This week

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Black Rasperries

These came from some wild canes I have been nurturing in my back lawn. A bit under two years ago my sister asked me if I wanted to dig up some awful thorny berry canes from her back yard where they were growing in deep shade and forest-like conditions. She said she just cut them back every year and hated having to do it and was going to dig them up herself and throw them out if I didn’t. She didn’t want those nasty thorns in her back yard. So I came and dug them up, and planted them along my fence in the perpetual shade line. Last year the canes were pretty useless as well. Birds ate almost every berry before I could get to them, but this year I hung up some netting as the berries started to ripen. Remember how I have been struggling to fill that shade line, since, well, forever ago? Well now I have successfully turned at least part of it into something productive and delicious!

I collected two bowls of these berries this week. And right after I finished picking them I carried one out to my sister to share since she was outside with her kid. She tried some and proceeded to proclaim how great tasting they were. She said they were just like candy and it didn’t take long for us to finish off the whole bowl. The irony of these amazing berries coming from a plant she hated was probably lost on her but I had a good chuckle over it, and I had a whole second bowl of berries waiting for me at home.

I’ve been slowly filling in the shade line with these awesome canes, and I don’t regret it! A small patch appears to be capable of providing me with a fair amount of fruit, which is something our little homestead lacks dramatically. I am expanding the patch with other kinds of berries as well and I’m looking forward to seeing what they look like next year. All around, these berry canes have been a very good experience.

 

We also have some new chicks this morning! Three weeks ago we were nervous – our oldest hen stopped laying suddenly and refused to move from the nest box. I was worried – was she egg bound? Turns out she was just broody. It’s been so long since I’ve had a broody bird that I almost didn’t recognize it!

So we marked some of our eggs, a full dozen, and tucked them under her. There have been some mishaps. An egg getting knocked out of the nest for hours here or there for example, or some of the eggs that were set were a bit older, or unlikely to be fertile on the part of the particular hen that laid them. But so far at least 5 healthy chicks have hatched! Three yellow, one brown and one black.

The garden is starting to fill in as well. We have one wee little evil groundhog left, marauding for kale leaves. Soon it might start targeting other plants and that’s something I will be striving to prevent. Soon we will be harvesting more zucchini than we can eat!

 

Conveniently for my goal of writing less I don’t have many words for my own farming today. My heart is heavy for the families of the hundreds of agricultural workers in my state that have been ripped from their homes and shipped to concentration camps, their children taken with no plan for reunification. The most recent update to this policy is to hold these people in concentration camps indefinitely.
Not only will these people suffer for it, but so will agriculture in the USA as a whole. Our entire food system that feeds america, especially for poor people, relies on imported labor. Half of all seasonal farm jobs, such as picking vegetables, are done by human without a legal status and many aren’t certain if the USA’s agricultural system will hold up to these policies. They even pay taxes without receiving benefits, helping to fund welfare services that help serve senior citizens, our farm bills and even veterans. Without these folks, our nation will not only be literally factually poorer, but have trouble even feeding it’s people.

I think people often forget that the people who supported Japanese internment camps 75 years ago considered themselves to be patriots simply protecting their country from foreigners who threatened it. The children of those families, who grew up seeing the holding of thousands of humans in concentration camps as celebrated patriotism, are very much alive today. They were people with families, who loved each other, who felt proud of their actions, who felt safer for it. But it was terrible and cruel. You don’t have to be a mean person to support horrible things.

We can do better. Much better. And tomorrow I will join thousands of people across the country to ask for the reversal of these inhuman policies that target people based on the color of their skin or the language they speak. There are no white faces in these concentration camps, no blonde haired blue eyed babies are being ripped from their mother’s arms. It’s clear that this has nothing to do with them being foreigners (note that “improper entry” to the USA is a misdemeanor – legally speaking, taking a candy bar from a grocery store is often a more serious offence), especially the raids in my state. We are on the northern border and most of the illegal entry into our state is done by white people from the Canadian border. Yet it’s only people with dark skin being arrested and confined, even in this state. It’s simply racial profiling, an othering tactic of fascism, and my heart aches for the victims of it.

I can only hope that people in the USA can recognize the correlations between these actions and the history of terrible atrocities in the history of the world stand together and unite for these human beings’ rights.

If you’re out there with me tomorrow, good luck and be safe.

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Suddenly Chicks!

You know what they say about March; In like a lion, middle like a lion, end like a lion. March is just a lion, chewing you up and spitting you out, wet and slobbery. March just isn’t a fun month in general.

