Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer chickens, garden and goats

 Everything grows so fast this time of year; the garden, weeds, chickens. I took these pictures about a week ago and already they seem outdated. The Cornish Cross, above, seem twice the size and have moved into a different pen, to make room for twenty some laying pullets who have taken over the larger, more secure coop and pen. The last two years we raised about twenty five Cornish Cross. This year I picked up twelve, and still have twelve. Without looking at my calendar, I'm thinking they are seven weeks or so. I'm feeding them one part organic chicken starter/grower and one part ground local barley. If I remember correctly the bags of chicken starter are $27 per fifty pounds ? or forty? and the barley is $9 or $10 dollars per fifty pounds. By mixing the two, my goal is to slow down their growth some as well as cut down on the cost to raise them. I have discovered in the past that they don't do well with a whole grains, at least until they are big enough to butcher. I'm also doing better at not overcrowding them, which in the past seems to have been the main cause for fatalities - and leads to gross living conditions which does not make me feel good about my husbandry practices.

Adult black sex linked layers and our handsome blue Welsummer Ameraucana cross Rooster. We've provided three tasty chicken meals this week for a nearby cross fox. And so, our chickens free range time has been drastically shortened. The fox managed to sneak in grab chickens and leave with them, without making enough noise to disturb our dog or ourselves while we were inside the house. Now, I let the chickens out when I'm in the garden or outside, and they get herded back in when I go inside. We are down to seven eight layers and they are beginning to taper off in egg production. Looks like I'll be hoarding eggs and not sharing till fall which is lame, as I love sending our farm helpers off with eggs along with other farm products.

Our cat, who rarely get's picture time. He found some catnip volunteers that came up by the chicken bedding pile.
 Here are our laying pullets who were overcrowded in this chicken tractor and are much happier now that they have a larger fenced area to roam. We have five each, Blue with red laced Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, Partridge Barred Rocks, and seven Speckled Sussex and one freebie Polish. I lost one sussex and a raven made a meal out of two one night when they escaped their confinement. An interesting note about these pullets, is that I've been feeding them our mixed grain ration from the beginning. I ground it up in the coffee grinder for the first five weeks or so and now they eat it whole. I started buying the organic chick grower for the meat birds and thought these ladies might benefit from a little of that mixed in with their grains. I was surprised to see that they did not relish the spendy high protein crumbles as I thought they would. They empty their feeder much slower with the crumbles in it. So, I'm back to feeding mostly whole grains with some fish meal. Of course they do a lot more foraging and weed eating as well.

The garden is looking good. My cucumber and watermelon beds are pretty pathetic, but those crops don't usually do well here, especially outside the greenhouse. Last year I grew enough pickling cucumbers to make enough dill pickles to get us through an entire year. Sadly, I don't think I'll be able to repeat that. Half my cucumbers died when I transplanted this year, so I direct seeded. Hopefully I'll get a small crop before the frost. I've pollinated a number of female winter squash and pumpkin flowers. The kids are so eager for carrots and peas. We picked the very first shelling peas today. Perhaps even more exciting, we picked a couple dozen ripe strawberries today, and there are so many more that are almost ripe. I'm wondering if some might actually make it down to the house this year. Do I dare hope to have enough for a couple batches of jam? I picked three small zucchini, pulled scallions and cut some swiss chard for dinner tonight. We had the veggies along with a roast chicken from the freezer. With the exception of the parmesan, butter and lemon, it was a lovely home raised meal.

The goats are doing well. I'm getting them out almost daily for a walk to browse on fresh willow, fireweed, birch, rose and raspberry bushes. I'm getting mentally prepared to tattoo and register some doelings, along with a possible clipping session. I trimmed hooves today. We've sold one doeling and I've got two more to sell. I am going to make my first attempt at showing a few milkers at our ADGA show this August. I'm looking forward to hearing what a judge has to say about their confirmation. Unfortunately, probably my two nicest does will stay home as one is due to kid and the other doesn't handle stress well.

Wherever you are at with your livestock, garden and homesteading adventures, I wish you well!


Anonymous said...

Have you ever attempted butter from goats milk? It could be an interesting experiment.

Emily said...

I have not. I do have a cream separator and have had enough cream at one time to make it. Butter is on my list of things to attempt when I have lots of milk again. The hand churners are sooo expensive. My girlfriend is going to look for a used glass hand crank churners when she is in Finland this winter. She says they are very common over there.

Denise Wilhelm said...

So excited you're going to show your goats!! :D