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

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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