Tag Archives: chickens

Poultry or Lamb Brooder

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.’

 

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Base is a cracked 7 foot diameter by 2 feet tall plastic livestock tank, top with scrap lumber and translucent pieces.  Hardware is used and 1/2 inch water pipe pieces form the frame underneath the panels.
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This DeWalt 20V battery powered jigsaw is a sweet machine.
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Cleaned up and ready for a new home – went to Unionville – could be used for starting chicks are warming up cold lambs.

 

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This brooder worked great all winter long!

Raising Buff Orpingtons & Associated Costs

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Arrived this morning (2 October 17). Okay, right, so I’m a bit bored and succumbed to buying chickies. But just 25. Buff Orpington. Gives me opportunity to redesign another egg mobile (this will be my 11th model). Oh brother’
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3 week old chicks having fun with scooped gourd goo and seeds. still in their ugly stage.
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Happy chooks. Good grief; I’m growing sprouts for my little flock. This forage mix is the same as the pasture mix drilled on my farm this summer.
https://tannachtonfarm.com/2017/09/21/permanent-ley-scheme/
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One month old – tired of these sweeties in the basement – nice weather and i finished up the ‘pullet grower station’ – they are still a bit freaked out by the move, but won’t be long before they’ll be running around like they are free! went from 11 square feet to 39 square feet!
Busted old plastic water tank and scraps – had to buy heat lamps, clamp aluminum bases, and 10 feet of 1/2 inch hardware cloth – oh, and bolts, nuts, and washers. Of course it was an excellent excuse to buy a new DeWalt battery powered jigsaw, too. 😉
Chicken feed
This was taken 4 February 2018 – it’s been bitterly cold this winter and although the hens are quite big by now and still in their brooder, they are still immature.  I’m probably spoiling them, but they surely do prefer these sprouted grains vs dry grains.  I was even warming them a bit in the oven during the most brutal cold.
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These 23 big girls (plus a couple roosters that will be lunch someday) did well this winter in their brooder.  (Here they are at 3 1/2 months old) from Cackle Hatchery.  Feed is sunflower seed, millet, oats, peas  from Welter Seed & Honey with occasional soaked alfalfa pellets.  Minerals provided by Thorvin kelp also available from Welter Seed & Honey.
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Work on the chicken tractor has been continually hampered by brutally cold temps and wind.  Slowly getting it done, but seems like i build a thing twice since i typically have to start by undoing what i did the day before. 😦  But, that is not unusual when flying by the seat of the pants projects: each basically a prototype.  I’ve built several different sizes and types of eggmobiles and chicken tractors over the years and each one is a new design and always using as much scrap material as possible to keep down costs.

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).

Cheers!!!!

tauna

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.

 

Sirloin Roast Week of Menus

On Sunday afternoon, i threw a thawed 4 ish lb sirloin roast into a small electric roaster.  I must admit, i use this little roast unrelentingly, yet only paid $5 for the thing!  It was at a church fundraising bazaar and that is the price marked on it.  I did not like the noisy little fan on the air roaster, so it was simply removed and the holecovered with tape.  Done and done.

Roast

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Once finished cooking, the result is a lovely tender sirloin roast, a bit over 2 cups of rich beef broth, and a small amount of nutrient rich clean fat – all of which will be used for cooking.

Day 1:  Sliced roast with smashed sweet potato and fresh salad.  Not much more to say, very delicious, simple, and filling.  Pictured here is one small smashed sweet potato and about 3.5 ounces of beef roast and a ubiquitous power salad.

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Day 2 – Beef & Vegetable Soup – was planning something else, but my husband came up croupy and sick with a cold, so switched gears to make a cold buster soup.  Mix the broth created when the roast was cooking with the cooking water from the sweet potato preparation for a nutritionally powerful base for adding sliced carrots, diced scrubbed potatoes with skins, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, sliced celery, then salt and pepper to taste.  The broth is strong, but i added 2-3 oz of roast chopped into small pieces to this dish.  All in all this yielded about 5 cups of deliciousness.  Bring to slight boil, then simmer 20 minutes, but longer doesn’t hurt, just mind keeping on the lid so the moisture doesn’t get away.  Feel free to add water for a thinner soup.

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One complaint i have about buying the organic celery stalks is they trim the leafy tops.  Why is that!?!  Surely they are putting them to good use.  Nevertheless, i slice off the very tip small ends, the chop of the fat end just so the stalks will separate.  Wash the lot, then bundle it back and slice off several inches of the small ends, then open up the bundle to reveal the leafy and lighter green pieces – slice them up  – all goes into the soup.  The remaining short stalks should serve well as snacks or stuffing with peanut butter for dessert.  The little bit cut off can be easily composted or as in my case i feed to my pasture chooks.

Day 3:  Crumbled roast in Scrambled eggs  (Egg Frittata)

This is my go to when i’m short on time for anything – don’t even need meat.  Saute a finely chopped small onion in the saved fat drippings from cooking the roast.  After a couple minutes, cut or chop fresh spinach into the skillet, stir those around until softened, then add as much crumbled roast as you want, then add eggs.  This is one of the recipes where you can add as much or as little as you need to make the meal.  Plus, dress it up even more with sliced fresh mushrooms, sliced black olives, shredded cheese.  Or exchange the spinach with any leftover greens you have in the frig.

