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December 29, 2011 / 74

As the Year Ends – the Farm Continues

Chickens

It has been warm outside, so we’re letting the chickens free range, which saves me money on feed. In our last episode, I said I’d mixed the feed half feed and half cracked corn. The chickens would run out of corn and the high protein would be just barely down in the feeder. So I thought – “Cracked corn is about 1/2 the cost of high protein…” 🙂 So I set up a second feeder and let them have free choice. They’re saving me a mint! And egg production seems to be level.

This feed is supposed to be a “complete” feed – which means it has all the shell and etc that the chickens need. But if you feed them as much as they’ll eat instead of doing the rationing thing, they get too much calcium. So they were having a problem with egg shells that it took a drill and blasting to get the shell open – they were so thick and strong. Did I tell you about the egg that I saw laid from 4 feet up the roost – that landed on the hard dirt floor and didn’t even crack? Yep. With the free choice corn, the shells have become somewhat thinner – tho still lots thicker than the store-bought eggs you get that come from a commercial egg producer. And our eggs have darker yolks too. (Darker yolks mean higher protein content!)

Our 19 hens are currently laying between 9 and 12 eggs per day. We’ve been giving the surplus to a local senior center/food pantry kind of thing. After a bit of deconstruction,  we finally got the old nesting box (6 holes – no waiting!) out of the old chicken pen and into the new pen last week. I put some rye straw in the boxes, but it was too stiff and inhospitable. So I melted the ice out of the chipper/shredder and ran a bunch of rye with straw attached through it and it made this nice fluffy SOFT straw bedding.

Gotta tell you – when we just had the boxes in place but with no bedding in them, we had a couple of “sidewalk superintendent” hens looking things over. One of them stepped into a box, looked around and then back out. After I got the soft straw installed, we had “customers” almost immediately. It only took two days until the entire flock stopped laying their eggs on the floor – and they were laying ALL of their eggs in the nesting boxes! I can’t even begin to tell you how NICE it is that I don’t have to hand wash all of the eggs every day! They get laid in that nice soft, clean straw – and they stay clean!!! And for the worriers out there – you don’t need to confine the chickens if they are free ranging. They come back into the shed when they’re ready to lay their eggs, and when they’re done, they go back out to frolic in the dead grass and eat the dead bugs and whatever they can scratch up.

And Mr. Rooster is doing his job. I have yet to crack an infertile egg into the frying pan.

Firewood

I’m continuing to cut and split and stack next year’s firewood as time and weather allow. The day before yesterday I felled three honey locust trees and started to trim the small branches off and pile them at the edge of the meadow at the edge of the woods. (For small animal habitat.) Then yesterday I finished trimming the small stuff off and hauled all of it to the growing brush pile. Then I started to remove the thorns from some of the larger branches and cutting them into stove wood length. Today I completed the job, and made a stack of the logs for pick up with the pickup when the ground is either dry or frozen.

I counted the remaining honey locust trees in that particular smallish spot, and counting everything from 5″ diameter and up I counted 34 fell-able trees. So if I need them all for next year, that will make 35 I’ll have cut down and stacked. I prefer the honey locust for fire wood because

A. the trees are kind of nuisance trees with their thorns that poke holes in my equipment tires all the time. So if I have a need for firewood, they’re my first choice.

and B. they are really high up on the BTU content chart, yielding 26.7 million BTUs per cord.

Garden

We plan to plan out our gardens this weekend for this Spring.
We also have to replace a couple of fruit trees that we planted two years ago that didn’t do well, and we’ll probably plant at least one or two new things. (Last year it was blueberries – the second try for them. Without a lot of babying – blueberries will not grow here. So we let them die and gave them up for whoever can grow them.) And I’m dumping kitchen scraps in the garden area – to be rototilled in early Spring so it can compost before we plant. On a hopeful note – the almond trees should yield some almonds – if we can keep the squirrels out of them…

TTFN!

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