March is a month filled with hours of work, and while I like my work, it’s still work. Around this farmy I have already started 90 tomato seedlings and I’m working on my 60 pepper pots across 5 different varieties. Next is the kale and cauliflower, each taking their own several dozen cubic inches of soil. All this while the snows hit the ground; we got several inches over the last 48 hours with more on the way. It will be the weekend after this one before we have weather warm enough to exist outside again… And at that point it will be time to plant cold weather crops. Peas, green onions, spinach and radishes all get planted outside as soon as the snow reliably melts. I am still working to finish setting up the seed shelves and yet they are already shockingly full.

Of course, when the snow melts the city inspections start. And our lawn, with it’s consistently high water levels and frequent foot traffic, tends to look the worst on the block. So we are making some changes this year, ranging from rain gardens to stone pathways and re-seeding much of the lawn and ripping out weeds. All of this will happen in the inches of muck my lawn produces. And the frequent, cold rains will also mean animal bedding will get soiled more easily and cages will need to be cleaned more often. It’s a lot of work for one month.

So what is the best thing to add to that mixture? A sudden shipment of baby chicks, highlighted by everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong! Sounds great, right?

You see, last fall we ordered some expensive chicks from a wonderful show breeder but G never bothered to send the payment when I asked him to. By the time the payment reached the breeder it was too late; they weren’t going to have another hatch for the fall. Instead I would have to wait for spring or cancel. So waiting for spring it was.

Well, “spring” in some places means “The first week of March” and my own chickens were laying, but I hadn’t heard back in a while. I sent an email; ‘Any idea of when I would get my chicks?’ I asked.’Soon!’ I heard back. Then two days later I was told they were already on their way, shipped overnight, right into an incoming blizzard.

So I ran into problem one; I had no notice and therefore no setup for them. I quickly arranged a brooder with a heat lamp, and then plugged in my USPS tracking number. It said they’d be here at 3PM that day. I waited for the phone call but it never came. In fact 3PM came and went, and then 4PM, and then I called the post office.

‘They’re not here. They never made it this far. They got held up over night and will be here on the truck in the morning.’ the post office said. Yikes.

So I set that aside, worrying for my expensive chicks, and set about thinking about how to get chick feed. I didn’t want to have someone drive all the way out to my usual feed store for one bag of feed, so I thought I would go down the street to a local hardware store to pick up a bag of their feed. I don’t normally shop there, having gotten some bad results from a drill G bought there (and returned) a few years back, but they were close so I thought I’d give them a shot. I would go out, grab the chicks, then grab their feed, then go home and set them up. I went to bed anxious but with a plan.

The next day we got the chicks first thing in the morning and 3/10 were dead on arrival. They were packaged with care, in appropriate shipping conditions and with some electrolyte gel in cups glued to the inside so they had something to keep them hydrated. But none of that really does any good when the post office delivers them a day late, and doesn’t heat them over night. And the post office doesn’t offer chick refunds unless they reach their destination later than 72 hours from when they were shipped either. Unfortunately, aside from massively expensive transportation services, USPS is the only way to ship chicks. They’re the only game in town and they know it, so there’s not much I can do. The breeder offered to refund me the chick cost, but of course to order them again would require another $40 in shipping, so refunding the chicks is pointless and expensive and the breeder didn’t do anything but their best to ship them safely.

We got home and set them up, shivering into a warm brooder as fast as we could. Then, after seeing that they were in a warm spot, D and I went to the hardware store to buy their chick starter. A 50lb bag was a bit expensive at $19.50, but we bought it and rushed home.

As I went to open the bag, I was trying to shake the crumbs out of the corners so they didn’t spill on the floor but I was having some trouble, so I just cut it open anyhow. It very suddenly became apparent why they wouldn’t come out of the corners. The whole bag was filled with moth eggs. The crumbs in the corners were stuck to moth webbing. The entire bag smelled funny, who knows how long it was on the shelf.
We immediately went back to the store to return it and they opened the only other bag of chick starter on their shelves; it was also ridden with moths and smelled bad. Upset, I took my refund and left. D told me I was too harsh with my words, but I disagree as I was firm but not abusive. Given that their store chose to sell nearly rancid, old, bug-filled food I think I was within reason to be much worse. It was, frankly, expired. It could have killed my chicks given their extremely fragile state, and it was chick food meant for fragile birds. There’s no excuse for keeping feed bags on your shelf for that long under such poor storage conditions, especially when they are already more expensive then other stores. Someone less observant or experienced might have fed the spoiled feed and lost a lot more than some damaged proteins in their feed, they could have lost whole clutches of chicks. A $20 refund won’t make up for that sort of a loss.

