Newbie Farmer

I am not quite a “newbie” farmer yet. My heart is half way there, though. We are doing things like ordering seeds, making verbal agreements to purchase cows, strengthening our poultry flock and meeting alpaca ranchers, so it feels pretty close. I am not at all sure I have what it takes, although animal husbandry is not totally new to me. As long as the animals just mind their business, do what they are supposed to, stay healthy, I am fine.
Yes, I am feeling nervous.
I was inspired to write this because I had one of those looking-myself-in-the-mirror kind of moments. We have a new batch of chicks, 5 little darlings, that are about 3 weeks old, all with a name. We got caught up in the moment and purchased 2 breeds that I hadn’t done much research on, but sounded pretty good. If you are not familiar with the fact that different breeds of chickens can have very different personalities, temperment, laying frequencies, tendencies to go “broody”, health issues, etc. Consider yourself introduced. So, yes, I was researching chicken breeds. We got two Americauna’s, the “easter egg” chickens, and two Dominiques. It turns out they both are a bit flightier than I was hoping for. The Dominques are curious and and friendly on top of that, so they like to fly up your arm. Long story short, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment when I attempted to clean out the chick tub and was bombarded by flying, pecking fluff balls. It may not sound too intimidating, I think that’s the problem.
I was squealing “Help!!” “Help!!” No one seemed to think this was a cry for actual help, so I was ignored. My family was wrong. Every time I put my gloved hand into the enclosure two chicks would run for my hand and two would go flying all over trying to get away from my hand. The fifth, who knows, but she was in the kerfufffle somewhere.
No, I really needed HELP. More yelling and dodging freaky baby birds, more “Help!!”. Now they’re laughing, because it’s pretty funny to watch a grown women be spooked by 5 chicks that could be held in two big hands, apparently. Those things have beaks and claws, CLAWS!!
I am also the women who slips carefully into the big poultry pen with a long stick in hand. You actually have no idea when a bird may turn on you. You really don’t. I for one am going to be prepared to…defend myself with a stick…or something. The good news is the adult birds will follow me until I turn around and then most of them scatter, so they have pretty much earned my trust. So, I am making some great progress, just this week I pet one of the girls, a Speckled Sussex, her feathers feel like silk.
The matter of cows and alpacas is going be another issue altogether. They don’t fly, so that may be an advantage. Alpacas CAN’T bite, so, YAY! Cows, I think are more into butting than biting. I should look that up. I am also very inclined to want to name our steers Leonardo DaVinci and Shakespeare or maybe Spot and Polka Dot, but I have heard this is a cardinal sin when it comes to raising beef. It makes sense. But it will be really hard for this person who says she is a farmer and still gets to jumping and yelling when 3 week old chicks start flapping and pecking, someone who has a list of cute chicken names in the back of her “Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry”.
You may think I am better suited to a stuffed animal collection.
But I am going to give it all I got and hopefully we are well on our way to providing a good chunk of the food we eat and to a sustainable life that allows for following your heart and also a bit of screaming and jumping around.

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