Chickens

Anything posted about chickens.

Chicken Feed

A comment on my last post about switching feed has me now writing this post.  The questions were what am I feeding now, how do I know the other feed will work, and what feed is it? I am answering this way because when I was trying to figure out what Joel Salatin was feeding, it was too illusive..never did find it..maybe this will help someone around me find feed.   😀

Ok Currently I have 26 hens, I also have at least 8 more female chicks that will lay in 5 months.  I feed Nature Wise Layer feed from Nutrena.  It is a soy based feed. I chose this feed because it doesnt have antibiotics or hormones in it and all the other feeds around me do.  I use their rewards program and so that was saving me money also.  My chickens lay great in the summer and not so great in the winter but a yearly average is 6 dozen a week.  Currently the feed price is about $15 a bag..just shy + tax. I buy a yearly average of 5 bags a month, summer it is less, winter it is more.  That comes to $80.25. Divide that by 4 average weeks. $20.05 and then divide that by 6 dozen gives you $3.34. I live in Northern Indiana and the girls cannot go out most of the winter due to the snow amounts. I do shovel when I can to get them out and moving but they wont go out anyway most of the time.  That is why I go for a yearly average. Summer they roam all over the place and feed bills go down, but winter months kill me.

How do I know the other feed will work?  I found a guy who buys this feed already.  He has been feeding this to his girls for at least a year. He has customers who cannot tolerate soy what so ever.  He not only sells his eggs to them, but also the chickens as stewing hens when they quit laying. He raises all his birds on this.  I went to see him about turkeys and told him about how I couldnt eat my eggs.  He said that many people are allergic to the soy that is put in the feed and gave me a dozen eggs.  I tried them and found that I could eat them with minimal discomfort. On a scale of horrid 10 to hardly anything 1…store eggs are a 11, my eggs are about a 5, and his eggs were a 1.  Believe me I kept eating that entire dozen just to make sure, and then I bought another dozen just yesterday. He charges $5 a dozen to cover the cost of gas to go haul the ton.  The feed is expensive which is why I wanted to make sure I was able to eat his eggs first before I bought.

What is this new feed? There are two places I have found that I can get organic feed, one is in Lebanon. They want $30 a bag. Not do-able for me..that is way too much to change over all my hens.  The other place is Honeyville Organic Feeds. They have two locations of Topeka and Wolcottville.  They recently were taken over by W.O.L.F Coop which sells organic feed in I think Wisconsin. This is the place the farmer I talked to go his feed. It is a special mix done by the grain elevator.  He buys by the ton. I cant. I dont have room to store it and it would take me forever to use it, plus it would go moldy in the process.  So I called and they offer layer feed in bags for $21.50. That comes to $115.03 a month with tax included. Divide that by 4 weeks is $28.76 a week. Divide that by 6 dozen and you have $4.79.

I truly wish it was cheaper and if I went with exactly the feed costs each month the price would fluctuate a lot..keeping it yearly is a great way to let people pay the same price year round. Out here normal “farm” eggs go for $2 a dozen. The feed has to be the cheapest out there.  I do not know how much feed these guys are actually giving their chickens or how good of egg is laid. Organic eggs go for $3.50. I do know that chickens can get a huge supply of food from just scratching around, but you have to realize I live on one acre. On that acre I have a house and a garden which almost take up half an acre. My girls cannot find enough food out there to make me satisfied they are eating enough and staying healthy. I offer food all the time and they would eat the feed at their leisure along with free range.  This year instead of letting them roam around willy nilly, I am doing a pasture rotation system with my sheep and them like Joel Salatin does with his cows and chickens.

Yes I am small scale, yes we hope to move to a beautiful 20 acre farm, yes I dream big, but unless someone can find feed for me that is not more than 2 hours drive to get, has no hormones or antibiotics because I care about that, and is a non soy formula so I can eat my own eggs, I have to rely on this feed and try to find the clientele to buy the eggs.

