Back home and starting to get settled into regular chores and a few moving ahead projects. Despite coming home to sub zero temps, 1/4 inch ice, and swirling snow, just two days later it is starting to melt and at 33 degrees F (headed to 44F just before dark), it’s not too bad outside.
While i was gone, my silly Welsummer hens began laying – thank goodness – they are about 7 months old and until this past week had laid not one single egg! Apparently, they had not read the book that they are a breed which starts laying at 5-6 months. Granted, i am willing to give them a pass because i did accept them after June 8 (because of Nathan and Heather’s wedding and knowing we would be gone, i didn’t want baby chicks around), so that put them going into the shorter days which is typically when hens start laying fewer eggs. And these gals are truly pastured hens and never on a high powered ration. But when 6 months rolled around, i’m thinking they ought to be laying something! I checked them and most had developed the visible and measurable signs of being mature enough – yet no eggs.
Here’s the lovely dozen eggs i found this morning! In the photo, the lighter colored one is from a purchased dozen of eggs from the store which say they are on pasture. Here’s the interesting part, that store bought egg is considered a large egg yet is very similar in size and weight of these first eggs laid by my hens. In other words, my hens didn’t start with pullet sized eggs, they started in with mediums and larges! And beautiful shell color.
Remember that the color of the shell has nothing to do with the quality of the egg nor does it tell you anything about how the hen was raised. The color of the yolk can be darkened by the ration fed to a caged hen (marigold and/or corn). Anyway, my hen’s eggs were all frozen, so these first ones will have to be thrown away since they could be contaminated because of cracking. But maybe we’ll get some today to collect.
Stay warm and have fun!
Welsummer pullets hard at work keeping spiders and crickets from getting into the house last fall (2019).
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.
Thankfully, I’ve accomplished quite a lot despite being inside most of the days. I did mess up by mowing a small bit of tall lawn after my recip cows had grazed a spot about as short as they were going to. Yeah, i was pretty shut down the next day. My bad.
I had posted on facebook about building what The Seed Guy calls a lasagne bed. By that he means to layer brown and green compostable stuff to build soil for next spring’s garden. I scrounged around for a couple of 16 ft boards and cut a couple of 2 ft boards and lag screwed the four pieces into a long box. Yes, i know that a 4 by 16 foot bed would be more efficient, but as you can see from my photo, i can only reasonable access two feet because of its proximaty to the propane tank. Plus, this is plenty big for me; i don’t particularly like to garden and i’m not good at it at all. But, I like a particular variety of heirloom tomato and my Asian long pole green beans. I might throw in a few lettuce and spinach seeds early in the season.
Also, managed to defrost and clean out the freezer amongst a host of other tasks.
Starts at sundown and goes until tomorrow at sundown. A shabbat.
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.
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!
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.
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.