animals and birds
Over the years, Russet House Farm has been home to cows, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens, innumerable cats and two dogs. Even though we consider large mammals to be an important part of a permaculture ecosystem, at the moment we are taking a break from horses and cows, while we formulate our plans for silvopasture. We still have a fluctuating number of ducks, chickens and cats, all kept in order by our two border collies.
Birds Sighted at Russet House Farm
Red Tailed Hawk
Eastern Wood Peewee
Black and White
Common Yellow Throated
Black-throated Green Warbler
Muscovy ducks live on the farm year round; their straw bale duck house extends out of the east side of the barn. In most years the three hens and one drake produce around 40 ducklings, usually born in June.
The ducks are an important part of the farm ecosystem, consuming the flies that normally plague barnyards. One duck can eat as many as 300 flies a day. On occasion the ducks will eat the flies directly off the cows.
The ducklings produced each summer are raised for meat and eggs are collected throughout the summer for consumption. Muscovies are originally from South America and are technically neither duck nor goose, but their own bird.
Poultry on the farm varies from a regular flock of laying hens to pastured poultry during the summer months. The pastured poultry graze in moveable pens on the pasture, thus assisting in maintaining pasture fertility.
The chickens free-range in the spring and the fall when the garden is able to benefit from their attention. In the summer they tend to damage the vegetables and are confined to the chicken coop where they are frequently given weeds to pick through. They live for the entire year in the straw-bale henhouse, where their body heat provides enough warmth to keep them comfortable even in the coldest weather.
Rare Breed Cattle
Until the summer of 2015 the farm was home to a number of Kerry Cattle, a rare breed from Ireland. Kerry cows are known for their easily digested milk, and their good quality meat. They are also quite hardy and able to graze rougher pasture.
Although we have loved having our cows, our pastures needed a rest as we planned out our next steps toward silvopasture. We sold our cows to friends who were looking to begin a Kerry herd.
Since 2014 we have welcomed cattle from one of our organic farming neighbours to graze our pastures. In keeping with the holistic management methods of Alan Savoury and mimicking the way that cattle would graze in the wild, we move the cattle daily onto new pasture. This means that fertility is spread evenly over the fields, as well as ensuring that the pasture has adequate rest between grazing periods. The cows also enjoy having fresh grass daily, and will wait eagerly for the fence to be moved over. The cows are also fed burdock leaves and windfall apples by hand when available.