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Categories: Chickens, Homesteading | 5 Comments

Making a Switch

Well I know it’s been a long time since I blogged. Don’t worry I didn’t forget about any of you   😉

Here is the lowdown on the homestead:

1. The chicks are getting big. The first batch of 8 are almost ready for the chick area in the coop. The second batch of 10 are waiting to move into the dog crate currently occupied by the first set.  The turkeys are going to arrive around May 1st. Phew cause I have no room right now!

2. Lambs are here and doing well. The white females are super friendly and I really think I will keep one or both for breeding. It really depends on how they fill out and if they have the traits I want. They certainly have the temperament.  We are still feeding on hay. I’m waiting for the first rain fall which was suppose to be tonight but I think wont be for a few more days. Then I can start my rotations around my yard. Well ok I need a solar fence charger first..but thats just a measly too hundred dollars   😯

3. Diesel is becoming a great farm dog. He likes the cats, is trying to herd sheep, and is eating poop. All the markings of a great farm dog lol. He is 9 weeks old today and one ear is trying to stand, the other flops over, so he looks all weird right now.

4. I have my garden marked out(almost) into the 4 plots I’ve sold. I have my regular peas planted.

So now the newest development.  I know I am probably jumping the gun on this but I am making a switch.  I have been unable to eat my own eggs for months. It is a little disappointing to know that others enjoy them, yet you cant even eat one or you are spending the day praying to the porcelain god. Since my god says, “no other gods before me” I have to make a switch to a chicken feed that will enable me to eat my eggs.  Here is the problem…at the moment I bring all my eggs to church.  I have a box that says chicken feed donations. I ask $1 at least although some pay me $2.50..some dont pay at all.  A lot are on a fixed income and love getting eggs from me. I love giving them eggs, but in order to eat eggs that means I have to go buy eggs at $5 a dozen.

If I were to charge what this feed I currently use costs me, I would have to charge $3.35 a dozen. That is run of the mill feed.  So the donations I have been getting is paying for about half my feed bill, if I am lucky.  The new feed is organic, non-soy and is more expensive so I would have to charge $4.75 a dozen just to make the cost.

It really is a dilemma because I love seeing the smiling old lady faces as I hand them eggs. Sometimes they forget their money and I just say dont worry about it.  I would love to continue this, but I want to eat my eggs!!  I love chickens and their personalities rock..but I cant split my flock and feed half this and half that just so I can continue to get half my feed paid for, for half my chickens.  I am switching all my girls to the new feed later this week. I will go tuesday and pick up enough for one month and mix it partially with what I have to wean them off of it and onto the new.  I will make an announcement at church that will break the hearts of all those little ol ladies, that I have to get $4.75 a dozen to pay for feed.

They honestly could care less if it were organic feed I’m sure. They just know they are better eggs than those at the store, but I have a soft heart.  I figure maybe if I can give away 6 dozen eggs away a month at church to those little ol ladies (which would cause me to eat $28 that week of my feed costs), if I use 3 dozen a month..then I only have to find some people to buy the remaining 15 dozen.   😦  I think it is going to be a hard sell in this area, but hopefully someone will see that pastured, organic, soy free eggs are worth the $4.75 a dozen.

Happy Homesteading!!   😀

 

Side Note:  Just went outside to feed the pup and noticed a chicken out..so walked around the house and ALL the chickens were out..they had eaten all my peas and messed up what I had done in my garden..grr..chickens.. Anyway..I’ve replanted the peas and all is well.

Categories: Chickens, Gardening, Homesteading | 3 Comments

Around the Farm

Spring has sprung, except the weather. I have flowers trying to bloom, trees budding, and baby animals all around.  Mother nature needs to get the memo so that I can get the garden started already.  Today I’m just going to write to tell you what the heck is going on around here.  I know we all get busy and I am trying to faithfully blog about something, even if it isnt super interesting.  I’m just a mom you know on a 1 acre zoo. Nothing interesting really happens here.

