Sunday, August 4, 2013

We Have a New Email Service for our Farm Newsletter

Our new Farm Newsletter got off to a rocky start when the email service that we used went out of business almost immediately.

We signed up for a new service and the sign-up box is on your right. You will receive notifications of our hatches, animals for sale, and so on. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you are one of the few people who signed up with our old service, you will have to sign up again. Sorry.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New hatch to commence soon

Ancona ducks

We are collecting eggs to be incubated in our incubator. We will have the following hatchlings in about a month's time if it goes well:

Purebred Ancona ducklings, white with black markings. We are going to be keeping a few to build up the flock but will have some for sale as day-olds at $5.00 each.

Guinea keets (chicks), mostly Pearl Grey color though I do have some other colored Guinea hens. Day-old keets $4.00.

Mixed breed chickens: I have a Swedish Flower rooster with 2 'Ameraucana' hens that lay brown eggs and 2 older Brahma hens. Goodness knows what the children will be like, but I'll have some chicks available at $2.50 each.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Growing Sprouts for Hens and Humans

Since The Egg Project is about eggs from grass-fed, cage-free hens, I have to figure out what to do about providing grass/greens in winter when the portable laying house is stilled for the season. One answer--- sprouts.

Growing various kinds of sprouts is an interesting exercise in personal self-sufficiency that I've done before. But I've misplaced/discarded most of my sprouting equipment and had to buy new. The Victorio 4-Tray sprouter is a nice little unit for producing alfalfa and other salad type sprouts in your house. If you are worried about the winter unavailability of fresh local greens in your diet, this sprouter can be heaven-sent.

For poultry purposes, I intend to start one tray a day (for which I will need a second sprouter, as alfalfa sprouts take 7 days) and each day one tray will become ripe. A little of the sprout-mass will be diverted for human consumption, and the rest goes to the hens.

I have also thought of sprouting some grains and/or beans in mason jars for additional feed. Problem is, I might not be able to get certified-organic grains and beans to sprout. Before 'organic' became the name of a government program, that might not have mattered, since the seeds were sprouted without chemicals or non-organic additives. But now, I wonder if some people will worry that my eggs are not organic enough. They'll still be grass-fed/green-fed, though.

As the poultry flock grows, I'll have to go larger-scale. I've seen pictures of people using plastic trays like the kind you get bedding plants in, on plastic shelving units, as an indoor sprout farm. I have a couple trays like that--- I once planned to grow wheatgrass in them. Might be something to try.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pullet Surprise: My New Chickens

Since I've decided to get into the egg selling business, I needed a few younger chickens since most of my layers are on the old side. I didn't have much hope of finding laying hens at the swap, though. Or any hens at all--- I've noticed a lot more roosters for sale than hens. But I went anyway.

The first seller with some possibles had these two pullets (young hens) and wanted $5 each for them, which I thought was real reasonable. She then mentioned they were Araucanas--- well, Ameraucanas, anyway. I bought them both. (Ameraucanas and Araucanas are two breeds that lay blue-green eggs.)

Another seller had some Golden Campines which were pretty but not what I wanted. Then I noticed some birds in another of that seller's cages. He said they were Welsummers--- another breed I like, which lays dark brown eggs. He quoted a price of $5 a bird but gave me a deal for taking them all. These chickens also were from this year. I got a rooster in this group which is nice so I can hatch out replacements.

The pullets all went in the pen with the older laying hens. The Welsummer rooster, who I named Kellogg, got put in the pen with my poultry odds-and-ends. My Chocolate turkey, Imelda, took one look at Kellogg and fell in love.  (She's almost invisible behind a clump of weeds.)

Kellogg was a bit nervous to have such a large female interested in him, so he distracted himself with the grain pan. The girls, meanwhile, had to cope with sharing space with my really old Old English hen. Sadly, one of the pullets was doing poorly and died, but the others are adapting well to their new home, and when I went out at ten to turn off their light, I saw that all were inside the shelter of the calf hutch.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fun at the Fur and Feather Swap/Swap Schedule

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, I got up early to get my act together to go to the Stephenson Fur and Feather Swap.
I did not have much for sale as I didn't raise much poultry this year. Mostly I had sheep--- 5 Shetland ewe lambs. And some sheep skulls for Halloween decorations. I also had a cage full of kittens who needed new homes. I also took along a Shetland Sheep sign that normally is in my yard when I have sheep for sale. I believe signage is important at such events because some people may be shy about asking questions.
After I got set up but before the swap officially began, I looked around at the other swappers' stuff. First stop was to look at Mr. Damron's Boer and Nubian goats.
Somebody had a trailer full of Suffolk/Hampshire sheep. Others had horses, ferrets, rabbits, guineas, chickens, ducks, geese and lots of little goats, mostly pygmies.

