Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A little more on the chickens and the farm

Today brought 2 pigs to our little ranch.  Something new to learn about :)  They have some organic pig food, grass clippings and a pile of oak leaves and acorns.
We have been reading a great book on Open-Air Chicken coops.  Here is a link that has portions of the book that you can read on line:  Fresh Air Poultry House

Turning our enclosed chicken coop into an open air coop seems to be a successful experiment.  Two days ago we had 22 hens and one rooster in a large coop with a covered run.  They free range in the afternoon.  We have consistently been getting 8 eggs from that coop.  The other coop which is open air has 8 hens and one rooster and about a million little chicks.  We have been getting 6 eggs from it every day.

Yesterday the guys cut some holes in the walls and doors and put chicken wire in.   Five of the hens went to my sister's house.  Today we got 9 eggs from 17 hens - a little more than 50%.  It was quite rainy today, so hopefully that will increase.  Six hens from the first batch we incubated will join these hens in the big coop soon.  They should start laying about August.

They ran the weedeater in the rain today and raked the grass and weeds for several hours.  We put huge bunches of fresh clover, grass, vetch and weeds in for the hens and chicks.  All loved it.  The kids and I dug a LOT of worms and tossed them in.

The sunset was gorgeous, but my camera does not do it justice.  

Gold in the Grass

Here is one of Arleen's favorite sites:  Chicken Feed

I like this one on worms:  Worms for feed
....and this one:  Journey to Forever 

The Ideal Chicken for the Consumer and for the Producer (in a nutshell :)

There are many things that a commercial chicken or egg producer can do to increase the health value of the product. While the "Organic" label is a start in the right direction, it by no means assures us that that chicken is the very most healthful bird on the market.

Though not all of these items can be accomplished by the average chicken producer, in my estimation, the supremely most healthful chicken, for meat as well as for eggs, would consume the following feedstuffs in these ways:

1. Ample grass and living plants, along with insect life and subterranean flora and fauna that is found in the grasslands. It would be truly free range, or perhaps a better term needs to be sought. "Grass-ranged" is one option. Whichever term is used, it should be a legally-certified term so that the public will know that this chicken was ranging on ample living grassland that includes wild insect life and a variety of plants, and that this chicken was on this range for a large proportion of its feeding hours immediately prior to consumption by consumer.

2. Wild ocean seafood added to the diet daily, in enough quantity to raise the omega-3 content of the chicken and eggs to nearly equal with the omega-6 content.

3. Extra protein supplementation from a variety of sources such as 100% grass-fed milk and meat products, insects, worms, nuts.

4. Grain supplement only as necessary to sustain adequate growth and laying, based on a mixture of five or more whole, live, unmilled grains. All grains to be completely free-choiced for a period of time, then removed before nighfall. If corn is used, it must be cracked within no more than 24 hours of being consumed.

5. Legumes daily, to balance the protein, B vitamin, and other profiles of the grains. Legumes and grains naturally occur together in all wild pasturelands, and complement each other, probably in many ways that we do not yet know. To eat the one without the other is to invite disaster, imho.

6. Salt derived solely from dried kelp, free-choiced.

7. Calcium derived from oyster shell or grass-fed bone, free choiced.

8. Water free-flowing from living spring or stream, without chlorine or other such industrial toxins added.

And with these safety assurances:

9. Absolutely no addition of any kind of oils to the feeds, to prevent the misuse of trans-fats-laden and re-processed oils as a calorie booster or for any other reason.

10. Everything consumed by the chickens to be certified stringently 100% Organic, not certified by an organic-label certification scheme that allows 5% (or any other percent) of non-organic products to be added and still use the term "Organic."

11. The breed of chicken should not contain any "Cornish" or other unnaturally-fast-maturing variety. The chicken should mature in the normal amount of time, a little more than 5 months, not the abnormal, ceiling-less growth curve leading to harvest at two months as in the Cornish crosses.

So, I'll keep you posted on how it goes.