Lambs– They are eating a lot. It is amazing how much difference between 2 lambs and hay versus 6 lambs and hay. Not that I am worried about runnin out before spring…or maybe I should be with the way things are going!  They are super cute. The white females baaa all the time. The boys just let them do all the work of calling me for food lol.  All our males are uncut and will be banded here this week. All but the best one to my eye.  I’ll leave that chore to my husband   🙂

Chickens– I still have 26 hens and one rooster. The rooster is still separated until I need to move chicks. My girls are molting again..sigh..hurry up already! They seemed to have just molted a few months ago! I have the rooster separate because last year I had naked backed girls running around with sunburn.  I am getting around 12 eggs a day from the girls and they have slowed up on the feed. It looks almost full and shouldnt be. I’m not going to complain. I already told my husband I am switching to organic non-soy food either next month or the month after. I found that I can tolerate one egg on organic non-soy feed, but cant tolerate any at all on the feed I have. It also helps my stomach when I use them in baking too.  Its amazing how much something as simple as soy can make a difference. Of course  you wouldnt think I would be surprised because milk is different too. Problem with the feed is I would have to charge $5 a dozen just to break even!

Chicks– I have right now 8 chicks that are 2 weeks old. They are almost fully feathered. Probably another week or two and I can move them out to the chicken coop. I have a separate chick area that they go in for another month without outdoor access and then I can open it up and let them out into a run with a fenced top. No hawk is going to get my babies!  Then last night my other 10   9 chicks arrived. Some lady bought one of my jersey giants before I got there. Nice.. oh well. They said they would get more in next week and would call for my one chick. Sheesh..  Anway they are all cute and little tiny things sleeping a lot under the heat light.  Good thing I have a fail proof system of rotation here!  Ok might not be fail proof, but the turkeys havent come yet and that is the only hitch I could see coming in my plan.

Turkeys– Still to come…they were laying eggs beginning of March..the guy said he would call when they were born and he was going to keep them for a week to give them a running chance.  I dont need a running chance because he said if I buy 8 I should end up with the 5 I need. Well I’m a stay at home mom and keep all these babies in my living room so the chances of dying are slim to none.. The running chance will ensure I have 8 turkeys which is too much since we over bought on lambs!

Pup– You know how when you have a puppy it just licks you to death!  I mean you can sit quietly without the thing jumping and wanting to lick your face. Yeah..well….I dont have that.  This pup doesnt know how to lick apparently.  All the thing does is eat, sleep, poop, play with our other dog, and bite.  Everywhere you go..bites your pants. You’re sitting on the couch.. bites your feet. It is sitting with you on the couch..biting your hands, arms or anything else. Laying nicely with you..turns and bites you on the face. He is just playing but goodness. This is why you shouldn’t get a puppy less than 8 weeks. You have to teach it too much. The mom should be doing this, but now it falls on me. So the  update is that the pup is he is crate trained!! He will ring the bells at the door if you are near the door and ask him if he has to go potty. If yes he will paw at the bells.  If no, he will walk away. If you are not near the door, dont ask, he pees on the floor lol.  90% of the time when he comes in he will sit on the rug next to the door. You can wipe his feet, but he will bite you as you do it so we are still working on that. I am now teaching him to kiss.  Yes I showed him by licking him on the face, avoiding the bites. I said kiss and licked him a few times. We worked on it for a while. I could make the motion with my tongue and he would try to lick. It seemed very hard for him to grasp the concept of no teeth with that lick   😉 but it is a work in progress.  He is doing well.  If I teach him to “bite” and to “kiss” then when I need him to bite he will. Just have to get him down to not biting people unless I tell him too.  He is only 7 weeks so I’ll give him time. As my friend said, “He’s only a minute old!”

Well that’s what is going on around my farm at the moment. Hopefully I can put in my peas and mark out my garden shares this weekend. They say 50 but since snow is on the ground it is a little hard to believe.

 

Happy Homesteading!!   😀

Categories: Chickens, Homesteading, Livestock | Leave a comment

Gobble Gobble

The season is fast approaching…chick season.  This year on our homestead we are venturing into turkeys.  People look at me like I am crazy. The one acre is small to most farmers, but it is big to me if I use it right.

