Archive for ‘Poultry’

October 23, 2013

Spraddle leg

We picked up a few chicks from the farm store around the first of September. They were all fine for the first couple of weeks and then 1 was looking off. I couldn’t quite determine exactly what was wrong so I put her in a brooder of her own with another chick for company and she seemed to get better. She ate and drank just fine but getting around was a bit of an issue. At first I thought she might have spraddle-leg but she didn’t fit the exact description. That went on for a couple of weeks until her legs were completely out from under her. It was time to get her fixed up.

I read up on a couple of sites on how to make a brace.

spradde leg

Irony, the chicken with leg irons.

I was without any vet wrap but small band-aids worked great! It’s not the purdiest or straightest job ever, but it worked! Five days later I took them off, put her in outside in roving coop with the rest of chicks after 3 additional days brace free in the brooder and she’s as good as new! Not only are her legs where they need to be, the sunshine has really helped her as well! She’s looking so much healthier. I can only guess that a vitamin D deficiency may have been to blame for her spraddled leg condition but whatever the cause, she’s doing great!

spraddle leg barred rock

Spraddle leg free!

October 14, 2013

Broody Hen

Several weeks ago – more specifically 3 weeks- my most favorite hen went missing. With the fox nabbings we’ve experienced, I thought for sure she was a gonner. One morning she showed up to eat but I didn’t see her again for the rest of the day. I have 3 others of the same breed and that’s how – so far- I have been able to keep track of everyone. I know I have a certain number of each kind. The next day I thought I was imagining things when I saw her the day before as she was not there to eat breakfast and gave her up for dead and figured I was crazy. Then, she reappeared to eat, then disappeared and I could never tell where she was coming from or going to. At that point I assumed she had “gone broody” (had made a nest for herself and was setting eggs).  The kids and I looked all over…in the barn in the hay stacks, in the chicken coop, in the outbuildings and we could not find her anywhere!

I figured one day she’d either show up with chicks or show up with nothing because of a bad hatch and she could get back to life as normal with the rest of the flock.

Last week I was picking up some tools that were left out when we were installing new water and electrical lines near the new milk barn site and there she was…hidden very carefully in a pile of old tractor tire walls (our neighbor cuts off the walls of the tractor tires and uses just the cylinder for planing in (raised beds), we took the tire walls for a project.)


How clever she is! This morning I took her a little food and what did I hear but peep peep peep! How wonderful, she hatched chicks! Three so far and they look to be Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. She had a lot of eggs underneath her. I saw her up and about one afternoon late last week and I checked on the nest to get an estimate and she had quite a few. If I had to guess, I would say she was probably the only one contributing to this nest as I wasn’t lacking for eggs in the nesting boxes from the other girls but who knows how many of that clutch will hatch as eggs are generally only good for about 10 days in ideal conditions.  We had some very cold nights there a couple of weeks back when I believe she was still overnighting in the coop so the eggs were left out but we’ll see.


I am very excited that we have a broody hen now.


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October 10, 2013

Feather sexing chicks

Did you know some breeds of chickens can be feather sexed with good accuracy?

They say feather sexing can be done between 1-3 days old. I prefer feather sexing between 3-5 days old (day 4-5, for me, being ideal on the tinier chicks from small pullet eggs and day 2-3 for regular size chicks). I have only feather sexed layers of some breeds but have done so with pretty good accuracy.

I’ve compiled a few websites on feather sexing:

And once you’ve read through those, try your hand!

August 20, 2013

Cilantro lime chicken tostadas

cilantro lime poached chicken (home raised & pastured)

I used a pressure cooker to “poach” my chicken but you could simmer it on the stove or bake it as well but poaching it gives me such a rich broth. I’ve also talked about using a pressure cooker before to make broth ( I have a gallon and a half of cilantro and lime infused broth to make chicken tortilla soup with =).

I place a whole skinned chicken in my pressure cooker with enough water to cover or reach the fill line (whichever is first), a good bunch of washed cilantro and a whole washed lime sliced thinly. A small handful of sea salt and cook for 45 minutes once it comes up to pressure or simmer for at least a few hours.

When ready to assemble:
Fry a tortilla in a little oil (I like sunflower oil) until lightly crisp (or oven bake brushed with a little oil bake at 375 for approx. 12 minutes). Shred cooled chicken and assemble on top of the tortilla.

Additions: black olives, cheese (jack, cheddar, pepper jack, queso blanco, etc.), sour cream or Greek yogurt, lettuce, green onions, red onions, tomatoes, salsa, refried beans, bean and corn salsa (black beans, red onions and corn marinated in a little cilantro and lime), avocado, green salsa or even a nice cheesy vinaigrette if you need it.

A healthy & light, yet filling, summer meal!

June 22, 2013

Pastured Poultry

We’ve been very happy with our Cornish Cross broilers.  If you would have asked me last year if we would ever raise Cornish Crosses for meat, I would have said “NEVER!”. However, after talking to several people I know who have raised them with positive results and visited a farm that pasture raised them, I found that chances are if we changed up their ration some and did not allow them access to fee choice high protein food, they may do very well. And very well they have!

