Animal Stewardship and Brooders

 

I’m no expert on urban farming.  I’m a “hit and miss” sort of guy. I have no biology degrees or certificates of expertise in horticulture.  I just keep plugging along, trying this, discarding that, and sticking with the things I do well.  I mention that because I don’t want you to think you are reading the words of some guru.  In fact, the best we can hope for, on any given day, is that you’ll learn from my mistakes. J

My wife and I are in the process of putting together a master plan.  We have decided that our randomness is hurting our productivity, so we’re trying to get organized and actually put a plan on paper which will be our guiding beacon.

Thus the quandary over quail.  We’ve been raising those little birds for almost three years and we love them . . . but they don’t make us a profit.  So we have a decision to make after this summer ends: continue with them for the sheer love of them, or move on to other pursuits.  I suspect, knowing Bev as I do, that we’ll keep raising them because that’s just the way we rock n roll on this mini-farm.

So take everything I say here with a grain of salt.  We’re just like you in that we make a ton of mistakes, and I suspect we are just like you in that we love gardening, farming, and animals.

QUAIL

Raising quail is a lot like raising any animal or bird on any farm: for it to be a profitable venture, you have to do it in volume. We currently see about five dozen eggs per day, or 35 dozen each week.  We sell almost all of those eggs each week, but the volume isn’t enough to offset the cost of raising them. We would need to raise at least double that number . . . the main problem is that Americans have not embraced quail eggs the way other cultures have, so right out of the chute it’s a tough sell.

And then we face the same question after each summer: do we provide artificial light during the winter, so we’ll continue to have eggs but shorten the lives of the quail; do we sell off the quail each September and incubate new ones in the spring; or do we simply feed unproductive quail over the winter, thus prolonging their lives but cutting into the profit?

We are still sitting on the fence as of this writing.

I’ll let you know what we decide when we decide it.

For those who do not know, quail eggs are higher in nutritional value than chicken eggs . . . much higher!  They are higher in protein, higher in Vitamin B1, have twice the amount of Vitamin A and B2, have five times the amount of iron and potassium, and are richer in phosphorus and calcium.

But they are tiny and they are a tough sell.

Anyway, stay tuned!

ANIMAL STEWARDSHIP

While I’m on the subject of birds/animals, allow me a couple minutes while I come close to preaching about the responsibility any farmer has towards his/her animals.

This is serious, now, so listen up.

Bev and I go a little overboard on this topic, and I realize that, but that just means it is dear to my heart.  We love animals.  We really do.  Any animal, or bird, that we take care of is dear to us.  It’s just the way we are wired, but it is also the only humane way to have an urban farm.  Even if you are raising animals/birds for meat, we believe it is our responsibility to give those animals the best possible life while they are with us.

We really don’t believe in cages. Our quail live in a 10’x20’ enclosure. I guess someone could say that’s just a large cage, but it is large enough to allow the quail to walk freely and even fly if they choose to do so.  They are happy, well-fed, and protected from the elements.  I raise them from birth.  I’m the first human they come in contact with. I hold them, talk to them, and comfort them if they are dying.  I just think it’s the least I can do considering they live their entire lives giving me eggs and enjoyment.

The same is true for our chickens, rabbits, and any other critter we have here at any given moment.  This really is a sanctuary in the city, an urban farm sanctuary, and animals are not only welcomed but downright pampered if under our care.

And again, I believe that is the responsibility of anyone taking care of any animal.

If you want to see me royally pissed off, or Bev brought to tears, mistreat an animal within my line of sight.

End of sermon!

BROODER

We have a brooder. Her name is Helga.  She’s a Buff Orpington.  For those of you not familiar with the word “brooder,” it is a hen that seems to have that “mothering” gene.  Not all chickens have it.  Many will lay an egg and never return to it . . . but occasionally you’ll come across a hen which is quite content to lay an egg and sit on that egg for days and days.

Anyway, since we have no roosters and hence, no fertilized eggs, it is a moot point unless we decide to buy little chicks from the supply store, and then the moot point becomes a very important point.

Baby chicks need warmth and a lot of pampering.  It is entirely possible to raise babies without a hen.  A heat lamp, water, and feed is all that is really needed, but if you have a brooding chicken then you are living in farming heaven.  The brooder will, in effect, adopt the baby chicks.  She will sit on them for warmth, she will watch over them for protection, and she will teach them valuable lessons about growing up to be an adult chicken.

