Category Archives: Chickens

How did it get to be March 8th?

 And why is it just 3° when I wake up in March?  I thought it would be warmer.  I am still in need of long, warm days without rain to ‘finish’ the garage.  Now more than ever I want it done, because the chickens have discovered what a wonderful place it is to hang out, lay eggs, and roost in the rafters!  I want to put a whole in the roof for a chimney, so I can install the shingles around it and keep the rain out, and I want to install the garage door before much longer, in order to keep the chickens out.  I am looking at taking some time off from work in order to get these things done.

I also want to build a portable chicken coop soon.  I am thinking of using skids rather than a wagon or trailer.  I am hoping to build it light enough that it won’t get too stuck in any mud.  I need to plan it out, but I am thinking it will be 8×12 and will serve as a place for the chickens to roost in at night and to lay their eggs.

I also need to build a chicken tractor (for 25 meat birds) and rabbit tractors (3) for the spring.  I found some plans I want to use and will post them as soon as I remember where I found them.

I really want to start fellowshipping regularly with other members of Christ’s body.  We have met many believers here in Johnson County that I am just so excited about, including one man who works at the prison with me and also home schools his children.

I am frustrated with the cold and with my growing list of things to get done.  I need help, but grow tired of asking for help.

As a piece of good news, I did finally receive my discharge certificate from the Air Force, so I have completed my application for the reserves and am looking forward to hearing about my assignment.

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God bless you with grace and peace.

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First Eggs

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This past week we got our first eggs from our chickens!  Last weekend, I finished with some nest boxes for the chickens, and on Monday, the kids found a little brown ‘pullet egg’ behind one of the trash cans we use to store feed.  Gina fried that first egg and shared it among us and you should have heard the kids rave.  They thought that was the best egg they had ever tasted.  Through the rest of the week, we have found six more eggs.  Five of those eggs were brown, and one was green!  Two of the brown eggs have been broken when found, so we will have to be more careful about finding eggs.  I think they were both broken because they had been left out in the coop for so long that the egg froze.

The chicks turned 20 weeks old this week, so these eggs are coming a bit early.  In won’t be long now before we are drowning in eggs!

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Life on the Farm

Life on the farm has been good these last few days.  The daytime highs got up to close to 50 for several days in a row, so Gina, the kids, and I worked on shingling the west side of my garage roof.  We are probably 90% done with that now.

In the last four days, though, we have truly become farmers.  After over three months of raising our first crop, we finally began to benefit from all of the inputs as we harvested 18 chickens.  We had planned to harvest 18 roosters on Monday, but Sunday morning when I walked into the chicken coop, I saw a hen that had gotten tangled up in string and had fallen, breaking her leg.  So, even though the plan was to work on the roof, we quickly dispatched the young lady and processed her.  We ended up eating her for lunch on Monday.  I have to say, I don’t think there is anything quite as tasty as your own crop.

On Monday, we corralled all of our roosters (I was able to locate 25) into the dog run area.  We then released 7 of the roosters back outside, leaving us for 18 roosters for processing.  We started the work and I quickly realized, with my freezing fingers, that there was no way I would get through 18 chickens in one morning, since I had to leave for work at 1:15.  So, I ended up processing just 6 chickens and we sprayed the other 11 chickens with pink hairspray so we would be able to find them the next day.

On Tuesday, we rounded up all the roosters with pink hairspray, but I was only able to locate 11 of them.  One rooster was able to dodge ‘the bullet.’  I only processed four on Tuesday, though, because of the frigid cold.  We had a plan, though, to come back and finish the job on Wednesday during the afternoon, since I wouldn’t be going to work and the afternoon temperatures would be in the 40s.  Plus the windchill on Tuesday was down in the lower 20s.

So on Wednesday morning, we again rounded up the remaining roosters — I still could only find 7 of them, and on Wednesday afternoon, we set to slaughtering.  The process went much better on Wednesday than it had earlier in the week.  I have started to get the hang of the evisceration, which is by far the most time-consuming part.  Some notable lessons though are that I need about four killing cones, I really need to build my whizbang chicken scalder, there should be about 3-4 adults to really keep this moving, and the knives really must be sharper.

So my flock of roughly 72 (started with 78 in late September) is now down to about 54, but we now have 17 chickens in the freezer.

I realize now, though, that I would have to charge about $35-40 per chicken in order to make a living at this, so some efficiency is definitely in order.

