Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food. We are currently not producing any products for sale.

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.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Egg Bound Hen

 I had been seeing this little red chicken acting funny for a few days. Her comb looked pale, her feathers mussed, and she had a habit of just sort of hanging out against the walls in the coop instead of going out and foraging with the rest of the flock.

 After noticing this for a little while, I finally got my hands on her and gave her a good exam. She was rather thin, but had no wounds that I could find. What she did have was a rather large, solid mass low in her abdomen. Ah ha! She must be egg bound.

  A chicken will get egg bound when an egg gets stuck in her oviduct. This can happened for a variety of reasons, but often it is because the egg she produced was larger than normal or misshapen. I decided to try the most commonly recommended treatment for egg binding - a good warm, soapy soak.

 I even covered the bath so Ms. Henny could have some privacy...and so I didn't have a panicked, soggy chicken come flying out of the tub and flapping around my bathroom! For some reason, she did not seem to appreciate the spa treatment.

 Once out of the tub, I wrapped her up in a towel and used the blow dryer on low to try and get her as dry as possible. Can't have our egg bound momma getting a chill. Then I tried very carefully to massage that egg out, but it wouldn't budge. You have to very careful doing this. I've read that if the egg breaks, those sharp shards of egg can do some serious damage to the inside of the hen.

Once she was totally dry, we set her up in a pen by herself with a private nest box and hoped for the best.

 The following day, she still hadn't laid an egg. We gave her one more day, but the poor thing was looking so puny and sick that we made the decision to put her out of her misery. We then decided to do a quick autopsy to see if we were right that she was egg bound. It turns out the poor thing was full of this huge yellow mass. After doing a little research, it looks like we had an "internal layer."

From the Merck Manual:
In these hens, partially or fully formed eggs are found in the abdominal cavity. Such eggs reach the cavity by reverse peristalsis of the oviduct. If they have no shell, they are often misshapen because of partial or complete absorption of the contents. Frequently, only empty shell membranes are present. No control or treatment is known. This condition is related to erratic ovulation and defective egg syndrome.

  So the mass I was feeling was technically an egg (really a lot of eggs) but all the soaking in the world would not have helped our hen. Once a chicken starts laying internally, the kindest thing to do is to put them down before they die from infection. Hopefully, if we ever see this again, we will recognize it sooner and take the necessary step to keep our ladies from suffering.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

If a tree falls in the pasture and no goats are around, will it still be dinner?

 About a month ago we had a large tree go down in the back pasture.

The goats just thought this was manna from heaven. The trees come to us?! This is great!

Even the kids were getting in on the buffet.

As you can see, this was not a small tree. The trunk actually snapped in half about 8-10 feet in the air. It looks like this tree may have fallen victim to some kind of rot or termites.

 Of course, I saw this as a training opportunity for the pups. I've been asking Luna to climb up, walk on, and jump over weird things her whole life so when I asked, she jumped up into that tree lickety-split!

Rialey was game to give tree climbing a go as well.

 Here I am guiding her a little higher up on a rather narrow branch while making sure she doesn't fall (...again...oops!).

She was quite happy to be lifted down afterwards.

 Puppy love! (more like, "Mom can you please put me down now!?")

Meanwhile, the kids didn't need any help getting up or down the fallen trunks. Heck, they even started climbing each other! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pukey Franny

It's funny the things you pick up when you spend a lot of time around animals.

  For instance, when I walked into the kids' pen a while back and saw this crust on Francesca's shoulder, I knew she had been vomiting.

  I've mentioned it before, but when goats get sick they don't just throw up. Instead, they "sling cud" which basically means they bring the continence of their rumen back up into their mouth then open up and sling the stuff all over the place. More often than not, they throw their head to from side to side and end up getting upchuck on their own shoulders (not to mention on the floor, the walls, and any other goats unfortunate enough to be within range).

  It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while the goats will get into something that doesn't agree with them. The young kids are especially prone to this as they explore the world and try to figure out what is food and what is not. On this day just to be safe, I gave little Franny a couple of charcoal pills. They are very good at absorbing and moving out anything toxic she might have eaten. I also gave her a syringe full of aloe to settle her belly then just kept a close eye on her the rest of the day.

