Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Hammond, Louisiana. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food.

Please follow the links in the top bar for more information on our products and their availability. Continue reading below for our blog where we detail the adventures of raisin' animals and whatnot.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's Turkey Time!

It's that time of year again. Time for turkey! This year we decided not to buy any birds from the commercial hatcheries, but to just raise birds hatched here on the farm from our breeding flock of Bourbon Reds.

We had the incubator cooking all spring and summer and basically hatched out every egg our small flock produced. I couldn't tell you exactly how many little poults we produced, but we had hatchings every few weeks. We sold many of the little birds locally then at some point stopped selling them and started growing them out for Thanksgiving. We started out with at least 60 birds. Unfortunately, we had a terrible year for predators. We had the dog attack, but before and after we had hawks, possums, and foxes all wreaking havoc on our flocks. At this point we have about 30 birds that will be going off to the processors tomorrow.


We really like raising the Bourbon Reds. They seem to be very hardy birds who enjoy ranging and foraging in our pastures. They are a little more standoffish than the broad breasted whites, who will mob you and knock you down for food, but friendly enough to be easy to handle and put away at night.

  Rialey has progressed so much in her herding training this year and does a great job of keeping the birds from being underfoot or getting too pushy with us...though she could probably stand to move them with a little less...enthusiasm.

Tomorrow morning we will be loading the birds up and transporting them to the USDA processor who just so happens to be in the next town over. This makes us very happy as less travel time means less stress for the birds.

At this time, we still have a few birds available if anyone local is looking to add a locally, ethically raised bird to their Thanksgiving table. Email us at orders@hightailfarms.com if you would like to get on the list!

Hope everyone has a happy turkey day!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Losing a hen

This morning I had to put down a chicken.

I'd seen this big white rock hen slowing down the last few days. There was just something not right about her. She was moving a little slow. Her backside was a bit dirty. I decided to wait it out. Everyone feels under the weather now and then.

This morning I found her laying on the floor of the pen. She was laying in the hot sun with her beak in the dirt. I thought she was dead, but when I went to collect the body, she blinked. Not dead, but close and probably suffering. I gathered her up and put her in the shade and coolness of the poultry house until I finished caring for everyone else.

When I went back to her, she had not moved. It was obvious what had to be done. I took her out to the corner of the pasture away from the other birds. We went up on the hill in the shade of a couple chinese tallow trees. The dogs stayed nearby, watching. I ended her suffering as quickly as possible.

Once she was gone, I did a quick necropsy in the field to confirm what I had suspected. Another internal layer. When chickens who have been bred for heavy egg production get older, they sometimes stop laying eggs, but instead start building up egg material in their oviducts. It is almost impossible to tell that this is happening until it is too late.

We've seen this a few times with our hens and every time I try to find a cause. Something we can do to prevent this from happening to our other girls, but all I read is that this is just something that happens with older hens.

Many places will replace their laying hens yearly since after the first year a hen's egg production will drop a great deal. Maybe this is something we will eventually have to do. Right now we have some hens out there from over 3 years ago when we first bought the farm. I like to think that the older ladies are living out their retirement here. Maybe that will have to change if this is the way we lose them. At least if we process them ourselves they can become food for people and the dogs.

I put that white rock hen's body out by the creek for the turtles and the possums to have. At least she didn't go to waste completely.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Smarty pants pup

  I swear Rialey gets smarter every day.

  One of the ways she helps us during chores is to pick up, carry, and deliver things like feed scopes and hoses. She is trained to only pick up the hoses near the nozzle as I have no use for the middle of the hose. Usually I will ask her to pick it up by standing near the end of the hose and pointing so it's a simple task of picking up and handing it to me.

  Tonight I stood about 30 feet from the end of the hose which was buried in tall grass in the dark. I said to Rialey, "Can you get me the hose?" Just once, then said nothing else to her.

  I watched as she followed the length of the hose from beside me, around the corner of the pens, and into the tall grass. She located and picked up the end then wrestled and dragged the heavy thing as it got caught on clumps of grass along the way. She brought it right to me and placed it onto my hand.

  It may seem like a simple thing, but I was very impressed that she'd figured out how to follow the length of the hose to locate the end out of sight. I know she learns from watching us. It is common trait for English Shepherds, and the way they learn to help on on their farms. It was just so fun to watch her make this mental leap.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fishing for Crabbes

Every week we gather up the sheep to do a health check on everyone. We check the color of their mucus membranes and check for loose stool to see if they need a dose of dewormer. This has helped us reduce our lamb losses pretty dramatically and keep up with the health of our mommas.

