The warmer weather has brought an overwhelming amount of projects to the farm. Now that it feels like spring, we are juggling a number of outdoor projects as well as the kitchen remodel and racing to get the top priorities completed before moving on to the rest. The top priorities at the moment include constructing the broiler pen, getting our grazing animals on our pasture and out of the barnyard and planning the garden. Unfortunately, the kitchen remodel will have to take a back seat for now.
Ryan will be constructing the broiler pen during our free evenings this week with the hope we can get our broilers out of the brooder and onto fresh grass very soon. This keeps them healthy, happy and they are able to supplement their diet with bugs and greens. The broiler pen we will be building is modeled after Joel Salatin’s chicken tractor.
We will be modifying ours a bit and making it a little smaller. It will be about 8’ x 8’. Joel uses aluminum corrugated roofing on his and we are having a hard time finding it. It looks like we’ll have to special order some, which delays our project even more. If anyone knows where to find some, let us know! 🙂
The sheep are itching for the fresh spring plants they see growing on the other side of the barnyard fence. Our pasture has 3 strand electric fencing, but that is not enough for sheep, neither is it in very good condition. We are adding two more strands of high tensile wire fencing plus we’ll need to replace a couple of posts. Our fingers are crossed the electric connection and pre-existing wiring will work once we flip the switch. If not, our project will take up much more time. In addition to the perimeter fence, we are going to be making moveable paddocks with electronet fencing.
We can simply move this fencing around wherever we want our sheep and cows to be inside our pasture. We plan to move the “flerd” every day to a new paddock of pasture. Not only does this improve the current condition of the pasture by allowing it to rest between grazings, but it keeps the animals healthy as they won’t be back to a particular paddock until after the parasite life cycle is broken. This keeps the parasite load under control. Hair sheep are naturally parasite resistant and ours are 50% St. Croix, which is the most parasite resistant breed of sheep around, but by the time any eggs hatch and are ready to find a host, our flerd will have moved on and won’t be back for weeks. We can even use the electronet fencing to move our flerd around the yard to mow for us. Releasing those animals out on fresh pasture for the first time will be an event here at the farm. I can’t wait to see it.
Our Jumbo Cornish Cross broilers continue to increase in size and unattractiveness. They are feathering out, but you can see right to their skin. Our Red Broilers, on the other hand, look fantastic. They are getting reddish-brown feathers that cover all their skin and appear large but still athletic, however they are not as big as the JCC. The size difference is becoming more obvious now. The RB have much more personality compared to the JCC.
When we walk into the coop, the RB come and sit on our shoes! They are able to fly a bit more than the JCC, which don’t get off the ground these days. If I was picking a favorite, it would be the RB. I can visualize them doing quite well free-ranging the whole property with our heritage birds. The final decision will come once we see them both on pasture, compare the time it takes to get them to market weight and of course, the taste test.
Our heritage chicks are so much fun. The kids and I enjoy walking into the coop each day and just spending time with them. They have gotten so friendly and sociable. We’ll squat down to look at the chicks and they will fly right onto our knees, arms and shoulders!
The Dominiques seem especially inclined to do this. I think Elijah had 3 or 4 Dominques on him yesterday.
One pullet flew onto my knee the other day and sat there while I petted her head and back like a cat. They’ll settle in and get comfy on you, too.
We’ve released the ducks from the brooder and allow them to free-range during the day. We dug an old water tub, courtesy of the previous owners, into the ground to function as Duck Pond 1.0. They’ve pretty much outgrown it, so we’ll get a kiddie pool at Walmart to function as Duck Pond 2.0. Once we don’t have so many projects waiting on our to-do list (bwa ha ha), we’ll dig and line an actual pond for our ducks’ bathing and swimming pleasure. I love the ducks. Not only are they about the cutest thing on our farm, they are so entertaining. Are you having a bad day? Come to the farm. Watch the ducks. They’ll turn your frown upside down.
One thing I wasn’t expecting is how much the ducks will follow us around the homestead. When the kids go jump on the trampoline, the ducks follow. When we walk to the chicken coop, the ducks follow. When we sit down around the fire pit, the ducks follow. They love to be near us, but they don’t want to be held. Sometimes I just want to grab one and give it a squeeze, but that would scare the ducks so I refrain. The first day we let the ducks out, the cows and sheep stopped what they were doing, walked over to the fence and stared at them with ears pricked forward. I found it interesting that they would notice a small creature they’ve never seen before and move closer to study it. I love being around these farm animals. They are interesting, entertaining and I keep learning new things about them.