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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Turkey Wing Clipping

The Bourbon Red Turkeys that we hatched this year are now old enough and pen trained enough to run loose with the rest of the flock.

Big Onion had to go out of town recently, and in the process of doing chores alone one evening I didn't realize that some of this group had not gone into their pen for the night.

It wasn't until the next morning when I found a loose turkey trying to get back into the pen with the rest of the group that I realized something wasn't right. One more was pacing and calling from the other side of the fence by the creek. It was in retrieving that bird that I found the mostly eaten carcass of one of the bourbon reds. Rialey found a second dead bird in the tall grass of the pasture. That evening we found the skeletal remains of a third bird floating in the creek. The only thing left on that bird was the wing feathers which I spotted floating under the bridge. It was very creepy looking.

  I'm pretty sure what happened was that a group of these turkeys had flown over the pasture fence then could not find their way back before dark. The turkeys are very good at doing this. They have the sense to fly over one way but are dead set at walking back the way they came. You find a turkey just pacing back and forth, back and forth, calling and staring through the fencing. They are not the smartest of birds.

  This incident coupled with the fact that I actually saw some of the birds flying up and hanging out 30-40 feet up in our pine trees during the day made us decide it was time to clip some turkey wings!

  We used a sturdy pair of Fiskars kitchen shears, and I held while Big Onion did the clipping. It was easier to keep the turkeys on the ground and just brace them against my legs. Unless you flip them upside down, suspended turkeys tend to kick their legs a lot, and nobody enjoys a dirty turkey foot to the face. Trust me.

  You want to only clip one wing. This way the bird is off balance and less likely to get enough air to get itself into trouble. Clipped like this, the birds can still hop up onto the perches in their pens. We like to leave the last few outside feathers for appearances. When folded against the body, it's almost impossible to tell their wings have been clipped.

Here is another set of pictures with a different bird.

As you can see, we just clip those secondary feathers and leave the last 5-6 of the primaries.

The aftermath. 

Since the clipping, we haven't seen any of the birds up in trees or on the wrong side of fences. Luckily it seems that only the teenaged turkeys need this done. None of the other birds having a penchant for getting themselves in trouble like the younger turkeys. 

"Ok, ok, we can't fly over fences anymore, can we have our breakfast now?!"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another kid update

 Francesca and Lucia are growing like little weeds. They have horns now! Both of their parents had really nice wide based, outward turning horns so these two girls should have nice sets as well. We don't do any horn removal around here for a lot of reasons not the least of which is the fact that it gets very, very hot here in the summer and horns are thought to help cool the blood.

We are still totally enamored with these two sweet things. Lucia (left) loves snuggles and scratches and giving kisses just like her daddy. Francesca reminds us so much of Josie, their mother. She is opinionated and strong headed and does not like being touched if she can help it. She is also the loudest baby goat I have ever seen! She doesn't just call when she wants something, she yells!

 We have started bringing them out of the backyard and into the first pasture. Here they are learning that duck pool water is too gross to drink while Rialey keeps a watchful eye on her babies!

 Gwen still thinks that she is the baby around here. She has no patience for these newcomers. This picture was taken seconds before she gave Lucia a good headbutt. You can see she even has her hackles up!

 Rialey was not going to let her babies get pushed around for long! Any time the kids are out around the other goats, Rialey keeps a watchful eye and shoos away anyone she thinks might be a threat to them.

 My mother came for a visit recently and aside from buying the world's largest watermelon from a local produce stand...

 and collecting old bottles from the creek bank while looking cute in her new boots....

 she also helped around the farm! She loved bottle feeding the babies...

 and acting as a baby goat jungle gym! Good thing they are still little!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rialey Raking

  Rialey is just over 10 months now, and she is shaping up to be a wonderful farm helper and companion. She does chores with us every day twice a day, and her early maturity and workability have been a godsend since Luna has had some recent (minor) medical issues that have kept her from being able to work on and off. 