Bottom line: if you have a brooder hen, keep her and cherish her. She is worth her weight in gold if you decide to raise little chicks.  We have one and we’re feeling pretty cool right now.

FARM DOG COMING

Bev will be Bev. There is no holding her back when it comes to adopting a new pet.  She saw a new breed of dog posted somewhere and just had to have one. The breed is called a Northwest Farm Terrier, started here in Washington State about thirty years ago . . . anyway, a woman down the road has two, and she bred them, and the mommy just had ten  puppies, and in two months we will have our brand new puppy.

Northwest Farm Terriers are amazing animals. They are natural herders. They will gently herd chickens back where they belong. They will gently pick up rabbits and bring them back should they get loose.  And they will protect their home at all costs. Raccoons, weasels, even coyotes beware.

Anyway, we haven’t named the new puppy yet.  We’ll wait and see what her personality is before naming.

AND THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING ON OUR LITTLE FARM

Thanks for joining me.  It’s always a pleasure having you stop in.  On your way out, gather up some berries and enjoy the sweetness.  We grew them just for you.

Bill

Summer Update on the Farm

Summer has arrived, thank God!  Everything is growing quite well, the birds are all happy, and our little corner of the world is moving along on all pistons.

NATURE ADJUSTS

It’s been an interesting spring with the birds.  The chickens, which are getting a little long in the tooth, haven’t minded the rain at all, and are laying eggs at a record pace.  The quail, on the other hand, act like they have never laid an egg in their life.  I have to assume it is the weird weather that is affecting all of this.  Nothing else has changed on our farm to explain it.  We need those quail eggs for the farmers markets, so I’m hoping the upcoming good weather will encourage our little ladies to start laying daily like nature intended them to do.

I wrote that paragraph about a month ago. Since then the weather has warmed up, and the quail are laying in a productive fashion, about five dozen eggs each day, so all is well.

We did have one of our original chickens die.  No reason for it that I could see; she just got sick and died. Such is life on an urban farm.  Buttercup will be missed, and now that she has passed, a new pecking order has been established.

Buttercup is on the left

CHICKEN FEED

A little information about chicken feed you may or may not know.  A chicken needs the following for good health:  corn for energy; soybean meal for protein; and a variety of vitamins and supplements.

Most people who raise chickens use pellets for the main staple.  Pellets, comprised of the right amount of corn, soybean, and vitamins, are available at all feed stores.  Pellets are preferred because they pack the most punch for your buck.  Chickens eat little amounts often, and they expend a lot of energy in the process, so pellets meet their requirements and match their lifestyle.

Chickens also love mealworms and red wigglers, both of which I grow here at home in plastic bins.  Let me repeat: chickens love mealworms and red wigglers.  As in LOVE them!  If you want your chickens to love you, provide them with mealworms.  Be forewarned, though: mealworms are expensive, so I highly recommend that you raise your own.  It is easy to do and inexpensive . . . in fact, once you purchase your initial 1000, they just keep reproducing at no cost to you, and if you have little kids, the biology lesson, as the worms go through their transformation into beetles, is fascinating.

QUAIL FARMING

We are in the process of determining whether it is profitable to be raising quail.  We’ve been doing this for two years now, going on three, and we should see a profit this year. If we don’t we may have to say goodbye to that experiment and move on to the next.  If it fails it won’t be a loss.  Farming is never a loss.  The aviaries can be enclosed and used as greenhouses at very little expense, which is what we might do.  Then we can grow herbs because we have this idea of dried herbs used in food dips….so we’ll see which way we go once the summer ends and we tally up the dollars and cents.

FARMERS MARKETS

We are selling our quail eggs in three markets this summer. Sales have been consistent. Quail eggs are a tough sell in the United States.  Asian countries love them, and the French have baked with them for centuries, but here in the States, size matters more than health. Still, we are selling everything our girls can produce, so no complaints.

We have a new idea for the markets next year….dips made from herbs, as I mentioned earlier….we’ll spend this coming winter preparing for the new products.

THAT’S ABOUT IT FOR THIS WEEK

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for following along.  If you are new here, leave me your website URL so I can repay with a following and visits.

Bill

Finally it is Planting Season in Western Washington

I haven’t written in this blog for a few weeks now.

It’s been wet!