Now I had to find a new source of chick feed, which ultimately meant driving all the way out to one of my usual feed stores. So I gave the chicks some water to drink to get them started and away we went. The stores I usually go to are a 40 minute drive away, but we got there, got the feed and got home as fast as we reasonably could.

Home at last, with the chick feed and several additional bags of our regular animal feed (so as not to waste the long trip) I finally settled down to try to care for these emergency chicks. All but one had perked up quickly with just a bit of water and heat. The one that did not was prone and cold, still, unmoving but alive.

Since then I have spent the last 24 hours nursing this chick and we’ve seen some improvements. It’s opening it’s eyes more often, and preening a bit. It’s standing steadily instead of collapsing at random. When it chooses to make noise, which is rare, it’s voice is loud and clear and robust like the other chicks… Yet it is not properly eating on it’s own yet, and it does it’s best to remain asleep and unmoving whenever possible. We have been feeding it a rich electrolyte mixture to get it going and the improvements have been minuscule yet present. I even managed to get a few bites of chick starter into it. I remain vigilant and hopeful, yet there’s not much I can do if it doesn’t start to eat on it’s own. The other chicks are all thriving, and I can hear them chirping away in my basement, cozy in their brooder box.

And now it’s about time to go give another dose of the nutrient mixture to our unwell chick and hope for the best.

I hope March proves to be a little more gentle, maybe even lamb-like, by the end of it, but I suspect it will continue to be more like the jaws of a lion; challenging, difficult, painful and wet. Time to buckle down and work hard!

Busy Fall Days

It’s not quite fall yet, but it certainly is rapidly approaching this year. While most of the world is on fire, underwater, or burning to a crisp, we have had extremely mild weather. It’s been a downright cold summer, filled with 4X’s our average rainfall for this time of year. Given that we get an average of 45 inches of precipitation a year (nearing rainforest levels of rainfall) that’s a lot of rain. It changes our local micro climate and makes things feel cold.

I am bringing in a basket of vegetables every few days now. Massive multi-pound zucchinis (last year’s record was 7lbs 10oz), baskets of tomatoes and green beans, precious few beautiful peppers and basil flowers all adorn my house, scattered about in large numbers. I really must get to canning them but my canner plate has gone missing. This is the little metal plate that goes on the bottom of the canner that keeps the jars from being directly on the bottom where the metal is in contact with the heat, and therefore keeps the jars from becoming damaged or exploding. Greg will be home monday-tuesday (as that’s his weekend) and will be helping me look for it. I even found all the other parts, and replaced the overpressure plug and sealing ring with parts my father got me for winter holidays. Typically I would have Dan help me look. But this weekend he’s fallen ill with some sort of sore-throat-and-sneezing-disease of one kind or another and has been doing naught but sleeping on my couch all weekend.

We did manage to get maintenance done on the bees and purchase feed. Dan rose up from his near-constant napping to help me stand out in the sun in a swarm of fall-enraged honey bees to see what we could do to fix what was happening wrong. You see, the bees refused to build in their lower box, no matter how much we feed them. We’re in the middle of a HEAVY food glut for bees as the asters and goldenrod are blooming all across the state and they STILL won’t build (though they are bringing in TONS of pollen!) so we decided to do something about it. With some patience, a smoker and sugar water (usually we only need the water) we managed to swap a single frame of honey and brood from the top box to the bottom box. Our hope is that this will not only force them to make a new frame and fill it in the top box, but also, that the presence of a frame in the bottom box will encourage them to build.
Also, on the bee front, is the good news that we have learned to manage our ant population. We had a set of larger black ants attempt repeatedly to move into the quiltbox. Apparently this is a common problem for warre hives. After removing the nest twice and pouring boiling water on the ants and their eggs to kill them we found our solution; Cinnamon. We powdered the whole inside of the quiltbox with the stuff, dropped a cinnamon stick in there for good measure, and powdered around the outside of the hive itself. This was met wit great success. We had a few scout ant for the next week, but after that we haven’t seen an ant colony since. It’s especially hard to get rid of ants that are attacking bees sometimes because the two species are so closely related. It can be like trying to kill mice without killing rats. Luckily the quiltbox is physically separate from the main hive so the cinnamon powder is unlikely to effect the bees, but should deter the ants nicely.

