Well, the time has finally come to process our first round of meat chickens. The timing couldn't be more perfect seeing as how we just ate our last scrap of chicken out of the freezer last week for dinner. This year certainly overall was very different than last year's experience in terms of growth and overall behavior. This year I also tracked all costs and weights down to the penny to allow me to get a better grasp on how much I am paying in the end per pound. It was a successful season, and as I expected, I am beyond pleased with the quantity and quality of the birds. We will process the second round in two-three weeks but we are looking at an overly stuffed freezer full of pastured raise poultry to get us through the next year.
What's spring without chicks? Or goslings? Or ducklings? This spring brought an incredible amount of new life, adding geese, pigs, and more chicks. This year also was my first experience having not just one, but two broody hens. I am officially spoiled, and will never be able to go back to hand raising with heat lamps and the hassle of flock integration again.
Although broodiness is an undesireable trait that has been "bred out" in most breeds, there are others that are known for it, and some that catch you by surprise. Neither of my Silkie hens which are notorious for their broodiness (and the only reason I got them) got the urge to sit on a nest, while my Welsummer and Wyandotte hens were the ones to catch the bug. Aside from the cuteness factor which in itself is enough, there are a lot of benefits to having a broody hen (or two) in your flock.
Due to the insane response to my DIY chicken feeder on Instagram I figured I should make a blog post about it. I found the design on My Pet Chicken's Blog and made some minor tweaks and it is working like a charm!
I don't like to keep my feeder in the coop. It takes up space, and can attract rodents which I don't want. But, I don't like open top or trough style feeders that expose feed to the elements. It is winter currently, which means snow getting the food wet and going to waste. And any other time of year, it means rain doing the same thing. I also always have issues with the hens scratching food out of the feeder, which leads to waste again. I wanted to put an end to wasting feed while having a container that was able to sit outside no matter the weather and keep the feed dry. The ability to hold a hundred pounds of feed at once is a perk too! Time will be the ultimate test, but so far this feeder has held up to Winter Storm Stella which brought a lot of blowing, drifting snow, and managed to keep the food dry!
Chickens can be vicious animals whether it be to members of their own flock or an outsider. The chicken hierarchy isn't referred to as a pecking order for no reason. They will relentlessly peck, bloody, and gang up on another bird to establish dominance. If you've ever seen it in action it can be painful to watch, and sometimes requires serious intervention. So when I recently purchased a couple of eight month old Silkie hens I was nervous about introducing them to my existing flock of nine hens and two roosters. Every spring I go through the process with chicks, but this would be the first time that I attempted to integrate full grown hens. It didn't end up being as bad as I expected, and much to my surprise went smoother than it typically goes with chicks. Prior to the introduction I read a lot of tips and tricks that seemed like much more work than they were worth. Although I wanted things to go as smoothly as possible, I am a realist and know that no amount of masking will hide the fact that there are a couple of little white hens in the coop that weren't there before. Nature will run its course, but with some patience and common sense you can help the process go a little more smoothly.
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