chicken keeping

Critter Attack

The other day we had a little excitement. We lost the birds for awhile.

Not all the birds, just the turkeys and new hens.

It started out to be a pretty traumatic loss. Hubby went out to check them and found only 8 of the 17 birds. All hiding and huddled in the pen.

We closed up the pen to keep them all in and started looking. We could hear peeping of the birds but we could not see them.

We walked all around the pasture. We found the feathers and remains of one and feared the worst.

We walked around the outside of the pasture and into the weeds that form the border of our property. We kept hearing peeping but we couldn’t find them. Eventually, I decided that must just be the peeping of all the birds in the trees and I gave up.

I walked up towards the house and as I got to the fence, I saw 2 of the birds frantically trying to get into the big chicken coop!! I was so excited!! I grabbed one and passed it to someone else to get back to the pen and chased the other around to the garden.

There I found 2 more birds!!

And another 2 jumped out of the bushes nearby!! YAY!!! We captured them all and put them back into the pen.

What an exciting night!!

I had left #MillietheMule over at our other pasture with Barney to eat that down for a while and give this pasture a rest. Guess who was brought back home quickly that night??!!

She needed to be back on the job! Youngest Daughter has really stepped up and taken over care of them and she helped me bring them home to go back to work here. Of course, Barney is just “Pasture Candy” (heeheheee) but Millie has been doing a great job of keeping any critters away.

Since then, one of the Guinea Hens is missing. I think it got left out of the pen overnight and wandered away.

My brother and I traded. He got 4 turkeys and I got 4 guineas. Our hope is that they will take care of some of the ticks around our properties and therefore keep us and our dogs from getting Lymes.

Oh- and to finish the story of the birds. I had a bowl of scraps for the big chickens leftover from dinner that I ran out to them. I kept hearing the peeping of the turkeys but it was really close. Looking around, I found the 16th bird! Stuck behind the stairs into my coop!!

Honestly I have no idea how that bird got in there, but it did. And it is back with its buddies.

Always interesting when you have lots of kids and animals.



chicken keeping

Conventially Raised Chicken vs. Organically Raised Chickens- a little discussion

I sent my meat birds into the butcher a couple of weeks ago.

Thank goodness.. That was a tough run, to be honest. Problems galore!!

It was so cold for so long. A hazard here in Wisconsin that sometimes you just have to roll with. Then add in quite a bit of rain, and I really had problems. I started with 60 birds and ended up taking in 34.

That’s hard, not gonna lie.

I felt bad losing so many. I don’t like animals in my care to die. They do, that is just a fact of life. But losing birds to my own mistakes is really hard.

It seems that the feed I used wasn’t very good. I lost several birds to broken legs. It seems like the feed didn’t have enough protein in it.

I have been having a discussion with a friend of mine who lives in TN. He and his family raise LOTS of meat birds- a much larger production than my few. They have dealt with it all- but add in extreme heat. He pointed out the problem with not enough protein. I hadn’t thought about that.

One of the things they do is make sure to use Non-GMO, organic feeds and their birds are on pasture. They have made that decision to go that route and have found feeds locally that go along with that decision.

Once you do that, the overall prices go up- as I am sure you are all familiar with. I am having a hard time going that route for that reason. I want people to be able to afford to eat good, healthy meats. I agree that using Non-GMO feeds is just plain better for the animals we are raising to eat, and for us in the long run. But I can’t justify the costs involved because I want people to just start by eating healthier foods, which I can accomplish just by raising meat birds, and I don’t want the costs to be a deterrent. So for me, my goal is to get people eating healthier foods at reasonable prices.

I priced it out yesterday. I went to 3 different feed places. There are a couple more in the area, but these are what I had time for yesterday.

Here is what I found:

  1. the cheapest bag of organic feed I found was 26.99 per 40lbs.
  2. the best brand, in our area, of feed I purchased for 15.89 per 50lbs
  3. for the meat rabbits- there are no organic feeds that I found.
  4. I did find a better brand of rabbit feed for 14.90 per 50lbs
  5. the feed mill mix of broiler feed was 11.80 per 50lbs

The feed I have been using is simply the cheapest and easiest to access. I had hoped to have them eat more pasture grasses and bugs which is what they are supposed to be eating. A well fed chicken is one who has access to dirt, grasses/plants, and meat items like bugs and small animals. (yes- chickens eat small animals like mice and snakes.) They are omnivores.

But the reality of it, is that there are limits to what they have access to, because I still have them in an enclosure. I want them, rabbits and chickens, to eat as much naturally as I can offer them. Which, I am doing by using the chicken tractors and on the ground enclosures.

I do need to feed them better feeds. If I want a better meat animal, more nutritious, I need to feed them better. Absolutely. Feeding them better feeds, even, still will only cost about 2.50lb. I feel like that is more expensive than Walmart, but still accessible for a person who wants to get a healthier meat.

If I go to totally organic, which is possible and more desired, my birds would then go up in price to about 4.50lb. Less accessible for some families who are just beginning to try more locally raised foods and maybe don’t have a lot of money.

My birds average about 5lbs so that would be 12.50 a bird for conventionally raised. 22.50 for organically raised.

Granted, I do not agree with how conventional farmers are being trained to grow crops. I think that they do need to diversify and try some other methods. Be less reliant on Monsanto, now Bayer, and the government.

But that’s my outsider opinion.

This discussion I had with my friend has really helped me figure out my purpose for what I am doing. I want people to come to me for a good, healthy alternative to grocery store, mass produced meats, eggs and eventually produce. I want people to be able to feed their families affordably. And I want to do it humanely, and as chemical free as I can possibly make it. Thanks, Chris, for that discussion so that I could get to this place of KNOWING why I am doing what I am doing.

I am doing what I can. Eventually, I hope to go totally organic. But for now, I am going to do the best I can with what I have.

In the end, that’s all we can do.



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