  All that said, living with a 10 month old puppy with a huge work drive and an even bigger brain can sometimes be a challenge. I don't always have the time, the energy, or the creativity to give her all the exercise, training, and stimulation that she needs. Last weekend we decided to see if we could tire the pup out a bit by starting pulling training.  

 We received this wonderful, simple pulling harness for Barley as a wedding present from a dear friend. We put it on Barley first to show Rialey how it was done. We figured we could get the pups to help with a bit of yard work while we were at it by attaching an old broken rake to the harness.

  Barley loves pulling in his harness, but he tired out quickly in the heat. Need to get that guy back into condition.

 The harness was a bit large on Rialey, but she wasn't bothered by it in the least. At one point she actually jumped right out of the front opening. I have a feeling she is still going to fill out more as she gets older, and it will fit just fine.

 Meanwhile, Barley took up his post babysitting little Lucia. She was actually leaning on him in this picture. Barley loves his baby goats and considers it part of his job to keep a watchful eye on them. Such a sweet boy.

    Rialey was happy to trot around the yard at my side while dragging the rake behind her. We worked on starting and stopping and making turns.

 Then the goat girls decided to join the fun.

 It's a lot harder to pull a rake that is carrying several pounds of baby goat!

 "Make it go again!"

 I just love Rialey's expression in this picture. This pup is willing to try just about anything I ask of her and does it with so much enthusiasm. She is really, really fun to work with.

  Even though I don't think we succeeded in tiring her out one bit, at least now we have a foundation that might some day with lots more training and conditioning lead to a very useful skill on the farm.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chickens and Eggs

  The business side of the farm has been steadily increasing over time. These days a lot of our income comes from selling our wonderful, pastured chicken and duck eggs. People seem to love them. So much, in fact, that we cannot keep up with the demand. It's actually a pretty good problem to have. 

  It's also a difficult problem to solve as it takes about 6 months to grow a chicken from hatching to laying eggs herself. That means we have a 6 month lag between purchasing new layers and actually getting any eggs from those chickens.

  To that end, we have decided to stop our "heritage broiler" experiment for now. The first big group that we got from breeding our white rock hens with a dark cornish rooster were a lot slower growing than we had hoped. The males turned out a pretty decent size and shape, but the females stayed rather small and compact. They were also predominantly black and dark feathered which makes for a very ugly carcass no matter how carefully you pluck the bird.  

  A few weeks ago, we processed all the males for pet food and our own freezers, and we decided to keep the females as egg layers. We had already put about 3 months of feed into the ladies so why not give them another few months to grow out and start laying eggs for us? Both dark cornish and white rocks are known to be good egg layers, though they do tend to stop laying and want to sit on a nest of eggs ("go broody") more than we would like. 

   We were housing these girls in one of the pasture pens when they were younger. I guess despite the fact that we were moving the pen to fresh ground every couple days, the quarters were a bit cramped so the group started picked at each other's tail feathers. Right now the poor things look like some kind of corgi-chickens. Hopefully their tail feathers will grow in after their next molt. At least it makes them easy to distinguish from the other birds! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Banished Baby Goats

  For their first few weeks of life, we often keep the bottle baby goats in the house. We use dog crates and xpens to keep them contained to certain area where we line the floor with pee pads. It's a lot of work, but we think it's safer and easier than trying to keep them outside when they are so vulnerable and need several feedings a day.

  Francesca and Lucia are no long small and vulnerable. They are over 15lbs now and can hop right out of our shorter xpen and onto the coffee table. They had a knack for peeing on the couches and loved to parkour off the furniture, us, the dogs, and the walls at top speed! Since they have turned into downright maniacs in the house, the baby girls are now living outside full time.

 Don't fret though, they are not locked into the backyard pen all the time. In fact, they have access to our large and slightly overgrown backyard most of the day. They spend their nights cozy in the pen with a nightlight and a thick bed of hay for snuggling up to sleep. Goats around here have it very rough.

