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.