The ugly hand of government showed up in a government vet who checked on my sheep to make sure they had that evil 'mark of the beast' government tag without which you cannot buy or sell (as mentioned in the Biblical book of Revelation). I did. An aside: I saw an article about the scrapie program which said that in ten years, the scrapie tags would eliminate scrapie. That was over ten years ago. Why are scrapie tags still required???

There was not as much activity at the sale as I would have hoped. I got to tell a number of people about Shetland sheep, and gave out two of my farm's business cards. I also met a fellow sheepman from the area, and he raises registered Katahdins! I told him about my new Katahdin ram and about how I am switching over my hair sheep flock from White Dorper to Katahdin due to the difficulty in finding herd sires within driving distance.

On the kitten front, several hopeful little boys spent the day petting and playing with some of the kittens, but Parental Units said no to taking any home. I did find a new home for a very shy but beautiful Calico kitten I thought would be the hardest to place. So it wasn't a wasted day. I do wish, however, that I'd had up-to-date farm business cards, maybe even a farm brochure as I had in years past. And some more signs, and a few more things to sell. But, there are three more sales to go, I can get better as I go along.

I also got on the mailing list for the Fur and Feather swaps, and picked up a copy of the Fall Swap schedule. There are three swaps left for the year. They are:

Saturday, Sept. 29 at Tractor Supply Company, Marinette, WI
Saturday Oct. 6 at Marinette Farm and Garden, Marinette, WI
Saturday Oct. 13 at Peshtigo Feed Mill, Peshtigo, WI

All swaps are 8 am to noon, local time. It is free for buyers and sellers, you must bring your own cages, and they are held rain or shine. Swap participants are responsible for complying with any and all government regulations involved in transporting and selling animals.

The swaps are sponsored by the Northern Poultry - Pigeon and Rabbit Club.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How NOT to Ship Worms

I recently ordered some red worms from an eBay seller. This morning I got an urgent call from my local post office--- my worms had arrived, and were escaping their package!

This is my first sight of the worm package at the post office.
After I got home with the worm package, I saw one of the escape routes.
Opening the box I found worms, living and dead, on the box flap.
There were two worms on the brown paper that was wrapped around the worm bag.
Removing the brown paper I saw many worms outside the bag and in the box. About half of these worms were dead. Since some people have this odd belief that worms are icky, I believe it's very important for worm breeders to ship in more secure containers to prevent escapes. At the very least, there should have been much more tape on the shipping box to avoid frightening the postal employees!

 Note: the worm books I mentioned in the previous post tell how to ship worms. These books are:

Raising Earthworms for Profit by Earl B. Shields

Profitable Earthworm Farming by Charlie Morgan

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Building a Tidy Cat Worm Propagation Bin

Earthworms need homes, too. And they don't ask for much in the way of housing. This simple worm propagation bin, ideal for those who raise just a few worms for composting or fishing, is almost too easy to make.

This is a cat litter pail, bought from Walmart with 35 lbs of cat litter inside. When it was empty, it became my new worm bin. This is a nice size, but I also have a somewhat smaller bin, also made from a cat litter pail, that works as well.

The first step is to drill in some air holes. In my first attempt at a cat litter pail worm bin, I drilled all the holes in the top. Not a good idea. You see, with the holes at the top, you can't stack the bins. So in this model, I drilled the air holes at the top of the pail, using a small drill bit.

Drain holes must also be drilled in the bottom of the bin. This is in case one gets too enthusiastic about wetting the worm bedding. Worms cannot live in over-wet bins, so drain holes are needed.

Bedding for worms is also their food source. One type of bedding is shredded/torn paper. Paper bedding must be soaked in water for 24 hours, then as much water wrung from it as possible. Then you fluff it out.

My paper bedding includes a lot of paper my mother shredded with her paper shredder (crosscut). It also includes hand-torn newspaper torn into about 1 inch squares.

Well composted manure is also a good worm bedding. I have loads of manure, just not so much well-composted. The composted manure must be moist. In this worm bin, I alternated layers of composted manure and damp shredded/torn paper.

Peat moss is also used in worm bedding. Commercial vermiculturalists often use 50% peat moss and 50% composted manure. Like paper, peat moss must be soaked in water for 24 hours and wrung out for use in a worm bin.

Worms for the worm bin may be obtained from a local worm farm, a bait shop, or purchased in bulk on eBay. Rule of thumb is you want about 1 lb of worms for every square foot of worm bin. Using less, it will take longer for your worms to propagate to desired levels. The type of worm you want is the red worm, or red wiggler, the common type of worm used for fishing, composting, and many other purposes.

To learn more about worm care, I recommend the book Raising Earthworms for Profit by Earl B. Shields.  I believe it is the most complete book on the subject.

Profitable Earthworm Farming by Charlie Morgan is also a fine worm manual, and it also includes a short chapter on raising mealworms.