And speaking of rats, our rat problem continues. We have been trying to avoid poison but soon it will be cold and the rats will start to move indoors. This is unacceptable. We also need to get our hay brought in without rats nesting in it. We’re running out of time for more natural solutions like physical traps and dogs. They have also taken their toll on the rabbits. We can no longer have litters in the garage. They will get eaten.

Predation has also been very bad this year. We have had a young raccoon trying to devour everything. And he comes in very early in the night indeed.

But it’s not all bad. We have learned to manage. The garden is booming and we have had two litters of kits this week. Outdoors of course. We also purchased some chicks from TSC. Six St Run orpingtons and 3 pullet plymouth rocks. This is very pleasing as they were on sale and the whole lot only cost us $6. We honestly probably should have picked up more. The hope is to have a few replacement pullets for some older birds in our flock that are ready to move on. Splash and a few of the older buffs have nearly stopped laying, even being given consideration for moulting, so it’s time to move in younger birds for the spring. Rocks and orpingtons are all brown egg layers. As I transition part of my flock into purebred chickens, we will no longer be able to keep chickens that lay blue or green eggs that are not wheaten ameraucanas. So these new chicks fit in nicely.

The are living in a bedroom right now in an 80 gallon long aquarium. It’s been wonderful to just sit and watch them romp about. They’re so inquisitive and active. As I write a few of them are having fussy and fuzzy little fights for dominance. I’ve never raised chicks this close to me before, but concerns about rats drove my decision. Greg has always wanted chicks that would come running up to us, eat from our hands, and generally behave friendly towards us. This will be his chance to get that.

And despite not building in the bottom box, the bees are otherwise doing quite well. They have several frames chock full of brood with a fantastic brood pattern. My hope is that they start to pack away frames of nothing but honey soon also. Young bees build wax, so the frames of brood are exactly what we’d like to see in order to build up the hive frames for honey storage. We will have to take the time to feed them lots, but I believe that if they start to build some wax this month and put away honey that they will make it through the winter.

All around it’s been a difficult and busy season, but we are pulling through. Our homestead is coming back into order. And hopefully will be functioning smoothly again before winter.

Humanely Euthanizing a Chicken

I was floored yesterday to see an article featured on one of the largest chicken keeping websites in the world that endorsed suffocating a chicken as a humane way to euthanize a sick or injured bird. I can still hardly wrap my mind around it. I reported it explaining the problem but it still remains public on the front page.

As a heads up, never euthanize a chicken by suffocation. If you think suffocating a chicken is humane but throwing a bag of kittens in the river to drown is not, then your perspective on what is humane is skewed by how you value different animals. The physical sensation each animal experiences is identical, and it’s wrong in both cases. It could even wind up with you facing felony level animal cruelty charges.

I am just floored that someone though that was OK.

So here’s some REAL information on how to safely euthanize a chicken. This is an article geared mostly towards people with pet chickens, which is something I don’t do very often… But most farmers know that they will just kill and either eat or compost a bird that isn’t in good shape. We do this regularly and some people think of us as monsters for it, which confuses me. We work very hard to make sure that our animals do not suffer and have clean, fast ends to their lives. It’s very respectful even if it isn’t as soothing to the owner as just shutting your chicken in an airtight box and going out to dinner, then coming back to find your bird is dead. And it’s much more humane than leaving them to suffer and die “naturally”. We care about our birds, and unnecessary stress or pain is the last thing we want to see happen to them

So a few quick notes on euthanasia. Euthanasia is a word coming from the Greek words for “good death”. The goal is always to reduce suffering and end the life quickly and without undue stress to the animal. What’s good for reducing their physical stress might be quite stressful indeed for the owner. If you don’t feel like you can preform the actions listed here, find someone else who will or don’t keep animals. It’s not fair to the animal to suffer because you can’t deal with ending their suffering. It’s quite selfish, in fact, to let them suffer because it’s too gross, violent or sad for you to think about. I suggest reaching out to other chicken keepers or local farmers to find someone to do the deed, even if you can’t. You’re not required to kill your animals in order to keep them, but it’s our responsibility as their keepers to find them a humane ending even if we can’t provide it.

Euthenizing a chicken may become a requirement for you if you have birds, even just as pets. Chickens are prone to many fatal but slow illnesses (mareks, newcastle, avian flu), physical conditions (egg bound, prolapse, etc.) and predator attacks that might only injure a chicken beyond healing. It’s rare that a chicken manages to live so long that it dies of old age, which means most chicken owners will face a moment when a chicken they own will not recover, even with much care and medications.