This week we decided to do health checks in the evening rather than the morning so that meant gathering the flock from the back pasture. I sent Rialey out to move the sheep up and after a couple of false starts, she got the entire flock moving in the right direction at a moderate speed. 

Once we'd moved them up through the second pasture and over the bridge, Luna and Big Onion took over and herded the group unto the alleyway behind the poultry pens that we use as a holding area while doing our checks.

We gathered supplies, and quickly went to work. We were trucking along, me taking notes and Big Onion comparing mucus membrane color to a FAMCHA card when we realized we were one sheep short. Little Crabbe was missing. 

Since we have been at this sheep rearing thing for a few years now, it has become pretty easy to tell which lambs are going to thrive and which lambs will mostly likely succumb to parasites. Crabbe was puny from the start. It seems like every week we were having to pump him full of dewormer and B vitamins, probiotics and iron shots. All our efforts seem to be barely maintaining him. Finding him missing from the group both Big Onion and I knew there was about a 50/50 chance that we'd find him alive. 

As I was headed out to begin the search, Crabbe's mother, Apple, started calling. In the distance, we heard the lamb answer back. At least he was alive! When I came around the corner, I could see him there on the bridge at the gate. This would be a simple matter of opening the gate and letting the little guy run to join the group...or so I thought.

I dropped Rialey in a down stay in the tall grass and walked slowly and quietly to the gate. Unfortunately, Crabbe is the spookiest of our lambs so despite my best efforts not to scare him, he took off the minute he caught sight of me. I sighed and called Rialey to my side.

We crossed the bridge and before I could send Rialey around, the little guy took off! Rialey was after him like a flash. I was hoping he would just lay down as young and unhealthy sheep are want to do when stressed, but instead he headed down the fence line toward the opening to the creek. Rialey was hot on his heels! I was still hoping she would get him turned around when both dog and sheep disappeared from my view down the creek bank. I broke into a run, loudly calling Rialey off, but it was too late. She'd caught up with the lamb, and he had finally done his stupid lamb move of laying down to play dead. Only playing dead doesn't work so well on a steep incline. I caught up just in time to see the little guy do a perfect barrel roll and go head over hooves down the embankment and splash right into the creek!

Luckily, we've been short on rain lately, and right when I was certain he would go under and drown, Crabbe popped right back up and looked back at me in complete shock! I don't think he was expecting that to happen!

Rialey was happy to follow the errant lamb down into the water and did her best to try and get him back to me. She tried herding him. She tried barking at him. She even tried grabbing and dragging him back to shore to no avail. Crabbe just stood there not moving. Finally, he decided to lay down and die again because sheep are really just that dumb and down he went under the water.

At that point there was nothing else for me to do, but to slog down into the boot topping creek and retrieve the stupid creature. By the time I had crawled/fallen down the steep embankment and slashed into the water, he had once again popped back up, only this time he started heading away from Rialey and me and in the direction of the neighbor's. Luckily Rialey was on him again. She grabbed a mouthful of wool and held him there until I could slog my way over to the two and retrieve the soggy little guy.

I gathered up the dripping creature, climbed back up the other side of the creek bank, and handed him over the fence to Big Onion. Crabbe was none the worse for his little adventure and with the heat index topping three figures, there was no fear of him catching a chill.

For my part, I emptied out my boots, wrung out my socks, and finished the evening chores with soggy feet. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fencing off the creek

   Sometimes it seems like having goats means being doomed to constantly putting up new and better fences. Our sweet twins Francesca and Lucia seem to be especially good at finding and exploiting the weak point in any fence we put up. As a result, the girls were making forays into the neighbor's yard, munching on his vegetable garden and nibbling his fruit trees. While our neighbor's love all the animals, especially the goats, there is a limit to their hospitality, understandably. 

  Our other problem was the ducks getting into the creek. We have been told that they were making their way up to the road and beyond. Not good. With goats going over and ducks going under, the old fencing we had up around the creek just wasn't doing the job.

  We decided to take down the old fencing and put up something that SHOULD hold in both the goats and the ducks, and hopefully keep out predators. Without a lot of funds for the project, we invested in several 4 foot tall rolls of welded wire and some 7 and 8 foot T-posts. The farm dogs inspected our purchases for quality.

 The first step was taking down the old fencing. Several bouts of heavy rain and flooding had buried the bottom of the fencing in deep layers of mud and dead leaves. 

