Ascites in Meat Broilers

As if I didn’t already think Cornish X were bad enough, I recently learned of a new ailment that the breed suffers from. Because they grow so large so quickly, they are susceptible to broken bones, especially in the legs, muscle injuries, and any and all manner of physical ailments because of their quick growth. Another issue I have found is ascites – aka congestive heart failure.

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed one of our broilers was gaping and having respiratory issues. I immediately began treatment with all manner of “natural” remedies, including VetRx (natural poultry respiratory aid), colloidal silver, and a natural dewormer on the chance it was gapeworm. While the bird didn’t exactly seem to be improving, it also did not seem to be getting worse. It was noticeable, however, that the bird was not growing like the others.

About a week ago I found the bird, freshly dead in the corner of the pen. Immediately I opened it up for autopsy. My first area to check was the esophagus/trachea, looking for signs of any gapeworm. All clear. The second I opened the body cavity however, a yellowish, gel-like fluid came out. It reminded me of a great bone broth after it’s been chilled. I was alarmed as I have never seen such a thing before. I took to Google, and found out that this happens in Cornish X, and it is called ascites.

Ascites is also known as water belly, and is found almost exclusively in meat birds. It is a form of congestive heart failure. The ‘jelly’ is an accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the body cavity. Short explanation, increased pressure within the veins causes blood pressure to rise and fluids leak from organs, primarily the liver, into the body cavity. The main cause is genetics.

Common signs include cyanosis (blue flesh), and respiratory issues (dyspnoea). They also tire easily and develop poorly. The best way to control ascites is to slow the growth rate of your birds by restricting feed and using low energy and protein diet. We did have the birds on high protein feed (the same as our entire flock, 22%), and in the spring we will use a lower protein 16-18% feed.

Learning something new every day!

Mystery Diagnosis: Lavender

While I was out of town for work from Sunday, 10/14 through Friday, 10/19, Justus was home watching the animals. He does a GREAT job and I couldn’t have the farm without him, I am very appreciative. When I left on Sunday, all rabbits were behaving normally (eating/drinking on typical patterns). Justus said that he noticed on Thursday, 10/18 that Lavender hadn’t eaten her oats. I arrived home Friday morning, 10/19. I didn’t get around to checking rabbits until the afternoon, and I noticed that Lavender had peed on her resting board. I immediately took her inside and washed her bottom off, removed her resting board, and stuffed her cage with hay. I watched her nibble some hay and eat a tiny amount of feed, so I let her be but continued monitoring her. She was about the same all weekend, but she didn’t seem to be deteriorating so I continued checking on her.

Monday, 10/22, I noticed that her tail/bottom were wet again. She had somehow managed to become re-wet and matted (even without her resting board). I brought her inside, cleaned her again with an epsom salt bath, applied coconut oil to her genitals, anus, and the urine scalded areas, and fed probiotics. I put her in a cage in the garage stuffed with hay, with some feed, oats, and water with ACV. I watched her drink, so I remained hopeful even with the weight she had lost.

Yesterday, 10/23, I came home from work and checked on Lavender. I noticed labored, shallow read more

Creekview FFA

I haven’t had the time to blog about an amazing experience that I had last week, so I’m writing about it now.

On 10/2/18, I had the opportunity to go to Creekview High School in Canton, GA and speak to 4 different ag/animal science based classes. Most of the students were freshmen or sophomores in high school, and 3 of the 4 classes were FFA groups. I was there from 0930 to 1330, talking to the students about rabbits. I did a quick overview of usefulness on the homestead, showing, some basic care information, and then info about the Silver Fox breed. I also took Dallan with me so that the kids could see and feel the breed. I had a lot of comments about how big he was and how soft his fur was. I took some ARBA magazines and some pelts along that I had tanned. The students seemed engaged and asked questions. We also got to practice posing with Dallan and their three lionhead/lionhead mixes that live in their classroom.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to visit their ‘ag lab’ where they had hydroponic towers of lettuce, incubators with eggs, an aquarium, and an ag mechanics room. I also got to see their outdoor animal enclosures and their garden. The school is in the process of building them an agriculture building, which is fantastic considering that a few years ago their ag program was almost cut from the curriculum.