By that evening she was back to her old self scarfing down a dinner of alfalfa with just little bit of grain. She's been fine since! I'm not sure if my intervention was needed since she seemed to have stopped vomiting by that morning, but it's nice to know that we are learning to pick out and deal with problems with the animals more quickly and easily as time goes on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Raising Broad Breasted White Zombies

  This morning we dropped off four of our largest heritage turkeys to the processors as sort of a trial run for when Thanksgiving rolls around. That made me realize that I had never shared all these pictures of our commercial Broad Breasted White turkeys on pasture.  

  At the moment all our normal pens are full, so the broad breasted white turkeys had to take over our two rabbit tractors. Just like we do with all of our free range birds, we trained them to go into their pens at night by putting a fence around the opening for the first few weeks and feeding them only in their pens.

I will never cease to be amazed at how different the commercial breeds are to their heritage counterparts. Where our Bourbon Reds are friendly and curious, these turkeys are pushy and constantly trying to be as close to us as possible. They are always on the lookout for food and will throw themselves at the sides of they pen if we walk by.

It really is a wonder they have any feathers at all on their chests with the way they press themselves against the fencing.

  It's a bit like raising a horde of white feathered zombies. We have a strict policy here on the farm to never, ever feed the birds from our hands, otherwise I'm sure I would have no fingers left from their pecking. As it is, you really, really do not want to stick a finger into this pen. It will get bitten by a turkey beak which hurts more than you would think!

This is what it looks like every time we try to walk in the first pasture. Just a horde of butterballs rushing at your feet (along with the couple bourbon red and few guineas that ended up in the mix).

 Thank heavens the dogs have learned to get the turkeys off us. Luna had this job last year, and this year young Rialey takes great pleasure in making sure not a single turkey is within 10 feet of us. All I have to do is yell, "Help! Get 'um off me!" and she's there in a flash weaving her way between the turkeys and my feet. She'll run back and forth and push those feathered beasts until they give up and leave us in peace. Without the dogs, I really don't know how we would get anything done!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


  Last Sunday morning after chores were done, Big Onion and I took a walk to the back pasture to take Rialey swimming in the pond. As usual we were accompanied by the entire herd of goats. That morning, I asked Big Onion to check Gertie's color. There was nothing tangibly wrong with her, but she just didn't seem right. He did a quick check of the mucus membranes around her eyes and said she looked normal.

  That evening when milking time came around, I gave my usual call of "Ladies!" and all the girls piled into the milk room as normal. Although Gertie was doing her usual jostling with the other girls and reasserting her place as one of our top herd goats, there was obviously something wrong. She had foam around her lips and nose. She was grinding her teeth and moaning a little. There were no signs that she had been vomiting or having diarrhea, but the girl was certainly in some kind of pain.

  She still wanted to eat, so I offered her just a handful of hay. She would try to eat it then go back to grinding and foaming and wiping her face on every available surface: her feed bucket, the walls, her daughter Eve's back. After milking, we tried our best to get a look into her mouth to make sure something wasn't stuck somewhere or that she hadn't broken a tooth. We had a heck of a time getting her mouth open, but once we did, everything looked normal.

  We gave her a dose of banamine for pain, some baking soda and oil in case she was bloating, and a couple of charcoal pills on the off chance that she had eaten something toxic. We gave the rest of the herd a second look over, but no one else seemed to be having any problems. That night we closed Gertie and Eve into the goat yard so no one would bother them with fresh hay and a bucket of clean water and went to bed.

  Early the next morning Big Onion left for work and I threw on my closes from the day before and ran out expecting to find Gert back to her usual self. Instead I found her laid out in the dirt of the goat yard looking terrified and unable to get up. I called the vet and asked them to please come out to the farm as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the only available vet was already on another farm call and wouldn't be free for a couple of hours. My only other option was to try and bring the goat to the vet's office.

  I should mention here that Gertie is our biggest and heaviest goat by far. She's actually the biggest animal we have here on the farm weighing in at at least 150-175lbs. Loading her into the back of my car on my own seemed almost impossible, but it had to be done. I grabbed an xpen and some hay quickly and set up the back of my car for livestock transport. I pulled the car into the pasture and backed right up to the goat yard. Luckily, I was able to get Gertie back on her feet and walk/drag her to my waiting vehicle. I managed to get her loaded by lifting one front foot at a time onto the tailgate then heaving her back end up and in.

  Once in the car, she fell over again and would not get back up. She was in distress and moaning the whole way to the vet's office. I actually had to pull over at one point during the short trip to put her in a better position and make sure she could breath ok.

