July 10, 2009

an art which we're beginning to master

I've been absent for a while. We've been busy with not much to report.
We harvested another batch of 240 meat birds a few weeks ago. Some were sold to a CSA, some were sold off the farm and the rest are to be sold by us at a farmer's market.
We got our fourth batch of baby chicks last week. With every batch, it seems, we learn something new, thereby improving our system of raising them. They really can be tricky little suckers to raise often looking for any reason to just fall over dead. Keeping them alive and in good health without the use of drugs is not only a science, it's an art. An art which we are beginning to master. And it's amazing how the whole dynamic changes when things are managed properly. Last season the chick-raising part of our operation was often overwhelming and stress-inducing but is now almost enjoyable. It's all about the poop folks. Once you learn how best to manage the manure/carbonaceous matter ratio, it's a whole new ballgame. In addition, we may have just figured out the missing link in achieving almost zero mortality while in the brooder. Still waiting for the results to come in with our latest experiment.
I am constantly amazed at how much we learn from our animals. You can read books and attend workshops but the animals themselves are the greatest teachers.
Our egg production seems to be down a bit as of late and much time has been spent just watching and observing the hens and trying to figure out what the deal is. One guess is that it's the heat. They tend to eat less when it's hot and consequently have less energy to convert into eggs.
Our lambs are doing really well and are still such fun. We move them to a new patch of grass using electrified netting and step-in posts. We move them about every other day and when they see us setting up the new area, they know what's up and they're ready to move.
We'll be getting our baby turkeys (called poults) at the end of the month and have much to do to prepare. The poults have to stay in the brooder twice as long as the other chicks because they're very fragile when young. We will be building a new structure for them to live in once they move outside. We're looking forward to turkeys again because they're really fun to raise.
A new eggmobile for our second batch of little hens is in the works as well. We purchased the running gear and I'll try to document the construction in photos. It will be modeled after our current eggmobile.
More later...

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