Monday, April 16, 2018

Scratch and Sniff

It is not uncommon for us to spread the manure from our animals onto the fields and pastures. What is uncommon is for that field to be situated right beside my house. I really wish I could make this photo a scratch-n-sniff so you all could enjoy the aroma of that evening. The smell endured for a day or so, but the nutrients will be available for veggies throughout the summer. Short term pain for long term gain. We will enjoy eating the produce all summer, even if this activity did foil Julie's plans to make smore's on the back porch that night. ;-)

Spreading Chicken Manure, oops... I mean organic
fertilizer on a future vegetable field. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fowl on the Farm

A few months ago we were able to purchase a small farm that we had been renting for many years. I'm sure I will post lots as we clean up that property and bring it into the fold. We have ran cattle on in for several years, but there is a limit to the amount of improvements you can make to rented land. Soon it will be fully integrated into a intensive rotational grazed oasis of pasture, with layered multi-species seasonal production including cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
That's where this picture comes in. We now have in the brooder the ducks that will eventually live at the pond on the new farm. 125 Khaki Campbell ducks will be providing duck eggs for your enjoyment.  These things are very cute, so I'm sure more pics are sure to follow.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Chirp Chirp: Part 6

Our first batch of 2018 broilers are doing quite well on pasture. We got them started earlier than normal, so I wasn't sure what effect the early spring weather would have. As you can see from the picture, they are enjoying a nice salad bar to go along with their non-GMO feed. The grasses are primarily rye-grass and clover. This batch had had to experience a few cooler night than the later batches will, but they have the advantage of the best grass of the year. Right now it looks like the processing date will be around the 2nd week of may, so watch your emails a week or two before then. Carlton Farms Prime members will get an earlier ordering window.
Wren is perfectly comfortable hanging out with the chickens.
She seems to enjoy them even more than Jersey or Atticus did at that age. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Chirp Chirp: Part 5

The first batch of broilers left the cozy confines of the brooder this weekend and are now enjoying the pasture. The grass is green and they are enjoying it. Now let me brag a little. Normally there is a small amount of mortality that is expected when you deal with a large number of these very fragile young creatures. You may or may not know that chicks are shipped through the mail. The hatchery adds a few extra chicks to make up for any early losses. We ordered 200 form the hatchery, and put 208 in the brooder. We did loose two within the first day, but none after that. I think this is the first time we have went to pasture with more chicks (206) than we actually bought. Credit goes to a nice group of chicks from Freedom Ranger Hatchery, and great brooder management from a relatively new farm employee Ricky Boyd.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Chirp Chirp: Part 4

The Broiler Chicks will be ready to go out to pasture soon. I have included a few pictures so you can see the metamorphosis they go through in the first couple weeks. Warning: Cuteness level is highest day one and goes down rapidly.  They are not ready to be without the heat lamp until their feathers are fully developed. We  keep the brooder 95 degrees on day one and gradually lower the temperature for 2-3 weeks until we have completely weaned them from the supplemental heat. After a few days in the brooder with no heat, they are ready to go outside. In our pasture pens, they will be protected from predators, have plenty of feed and water, and be moved to new pasture daily. However, there is no heat, so they must be able to keep warm naturally with a full layer of feathers. That's also why we don't raise broilers here in the winter in north Georgia. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Chirp Chirp: Part 3

I started these chickens two weeks ago when it was 70 degrees. As I walked in from the farm to write this email, I kid you not...It was snowing. O.K., only a few flakes, but snow nonetheless. Needless to say these little guys will be staying in the brooder for a little longer, which is totally normal. The earliest we every take them from brooder to pasture is 2 1/2 weeks old, but that's only in summer with ideal conditions. 3-4 weeks in the brooder with supplemental heat is perfectly normal for this time of year. There will be another 200 chicks arriving this week. 
Our pastures are greening up quite nicely. This week we will be preparing the pasture shelters. Our pasture shelters are designed to keep the chickens safe from predators, while also allowing them the ability to display their chicken-ness (eat grass and bugs, and scratch the ground and take a dust-bath). 
Our first broilers of 2018. Enjoying the heat of
the brooder and the new water system. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Chirp Chirp: Part 2

Sometimes I feel like I leave out some of the smaller farm life details that make life here so interesting and challenging. Pictures of all the cute baby animals and beautiful lush grass pastures are all good, and more of those are sure to come this spring.  This post however, is of a more practical nature. We brood a few hundred chicks at a time. The above picture is one layer, of four. So, theoretically we could brood 800 chicks at one time. Realistically we rarely have over two or three levels full at any one time, so 400 to 600 chicks at one time is somewhat normal.  We designed and built this stacked brooded space a few years ago and they do a great job at protecting the chicks and keeping them warm. One thing that has been a challenge is the manual watering of this many chicks. It is a overwhelming job, and one that is hard to get consistently right. Our old way was to use several of the one gallon fountain drinkers like the one in the distance pictured above. The down side of this type is that they are very labor intensive and are prone to leak if not perfectly level. We are not against hard work, laboring on the farm just comes with the territory. We specifically do not mind a little extra work when doing something by hand makes for a better final product. However, in this case the hard way did not improve the welfare of the chicks. In fact, when the water fountains leak they cause wet bedding and empty waterers, both of which reduce the welfare of our little peeps. So, I set out to find a solution that would be better for the chicks and easier on the humans. What I landed on is a custom designed gravity flow drinking system. The system pivots at the top, so it can grow with the chicks as they grow by adjusting the chains in the picture. The nipple drinkers are custom placed on a short section of pipe, and fitted with the red chick drinker cups  to accommodate the baby chicks and prevent leaking. The whole system is fed via gravity from a barrel on top of the brooders. This barrel has a float valve to prevent overfilling. 
So there you have it. The problem was identified. A creative solution was formulated, designed, and implemented. Life is better for both farmer and animal. 
Our first broilers of 2018. Enjoying the heat of the
brooder and the new water system.