Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poultry Clean Up Crew

 We've always wanted to do a bit more with poultry in fields that were done producing for the season.  There is a myriad of reasons why we haven't really gone after this really hard in that past.  But, the biggest reasons have been a combination of available time and good shelter options.

The Hen "Retirement Mobile Home"
Well, the time thing can still be an issue, but we have addressed shelter at some level.  And, we also decided to try a late broiler batch this year (speaking of which, we still have about 100 of those broilers available for sale!  spread the word.)  We use a flair box for our retiree hens.  They just hop into it every night and lay their eggs in there.  They can go into or under the wagon for shelter if it is a bit rainy or windy and they have lots of straw mulch and old tomato plants to forage in.

We use the electric fences to keep predators out and we try to move the fence and the flair box as often as we are able.  Sometimes it doesn't happen as soon as we would like, but we try to provide them with everything they might need on a daily basis.  There are about thirty hens in this group and they still give us 6 to 10 eggs a day.  Not bad considering they aren't getting supplementary light.

The Poultry Clean Up Crew WUZ HERE!
The broilers (often referred to as the "boyus" or "nuggets") have an old horse trailer that we move around.  By the time they are half way to adult size, half of them start to decide to shelter UNDER the trailer at night.  It's not our first choice for them, but it seems to be their pattern and it makes them happy I guess.  We just try to make sure they are all UNDER and not BESIDE the trailer.  We don't really want to make them a target for owls.

This batch had 150 birds in it and we also put them in the same fields as the hens, taking the Western 2/3rds of each field.  We moved them gradually to the North as we felt they had exhausted what they could forage in the prior areas.

Just prior to moving them to the new area at left.
We weren't always happy with the conditions for the birds considering the wind we often get in October that coincides with cooler temperatures.  On the other hand, the birds did fine.  We bought 150 chicks and we processed 150 birds.  And... we found one we missed the next day.  Yes, folks, we had 151 of 150 birds survive to processing day.  That is too good to pass up, so we'll have another blog post on that topic another day.

Back on topic!  Yep, I can't allow myself to get distracted like that.  Ok, I can.  It's our blog and I can get distracted when I want....  Oh, uh.  Sorry.

In any event, we realized more shelter was a good idea for the birds, so we left sections of tomato cages up to help provide some shelter.  There is a hedge of zinnia plants on the North that we ran the fence along so they could find even more protection from the elements.  And, at the end, we even brought another building for shelter.  We feel like we've done a pretty good job of protecting the birds and giving them a good opportunity to forage and just be birds.  And just think of all of the great manure they spread for us on these fields!
The little horse trailer that could...

Now we need to spend some time evaluating how this went and whether we can manage to do this again.  And, if we do, how can we manage the process better?  Clearly, it would be nice if we could move them a bit more often.  But, then there is the issue of trying to work around crops that are still going.  We can't get them too close for food safety reasons and we can't always get things out of the way in time for an easy move.

Then, there is the water and food issue.  The fields are further way from both resources than if they were in the pastures.  But, on the other hand, pastures stop growing much this time of year.  Having birds on them doesn't necessarily help them much.

Tune in this Winter for probable poultry posts providing potential preparations to provide premium products.

You're welcome and have a nice day!

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