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Day 4:  Cubed roast beef with smashed potatoes and white sauce, steamed broccoli

Since i used all the broth for the sick day soup, white gravy made with milk will be a great substitute.  Onions are for healing, so finely chopped and sauteed in the beef fat before adding flour and milk creates more robust and healthful gravy.

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Chipped roast, smashed potatoes, white sauce with onions dressed on side with steamed broccoli. Still working on that roast prepared Sunday afternoon.

Day 5 – Roast Beef Salad – an old fashioned favourite

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Plate 5-since I had time whilst the potatoes cooked (meal 4), went ahead and finished off the little bit of roast left. Grind the meat, hard cooked eggs, chopped pickles if you like. Stir in mayo, mustard. Serve with crackers or veggies. Alternatively, make sandwiches.

To squeeze out another power soup, use the cooking water from potatoes and steamed broccoli – chop onions, carrots, and the stems of the broccoli – add to the water and bring to a boil.  Season with salt, pepper, and even parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme to boost flavour if you like.  Although i seldom use rosemary or thyme simply because i don’t like them!

 

So, there’s a small example of roast flexibility, whatever it’s worth!

Cheers

tauna

Bright Sunshine!

That forecasted rain hit about 9:30 pm and just poured for about 5 minutes – storm over.  The Mizzou game in Columbia, MO, however, looked like miseryfor a LONG time – it didn’t help that the hometown team lost badly.

Today dawned clear and bright and i managed to clean the frig, wash a load of laundry, feed the calves, wash windows, and start the oven cleaning before the day got started.

Paperwork has been gathered for my trip to Chillicothe in the afternoon to the license bureau.   Allen and I had planned to purchase the pickup through bartering, however, i found out at the license bureau that that can only be done throught a dealership!  No private transactions.  That doesn’t sound fair.  So, of course, i had to pay sales tax after all.  The inspection for the pickup resulted in a $600 repair bill!!

I took some photos of an old McCormick International seed drill that I listed for sale on Powell Seed Farm, Inc facebook page.  It is old and small by today’s standards, but it would be perfect for someone starting out or for use in grass paddock improvements.

Stopped in Meadville at my friend’s house and we had a serious heart to heart visit.  I cannot imagine going through life without a close friend with whom each can share our joys, concerns, and heartaches.

Slow late afternoon since i’d allowed plenty of time for the license bureau, yet i was in and out in less than half an hour!  Fed the calves, worked on my chicken tractor (this is my 9th design and build of chicken tractors and eggmobiles).  I’ve been at the chicken tractor for months, but it’s the lowest item on my priority list, so I seldom have time to piddle around with it.  Had hoped to have it done before i butcher our last 14 hens so as to see if it works, but that may not happen.  Might get chicks next spring, but might not.  I may just enjoy not having extra chores, but it’s fun building stuff – it just won’t get used.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Joel Salatin – Farm Marketer Extraordinaire!

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farmshttp://www.polyfacefarms.com/speaking-protocol/joels-bio/ is recognised around the world as a no nonsense, say it the way it is kind of farmer and marketer.  His ideas are proven to work in his area (highly populated with customers), but the ground rules can work anywhere and even in the commodity markets.  Some of his advice here needs more explanation, but most are just cut-to-the-chase, get ‘er done stuff.  GO!

Here’s a quick interview with a reporter from Modern Farmer

Five-Minute Mentor: Farming Advice from Joel Salatin

Grass Eating Chooks – Replication 3 – 3 days

Final three days of testing for chooks verifies eating/trampling about 3/4s of a pound of grass per chicken per day.  We’ve had about 7 inches of rain, however, on the last 6 days of testing and they really had scratched out some mud holes.  In weather like this, they really need moving more often to avoid bare spots.  Open soil not protected by forage will invariably be eroded by weather.

Mud holes scratched out by only 14 chooks in three days.
Mud holes scratched out by only 14 chooks in three days.

Egg production has stayed at 7 eggs per day.  After this trial, their grain offering will increase up to whatever they’ll clean up in a day – probably close to 3-4 lbs per day for the lot of 14 hens.

They are over two years old, so that may have something to do with decreased production as well as the constant rain and no sunshine will also cause stress.  That has certainly caused stress to all of our livestock and people as well.  However, our hearts go out to those who are flooded beyond imagination.

Next project is to build a 7 ft by 16 foot low profile chicken tractor with little wheels light enough to be pulled by hand.  Hopefully, this will take out the chore of moving all that electric netting!

Cheers!

tauna

Chooks Eating Grass – Replication 2 – 3 days

Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile.  Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs.  Day 2 egg collections:  7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs.  We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more.  However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.

More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they'll still hammer it pretty good.
More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they’ll still hammer it pretty good.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .39 of an acre.  Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 6 inches available for 1800 lbs times .39 for 702 lbs in the paddock.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .039 of an acre. Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 8 inches available for 2400 lbs/acre times .039 for 93.6 lbs in the paddock.

We  have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating.  Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing.  A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day.  In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality.  This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.

We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day.  However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes.  Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling.  Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.