Friday, May 31, 2013

Farm Party

It was fun having our friends and customers over for a party on the farm last weekend.  Thanks to those that came. I was too busy to take too many photos, so here are a few...

Kids always manage to find the trailer to run around on, pretty sure my daughter started that!

 And Alpine find some canine refreshment of his own, though he didn't realize that pool was for the ducks!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farm Party Sunday

I messed up the date on my last email, our Spring Farm Party is on Sunday, May 26 from 4-10PM.

You can check the details and RSVP here.

Hope to see you Sunday!  We are cooking up a leg of lamb, some burgers and rotisserie chicken, we'll have home made desserts, salad with lettuce from our garden and local beer from City Star Brewing!

See you Sunday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Lesson in Bird Hatching

OK, I wanted to put a post together to  talk about eggs and hatching. There are a few things that strike me about hatching our birds on the farm, so let me show you!
First, here are the 4 types of birds I have successfully hatched on my farm. Well, yeah, it's all the birds we raise on the farm!  It took us a while to find guinea eggs, Larry actually put a chicken egg in the incubator, thinking it was a guinea egg, until we started to see the egg shown below. They are strikingly different than a chicken egg, and much smaller. I used a mid-sized chicken egg for this picture, we get them much smaller and much larger than what is shown.  The turkey egg below is on the small size, but the largest I could find last night for the photo, and the duck egg is typical for us, but my friend Mo, who raises Muscovies thinks these are teeny tiny. We raise smaller ducks, so they lay smaller eggs.  All the eggs below have a 28 day incubation period, except the chicken, who incubates for 21 days. 

 So now you know what the egg looks like, let's see what comes out of them.

Below, I have images of baby birds of each breed and an adult bird, so you can see what they grow into. The baby and adult pictures are not the same bird, so the feathering patterns aren't indicative, but you can see how their size and shape fills out as they grow, and how those cute little fuzzballs may or may not be so cute when they get bigger.

These are day-old guineas, which are called keets. They are the most ridiculously cute baby birds I have ever hatched. If you have ever hatched eggs, you will know it is addictive. Who wouldn't want to hatch more and more of these adorable little birds?  But what amazes me - these cute little fluff balls grow into....

These... these are adult guineas. I am still not good at determining their sex from the nubs on their heads. They are NOT born with those ridiculous nubs on their heads, they wouldn't be so cute if they were. These are the noisiest birds (aside from pea hens, which are really loud.)  We are actually butchering every one of them this year and never raising them again. They fly, they wander all over the neighborhood, and that's it. We just don't need them. They really are so loud.

OK, onto the next little fluff ball...
These are baby chicks. These guys are almost a week old, this is the meat breed version, and at a day old, they look like teeny little tennis balls with feet, Round, fuzzy and wiggly.

They grow up to look like this. This is Friend Bird (she passed away this year) but not after giving us 2 roosters and a hen (who is named Friend of Fang).  She hatched her own, they all grew up to be black, they didn't get her Hamburg speckles.  Chickens are not necessarily attractive as adult birds, but better looking than those guineas!

Which brings me to turkey babies. AW!!  Look how cute they are, too! Their feet are a little creepy, but who cares. They are adorable, and we hatch some every day! Not as cute as those little guineas, but amazing that such a small little thing can grow into this...

OK, so guineas grow nobs in their heads... turkey toms grow snoods, waddles and beards and really big tails. And they can turn their face blue when they feel like it. Incredible.
Which brings us to...

Ducklings!!  OK, I still think guinea keets are the cutest out of the shell. Ducklings at a day old are very awkward, with a big round belly, and a big beak.  But in a week, they take the cake, as their body fills out, their neck looks less wonky. Ducklings, for the duration, and the cuteness winners. When they get big enough to swim, like above, they are unbareably cute. And they stay fluffier longer, as it takes a long time for them to put their feathers on. And when they do...