  When we arrived at the vet's office, we tipped her out of the car and onto her feet. He gave her a thorough exam and decided to pass a tube from her mouth into her stomach and treat Gertie for possible bloat. This was easier said than done has she had clamped her mouth so tightly shut that it took three of us and a pry bar to get her mouth open enough to get the tube in place. In the process, the poor girl bit her tongue rather badly. Ouch!

  The vet filled her belly with bloat medication, and we waited and watched her for a bit. Gertie seemed to be improving a little. We loaded her back into my car and I took her home again. On the way home, she collapsed in the car and was making distressed sounds again.

  Once home, I got her out of the car and back on her feet. We walked back into the milk room where she seemed to be ok for the time being. I gave her another dose of banamine for pain and went about the normal business of feeding animals and milking the other goats then went inside for some breakfast/lunch.

  When I went back out to check on Gertie she was once again laid out on her side. Her gut was full of air, her legs were rigid, and she was very upset. By sheer force of will, I got her back up on her feet and massaged the air out of her rumen. I spent the rest of the day in that room with her. She would have these terrible spasms and fall over with her back legs thrown straight backward. I assumed she was having painful stomach cramps. Over and over, I got her back on her feet because if I left her laying down her gut would just fill with air. I ended up sitting on a stool with her leaning into me for most of the day. I gave her more oil to try and combat the gas formation and aloe to soothe her stomach. Nothing seemed to help at all.

  She just kept getting worse and worse. Big Onion got home and did all the farm chores while I stayed in that room tending to a very sick Gertie. Once chores were done, Big Onion took over sitting with her propped against him and constant massaged the air out of her gut. As the sun set, she started tilting her head to one side, and the muscle spasms started to get worse. Her entire back was bowed up, and she could not seem to relax it all all. Big Onion brought up the idea of tetanus and I got the vet on the phone at home to discuss the it as a possibility. He seemed reluctant to agree to the idea, but recommended couple treatments that might help her. He also said that if she had tetanus, we would have probably found a wound of some kind that looked nasty and infected. I thought back to a couple weeks before when we had pulled a small piece of metal out of her hoof, but I had checked that hoof since and it was fine.

  We gave her the treatments. At that point, we could no longer keep her on her feet, so we laid her down with her head propped as best we could and made a quick run out for some fast food. It just happened to be the date of our first wedding anniversary so our planned fancy dinner got downgraded to the local Taco Bell drive-thru with me still wearing yesterday's clothes and neither of us smelling none too pleasant.

  A couple hours after the treatments she was showing no signs of improving. She was in pain and scared and exhausted so we made the decision to put her out of her misery. We'd tried everything we could and we could not let this sweet girl suffer anymore. It was while she was laying there that I found the wound. On the point of her sternum, right between her front legs there was a wound the size of a nickle. It looked like a deep puncture and was obviously infected. It probably happened when Gertie hopped one of our fences some time in the last couple weeks. For a rather short and heavily built goat, she was rather good at going over fences.

  I talked to the large animal vet the next morning and we are pretty certain that it was tetanus at this point. The sad and frustrating thing is that this is preventable. There is a vaccine to guard against tetanus that we actually have in our refrigerator right now. We bought it several weeks ago and had not gotten around to giving it to everyone. I guess this is just another lesson that the farm had to teach us the hard way. When it comes to the health of the animals, there is no putting things off until tomorrow.

   Our neighbor was kind enough to come with a backhoe to dig a hole on the hillside of the first pasture so that she could be buried here on the farm. I like to think she is still up on that hill watching over her daughter, Eve who is due to have kids of her own this winter.

  We will miss our sweet Gertrude. She was a headstrong, bossy goat who was always so sweet and loving with us and everyone who visited. She looked like an old dumpy lady with a saggy udder and paunchy sides, but she carried herself like the queen of the herd. She loved to have her neck scratched and liked to stand with her  head pressed into you for attention, the goat equivalent of a hug.

Rest in peace Gertie. We are so sorry.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Princess

  Yesterday Ajah, my little yorkie, turned 14. She was my first dog, my princess, and the whole reason I got into dog training in the first place. I thought I would take this opportunity to let the people who know her know what has been happening with her.

