This last weekend we cleaned the chicken coop. . We have a three section coop. Section one is the main coop and it is 10’x15′ and houses the feed and water for the laying flock. Section 2 is 10’x5′ and it houses the roosts and nest boxes for our main flock. Section 3 is a section we use as an extended brooder, rooster pen, and isolated breeding pen. What we clean out gets spread onto our hay field as fertilizer.
We have had last falls hatch of chicks in section 3 for the winter. The little pullets are looking very nice and were ready to mix into the main laying flock. After we cleaned the coop we left the pullets in with the older hens. I figured there would be a ruckus while they all got used to each other but they all blended in nicely. The young pullets did look a little confused, but started to eat well after a short time. The 2 pens were only separated by chicken wire so they were weren’t really strangers.
I am looking forward to the young pullets to start laying soon. There are still 4 young roosters that need to go into the freezer. Hopefully this next weekend we can start to work on that. Fried chicken really sounds good about now!
I need to order some chicks or get some eggs set to incubate. I need to have a clutch of spring chicks so when my fall hens molt, the spring chicks will hopefully carry us through. We are trying to decide which breeds to keep and if we would like to incorporate a new breed. We do not have Buff Orpingtons, and since we both are partial to that breed, we will probably add a few.
I will be ordering a few broiler chicks to raise to sell at the farmers market as well as to put a few our freezer. I have not decided which breed of those to get either. I am trying to decide between the red broiler cross and the Dixie Rainbow type chickens. I do know that the White Cornish cross is definitely not an option. I need to get my chicken tractor cleaned up and ready to roll.
My attempt to create a brand for our farm is in its early stages. We have called ourselves the Burnin R for a long time, but only recently started using it for business. Now that we are getting involved with farmers markets to sell our product, it is time work on our brand.
I was looking for an original logo, one that would not be mistaken when seen. Even though we will be starting out as a local business, we need our customers and future customers to see our logo and know who we are. Old time cattle brands were self explaining to a point, the ranches name was evident within the brand. That is what I am trying to create with our logo.
This is a first rendering of my idea. I have not finalized it, but it gives you an idea of what I am trying to do. I am open for criticism, so leave a comment with what you think.
Another way that we are setting our farm apart from our competition is with our product. We have been raising Ossabaw Island Pigs for several years, and during that time we have been creating a cross that gives us a larger size and retains the awesome flavor and meat quality. This year we are fattening out 30 plus pigs to be sold as individual cuts at the farmers markets. I know for a fact that we will be the only ones that can claim to have this pork.
Most farms try to fatten a hog up as quick as they can. They use the standard feed mix sold at their local feed store which is usually a corn- soybean mix. This ration is great for fattening a hog, but the soy leaves an undesirable flavor and meat quality. We have been raising our pigs solely for meat quality and flavor. So, we have developed a special ration to finish our hogs off. It is a Ration that gives the meat a sweet flavor and firms up the texture a bit. Our pork sells itself, one try is all it takes. The difference is enough for people to seek out our pork.
As the year progresses we will be working on ways to set our brand. We will be getting our brand in front of as many people as we can during this next farmers market season. Hopefully the Burnin R logo will become known as the mark of great pork. Plus we will be introducing new products produced by our farm this year. We are in early trials in producing several gourmet products, once perfected we will be putting them under the Burnin R Brand as well. Stay tuned!!
Winter chores and Spring/Summer chores change with the season. Winter shores include winter hay feeding, running animals up out of the weather, and making sure all water is thawed. Winter time on the farm is hard work.
I am glad to see spring on its way. I look forward to the days when I don’t need to carry an ax to break ice, a knife to cut bale stings, and all the heavy layers of clothes. I stress when its cold, thinking about the welfare of the animals. Do they need more hay, are they staying out of the wind, and is the rain/snow making them cold. The warm rays of sunshine relieves stress in so many ways. One day soon I will lay in the grass and soak some rays up instead of dealing with old man winter!
As the days get longer, I have increased energy to accomplish more and keep up with needed tasks. I feel like I hibernate in winter and stay in a holding pattern until warmer weather comes again. We are starting to ramp up for spring. We will soon have new litters of pigs, new calves, and new opportunities to pursue.
We are fattening up some more hogs. We have some very nice looking Ossabaw Island Hogs. If you have never tried Ossabaw Island Pork, I suggest you do if you ever get the chance.
Almost all of our Ossabaw Island pork has sold itself. We get orders by customers that were given a sample from a friend, or had been given testimony of their great meat. Although still very rare, they can be found throughout the U.S. It is harder to get started raising Ossabaw Island Hogs for profit because they take longer to grow and have smaller litters. But, if you can stick it out, it is well worth the effort in the long run.
My latest attempt at hatching chicken eggs gave me a boost in confidence. My first attempt left me a little frustrated. I had better hatching rates and improved vigor this time around.
With my first hatch, I ended up with 12 out of 25 eggs hatching. Those new chicks started failing after about 3 weeks. I believe the feed that we picked up was to blame. They just had no strength and stopped growing. We have since lost 4 out of the 12 that hatched.