End of story!

Seriously, I was getting tired of writing about the weather. I was beginning to sound obsessed, which I think most of us in Olympia were…obsessed…depressed…waterlogged!

But the Winter of Wet, evidently, has ended.  All manner of records were broken, all manner of cuss words were spoken, but now the sun is out and our first seventy degree day has arrived.

And with it newfound hope on our urban farm!

FARMERS MARKET SEASON

We just filled in last Saturday for Bev’s son and his wife, doing the Puyallup Farmers Market.  This week we begin our two-a-weeks….Tuesday I’ll be doing the West Olympia Farmers Market, and on Wednesdays I’ll be helping out at the Tumwater Farmers Market, the one Bev manages.  It’s that time of year, solid markets until October.  Last year all we sold was quail eggs. This year it will be eggs and my coloring books.  Hopefully it will be a great season!

QUAIL LAYING

Finally our ladies are laying eggs.  It’s a bit late and I suspect the weather had something to do with the tardiness, but we are starting to see eggs daily. At full production we should see seven to eight dozen eggs per day, and that should happen within a week to ten days.

CHICKS TO PULLETS

As I mentioned earlier, we have been raising forty chicks to pullet age, and they are just about ready to be sold.  We had pre-orders for almost all of them, so the quick math is:  forty chicks at $3 each…sell them at $20 each….decent profit after the cost of food.  It will be nice to have them out of here.  Then I’ll turn the aviaries into greenhouses for our next project .  .  . and I’ll tell you more about that after I finalize my planning phase.

GARDEN

The ground was totally saturated, but it’s finally ready to sow seeds.  I’ll be doing that this week as time allows.  We did start some seeds in a mini-greenhouse, and they are doing fine, but it will be nice to get seeds in the ground and get this growing season officially started.

REFLECTIONS ABOUT CHICKENS

They really are entertaining birds.  After three years of raising them, I really can’t imagine not having them.

Did I mention the independent eye thing? I think I did, but just in case….chicken eyes are independent of each other. One eye scans the ground for bugs. The other eye scans the area for predators.  I just find that fascinating.

I was working in the yard the other day, and there was a hawk circling overhead. That bird must have been a good 300 feet in the air, turning slow circles, looking for prey down below…the hawk wasn’t making any noise.  If I didn’t happen to look up I wouldn’t have known it was there…but the chickens knew. They all went silent and immediately went undercover…in fact, they are the reason I looked up. Again, nature is fascinating!  How those chickens knew there was a hawk high up is a mystery to me, but they knew…and consider the fact that these birds have never had interaction with a hawk. It is a natural predator, but how do they know it?  Because it’s in their genes, from birth, and again, I find that fascinating.

If you aren’t raising chickens yet, consider it.  They will not disappoint.

NATURAL PESTICIDE

Take a clove of garlic, a couple hot peppers, and a ¼ cup of water and put it in the food processor.  When you finish, take the mash and boil it for twenty minutes.  Then let it sit and cool.  Stain the mixture and you have a nice liquid natural pesticide.  Aphids do not like garlic!

THAT’S ALL I’VE GOT FOR YA

Seriously, I have to run. Way too many things to do.  I hope you all are well.  If you ever have questions about urban farming, fire away in the comment section.

Bill

Battling Rain and Time

Allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine, and in particular her gardening blog….follow this link to Marlene’s page…Fresh Food Garden!

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty!

GARDENING

What gardening? It’s been raining, raining, and raining again. Each month we set a new all-time record for wetness.  Let me give you a couple facts which should tell you how dreary this winter has been.

Since October 1, over six months, we’ve had exactly three days that qualify as mild, meaning sunny and above fifty.

Since October 1, over six months, we have had a grand total of eight sunny days.  Eight!

Since October 1, it has rained 87% of the time.

My grandfather would say it feels like a cow pissing on a flat rock . . . all the time…there is no drying out.

So we finally had a dry day last Saturday, and I went out, squinted against the glare, and decided to use that day to turn over the soil and get the garden ready.

Wrong!

The ground is saturated.  The ground is clumpy.  The ground needs to dry out.

So now there is a sheet of plastic over the garden area, and hopefully in a week things will be better.

IN THE MEANTIME

In the meantime I started seeds in the greenhouse, so all is not lost.

