Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Successful Chicken Integration

I have been reading up a lot on integrating younger chickens with older chickens as well as just integrating new chickens into your flock.

As you know we had a broody hen that hatched out one chick. It has been so fun watching her carry her chick around on her back, teach her chick how to dust bath and scratch for food, etc. I had them in a smaller (6ft by 3 ft) brooding coop and started to let them out periodically when I let the other chickens out of their run (only when I am home). I wish I could truly have my chickens be completely free range but they would be picked off before my eyes. Hopefully one day I can get a few guardian dogs and see how that works. But for now they will have to do with two coops attached to a 24ftX8ft run and free time when I'm home.  It's amazing how fast they mow that grass down in their run though!

I don't know exact dates but roughly I would say I left the mumma and her chick in the brooding coop about a week before I moved them at all. Then I would put them into the coop with the caged sides that is attached to the run (see Pimp My Coop) instead of the enclosed one and block off the entrance so none of the other chickens could get in with them. Usually the other chickens would be out of their run at this point but I found they would go up to the sides of the coop very interested in the young chick and mumma. The mumma chicken has always been very protective and has no hesitation attacking to protect her chick, even with her sisters we originally bought her with.

After doing that for a few days I would let the chickens out of their run and then let mumma and baby chick have free run of the chicken run and coops but shut the door so nobody could get in with them. This way they would interact through the wire all the way around the chicken run (see Chicken Run Build).

Then after doing that for a few days I just started letting everybody out together. Mumma chicken had to tell a few of the adolescent roosters just who really was boss but other then that they all seemed to peck around the farm in harmony. At around 2.5 weeks I saw the mumma chicken trying to coax her baby up the stairs into the coop but he (I think its a he, great another rooster!) just couldn't make it. He would get half way up and fall down, then she would go try and get him again only to watch him fall. She then went down let him jump on her back and tried to carry him up a few times but he just kept falling off. So I picked them up and took them back to their own coop.

The next day I did the same routine all over again and she was able to get him up into the coop that she shares with the other two gold laced Wyandotte girls so I let them spend the night in there and then went out in the morning and blocked the entrance into that coop (making sure the other two Wyandotte girls were out in the run). I was just a bit nervous about them spending the day all in the run together. The next day I just took my chances and left everybody in the run together and I haven't had one problem. I have now successfully integrated our baby chick into the flock in less then 3 weeks!

My advice for integration is to take baby steps. Don't force them all to face each other, that's only asking to have conflict. I'm sure it's harder when you incubate chicks because they don't have their mums to protect them. If you have a mother chicken that is broody you could try getting her to take to the chicks first and then start introducing them to the flock slowly, making sure there is lots of room for them to get away from any bullies. If you have a bunch of small chicks with no mother at all my suggestion would be to put them in a small cage within your chicken run or coop to have them introduced but with a barrier to keep the babies protected. Usually "they" tell you not to integrate until 6 weeks but I didn't have any problem doing it in half the time. 

Happy to be part of the flock!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Pasture Pigs

                        I have been trying to make the push to have my pigs solely on pasture but it is proving to be more difficult then I thought. Now that we have the spent grain coming in once in awhile we do now only feed them that about every other day (sometimes everyday though if the grain isn't going to keep) as well as scraps and apples off of our many trees. Still, when I researched into Berkshire and Large Black pigs one of my main drives for the breed was foraging and grazing ability. It could be that I got the pigs at an older age (8 months and one year) so they weren't use to having an area to graze.
                             When we first decided to try and force them to eat more pasture and rely on us less we decided to give them feed every second day, but two weeks in a row on the second day they found a way to escape our paddocks. They have about 6 acres so it's not lack of area. This is when my fiancĂ©e put a stop to not feeding them more frequently as he didn't want to be worrying about them getting out. Since then we have upgraded our fencing to electric wire on all fencing but we still feeding them more grain then I would like to. I do wonder, do the escapes and the frequency of feeding coincide? I'm not sure. From research I have done 6 pigs should be able to more then sustain themselves on 6 acres of pasture but they seem to get so hungry. This could also be my lack of knowledge thinking that they need food when really if I just left them they would go out and graze on their own.
                        We fed them the last of our spent grain on Thursday and left them over the weekend. I was anxious to get home to make sure everybody was okay and all seems well. I think we are on the right path. I have heard other people talk of getting a goat or a sheep to teach the pigs how to graze. I do see them grazing all the time so I don't think it's that I think they just have to not rely on us as much. So the game continues, but now I think I might be winning!

On our walk down to the watering hole

I really really hope that Mumma is pregnant. Her due date is around middle of august. If she isn't I am back into my dilemna of not really wanting a boar but not wanting my girls to have to be transferred all over the place for a breeding which is stressful on all of us. Keep your fingers crossed for piglets!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

5 Paddles Brewery - Spent Grains and Pigs

As every pig farmer, or any farmer for that matter could probably agree. One of the biggest expenses and deterrent from owning livestock is how much the feed costs! It seems to creep up and up every year. Which is a coincidence since I seem to see more and more cash crops each year, but that's another post and story all together.

I have ended up being able to get in contact with a brewery in Whitby called the 5 Paddles (http://5paddlesbrewing.com/) They just opened on June 21st and are doing wonderful. Sold out all the time! The way I came in contact with them was through a company called The Malt Exchange; http://www.themaltexchange.com/ Signe is a wonderful person just trying to help farmers and breweries get in contact with each other. The brewers have to get rid of the spent grains and the farmers need to feed their animals, win win!

