Finally warmed up enough to move the chooks to their new digs outside on grass. Finished the chicken tractor, butchered the two cranky roosters that came with the hens and set the hens in. They were pretty apprehensive at first touch of soil and grass, but now, of course, they even want more! However, here in north Missouri, being completely free results in foxes, coyotes, eagles, hawks, owls, dogs, raccoons, opossums, and skunks getting fat on fresh chicken. So chooks must be contained and protected.
As per my previous post about farmyard chooks, this is a losing proposition, but essential if you want grass raised chickens. Sure, you can buy eggs with dark yolks, but those are either developed by feeding GMO corn (could be organic open pollinated corn, but highly unlikely) or ground marigold. Eating grass does it as well. The diet of a hen does not determine its shell colour. Some hens lay brown eggs, some lay white, some lay rainbow – but that’s genetic – not diet.
So the growing phase is all but completed and the chooks are old enough to tolerate this late winter weather, so the tedium is now to collect quality eggs each day, continue to feed and water them, and drag their tractor around the yard. How long will that will be ‘fun’?
Update since moving this ‘tractor’ to the yard – it’s been cold, snowy, windy, and downright miserable up until a couple days ago (22 April 18). Their enclosure is doing the job, but it is too heavy for many to drag around and the grass isn’t even tall yet! Solves the problem of blowing away, but creates another. Plus, it just really is ugly. So, if i don’t get the chooks sold in the next week or so, I’ll go to using an older and better version of egg mobile (thankfully, although i built it several years ago, i hadn’t taken apart) and buy a poultry netting.
Reminder of upcoming farm walk at Nicholas and Melody Schanzmeyer farm near Winigan, MO on 28 April 2018.
31598 HWY 129 Milan, MO 63556 Saturday at 12 PM – 4 PM
3 days from now · 45–66° Sunny
Let’s eat around noon in the barn loft, like last time, and then take a look around afterward. We’ll plan on the same set-up; bring a dish to share if you’d like, and we’ll provide the meat and drinks and such.
Chairs are not necessary.
My what difference a year makes. Here’s some information on the walk. We will be looking at the 50 acres we were able to put water on and get fenced in. It’s a high tensile electric perimeter with a single subdivision along with buried water lines with spaced risers. We have 100 bred ewe lambs, 2 LGD Peaches and Darrell, and a horse named Annie. We’re 1.8 miles North of the Winigan Station just past the blue water tower with the large white barn with a green roof.
Nicholas & Melody Schanzmeyer
31598 HWY 129
Milan, MO 63556
Other farmwalks to mark on your calendar for 2018
May – Greg and Jan Judy, Clark, MO – 660.998.4052
June – Allen & Tauna Powell, Laclede, MO – 660.412.2001
July – Daniel Borntreger, Bethany, MO – 660.425.8629
August – Harry Cope, Truxton, MO – 636.262.0135
September 22 – Andy Welch, Sheridan, MO, 660.541.3675
October – Tom & Laurie Salter, Unionville, MO
November – Dennis & Becky McDonald, Galt, MO 660.358.4751
I thought i’d already posted the brooder building photos, but guess not. Remember, the key to keeping it cheap, is to raid the rubbish pile to build something. But one must also guard against the cost of labour involved in ‘making it work.’
Many proclaimed experts, farmers, and ranchers alike are confused about what season it is. ‘Spring’ calving to many means January, February, and a bit into March. NEWS FLASH! – that is NOT spring – that is winter calving in no uncertain terms and terribly hard on livestock and people (in the northern hemisphere) caring for them. Outdoor winter calving, lambing, kidding has been described by bold people as animal abuse!
Now before you think me a ‘Bertha-better-than-you,’ please know that we used to do this very thing! It is the status quo in ranching circles. We’ve been calving in sync with nature now for nearly 20 years and life is much better and profitable for all.
Nitpick your own operation and life – identify elephants in the room – stop digging a hole and solve the problem with simple solutions. The key word here is SIMPLE!
Consider this recent article (from BEEF online) on how to warm up a calf:
Newborn calves that have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. What’s the quickest method to re-warm them?
Mar 29, 2018
By Donald Stotts
It’s been a winter that no matter where you are, you’d probably like to forget. Some parts of the country are warm and very, very dry. Good for calving, but not a promising start for spring and summer grazing.
Other parts of the country have been cold and wet. And with calving season underway for many, it’s worth reviewing re-warming methods for cold-stress calves, says Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist.
Selk warns that newborn calves that are not found for several hours after birth and have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. “A review of the scientific data on using a warm water bath to revive cold-stressed newborn calves bears repeating,” he said.
In a Canadian study, animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold-stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided.
Hypothermia of 86 degrees F rectal temperature was induced by immersion in cold water. Calves were re-warmed in an air environment of 68 degrees to 77 degrees where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in 100-degree warm water. The normal rectal temperatures before the induction of cold stress were 103 degrees.