In the meantime, a part of the garden is being cultivated by the chickens. All eight of them are out there right now digging and scratching and doing all kinds of good things.

And in the meantime, I have more than enough other things to do . . . like quail!

QUAIL

All the babies have been born.  Add them to the adults and we now have over 200 of our little birdy friends, and any day now I expect to see some eggs. They better hurry because the farmers markets begin May 3rd.  I’m in the process now of selling males since they are fairly worthless for our needs….just like most males, right ladies?

PULLETS

In the meantime, the 43 chicks we raised are now almost pullets, so we will be selling those in the next few weeks.  They were finally moved out of the garage and into the aviary/greenhouse.  The final step in the process will be to turn off the heat lamps and acclimate them to the outside temperatures, which we are doing now.  After that we can safely sell them.

Did you know that the eyes of a chicken are independent of each other? One eye searches for food while the other searches for predators.  Fascinating birds, chickens!

TEACHING A WORM CLASS

This afternoon, as a matter of fact, I’m going to be teaching a “How To Raise Worms” class to fourteen teenagers who are spending a week on a nearby farm.  Should be fun, a way for me to return to teaching without having to grade papers, and a way for the teenagers to learn about urban farming and making compost.

And I just had an order for four jars of worm tea at $5 per jar….I love little payments coming in from different directions.   I need to mix up a new batch of worm tea and also rabbit tea and sell those as well.

AND BEV

And my wife is busier than a one-armed paperhanger with crabs, as my dad used to say. She is ultra-busy as the new manager of the Tumwater Farmers Market, and she also works at the local urban farm and garden center.

It’s going to be a busy season!

Bill

Coloring and Learning Fun

Allow me to share with you my project of the last two months…The Urban Farming Coloring Book!

By yours truly!

I had a ton of fun with this project.  I think it’s something adults, and kids, and families, can all do together.

I didn’t want this to just be a coloring book.  I wanted it to be informational as well, so that’s why every “chapter” has information about one aspect of urban farming…how to raise chickens…how to prepare soil…how to compost…how to raise worms….and so on, with a corresponding coloring page.

It’s a great way to teach your kids about gardening/urban farming, something I am passionate about and something I think is very important for this next generation.  I firmly believe that, as a society, we need to get back to our roots.  We need to get our hands dirty.  We need to start raising “good” crops and not that GMO crap you find in stores.  We need to come together as a community and help each other, barter with each other, and share with each other.

So that’s why I created this coloring book.

It’s available on Amazon, and of course I’ll be selling it around the area at farmers markets and selected stores.

That’s all I’ve got for you today.  If you have a child, or a grandchild, or nieces or nephews, this is a fun activity that will also teach them something, and how cool is that?

Thank you!

Bill

Lacto-Fermenting Chicken Feed

Too busy for words!

That pretty much sums up life on our urban farm.

We have 43 chicks that need to go outside.  The only problem is it is still too cold to send them out to the aviary.  I’d like the temp to rise above 50 degrees for a few days, but so far Mother Nature is not cooperating.

Sigh!

Meanwhile, it’s getting crowded in the garage, because the 120 quail need the enclosure currently being used by the chickens.

Sigh!

It will all work out, but for now we have some unhappy birds.

I know how they feel.

And the garage stinks!

DO YOU HAVE CHICKENS?

If so, here’s an idea I ran across for fermenting their feed.

Lacto-fermenting feed has been used for literally thousands of years, but surprisingly few people in the United States do it.

Lactic acid bacteria, like the probiotics you find in Greek yogurt, are great for making chicken feed easier to digest, more nutritious, and it also helps to stretch your feed dollar a bit further.  Here’s how you make the stuff:

  • Measure out the amount your chickens will eat in one day. For adults this is about a ¼ of a pound of feed, per chicken.
  • Pour non-chlorinated water over the feed and mix thoroughly. You’ll want two or three parts water for one part feed when mixing.  You can do this in a big bucket.
  • Let that mixture sit for three days. By Day 3 you should see bacteria reproducing, giving off gasses, and you’ll see bubbles forming on the top.
  • Each day after Day 3 you will mix a new batch…on Day 3, pour the excess liquid on top of measured new feed; this will be the starter culture.
  • Feed the mash to your chickens daily in an open container.

And that’s all there is to it!

Trust me, it works.  Our chickens are very pleased with their new gourmet meal.

