Saturday, November 26, 2016

We need your input- A Ralph Post

As most of you know, our poultry is free roaming and far ranging! We basically have no restrictions for them (with the exception of the nightly lockup - after they put themselves into the chicken house and onto the roost). We have lights in the chicken house that we turn on about half an hour before dusk. This pulls the chickens in to the chicken house. The chicken house was built inside of the barn, so it is quite dark inside. After we close the door (as we say goodnight to the hens), we turn the lights out. They have full access to the yard, gardens, fields, and the buildings (when the doors are open) all day long. 

We have feeders for the poultry. One feeder hangs in the breeze way. One is in bay two, near the outside door. We have a trough out in the yard.

 There is a trough in the sheep pen. 

And there is a third trough in the middle of the barn where they are always passing. They pass in and out and through the barn all day long. They have access to feed somewhere all day long. We have observed that they do not camp out at the feed. It is rare to see more than one or two at a time at any feeder. Same with water. We have seven watering points for the poultry. Unless it rains, then we have many more! 

We just slaughtered eight roosters. They were healthy and fat. They had a good bit of abdominal fat. It was not overly excessive, but was more than “normal”. Winter is coming on and animals store fat during summers’ bounty for the bleak winter in order to survive. That is what we think we were seeing. It was not excessive and was a bright yellow. Healthy looking. As are the hen’s yolks. When Fiona processed the gizzards, they were healthy looking, with nice fat cover, nice meat, and cleaned easily. Our impression was that these roosters were in quite good shape and very healthy. We roasted one the next day. It was juicy, sweet, nice drippings for gravy, and not greasy. The skin, fat, everything was a nice, vibrant color. The fat was so bright and fresh looking. These roosters had grass and weeds and bugs all summer long. They are still having greens and bugs from the cover crops. Feed was not their only source of nutrition. I am sure this added to the health and color.

Our question: Are we over feeding? We don’t think so. Many people insist on only a half pound or quarter pound or whatever per bird per day. We go by feeder height. If it is low, we put some in it, or fill it up. One feeder might get hit heavy today and another tomorrow. This is governed by their roaming patterns. Most non-human animals stop eating when they are full (have had enough to eat). The ones we butchered back in the spring, did not have as much fat. But that was the end, not the beginning, of winter. And those roosters were younger.

The wind was out of the south about 15+ MPH today. The trough north of the barn was filled this morning and again this afternoon. It normally only gets filled once a day. I think they were over here to get out of the wind.

My instinct is to keep going as is. Our birds seem to be healthy and happy. We are not made of money, whatever that rare commodity is. But, we aren’t worrying about the cost. If it gets too expensive, we will be eating more chicken, duck, and turkey. We are using about three to three and a half bags of feed a week. That is 150 to 175 pounds of feed a week for 40 adult chickens, 35-40 juvenile chickens of various ages, about 16 adult or near adult turkeys, about 22 ducks, and 1 guinea. All of this at the beginning of winter.

So, back to our question: Are we over feeding? Any suggestions?

Thanks for your input and wisdom. May God bless you as you deserve. 

Ralph and Fiona

PS: Mosquitoes! Was this a bad year for them? Were the poultry to blame? Because we are up on top of a hill? We have a pond. But no mosquitoes. Fiona and I were talking yesterday. She says she only had two all summer. I had six or seven. Mine were later in the summer and late in the evening. We had a wet spring and early summer. Where were the mosquitoes? We’ll pay for those comments next year. Whoever has those little creatures, please keep them. Moses should have left them off of the Ark!!!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Video Friday....

We get up early and totter off to bed each night wondering if we are going to get everything done around here but I decided to make sure I take more photos and videos for the recording of it all. Here are some of the activities!
 The young turkeys have been so different than the original poults we brought with us from Virginia. We think it has to do with the fact they arrived in summer and spent very little time in a brooder or under a heat lamp. They got out to run around outside quite young and never looked back. We lost two to predators before they got smart and big enough to stay in safer areas. They have always loved to climb the trees around the yard and often venture way up into the big oak. Their favorite to play in though is the Eastern Bean tree. Each morning there is tree time!

 I wrote about the house chick way back in May. She has turned into a lovely little hen, golden and plump with a real chicken attitude! She has started to lay and we have started transitioning her to the chicken house. I thought she might have difficulty....nope she loves it and has been charming her way around the rooster's. Red is her favorite but she also likes Henry. The two of them spent quality time in the trailer load of leaves and chicken house cleanings we had mixed to put on the south garden. We left the load on the trailer for several days so the poultry could rummage through it.

