Who doesn’t love their furry and feathered friends? We may not live on a typical farm with all types of barnyard buddies, but we’ve got a nice collection of lovable creatures around here! Today we’ll introduce you to our farm family!
First and foremost, we’ve got Buddy. Buddy is our faithful watchdog. He’s a 4-year-old Australian Shepherd who could happily run forever. We got him from a farm where he was born in a barn. He hates being indoors except for brief visits to get a treat or two (leftover meat is his favorite). He’s got a cozy house outside but sometimes sleeps with the chickens, sometimes in a greenhouse, and sometimes under our porch. We aren’t sure how he decides where the best bed for the night is (we suspect it’s wherever he just collapses from exhaustion), but he’s always keeping an eye out. During the day Buddy often sits on top of our picnic table (when he’s not out on patrol) and keeps watch. Whenever anyone or any creature comes near our property, he barks to let us know someone or something is near but then stops and just watches them steadily until the “threat” passes.
As an Aussie, his herding instinct makes him an excellent corraller of the hens (it doesn’t matter to him if the hens want to explore and be left alone). Buddy loves people, especially kids. Sometimes he forgets he’s not supposed to jump up and give you a wet doggie kiss. He walks to the bus stop with us every day. After the bus comes, he rolls over for a belly rub. He could fetch a ball or a frisbee repeatedly for hours on end if someone could stand to throw something that long. Buddy is a sweet and hard-working guy who we are thankful to have!
As you probably know, we have 70 hens who live at Garden Shack Farm. The first year or two we would name each and every hen we got. Our first 36 hens all looked somewhat different so they each have a flower- or food-themed name. Then we got a few batches of identical hens and naming them became pretty pointless. We basically gave all the identical ones the same name. Most of the breeds we have are excellent egg layers, and we chose different breeds for a variety of colored eggs. We get eggs that are
white (from Leghorns and Delawares),
light brown (Barred Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Speckled Sussexes),
medium brown (Wyandottes, Australorps, and Blue Splash Marans)
very dark brown (Welsummers and Black Copper Marans), and
blue and green (Easter Eggers)!
The ladies live in a 180 square foot shed we converted to their coop by adding roosting bars for sleep, nesting boxes for egg laying, a chicken-sized door, and lots of straw for comfort. They are locked in there from dusk until dawn for their safety. During the day they have almost an acre fenced to roam around and peck at. They do fly over the fence on occasion to explore farther.
The hens are lots of fun to watch interact. Their favorite activities include taking dust baths, chasing bugs, and pecking at anything and everything. Instinctively they hop into the coop at sunset ready for bed, but they’ve also been trained to come running when I call them! I’m thankful not to have close neighbors when I ridiculously call, “Here, Bocky Bocky Bocky!” I do it as I throw out treats for them and they come running from every corner and out of every hole. They get so excited they sometimes crash into each other. If you haven’t seen hens run, I highly recommend seeing them in action.
We finally added some guinea fowl to our farm this summer. Guinea fowl are unique birds who love to eat all the nasty creatures you don’t want around: ticks, mosquitoes, beetles, snakes, etc. We got 6 keets (baby guinea fowl) from our neighbor. We kept them confined for about 8 weeks so they would get used to this being their home. They aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. Guinea fowl panic so much when anything out of the ordinary happens! They just fly and flutter and have no idea what they’re doing. And they can fly – so much more than chickens. Sadly, because of this, we lost 3. They panicked and escaped before they were big enough to be out and about. From my research, we’re still doing better than mother guineas raising keets in the wild.
The remaining 3 guinea fowl have adjusted very well to life here, and they may even think they’re chickens. They do fly over the fence (and then usually forget they can fly over to get back in the run), but typically they’re running around with the hens. The guineas also come running when I throw treats out now! We believe one is female and the other 2 are males. You can tell by the (excessively loud) (and nearly constant) noises they make. They seem to have adopted a Black Copper Marans hen as their Mama Hen or the mate for the third wheel or just someone to round out their quartet. It’s still unclear whether she’s a member of their group by her own choice or if they are just following her incessantly! The guinea hens are low maintenance pets and a very interesting addition to our yard!
Athena and Calista
Two rescued barn cats are the most recently adopted members of our brood. We got 2 young girls about a month ago who were saved from the city streets. We had to keep them locked in the barn for a few weeks so they would get to know this as their home. They have just begun to explore the property.
The rescue group, Forgotten Cats, estimated Athena, the white and gray one, is just over a year old. Despite being so young, she gave birth to kittens last summer. She loves to roam and check things out. Athena is definitely the more social cat. Calista, the gray tabby, is shy and took a while to trust us. They believe she is probably about 2 or 3 years old and she is less active than Athena. We have lots of places for mice to hide around here; it is our hope that these huntresses will seek them out and scare them away. If they don’t, they are still a fun addition to the farm and should be very happy here.
At this moment we have no plans to add any more friends to our farm family in the near future, but we never say never! In the past we’ve considered getting goats, peacocks, another dog, and of course, more chickens, but we are good for right now! What furry and feathered friends are your favorites? We would be happy to hear about your creature family!