“The time required to regain normal body temperature from a rectal temperature of 86 degrees F was longer for calves with added insulation and those exposed to heat lamps than for the calves in the warm water treatments; 90 and 92 minutes versus 59 minutes, respectively,” Selk says.
During recovery, the baby calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps had to use up more body heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. Total heat production during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation and exposed to the heat lamps than for the calves placed in warm water.
“This type of body heat production leaves calves with less energy to maintain body temperature when returned to a cold environment,” Selk says.
By immersion of hypothermic calves in warm water, the study indicated that normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort.
“When immersing cold-stressed baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save,” Selk says. “Also make certain that they have been thoroughly dried before being returned to the cold weather and their mothers.”
Stotts is a communication specialist at Oklahoma State University
Should be enjoying fresh pullet sized eggs in about 3 months.
From delivery of chicks to first pullet eggs is typically about 6 months.
25 female chicks (26 actually, but 2 were roosters and one hen is deformed) – $100
Starter feed – 3 bags each 30 lbs at $90
Mixed feed about 1 gallon (or 4 lbs) per day: $2.20 per day times 120 days – $396
Labor for 180 days varies, but averages about 20 minutes a day at $15/hr – $900
So before 25 hens are even laying or producing anything at all, your backyard laying hen project has invested a total of $1486. That’s a lot of eggs you could have bought at $4/dozen. But now that they are laying, there should be about 1 1/2 years of good laying, but of course the feed and labor expenses continue. Labor will slightly increase because I’ll be moving the chicken tractor to fresh grass everyday and collecting, sorting, washing (if needed), and packaging the eggs EVERYDAY.
Total costs (not including building the brooder and chicken tractor): $1486
So figuring forward:
Feed for 1.5 years (540 days @ $2.20) – $1188
Labor at $15/hr for 30 minutes a day – $2025
Egg cartons if you buy them are at least 50 cents (281 cartons) each: $140
Assuming a lay rate of 1 egg per two days (this is an average including a harsh winter where costs will continue but few eggs will be laid) per hen (times 25 hens) – 3375 eggs
(270 days/2 = 135 times 25 hens – 3375 eggs)
Total costs during laying period of 1 1/2 years – $3353
Final costs of raising 25 chicks to laying age plus production for 1 1/2 years: $4839
Cost per potential dozen (281 dozens): $17.22
Value of spent hens is negated completely by labor costs associated with butchering.
All this assuming that in one night along any part of this route, a fox, raccoon, neighbour’s dog or coyote doesn’t come in an annihilate all your hens.
Now winter laying could be increased somewhat by keeping heat and light on the hens.
Certainly, i could be the typical farmer and say ‘well….if i don’t count my time….but that would be unfair, right? He’s taken ALL the risk, done all the labor, built all the infrastructure, and cared for them every single day. If i removed all the labor costs from the scenario, cost per dozen is $6.63/dozen.
Why am i doing this? good question. it’s ridiculous actually, except i cannot buy eggs from hens on pasture being fed non-gmo and mostly organic grains in our part of the world and they do taste better and have more nutrients (according to various tests).
These are real costs to produce eggs from hens on pasture, not inflated or overpriced. Lowering production costs is easy – stacked cages with 67 to 76 square inches of usable space per hen being fed well balanced diet of conventional grains and no chance of being eaten by predators. Automated egg sorting, washing, and packaging. Find employees who will work for minimum wage or less in dusty conditions. Tightly confined conditions allows for fewer employees. Hens will be allowed to lay for less than a year (until first moult) and then replaced to maintain high production year round. This part can also be done on pasture raised as well and would be a good idea. Production drops considerably after that first moult, so replacing them with younger, higher producing hens would reduce costs a little.
My farm in south Missouri has been recently split into two offerings to hopefully generate interest by people with different interests.
This link is to Whitetail Properties who is representing and showing the property. This piece is 30+/- acres fenced pastures with two ponds, nice shade/timber, beautiful updated earth contact home, detached garage and one bedroom apartment. Huge barn out back, horse arena, and round pen. Horse property with home near Springfield, MO.
The other piece is 173 +/- acres just across a lightly used paved road and also includes an RV barn with electrical hookup, fenced, live water, several ponds, stunning views, mountain and mature timber with world class hunting opportunities. Currently leased for cattle pasture. Pasture/Timber
Too many times I engage in projects which end up as time wasted. Case in point this 12×12 chicken tractor. After spending time and money on it, I’m now faced with more time wasted disassembling it. I have no intention of raising layers on pasture again and it’s too awkward to move very far and a waste of space to store it. The high quality tarp from Troyer Tarp will be stored, however, since it is a $100 item. I’m learning, albeit slowly and with the wisdom my children bestow upon me, to utilize my time more wisely.