Agriculture is so vitally important, especially when it comes to teaching our young people about it. We need to encourage kids to get involved and become interested in agriculture in any and all ways possible. I’m hoping that I convinced at least one student to do rabbits for their Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) for FFA, a project that is an organizational requirement. I plan on working closely with Creekview and Ms. Pauline Benton in the future. Hopefully I’ll be contacted soon about a kid wanting meat or show rabbits.

Check out some photos here!

The Benefits of Geese

So we’ve had our geese for a few months now, and I figured it would be a good time to make a post about them.

Geese have multiple benefits for a homestead, besides being just beautiful additions to the farm. Geese come in many breeds, sizes, and colors, so do your research and figure out what sort of geese you want to add to your homestead.

Geese do require water, as do all waterfowl, however they do not spend the majority of their days swimming like ducks choose to do. Geese actually prefer grazing and weeding. They do poop, A LOT, and usually everywhere you don’t want them to, however they are tremendous at keeping weeds and grasses mowed down. They’re fairly self sufficient foragers and grazers. They LOVE fresh greens, kale being a favorite snack.

Geese are also fabulous watchdogs. They’re good protectors and you’ll know if someone is around who isn’t supposed to be there. Conversely, they pick and choose who they like, and they can be mean or aggressive, especially during nesting season.

L to R: Talbot, Gracie, Pearl, Peanut

They lay large, delicious eggs (if you can muster the courage to raid the nest), and can also be used for meat. They’re fairly easy keepers. Ours eat the same food as our chickens, they get in their little pool about 2-3x a day, and they sleep in the chicken yard/rabbitry under the rabbit cages (even though they have their own space).

A dip in the creek makes for happy geese!


We lucked out with our geese being very friendly. I mostly attribute this to Talbot being hatched here and hand raised by us. We have one Chinese goose (Talbot) and the other 3 are Toulouse (Gracie, Pearl, & Peanut). Peanut has some sort of deformity to (his/her) beak, being slightly crooked, but it doesn’t seem to bother/affect (him/her). Our guys DO bite. They are very nibbly and if you don’t have greens for them, they take to biting skin blemishes, loose clothing, and shiny jewelry. Painted toenails are also a favorite.

I love our geese, and I recommend every homestead have a trio or quad running around. They’re very entertaining and we enjoy having them around.

Gracie, Pearl, Peanut & Talbot

Picture Perfect Weekend

…and sadly, no pictures to show for it. Regardless, we had a great time!

We had some visitors this weekend, my father & his wife, along with my brother and my niece came down to visit! I love visitors. We had a fabulous time, and I love having my niece around to help me do chores. She’s a mini farmer in the making.

Saturday, before we went to the farmers market, I went and traded a trio of meat rabbits for a pair of green egg layers. One is black while the other is white, so naturally we named them Ebony & Ivory. They’ve already laid one dusty green egg. I am so excited! Now all we need are some blue layers and we will be set!

Our guests left this morning, prior to them leaving I showed my dad a quick rundown of posing & evaluating rabbits for quality. Upon their departure, I butchered three of our remaining 5 nine-week old kits. Two escaped freezer camp in order to have some grow out time so that we can see how they develop. I am fairly excited about the black doe that remains, I hope she turns into a nice girl. Her blue sister is also pretty promising.

After butchering, I dumped and cleaned feeders and waterers, and did a bit of grooming. Our rabbitry is now *almost* down to breeders only, we still have two of the older kits, and two of the 9 week olds remaining. We have managed to get all the rabbits moved into the main, fenced part of the rabbitry now, for easier management.

We also have a broody hen. Bertha, one of our new additions from January, is sitting on 5 eggs. She has been brooding them overnight for about 2 days, and now she is sitting on them longer & longer. I have toyed with the idea of putting the lone Polish chick under her, but she’s a young and inexperienced hen, so I’ll see if she manages to hatch anything herself. She’s quite the grump these days.


I just realized I never published this little blog about our goose eggs.