ANOTHER THING ABOUT CHICKENS

It’s about time for you to prepare the garden outside, right?

Why not let your chickens do the work for you?

Try this:

  • get a rototiller and turn over the area you plan on planting.
  • Turn your chickens loose on that area. You can cover the area with a homemade chicken tractor and put the chickens inside to ensure they will work the area you have planned.
  • Leave them there for a couple of days and watch the magic happen.
  • Remove the chickens and rototill one more time.

I guarantee your soil will be magnificent when the process is completed.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION

I finally published my Urban Farm Coloring Book. You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

THAT’S ALL I’VE GOT FOR YOU THIS WEEK

If you don’t have chickens, give some thought to getting some. They really are great birds to have in an urban environment, and those fresh eggs are to die for.

Just don’t start out with 43 of them in the garage during a prolonged rainy period.

And don’t get me started talking about Bev and her new job as the Farmers Market Manager…craziness!

Bill

Life is Popping Out All Over

chickens-41713-006My goodness it’s loud in this garage!

Forty-three healthy, hungry, active chicks tend to make a considerable amount of noise.

The sounds of life . . . I love it!

Add to that sound the sound of 150 quail chicks.

Let me tell ya, it’s noisy as hell in here.

And the worms . . . let me tell you about the worms!

WORM TEA

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just need to do it again because, quite frankly, I don’t know why any gardener would bypass this opportunity.

I just made my first batch of worm tea yesterday.  The whole process consisted of emptying out the bottom of the tote into a jar. Total elapsed time, five minutes.  I now have a quart of the best natural fertilizer known to man . . . maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much.

The point is, I don’t do any work with these worms.  I toss in vegetable scraps after our meals, water the whole colony a couple times each week, and then sit back and let the little squigglies do their thing.

And they have already doubled, so I have enough to start selling, or I can simply start a new colony and gather up more worm tea and worm castings.

It’s all good, and the whole process takes up the space of a plastic tote.

THANKS TO A FRIEND

A friend of ours, Ian, came over and gave us some tips on pruning our berries, grapes, and fruit trees.  Ian works with Bev down at the farm & garden center, and the guy is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about gardening.  Anyway, he helped us out, we followed his suggestions, and now we are ready for a new growing season. Thanks, Ian!

It’s nice to have friends in high places!

UPDATE . . . three new quail babies while I wrote this much…they are a day early…such is nature!town_843

RABBIT TEA

I was feeling energetic yesterday so I also made up a batch of rabbit tea.  A couple shovels of rabbit poop in a bucket…add water…allow to steep overnight…five gallons of liquid fertilizer is the result.

NEWS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION

Evidently severe weather in Italy, Spain, and Greece has done damage to the olive crop, and that means that prices will skyrocket for olive oil about six months down the road.

I mention that only because, if you are like me and you believe in global warming, I think we are going to see quite a few stories like this one, and we will see quite a few more prices skyrocket among vegetables and fruits.

Which is one more reason to get involved with urban farming and big-time gardening.

SEATTLE

I mentioned this on Facebook but it’s worth mentioning here a well.  The city of Seattle is about to become the first major city in the United States with an edible forest in the downtown area.  Citizens will be able to walk along trails and eat nuts, berries, and fruit from the trees and bushes.

I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think this is a wonderful idea and I just wish more cities would get onboard and do something like that…it not only helps the homeless but it also moves a city that much closer to sustainability, and sustainability is something every community should be striving for.

Honestly, I don’t have much faith in the Federal Government.  I think if we’re waiting for the boys and girls in D.C. to take care of our needs, we are in a world of hurt.  What we need is more community involvement, and programs like this edible forest are the kinds of things that any town or city can do.  It just takes a devoted advocate willing to get the ball rolling.

Perhaps you are such an advocate?

AND SPEAKING OF BEING AN ADVOCATE

town_912Does your town have a farmers market? How about a community garden?  If not, how about you taking the reins of that horse and going for a ride?  Most times, things like a farmers market or a community garden don’t exist simply because someone hasn’t taken the time to get them started.  Are you an organizer?  Are you a coordinator?  Can you take a bunch of diverse people and bring them together for a common goal?  If so, what’s holding you back?  I’m full of ideas and suggestions if you are interested in starting either of these projects.

HOW’S YOUR SOIL?

That’s not too personal a question, is it?

