Year: 2022

Sheep (Zone 2 – 3)

Hair sheep require no shearing

We have learned much about sheep and ruminants in general these last few years. They need fresh water, minerals, and careful pasture management. They appreciate shade and shelter from rain and wind but if you have trees they can get under, it will suffice.

Unless your sheep are very tame, you will want a handling system to be able to get your hands on them. This can be as simple as some cattle panels and quick links and luring them inside with alfalfa pellets. We’ve used this on our sheep and had eight inside at one time for the vet to do a blood draw. For the next farm, I want a proper handling system for sorting skittish sheep and being able to hold them and goats for general care and maintenance tasks.

Our current favorite breed of sheep are the St. Croix. They are a hair sheep rather than a wool sheep and require no shearing. They simply shed their winter coat in the spring. They have been bred over generations without worming medications and have no need of such if their pasture is rotated properly. As they are not a wool breed, they do not need grain to maintain their health and feeding them grain only makes them grow hooves faster. Without grain, we don’t need to worry about trimming hooves as much.

We have learned much about fencing and the next farm will benefit from that knowledge. We will have high-tensile electric fence around the perimeter, poly wire and temporary posts for paddock divisions. We will also have a solid woven fence area for the rams to keep them separate from the ewes in the off-season.

The next farm will have a great deal more acreage and the sheep will need more protection than what they have here. We will be getting livestock guardian dogs to live with the ewes 24/7. The Ram base will likely be close to the barn.

Ducks (Zone 2)

Rubber-free Duckie

Much like the chickens, they’ll need fresh water, food, and shelter from the climate but they are much more tolerant of wet weather than chickens. They absolutely need access to water deep enough to dunk their heads in to keep their nostrils clear. Ducks can be trained to a house but may need motivated to head to bed in the evening, unlike chickens who will put themselves to bed if not impeded. Muscovies like to roost, but they don’t need one in their house.

You will need water access for your ducks and planning to water plants in the area when you have to dump a dirty pool or water container will help capture the rich nitrogen that your ducks leave behind. Try to locate your pools near trees, gardens, or shrubbery that need water. Whatever containers you use, if you have chickens, make sure that it’s not so deep that a chicken can’t hop out. Chickens can drown themselves in a five gallon bucket.

You don’t really need to tractor ducks to get them where you want them. Just plop a kiddie pool in the area and toss a few treats in the water and they will hunt in the area.

The duck hens have created duck nests in various inconvenient places, but were easy to find. One in the bottom of the chicken coop, one under a bush, and the last in a tote stored under our rabbit cages. We shall see who manages to hatch anything out. Our ducks are seasonal layers so winter will be less of an issue.

Chickens (Zone 2 – 3)

Hunt and Peck

When thinking about chickens in a permaculture setting, you’re thinking about all the ins and outs in their life cycle. As a livestock animal, their care needs are fairly simple. They need fresh water, food, security from predators, and shelter from the climate. If they are allowed to eat anything but crumble, they’ll need grit for their crops to grind up their food.

They appreciate a dust bath but if you don’t provide that, they’ll construct one of their own. They may construct dust baths in addition, regardless of what you provide. Toss in some diatomaceous earth in to reduce parasite problems.

If you are raising chickens for eggs, and you don’t appreciate a daily egg hunt, you’ll want to provide some nest boxes with bedding that is convenient for you to check. If you want said eggs to hatch, you’ll want a rooster and the nests with a pathway to the ground for the chicks to exit without injury.

If your climate is hot, they’ll like shade and access to food and water without having to cross into the sun. If your climate is cold, they’ll need a draft-free place to sleep to protect them from wind, yet ventilated to reduce respiratory infections and frostbite.

You’ll want to locate an egg-layer coop close to your home (zone 1) as you will be visiting them often to check for eggs in the winter to prevent frozen eggs. Having electricity available to warm a water pan will save you from needing to haul water as often.

You will also want a method to deal with soiled bedding and manure. A moving coop is one solution to keep their droppings from building up in one area and is good for fertilizing pasture and gardens that are currently dormant. Deep bedding is another, but you will have to clean it out and move it to a place to compost. Chicken manure is considered “hot” and needs time and carbon to become good fertilizer. That said, as a single collection point, it is an easy way to add nitrogen to your compost pile. Make sure they are located close together.

A note about meat chickens: Meat chicken care is very similar to egg layers, however there are aspects you can skip if you don’t hatch your own, and only raise them seasonally.

We plan to raise some meat chickens in a chicken tractor (probably zone 2) and rotate them in the pasture with a electronet fence to let them forage for bugs and grass. We’ll buy enough chicks in the spring to cover our needs for the year and harvest them before winter to save on labor.

Site-planning Unseen

Site-planning Unseen

As my itch to move grows more intense, I’ll be writing out my thoughts and ideas on how the farm will be designed. Obviously, these plans will change to fit the property once we know what we’re dealing with, but in the meantime it will serve to organize our priorities and maybe help someone else out there following the same path. Click the title to read more.

Things to Build When We Get There

Road access: This is number one for the fact that if we can’t move materials onto the property, we’ll never be able to inhabit it.

Barn: I make this number two because it will be needed to house any building materials, feed, and equipment for the farm. It may also provide temporary shelter to the humans and livestock.

Fence: I’d like the livestock to stay in, and the wild critters to stay out.

Underground PVC Lines/Cisterns: All underground work needs to be done before building unless we can find a cheap line boring machine to rent.

Community Building: Main leisure and living structure. May provide temporary shelter while residence structures are built.

Resident structures: Where everyone calls home and sleeps.

Water Catchment: As roofing is put up, we build water catchment to help with watering animals, gardens, and ourselves.

Greywater Systems: Water can have more than one life.

Humanure System: Disposing of waste in a non-polluting way.

Landscape Design: Decisions on any terraforming to make the best use of the land.

Greenhouse: Let’s grow food without bugs.

Hydro/Aquaponics: Maybe even without dirt.

Kitchen: James and I want a proper kitchen with room for canning, dehydrating, and freeze drying, and some business options. May or may not be on-site depending on legalities.

Root Cellar: Place to store food and take shelter during tornadoes.

Power Generation: Reduce our dependency on the grid and reduce our costs as well.