PEAS Farm: Have you gotten to know the PEAS animals?
Some farm visitors stop by solely for the purpose of saying hello to our pigs, chickens, or our (new) duck. Often these visitors are bee-lined to the chicken coop by their kids. Kids are the animal’s biggest fans. They are all too eager to get locked into the human-sized cage that is the chicken run. Since we built the new run, keeping track of the kids at farm camp has never been easier. Only the occasional CSA member is surprised to discover that we have animals, so for the familiar and the unfamiliar, I am happy to introduce you to the critters I feed each day.
Let’s start with the chickens. At the moment we have 19 chickens and 2 roosters. The chickens and Ernie, our first rooster, named for the cocky Ernest Hemingway, all came to us in May as teenagers. They had been raised from chicks at Clark Fork Organics until the University of Montana Spring class finished building the revamped chicken run I mentioned earlier.
Last fall, on two separate fateful October occasions, an owl found herself hungry and picked off most of the chickens we had at that time. The remaining hens were offered safe haven at Clark Fork Organics and we decided to recruit new chicks for our egg laying efforts of 2013. That being said, I have yet to see an egg! Someday soon, our hens will begin laying pullet eggs that are small and under-sized. It’s with an eye towards the future egg bounty that I tuck the chickens in each night and let them out upon the rooster crow in the morning.
I did mention we have two roosters. This is quite an unusual arrangement. Two roosters together often fight each other viciously. For now, Ernie is the head honcho around the coop while Cha-cha cowers in out-of-the way places. Cha-cha came along with my favorite recent farm addition, our duck Mithers.
Mithers is a male mallard who, more and more, is acting like a chicken. His clucks and pecks abound. He and Cha-cha were a wedding gift to our Farm to School Director, Jason Mandala. He got married last Friday, so Mithers is a really recent addition. We are giving Cha-cha a little time to see how he gets along with Ernie before he becomes dinner.
Mentioning dinner reminds me that you might want to know a bit about our pigs! We have 7 pigs this year, most of who go unnamed but have descriptors to identify them. There’s the ornery one and good ol’ goopy eye. I did break down and give my two favorite pigs the well intentioned names of Fatty and Delicious. We got our pigs in May, just two months old, from a local farmer. They were between 35 and 45 pounds back then and will finish at about 250 pounds in October when they go to Lolo Locker for butchering. The pigs are a great resource to the farm: they eat weeds and pests that otherwise eat or lay eggs in our crops. They have a mixed diet of homegrown veggie waste from the farm and a high-protein seed and grain mix. It’s working: they are getting huge.
Finally, we have two cats, Ophelia and Kale, that do a good job of keeping mice from eating our winter squash or getting into the barn’s kitchen. Ophelia has been at the PEAS farm since it relocated to its Duncan Drive site in 2001. Kale is a bit younger and was brought to the PEAS farm by a former caretaker a few years ago.
If you haven’t yet, feel free to introduce yourself to the PEAS animals. The cats will come to you if they want to say hello, but both the pigs and chickens appreciate some green scraps, so feed your carrot tops from CSA to the hens or pull a weed and chuck it into the pig paddock to make a new friend this week.