While it’s still cool and very wet, spring has officially begun here at Tikkun Homestead because we have begun our pasture rotation. Couldn’t be more thrilled about the season beginning!
The sheep have moved out to grass and the two goats have joined them, the hens have moved out of the hen house and into their two tractors for their journeys to the pastures to meet up with the cows once they move out of their winter quarters and onto fresh grass in a day or two.
Next on the agenda is tackling the weeds that are popping up in the garden. Maybe today!
We have decided that we would like to start a Buyers Club for the meats that we raise. We will start out focusing on our pasture raised broiler chickens and turkeys this coming season. If this arrangement works well for everyone we will expand to include our lamb and beef.
We think that this Buyers Club will benefit your family as well as our farm. How is that?
We want to offer our pasture raised poultry at a discounted price to those who will pre-order their chicken and turkey before the start of the 2018 growing season and secure their order with a non-refundable deposit. The deposit will be applied to the final purchase price. Whether you want only a few chickens and a turkey, or you want to stock up your freezer to feed the family throughout the year our Buyers Club benefits you by letting you plan ahead, work with your budget, and pay throughout the season. This is your opportunity to get high quality, clean, and nutritious meat at a lower price than if you waited to place your order when the birds are processed.
A Buyers Club helps us so that we can appropriately plan how many birds to raise in the coming year and to anticipate pasture rotation for the cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry throughout the year. And as part of the Buyers Club you gain a special sense of participation in the restoration that is taking place here on our small family farm – you can feel confident that you are participating in the restoration of our local ecosystem, cleaning up our area ground water, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, and providing clean and healthy meats to our local community. We love raising healthy animals and we appreciate the idea that our animals have a job here on the farm with our holistic restoration agriculture practices, as well as a calling to nourish your family when they leave their home.
If you are interested in the details about our new Buyers Club, please contact us right away and we’ll get you the details.
Yesterday I met with a woman who buys eggs from us regularly. We hadn’t been able to connect for a few weeks and she began to tell me about how much she enjoys our eggs. She told me that she had purchased free range organic eggs from Costco as well as eggs from another friend who has backyard chickens. She said, “It must be that they’re pastured, because your eggs just taste so much better. I really like your eggs best.”
Some of the chickens in the fall/winter sheep pasture
I attributed their fantastic flavor with being outside and “grazing” through the yard, the garden, and nearby pastures but I also attributed their fantastic flavor to The Red Bridge Farms feed that we use as well. This feed is wonderful and has a lot of the additional ingredients that are valuable to me as the caretaker of these animals and this land when it comes to “nutrient cycling” – allowing the chickens to spread the nutrients around the property as they search for the bugs even in this cold and wet season.
I was very pleased to hear that our eggs are so much more pleasantly flavorful and I fully agree that it is due to their being pastured and the top notch feed they get.
When our second batch of broiler chicks arrived last week, we added two hanging feather dusters. The idea here was to provide a pseudo-mamma for the little ones and to see if their stress level and health would be any different from the first batch.
As you can see in the photo and the video, there are two dusters and the majority of the chicks prefer to hang out between the two while some like to nap under them.
When I go into the brooder house to feed and check on the chicks I notice that this batch gets less stressed than the first batch did. The first batch would startle more easily and seem to run around looking for a safe place to hide when I would reach in and remove and replace their feeder and waterer. This batch will scurry toward the dusters and quietly wait for me to finish my adjustments before scurrying over to check out what I’ve given them.
So it appears that the presence of even a pseudo-mamma brings a greater measure of peace for the chicks and I’m glad to see this. I’m curious to see if they grow any better than the first batch has, but the first batch has been very healthy and has grown nicely already.
An old idea in our home is the concept of leaving the grazing animals in their paddock long enough to “force them to eat it all” before moving on. This is one concept that came from the big ranches up north where my husband spent his early 20’s working as a ranch hand. Before going overseas, and when we had more cows than we do now, when I was busy with the children and not as involved in the livestock side of things as I am now, this was a statement that was often heard.