    In some areas we actually had to use the winch on the front of the four wheeler to pull the old fencing out of the ground.

 Once the fence was down, Gwen decided to take advantage of access to the previously blocked off area and fill her belly with some overgrown forage. She was a very happy goat.

   Since flooding was an issue, we decided to put up the new fence well above the flood line. Here Big Onion is driving in the new post while Luna supervises and Rialey has a chat with her bunnies.

  While Big Onion was doing the manly job of driving in the posts, I decided to move one of the rolls of fencing into place near the bride so we could start securing it to the first post. Well, those rolls are heavier than they look. First, let me assure you that I am no wilting flower in the strength department. I can sling around 50lb feed sacks and wrestle full sized goats with the best of them, but for some reason those rolls were just a little more than I could handle.

  Well, my motto is work smarter, not harder so I thought I'd do the smart thing and start rolling the fencing where it needed to go. I was happily walking along, kicking the roll ahead of me, not paying very close attention to the fact that me and that heavy roll were getting closer and closer to the embankment of the creek. Suddenly the fencing seemed to take on a life of its own and started rolling slowly then with alarmingly increasing speed diagonally down the bank of the creek. I started yelling, "no no No No NONONONONONO!!!" as if the damned roll was going to listen to me and stop its swift descent into the moving water below. Just as I was about to hurl myself forward and onto the roll to save it from a watery, muddy demise, one corner caught the edge of one of the fence posts we hadn't yet removed. The post turned the fencing just enough that it swung around sideways and stopped rolling long enough for me to grab hold of the post in one hand and the fencing in another. A couple seconds more and both me and fencing would have ended up a big soggy, muddy mess.

  Once I had recovered from my ordeal, we started putting up the fencing. Once again the four wheeler was key in getting this job done. Big Onion built a fence puller using a 2x4 and some hardware. Once it was hooked up the winch on the bike, we were able to stretch some pretty tight fencing. Before we moved to the farm, I had no idea that tension is the key to good fencing. A loose fence is a saggy fence and nobody wants that (except maybe the goat who will happily pull it down and hop right over).

  Big Onion and Rialey holding a length of unrolled fencing.

  Once the fencing was in place and properly stretched, we secured it to the T-posts and the job was done! About halfway through the job, Big Onion finally broke down and purchased a clip bender and that little dojobby was well worth the cost. It saved us a lot of time and busted knuckles.

  The final product. It's been several weeks and the goats have not managed to knock it down or figure a way through so we consider that a success. The next fencing project will be replacing the 3 strand electric line that's running in the second and third pastures with real fencing. Hopefully we can wait until the weather cools a bit before tackling the next area. Whew!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Turkey Washing

  Since today was my day off from my "real" job at the vet's, I had every intention of sleeping in a bit. Unfortunately, I was awakened quite early by the unmistakable sound of young turkey poults in distress. Baby turkeys, more than any other poultry we raise around here, seem to have a specific set of sounds they make when they are hungry, excited, sad, and happy. From the bedroom through the closed door of the office, I could hear the sounds of the poults upset about something. 

   Usually those sounds meant they were out of food or water, but when we checked on them we found them with plenty of both. Unfortunately though, every single turkey to the last poult was a soaking wet mess! How could this happen? I had just checked on them right before bed, and they were fine.

  Well you see, with this most recent batch of newly hatched turkeys, we had a surprise duckling! We try very hard to keep all our duck, chicken, turkey, guinea, and goose eggs separate. Usually it's very easy to tell them apart, but every once in a while one egg slips past us. So we've been brooding this one surprise duckling in with the turkeys, and you know the old saying, when you go to bed with ducklings, you wake up wet!

  Not only were these turkeys wet, but they were crusted with feed and poop. Yuck! I swear they were fine the night before. I have no idea what kind of party was thrown in that brooder while we slept, but I knew I was going to have to be the one to clean it up!

  With young poultry, temperature is everything. So keeping these little ones warm while I got them cleaned up was my first priority. I brought them into the bathroom and started up the space heat. Then I rinsed each one under warm water until they were nice and clean. 

  Next I wrapped them up in a towel in my lap a few at a time and used the blow dryer on a low, warm setting to get them all warm and fluffy again. 

  Here they are all clean and re-fluffed and none the worse for the ordeal. Just in time too because today they will be moving outside to make space in the brooder for a new batch of freshly hatched chickens!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hi bunny!

After the last couple sad and negative posts, this little bunny just wanted to say hello to everyone.