Well our chickens are about 7 months old now and we are currently getting five eggs a day (one per hen).  Beautiful, tasty, brown eggs.  I'll post a picture of a carton full shortly.  The portable 'Chicken Tractor' coop is working well for the birds.  They're happy as long as we move them once a day, onto a fresh patch of grass.  There are a couple of issues with the chicken tractor though. I forgot that chickens love to take 'dirt baths'.  When the portable coop is over a nice patch of grass with no exposed dsand or dirt, the chickens will scratch a hole down to the dirt to lay in.  I ended up with little football sized holes all over the back yard.  Also I'm kind of tired of moving the chicken tractor every day.  Anyway, I'm halfway done with an 8ft x 16ft coop that will be there permanent home.  I'll use the little portable coop to introduce new hens into the flock.  We have three new Araucana chicks (about 3 weeks old) who will move into the portable coop in about 2 weeks.  More pictures coming soon.

We have chickens at the new Yardstead!!  We have 4 Golden Comet hens.  I went home to visit my dad and he insisted a take a few chickens from his new flock of baby chicks.  The baby chicks were about  2 weeks old at the time.  I brought four baby chicks home with me without telling Mary, and without any supplies.  I wasn't sure how she would react but she was delighted.  After a quick trip to a farm supply, and about $20 later, we had a waterer, a feeder, and some chick starter feed.  We kept them in a box for a few days, while I built them a small portable chicken coop.  I have several pictures of the chickens and the preperations for the care of the chickens and the chicken coop, which is based on the "Chicken Tractor" principle and is portable.  Check back soon or click the little bird and Follow us on Twitter for live updates.

02.12.2008

Raising Turkeys

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 We have been raising turkeys here at the Yardstead since about the middle of May.  They are just over 6 months old now and fully grown.  We got them as 3 day old poults and raised them in with our chickens.  This is the first time we have kept turkeys and it's been really easy and a lot of fun.
We bought three baby turkeys called poults from our local feed store.  We kept them inside in a box for a couple of weeks.  The poults looked very similar to baby chickens but were slightly larger.  After a couple of weeks we moved the poults out to our chicken pen and put them in a small holding pen to protect them from the hens.   Turkey do well on chicken feed and we fed the baby turkeys layer crumbles. 
We have been raising chickens for years and the baby chicks always did a fair job of looking out for their selves.  Our baby chicks have a small shelter they instinctively use when the weather is bad.  We expected that the turkeys would do the same.  One night after the poults had been living outside for a couple of weeks, we had a hard rain.  It stopped raining a little after dark and I went outside to the chicken pen to check on the birds.  I shined the light on the holding pen and all three turkey were laying on the ground soaking wet.  I rushed them inside and Kathleen.....

 One of the simplest ways to supply some of your own groceries is keeping hens. Chickens are one of the most widespread and commonly kept domesticated animals. Hens can produce fresh eggs daily that are superior to store bought eggs in many ways. Fresh yard eggs have a better taste and higher nutritional value than most mass produced eggs. Chickens which are confined in huge prodution facilities frequently live out their entire lives in cages where they can barely move. It is common for hens in production facilities to be enclosed in cages 24 inches wide by 20 inches deep and 16 inches tall, with 8 or more hens in each cage. Their movement is severely restricted and the birds are unable to spread their wings or move about the cage without climbing over the other birds. The birds are also fed a highly controlled diet which lacks nutrients that free range chickens get from bugs and vegetation.
Raising your own hens is really easy and many people find the birds to be quite entertaining. It is believed that chickens .....

This is the first of a series of articles I plan to write about building a chicken coop.  I need to build a new chicken coop here at the yardstead, so I have a bit of research to do anyway.  We currently have an open coop with 3 walls and the roof enclosed, but open in the front.  I built it from scrap lumber and leftover pieces of metal roofing, in compliance with our Reuse/Recycle policy here at the yardstead.  It has worked just fine to shelter our chickens for the last 5 or 6 years .  The open coop sits at one end  of the chicken yard which is enclosed with poultry netting(which most people around the yardstead call 'chicken wire').  It has 4 built in nesting boxes and a hanging feeder.  I plan to move it and retrofit it for our ducks to use as a nesting shelter.
One of the first things you will need to know when planning to build a chicken coop is how many chickens you plan to house.  Here at the yardstead we plan to keep about a dozen laying hens.  We have Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Silver laced Wyandottes, which are all heavy breeds.  According to The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, heavy breeds require ........

 Raising ducks at the yardstead is a very new venture. We've only had our ducklings for one week now. But, I've spent the last six months reading about ducks. We have talked about having a few at the yardstead for quite some time now. In writing about the experience of having ducks for the first time, I thought I should include some background information on duck production and on brooding baby ducklings too.
 

Each year about 22 million ducks are raised in the United States. These ducks are usually produced under confinement on specialized duck farms in a few commercial duck production areas of the U.S for meat production. There are still a lot of small farms and a few hobby owners that raise ducks for family use or to sell locally. With ducks it seems there is no such thing as either a meat bird or a laying bird...as there is with chickens. The commercial duck industry produces mostly the Pekin breed. Pekins reach market weight early and are fairly good egg producers, but they are poor setters and seldom raise a brood.

04.04.2008

The Chicks in the Mail

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 Our new baby chicks have arrived! We ordered 100 baby chicks from Privett Hatchery in New Mexico. They were shipped on a Monday and arrived the following Wednesday. Our order arrived in two days and all 100 were alive and chirping when I opened the box. We are not keeping all 100, we split the order with a couple friends in order to meet the minimum order requirements.
The minimum order for chickens from Privett is 25 which fills one corner of the shipping box seen here. With 25 baby chicks packed into the corner they generate enough heat to keep each other warm during shipping. When we checked around for someone to split the order with, three other families wanted to order, so we ended up with a full box of 100 baby chicks. I could hear the chicks chirping in the background when the post office called to tell me.....

 The eggs shown here are all from free-range chickens here at the Yardstead.  You can see they are all different colors including green, blue, pink, beige, brown and white.  They vary in size a bit as well.  They all look the same on the inside though, and taste the same, which is far better than mass produced eggs from large poultry farms.  They have more flavor and many studies have shown they are more nutritious. 
The first thing most people notice when they crack open one of our fresh chicken eggs is the thickness of the shells.  Because these chickens eat a more varied diet than "sweat shop" chickens, they get more nutrients such as calcium (good for shells) in their diet.  The fresh egg yolks also look different.   They are more orange than yellow and appear thicker. 
I was going to crack a store bought egg and one of our's side by side on a plate to illlustrate the difference, but I couldn't bring myself to buy eggs at the store.   It is interesting  to see them together.  I will post a picture for comparison later in the forum.  I'll just borrow a store bought egg from a neighbor.  
One of our goals here at the Yardstead is to produce as much of our own food as possible.  By growing our own groceries we have much more control over what we put into our bodies.  We feed our chickens mostly garden waste, grass clippings, food scraps and occasionally scratch feed to supplement when things are slow in the garden.