January Update

Hello all!

This is Grace C.’s sister-in-law, Amanda C.

Grace’s job is eating up a lot of her time and energy and my husband, David C., and I have taken over many of the farm tasks that used to be her job. Because of this, she has asked us to take over the authoring posts that relate to farm chores/improvements/etc that we have our hands in.

First, an update on our egg situation. Our 15 hens are now providing us with 10-14 eggs a day! The color variation is amazing. Our six Dom/Dom cross hens lay standard brown eggs with little variation. Our nine leghorns (actually leghorn crosses) are turning out to be a mixed bag of surprises. A few lay standard white eggs, at least two lay nice pinkish/brown eggs, a couple more lay standard brown eggs (one that routinely has darker brown spots on them). But the prize of the lot is the green egg! Apparently, our hen Big Head has that head shape for a reason, her mother was an Easter Egger hen. If you look up an image of an Easter Egger hen, Big Head has that exact head shape, just covered in white feathers. She lays eggs the color of mint chocolate ice cream, half diluted with vanilla. We aren’t even in spring yet and they are almost laying too many eggs for us to eat. Which I guess is better than having too few eggs.

Second, my husband, has now become a full time farmer. This means that a lot more around the farm is now getting done. The moving boxes that had been inhabiting the living room have now been whittled down by half, if not more, and there is a fairly wide walking path through that room. Getting this room emptied is vital for starting improvements on the house. I’ll be writing more on those projects as they happen.

Third, our rooster population has been cut from nine (eight leghorn roosters, and General Tso) to three (all leghorns). I have been teaching myself how to kill, pluck and dress our own chickens. General Tso was not originally on the cull list, but he volunteered for the chopping block – well in our case it is actually a killing cone – by becoming very aggressive. I will write a more detailed post about learning to process our roosters later.

Fourth, we built a mobile tractor for our hens and are building a mobile coop. We originally had the chickens fenced in, but they were not staying in the fence. So we decided to free range them, until we heard from a neighbor down the hollow that he has lost all but one of his chickens to either coyotes/coywolves, or another neighbor’s dogs. So, we built a PVC pipe chicken tractor. However, moving them from their stationary coop to their tractor and back can sometimes be an exercise in frustration since they have to be coaxed across open ground from one confinement to another. So, we are building a mobile coop that will be attached to the tractor. I will write more detailed posts about both of those projects as well. Now, you may be wondering what we plan to do with our stationary coop. We will be turning it into a broody house for….

CHICKS!!! In our final bit of news of the month, we got word this afternoon that the 30 Buff Orpington chicks we ordered have been shipped and should be arriving in a day or two. In yet another post, that I will also need to write, I will explain why we choose Buff Orpingtons, or (as Grace calls them) Buffingtons, for our main breeding flock.

I look forward to relaying  our experiences to you as we move forward.

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New Years

This year marks the begining of the first year with all six of us in the old farm house. Hopefully by the end of this year the new farm house will be fully occupied by my sister-in-law’s family.

This year we moved in, got the chickens, learned how to treat chick illnesses, tapped multiple trees for syrup, learned about the seasonal flooding on the property, tried gardening round 1, moved my brother’s family into the farm house, built the chicken coop, built two chicken tractors, put a dent in the unpacking, got our first eggs, got some seeds from the garden for next year, learned how to slaughter chickens, and a lot more. It’s been a crazy busy year.

In a lot of ways next year’s goal can be simplified to ‘the same thing only better.’ Armed with the trial and errors of this year we are better prepared to ramp up our activities slightly. A better breed of chicken for our needs. A garden more focused on production for the most immediate needs (particularly chicken feed). And probably a whole lot of things that we didn’t plan on. After all three quarters of farm life is unexpected.