Feather Dusters For Little Chicks


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.

Pasture Rotation and Grass Compaction

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.


TWO Weeks Update – 5/16

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

End of April Update

Things sure got busy at Tikkun Homestead!  As April ended we had a new lamb from our smallest ewe, the biggest lamb of the year even, so we’re glad he was a single.  She is a first time mama and she’s doing great.  It was a difficult delivery for her due to his size and his elbows being tucked in, but with a little help everything went very well. This big guy brings us to 14 lambs with two more ewes to lamb soon.  The does should start kidding in about six weeks or so.

The cows have moved from their winter paddock and the spring pasture around them out to their favorite pasture for grazing. Continue reading

How Does Faith Inform Farming?

In today’s world it’s common for people to separate various aspects of their life, their whole.  But this isn’t natural, and in fact it’s rather difficult to do completely.  A holistic world view is actually quite natural, it’s unnatural to divide everything into “unrelated” segments.

At The Tikkun Homestead our faith definitely informs our farming practices from the livestock we raise to how we treat them to how we plant in the garden.  We raise only animal species that are considered acceptable for consumption (Leviticus 11), we treat them with dignity afforded to every living creature (Proverbs 12:10), we mark each firstborn male for a special purpose and do not work him or keep him for breeding purposes (Exodus 34:19), we tithe on our agricultural income (Leviticus 27:30ff), we manage our garden carefully (Deuteronomy 22:9), and more.  Continue reading

Use vs Rest Observations

Modern ideas say that when land has been overgrazed that it requires a long rest period to recover.  But what we’re actually seeing is that long rest periods actually cause desertification.  What is rejuvenating to the land is proper grazing of large groups of herbivores, contrary to modern thinking.

Here are two short videos on our homestead, one a month ago and one this morning.  The alley way is a heavy use area with the water and salt station.  During the grazing season when the cattle are in this area there is very little vegetation and a lot of mud.  The rested area has always performed poorly.

This video is from March 20 – Use vs Rest

This video is from April 16

In another area we have similar conditions and no volume of watering in the summer months has ensured grass growth.  We were puzzled as to what was going on there and we assumed that the blue clay was at the surface in those locations and causing the grass roots to dry out, even in spite of our watering attempts.  However, when we planted tress on that nole we discovered that the area is actually deep with sand.  Sand!  We would have never expected to find sand here.  But like this location, that area has little to no topsoil and I spread a few bales of straw there as well.  See this video for a description of that location.

I have spread the barley straw bales around these two locations concentrating on the areas with the least ground cover and ensuring that any manure is also covered.  In a few months we’ll see how the areas are responding and if the straw cover helps to develop a bit of better soil and vegetation in those spots.  I do still intend to move the animals through this area at least twice this grazing season and there currently there is a mating pair of geese that are investigating this little nole for a nesting spot.  We’ll see how that goes.

Spring Grass Rotation & Supplements

When grazing animals on spring grass it is not uncommon for their manure to get quite runny.  This digestive upset can’t feel very good.   Some time ago it was recommended to me to add apple cider vinegar to the water when moving them to fresh grass in an effort to help reduce any digestive upset and the super watery manure.  I did notice positive results with the cattle two years ago and because of that I have added ACV to the water tubs whenever I change their feed.

When rotating the animals through their grazing paddocks, it’s critical to remember the “take half, leave half” principle.  Graze no more than half of the foliage leaf length and move on.  This helps the grass and other forage plants to continue their growth and rebound from the grazing period faster.  To take more than half of the plant seriously damages the plant at the root level, so “take half, leave half” every time.

The kelp we’ve been offering free choice to the flock has been very well received.  We are using Throvin Kelp.

Today’s Success! 4/13/17

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.