They retain beauty and poise that the other birds do not. They are quieter, no silly nobs, snoods or combs on their heads. Yeah, they walk funny, but they swim with grace and poise. I love all my birds, but ducks are my favorite (except when it comes to plucking... but that's a story for another day!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May Picture Update

 Just a few pictures to show you how May is coming along...
 These are our mini-hoop houses - currently protecting rhubarb and mint plants from certain chicken destruction...
 Here is a rare sighting of both our barn cats, close enough I could get a photo.  Murphy is the grey stripey one on the left. He's super friendly. TwoThreeSix is the black and white one, slowly warming up to me, but I can still only get about 3 feet from him before he bolts.  I'll pet him one day!
 We hatched some guinea keets - there are in the hospital box with a tired turkey, and a broiler with a hurt foot.
 I moved the incubator back to the basement, and am now hatching lots of turkey babies! I won't make that mistake again, could have had dozens by now, but I put the incubator upstairs in the brooder room. BIG mistake!
 This is the first successful turkey hatch, with his two buddies that hatched a few days later.
Larry built auto-waterers in the barn brooder. Pretty clever, and we don't have to worry about them running out of water while we are at work. These buys are about a week old...
These ones are about 2 weeks old, and are probably going outside this weekend. A big difference one week makes in the life of a broiler chicken!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Processing Mayhem!

So, each processing day starts with me crawling out of bed at 4AM to go light the scalder, so we can be ready to roll by 8AM. I must be getting old, that used to be 3AM, so we could start at 7AM. But instead of killing ourselves, I give us a little time to make breakfast, and feed all our animals before we start. Once we start, we don't stop till it's done.

For anyone who wonders why I won't process their 2 or 6 or 10 birds on just any day, this is why. There better be a darn good reason to wake me up at 4AM to light a scalder. 10 birds isnt enough of a reason, but 50 sure is!

Usually it takes a little patience at 4AM, you need to give some time for the gas lines to prime, and some time for the pilot light to warm the thermocouple. I did all that, several times, and realized there was a problem. The pilot light would not stay lit. Uh oh.

Woke up hubby, we tried a butane torch to see if we could get everything to warm up and stay lit. No luck. He crawled back into bed, after we dumped the tank, flipped it over and messed around with the air intake and some other stuff on the bottom.

I went to google. I found the owner's manual for the scalder, nothing on there was new to me, nor did it make me think I did anything wrong. Google some more. I discovered a video of a guy replacing the thermocouple on his furnace, because the pilot light wouldn't stay lit. Boy, it looked just like mine!

At 6AM, I was at Home Depot. Sleepy and in my jammies still, someone had to point me to the thermocouples. Longest theyt had was 36".  I tried to measure the darn thing, really should have gotten my sewing measuring tape, and I wasn't sure 36" was enough, but it was close...

No cigar. I tried to install it, and it just didn't make it. Couldn't stretch it or force it. Now I had to wait - other stores didn't open until 8AM, so I made a list.  At 8:02, I started making calls. By 8:30 I finally found a plumbing supply store that had one that was 60" long. Too long was OK, so I hustled into town to grab it.

Back home and had it installed by 9:15ish. It didn't work right away, so hubby came and took a look. I didn't quite have one end tightened down enough (it said finger tight plus a quarter turn, but I guess that depends on the fingers)

Got it lit and rolling by 9:30.

4 hour wait let us get started at 1:30, pretty much when we were hoping to be DONE for the day. Sigh.  In those 4 hours, I got my mint planted, ran some irrigation, picked some spinach, weeded the greenhouse, played with my kid, ate some breakfast and lunch, watched hubby play tanks...  then we got down to business.

WE didn't get them all done, stopped at a reasonable time, since I was tired from being up so long. We finished the rest on Sunday, plus 5 roosters, 1 turkey and 3 guineas.  I am processing other birds on May 17, and I'll try to catch more roosters, more guineas, and probably another turkey. This is not how processing days are supposed to go. But thankful to get the spare parts and get all our birds done this weekend. The next batch of babies are in the brooder, we'll get them processed by the end of June.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chicken Processing Day

Chicken processing will begin around 2PM today. We had a failure on the thermocouple on the scalder, it's fixed now, so we are waiting for our 4 hour time to get the water to the proper temperature. Whatever we don't complete today will get done tomorrow. Sorry for any inconvenience!