Animals · Chickens · Goals · Sheep

New Beginnings: Life And Death On The Farm

As of March 31st, I quit my off-farm job, in order to pursue farming full time. Robert is still working as an engineer full time, and he is enjoying his job. But with the way things have been growing at home, we figured having me available more often would be best for the business, and our animals.

Way back on March 18th, our Jacob ewe Haiku gave birth to a happy little ewe lamb which we named Verse. This little lass is quick on her feet, and loves running around with the goats and the chickens. She has learned that the geese are to be avoided, and if anyone gets in her way, she can easily dart around them.

We’ve been waiting since then for our other ewe, Tanka, to have her baby. We came home last night from Fiber Expo, and visiting family, and she had done just that. She gave birth to a beautifully marked ram lamb, who unfortunately was born too early and didn’t make it. If it hadn’t been so cold and wet last night, or if he’d had just a little more time in the womb, things may have been different. However, we cannot dwell on things we cannot change. We can learn from them, and hopefully be better prepared for next year. We talked to our sheep mentors, and after a lot of reassurance, we will have better plans in place the next time around.

This whole ordeal was a huge blow to my confidence. I want everything to be perfect this year, since this is the way I will be contributing to our household. But the only thing I can control is the way I react to things. I am trying to be really objective with everything, but it’s difficult. We have made a decision on what to do with the baby that didn’t make it, and hopefully that will work out. Either way, we will be sharing it here.

We have so many projects planned for the next few months, and we are looking forward to pushing forward and gaining momentum. Our first batch of meat birds is arriving this week. We have thirty brown leghorns in a brooder that are due to head outside any day now. Keep an eye out for more regular blog posts now that I am home more!

Animals · Chickens · Ducks · Geese · Goats

Chicken Enrichment: Rolling Out Oat Straw

Spring is finally starting to show up, and everyone on the farm is very happy. Grass is sprouting, wild turkeys are roaming through the yard, and the birds are ramping up their egg production. We have started getting several goose eggs a day, and a turkey egg every couple days. But, we are dealing with mud city pretty much everywhere, especially in the bird yard. We knew we had to do something about it, and Robert found the perfect solution.

Two round bales of oat hay/straw. The farmer had an issue with getting the field harvested, and the seed heads ripened a little too much. This is PERFECT for our situation! The straw will soak up some of the muck, and make it less slippery, and the seeds will become food for the flock. And then any seeds they embed into the muck will sprout, providing food in the future.

Rolling the first bale out was hilarious. We cut the net wrap off, and just started pushing and hoped for the best. Luckily, we had it in the right direction, and it worked for us on the first try. I ran ahead shooing chickens and getting feed pans out of the way as Robert continued unrolling the bale like a giant roll of toilet paper. So far, the birds have thoroughly enjoyed every moment. They immediately took to scratching through it, looking for all the yummy oat seeds, and bugs. They have also really helped with spreading out the straw itself.

Handsome rooster Dwayne is right up front, letting his girls know where the food is.

We also threw a few piles over the fence for the geese and ruminants to snack on. They were pretty excited with this new source of entertainment.

Overall, we are quite satisfied with this purchase. It was a small investment which will definitely pay off. Happy birds with full bellies and busy scratching feet make us very happy farmers.

Alpaca · Animals · Chickens · garden · Goats · Llama · Sheep

The Day to Day of Winter Farming

This time of year, there isn’t a whole lot going on here, but that doesn’t mean we are sitting around all day. Our fifteen fuzzy hay eating animals still need hay and snacks brought out to them at least once a day, and the birds still need their feed and water taken care of.

We have shifted the way we do our chores slightly this winter. We were both getting home after dark some days, so we moved all of our poultry feeding to the mornings. One fifty pound sack of feed is divvied up between several feeders, and they seem to be fine with that. If one of us is home, we will go out a couple times with Luna and throw some “snackies” out for the birds. Snackies are scratch, kitchen scraps, or whatever else we might have for them. This keeps them entertained, and allows us to check on them periodically.

As for the fuzzy hay eating animals, we still occasionally feed them twice. They get at least one full bale of hay in the morning, which is sometimes brought out in a wheelbarrow. The smaller goats seem to enjoy when that happens. If they eat most of that, we give them another half bale of hay in the evening. We don’t like to give them all of it at once, because they just like to make a mess of it, and leave it all over the ground.

Taco is being very helpful in the wheelbarrow.

The nice part about them making a mess is that it’s great for them to bed down in. This works well for us, until the hay and poop piles up. We have been managing to stay on top of things, and we scoop out the spent hay pretty regularly.

This is a completely different day, and that is Milkshake in the wheelbarrow, and Betty eyeballing him, with Nugget on the left supervising.

The wheelbarrow loads of dirty hay get hauled around the pastures and are dumped into low spots in the ground. These holes are mostly caused by chickens taking excessively aggressive dust baths. I don’t know what their issue is, but they apparently think bathing for 45 minutes and tossing every speck of dirt three feet away is absolutely required. Filling the holes means we fall less frequently, which is always a good thing. We also toss some of the hay into the bird yard for them to scratch through. It soaks up some of the gross mud we have been dealing with for a while, and gives them a little more traction when the ground freezes. If we have any hay left after, it gets piled on top of our compost pile.

This is the bulk of what we have been doing all winter. Soon, we will begin ordering our seeds for the vegetable and flower gardens, as well as ordering chicks to raise. We are looking forward to working back into our daily routines.

Animals · Chickens · Ducks · Eggs · Goats · Meat · Production · Sheep

Winter is Coming to the Farm

Now that the rush of summer is gone, we were truly hoping that autumn and winter would be a little easier and calmer. So far, we have been wrong.

Our final batch of chickens for this season was brought to the processor last week. They are now in the freezer awaiting their new homes in the ovens and soup pots of our customers. This batch of chickens finished a little smaller than previous batches. We aren’t sure if it’s due to being later in the year, and the pasture not being quite as nutritious, or something else. That being said, they are just as delicious as the previous birds sent to the processor. We had to acquire an additional freezer to store these birds in. We are hoping to have it emptied out by the end of the year. Or at least have one of the meat freezers emptied out by then.

We have acquired several new animals recently. We have three Jacob sheep that we purchased from Sweetgrass Jacobs back at the end of October. One named Limerick, who is a two horned ram born in April of this year. We also got one two horned female and a four horned female, named Haiku and Tanka respectively. They are all quite skittish, but they are slowly warming up to us.

In addition to the sheep, we’ve acquired five goats. They came from a farm that was downsizing. We have three wethers and two does. The wethers are named Taco, Milkshake and Nugget, and the does are Curry and Fudge. Yes, we named them all after foods that goats can be made into. But we don’t plan on eating these ones any time soon.

Our chickens and ducks have slowed their egg production. We are still getting a dozen or two a day, but that’s a far cry from the overflowing baskets we were getting for most of the summer. It will pick back up in the spring. Everything has a season, and egg season is definitely early summer!

We will be processing our own turkey for Thanksgiving, and we are really looking forward to that. We have two really large males that we will choose between. The second one will be served up at the December holiday dinner. We hope the rest of the turkeys will lay eggs for us to hatch and raise up for next year’s holiday dinners.

All of our tasty products, and some of Nicole’s knitted items will be available at the Marshall Farmers Market at the B.E. Henry building. We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it, feel free to send us a message to make arrangements to get some eggs or chicken. Happy almost-winter!

Alpaca · Animals · Chickens · Llama · Product Review · Video

Watering Plants and Animals: A Review of Fogg-It Watering Nozzles

One of the frustrating things about starting seeds is that many of them need to be babied while they are sprouting. Watering with a regular hose nozzle is too strong of a stream and can disrupt the seeds, or break the fragile stems. We found these amazing misting nozzles on Amazon, and we knew they were a game changer.

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The Fogg-It Watering Nozzles come in a pack of three, or can be purchased individually. We decided to go for the three pack, as it would give us more options for different tasks. We are very glad we did! We use the 1/2 gallon per minute (GPM) nozzle to water our seed starts. The other two are used for watering the animals. A couple weeks ago, it got unseasonably hot for a couple days, and all of our animals were panting and struggling with the heat. We ran a couple hoses out to our chicken tractor, and ran the 1 GPM nozzle over them for almost an hour. They absolutely loved it! It was hilarious watching these meat birds drink the water running down the walls of the tractor. We also sprayed down Faith and Galahad, who seemed to really have fun with the water. They had just gotten their hair cuts a couple days prior which also helped keep them cool.

We also used the 2 GPM nozzle to mist the laying flock. We had it strung up in the tree to mist the shady areas, and the drips filled up a pool we set on the ground under the tree. This is an easy, relatively hands-off way of cooling the flock when it gets way too hot out. The hose can be left like that for a while and we can go and get other things done.

Overall, we are so happy we purchased these nozzles! They have several other sizes available, and they can also be purchased individually. If you get some of these for yourself, let us know what you think!

