Tag Archives: pastured eggs

Challenges of a Small Farm

064

When I first started farming about five or six years ago I could get organic whole grains in 50 pound sacks locally. This was great because it created the opportunity for me to mix my own ration for our chickens, as I’m sure a number of backyard flock owners love to do as well.  With a small flock it was easy to mix and use 3-4 hundred pounds at a time and feed it out over a month or two. But after a short while the 50 pound sacks dropped, unannounced, to 40 pounds. The price remained the same. Then access to the whole grains came to an abrupt end altogether without any clear cause. Frustrating to say the least. We were forced to start feeding processed feeds in 40 pound sacks because that was the only available organic feed. It worked for a short time, but the quality was questionable and the price was too high to make a profit.
July 2013 001
IMG_2116

 

 

 

 

Certified organic feed can be a challenge to get at the best of times, especially for us at our small scale. So our next step was to push our production up to the next price break. We increased our production by adding more Turkeys and egg laying hens so we can order 1000 pound of feed at a time. That way we could use up the feed in a reasonable amount of time, because unless the feed is in a whole grain form it loses its nutritional quality over time. This worked well and we were able to build a productive small farm business.
IMG_6423
But once again after a short while our access to the 1/2 ton sacks came to an abrupt end without clear cause or warning. We found out the day we tried to order our next batch of feed. The only option’s now for organic grains are to go back to getting grain in 40 pound sacks (not an option) or jump up to the now 3 ton minimum, meaning we have to order no less then 6000 pounds at a time. Wow, thats a lot of feed! We can and do feed this much in the course of a season but the hard lump to swallow is where and how to store this amount of grain. When you are at the scale we are, you just have to take it as it comes and is just the nature of running a small business. But it would seem that the mantra of “get big or get out” is still strongly with us today in agriculture.

IMG_2115

Locally-Adapted Chickens Part 1

IMG_6338
Here it is! Our first article regarding locally-adapted chickens. It’s been a long time coming, considering that it was a year ago last month that we brought up the subject. The idea and research took considerable effort because producing one’s own chicks is very convoluted.
IMG_6365
Turns out that breeding chickens is a lot harder than it seems. Who would have thought?
It has taken just about a year to wade through all the different systems and styles. Look for this, watch for that- -it can be a lot to take in. Settling on a breed alone can be a daunting undertaking (we will cover this in more detail in the next post) and many of the great old production breeds no longer have people willing or able to hold them to the standards they where created with, making it difficult to find some breeds of chicken.
IMG_6405
It can be easy to get caught-up in getting the very best birds money can buy and searching for the right bird with the right qualities takes time. I’m not suggesting that this isn’t a proper route to take, but sometimes time just isn’t an option. We selected our parent stock out of our existing egg-laying flock. It took time and some false starts to pick out our breeders, but we settled on birds that had been with us for at least 2 years. We had a feeling that the highest preforming chickens of that age in our production system would help to jump-start our local adaption. We have yet to prove this.IMG_6337

This is the first set of Rhode Island Red chicks that we have hatched on-farm.
IMG_0663

Chicken Creep

IMG_1027

I would like to think that we get a little smarter season to season, and in this case it’s actually true. Check out ”Learning to Roost”, one of our earlier posts, to see how we used to do it. We often have to introduce chickens of different ages together and this can be a little challenging. The adult birds could and would hurt or kill small, young chickens. So the goal here is prevention. The chicks are also on a more expensive, higher-protein feed that the larger foul don’t need to be consuming. But of course they think they have to have some.
IMG_1042
IMG_1043

With all that in mind, the best way we have come up with (well, we didn’t technically come up with it, but you know) is called a creep. This is an idea that is often used with larger livestock. We simply adapted this method to smaller livestock.
IMG_1031
IMG_1036

As you can see, we’re not getting any points on our quality of workmanship, but it allows the chicks to mix with the larger birds as they feel more comfortable with their place in the flock. Keeping the bigger chickens out, we can feed the little ones a different feed freely. Its a win-win.
IMG_1038

IMG_1039

When the chicks are too big to get into the creep, they have no choice but to mingle with the adults. Once the two flocks are integrated, we remove the creep.
IMG_1044

Overdue Update

Farm 2013 022
The past couple of months seem to have just slipped by like the snap of the fingers. Wasn’t it just the holiday season? Well we had better share with you what we have been up to.
This is a quick overview of some projects we are working on right now. We will post more in detail about these projects as they move forward.
July 2013 015
Our sheep have been enjoying this dry, mild weather and have decided to have some lambs! A little unexpected but no complaints here.
IMG_0602
We are also working on creating a locally adapted flock of chickens. This way we can help in a small way to protect of some of our national birds.
IMG_6477
And most importantly we are moving our farm from Ashland to Talent! We are extremely excited about this move.

Guard Geese

April 2013 002

April 2013 003
A couple of seasons ago we lost a large portion of our turkeys and chickens to skunks (check out the post “It Ain’t Easy” for a better idea of what went down). It took some time and a lot of research to figure out what we needed to do to remedy this problem.
august 2013 020

Chickens need and like to roost, and as it turns out it’s also their first defense. This was an easy fix–we just changed the way we house them.
august 2013 021
Then we got a couple of geese because our research lead us to believe that their aggressive temperament would deter predators.
august 2013 060

august 2013 061
At first I wasn’t convinced that geese could perform this job and thought of them as just another mouth to feed. But we haven’t lost a turkey or a chicken since we added them.
Sept 2013 016

Sept 2013 020

I have often seen them cock their head to the side and stare up in to the sky. When I follow their line of sight, inevitably there is a hawk floating in the blue, and once in a while an airplane. Needless to say they will always have a place at Pradaria.

Sept 2013 021

Just Add Water

July 2013 048
With the quick spike of the mercury to the low nineties in early June, I realized that I needed a way to keep our eggs cool at one of our drop sites. There were already a couple of fridges and a freezer humming along at their own pace in the heat. So why not follow suit and add another fridge? That would be the obvious choice. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it; in this case more is not better. Besides, if I’m going to spend time focusing on creating clean food, shouldn’t it be presented in a clean manner?

July 2013 050

At the same time, a friend of mine was telling me about this documentary he had watched about living a little lighter in regards to carbon emissions. And in this animated, detailed retelling of a movie I may never watch, he mentions this crazy pot refrigerator thing that the protagonist in the movie uses. Now this got me thinking. After a little research it turns out that the pot fridge thingy was invented in Africa for small farmers, is water cooled, and called a Zeer. I was sold and our very own Zeer was born.

July 2013 049

Shape of the Egg

IMG_0632

Uniformity is an industrial ideal, not something that is regularly found on a farm, and perfection is often the way in which food is presented in grocery stores. But nature has other ideas. If they’re grown organically, there are sometimes spots on apples, eggs that are crinkled, and holes chewed in lettuce.

IMG_0635

These are some of the eggs that didn’t make it into the egg cartons that we sell, for no other reason than that they aren’t the size and shape that we, as consumers, associate with eggs. But they are in keeping with nature’s infinite diversity and (trust me) they are still just as tasty. I had no idea that eggs came in different shapes and sizes until I started raising chickens on a larger-than-backyard scale, and a lot of the eggs that grace my table look like this.

IMG_0631