So now to get into the nitty gritty on it. Here are several safe and humane ways to euthanize a chicken.

Go to A Vet

This is the obvious one, right? If you have a vet in the area, call them and ask them if they will put your chicken down. Many emergency vets will do this too, which means if you live near one they may have a 24/7 service available. But not all vets or clinics will do this, as dealing with a chicken is much more specialized than mammals and the drugs will react differently. An exotic animal vet may be your best option.

Some things to consider; Not everyone can find a vet that will do ANYTHING with chickens which often means medical care of any sort (palliative and euthanasia included) is hard to find sometimes. Not everyone has an emergency vet which may mean waiting until a “real” vet is open, which could be a long time. Some injuries will not even survive a 20 minute car ride to the vet, and moving a badly injured bird could be quite painful for them. Lastly, the drugs that the vet uses in the chicken render it severely toxic to any wildlife or domestic animals that may try to consume it. The drugs may also enter groundwater systems if buried. Composting remains may reduce the amount of drugs that leech into the soil.

Cervical Dislocation

This is, by FAR, the most humane method to put a chicken down that can be done at home. The process is cervical (or neck) dislocation (or severing the connection between two bones at a joint). In common terms, this would be breaking it’s neck. This can be accomplished through a lot of methods.

Method 1; Broomsticking

Broomsticking is how many homesteaders process animals for slaughter. It’s fast, simple, calm, and efficient.
This is really easy to do. The bird is simply layed on the ground with it’s neck outstretched and a long, smooth stick (like a broomstick) is placed across it’s neck. Them in one motion, the stick is stepped on on both sides and the chicken is lifted in the air, snapping the neck at the point where the stick is.
Some people choose to restrain the bird before doing this by wrapping the chicken in fabric to hold it’s wings down.

Method 2; Snapping the neck

You can accomplish a similar result but holding the chicken firmly, like a football, in one arm and grasping the chicken’s head in your other (dominant) hand. Then simply pull away hard while twisting the head.

Method 3; Cutting off the head

This is common if you’re planning on eating the bird, but it is still fast and humane if you are not. Typically the bird is restrained in a “killing cone” or a burlap sack with a hole cut out for the head to go through. The chicken is placed upside-down in one of these restraints, with it’s head hanging down, which makes the bird dizzy and woozy. A large pair of shears, scissors, or a very sharp knife is used to cut off the chickens entire head, including severing the spine just below the head.

A quick note on cervical dislocation of ANY sort. Severing the spinal cord results in a LOT of movement from the body of the bird afterwards, and occasionally even the most well preformed cervical dislocation can remove the entire head. It’s strongly suggested that you restrain the birds for this reason. Rest assured that the bird is completely and fully dead within seconds, but may continue to move aggressively for several minutes afterwards. This is a normal function of the body as it releases the energy stored within the muscles, but it can be quite a shock for someone unused to it and can lead to people thinking that the animal is still alive. The bird is dead the moment the spinal cord is severed. This might be hard to watch but it is quite humane and instantaneous.

Bleeding Out

I like this method less than removing the entire head, as it’s slower, but it does result in less sudden, violent, motion on the part of the bird. Nearly identical to removing the head, one simply suspends the bird restrained, upside down, and the slits across the front throat. The bird is usually quite out of it from being upside down and not much of a reaction is witnessed. The bird drains of blood in a minute or two and is dead.

Shoot It

Now, this is illegal where I live, but it’s a seriously viable option. I don’t know much about the “proper” way to shoot a chicken, but through the head or chest would strike me as the most appropriate. A shotgun would produce a scatter shot that would put it out of it’s misery quite quickly. If guns are illegal where you live and you want to employ this, I suggest talking to local farmers and hunters in the near-by countryside.

CO2 Chamber

This method is tricky. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests using a CO2 chamber is humane only for animals only under 2lbs. While some chickens fall into this category, especially bantams or young birds, MANY do not. A larger chicken may go peacefully, but it may not pass out before the CO2 poisoning starts to cause it to suffer. A larger chicken may injure itself or knock over it’s container during the process. Use this with care.
Producing CO2 is a simple science experiment, by mixing baking soda and white vinegar. About 1.5 tbs of baking soda to 1 cup of vinegar will produce a bit over a gallon of CO2. To fill a chamber large enough for a chicken, you will want to use multiple cups of vinegar and tablespoons of baking soda. Both of these are inexpensive, so shouldn’t be a serious burden, and you can always use a lot more than you need. If you’re having trouble imagining how much gas you are creating, think of a milk jug for every cup of vinegar you use.
Place the chicken in a container large enough to hold it comfortably. A dark room may reduce the activity of the chicken. The container must also be able to be sealed to nearly air tight. Then simply add the vinegar and baking soda and seal the container. The chicken will pass out and then die within 30 minutes. Larger chickens may need more time. Use this method with caution, and remember that CO2 can also poison you, so take care.