We picked up our first batch of spent grains last Monday. I was wondering if the pigs would like it as it does have a noticeable smell to it but sure enough they gobble it right up. They do say pigs will eat anything though! The only things I have found that they won't eat are lime peels, uncooked potatoes and uncooked asparagus. Although it is a GREAT possibility they are just spoiled snobby pigs! Back to the grains, through the research I have tried to do on spent grains I have found out that it has less starch and less sugar as that is extracted out of it but still a great amount of protein. Although, if my pigs didn't have access to 6 acres of pasture to supplement their diet I am unsure if I would be willing to feed them solely spent grain. I guess I would have to see how they did on it.

Thank god for my helpers!!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Broody Hen Dead - HELP!

When I got home tonight I went to check on my broody hen that I thought was getting close to hatching time. Only to find her dead about a foot from the nest with the coop all a mess. Steve and I have been racking our brains about what could have happened to come up with hardly anything. She seems healthy when I checked on her this morning. Also she had a bit of it seemed green goop on her stomach where her feathers had been pulled out to help her with keeping her eggs warm. Also unfortunately I was never sure if the eggs were live cause I saw her out into the run with the other chickens a couple times when I came home - which I then quickly locked her in her coop by herself (with food and water). So naturally I started to crack the eggs, to find 3 or the 6 I cracked alive and breathing. Steve then smartly told me to not crack the rest of the eggs and put them under the girls that had just gone up to their nest for the night.

So, any ideas guys....She had food, water, good ventilation, seemed good in the morning. The coop is completely secure and the eggs were undisturbed so something getting into the coop is unlikely. Also I have no broody hens, we are just hoping the other girls stay on them overnight. Would hooking up a heat lamp work, the eggs are basically completely formed at this point, feathers, beaks, the whole nine yards.


Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Gardening Lifestyle

I have to first start off with apologizing for my lengthy absence. As usual the summer can take hold of you in many ways. June rolls along and you realize you haven't quite got your garden organized to be able to fit everything in, then all of a sudden the rabbits descend and you have no choice but to spend hours rabbits proofing your garden. Within a day I lost all my sugar snap peas, 34 sunflowers, 20 corn stalks, countless rows of beets and carrots and much more. Needless to say, each bed has now been fenced off. My garden doesn't exactly look as pretty as I had envisioned in my mind but I have been quick to learn that sometimes you need to just get stuff done and tidy it up later.
When you come home to 3 pleasantly plump bunnies fast asleep in the middle of your garden you stop thinking about how to make it look pretty. You also stop thinking about how cute bunnies are!

As for the remaining survivors we can chat about how things have been doing so far this year. I think for the most part I am not doing terrible as my first time tending to a vegetable garden but I definitely know I have a phobia about thinning out. I just find it so hard to decide which ones to discard! Each packet says like 60cm row widths, well I find that near impossible to do. I'm sure I will find out soon enough that it is necessary and be cursing but you live you learn.

Radishes - WOW! These guys were spicy, but I loved them. I could just sit and eat them from the garden all day. These are definitely the type of plants that do need a bit more thinning out then what I was ready for. A few got squished and never developed. Another mistake I made was, I did a row early and a row a bit later but since I had so many radishes I harvested the second row a bit too late and they were all......woody? I think that's the best description. Almost dried out a bit.

Lettuce - has been going amazing. Since I have a few rows of romaine lettuce I thinned out one to the packet specifics and am just letting the other one run wild a bit, just to see the difference. To make myself feel better I made a salad with what would have been the thinned out bunches.

Onions - I can't believe how well my onions are doing. I planted, multiplier onions, red onions and white onions. An odd observance, the rabbits only came and ate my red onions???

                                           The peonies may be encroaching on the garden!

Peas - peas have been doing great, only the sugar snap peas got eaten not the regular snap peas. Unsure if there is a difference here? They are also starting to flower now.

                       I have since had to add more lattice on the side, they wont stop growing!

Carrots - All of the carrot crops got taken out by the rabbits. I have a few stragglers I am giving the time to try and come back but it's not looking good. I planted a new row last week but I am afraid I may be a bit to late in the season.

Sunflowers - Same story here. 34 of the 36 got taken by the rabbits. I have re planted a bunch but who knows when they would bloom now.

Beets - I have planted some more after the rabbits took most of them out. Although I have left a few sad looking ones to try and come back.

Bell Peppers - This is one of my crops that I was not able to start from seed (they just never came up) so I went and bought two plants and was able to divide them into another two so I have four. They flowered a couple weeks back and now have nice small little peppers starting on them. I don't have this bed fenced as they rabbits don't seem too interested.

Celery - I started the celery inside and they looked really good. To be honest maybe it's just cause I see them everyday but they don't seem to be doing much outside. They almost seem the same size as a month ago.

Beans - I planted yellow and purple beans, the rabbits got to them too but I re-planted right away so I think I will be fine. The yellow came up much nice then the purple.

Tomatoes - The tomatoes are doing wonderful and it gives me great joy to say this cause I started them inside by myself! I will say I am definitely getting a lesson on sun vs shade and the impact it has on plants. The tomato plants that get the most sun are doing much better then the ones dealing with lengthy shade. My cherry tomatoes are getting their first little tomatoes on them, so exciting!

The straw around my garden beds has really helped with weed control. Although it doesn't even discourage the crazy bamboo type stuff that is literally taking over my entire property.

I planted some giant beets yesterday, you really shouldn't plant them so late. I can't believe it is July already. Next year I think I need to be stricter on myself and spend an entire weekend planting instead of doing it in spurts.