 The kittens and the Momma cat are still here and now are part of our entourage when we go to the fall garden to get greens. They all troop out, tails in the air and happy to be sniffing the air for mice. They will let us pet them for about 5 seconds now before they decide its an infringement on their feline rights! They hunt in the barn and sleep in the sun with the chickens, ducks and turkeys.

Henry is the young Buckeye X Australorpe. He was hatched at the first of June, now he is starting to get his crow in pretty fine form. He is also getting better about wooing the hens and not chasing them for miles. Butchering the 8 has helped things settle down again. We like this young boy.

Now its back to work, I am baking bread today and puree'ing pumpkins.

It is sunny out and just a lovely fall day. God Bless you all and be safe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chickens, Moulting and Motherhood [ A Ralph Post]

Heads everywhere! As you can see from the chicks, she had eggs from a little bit of everyone. When a hen goes broody, we just grab eggs and stick them under her. They may even be duck or turkey eggs. But we can't mix them. Chickens are 21 days. Turkeys are 28 days. We have a turkey nesting now, with turkey eggs. She seems to be doing good. Even with cold weather coming on. In six to eight weeks, it is gobbler season for the turkeys. We haven't told them yet.
There are heads all over. The left side has a white one with a spec of a black beyond it. Gold on the right hand side. And lots of legs under the back end. There was a fair breeze making everything feel colder. It is not real easy to see, but they had eaten so much that they had a large "lump" on their breast. They were full. Well fed. The way of life. as you can see the hens are moulting. It was a surprise the two went broody so late in the year.

 We just did 8 roosters. They looked good. They were fat from bugs and grass/weeds. The fat was plentiful, but not overly done. Just good shape and storage for winter and hard times. Just as God intended. It was like the yolks from their eggs - a bright yellow - not like store bought eggs and chickens and their pale colors.

The chickens came around for scraps. The hens go crazy for testicles. We save the heart, livers, and gizzards. I give them the lungs, testicles, guts, heads, and trimmings. Chickens are cannibalistic and will eat another chicken alive. So this was great from their point of view.

Fiona saw one hen with a heart. The hen was enjoying this treat. Fiona checked. Somehow that hen had snuck in and stole a heart out of the bowl. We never saw her do it.

Both Mothers (along with their chicks) were present for their share of the bounty. They were teaching them young. They would cluck cluck and the chicks would come running for an especially good morsel. The chicks did a lot of hunting/gathering on their own. They lost several tidbits to adult hens, but the Mothers would run the other hens off most of the time.

The roosters did some eating, but they just mostly called the hens over for something good. Roosters don't seem to do much eating, but they seem to be efficient at processing what they do eat.

Roosters don't have much to do with chicks. The exception is the Buckeye roosters. We have seen them be protective of the chicks and we have seen them do a hen type cluck to call chicks to food.

The roosters have a pecking order, but so do the hens. Social order is enforced. A broody or Mother hen is an exception. Don't mess with her, regardless of social position. Everyone runs from that Guinea, except the Mother hen. Now, it is the Guinea that runs. We had a hawk killing chicks a couple of months ago. That hawk learned to avoid the Mother. She went after the hawk and ran it off. She went several feet into the air to get to the hawk.

It was amazing to watch those chicks being chicks. And blood lust is a chicken trait!!! They went after the blood from the roosters. If you have a scratch or scab, they will peck at it while you are holding them. I know - experience!

It was a difficult deed, but it needed to be done. We had too many roosters and they were terrifying the hens. It is more manageable now, for the hens. Later on, we will have to do some more roosters. Some of the chicks will be roosters. But for now, they are enjoying being chicks and we are enjoying their antics. 
We try to give them as good of a life as we can. They have full roam of the farm. They live pretty much as their ancestors did. They will be in the barn. They will be in the yard. They will be in the fields. They will be on the fences. They get in the trailer and the pickup. And when we come home from being out, they and the turkeys will come up and greet us.

