Saturday, June 27, 2009

Poultry updates

Above are our Cornish Cross meat chicks. Can you count them? This is our first year raising a batch of Cornish Crosses. We have some friends that raise them every summer. These birds can grow to ten to twelve pounds in as little as ten to twelve weeks, now that is impressive. We were trying to avoid raising these birds for a number of reasons, but have decided to go for more bang for our buck, (and our time). Last year we ordered Standard Cornish and Brahma chicks and thought we'd continue to raise harvest the cocks for meat and keep the hens for laying. Both breeds grew extremely slowly and after being on pasture for four months, they were still hardly big enough to harvest. We do have a Brahma Rooster and two hens, along with a few Brahma chicks that we hatched this spring. The adult birds are very large, but it took them probably almost a year to get to their current size.
Above and below are our Welsummers in a chicken tractor. It is a pvc pipe hoophouse on wheels with handles that we can move around on one of our few flat spots on the property. Last year we raised four Bourban Red Turkeys in here. It has a woven mesh floor so that hopefully nothing can sneak in underneath, although I've been feeling less confident of how well it could keep out a dog, if one were to come along and try to get in. Fortunately we rarely have visiting dogs, it has been a couple years since the last time we had a dog in the neighborhood that was coming over to visit. I think our most regular predators are Ravens, believe it or not. I never thought of Raven's as predators but we lost a Red Sexlinked chick to one a few weeks ago. I've heard numerous reports recently of people losing full size chickens to Ravens. Other likely predators that we have nearby are owls, fox and weasels. The birds are thriving in here. We keep their feeder and water full, and give them regular greens and milk. It is very obvious which Welsummers are hens and which are cocks now. Looks like we have four hens and five cocks.

The ducks have been in this small chicken tractor for about a week now. Honey and her chicks were in here but Honey moved back in with the adult birds and her chicks are in the chicken tractor with the other Welsummers now. You can see the entry to their little enclosed area that they can go into at night or in bad weather. This tractor is too small for more than a few adult birds, but it is perfect for chicks or ducklings. By the time the ducks have outgrown this tractor it will be too cold for them to stay in here anyway and they will move to a new home with insulated walls, a heatlamp and more square feet. My mom use to keep a couple ducks in with our chickens. I remember they had a small little black feed tub with water to splash in. Folks say that ducks don't need access to water to play in, but that just seems wrong... they are DUCKS! So I hope to always have a small pool for them of thawed water for them.

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