For Chicks Only!

Two common methods for euthanizing baby rodents may also work well for chicks, but please do NOT attempt these on birds older than about one week. That would be cruel and inhumane, not to mention ineffective.

Method one; Freezing

A small animal that can’t retain it’s own body heat well will die very quickly (within a few minutes) in a very cold environment. A metal cookie sheet in the freezer is a good way to simulate this safely and encourage the transfer of cold into their bodies. This takes multiple minutes, and so isn’t ideal, but is more humane than allowing a chick to suffer long term.

Method two; Whacking it

Placing a chick in the bottom corner of a plastic bag and then hitting that bag VERY firmly (with NO hesitation!) on a table, wall, or other hard surface will kill the chick instantly in several different ways. This comes across as very violent, but it’s very humane for the chick, resulting in an instant death with no suffering. Following through is important, since a hit that is not hard enough will not kill the chick. Many people do this to euthanize mice or rats before feeding them to reptiles by swinging them by their tails.

 

So that’s it. That’s my list of humane ways to euthanize a chicken.The name of the game in humane euthanasia at home tends to be speed, since we do not have large numbers of chicken-appropriate opiates to fill them with before giving them a lethal injection the way a vet does. A few seconds of suffering is a humane end for a bird that may otherwise die slowly over minutes, hours or even days.

Please be responsible and use a humane method to euthanize your chickens. And remember that if you cannot bring yourself to do one of these things, someone else in your community may be willing to help you out. Best of luck!

PS; Here is a great PDF by the AMVA about the actual national standards for euthanasia!
https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Documents/euthanasia.pdf

 

We’re selling stuff!

Since we recently renewed our NPIP certificate, that means it’s time to start selling stuff. We’re currently taking orders for hatching eggs! Our hatching eggs are $12 for 10 eggs and we ship all across the USA! Shipping is $13 USPS priority flat rate. We take paypal as our main form of payment.

People who read this blog know that we keep a robust mixed flock that lays a variety of egg colors. Our rooster is a blue egg laying breed which means the offspring of my chickens are Easter Eggers! All the offspring will lay a variety of shades of blue eggs and will come in a large number of colors. Here are some photos of eggs and chicks from this flock, including some of previous years adults! The eggs will be blue, white and brown but will all hatch into shades of blue or tinted eggs layers.

 

 

We’re also taking orders for a batch of meat chickens this year.

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Our meat chickens are robust, pasture-raised birds with a great taste. Because we feed a wet feed, they do not suffer from the extreme growth rates and chronic dehydration that many commercially farmed chickens do. Our chickens are raised out to be slightly older than grocery store chickens giving the meat a slightly firmer texture and a stronger flavor. They also come out to be very large birds, becoming a 5-8lb whole bird. A single breast could easily feed three! The birds are $25 for one or $20 each for 2 or more.

We are happy to piece out a bird for you into traditional cuts, including boneless breasts or skinless anything. If you ask for us to not include anything (such as the rib cage bones for soup, giblets, etc.) you do so with the understanding that it will reduce your overall product weight.

So where is your food coming from this year? Are you ordering your hatching eggs from a large hatchery-style facility with chickens in cages? Please consider supporting small farmers instead by placing an order with us or one of the many other fantastic small farms out there!

If you’d like to contact us about purchasing hatching eggs or meat chickens, please see our Contact us page! Thanks!

A proper update

I’ve been stuck indoors for the past few days with a second degree sunburn plaguing my shoulders. It started as just a normal sunburn. We went to observe some potential lands for the ecovillage, and the cloudy day when it was supposed to rain turned out to be sunny. So my pale skin turned into red skin. Then, the day after that I helped my sister with some minor home repairs and property cleanup. That day I wore sunblock… To no avail. The next day I woke up with shoulders covered in blisters so hot and angry that I could not dress. The pain is still there as the skin started peeling off before the skin underneath was ready, and now it’s like my whole shoulders are covered in a thin scab from being rug burned. It hurts.

