Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chicken Terms

 Had a friend ask me the other day 'so your birds are what, free range? but they are in that cage thing'. Well, good point so here is an explanation!
(please excuse my terrible drawing!)


This is what we would call "modern" style of chicken raising. You've got many birds crammed in tiny cages where they can't move. Their beaks are clipped short to prevent canabalism. This allows large farms to produce a great amount of chicken meat in a short time, and it is most likely this is the way your grocery store eggs were layed.
A miserable existence. 

 Free Run

Ah free-run the new buzz word! Just enough "free" in there to make you feel less guilty!  Free run are raised in a barn and don't get to see the sunshine either. Their breaks are also very likely clipped short. 

Much nicer then the modern method at least.

Free Range

 Free range means the chickies get to bathe in the sunshine, and probably eat some grass & bugs!

Traditional coops & runs work as free range, that is how we have our layers. Keeps them safe from predators but allows them as much exercise as they want.

Tractor! Also counts as free range! They are out in the sunshine, eating all the grass and bugs they want, digging in the dirt being chickens.

You should never have to clip beaks in any free-range method.
 Truely free-range, no fences to keep them in... or predators out.

Well, there goes dinner! 

There are two other relevant terms here. 

Organic is a process of certification, there are steep dues to pay and lots of rules to follow. Not really attainable for most small farmers. 
(Although there are some weird rules about producing small amount you can still call them organic... I'm not sure)

Pesticide-free, no-hormones, etc. Mean exactly what they sound like; but beware, big companies like to use things that are illegal anyway to promote their products! It's great to call your milk hormone free, but you can't give hormones to dairy cows in Canada anyway!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Simple Predator Control

No joke! I leave the radio on CBC all night, and I think it's been scaring off all manner of creature; and understandably because it sounds like there are people in the barn. Then again,maybe it's not doing anything, but it definitely doesn't hurt.

Bright barn light with a daylight/motion sensor, works great for creatures little or human. Plus it's very handy when we've got something going on in the evening, it lights up the entire yard.

Our place smells like dogs, sounds like dogs, and there are dogs. They work great for keeping creatures at bay. Coyotes will attack dogs, but we had a good chorus going here the other night, got the dogs to respond & the coyotes shut right up and moved on.

A 5 Joule zap will send any coyote heading for the hills. We've got a top and bottom strand in the sacrifice paddock, and plan on continuing that all the way around the field in the future. Electric fence is also great for keeping curious people out of your paddocks.

Don't Count 'em Out, Till They're Down

Poor chickie!

When I moved the tractors this morning I had one that was very pale, frazzled, and sickly looking. It happens with meat birds, they get too big for their hearts and just fade out. So I took him to a quiet shady spot beside the muck pile to let him live out his last moments... so I thought.

Go to check on the chickens 4 hours later, and guess who is sitting outside the tractor waiting to get in? Glad I didn't put him out of his "misery" this morning! Guess he just needed a nap because he looks much revived!

Evening update:  He did eventually expire today. I picked him up again and noticed how under-weight he was compared to the others. I've been trying to find some time to weigh them and will hopefully get a heads up if any others are that underweight. As it is there are 2-3 that are way too small to go in 3 weeks. We'll probably hang onto them until the turkey go (end November/early December).

I assume there was just something wrong with his system, happens a lot with these meat birds. In the tractor they all have equal access to any food; plus I've still been feeding them grain by spreading it out all over the ground when I move it.

Goats are Trouble

Really got to fix that hole in the fence...
Actually I just discovered it yesterday afternoon, the T-posts on the front fence just in front of the septic have heaved up. It's not much trouble for a wiggly little goat to get under the 1' gap, wander around the front of the house then come knock on the front door... He thinks he's cute!

We'll bang them down as soon as I can nail down Hubby for 30 minutes to do it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to Carry a Chicken

This is the best way to carry your chicken. Create a V with your fingers, slide under the breast and lift. I you've got a flapper you can move your finger tips over the tops of the bird's wings, or place your other hand over them, or put them against your body.

Alternatively, if you've got lots you need to move quickly, or have an aggressive bird you can pick them up by the legs. You should grasp them gently as close to the knee as possible. They generally don't like being turned upside down, but once you get them down they will go into a trance-like state where they won't flap or move (but they do still squawk so I wouldn't believe anyone saying they have a hard time breathing).

I find this is a good method if you're moving birds around at a sale/auction where they might become frightened. Or when you have to get 45 or so birds between the barn and the tractor. Quick trip, won't hurt them in the least, and this is something farmers have been doing for centuries.

