Today, we are going to share instructions on how to build a nipple drinker for your pastured poultry. We use these primarily with our chickens, but it also works well for turkeys. Keep in mind, waterfowl need to dunk their bill into the water, so this doesn’t work for them. This project takes under 15 minutes, and is cheaper than the poultry fountain drinkers you can find in most farm stores, plus they are much easier to fill.
First off, let’s talk about what a poultry nipple is. We like these awesome side mounted drinkers from Lovatic. They don’t leak, work well even when it’s below freezing, and keep the water cleaner. They have a little metal center piece, a small lip on the bottom edge for the water to collect on, and they easily screw into the bucket. We have had these for a couple seasons, and they’ve outlasted one of the buckets. They can easily be removed and transferred to a new bucket should the bucket crack or otherwise be made unusable. The birds seem to figure them out pretty easily, but we show them how they are used several times over the course of a couple days just to be sure.
As I sit and write this, Thanksgiving is the furthest thing from my mind. However, we run a farm, and we are constantly thinking about the next seasons, and following years.
A couple weeks ago, an acquaintance of ours found some turkey poults for a great price. He contacted me and let me know. I contacted a few friends to see if they would want to get some with me. A couple friends were available, but the first person to jump at the opportunity was Janice. She is part of the fantastic family of folks who came to install our high tensile fencing, Sitting Bull Fencing and Agriculture Solutions. She finished up her chores, and we, along with her twin daughters, headed to Family Farm And Home.
The girls found some pretty Plymouth Blues, and we decided to get the rest of them. We split them between us, and we are all quite happy with that. They also picked up a few Cornish X, which were discounted pretty heavily.
Finally, we got to the turkeys. Initially on the phone, the employee told me they had about 40. Once we got there, there were only 30 in the bin, but he was willing to honor the discounted price for as many as we wanted. We came to the conclusion that it would be irresponsible to not take all of them. So into the boxes they went! All 100+ of them.
We did split the turkey purchase, and they took home about 30 turkeys, in addition to their Plymouth Blues, and Cornish X. They will have some full freezers and lots of eggs soon!
Unfortunately, we did lose a few of the poults early on. We couldn’t get the temperature of the brooder to stay consistent, and we think that stressed them out. Once we got that worked out, they’ve been doing really well.
As with all of our animals, they are eating a feed ration that is from a local grain mill. They use locally grown grains, so this helps strengthen our local economy, and reduce the carbon footprint of our animals. This is something that is very important to us. In addition to being fed the feed ration, they will be on pasture, with access to grass, bugs, seeds, and fresh air. They will be free to be turkeys and do what turkeys are supposed to do!
So now, onto the exciting part for all of you! Turkeys for the holidays! We will start getting these processed in late August or early September. We plan on staggering the butchering dates so they are a variety of sizes. They will be priced at $3/pound, and sold as whole birds with the giblets included. It will look a lot like what you get in the grocery store, but not pumped full of preservatives, water, salt, sugar, modified food starch, or “Sodium Phosphate to enhance tenderness and juiciness”.
If you are interested in ordering one of the turkeys, please send us a message and let us know about how large of a bird you would like to purchase. Since this is our first year, we are anticipating a wide range in our weights, and we will do our best to accommodate all size requests. Please understand that raising poultry in small batches is not fool-proof, and we cannot make any promises on sizes.
As we get nearer to the holidays, we will share some suggestions on how to enjoy pastured turkey.
This spring has been a wet one. Our garden is delayed, and we are scrapping some of our plans altogether, unfortunately. We are hoping for some not-so-wet weather in the coming month so that our fall crops will do well. Cross your fingers for us!
The wet weather thankfully hasn’t affected our meat production. Our first batch of chickens is going to the processor on June 27. They are Red Bro Color Yield Broilers, from The Chick Hatchery. We really enjoy how they look, and they are doing really well on pasture.
We will have them fresh, never frozen at the Marshall Farmers Market on June 29. They will be ready for the grill that afternoon! Any birds that are not sold that day will go into the freezer.
A few days later, we are having a special event at Green Gardens Community Farm. July 1, which is Canada Day, those fine folks will be hosting Check Out Your Chicken. We will be preparing some chickens so you can taste them before purchasing. They will be available as whole birds for $4.50/lb. We will not be offering cut ups for this first batch, but we might in the future.
If you have any questions about these birds, our process for raising them, or anything else, feel free to contact us!
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!
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.
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.
Since acquiring our hodgepodge of goats, one of the little guys has amassed quite a fan club. Taco, a tiny little thing, has captivated so many people. He is small. Like really, really small. And I think that is part of his appeal!
We decided to work with our friend Nicole Lapointe, who we’ve had do some custom art for us in the past, to design something special to honor Taco and all his tiny, goaty goodness. She is awesomely talented, and perfectly captures the subjects in every piece she creates.
Her art was sent to StickerMule where we had stickers made. Their pricing is great, and the quality is top notch. So far, we have just this one design made, but we will have more stickers made in the future with other awesome animals! If you are interested in getting your own stickers, check out StickerMule!
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.
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.
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.