However, not to be discouraged by the economics of the whole thing, I have been drooling over the new Murray McMurray catalog.  Specifically, I would like to order 5 Araucana hens.  Araucanas are the easter egg chickens that lay blue or green eggs, and Gina just loves the color of the eggs.  I also would like to order 5 cochin bantams.  Bantams are renowned as good setters, and I would like to be able to keep 2 or 3 hens that are good setters in order to raise my own replacement hens.  The cochin bantams will be straight run, so I am hoping that out of the 5 chickens ordered, at least two will be ladies.

I also would like to order 25 Cornish X Rocks and 25 Heavy Breeds.  These will be the basis for a test of different meat birds, or broilers.  The Cornish Cross Rocks are the industry standard broilers that dress out at 3 to 4 pounds in 6 to 8 weeks.  But I want to run a side-by-side comparison of these Cornishes with some older standard breed chicks.  The Heavy Breeds mixture costs much less initially than the Cornish Crosses, but I want to see how they do converting feed, as well as any difficulties encountered in managing them, and finally, I want to compare their taste.  If I start both flocks in mid-March, I should be slaughtering the Cornish Crosses in May and the Heavy Breeds in July.  I will try to keep some detailed records of how much I feed to each flock, as well as any losses or health concerns along the way.

The final two items I wanted to purchase from Murray McMurray were ducks and turkeys.  Initially, I wanted to get the Turkey Assortment, which would have gotten me 20 turkeys of many different varieties for $120.  However, I have adjusted my order to 15 (the minimum order) Giant White turkeys.  My hope would be to raise these turkeys through the summer and then sell perhaps 5 or 6 turkeys for Thanksgiving, keep 2 or 3 turkeys for ourselves, and keep the remaining turkeys as breeding stock for future generations.  I haven’t yet been able to verify whether Giant White turkeys can breed true or not.

As far as the ducks go, I was looking at getting 10 Rouen ducks for many reasons.  First, they are just downright good looking.  Second, they are quite large and make for a good roasting duck.  Finally, they are said to produce 35 to 125 eggs per year.  My hope with the ducks would be that I would set them out near one of our ponds and let them continually reproduce throughout the year, occasionally heading down to the pond to catch some good duck for ourselves or our customers.

In other farming news, the kids were given some money at Christmas for starting their own farm animal enterprises.  Meagan has decided on rabbits, so today we purchased a cage and other cage-related supplies for housing our first rabbits.  We are thinking rabbits will be suspended from the ceiling in the western part of our barn.  We got a lead on some Dutch rabbits, but they are apparently for pets and show, and we are more interested in meat rabbits.  More to follow on Meagan’s rabbits.

Caleb had wanted to pursue pigs, but now he seems hooked on the idea of raising goats.  Our neighbors (the best neighbors in this world) have Nubian goats who just kidded in the last week or so.  Our thought was to buy one or two of her goat kids to raise.  There have been a few conversations about this possibility.  Of course, if we get goats, we will need to build a prison to keep them in.  And we would want two does from our neighbors so we could pursue a buck from elsewhere.  The next question would be whether to get another Nubian as a buck or to get a meat goat as the daddy goat.  More to follow on Caleb’s goats.

We are also still waiting for movement on getting our very own family milk cow and the possibility of picking up a few beef cattle as well.  But, you guessed it, more to follow on that as well.

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Filed under Chickens, Dreaming, Farm, Farming Poultry

Massacre at Coop’s Corner

Yesterday, Caleb discovered the remains of this terrible massacre.  There were three dead on our side and no evidence that I could discern of who was on the other side.  We lost three chickens to something over the last week or so, but only discovered all three bodies today.  I need to use the term bodies loosely, since I only know it was three chickens because we found a total of six legs.

The only discernible evidence was our mouser, Chief Wahoo, was digging into the cavity of the one bird carcass we did find.  At first I thought that Chief was the culprit, but now I’m not so sure.  Chief did not like my reaction to finding her feasting on a chicken, but I think she has gotten over it.

I should have gotten some photos, but the scene was fairly gory.

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Plan for the next week

My parents are coming to town tomorrow, so I thought I should lay out a plan for their visit.

18 – Parents arrive in Omaha.  I work, so Gina & the kids will pick them up.

