July 2016 Update

Here are our homesteading-happenings as of late:

Chickens:

-Our broody hen’s fertile eggs never hatched (read about the eggs we placed under our broody hen here). They should have hatched around June 18th, we waited several extra days, but nothing happened. We believe the temperature got too hot during the incubation period. A good majority of the days were 100 degrees or above, some days even as high as 108 degrees or more. Hopefully next year she will go broody earlier in the spring while it’s cooler. After almost a of month sitting on her eggs, our hen wasn’t in the best shape, so we took her out of the nest box and put her in a “brooder-breaker.” We use a large dog kennel; add a roost, food, and water, with no nest. We put the kennel next to her flock’s coop, so they wouldn’t forget about her. If you do this, the assimilation should be much easier once she goes back in. Usually after about 4-5 days in the brooder-breaker, she will break her broody-trance, start roosting again and acting normal. At that point, we put her back in with her flock, and she has been normal ever since.

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-We got a bunch of new chickens, ranging from young pullets to 2 year old layers. We got a beautiful Splash Orpington, 2 Easter Eggers (green egg layers), 2 Red Sex-Links, and 2 White Leghorns, all currently laying. One of the leghorns actually laid us an egg in the car on our way home with her! We got 12 young black/speckled/mix Orpingtons, we will probably only keep a few of our favorites, then sell or give away the rest. Our friend gave us an adorable young speckled Sussex hen, and a young breeding pair of Sultans, and also a young breeding pair of Silver Laced Polish. And finally, we acquired a very handsome 5 month old Easter Egger rooster. With so many chickens now, and multiple roosters, we decided to set up some separate breeding coops to separate specific roosters and hens which we want to breed pure or to know with certainty of the breeding combinations. It’s been nice getting more eggs each day now with the new laying hens we acquired. Our young pullets should start laying their first eggs in the next couple months or so, were looking forward to that as well!

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-We ordered 25 Cornish-cross chicks online from Cackle Hatchery. Our meat chicks arrived at the post office on July 8th.  They all arrived safe and healthy, however, this past week we lost 2, not too sure why, but I know the casualty rate is pretty high for this breed. They are almost 2 weeks old and growing crazy fast! They are still in the chick brooders, but we’re hoping to get them outside to their movable coop on pasture in the next week since our temperatures have been so warm. Nic has been working on the broiler chicken tractor, which is just about complete. The chicken tractor is modeled off the Salatin version. We will move the tractor around the pasture every other day or so to allow the chickens to range, but will still protect them from predators. They will grow-out in the chicken tractor until about 8 weeks old when they are ready to be processed. Until then, they will enjoy the warm sunshine, nice breeze, with grasses beneath their feet; the way it should be.

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Turkeys:

-Along with our order of meat chickens, we also ordered 15 meat turkeys. There was a special the hatchery had going on, so we got a huge discount per poult (turkey chick), but they chose the breeds. So far it looks like we have 2 Bourbon Reds, 2 Black Spanish, 4 Blue Slates, and the rest seem to be Broad-Breasted Whites. They should be ready in about 3-6 months depending on the breed. They are all doing really well at almost 2 weeks old. When they are around 7-8 weeks old (hopefully earlier) they will go onto pasture into a turkey tractor. The turkey tractor that Nic built looks similar to the meat chickens’ tractor, but is twice as tall and has roosts. We eat a lot of turkey, so we are excited for this new adventure in raising our own!

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Pigs:

-Our neighbors were going to pick up their yearly pig that they raise out, from a friend of a friend, so they invited us along. We ended up bringing home 2 Yorkshire pigs at 15 weeks old, for a very good deal! They are about 5 months old now, and are growing very fast!  In only a couple months they will be ready to be harvested. Nic and I are planning on doing the slaughtering and butchering ourselves instead of taking them to the butcher. We like the idea that they be raised and killed on the same property, also eliminating the stress of being transported somewhere else. We are currently reading the book “Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat, and Pork: The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering” by Adam Danforth. We are excited to learn this new skill and even more excited to taste the outcome.

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Garden:

-We finally lifted the solarization plastic off the garden after about 6 weeks (click here to read my post on this solarization process). It looks good, and pretty “dead”. Last week we worked on breaking up some of the hard soil, and amended it with chicken and steer manure. We are only working on a quarter of the area we cleared because that’s all we need right now, and don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. This weekend Nic put in all the drip irrigation for the garden. The drip irrigation will be on a timer to go off multiple times a day, which will save water, save us a lot of time watering, and is good for the plants since they won’t be getting water on their leaves and they will also get regular periodic watering, even while we are at work. I started pumpkins seedlings a couple weeks ago in cups, so I transplanted those yesterday, along with some starts I bought from the store, and planted a bunch of other seeds. The garden has no fence or way of keeping pests out, so were expecting a lot of it to get eaten up by rabbits, squirrels, etc. But hopefully there will be some left for us! It was a great feeling to get my hands in the soil again!

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There’s always something going on our homestead, stay tuned for more! I will post another update in about a month :)

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