Snow Day on the Farm

As a kid, we all loved getting snow days. School was canceled, and we all got to play in the snow: building snowmen, snowball fights, sledding, etc. As an adult, however, we don’t really get snow days. A few weeks ago we had some bad weather in our area, and I was called off work. My husband, however, was not called off work. On a farm, the work never ends and there is no such thing as a snow day. If anything, there is more work on a snow day.

During the winter, our daily chores include feeding hay and grain to the cows. With our snow days we do typically feed extra hay to the cows, as they can lay in the extra hay and have some kind of warmth and protection from the wet and frozen ground. We have to count and check our cows daily to make sure that none of them are sick or hurt. If a cow gets sick, they can go downhill quickly. It is really important to do the daily checks so we can catch illness immediately. Mineral tubs are important to check daily as well, and refill as needed.

When the temperatures are below freezing, we also have to add chopping water to our list of daily chores. The cows need water, and we usually take a couple of extra hours to chop the top of the water so the cows can get a drink.

Now that we have started adding smaller animals to our farm, there is extra work that comes with that as well. The ducks really like to make a huge mess in their environment. Our daily chores now include cleaning up their messes, and providing them with fresh food and water. We are ready for the ducks to be a little older, when they will be more free range. Even with them free ranging, our daily chores will include cleaning up their messes AND will eventually include roosting them at night.

Our baby chicks are quite the project, making sure they are fed and watered, warm and happy. We happen to have a perfect little place for them in the barn where they are pretty well protected from the outside weather and critters. This helps a lot. With hatching our own chicks it takes longer to get eggs from them since they do not start laying until 5-6 months. However, we are excited with our new adventure of hatching our own babies.

The incubator itself is a daily chore as well. We found a good deal on an incubator that is a manual turner. This means the machine does not turn the eggs for us, so we must check the eggs every 4-6 hours and turn them ourselves. We also check the water levels in the incubator to make sure there is enough humidity for our growing hatchlings. The batch we have in the manual turner right now will be the first batch hatched from this incubator. Up until now we have been using a smaller incubator that only holds 24 eggs. This first batch will basically be our trial and error run.

Our full grown chickens do require daily chores as well, even though they are free range. We have found that when we feed our puppies the chickens will swarm them and eat the dog food. We now feed the chickens at the same time in effort to avoid this. Their water freezes on the cold nights too, of course. Checking for eggs is a daily chore, although our stubborn chickens like to lay their eggs all over the place. Thankfully, we have got most of our chickens roosting in their coop at night instead of on the back porch! B is working on some new coops this week which will give them a lot of space to move around, but they will be more contained and protected from hawks, raccoons, and other predators… (I’m looking at you, neighbor’s dog!)

Even on snow days, a farmer’s chores never end. They are on call 24/7, and the work is always there waiting for the next day.

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Chickens for the Freezer

One of our new projects that B and I had talked about is the act of buying chickens specifically for our freezer. Obviously we don’t want to butcher all of our laying hens, but we also wanted some chicken for the freezer.

Typically, any chicken that you buy in the store is going to be meat from a Cornish Cross chicken. These chickens are bred to grow really big, really fast. They are supposed to be ready for butchering within 8-12 weeks from hatching. They are such a hungry bird, eating all the time, that you cannot put wood chips or other means of bedding in with them. The chickens will eat the wood chips, and it will kill them. They will eat day and night. Usually after about 4 weeks of age, they will lose most of their feathers. Our chicks have already lost most of their feathers. This is most likely a result of the cross breeding.

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When we originally started our venture with the chickens, we had discussed butchering any freeloading chickens: ie any chicken that doesn’t earn its keep by producing eggs. However, with having such a rough winter and subsequently losing so many of our chickens, we have yet to butcher any of our chickens.

A few weeks ago we decided to go ahead and order some Cornish X chickens. We ordered 25, but they mailed us a few extras. Most of the time, when you order chicks, they will send you a couple of extra chicks because some are expected to die during transit and soon after delivery. We got our chickens, and got them set up in the chicken house with some food, water, and a heat lamp.

These chicks are hands off. We check them every day to make sure that they have ample food and water, but otherwise we leave them alone. Basically with these chickens, you just leave food out and they eat all day long. Currently, we have around 20. We have lost a couple, but that is to be expected.

We have had our chicks for about three weeks at this point. They will be ready for butchering in another 5-9 weeks, approximately.

Rhode Island Red

Since we got our first chickens, we have been a little obsessed with getting more chickens. An almost daily conversation we have is what we want for the future of our chickens. The chickens originally started out as an experiment that I wanted to do, it has quickly grown to a project that Bryan is more excited about as each day passes.

We have had mostly failures with our chickens thus far. We lost a lot of the first, second and third batches of chickens that we brought in. We have had issues with hawks carrying off the chickens, a neighbors dog killing our feathered babies, and the normal chicken illnesses that had taken some others. Mix this with extreme weather conditions, and chickens that are less than ideal for the wet and cold winter we have had, and we are down to about 15 chickens at the moment.

