I am so thankful to the Lord for the privilege of keeping and raising a variety of animals. It is hard work, but the pleasure of being around them is but a partial return that includes meat, milk and eggs. Furthermore, these wonderful creatures are character-honing tools for not only myself, but for the children as well. Generally speaking, if they are well looked after, they thrive. If they are not, sickness and death are inevitable.
We are slowly making changes in the care of our animals, from conventional means to a more natural method. This means, for our family, that we are not overvaccinating them, we are giving them real food, and that when there are health problems, we will treat with herbs and such before turning to chemical means. We keep in contact with a conventional vet who is respectful of our choices, and (bonus!) makes house calls.
We expect our animals to have strong immune systems and to be as healthy as they can all possibly be. We do our best to keep their areas clean, their water fresh, and to give them access to as much sunshine as our Northwest weather will allow.
Here are some examples of what we have done, and where we hope to go.
My maremma puppy spent his first 6 weeks on his mama and on the cheapest dog food the breeder could provide. I was a little concerned with just switching his food suddenly, but he had no problems whatsoever. He is now 4 months old. My lab is going on 9 years old. Both dogs get a diet of raw meaty bones and meat, along with blended veggies and some supplements. I believe they have no need of grain. The adult gets 2-3% of his weight in feed (and the pup 5-10%) which I can change as needed depending on their activity levels and girth. My pup was looking too lean for me (you can see that in the photo even), so I’ve upped his ration and added more oils/fats. I also give them preprepared raw meat mixes that my local pet store carries, as that is easier sometimes. My pup is still eating 2-3x a day. The vet gave them both a clean bill of health just this month, and we only vaccinated them for rabies. And I will tell you that my lab (did I mention he is almost 9?) has NO TARTER on his teeth whatsoever. They are very pearly white, very clean. Feeding my dogs this way is not cheap, but do you know how much dental care for a dog is?! I shop for people-grade meat and buy when it is less than $1 a pound. Using high grade kibble isn’t that much cheaper, and this is so much better. Their eyes and fur are shiny. Even their poop is a lot smaller than those gross fat things I see other dogs do.
They are not vaccinated. The breeder we use hasn’t vaccinated any of her herds in the last 30 years, and with good practices, I don’t think we will need to, either.
I will tell you that the grain that is left over from the goats, these poultry love! They will forgo their pellet feed every time for recognizable food, which I think further validates that their pellet feed is not good. I did find a recipe online for mixed chicken feed, but WOW, there were a lot of ingredients that even included amaranth and multi-colored lentils. Talk about million dollar hens! My first thought was that my Greek YaYa living in the village away from electricity, phones and running water certainly didn’t have pellet feed OR gourmet grains to feed her hens…but she had eggs!
Well! What do you know but that the owner was there and we had a lovely conversation about naturally rearing animals. I decided to forgo the high end kibble we were buying and instead got simple canned food that had nothing but fish, chicken, vegetables, and supplements in it. NO GRAIN.
And do you know what?! Her skin condition disappeared. She stopped hacking up. Even the black goop that I was regularly cleaning from her eyes stopped completely, which was a total surprise to me. And I know this will be hard to believe, but her litter box does NOT smell like it used to. This cat would do the deed and the smell would waft and cause numerous window sashes to fly open. Now I hardly notice if my daughter misses a few days of cleaning out the box. I know I am not imaging this because my husband is the one who pointed it out and he hates cat litter boxes. The box we use is just the cheapo $2 sort. But seriously, goodbye stinky cat poo.
Lastly, we keep rabbits as well. Currently we have havanas that we use for 4H and for show, but we are actively looking to begin raising angoras for fiber as well. Yes, we’ve had rabbit for supper–thankfully none of our own (it does taste just like chicken!), but we just are not interested in that part of animal husbandry. Our rabbits get hay, and also commercial rabbit pellets. I haven’t done any research on feeding them naturally yet, but I imagine they will get their turn as well.
I think I will leave comments open for this post in case you have any questions.