We made a big mistake. We had some leftover french fries when we were out one time. We called them over and fed them the fries. They would eat from our fingers/hands. They would jump high into the air to grab a morsel from our fingers. Well, the mistake was made. Now, they always come over expecting a treat. And we go out of our way to save them something when we are out. Well, these pictures show you our future nuggets/chicken pot pies. Enjoy!
Part of the last hatch. 22 chicks between two hens.  The oddity is the two white ones. What genetics gave us white when all our chickens are Black, Gold or Brown?
Meet Henry, he replaces "Attack" one of our original Rooster's. He is an Australorpe X Buckeye and when we evaluated him he feels good. He is heavy for his age and has a wide, flat back with a deep heart girth. Fiona noted that we have no crooked toes on any of the farm chicks. We wonder if the crooked toes is to do with hatchery chicks?

 Here is "The Donald", he is a cross of Australorpe and Buff Orpington. He replaces "Gentleman Jim" who had become "Jerk" and who was attacking Fiona on a way to regular basis. This young rooster is the biggest Rooster we have had but "Shoeless Joe" keeps him in line.

 Mixed poultry grazing the cover crop.
 Ducks in the green's.

Fiona says that I should mention that with the onset of winter, the grass and weeds are dying back. We planted cover crops on all four gardens. These will last most of the winter before they winter kill. The ducks, guinea, turkeys, and chickens go out into the cover crops to feed. They are still getting their greens, and fertilizing the gardens for us at the same time. They are trimming the cover crop back, but there is plenty for them to eat. We are willing to share.

Outside my office window is the East garden/house garden. It is green with cover crop. Almost any time of day, there will be one or two or more chickens/ducks/turkeys/guinea in the garden. They don't stay long. But you can see they are eating. They will rotate out and later some others will come in. Out the other side of the house is the kitchen/dining room windows and the herb garden and west garden. From that window, we can see the herb garden and beyond that, the west garden and their cover crops and their transient flocks. To the south is the barn. It blocks the house view of the south garden. The poultry rotate all over the place. They visit all the gardens during the course of a day. Their travels and diet are varied. And determined by them, themselves. We have "Peaches and Cream", "Flopsy", "Loopy-loo", "Henny-penny", etc. that are distinctive. As we move around the farm, we will see a particular hen or rooster here, there, and yonder. And in all the gardens and fields and buildings. "Flopsy" has a special thing for my workshop. She wants to go bug hunting any time I open the door. Spiders, crickets, etc. beware. Like I said, they go everywhere. Especially if we are there. They do like to be around us.

As an aside: (A change of subject) I have found two Linux programs to be nice/helpful. Both are free. I like the price.

First - ClipGrab. It is a You Tube search/downloader. I use it to download You Tube clips to my computer for future viewing/archiving. Oft times I have found something I want to see, but don't have time right now. When I come back later, it is gone. Removed. Now, if I am smart enough to download it, they can go ahead and remove it. I have my copy and can watch it as many times as I want.

Another example: I am watching a clip, but there are several clips to the right I am interested in. As soon as you select one, you lose all the others. Not me! I pause the video I am watching. I then right clip on a video I am interested in, select "copy link location", go to clipgrab, paste the link location into download, and save it to my "You Tube Videos" directory on my computer. I now have my copy on my computer. I don't have remorse on lost videos (if I remember to download it). I can watch it later. Same for the video I am watching.

- Calibre. I like to read e-books. Calibre will download e-books, newspapers, magazines, PDF's, etc. from all over the world. For English, there are 443 entries. Plus, there are 2 Argentina English, 9 Australia English, 1 Bulgaria English, 30 Canada English, 5 China English, 23 India English, 42 UK English, etc. There are about 29 other countries with English downloads. Not all are free. The Wall Street Journal has two entries. One is paid, the other is free (excerpts - headlines with the first paragraph or two). If you want Croatian reading, they have 9 entries. Arabic has 4 entries. Basque has 1 entry. German has 99 entries. Hebrew has 6. Japanese has 20. Irish has 1 (not English - Irish). Marathi has 1. Polish has 182. Spanish has 69. But, there are Argentina, Bolivia,and 11 other Spanish (including Cuba - 2). Tagalog has 1. Turkish has 39. Unknown has 9 (including Klipme, Korben, wallabag, Zerocalcare, etc.). Don't ask me! And many other major and minor countries. You can set up automatic downloads (if your computer will be on). It will convert e-book formats for you. EPUB, Modi, AZW3. It can download books, periodicals, etc. from numerous sources.
Thats about it for now.