We have been talking about getting some more chickens, in the hopes that they will be laying eggs by mid to late summer. This led us to reach out to a local chicken raiser who happened to have 2 dozen Rhode Island Red eggs ready to go in an incubator. We purchased the eggs at a steal, $3 per dozen. On average, even the chicks go for about $3 per chick. So we are basically paying 25 cents per chicken and then hatching them ourselves. We brought our babies home and put them in the incubator.

The incubator is one that we found on Amazon, and we have used it before. We love it! It works well, and was reasonably priced. We have talked about getting a bigger incubator in the future, but for now this one suits our needs. The one we use is a JANOEL incubator. It holds 24 eggs at a time. Here is the link to the one we purchased://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wrinklefarms1-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B06XX5P6VX&asins=B06XX5P6VX&linkId=b517bb21585eef6e0c21f15906cd1f12&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

The main features that we looked for when buying our incubator are: temperature regulation, automatic egg turning, and ability to see the eggs hatch. The one we picked met all of our expectations on this front. We LOVE that we can look in at the eggs at all times. When we hatched our last batch of chicks, we could also hear them inside of the shells before they hatched.

We are excited to see our Red’s grow. We are partial to the Red’s for our farm for several reasons. First of all, they are good about consistently laying eggs year round. Not all chickens do this, and many breeds stop laying eggs in the fall and winter. Second, Red’s lay brown eggs. This is important because many people feel that true farm fresh eggs should be brown, and not white. They aren’t wrong. Third, the Red’s are a good and hardy bird for our harsh winters. They do well in the cold.

Overall, we are very excited to start with our new batch of Red’s. There will be some changes coming to Wrinkle Farm, which will hopefully decrease the amount of chickens that we are losing.

Easter Eggs? In January??

Good morning, all. Tiffanie here. I have hijacked the blog this morning to write about a neat, first time experience we had with our chickens yesterday.

Back in September, we traded a couple of goats that we had for some of our chickens. In that group of chickens that we traded for was an ameraucana chicken. These chickens are commonly called “Easter Eggers.” This is because their eggs tend to come in pretty colors.

Our ameraucana is roughly seven months old. Typically, chickens will start laying eggs around the age of six months. However, if they reach this age during winter, it can take a little longer. Another factor that will play a role in egg laying is if the chickens are stressed out. For example, if you move a chicken to a new home, it can take a few weeks for them to settle in and start laying eggs again, even if they were laying daily before the move.

We have had a hard time with our chickens laying eggs. For starters, they love to hide their eggs. We let our chickens free range, and can’t always find their eggs. They are fantastic at hiding them! When we first got the chickens, they spent the typical time being stressed out and not laying eggs. After that, we had a couple of weeks of non stop rain, which caused several of our chickens to drown. We ordered some baby chicks at the end of August, and all of those died from a common disease that chickens get called coccidiosis. As it is now winter time, most of our chickens have halted or slowed their egg laying.

A few weeks ago we went out to the chicken coop and found that one hen was sitting on a pile of eggs. We assumed, apparently incorrectly, that she was trying to hatch these eggs. A week or so after this, we found the eggs unattended and decided that the eggs had been out there for too long to be good to eat, and the chickens were obviously no longer interested in hatching these eggs. At that time, we broke the eggs for the chickens to eat.

Yesterday was such an exciting day. When we went out to check for eggs, we found a beautiful blue egg. This means our ameraucana chicken has laid her first egg. We do believe this to be her first one, as it is the first blue egg we have found. It is slightly smaller than the brown eggs we find, but this could be due to the fact that it is her first egg. At any rate, we are looking forward to collecting more blue eggs in the future. At this time, we plan to eat these eggs because we do not have an ameraucana rooster to fertilize her eggs.

Mealworms

A few months back, I decided I wanted to try to grow mealworms for my chickens as a sustainable, money saving source of food. This venture has proven to be a neat experience, as well as not being a super productive way to spend my extra time.

I have them set up in plastic drawers for easy storage, which makes them easier to separate out. I put the beetles in the top drawer worms in the lower drawers. The main issue that I have encountered is that the worms go into hibernation in the winter if their surroundings are not kept warm enough for them.

When I started out with the meal worms, I ordered a starter set on Amazon and let my colony grow from there. I haven’t removed anything but growth has been slow. One thing that I would like to try is keeping the building where I house my worms at a higher temperature. Hopefully this will keep my colony growing. I will post an update in a few weeks, in hopes that I will be updating you on the growth of the colony.

I am including a link to the starter kit I got when I first started. They shipped really fast and they were all alive.

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Chicken feet

Within the next few weeks, we are planning a mass butchering of our chickens to stock the freezer. When we do this, I would like to use every usable part of the birds, including the feet. I have done some research and, in some cultures, chicken feet are considered to be a delicacy. I would really like to try them.

The most common thing that people do with chicken feet when cooking is to make a stock with it that is then used in soups and stews.

With some searching, it is easy to find recipes for basically anything. Below is a recipe that I found, which I would like to try. My fiance is a little iffy about it, and doesn’t think she will try it.