  A few years ago, we found out Ajah has a really bad liver. We were able to keep her active and very healthy with a combination of diet and supplements. She was a happy, crazy dog who no one even guessed was in her senior years. Then about 6 months ago, our cats got into the pantry and knocked down a bunch of dried meat treats that Ajah unfortunately got into. All that protein overloaded the little dog's system and she ended up having a series of what we can only assume were strokes. At first she just seemed off balance and drunk, but still mostly there mentally.

  Then there was a period that she was so out of it that we had to keep her confined to a small fenced off area in the house for her own safety. She would get lost behind furniture and couldn't even figure out how to feed herself. We seriously considered putting her down, but in a matter of a few days she started improving.

  These days she is a shell of her old self. When she was younger, she was literally the smartest dog I ever met. She could communicate her feelings and desires like no other. She figured out tricks and other training so fast that she taught me how to teach. Now she does not seem to know where she is most of the time. She does respond if you call her name, but often will head in the wrong direction. She tends to eliminate wherever she feels like going, and we just keep a mop bucket around to clean up after her.

  She does love her meals. When she was so bad off, I told her that if she wasn't eating I would know that she did not want to be around anymore. Since that day she eats like it is her job. She even goes to the kitchen and sleeps near her food bowl when it gets near mealtime most days. She is very mobile, able to get up and walk around without much trouble, but mostly she sleeps a lot. She doesn't like to be touched much, and even going outside to potty can be overwhelming at times.

  I did not think this is what her last years would look like. I thought we'd see the typical end to a liver dog of refusal of food, organ failure, seizures or maybe her bad back would cause her to lose mobility. I never thought this bright little light of my life would end up so dull. What breaks my heart is that I keep trying to write about her in the past tense. The sweet and sassy little princess I knew is gone. Now we just do our best to make sure she is comfortable and as happy as she can be until the time comes to say goodbye.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Corgi chickens at large

The "corgi butted" chickens are now running loose with the rest of the flock.

When we finally opened their pen door and let them free, Rialey was very concerned that these chickens were not where they were supposed to be.

She took it upon herself to herd every last one of them back to their pen every time they would try to leave.

  It took some serious convincing on my part for her to stop harassing these poor young ladies and let them free range with the rest of the birds.

  This dog's brains and instinct never cease to amaze me. Somehow she recognizes that these particular chickens are different from all our other chickens and knows exactly where they belong. She will also get upset and alert us if a bird ends up in the wrong pen at the end of the day. 

One pouting English Shepherd. 

  Whenever I have to really get on her about being overzealous in her farm duties, Rialey drops into a down wherever she is and stays there pouting until I call her in. What a goofball.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Collared Kids

 The baby girls are finally big enough to get collars.

 Francesca is wearing the same color as their mother, and Lucia is wearing Luciano's purple. It just kind of happened that way, but I think it's very fitting as the two girls remind us so much of each of their parents in both personality and markings.

 They have been coming out everyday now for morning and evening chores. Rialey is still very protective of her little charges, never letting the adult goats harass the kids too much.

 Francesca: "I'ma knock you off dis thing!"

"Hey, where'd ya go?"

  The next thing for these girls is some collar and leash training that I probably should have started a long time ago. Life with goats is so much easier when you can grab them by the collar and move them without a fight. We will also start getting them used to being tethered. We would never leave a tied up goat unattended for long, but you never know when you might need to keep a goat in place for a few moments. Lord knows they aren't very good at taking a "stay" command! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Homemade Hay Rack

 I'm not sure if I ever shared the pictures of this wonderful hay rack that Big Onion made for us. I needed something that was sturdy and safe for putting hay out for the sheep. They tried to hang themselves with the hay net, and the commercial metal racks are way out of our price range.

 He was actually able to make it from wood and old fencing we had already on the farm. It works like a charm and so far no one has managed to injure themselves on it. The only problem we have is a few of the chickens think this pile of hay is a way better place to lay their eggs than their nest boxes. We didn't notice this was happening until they had laid a good sized nest. I guess we'll have to fashion some kind of netting over the top to keep this from happening.

The best part about it is I can dump an entire square bale into this thing then pull off the strings, and it's good to go! So far there has been very little wastage either.

The Big Onion Hay Holder: Thea tested, Rialey approved. 

Bonus shot of my little Gwenny enjoying some salt/sulphur block. The goats love this thing, and apparently it is good for keeping the flies and ticks away. Thea and Elanore always go and lick the block after their dinner. I guess they are trying to tell me something about the flavor of their food. Picky goats.

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?!"