However, we’ve restructured our small farm and I’m the primary “farmer” while the hubby works long days with an intense commute! Even before I became the sole farmer in the family, we had moved away from the “make them eat it all” concept.
As you can see, they have left a nice amount of foliage behind and this is okay! We are building soil and harvesting the grass via our grazing livestock who recycle the grass back into the soil. Our perspective has changed over the years and we are excited to see how our land and our animals will respond to our evolving concepts.
The same concepts at work with the poultry, though in this location the grass is so tall that the birds simply cannot graze it. Their tractors sailing through this sea of reeds is pressing the grass down and compacting it with the top dressing of manure.
They are almost at the grassy nole where the juvenile hens will be able to explore outside of their tractor for the first time. The water trough for the cows are just across the fence from this little nole and the older hens will do their work with the manure left in the alley way. While they reside on this little nole they will add their manure to the straw strewn about as a cover over the sparse grass that is growing in the sandy soil here. This will not be their permanent home for the grazing season, just for a little while as they help build some soil in this location and move on to another spot.
Boy, spring gets busy! This is our regular weekly update but it spans two weeks. In the past two weeks we’ve planted the garden, moved the greenhouse from the house down to the garden (with a nice foundation and a crushed gravel floor!), the cows have come down from their winter pasture and we’ve added a new cow and a bull to the small herd, and we got the big yards mowed (for our area and this wet spring, this is a big deal!). I hope to write brief updates on each of the flocks/herds below but I also have one or two other entries planned. Let’s see if I can pull all of this off!
Last Monday the Broilers moved outside at 4 weeks old. I’m grateful for the delay in posting because it causes me to LOOK at how they’ve grown in the past 8 days – quite a bit!
The video was taken the day they moved out of the brooding house and into their tractor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXw49_LpJU Continue reading
Maybe you’ve seen some of those photos or videos of a pasture after a group of heavy grazers has moved through and maybe you, like me, cringe a little. This update discusses the apparent “devastation” from heavy grazing & manure deposits followed by day ranging poultry – and a bit of reassurance that it’s really okay. Everything recovers!
Today is a big day for our Pastured Poultry Layers. Well, it is for me anyway.
Today Chicken Tractor #1 met up with Tractor #2 and from now on, they will travel the pastures together. Phew! There were some long moves for the older girls every day, and they protested a little at first. But after the video was complete they followed me from the barn to their new home and began happily scratching in the pasture.
The sheep & goats passed through this field 4 days ago now and while it’s been chilly and wet, there *are* some bugs beginning to thrive in the pastures so the girls will be well nourished – fat and happy.
I did not have time to make a weekly update video on Sunday, so I’ll write a weekly update here with photos instead and a few short videos. It was a busy week with new lambs and fresh pasture, capped off with new chicks!
We are up to 13 lambs out of 5 ewes, and everyone is doing quite well. So far this year we have been tremendously blessed with multiples. Continue reading
This is our first year with pastured poultry and I’m hoping to document our progress, success, and failures for the education and assistance of the masses. Personally I do not like to eat chicken. I’ve cleaned enough birds that “foul” describes not only a type of bird and a smell, but a flavor that isn’t all that attractive to me anymore. However, my pastures have needs and my chickens also have needs, so it seems appropriate to marry the two. I read in The Stockman Grass Farmer journal a bit ago that anyone raising beef and not following them with pastured poultry of some type is “leaving money on the table” by way of reduced grass growth potential. That was one of my final pushes to get me seriously thinking about pastured poultry.
In future videos you’ll see how our pastures are looking and the projects we’re working on as we press toward a restoration of the soil biology and diversity of life above and within the soil. But for now I’m going to show you the tractor my talented husband built and introduce you to the beginning of our pastured poultry journey. Continue reading