You know you're pretty blessed when the title "husband" applies to your spouse in multiple ways, right? Husband- I am his wife. Husbander- caretaker of animals. Hubba hubba.
He's new to the whole animal husbandry role but he's killing it. The role, that is. Not the animals... yet.
Within a week of having moved into the house, Ben and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary. It was awesome. We basically relived our honeymoon and smushed it all into one day: drink champagne, eat mexican food, pj's, more champagne. We started daydreaming and talking about the past year, because one year down? It was a pretty big year. Wedding, honeymoon, get a dog, buy a house. Yep, major milestones checked.
But next year? Who knows! Finish the main floor of the house, adopt some chickens, maybe some goats or sheep? We should dream!!!
Oh wait, thanks to Craigslist less than 7 days later, two of those three goals were accomplished.... and the house was not one of them.
In fact, within 24 hours, for merely $10 a head, we became the proud owners of these 6 pretty ladies. Hand raised by 8 and 10 year old girls, they are incredibly sweet for hens.
Oh, wait, did I jump into this too fast? Should I back up? Are you thinking, "but how could they build a chicken coop that quickly? Wow, Ben is good!" Oh, dear friends, he is. But that's not how we did it.
The house came with a pretty awesome chicken coop just begging to be filled. So says Farmer Ben.
Technically the chicken coop is the white little room on the side of the wood shed with the purple fence. But it hasn't yet been featured on the blog so here we go!
This little set up is a diamond in the rough on this property. The wood building is an empty room, basically, previously home to Dora the Cat (RIP) and many, many years prior, to my understanding, was lived in while the main house was being built. Now THAT is a blog I would have liked to read!!!!
There are dog kennels on the front side of the shed (much to Chili's dismay) and finally, the crown jewel: Jan's Hen House. Soon to be renamed 'Ben's hen House' or something clever. Suggestions welcome!
Back to the chickens: After Ben wowed me with dreams of our future (and a promise from the Craigslister), the next morning he set to work, clearing out the chicken yard, checking the fence, and cleaning the coop. By 7pm, the hens had arrived at their new home.
(please ooh and aww at super cute nephews and niece doing chicken chores with Uncle Ben)
By the next morning, these ladies were already laying eggs. Fertilized eggs, apparently, since they had been frolicking with their rooster the week prior. So...... we bought an incubator, egg turner, learned how to candle eggs and now we're set! Before the month end, we should have a bunch a baby chicks!
Which is just another way of saying.... in a few months we'll be barbecuing chicken. Whoa! Hey, friend, I already foreshadowed that we weren't killing animals YET... clearly I was inferring that it was coming.
In case you think we have gotten "too" into being chicken farmers, think again. Four short days later, Farmer Ben became Shepherd Ben. Which is maybe my favorite version of Ben yet! Two ewes and a ram, and these guys are big!
If it seems like we weren't prepared to be shepherds, well, let me tell you.... You may be right!! There's a great stall and small outside pen connected to Ben's shop. So physically, we were prepared. We were unprepared for the females to be separated from their babies, just beginning the weaning process. So when some friends visited and the gate was left open mere hours after their arrival, they took their opportunity and suddenly we were chasing sheep around the county!
An overnight chase turned into a morning romp, calling for back up from co-workers. Thankfully, Nick knew where to find a shepherd's hook and within minutes the ram was caught.
Back to that whole unprepared thing? Yeah, we didn't have halters or leadropes so poor Nick and Patrick made this happen the unconventional way... the creative way... the successful way! 1 down, 2 to go.
In hindsight, we shouldn't have separated the ram from the ladies but how could we have possibly known?! Those girls took off in search for their babies and hours later and one very long mile walk through a corn field, we 'gave' up.
The rules when you lose a dog in the country also apply to sheep, apparently. So for future reference, here's what you do:
- Look around the area for about an hour.
- Don't chase animals through the corn field.
- Inform neighbors
- Call the city AND county animal shelters (this is key). Let them know the situation.
Something like this:
"Hi, I'd like to let you know that we lost some sheep."
"You lost what?"
"As in sheep sheep?"
"Yes, two females."
"What kind are they?"
"What do they look like?"
"Ok, we'll make a note here. Thanks."
SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH, that works.
-Next, try to relax, drink a beer, wait for the sheriff to call you and let you know that your neighbors on the other side of that same darn cornfield have one of your sheep!
- Bribe one very valuable Animal Science/ Nutritionist prodigy (Thank you, Chelsea!) and take your 'truck and trailer' (one and the same in our case) and go meet your new neighbors (You know, the neighbors you didn't tell about your lost sheep because you didn't think the sheep would travel that far...)
(side note: 30 years ago I saw my grandpa use this exact same set up to deliver some ponies. I never even told Ben that I had seen this before.... Great men, Great minds!)
Clearly this had been the highlight of our neighbor's day because young and old, children, and grandkids had all gathered in the front yard to come see who had lost their sheep! Big excitement.
- When you arrive, you also meet the deputy sheriff, who is also a shepherd! He had rigged a makeshift halter out a lead rope and helped throw her in the back of the truck.
Two down, One to go.
- Again, sit back, relax. Perhaps take a bath? That's what I did. Only to get a call from a co-worker (Thank you Lizzy!) saying that the third sheep was on the county road, blocking traffic from both directions!!! God bless Lizzy, stopping traffic and garnering support from fellow motorists on the road. Ben, Chelsea, and Lizzy chased and corralled her, and a good samaritan did a football tackle right on the sheep, Ben jumped on top of her in the middle of R38 and voila, third one captured.
And just like that, we're shepherd's again.
It was a long, hard day. Emotional. But full of valuable lessons. We emerged better shepherds. Learned some good lessons. And I can't even explain the joy Shepherd Ben had on his face when the day was over, we had won the fight, and his sheep were in the place he had prepared for them. Makes you think about biblical lost sheep and our True Shepherd. Good lesson.
I'm happy to report that we have now owned the sheep for 4 straight days without incident!
Ben is a great shepherd and chicken farmer (apparently poultry doesn't have a fun name for their caretakers). Regardless, Farmer Ben is making it happen and I'm excited to see the hard work of his hands pay off.
Stay tuned for Farmer Ben part 3: Baby Chicks!