Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wiley as a....

There is nothing more disturbing than a pile of chicken feathers.  Like small puffs of soft cotton, they were clinging to the grass in a circle. It looked like some sort of feathered alien spaceship had landed and left behind feathered crop circles.

But I knew better.

A quick head count revealed that 5 hens were missing. One of my sweet barred rocks, and 4 Red Sex links. My most prolific layers.

No sign of blood, but a definite struggle. Something fast, and of a decent size. Small enough to get under the fencing and slip in unnoticed.

We had a fox in the hen house.

We took a quick walk of the fields, and found one poor hen, sans head. It seems she was dropped on the way to the den. We also found two dens on the property, which we smoked out and filled with rocks and diesel oil. We are hoping to convince our foxy friends to move away.

The hens are now on lock down, and hating every minute of it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our One Year Farm Anniversary

It's been one year since we moved here to this magical corner of the countryside.  As I sit back and ponder on the past 365 days, it's hard to believe that we haven't lived here much longer.

A huge thank you to all of the readers who have spent the last year following along with us - I know you laughed just as much as I did.

It has certainly been a year for learning, the knowledge we have acquired has not always come cheaply. But I wouldn't trade one sweaty, exhausting, sun burnt minute of it.

The next year holds oodles of adventure, and I can almost smell the winds of change as they blow across the pasture.

We have finally decided what will work for this farm as a profitable venture.


It's been quite a process to make this decision. We had a farm consultation through the Ontario Growing Forward program, and took the time to job shadow a sheep producer to see if we could handle the gory aspects of lambing. We have visited feedlot systems and pasture grazing set ups. We have researched breeds and crunched numbers. We created a Business Plan.

We are now on the verge of plunging into this newest adventure, and while it's a wee bit scary it's also quite exciting.  It will mean no more free weekends, or summer vacations for a while - but it will be worth the risk if we can begin creating a farm income!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What does it all mean?

Today's storm was a real doozy.

Flashing streaks of lightening, dark skies, and rain that came down like the skies had simply opened to let go their contents. It came upon the farm quickly, and then just as quickly it was all over.

I noticed the light became very eerie, and so I went outside to investigate and this is what I found. It's hard sometimes not to believe that we live in a magical place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New girls in town

I am still trying to determine if we actually make any money on the sale of eggs. I am quiet certain that if I factor in the hours spent cleaning coops, putting up protective fencing around my gardens, feeding and watering, caring for chicks etc. that my hourly profit is somewhere in the region of 3 cents.

However, sales are up.

So we recently bought 20 Red Sex Link pullets to assist in the demand for fresh eggs. As young pullets it is taking them while to get up to full laying production. We are now at about 15 eggs per day.  That brings our total daily egg count to about 22-24 eggs per day. In theory, with 33 hens we should have 33 eggs per day, however the hens don't seem to agree with that theory!  I am not counting our 3 young Americauna pullets as they haven't begun laying yet. Again, in theory that would bring us to 36 hens - providing they are hens as one is looking particularly roo-ish.

Layer feed is currently sold for $12 per bag, and we go through about a bag a week for all 36 hens.  Wood chips are $6 per bag, and we go through one bag per week when cleaning out the coops. I am not factoring in the cost of oyster shells and scratch as they are free fed and seem to last longer.

At present, we break even if we sell all of our available eggs. I suppose this means that we get eggs for ourselves that are farm fresh, with the added joy of keeping chickens.

Someone really needs to tell the ducks to start laying. Currently, in my books they are freeloaders.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And then there were two...

We haven't yet decided what sort of farm venture is going to be profitable for us, but we are well on our way to figuring it out.

What we have realized is that with only 50 acres, cattle are not going to be suitable for us in terms of profitability.

So the cows had to go.

We have been fortunate to sell the girls to various cow calf operations, and the bullock to a new herd where he will be a herd sire.  That leaves us with Monty, our bull, and Kelda our favorite girl.

For now, they can roam the hills until we determine if they will have a permanent spot on the farm or not.  My dear sweet man is quite enamoured with them, and I figure if I have my donkeys, then he is allowed some bull!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wee ducks

Everybody knows that baby ducks are cute. With their fuzzy yellow heads, and their cute orange beaks, what's not to like?

The stink.

My experience with chickens and wee baby chicks did not prepare me for ducks.  I assumed that it would be the same in terms of care and upkeep.

Boy was I wrong!

So here are my learning's about ducks.

  1. They swim in their water dish.
  2. They like to eat their food wet, which means that their water is usually a murky colour as the food has been sitting in it all day.
  3. Their wood chips get wet, and combined with the daily poop they become a sticky brown mess.
  4. They are not cuddly, in fact they will wiggle out of your grasp like an oiled snake.
  5. They like to tip their water dish, which means changing the water frequently - see number 1.
  6. The wood chips become cement like after two days.
The ducklings are now living with Charlie out in the barn in an enclosed area, until they are old enough to free range. For now, we are using straw in their enclosure, but I am beginning to realize why the folks who keep ducks have earth enclosures -and have them open to the elements. I realize now it's so that the rain can wash away the stench!

Soon enough they will be free ranging, which will solve the issue for the summer months. However, I am not looking forward to the cold winter that smell will be indoors for the season.