The frost settled in heavy a few mornings back though thankfully warmed up nicely in the afternoon. My young Welsummer pullets (and five roosters) seemed to be in awe or shock at their surroundings. Or maybe they are just frozen! Naw, it wasn’t really that cold.
Having the chickens stay in the garden for the winter is a win-win-win. They have lots to scratch in, i can throw all kitchen scraps out there and they bury it or eat it, plus they poop a lot adding tons of manure nutrients to the soil. However, to prepare the ground for winter grazing, about mid-summer i allow grasses to grow unencumbered so they are mature and lay over by the end of the growing season.
Do i get some more layers or not? Like dairy cows, chickens require daily attention and in some seasons of life, we simply don’t want or need to be tied to daily chores, especially considering that farm chores often will not be covered by someone else. When i finally decided to go ahead and order for late summer/early fall shipping, COVID 19 hit and apparently everyone in the country thought homesteading was the only thing to save them! In other words, all the hatcheries were suddenly sold out with no idea when they would have more inventory. So, i waited and waited and checked Cackle Hatchery website over and over. Did research on alternative heritage breeds and at long last they had Salmon Faverolles. I had no experience with them, but what the heck. So i put the number of chicks in my cart and waited and considered another week – just to make sure i really wanted to raise more layers to take the place of my nearly 15 month old Welsummers hens come next spring.
That extra week was all it took! Voila! The Welsummers were once again available, so i switched out and took them. Now i see the Faverolles are sold out. Maybe another year for them.
Cackle Hatchery sent me a ship date and on that date, they sent a time of shipment, i called our postal service in Laclede early afternoon so she could message the Linneus post office that chicks would likely arrive early in the morning and would they call me so i could go pick them. They did arrive overnight and the call came through and i high tailed it up to get them. (Our two small town post offices share hours for the day, ie Linneus is open in the morning, Laclede is open in the afternoon)
Of course, i had already set up their housing and was ready for them with chlorine free water and feed. For housing, i just pull two cardboard boxes together and cut a hole in the sides. I plugged in the heat lamp before i headed to town, having already checked out that the area where the chicks would congregate would warm to 99F. I use cardboard boxes so i can simply burn them once i move the chicks to their larger outdoor living quarters when they are older.
Here is a podcast Jim did with Charlie Arnott when he and Dawn were in Australia earlier in the year. Charlie is a biodynamic farmer/grazier located in New South Wales who also produces podcasts related to regenerative ag, human health, and an array of other current topics.
This serious yet lighthearted conversation covers a lot of ground. We hope you choose to listen & enjoy it.
In this episode Charlie chats to the American grazier and educator Jim Gerrish. Jim takes us on his regenerative journey and recalls the moment, when he realised that the aroma of freshly turned/ ploughed ground he had always liked growing up was in fact the smell of the earth dying…this proved to be the turning point in his life. Jim’s journey is a captivating one which touches on human health & diet, food definitions, changing farm practices and a whole lot more. To start a dialogue and converse more about topics raised in this podcast, please visit The Regenerative Journey podcast Facebook group. Episode Takeaways We don’t need feedlots. We just need people who have grazing management skills to take a pasture and turn it into delightful beef | In research we don’t call it a cow pie/cow pat, it’s a SEE…a Single Excretory Event! | We don’t need new knowledge, we need to be applying what we already know | The whole idea that beef cattle are destroying the environment is only tied to feedlot phase of it | The methane thing is a real red herring with grazing cattle, feedlots it’s a problem. It’s the production model not the ruminant animals that are the problem | Grass feeds the grass, grass feeds the soil, then grass can feed the livestock| Human health is intrinsically linked to soil health. Links Jim Gerrish – American Grazing Lands LLC Maia Grazing – Grazing management tool Dr. James Anderson – Scottish agriculturist in 1700’s Diana Rodgers – Sustainable Dish Sacred Cow – Film project led by Diana Rodgersint
Daughter, Jessica, noticed a spider in the shower, so wanting to get ahead of the curve, i decided to move our Welsummer laying hens to around the house foundation. Thankfully, we finally received some rain, so it was at least doable, though difficult still, to pull the electric fence posts out of the ground.
I move them near dusk so the ladies don’t drift too far from their roosting home and scatter. I can take down the fence and move it, then about the time i’ve set up their new digs, they have filed inside according to their pecking order and i shut the solar electric pop door early and pull the wagon around.
The beauty of having chooks is they can turn over ripe cucumbers into delectable golden yoked eggs.
This is a dorky video, but this young hen wants to be a mommy SO badly, yet she is well behaved and does not peck or bite me when i collect the eggs beneath her, so i thought i’d share with you how a broody hen reacts when disturbed.
If i had a purebred Welsummer rooster, i’d let her lay and set on some fertilized eggs so she could raise some chicks, but i don’t. Of course, these eggs are not fertilized and will never develop embryos. These Welsummers, purchased from Cacklehatchery, are the most entertaining, friendly (though are easily startled), beautiful hens i’ve ever raised. They are excellent layers to boot.
I had a few repairs to make to the eggmobile since its high profile encourages it to be blown over in heavy winds, which we seem to get more of these past few years. I have rigged a way to support it so it doesn’t blow over anymore.
Anyway, collected these few eggs a bit early in the day because it’s a bit wet and muddy and the hens sometimes come into the nesting boxes with muddy feet, soiling the eggs.
It has finally warmed up and i moved my laying hens out of their winter abode in the garden into their new safe haven of a fenced lot in the pasture. I then move them about once a week, depending on forage availability during the growing season. Now, warm weather, sunshine, lengthening daylight, and out on pasture make happy hens lay oodles of eggs.
When i posted these photos on Facebook, one fellow suggested, ‘ Eggs are hard to come by at some of the big city grocery stores these days… you might wanna put those up on Amazon (:’
Given the expense and logistics of shipping a very breakable commodity, it’s just not worth the cost, so i end up giving away extras to people who help me throughout the year and will never accept a payment. Plus, nobody is going to pay what it actually costs to produce them. Springtime provides a lot of eggs, but the supply will dwindle as the daylight hours are shortened and as hens get older. Prime laying is only through their third year of life (max!)
Please know, however, that i don’t just give them away willy nilly (i do like to give them to people who do things for me but will never take payment) because it harms those who are trying to make a living at it. In a similar fashion, when US Aid sends tons of grain as a ‘help’ to other countries, it drives down the market price for the local farmers scratching out a living. Much the same happens here when our markets are opened to meat that is produced overseas for far less than what we can produce it here. Free stuff is never free.
Cooking time: about 4 hours Servings: 12-24 servings
2-3 lbs stewing hen (you’ll need about 6 cups of ground meat)
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons black pepper
Slow cook stewing hen until tender. Remove meat from skin and bones and cut meat into pieces. Place meat back into cooking water with sage and cayenne pepper and simmer 2 to 3 hours. Drain and reserve stock.
Chop meat with a knife or food processor, being careful not to grind it too fine. Set aside.
(Note that i had already done all the above and just froze ground meat separately from plain chicken stock – i only add spices when ready to make this recipe)
Measure 5 cups of stock and return to pot. Bring to a simmer, add meat, cornmeal, salt, and peppers, then stir constantly until thick and smooth – about 15 to 30 minutes.
Pour mixture into 2 loaf pans and refrigerate until completely chilled. Un-mold scrapple. Slice and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides.