Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chickens, chickens, chickens

The following is a few 'learn from my mistakes' poultry -raising stories. I had all sorts of adventures in chicken farming this year. From ravens eating my eggs, and killing over 16 of my laying hens, to having a couple of disasters in raising meat birds. Sigh. I hate blogging about my mistakes. There just seem to be so many of them! Then again, if I don't put it down, who will learn from my bungles?!

My laying hens were crap this year, as I think I have stated before. I have about 40 hens, and for the last few (several) months, I've been getting anywhere from 0 to 3 eggs a day. Yet I am spending way too much money buying feed for the buggers. Grrrr. Arggg.
This week, things seem to be finally changing. This morning, I got 10 eggs... I seriously don't remember the last time I had ten eggs in one day! Of course, now they will start laying like crazy, and I've lost almost all of my egg customers. Hopefully I will start getting a few more of those again soon. I am ALMOST finished paying off my egg share clients... it has taken me so long to do this. I have three dozen owing right now, and then I'm done with the obligations... so I hope I don't start getting stuck with a zillion eggs all of a sudden!

Meat chickens did pretty well this year, for the most part. I am slowly getting some regular customers for those, plus I give away some (my family all got roasters for Christmas) and some away for barter. I still haven't gotten to the point where I actually make any money on them. My last batch was a bit of a disaster, though. They came in much later than I expected. I had decided to keep them for 10 weeks instead of 8 and see what kind of difference it made to the size of the birds. Yet, somehow, they never really grew and I couldn't understand why. When I took some of them into the processor, I found out. (I have a new processor, and I really like the facility, and she is super knowledgable about the birds). The bottoms of the poor birds feet were burned from ammonia. I always do a deep layer system when raising my birds, so I only have to change the coop once after each batch. This has so far always worked for me, but this time it backfired. Because it was so late in the season, and wet and cooler, the hay heated up, burning the little chickens. So, they decided they didn't want to grow anymore. I feel really bad that I didn't figure this out on my own, but I never thought to look at the bottom of their feet! So, now I am doing a shallow layer system and cleaning out their bedding each week, which is time consuming, but some of the birds have started growing again... yippee! They will be going to the processor very soon in the new year. My freezer is starting to look empty! Then, for this coming year, I will know better!

I also had a couple of turkey disasters. Of which I was a complete dumbass, and didn't learn anything the first time, so had to fail a second time before I figured it out. Dork.

Anyway, what happed was this: the little turkeys arrived, really healthy looking, eating and drinking. After a couple of weeks, they still looked really good. All of a sudden, one would die. No warning, didn't look sick, just... dead. Then, another. The next day, two would die. Then they would be ok for a few days, and I would think whatever was wrong had passed. Then, poof! Another death. This just kept going until I only had a few birds left. Three of them were kind of gimpy, and one of their legs was crooked. Two seemed to be ok. After about 16 weeks, the gimpy ones just gave up and died. So, stupidly, I had fed them this whole time. I was left with only 2 healthy birds.

In typical Kelly fashion, I decided it was a fluke that they all died (after all, I was doing everything the same as last year, and I had been super-successful then....) so I got a second batch to try again. The same thing happened. I tried doing some research online, but didn't find anything then. I also contacted the breeders, and they had never heard of whatever was happening to my birds. I asked some other farmers, and no one knew what I was talking about.

Grrrr! Arrgggg!!!

Anyway, since then I did some major research... I don't want to fail again next year! There are two possibilities. One, a calcium/vitamin D deficiency. Which means the feed I have been getting was changed slightly from last year to this one, and now doesn't have enough vitamins and minerals in it, OR, it is a genetic thing, and I'll have to change suppliers. In the spring, I am going to try one batch from my regular supplier, and put a supplement into their water, see if that works. Otherwise, I will have to change suppliers. I have lost so many turkey sales this year...I had to tell everyone I was sold out. It was such a bummer. This poultry raising thing seems to be taking me a long time to figure out. Am I the only one who learns so slow? Do other people have disasters, too? Or am I the only dumbass out there.... !!!?

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Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!