Here at the Funny Farm, most of the animals serve a functional purpose. There are very few free-loaders around here. Animals, that is. People? Now that’s another story 😉 Our menagerie is constantly changing but here is our most current list of critters and a little info about each.
Sawyer and Sugar. Every year, Our daughter raises a lamb for 4H. Usually a Suffolk-mix breed. A lamb is a lovely addition to the homestead! Hardly any trouble at all, charming to visit with, a pleasure to train. His visit will end all too soon. And a lamb must have a friend, don’t you know!? Usually we get a “goat friend” because we have friends that have a goat herd. They buddy up like they don’t know the difference. Guinea Hogs. These are a heritage breed of hogs, perfect for the small homestead. The amount of meat is not overwhelming and their size is not intimidating. They have won awards from the Slow Food Ark of Taste for their succulent, lard-type marbled carcass. The sows are good mothers, watching out for their young. And the boar we have is not aggressive at all, except maybe at feeding time! They do well on forage and pasture. We keep ours in a fenced wooded area. We have used these pigs all over the homestead. They have tilled up my garden for me, rooting up all those nasty Bermuda grass rhizomes. We have also used them in the orchard to root up the japanese beetle larva. Once trained, they respect the electric fence, which enables us to utilize step in posts and poly-wire for moveable pens. We also have a few Berkshire hogs in with the herd. We are hoping to breed more of the Berkshires because in our area there is such a large demand for them. Gotta produce what the market demands.These cute little bundles of fur also are contributors to our farm. Rabbit tastes just like chicken, my family says! And it’s a whole lot easier to clean and process a rabbit than it is a chicken… no feathers! And my kids like to tan their hides. Our breeding stock of rabbits are kept in hanging wire cages while our young rabbits are kept in moveable pens out in the pasture if the weather permits. Rabbits are a little touchy, and they don’t like it too hot, too cold or too wet. But they do love to eat the fresh greens and clover growing in the yard and pastures. I usually harvest the rabbit meat at 3 months of age. It takes 2 rabbits to make a meal for my family, but we all find the meat to be delicious. I raise American Chinchilla rabbits, also a heritage breed.
We have about 50 laying hens of various ages. These hens are free 100 % of the time. They have a coop with roosts and an automatic door. They also share a covered area with the rabbits, where they hang out in inclement weather. But usually you can find them foraging for food along the hillside and woods. Or laying eggs on the deck. Silly chickens. They are supplemented with kitchen scraps and conventional feed, and garden waste. I keep sawdust shavings in the roost area to absorb moisture and poop. We usually get over 2 dozen eggs a day and sell the surplus. About twice a year, we also run a batch of meat chickens, or broilers. These cornish cross chickens are kept in the barn until they grow feathers, then they are moved out to pasture to enjoy fresh grass and bugs daily. We keep them in lightweight moveable pens that Jeremie made out of PVC and recycled campaign signs. We usually harvest the meat at around 10 weeks of age. We purchase organic feed from a mill in Guthrie, Ky. This time we are running a batch of 75 chickens. It takes the whole crew and a whole day to process the birds. We have a whizbang feather plucker that we purchased used with a couple friends of ours. Jeremie has made a fantastic drying rack for the birds to rest on before we package them in shrink wrap freezer bags. Doing chickens is never a favorite day on the homestead, except for maybe the bizarre kids who like to play with their windpipes, but we sure do appreciate having organic roasted chicken once a week all year long! Clover and company. Our beautiful Jersey milk cow. She was born right here on the farm and provides milk for her calf and 2 more besides. Plus we can milk her occasionally and get some for ourselves. She is a milk machine. Sweet tempered. One of my favorite “pets” here on the farm. Her three young charges are all bull calves and will eventually fill our freezer.
Jeremie also has 3 South Poll heifers. These are a breed started by Teddy Gentry of the band Alabama. Bred for hardiness on forage. Heat tolerance. Weight gain on grass alone. So far, they have lived up to their reputation. These girls are beautiful. Wide. Low to the ground. Stout. Shiny coats. Sturdy. Aged 2.5, to be bred by a bull, come June 2015. We also run a variety of bottle fed calves with the heifers. These calves are raised for meat purposes or to sell at market. Horses. What homestead would be complete without an ornery horse to wreak havoc, tear up the pastures and cause just a general mess?! Seriously, we love our horses. We have had a parade of horses through here. People practically drop them on our doorstep…beware the free horse. Right now, the Funny Farm is home to only 2 grass eating machines, Wishbone, a beautiful paint, and Buddy, an aging quarter horse. We ride these horses on trail rides with the livestock association, at 4H, around the farm, down the road, anywhere really. Something about the smell of sweaty tack ….nothing can describe it. These are probably the least productive animal on the farm. Good thing they’re so pretty. And they make mama smile. So they stay. Sissy and Marie are our guard donkeys for the hogs. They pretty much stay right with them, whether rooting around in the orchard or lounging around in the woods. We didn’t know Sissy was pregnant when we got her, and were so surprised to see a baby donkey appear one morning in the pasture. We have no Jack, so it will be a miracle if Marie pulls the same stunt on us. Besides the dogs and cats that come in and out of the revolving door of the farm, this is pretty much sums up our critters. Oh, except for the turkey. Oh, and except for the duck. Oh, and except for the fair hogs. Oh, and the bees…….