Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of July Update

We are leaving a steamy July behind and beginning an steamy August. We have 175 broiler chickens and 165 turkeys in our brooder. Since the chicken building is not functional yet, we converted the garage into a brooder. The garage has been working well as a brooder. I wish the building had a window so I could vent it easier. The meat chickens should be ready to move outside tomorrow or Tuesday. The birds are a little young, but with evening temperatures around 70 degrees, I think things will be fine. The pens got moved today into positions and necessary maintenance needs to be performed to keep the old pens moving. The outside pens are on the list of things that should be replaced next year. 

New Chicken Brooder Set-up in the Garage

With the heat I have not been too active outside. One lamb died, but other than that we have been doing alright. I usually come in from choring saturated with sweat. I am going through one shirt in the morning and one to two shirts at night. When I come inside, Hazel tells me she wants to go outside by bringing me her shoes and then bringing me my shoes. It is cute, but the last thing I want to do is go back outside after doing chores. Hazel usually gets her way, at least for a few minutes. Hazel is also working on climbing up and down the stairs. She is very good at going up stairs and is alright at going down them. She has been climbing on top of the coolers and playing on top of them recently. It is quite cute until she starts to fuss to seek help getting down. That is our short July update. Things will be busy here in the coming weeks with birds back on pasture. We will have our chicken available in early September so stay in touch. 

Hazel Playing on a Cooler Lid

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Building a Farm

You know there are some things I would caution new farmers when considering buying a farm. Looking at the potential is the desire of any would be land owner, but a full assessment of your farm deficiencies and/or the amount of time and work to realize that farm's potential is needed. We were admittedly naive in approaching our farm, but we are slowly working through the deficiencies in terms of buildings, fencing, and water systems. We should have addressed more of our infrastructure needs up front before we had animals, but then you don't have any revenue. Instead we muck through life trying to have animals and build infrastructure all at the same time.

One of our unaddressed needs has been our subpar brooder set-up. I have lost over 400 small chickens this year to a combination of disease, smothering and predators. The major problem with our current building is that we can not separate our brooders from our mature laying hens. So there are instances when young birds are exposed to the droppings of mature birds. Access to dropping of mature birds is a  terrible disease and parasite source for the new chicks. Our new chicken building will have an internal wall to separate brooding from laying. The new building will also be tighter and easier to make sure predators can not enter it. The building is coming along. The rafters are about half up, the windows need to be framed, and the internal wall needs to be constructed, then the wrap and sheeting can go up. Many thanks to Jim form Pella for his ongoing help in constructing the building.

  Current status of the poultry building

The poultry building will not be ready in time for the arrival of our replacement broiler chicks or our turkeys so plan B is being implemented. Our garage is being converted into a larger brooder with two brooder cells and Janice's car is being moved outside. My step-father-in-law, Michael, helped assemble the first brooder hood yesterday. It is a 4'x4' brooder hood almost exact to its original on a 1942 design. It should work well for 180 broiler chicks. We will build a 6'x4' brooder for our turkeys in the next week.

Top view of the new brooder hood

Bottom view of the new brooder

Our sheep and cattle are working though the rental property to the north of us. We did get out neighbor to the south to cut hay for us off another piece of rented ground to the north. 

Nine bales stacked up for winter

I am still balancing work three days a week with the farm, Hazel and Janice. It can be very taxing at times. I am deeply concerned with how this juggling act will continue going into the fall when I will have two batches of chickens and turkeys to wrangle with at the same time as everything else I am doing now. 

Hazel is doing well. She has really left the baby stage and is working up to the toddler stage. He talks a lot, but only a few words are discernible. Mostly daddy, kitty, and ball. She is as fun as ever and is working on some new teeth. I can't image doing this with out Janice and Hazel. These past two years have been very challenging, but those two lady keep me moving forward day after day.

Reading to Hazel