Today is their ‘actual’ due date of 35 days. Unfortunately we’ve only had one pip & hatch, Talbot. He has to wear special “shoes” because his toes were curled in and he was struggling to walk. He is doing great now, today I’m going to take his shoes off and see how his feet look. I was hopeful that the other three would pip and hatch today, but it’s not looking promising. I am giving the eggs until Sunday before they’ll be fed to the pigs.

If none of the others hatch, I’m going to try and find at least one other gosling as a buddy for Talbot, I don’t want him to be raised alone. He already thinks Justus is his momma (and to be clear, I’ve no idea if he is actually a he, only time will tell).

Other news, we’ve also acquired a very young kitten, who will be our new mouser once he’s bigger. His name is Orville.

Yay baby animals!


Butcher Day & Other Goings On

This week has been fairly productive. I’ve been cleaning a lot since Justus is away for work. I’m happy to say that we have ZERO laundry in the laundry baskets, and I’ve dusted all of the rooms downstairs except the kitchen (which needs its own deep clean). But, who cares about that stuff, what’s going on with the homestead?!

Well, Monday, my friend Linda of Tale of Tails came over & helped me butcher my 10 week old growouts so that I could get the grow out pen cleaned out for my 6 week old growouts. All together we butchered 8 rabbits out of 9 – the one with the missing foot (aka Foot) I’m holding out until Justus gets home since it’s “his” rabbit. That put almost 20lb of meat in the freezer, taking our yearly total thus far to ~80lb of homegrown meat in the freezer so far this year.


What else? Well, the pigs are doing very well. They’re a very entertaining pair, and I do enjoy watching them interact with the dogs and with each other. We are fermenting their hog feed for added microbes and bacteria, along with adding sunflower seeds – the pigs love them. We put garlic in their water and I have yet to see any worms or external parasites.

I have also accomplished my best batch of ‘booch yet! I made kombucha AND jun (kombucha made with green tea & honey instead of black tea & sugar) and BOTH turned out very well. The kombucha was better, I flavored it during 2F with raspberries and some mint that I grew. The jun was flavored with ginger and lime. I am enjoying drinking both of them.

Booch on left; Jun on right

I forgot to add in previous blogs, our chukar and pheasant chicks escaped, so that project went ker-plut. Looks like they  got out under a small gap between the ground and the cage. Oh well, live and learn. Hopefully this fall we can get the game bird pen erected so we don’t have these issues again.

Also, the goose eggs are doing very well. Still appears that 4 out of 5 are developing properly. They’re due to hatch June 29 if all goes as planned.

Copper maran egg from our new girls

I believe that’s about all for now. 🙂

Our Pigs Are HERE!!

Yep, that’s right, our piggies have arrived!

We went and picked them up from Cables Piggery in nearby Silver Creek, GA. We are very pleased with them. They were born around April 7-9, so they’re just shy of 8 weeks old. We estimate them between 20-30lbs. They’re Hampshire x Duroc crosses. I think they look most like Hampshires, black and white (and super cute). I’m trying not to name them, because then I know it’ll be game over and they’ll never leave. They’re both gilts (unbred females), so I guess they could become breeders, HA!

We actually had to meet in a Walmart parking lot due to flash flooding in the area. I’m sure the shoppers loved hearing the screaming from them as we picked them up and transferred them from trailer to our dog box.

We got them home and they had gotten a bit car sick, puked all over the dog box. Unloading was stinky and not fun. But once they were in their pen, they calmed down and their tails curled right up. We gave them some food and water and filled their kiddie pool.

The piglet with the all black head is very talkative, slightly larger, and more confident but also more wary of humans. The smaller, white-headed piglet is very curious and less dominant. They both LOVED the eggs I gave them. They seem to have healthy appetites. They were also enjoying rooting everywhere that there was fresh dirt, which is inconveniently around our fence posts. We started digging out their wallow in hopes that they’ll take to rooting over there and towards the center of the pen.

I laid down some hay for them and they snuggled up and slept under their overhang and stayed dry. I’m nervous to go home, I hope they’re still in their pen and haven’t escaped. I am enjoying them thus far. Just thinking about the possibility of them reaching 200-250lbs each, providing us with likely over 250-300lb of pork is an AMAZING thought. I hope they don’t prove to be too much of a pain in the a$$, but we shall see.