This really set me off as we had a village meeting that evening. It really highlighted my frustration with a certain point of sexism in our society, the free the nipple movement. It’s not that I’m immodest and wanna shake my titties in front of guys, it’s a matter of comfort. If it’s extremely hot out or I have something like a second degree burn across my shoulders I shouldn’t have to strap something across my boobs (and sub sequentially, my shoulders lest it fall down) just to make a bunch of guys feel better about their lack of self control. Heat is hot. Burns hurt. These are practical, physical realities for men and women. But women are required to toss some fabric on under these conditions anyhow, and that bugs me in a big way. And while the group I was part of probably wouldn’t have cared much if I went topless, I felt uncomfortable about it anyhow. I ended up just tying some fabric around my chest in a band so it didn’t touch my shoulders… But the whole thing felt dumb.
(Fun fact, men weren’t allowed to show their nips either until the 1930’s. Prior to that, men were required to wear swimsuits that covered their chest for modesty reasons. In fact, in the 1910’s men were required to wear swimsuits that didn’t cling too tightly and may have even been required to wear skirts over their boxers so they weren’t so indecent!)

Because of the burn, I was forbidden the outdoors until I could wear a shirt without flinching again, which was about 3 days. When I came out, I found my garden beds were starting to grow with a gusto…. And so were the weeds. The birds had gotten big seemingly overnight and so had the rabbits. Turns out that being absent from your farm for half a week has big impacts!

So I finally got to go weed my garden and take some photos (my camera is still broken so I borrowed a smart phone) this week. There are some exciting updates on the farmstead itself!

Remember the sad, sad tomatoes?

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Surprisingly, they all made it! Some of them are still a little on the smaller side, and some are still recovering. But there’s a huge patch of tomatoes getting bigger by the day growing in my back yard! I have started pinching suckers and blossoms from them. I’m looking to get a crop that I can harvest for canning instead of having them to eat fresh, so I’d like the plants to get extra big before they start fruiting. (I did leave a few blossoms on one plant so we could have a few to eat.)

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I have some onions that got planted very late, but are starting to grow energetically. The patch looks bare from about 10′ away, but if you get close you can see literally dozens of onion sprouts peeking through! I’ve had to remind my helpers that these are onions, not weeds.

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Somehow the corn made it. But with only two stalks, I’m not sure that they’ll actually pollinate and produce. They were pretty weedy. This whole bed has since been weeded.

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The beans and peas are on the northmost wall of my garden bed, but because my lawn isn’t on a true North South line, they are shaded for a few hours in the morning. They’re still growing robustly despite that and are very thick. They’re starting to shade out weeds growing near by.

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And speaking of shading out weeds…. The kale! The kale is growing so thickly and is producing some strong, healthy leaves! We’ve started to eat the occasional leaf on a sandwich. The weeds are struggling to grow under these crowns!

We have a few other plants not shown. The watermelons are starting to recover and spring back with lots of new growth and the strawberries are flowering again. The zucchini is flowering as well, which means delicious vegetables are right around the corner! We’ve had some very serious issues with blossom end rot in previous years… This year we planted the zucchini with a handful of crushed egg shells in the hole. Hopefully we won’t see those problems again this year. And the more wild plants like the shiso leaf, the mint, the lemon balm, the plantago and the dandelions are doing well… But they are struggling against the other, less beneficial weeds in the lawn like the cats foot. I hate that stuff.

We also have a few new faces on the farm!

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Two leghorns and two australorps came to us from another farm recently. It’s been about a month and they have finished their quarantine period.  We waved goodbye to the old leghorn (who wasn’t laying), our newest chick and our chick from last year to make room for these new birds. They’re all pullets still, under 24 weeks, but the leghorns are already laying strong and their eggs are starting to normalize in size. Soon they will be in the pen with all the other birds.

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We also have seven little chicks from some eggs we stuck under our broody. We set a dozen eggs, but like every hatch, there were some problem chicks that didn’t make it. We may even loose one of the ones we have now. It appears to have some unabsorbed yolk, or a small hernia. We brought it indoors to try to recover. Only time will tell. But six chicks is a nice number to have. And our broody hen, a blue Ameraucana, could not be prouder!

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We had our NPIP certificate renewed last month. NPIP is the National Poultry Improvement Plan. If you read my post about vaccines, you’d know that flock health is a pretty important topic to me. NPIP is a simple test provided at a low cost to check for avian influenza and pullorum typhoid. These are both very serious conditions that threaten flocks nation wide. NPIP certification is easy… A tester comes out to test your flock. You get the pullorum result immediately with a simple blood prick test, and a throat swab goes to a lab to check for bird flu. The tester does all the work, you just hand him your chickens. In a flock of a dozen birds they may test 4 or 5 birds. Then you get a certificate.