We purchased these nozzles at full price with our own money. We did not offer to do a review of this item, but we seriously love them so much we had to share them. The links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase through them, we get a small amount of money in return. Thank you for supporting our farm.

Animals · Chickens · Collaboration · Green Gardens Community Farm · Meat · Production

Raising Meat Birds

Something super exciting is happening at Frontière Farm House very soon! Our first batch of meat birds is going to the processor tomorrow, and we can’t wait to share them with all of you.

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The meat flock lining up for breakfast.

Back at the end of March, we received a shipment of Red Ranger and Husky Ranger chicks from The Chick Hatchery. They were so tiny when they first arrived! We struggled a little at first, and a few didn’t survive, but since that initial issue (which we’ve worked out for future batches) they haven’t had any health troubles. When we first got them, they grew so quickly. In fact, if one of us didn’t see them for a couple days, we noticed their growth very easily.

We are getting close to processing time, and we wanted to share more information about these soon-to-be delicious birds. As said previously, they are Red Ranger and Husky Ranger. These are both chicken breed crosses that have been selectively bred to grow fairly quickly. They are slightly slower growing and have far fewer health problems than the traditional Cornish cross, which was very important to us. In addition, the Ranger types are better for free range/pasture raising (hence the name). We have our birds in a mobile chicken coop, often called a chicken tractor, which we move to fresh grass every single day, and sometimes twice a day. They can eat all the grass, weeds, bugs and dirt they want. More than once we have seen them chase flying insects in the tractor and eagerly gobble them up. This is what chickens are meant to do! In addition, we feed them a high-quality meat bird grower feed which is blended at a local mill. It doesn’t contain any hormones or antibiotics and is made from grains grown local to us. Supporting local farmers is something that we do as often as possible!

Red Rangers and Husky Rangers mature in ten to twelve weeks. It is a short life, but our birds are very happy every single day they spend on our farm. We have a goal of making sure none of our animals have more than one bad day. We will be bringing them to a USDA inspected facility where they will be processed. We have heard nothing but good things about this processor, and we are confident that they will do a great job of minimizing suffering for our birds. Once they are killed, plucked, and cleaned, they will be wrapped, weighed, labeled, and we will bring them home in coolers. We will have them available fresh for the first day at the market, and then we will freeze them shortly after. We are taking pre-orders for the birds. For just $5, you secure your whole bird. That will go towards the total cost. They are $4.50 a pound for the whole birds, and if we end up doing halves or eight pieces, the price will be slightly more.

In addition to picking them up from us, we will have chicken available through our friends at Green Gardens Community Farm! The pricing will be the same, but pre-orders will not be available.

We already have our second batch of birds started, and these will also be ready in ten to twelve weeks. If you miss out on this first round, you don’t have too long to wait for more!

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Sixty birds for the next batch

Animals · Chickens · Ducks · Eggs · Geese · Goals · Meat · Production · Video

New Kids In The Flock: Recent Additions to Our Farm

We’ve been told that spring is coming, but we beg to differ. We’ve had alternating days of wonderful weather, with clear skies and reasonable temperatures, and complete garbage. This morning, I woke up to snow dusting the entire yard. Luna wasn’t super impressed with it when I took her out to do her business and care for the animals.

First thing every morning, we let the flock out of the coop. The chickens, ducks and muscovies spend the night in the coop, and the geese stay outside. They are too large, and just too mean to keep in with the rest of the flock overnight. Plus, we have them as “guard dogs” so we want them to make noise if something is amiss. This is what “Unleashing the Feather Beasts” looked like back in the fall.

In the last month or so, we’ve added several birds to our flock. The first were a pair of male muscovies. We got a white, as well as a lavender. Shortly after, we got a trio of females to go with them. We plan on breeding them to raise babies for both egg and meat production. We also acquired three female Toulouse geese, which seem to have bonded with the trio of American Buff geese we have. The plan for those is also raising babies for meat production. Plus, we’ll enjoy some eggs while we wait for the ladies to go broody.

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Our two handsome Muscovy boys

We have also ordered more layers, as well as our first batch of meat birds. The layers are going to be Easter Eggers, to add a little color to our cartons for the market. The meat birds are Red Rangers as well as Husky Rangers. The Easter Eggers will be added to our laying flock after brooding in the barn for a few weeks. The Rangers will be put into tractors to be moved around our pasture. We have several reasons we’ve chosen Rangers as opposed to the usual Cornish Cross meat birds, which we will go into more detail in a future post. Keep an eye out for that one!