The first several years I started with a garden that was about a 20 ft x 30 ft square. I fed our family many a meal out of that. People thought I was smart.  “What a way to save money” they would say.  Then I made it bigger and bigger and now it is at the point I can barely keep up. They now say “well that’s a lot of garden for one family, are you sure you can handle it?” Well yes and no. I do what I can and with God’s loving blessing it hasn’t failed miserably because of my lack of time and motivation.

Three years ago I added 10 chickens. I promised my hubby that 10 would be enough..but as the years have went on I have bought more to “replace” and have yet to totally get rid of my first flock who are now turning 3.  I bought an incubator and birthed a rotation of march and fall chicks.  March chicks lay by Oct/Nov when the older girls molt and the Oct/Nov babies produce when my March chicks molt for the first time. This ensures I always have dozens of eggs for my church.  Now I have 27 chickens and supply about 5 dozen eggs a Sunday to my church…I’m the crazy chicken lady with the huge garden.

Last years babies hanging by the water cooler.

Last years babies hanging by the water cooler.

 

Last year we added sheep.  I got stares from the neighbor. “Are you sure you have enough space for them?”  Sure I do. You can easily raise 6 sheep on one acre using rotation and set your lawnmower free. I only had 3, 2 most of the season.  Sheep are super easy to keep and they are fun to play with. It was a lovely added adventure.  I learned that sheep like goats will eat clothing. Well ok to be fair I was chasing them and it wasn’t so much eat,but grab my clean shirt sleeve, pull it off the line, and take off down the yard.  So with two sheep, a huge garden and at 20+ chickens I got comments like “Oh my gosh, how do you do it all?”  oh did I mention I make almost every meal we eat from scratch??  Yeah once they found that out I was like a God to them or something.  I kept telling them it’s easy when your home all day and you actually WANT to do that stuff.  Is it hard for me to go outside weed my garden, throw the weeds to the sheep to eat, all the while talking to my chicken girls?  No.  Is it hard for me to hang laundry outside and take every few minutes to chase a lamb around the tree? No.

This year we are adding 5 turkeys along with more chicks.  I have been reading all I can on pasture raised turkeys. It is fascinating. My husband thinks I am crazy and when I mentioned more rotation on the animals he looked at me with those concerned eyes and said, “Your not going to put them in the front yard are you?”  My reply was “Yes, I want to retire the lawnmower this year and they wont be there if we have people over. Just when we absolutely need to keep the grass down. Besides I’ll do it while you are at work.” *smile sweetly and kiss the hubby*

Bourbon Red

Bourbon Red

Narragansett

Narragansett

 

When I mentioned keeping turkeys the first word out of my sisters, and others mouths who have raised turkeys was “Do you know how much they EAT!!???”  Yes,  yes I do.. a lot.  The problem with all said people who asked is they did not raise their turkeys on pasture rotation at all. They cooped them up in a small area which had no bugs, grass,or weeds and then fed them solely feed. That is NOT my plan. Heritage turkeys can get up to 50% of their diet from the outdoors.  It is all in how you raise them.  Wild turkeys don’t buy bags of feed to eat..they roam through the fields, woods, and yards to find their food.  If I had a nice woods I don’t think I would buy hardly any feed.  I am prepared to feed them at night before they go to bed, but other than that, they are free to forage all day for food, just as my chickens do.  I will feed them more feed when they are babies of course to get them to the size no hawk will some swooping down and take any, but they will be weaned onto pasture like all the other animals and given supplemental feed as needed. I also am not going to raise them fast and fat to slaughter..they will grow naturally slow like they are suppose to.