If a test comes back positive your flock may get destroyed or permanently quarantined to keep these serious diseases from spreading.

Aside from having an official lab test and government agency reassuring buyers that you have a healthy flock (and are willing to risk the entire flock on that fact), NPIP certification is required to ship birds or hatching eggs to most states. The regulations vary a little, but if you don’t have NPIP it’s illegal to take your bird across state lines or to most poultry shows.

Our tests came back clean which means we’ll be able to offer hatching eggs for sale again! Hooray!

So, a lot of exciting and positive things are happening on the homestead this week, despite my arms screaming in pain whenever I lift them above chest level.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go strap some fabric that will assuredly catch on the dry, painful, cracking skin all across these burns to appease the masses while I travel to get some chick feed.

The new guard

There have been lots of changes to the cast and crew of this blog over the last year. This update in particular is about the changes to my chicken flock The hens I had when I started this journey are getting older, laying less, and becoming less present now that I have a rooster.

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Will Wheaton, the Ameraucana rooster, standing guard while my last lone Australorp and two of four badly molting golden buffs have a snack.

 

For my birthday last year I received a set of Wheaten Ameraucana hatching eggs. Unfortunately they were poorly packaged, of the 8 received, only four developed and three hatched. Later in the year two of them got taken by a raccoon, including the only hen of the trio. That left me with only a rooster to my name of the handsome blue egg layers I’d hoped to receive… And I was certainly not getting any blue eggs. Luckily, I wanted to keep a rooster to start a line of easter eggers. I spent part of the fall selling hatching eggs cheaply to test fertility and drumming up some good press for my shipping methods. One person was so happy they went and raved about how good of a job I did shipping by making a thread about it on a certain chicken forum with lots of pictures. Another person had 12/14 eggs shipped develop. All around it went well. So far my boy has not brought any complaints upon him…. But I intend to be putting a no-crow collar back on him come spring time when windows will be open. It’s been nearly a year now since he hatched, and a good solid 6 months since he started crowing… But we also got new neighbors last month.

We now have some new birds on the roost, and have a total of 14 birds on the property. Unfortunately, six of those will likely be rotating out sooner than later (mostly my older egg hens). To replace them we have some fancier birds.

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Blue Ameraucana Hen

 

Splash ameraucana hen

Splash ameraucana hen

A set of blue/black/splash Ameraucanas has moved in (the black one not featured here). I was lucky to find these fine specimens of ameraucanas available for a good price. Ameraucanas are a beautiful purebred bird but often get crossbred into Easter Eggers and then sold as Ameraucanas falsely or under a mis-spelled name (ex; Americana, ameracana, etc). For clarification, Ameraucanas always have blue or slate legs, beards and muffs, have a restricted number of colors, one set body type and always lay blue eggs. Anything else is an easter egger, a beautiful cross breed, better suited for home-flocks, likely hardy and possibly laying blue or even green eggs, but not a purebred bird.

Bertha and Betsy, Cornish crosses, 22 weeks old

Bertha and Betsy, Cornish crosses, 22 weeks old

Two Cornish crosses have stayed on from our meat bird run this year… Bertha and Betsy run with the flock, dust bathe with the flock, roost with the flock (on extra-wide and low roosting spots), forage with the flock, and are even being bred by Mr. Wheaton (though he does have some trouble with their size sometimes). I had to throw food on the ground to get them to sit still long enough to photograph. Most of their time is spent being some of the most active birds in the whole flock.

There are three chicks hatched out here on the homestead that are growing to take over some egg laying duties. Two are out of the Australorp (and are black), and one is out of a golden buff (and is buff with black flecks and a black tail). They are nearing full grown and laying age these days, and we expect them to start laying very early in the spring. As it stands, they’re so active that we can hardly get a photograph!

Our most photogenic of birds!

Our most photogenic of birds!

And of course, we have our rooster himself! Being a black wheaten ameraucana, he comes from purebred blue egg layers and is a handsome and cautious bird. He is beautiful, but difficult to photograph as he keeps his distance… A trait I can’t help but approve of in a world where many roosters try to attack any humans who handle the hens. He’s really more of a lover, calling hens out to eat, to roost, to drink, and always being vigilant for predators.

I think that about sums up the current flock. Next cast of characters will be the rabbits! Until then…!