Thankfully, many hands make light work and the kids have taken to helping me with the barn chores (they actually look forward to the visit -- most mornings.)
1.) Feed equines. Gallagher first, donkeys next.
Yes, Gall is our biggest animal but feeding him first has more to do with managing herd dynamics than his size: If we don't give him his grain first, he gets all snooty and pushes the donkeys out of the run-in (he's the alpha so he has to eat first in the name of "protecting" the donkeys). Hay in the summer? What about grazing, you may ask. We also have a paddock roped off in the larger hayfield but it's so buggy out there right now, the equines stay pretty close to the barn during the day. While we're still trying to get some weight on Gall, the donkeys certainly don't need any help there. But it's either we feed them hay or they eat the barn. No kidding.
We think Cinder was looking for the self-serve buffet.
Lee too. He's got to work on his stealth skills though (note that donkeys are not allowed in this part of the barn.)
2.) Release ducks.
The ducks are free range during the day but we house them in a converted goat stall at night. Once the donkeys are munching on their hay, there's a clear passage from the barn to the duck/goat yard where they've got their water and paddling pool.
Once (if?) we get our hay cut, they'll be able to access the ponds where they can paddle at will (the Rouens at least. The Muscovies aren't too sold on this whole swimming thing. They prefer flapping, perching and sleeping. And squeaking once in a while (they can't quack, though they do try so hard.))
Getting ready for the big release
Paddle pool or bust!
Testing out the wings (the Rouens prefer the feet)
Upside-down duck limbo
Like a duck to water
We've got 30 "babies" (they're three months old now -- I'll get around to posting about their arrival soon) in addition to our nine laying hens (we lost one Red in the spring.) We keep them inside the barn during the night but let them out first thing in the morning. We've got a poultry "yard" made with chicken wire and snow fencing (so classy) but the chickens use that perimeter as a loose guideline. They're usually roaming around the barnyard, scratching in equine poop (of which there is a lot of ), picking at weeds (of which there are also a lot of) or catching bugs (ditto for lots of those).
3.) Release chickens.
On their way...
Strike a pose
Henry really needs some sheep or something. The chickens just didn't want to be herded.
We have proper nesting boxes but the chickens have taken to laying in a secret nest among the straw bales.
4.) Feed and water goats.
We've been keeping the goats inside lately because Lucy, who we suspect is pregnant (yes, us greenhorn farmers didn't realize that a buck could be so 'fruitful' at such a young age. We've fixed the problem (okay, we fixed Sammy) but we're left with the prospect of a goat kid (or kids, it's hard to tell) sometime in August) likes staying close to home during the day (who knew goats could get barn sour?). Sammy likes staying close to Lucy (though he also loves tearing around the barnyard terrorizing the sumac.)
Lucy (behind) and Sammy on goat mountain.
Getting in to her work
More muscle power (That look means, "Come ON mum, this water bucket is heavy!")
The nighttime routine is pretty much the same (but in reverse) except we also feed the chickens and ducks and collect eggs. The ducks usually return to their pen on their own around 6:00 pm and the chickens come in for the night at dusk. Of course there's also cleaning, sweeping, fixing, grooming, picking feet, refilling feed bins, stacking hay, etc. (And we're only hobby farmers at this point -- just wait until we get our 'working' animals!)
It's a lot of work but it's worth it, especially when I've got my farm hands to help.