With so much change going on at the farm - even before the pandemic pretty much took over most of humanity's attention span (short as it often is) - we thought we would put out a series of shorter posts to talk about what is going on with us and the farm. I thought we would focus on our poultry plan for 2020 in this post.
Our current flock is at about 85 ladies right now. In prior years, we were normally at about 120 birds. However, we had multiple cycles where we had way too many eggs for the demand that was being shown. Happily, we had CSA customers and we put eggs into the shares to move them AND to add value to the shares for our customers. Still, that doesn't help us actually cover costs and make a little money on the enterprise, so we reduced the flock.
And, now, demand has gone up in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Well, we can't make them lay what they can't. But, the plan is to purchase more hen chicks in early Spring and bring flock numbers up slightly (to maybe 100 total for next Spring). The new birds won't start laying until September, but it is what it is.
We raised four flocks of 150 birds last year and we were still trying to sell them up until this month. We have a pretty good system for these birds worked out, but there are two tasks that can take a great deal out of us. One is moving the birds out of the brooder and into the pasture. The other is the actual processing sequence. So, we are working to make this more efficient, especially with less help on the farm this year.
Our plan is to run four flocks again, but we will run them in sets of 2 flocks at a time. We will reduce the flock size to 125 each - which means we will have about 100 fewer available in 2020. The big thing that this does is it takes the number of "birds out of brooder" and "processing (going to the park) day" events down to two each instead of four each. Yes, those events will be a bit more intense for us, but we can handle that. It is the fact that each time we do these things, there are significant tasks that surround them. With the processing day, our sleep cycle gets altered as well. So, the difficulty is the number of times those events happen. If we lessen the number of times we do these things, we might be able to get a someone or two to come out and help with those tasks.
We are still discussing turkeys, so we'll fill you in once we finalize the plan.
If you have input for us on our plans, feel free to let us know. If you think you and others can increase the demand for certain product enough to change what we do, then talk to us.