If you haven’t amended your soil yet then you really need to get out there and do so. Good soil means good crops.  Bad soil means meals at McDonalds.  The truth according to Bill.random backyard pics 002

Compost . . . mulch . . . rabbit poop . . . that’s all you need.

Get busy!

GOTTA GO, MORE BABIES POPPING OUT

Sorry to cut this short but babies could care less about blogging.

I’ve got work to do!

And I didn’t even mention the Urban Farming coloring book I’m almost finished with.  Wouldn’t it be amusing and rather ironic if the coloring book far outsold my five novels?

Bill

Raising Mealworms for Hungry Chicks

chickens-41713-006GREETINGS FROM SNOWBOUND OLYMPIA

We don’t get snow often here in Olympia. We may be pretty far north on the globe, but the Pacific Ocean keeps our temperatures pretty moderate, so six inches of the white stuff is pretty unusual.

But life continues on an urban farm, snow or no snow, and there is a whole new set of problems associated with the snow on an urban farm.

Three times last night I went out and brushed the snow off the top of the aviaries where the quail are living.  It was either do that or suffer the consequences of a collapsed roof.

I also had to go out and make sure the water didn’t freeze up, and I shoveled a path for the chickens so they had a little pecking area outside their coop.  I don’t think the animals care, one way or another, whether it snows.  All they care about is having water and food, and that is my job.chickens-41713-014

WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?

Forty-three chicks are now chirping up a storm in the garage.  Not one died in the first three days, so we did something right.

Three incubators are running properly, so the 160 quail eggs are progressing nicely.  In five days I’ll remove the eggs from the automatic egg-turner, and three days after that we’ll have a whole bunch of quail chicks.

The chickens will move outdoors in a month . . . the quail in two months.

And then it will be time for the farmers’ markets.

And so it goes!

MEALWORMS

If you raise chickens you really need to raise mealworms.  Mealworms are like caviar for chickens, and raising them couldn’t be easier.

Get yourself a plastic tote with a lid.  A ten-gallon tote is good enough to start with.  Cut a decent-sized hole in the lid and glue a fine screen over the hole for air-circulation.

Now put about three inches of wheat bran in the bottom of the tote.  You can use oatmeal, or cornmeal, or sawdust in the bottom instead, but I’m a big believer in wheat bran since the natural food of mealworms is wheat.

Next, buy 1,000 mealworms (you can find them on ebay or Craigslist) and dump them in the tote.  Slice off two or three slices of potato and put that in the tote for moisture.

And that’s all there is to it!

The mealworms will breed, and eventually larva will appear, then beetles, and then the cycle starts again, and your 1,000 becomes 2,000 in about a month, and on and on you go, a constant supply of treats for your chickens.

We keep our mealworms in the garage.  They don’t like cold temps, so a temperature of 60 degrees or higher is ideal…the warmer it is, the faster they will breed.  And don’t worry about the beetles escaping. They can’t climb up those smooth plastic sides . . . chickens also love eating beetles, by the way.

You can go to Youtube, of course, and you’ll find an endless supply of videos on how to raise mealworms, some different from my way, but my way works for me so there you go!

SO THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

It’s a busy time and I need to get moving.  Spring is coming!  I promise, it really is, so now is the time to prepare your garden tools and get them ready for the work ahead.  If you want to get a jumpstart on the growing season, build yourself a cloche or cold box and start planting seeds.

The chickens are calling me for their food. Gotta run!

Later, my friends!

Bill

Kicking It In Gear in February

HAPPY FEBRUARY TO YOU ALL

Totally illogical, but when February gets here, I feel like spring has arrived.

So I’m smiling as I type this.

Happy Spring to you all!

A little self-deception can do wonders for the winter blues.  LOL

BUSY TIMES HERE

Bev got the job she wanted, Director of the Tumwater Farmers Market.  This is a great job for her, right in her wheelhouse, doing something she loves doing, making contacts in the urban farming community, and spreading the word about the advantages of urban farming.  She is seriously pumped, and I am seriously happy for her.  Of course I’ll be helping her, doing the blogging for her, helping her with pamphlets and brochures, spreading the word about this movement we both believe in.

So congratulations, Bev!

CHICKS TO PULLETS

We struck up a deal with the Eastside Urban Farm & Garden Center here in Olympia.  We are buying forty chicks (at $3 each) and raising them until they are pullets (about four months old), and then we will sell them to customers for about $25 each.  That adds up to a tidy little profit.