It's also probably the way they will be slaughtered. I know Dr. Temple Grandin did a paper which explained that cattle who had been handled were calmer at slaughter and gave better meat. There is no escaping the fate of these birds. By handling them often and exposing them to loud noises, etc.; we'll make every facet of their lives, including the end, just a little easier.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wheelbarrow Chicken?

Feel the need to issue a public apology to my husband for calling him crazy for suggesting this; but moving the chickens in the wheelbarrow at night did, in fact, work.

Big storm coming so we had to bring all the animals in. Chicken tractors can tip in high wind (why you need to weight them down) ours hasn't been tested yet, and I wasn't looking forward to testing it in the middle of the night by letting all the chickens out! So instead we brought them in with the other animals and left the tractor out by itself. Now if it tips, we'll know, but not loose any birds!

The chickens were all sleepy when we moved them so we did one big trip by throwing them all into the wheelbarrow and taking them into the barn.

Can't believe that worked! And I really wish I'd brought my camera out with us!

GARDEN: Storing Zuks!

Here is my lovely produce fresh out of the garden! We've got 4 good sized zucchini, and a lovely spaghetti squash. The squash it going in a cool dark place to cure for a bit because the far side is still a little green.

I've gently washed all of the zucchini because it's going in the freezer!

I love to add zucchini to spaghetti sauce in the winter, it brings a little taste of summer back and is a great way to sneak some veggies into the kid's dinner.

You want to slice about 1/2" thick, too small and they'll turn to mush in the pan, too large and you've got big chunks of veg the kids aren't going to eat.

I lay them out on a tray individually to freeze them because that way I've got individual zucchini slices to pull out and add to my sauce instead of a big frozen clump!

So slice them, lay them out on a pan, and let them freeze, then after a few hours remove from freezer, and place in plastic bag for storage!

Oh, and save the ends for the chickens!

Here I stand, with goat balls in my hand...

Diego's pair required a little final very gentle encouragement, there were about to come off anyway but I noticed the flies were getting at it. So quick little tug and some fly spray and I'm standing in the front yard of my house holding dried goat balls...

Since I have been unable to locate my sewing kit since we moved in I haven't been able to make Billy a lamb-coat, so I improvised...

He looks ridiculous but it actually fits quite well!

(The purpose of the lamb coat is to protect his wool from contaminants like the goat hair)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Meg is mad at me

She hates me SO much right now...
 Meg is getting a little too round about the middle, so I decided it was time for a grazing muzzle.

We got an "easy breath" from, it's great. I love how well the breathing holes line up, I could probably ride her in this if I really wanted to (that would be a really stupid idea though)

Uh... I guess you need to put them on a little tighter then I did the first time... I did manage to catch her after 5 minutes (she's really mad at me!!) and got it on tighter, hopefully she won't get it off again.

The muzzle allows her to still eat grass (there is a big hole in the bottom), but makes it harder and so she takes longer, and gets less food. That way she can stay out all day long, but we can also get her down to a healthier weight! Right now she's wearing it for about 12-14 hours at night, and has it off during the day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Great change comes from simple actions.

Taking time today to remember a man who was a great source of personal inspiration. Didn't always agree with all his politics, but if nothing else, Jack was a honest man and a fighter.

"My friends, love is better than anger. 
Hope is better than fear. 
Optimism is better than despair. 
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the world."

 People like Jack, Dr. Suzuki, Jane Goodall and so many many other passionate people, inspire me on a daily basis to push forward and change the way our family consumes, conserves, and lives.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Now, I have two maxims to live by. Thank you Jack, for your years of dedication, your inspirational spirit, and unwavering service to Canadians.
Loving, Hopeful, Optimistic, Entirely Unreasonable, and Respectfully Yours,

A Tale of Tails

Billy's cute little behind

Most lambs have their tails docked when they are just born. There is actually a really good reason for this, fly strike. It can kill a lamb in no time, so to increase survival the tail is removed so that it can't hold feces against the lamb's body.

Billy is a bottle baby so we were always available to wipe his bottom if he needed it (thankfully it wasn't an issue!), so we never docked his tail. And the boy has just about the cutest butt on the farm!

His whole bum shivers when he's happy (like when I used to bottle feed) or if he's going for a good kick in the field it wags like a dogs'. Plus he uses it to fend off biting insects.

If you're going to keep a pet lamb, I highly recommend not docking their tails. They are just too cute to loose!
(His fuzzy balls were pretty cute too, but those had to go)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Rare and Elusive... Cow Nest

Okay it's not rare, or elusive, it's just a waste of hay.
They barely ate anything out of the bale, it's just been spread around for the calves to sleep in and the horses to roll in; but we don't mind.

Thanks to the rain we've had lately the pasture it making a real come-back. If we could just get things together to get a darn bush-hog out in the field, there is tons of food, it's just hiding under long unpalatable grass.