The latest set of eggs we incubated have done exceptionally well. We set 15 eggs in groups of 5. We turned the eggs 3 times a day instead of 2, which I believe help tremendously with the hatch rate. We hatched out 12 of the 15 eggs. We lost one due to my error of leaving the water bowl in the incubator and it drowned. But that is a very good hatch rate and I am very pleased with the outcome.
We went back to the brand of feed that has worked well for us in the past. These chicks have shown no sign of illness or weakness and they look healthier than the first batch. They are growing fast and will soon outgrow my brooder box.
Now that I have these new chicks, I will most likely have too many roosters. In the past, farms dealt with this issue by caponizing the young roosters. Caponizing is a process that surgically removes the young rooster’s testicles to stop the affects of testosterone. What you end up with is a calm, hen-like male, that can gain weight without getting tough and stringy. Plus they make great brooders for young chicks.
Before the popularity of the bland tasting Cornish-cross chickens, Capons were the table fare of choice. Special tools are needed to caponize with success. And since the adoption of the Cornish-cross, the art of caponizing has almost been lost. But thanks to Ebay and You tube, I have an antique set of tools and I am armed with enough knowledge to give it a shot.
Before my next update, I will hopefully find the time to Caponize the young roosters and I will let you know what I think the the process.
Unless you have a broody hen or a capon* to tuck your knew little chicks under, you will need a brooder box to get them started. The new chicks will need to be at 95º which is hard to do unless they are confined to space with a heat lamp.
My Brooder box is just a wooden box that I rigged a lid over. The lid is attached with hinges to the wall and rests on the box when closed. I placed a latch and loop to it, to be able to hold the lid up to the wall when tending the baby chicks. The box is placed in free standing and can be removed for cleaning or if it is not going to be in use.
I made a rail in which to attach the heat lamp, it is also removable. Notice I have a clear heat lamp, they work just as good as the red style. The red style is used to prevent chicks from pecking at another if it gets a wound. The red colored light masks the wound, and makes it less visible.
It is important to keep the chicks supplied with fresh drinking water, and food at all times. Their small bodies need consistency at this young age. Paper or wood chips are the best substrates to use in your brooder box. I start out with paper and when they start to eat well out of the feeder, I switch to more wood chips.
*Capon– When chickens were kept on almost every farm for food and eggs, capons were an important component. Capons are surgically castrated roosters. A flock with too many roosters is not a healthy flock. Too many roosters over stress the hens, They can become mean and aggressive, and their meat grows tough and stringy with age. Surgically castrating the roosters made them docile and more hen-like. Plus the added bonus was in the meat quality, the reduction of hormones allowed the capon to continue to grow to a bigger size and retain a great quality of meat. Before the popularity of the genetically engineered Cornish crosses, the capon was the sought after bird for the table. Capons were once shipped all over the country and sold at a premium.
If you would like to read more about capons, let me know in the comment section.
I knew as soon as we got our first baby chicks from the hatchery that we were going to need an incubator. I do not do anything without research and a lot of thought. My verdict on an incubator was to build my own, and then expand if necessary.
For the controls, I chose a kit from Incubator Warehouse. The Incukit is designed to be attached to a container of your choice. I have frequently seen them used on a variety of coolers. The kit is a very neat set of stacked components, a digital thermostat, ceramic heaters, and a circulating fan. The unit also comes with hardware to attach to your cooler. You can find the info on the Incukits here: Incubator Warehouse- Incukits
I chose a thick walled cooler from walmart as our cabinet. I had to modify the lid to accept the Incukit, but it was under $10 and a great size to get started.
The layout of the inside of our incubator is just big enough to hold a tray for water to add humidity, and an egg tray that will hold 30 eggs. I use 4 tin cans (empty) to rest the egg tray on to set it at a 45 degree angle. to turn the eggs you just have to alternate sides resting in the up position on the cans. This allows for you to turn the 30 eggs at one time.
I label my eggs with the date and put a mark to give the egg an identifiable position. If you have eggs put in at different times, you can leave the egg tray in one spot and rotate each egg. This will allow you to stop turning some of the eggs , but not the entire tray.
Here I have a partial tray with 2 rows nestled onto the large tray , this will allow me to just turn the 2 rows independently if needed.
I will be collecting eggs over several days t o fill the incubator. I have 3 hens laying, so it will take a few days. Now we just play Mother Hen for 21 days and wait for them to start hatching.
Our baby chicks are doing awesome! 2 weeks old and growing like crazy. I can’t believe how many new feathers they have already.
We hatched a mix of eggs from our flock to replace some hens lost to critters. Our roosters are 2 Speckled Sussex and 1 Rhode Island Red, and our hens are Speckled Sussex, Rhode Island Red, and Barred Rock. So we have some Black Sex Link, Speckled Sussex, and Rhode Island red- Speckled Sussex Cross baby chicks. Our Rhode Island Red rooster is the less dominate rooster, and I am not giving him credit for many of the offspring.
I need to start handling the babies more, they are a little too flighty for me. I do not like to have birds scattering every time I enter the coop, it could cause injury and undue stress. On our farm I like things to be very calm, the calmer the better. In my opinion , stress lowers output.
As I was writing this last minute post, I realized I needed to take some better pictures of our brooder and share that as well. So, stay tuned!!