I built a brooder in the garage where we will raise the chicks for the first month. After that we’ll move them out into one of the aviaries in the backyard for a month, and then out to our son’s farm for the final two months until we sell them.

RAISING MEALWORMS

Having all those chickens means feeding them, of course, and I’m all for cutting down on that expense, so I’m raising mealworms.  Very easy to do, for those of you willing to try something new.  Get yourself a ten-gallon plastic container and fill the bottom with three inches of wheat bran.  Order 1000 mealworms and put them into the container.  Add a couple potato slices for moisture, and then leave them alone.

Make sure you cut a hole in the lid of the container for fresh air, and cover that hole with some sort of mesh or screen.  It takes about a month for the mealworms to breed, lay eggs, go through the larva stage, and give birth to new mealworms.  Then they turn into beetles.  You then have a constant supply of mealworms and beetles for your chickens to eat.

It’s so easy even I can do it.

PRUNING

Bev was energetic a couple weeks ago, and went outside and did some pruning/trimming. She then put the pruned limbs on our brush pile in the backyard.

Yes, we have a brush pile in our backyard, and we have no intention of hauling it away to the dump.

Brush piles make great habitats for little critters and birds, and we are all about providing natural habitats for the critters and birds.  As an added bonus, our chickens like to hang out near the pile, where they are constantly treated to worms and bugs.

It’s a win-win situation for all concerned, except, of course, for the worms and bugs. J

TIME TO GET BACK TO WORK

Have a great week and enjoy the springtime in February!

Bill

The Chickens Are Coming!

It’s January 16th as I write this.  8:54 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (a little slow getting this posted)

I’ve already been outside getting fresh water to the critters and feeding them.  The current cold snap is coming to an end today.  Major rains are arriving tomorrow and already they are talking about potential flooding problems in the lowlands.

And life goes on!

All I know is THE CHICKENS ARE COMING! roosters-6313-001

Baby chicks go on sale February 3rd where Bev works at the Urban Farm & Garden Center, and we’re buying forty of them….then we’ll raise them for a couple months and sell them, hopefully, for a decent profit. Forty of them…in our garage…preparations must be made.

But you don’t really care about that, especially if you’ve never raised chickens.

But maybe you’re interested in raising them for the first time…what do you need to know in order for you to have fresh eggs for breakfast?

HOW LONG TO LAY

A chicken, on average, will start laying eggs at about six months.  I said on average. We have one who took eight months.  We have an over-achiever who started plopping them out at five months…but plan on six.

That means the chicks we get on February 3rd will start laying maybe in August.  We’ll probably sell them around June but still, if we wanted eggs, we’d be waiting until August.

WHAT WILL THEY NEED?

Well, they’ll need a brooder for a couple months. For us that means an enclosed area inside with a heat lamp where the chicks can grow up safe and warm.  Come about March we’ll put them outside in an enclosed place that has a well-ventilated and protected coop of some sort. There they will be able to search for bugs and enjoy a larger living space.

WHAT DO WE FEED THEM?

Well, we feed them organic pellets when they are older and when they are young we feed them organic pellets ground down into almost a powder.  Chickens also love worms, which I’m raising, and grubs, and once they get outside they love to search for their own delicacies.  When they get old enough we’ll turn them loose in the yard so they have more food choices and, no worries, at night they will return to their protected home.  Chickens are a lot smarter than you would think, or maybe they are just instinctual and I’m giving them way too much credit.  LOL

AND THAT’S REALLY ALL THERE IS TO IT

I’ve written articles before about how to build a coop, so no need to go into that now.  This is just a primer for those curious…and no, you do not need a rooster to get eggs.  Females lay eggs just like female women do, daily, with or without the aid of a male. J

MEALWORMS

Speaking of chickens, our mealworms are coming this Friday.  One-thousand of them.  I need to make their enclosure as well so we can start raising them. Great food for chickens, by the way.

QUAIL

The quail eggs are arriving next week as well.  I need to get the incubators ready for them….17 days to hatch…seven weeks after that they start laying eggs.

Busy times here!

GOTTA GO

It’s a busy time around here so that’s all I’ve got for you today.  If you have any specific questions about raising chickens, or quail, ask me in the comment section.

Have a great winter day!

Bill