19 – Time to get to work.  I have the day off, so we should process about 17 cockrels and 1 pullet.  The pullet has been having trouble being pecked and is missing almost all of her tail feathers now.  She has twice been a bloody mess.  For the processing, we need a way to hang the chickens while they bleed, and a way to keep water warm for the scalding.  We will also use the Whizbang Chicken Plucker I built to remove any chicken feathers.  I would rather do this in the afternoon when it will be warmest (forecasted high of 41 with 30% chance of snow).  We could go to Lincoln in the morning to pick up 1/4″ drywall or wallboard for the kitchen.

20 – Another day off for me.  I would like to get drywall up in the kitchen and clean out the barn.

21 – Third day off.  The ABF pups should be delivered today.  We will want them backed in so they face the barn and can be easily unloaded.  We will probably spend Friday and Saturday unloading the pups into the barn.

22 – Fourth day off.  Spend the day unloading pups into the barn.

23 – Last day off.  We could visit a PCA church in Lincoln (for my parents’ sake).  Then perhaps we could do some visiting in Lincoln and/or Fremont.

24 – Christmas eve.  I will be home in the morning.  Perhaps in the afternoon Gina and the folks could go to Omaha to visit family.

25 – Christmas day.  Yeah!  What a fun day this should be!

26 – Another day off.  It would be nice to put up some wall cabinets before my Dad leaves.

27 – My last day off but also the day my folks leave for NM.  I would rather work an overtime shift than have to drive them to the airport, but we shall see what is expected of me.

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Updates about nothing in particular

I really don’t have anything to write about tonight, but I have time on the computer, so I might as well write something.  I am finishing up my training in the prison this week — next week I will be on my own.  I really like my new shift — I work 2pm to 10pm.  Every day feels like a day off until about 1:15, when I leave to go to work.  The days off feel even more like days off!  The only thing we are having trouble with is me returning from work at 10:30 each night.  That really infringes on my ability to get up at 4:30 each morning.

Gina is very pregnant and very ready to give birth.  The due date is still nine days away and we think we have everything ready for our very first home birth.  We even have a pool set up in our dining room!  We can’t wait!

Work continues on the garage.  15 out of 16 trusses are up and I have started putting sheathing on the roof.  I was helped out this evening for about an hour by my neighbors, Jacob & Elizabeth, and I anticipate that Jacob & Daniel will make it by tomorrow.  I hope to get the roof close to finished tomorrow, which will require putting up the last truss, putting up another 24 sheets of 4×8 sheathing, and putting up the four ladders for the gable-end overhangs that Terry & I put together last weekend.  I am always overambitious.  The next step, I think, will be to roll out the roofing felt(?) and then start shingling, which is likely something I will work on alone.  I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.

The chickens are doing quite well and are growing very big.  We picked up more straw bales for them and I hope to buy some fencing to create a temporary run for them.  They are eating about 80 pounds per week of feed, which is costing quite a bit, so I want to find another source of chicken feed.  We hooked them up on a thermostatically controlled outlet, so their heating lamps will now only kick on when the temperature drops below 35°, and will turn off when the temperature gets back up over 45°.  The chickens are now 5-and-a-half weeks old.

Still no new job offers and no new ideas or thoughts or discussions about starting a Bible fellowship here.  I have been grappling with the thought of whether God is calling us to have a home-based Bible fellowship, perhaps meeting in the new garage with a wood-burning stove for heat.  I also have been struggling with the meaning of my new job and whether it is what God has called me to or if there are just valuable lessons for me to learn there.

God Bless.

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Filed under Baby, Bible, Chickens, Farm, Farm Projects, Farming Poultry, Homebuilding, Work

Chicken relocation

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As I mentioned earlier, we had been keeping our chickens in the basement of our house. They were quickly growing, starting to really stink, and creating a ton of dust for us. They were also getting quite crowded.

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So for their three-week birthday, we gave them a new house. They have been sucessfully moved out into their own home (coop).  In moving them out, we attempted to plug most of the holes in the building (except for the cat door).  We replaced all of the sash windows.  We laid out some straw for bedding material.  We hung their warming lights, food, and water from the rafters, and we began setting up roosts.  They seem to be happy so far, although it is a bit cold outside still.  They should get hardier as time goes by.  The following picture shows the cat area behind the chicks.

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Checking on them is a bit harder now, but they have somewhere between 3.5 square feet per bird now, much better than the 1/3 sq ft they had in my basement.

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