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