 They are still getting three bottles a day, but both girls have started nibbling on grass and leaves. They are also chowing down on the goat feed we leave out for them between bottles. I really don't think we've ever had kids who transitioned to real food so quickly and easily.

  We are still loving the bottles we got from Premier 1 Supplies. I was afraid that as they grew, the babies would have trouble with the small size of the prichard teats, but these girls tank down 13oz very quickly with no problems at all.

  While we do miss having the girls around all the time, they are just out the back door and still get plenty of love and attention. Pretty soon they will be big enough to start having adventures in the pastures like real goats!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Turkey Wash

 The broad breasted white turkeys are growing very quickly. We had them in one of our indoor/outdoor pens, but the rain coupled with the fact that for some reason the commercial breeds of poultry seem to lack the ability to groom themselves resulted in some very nasty and not too white turkeys. I couldn't stand seeing them looking so dirty and bedraggled so I decided to do some thing about it!

 I gathered them all into an x-pen and hosed down the whole lot. A couple hours in the warm summer sun and they were clean, dry, and mostly back to their proper color.

 While I had them penned like this, it seemed like a great time to go ahead and vaccinate these guys against fowl pox. A few weeks ago, we vaccinated our group of heritage turkeys, but at that time I had Big Onion to help. This time I tried to do it on my own.

  Trying to juggle a flapping, kicking, squawking turkey poult, a tiny glass bottle of liquid, and a very sharp lancet with only two hands was a more than a bit of a challenge. I was trying to balance the turkeys on my lap while avoid flying claws and holding out the wing with one hand while using the other to wield the vaccine. It was not going so well.

 Then I remember that poultry will extend their wings and become very calm if held upside down.

 This gave me easy access to the webbing at the top of the wing where the vaccine is given without upsetting the turkey or exposing my flesh to surprisingly sharp young turkey talons.

 Here is a turkey post vaccine. You can see the two little blue/green spots were the lancet loaded with vaccine was inserted.

After everyone was vaccinated, I decided to move the turkeys to one of the pasture pens. This way they have access to grass and bugs and can be easily moved to keep them from needing another hose down. Plus, Rialey thinks it's fun to hang out with her livestock in their new pad.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gimli on the job

  Gimli, our new dwarf buck, has been out with the girls a few weeks now. When he first got here, we ordered a breeding harness for him. A breeding harness is a slightly indecipherable contraption that has a place on the chest for attaching what amounts to a large crayon. It sits right between the front legs of the goat or sheep and leaves a colored smear on the back end of any of the females that the male...ahem...services. The harness we ordered was made for smaller sheep and goats, but I don't think the creators had dwarf goats in mind when they made this thing.

It took some maneuvering and a few zip ties, but we eventually got the thing securely in place on Gimli's small but very sturdy frame. We chose a yellow crayon because we thought that would be the most visible color on all our various girls' rear ends.

That lip curl is goat talk for, "Damn girl, you so fine!"

Eve was the first to cycle into heat almost immediately after we released Gimli to the girls. By that evening, Eve was sporting a bright yellow butt. We tried our best not to make fun of her tramp stamp.

The following day, Gwen was ready to get into the action, but Eve was still madly in love with our blue eyed boy. What followed was a whole lot of goaty weirdness that involved all three of them jostling each other around and doing things for which I really wish I hadn't had a first row view!

At this point, we are fairly certain that Gimli has had his dwarven way with all the girls except Gertie. He tried is his best, but that big, old lady was just not having it from some pipsqueak of a buck!

At some point, I even saw her mounting him! I'm pretty sure my trying to explain to Gertie that that was not how things were supposed to work in the goat world fell on deaf ears.

The next step is to send off pregnancy tests in a few week to make sure everyone is in a motherly way. Boy are we going to have our hands full come January!