Most of you have been introduced to our first fifteen egg-laying ladies. No eggs yet and not expected for another 6 weeks or so. They are enjoying their time out on pasture, enjoying their chicken tractor and love being in the compost area. We do throw some food on the pile, but they will spend a lot of their time on this pile getting bugs and other delicacies. We will be putting them to work soon as we have decided not to utilize our second garden spot as the soil was too low in nitrogen and rock hard clay. We sowed a number of seeds on the plot (i.e. buckwheat, mangles, clover, field peas, "soil buster" radishes and others) to work on breaking up the soil and adding nitrogen. We then covered it in mulch, which will hopefully break down a bit and add some topsoil to the mix. In a couple of weeks, the pullets will be in paddocks on the garden and they will get to work eating the seeds and greens and dropping their own nitrogen all over the place. If all goes well, we will have much better soil ready to go for next year.
Because we are crazy, we felt this was not enough. The chicken tractor has enough roost space for over thirty, so why not? We decided that in addition to getting 50 or so meat birds, let's get a few more pullets. So we have added fifteen more ladies to the bunch for a total of thirty. They were already 5 weeks old, so we saved on brooder time and feed and only kept them in for a week before we tested them out in Baxter's dog kennel. We then moved that kennel in with the original fifteen pullets to help with them getting acclimated before letting them out. They were small and they would go in and out of the electronet fencing. Not to mention, they continuously get bullied by the older pullets. That's what they call it a "pecking order." Due to age differences, we only got Black Star/Black Sex Links and Araucanas/Easter Egg Layers. The Silver-Laced Wyandottes at the hatchery were much younger than the other two breeds.
Like I said before, we also got 55 meat or broiler chicks. The hope was to get 50+ Cornish Cross birds, but Duck 'N' Coop Hatchery, where we get them from, did not have enough. So some of these chicks are also Freedom Rangers (they are the more brown looking chicks).
We have lost four of these chicks through the process of brooding. Expected losses should have been more like two, so we are analyzing what we may have been doing wrong. One thing that has helped is Diana found an excellent organic feed from Raub-Rae Farms in Brown City, MI. This feed just smells good and the chicks loved it when we gave it to them. Prior to this, we were feeding them Nutrena feed from TSC. It was the best we could find that did not have antibiotics in it. We will be raising these chicks in a Salatin-style manner following their brood time. Joel Salatin has revolutionized pastured poultry by putting his meat birds on pasture, with food supplements, and raising them up to butcher weight in only 6-8 weeks. His process calls for 80-90 birds in a 10' x 12' pen.
We decided to do a "half-size" Salatin pen of 6' x 12' to start off. We got the chicks in there yesterday and despite their initial fear of sunshine, they eventually wandered over to their food and water. Check out the forthcoming "builds" blog post as I go through the construction of this pen and how it works. We placed the pen on our front lawn as the lawn there is good for now, but will burn up as the summer heat commences. By that time these guys will be in the freezer, or pretty close and we will put the next batch on a better stretch of lawn. If you would like to snatch up some of these birds, just give us a call. We are not keeping all fifty and would be happy to bring in our first dividends for the farm.
Final total, 15 older pullets, 15 younger pullets (all thirty out on pasture) and 52 broiler/meat chicks means chickens chickens everywhere!
Dandelion Hills is a family-owned farm in Caro, Michigan, established to provide beyond-organic food to its owners and the local community while improving the soil quality.
Dandelions Hills Farm Caro Michigan Local Permaculture Sustainable Ecological Natural Beyond Organic Biodiiversity Regenerative Family Farm Mini-farm Farmstead Homestead Pastured Eggs Chicks Chickens Poultry Gardening Honey Bees Flowers Herbs Ducks Turkeys Geese Quail Market Garden