My only dilemma is what breed to get.  I only have two choices as to where I buy my chicks. I have Smiths Ace Hardware who only sell the Big Breasted Bronze turkeys..a non heritage breed and Tractor Supply who sell heritage breeds but on their order form it says minimum of 25.  Yeah..I want 5..no more, no less. So at this point I have to hope and pray that our local TSC will get the two heritage varieties I am leaning towards as a store stock so I can buy 5.  I will probably go in and talk to them about it and see if they can combine orders with someone who wants those as well or see if they will be able to get some into the store and call me.  I am leaning towards either Narragansett or Bourbon Red.  I read that Narragansetts are very docile and friendly birds, but the same article did not say about the Bourbon Reds which is what I’d like to raise this year.  I guess it’s God’s plan.   🙂

This year we will have 4 lambs, 40+ chickens, and 5 turkeys. How much will my acre hold??  Only the Lord knows, but I plan on stretching the land as far as it will go this year to see!

 

Happy Homesteading!!   😀

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Chickens, Homesteading, Livestock | 6 Comments

Joel Salatin

He’s the man!  That’s it..end of blog.  Ok not really and you could already tell because obviously this expands down the page lol.  Joel Salatin is my hero.  For those of you who don’t know who he is..this is him.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms

He’s a lunatic farmer. He will admit that himself.  His way of using the land to produce grassfed animals is just amazing.  He has written many books, has tours of his farm, does speaking events, and has many Youtube videos.  Everything he does is what we all should be doing.  He’s found a way to stay in business when many renegade farmers cannot.

The FDA and the USDA are extremely powerful.  They have the authority to come onto your property for no reason what so ever, take all your livestock because “someone” filed a complaint..which could be no one at all, and then euthanize all of them.  They can put you out of business in the blink of an eye because we are poor people with little power.  We do not have the right to eat what we want in America.  We cannot legally buy or sell raw milk in many states.  We cannot buy raw cheese in many states.  We cannot sell a simple chicken to the next door neighbor who asked to buy it without jumping through a ton of loops.  It is very ridiculous to me that we have no choices.  We are suppose to eat chemical laden, pesticide filled, bacterial food because it is deemed “safe”.

To me eating safe is knowing exactly where your food came from, who processed it, and being able to go watch them do it, or help them even!  I make this point because in my journey, that the Lord has called me to, I will end up being a rebel.  My overall plan is to use the Joel Salatin farm model.  Splitting my, hopefully this year, farm into several parcels and raising grassfed beef.  After the cows are done with a pasture and have eaten the grass to the bottom of the teen stage, then a few days later the free range chickens take over.  They spread the manure while picking bugs out and produce eggs..same with turkeys and if you so choose to raise, broilers.  I plan on raising pigs that while young are turning the compost piles that have grown over winter with kitchen scraps.  Then turned out on pasture to eat fresh grass, shrubs, and insects.  Finally to finish them in the woods, using them to clear out brush and spark new grass growth, all the while they are eating acorns, walnuts, berries, shrubs and anything else they find.

Why is it so hard for our government to understand that we have a RIGHT to eat what we deem healthy.  If my neighbor is processing a deer in his kitchen, I should have a right to buy it if I choose.  If I have a cow, and milk it, I should be able to sell that milk.  How are we going to take care of each other if the government won’t let us make a living? Oh that’s right, the government will take care of us….  I suppose I could give it away, but I should be able to ask a price for my labor and my time processing.

I want to encourage all of you to be like Joel.  Maybe not in every sense of the practices, but to follow his model.  Be a lunatic farmer who demands the right to grow, sell, and eat what we choose, not what is chosen for us. This growing season I will still be living on my little acre plot, but I plan to use pasture rotation with sheep, followed by chickens and turkeys.  Yes I am selling this food to my neighbors.  I will grow an organic garden and I will sell those things too.  If I have to jump through hoops to do it, so be it.  If I have to end up trading things with people, so be it.  I will drink raw milk. I will make cheese. I will sustain myself as best I can on my little acre.

To end my rant I am posting a few links so that you too can be inspired by Joel to be a lunatic..a rebel… a “deemed unfit for human consumption” eater!

Polyface Farms 

Farm visit with Joel part 1                                               Farm visit with Joel part 2

Farm visit with Joel part 3                                            Farm visit with Joel part 4

Processing a chicken-how to with Joel

Some Books Joel Salatin has written(There are many more):

  • You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
  • Salad Bar Beef
  • Pastured Poultry Profits
  • Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front

Eye Opening Movies Joel has starred in:

  • FRESH
  • Farmageddon
  • Food Inc.

