Tag Archives: chooks

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

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.

How Much Grass do Chickens Eat? Replication 1 – 3days

The opportunity cost of owning land is next to nil since the government insists on stealing our savings by keeping interest rates near 0% and printing money (inflation), so the easiest way to determine the cost of the grass consumed is by using current pasture rental rates, which in north Missouri is about $60/acre.

Too many times I read (even from producers, sometimes!) that grass is free.  Whoa, Nelly!  It is not free and, in fact, the cost of grass has sharply increased due to so much of it being ploughed up to raise more corn and soybeans.  Folks, that is not sweet corn nor edible soybeans.  This is commodity, GMO crops raised to be fed to animals like cattle, chickens, pigs, fish, horses, buffalo, and even lambs and deer!

But I digress – how much grass do pastured hens eat and how does that relate to a dozen eggs?  Hopefully, these questions can be answered at least for our management style.

By measuring the amount of forage in a small paddock before the chooks are moved in and then again after they are moved out in 3 days (during the growing season, it is imperative to move stock at least every 3 days to prevent removing too much forage, however, if you need to improve the diversity, overgrazing is a good tool to use for establishment, but it must be part of the plan).  As with any research, there are variables that are hard to control.  While we will measure the amount of feed we give them and report that, there is no way of knowing how many bugs they will eat.  We plan three replications.

Trial 1 – Replication 1 – Day 1  cool, partly sunny weather (65-70F)

Trial 1; Day 1, grass is pretty mature with only about 40% red clover.
Trial 1; Day 1, grass is pretty mature with only about 40% red clover.

Day 1 – Fourteeen mature egg laying Barred Rock hens – .039 acres with mature fescue and about 40% red clover.  Estimated forage available is 4 inches times 200 lbs of grazeable feed is 800 lbs per acre or 31.2 lbs (800 x .039).  I’ll measure what is left when we move them in 3 days to obtain what they actually consume.  Chooks will mash down a fair bit, but that is okay since that will feed the soil microbes and organisms.  We are offering 1 lb of seed cleanout consisting of wheat screenings – unsprouted.  Sprouted would be better, but for this trial, we want to know how much forage they are eating out of the pasture.

Trial 1: Day 1,  Paddock size about 1680 square feet or .39 acre. There are 14 mature hens.
Trial 1: Day 1, Paddock size about 1680 square feet or .39 acre. There are 14 mature hens. Since the mature fescue stems are too lignified for anything to eat, I do not count that as part of the forage available. So, estimating 200 lbs per inch per acre.
After 3 days, the chooks are moved to fresh paddock.  Here's the residual.  About  2 inches overall or
After 3 days, the chooks are moved to fresh paddock. Here’s the residual. About 3 inches overall which is about  1/4 of what was available.  One inch then was eaten or trampled resulting in about 31 lbs utilized by 14 chooks in 3 days.

Results:  Eggs laid: Day 1: 12 eggs, Day 2: 11 eggs Day 3: 7 eggs.  Indications are that without more grain – production decreases markedly, this may not be a bad thing – pencil out the costs and needs.

Grazing equivalent:  The 14 chooks grazed in 3 days what 1 cows would grazing in one day

Bear in mind, however, the trampling/mob effect would be entirely different since cows would likely trample more and certainly put more poop in large piles which will then cover up more grass.  With so much rain, even more grass would be destroyed.  There would also be a considerable difference in mob effect with 500 or 1000 chooks vs 14 as well.  Chickens range only up to 250 feet (extreme outer limits) from their nesting boxes, so more trampling would occur due to concentration.  I would think with that many – chooks would need moving everyday vs 3 days.

Chooks will eat far more bugs than cows.

There are several differences in the grazing impact, so just comparing the potential grazing is just for fun.

Neverthess, this experiment demonstrates that no matter the species – pastures MUST BE ALLOWED ADEQUATE REST PERIODS TO IMPROVE AND ALLOW FUTURE GRAZING!  Animal movement must be controlled and their keepers must balance animal performance and pasture production effectively.

Eat ALL of Your Vegetables!

The Off Duty Wall Street article is subtitled, ”

Vegetable Scraps Go Haute: How to Cook Root to Stalk

My comment:

Interesting article – Neat how survival/frugal living/done-for-centuries lifestyles are now becoming ‘haute‘! Doesn’t everyone already do this?! Well, maybe not the fancy recipes, but food should never be wasted. Egg shells and coffee grounds make awesome soil amendments. Whatever parts of plants you simply cannot stomach can be turned into compost or fed to the chooks. Or feed all those scraps to worms which you can use to go fishing. But don’t ever let food go to waste!

and my comment posted to the article on the Wall Street Journal site:

“All the comments to the article are spot on and i can add nothing to them.  I thought most people already knew this stuff, but apparently not if the article is accurate in stating the 40% of our food produced goes to waste.  Then again, I have personally seen family members throw out a bowl of perfectly good fruit simply because one item had a soft spot on it!  I had to choke back my admonition!”

Now go cook or compost those stems!
tauna

Easy Hamburger Buns

The chooks (laying hens) practically stopped laying eggs this winter, so bread making had to be adjusted.  This super easy and relatively quick recipe is officially to make burger buns, but creativity can turn them into hot dog buns, loaf bread, or slice thin and broil with cheese and/or garlic butter or make mini-pizzas.  Cut smaller rounds for cocktail buns.  Recipe modified from the original found in the very helpful “Dining On A Dime” cookbook.

Try to use homegrown, local, or organic ingredients whenever possible. There are several search sites online to help you find sources near your home.

Easy Hamburger Buns

5-6 cups flour (preferably unbleached white and/or stone ground – using 100% stone-ground can affect how high the buns rise)

2 pkgs or 2 Tablespoons yeast

1 cup milk (organic or local, real (raw) from cows grazing on pasture)

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oil  ( i use olive oil if i use oil, but mostly i use home made applesauce)

1/4 cup sugar (organically grown cane to avoid GMO)

1 Tablespoon salt  (Real salt)

butter, melted  (same as milk)

Stir together 2 cups flour and yeast.  In a saucepan over medium, heat milk, water, oil, sugar, and salt to very warm (120ºF-130ºF/50ºC-55ºC).  Add liquid all at once to flour mixture  Beat until smooth (about 2 minutes) on medium speed with electric mixer or 300 strokes by hand.  Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough; mix well.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Roll out on a  well-floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with 3-inch round cutter (or rim of glass).  Place rounds on greased baking sheets.  Let rise in warm place (80ºF/27ºC) for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425ºF (230ºC) and bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Brush melted butter on the tops whilst still warm.  Make 12-20 buns.  (depending on how thick you cut them).  For burger buns, I like at least 15, otherwise it’s just more bread than one needs to make a nice sandwich.

Substitutions and ideas:

I use 1/2 cup of prepared applesauce instead of olive oil.

Add 1/2 cup of ground seeds (i’ve used chia, but flax, sesame, or hemp would likely work as well)

Try 1/2 and 1/2 with unbleached white flour and stone-ground whole wheat.

I warm the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn it off and place the buns inside to rise.  However, this slows down the process, because they need to be taken out before preheating the oven for baking.

Enjoy!

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These Jersey cows produce awesome milk while out on pasture grazing in north central Missouri.

tauna

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Mix ingredients then let rest for 10 minutes.
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Cut into 3 inch rounds or whatever size and shape you want.
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Place on a buttered pan.
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Let rise 30 minutes at 80F or thereabouts.
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After rising.
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Brush tops with butter if you want to.