 

Happy Lunatic Homesteading!!   😀

Categories: Chickens, Homesteading, Livestock | 13 Comments

The Not so Pleasant part…

So today we are going to address the not so pleasant part of homesteading.  A lot of people homestead without doing this, but it really makes you more self sufficient and less dependent on grocery stores.  What is this I speak of??

Processing Animals

Yup eventually..you’re going to have to get bloody.  You have to be able to look at blood, be ok with an animal dying, and know how to use every part of it so that you don’t waste any.  Now because I know a lot of you are moms with small children, I will not post any graphic pictures here or in later posts, but I will link you to youtube videos that I have either made or have found helpful.  If you absolutely cannot stand the site of blood you can either trade services with another homesteader or you can call a local butcher and have your meat processed.  I must tell you though that it gets expensive to pay processing fees and much of it you can do yourself.

Raising your own meat is non profit for the most part.  Most of us do it because you always have a supply of meat on hand, you know exactly what is in the meat, and where your meat came from. No matter how much land you have, you should be able to raise something for meat.  If you live in town you should be able to raise rabbits.  If you are Sub-Urban you should be able to have rabbits and maybe even chickens.  If you are rural, well that is where you get whatever you want!

3 Easy Critters to Raise

Courtesy of thecrunchychicken.com

Courtesy of thecrunchychicken.com

Meat Rabbits: These guys are very easy to raise. Depending on how many you have, you can raise them solely on things you’ve grown in your garden and you can also pasture your rabbits as shown above.  It also depends on if you have the means of storing things for winter feedings too. Rabbits are not expensive to raise but you really need hanging cages that no raccoon or dog can get into and just know they get hot in the summer so make sure you have a way to cool them down.  You can use their droppings are fertilizer right away on gardens and boy does that make a huge difference in your veggies! I am hoping to raise some starting next year if I can talk the hubby into it.

IMG_0144                 IMG_0149

Sheep: The pictures above are of my sheep.  We went to the sale barn and purchased sheep. If you don’t know what to look for please do not use this route, use a breeder instead.  Sheep are again super easy to keep.  You only raise them about 4-6 month before you process.  Three sheep can easily live on half an acre of grass/weed pasture and be fine.  They will eat a lot of weeds (I was actually surprised as the amount), leaves of trees they can reach, and some grass. Mine preferred clover mixed with crab grass.  You do not need to feed the sheep grain if they are 4 months old, although we did give them some scratch grain from the chickens in the mornings. They keep easily with minimal care. Strong fences and a cool place to lay in the summer is a must.

IMG_0062

Chickens: Chickens can cost a lot depending on what you want to do with them. If you have a fenced yard, let them free range all day and feed for them is next to nothing.  They can pretty much go without feed all summer but I would feed them chicken feed in the winter when the bugs are not as plentiful.  Garden scraps make a wonderful supplement to any feeding.  Here is a roo that hatched two years ago.  You can raise your own chicks and cull the roosters for meat, leaving the hens to produce eggs or you can just raise hens.  You need a fenced area, a place for the chickens to lay their eggs, and a place to lock them in at night.  Insulated coops are recommended if winters in your area get below 32. Chickens are hardy and good to can up to a year old. After a  year they are considered stewing hens because the meat wont peel off the bone for canning. You can have one sit in a crock pot all day and it can be eaten for dinner though.  You should get twice as many hens as you want eggs a day. They don’t always lay.

Bottom line is do your research before you start raising anything.  Know what your doing and educate yourself on the expense, time, care, and processing of the animal before you buy.  There are many other things you can raise for meat such as pigs, cows, and goats.  You also can hunt your food and obtain deer, rabbit, coon, squirrel, quail, turkey, duck, geese..the list goes on.  Educate yourself and do what is easiest for you.  I wish you all luck and I will post about my adventures on what animals we get this year and how to cull/process/care for them.

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Chickens, Homesteading, Livestock, Skills | 2 Comments

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