I’ve read who’ve called them “frankenbirds”. I don’t agree with this, they are nothing more than a cross. I happen to like my white chicken and turkey meat, anything that gets me more of that by crossing 2 breeds is fine by me! It would be no different than taking a horse and a donkey and creating a mule. Mules are sure footed and while some may say they are stubborn, they just know how not to get themselves in to trouble. Cornish Crosses were selectively bred for quick gains and good food conversion. While ours are not/will not be ready in the 5-7 weeks they claim before they are butcher weight, we certainly aren’t starving to get them to get them to a good butcher weight by 9 weeks.

They have not been the “Jurassic Park” birds some people claim them to be with the desire to eat (and eat each other) and nothing more. At least not ours! Their breasts are not so big they drag on the ground and the birds definitely have no  issues walking. It’s not uncommon for them to try to fly out of the door on the top! We also let them out of the roving coup to forage. It’s pretty comical to see that they all like to try to fly, which amounts to the same as a regular chicken trying to fly!  I’m sure it feels good for them to get out of the “confines” of the roving coup.  How are they doing in the heat and humidity you ask? Haven’t lost one yet! They seem to be taking the near 100 days well and the humidity has been nothing short of awful for several days and still yet, they are healthy and growing.

Between 0 and 3 weeks of age they did receive an 18% protein mix free choice and they always had access to clean fresh water. In another post I referenced several links for custom mixes and nutritional info. If you want to make your own custom mix, what’s available to you may dictate what you put in your own. We can get wheat, alfalfa meal, barley, oats, soy meal, bone meal, corn…pretty much most of what goes in to a standard mix for broilers and then some so it’s fairly easy to make a custom mix and stay away from certain grains like corn and soy due to GMO’s if you so wish.  Tweaking your ration will depend on what kind of protein, fat, vitamins, etc. you’re wanting in your ration to total.

By 3.5 weeks they were ready to go out on pasture in the roving coup where they are moved 2-3 times a day depending on what the ground beneath them looks like. They DO forage, and they DO like greens and so if the ground looked well eaten over, they were moved to completely new ground. (This ground will sit a year before other chickens are put on it). We have a variety of plants in our pasture to include, but not limited to: Brome, prairie grass, orchard grass, cheat, yarrow, dandelion, chickweed, and many other pasture plants. They eat the good majority of it. They LOVE the tops off of grass blades and ants so while they may not have a feeder full of regular ration at their beckon call, they do have access to all the pasture vittles they want!

They are fed the broiler ration morning and night. How much per bird varies with their age, I up their total ration a little more each day. They have access to free choice water which I fill several times a day with water from the well . We’ve installed a nipple system for them which seems to be working really well, before they were on a 3 gallon tote. They go through about 10 gallons of water a day.

They are let out of the roving coup daily, I like to sit out there with them especially in the evening. They are actually quite docile and while they will peck at shiny things (think rings, OUCH!) they seem to like to be pet and like to hang around. My layers don’t even do that! Being hand-fed, they follow like gaggle of geese when we walk away. It’s quite comical really.

They DO NOT get antibiotics in their water, they do not receive any growth hormones, just good clean water, a good brioler ration, fresh air, bugs and pasture!

roving coup

cornish rocks

In just about a week they’ll be off to freezer camp. What are they weighing in at? The roosters are obviously larger than the hens. This photo is not accurate of their size, I don’t think, or at least what people have said after seeing these photos and then seeing them in real life only a couple of days later. I weighed a rooster who came in 6.6 lbs. at 7 weeks old, I’m happy with that!

If you were to ask me now if we’d ever raise them again, my answer would be yes! So far, I’ve been happy and impressed with them! We’ll see what they taste like here pretty soon!

June 1, 2013

Roving Coop/Chicken Tractor

yearlings kids, briolers 050Finished tractor dimensions: 8′ x 12′ Cost: about $200 This one is built to LAST!

**Update** There was a comment made in the comments section about tin roofing & space…tin roofing will get hot. We used this roving coop several different ways. We house our broilers in here at night only once they were big enough not to be picked off by aerial predators OR it was moved several times a day for new ground if the chickens stayed in here and covered by a white tarp to reflect the sun’s rays OR moved under a tree, as you can see we have many. Generally speaking, once they come out of the brooder, they are nearly big enough to free range and only need protection at night.

How many will it house? That really depends on what you are using it for. A suggested space per chicken is 4 square foot providing they have run space, otherwise 10 square feet is suggested . This coop is 8×12 (96 square feet). As this is a roving coop, it is intended to be moved and moved often. As I said, 2-3 times a day, sometimes up to 4 depending on vegetation and how quickly the birds eat it down/how many are housed. Which is not to say they were also not supplemented with food, they are, and lots of it! We have housed as many as 75 very young birds in here but generally speaking given our use, about 25 butcher ready size would be appropriate if they are not allowed to range outside of this coop and it is moved often during the day.

Please take into consideration your intended use, climate, weather, etc. Use materials suited for your application and take into consideration intended use in determining the number of birds it will accommodate. The photo is a bit deceiving as they are all plastered up against one side waiting to be let out and there looks to be more than this coop should accommodate.

We added a hinged door on the front of the coop when we raised out the second batch which allows us to let them our when they are about 4+ weeks old to free range. Moving this coop several times a day to 100% fresh pasture when they are confined it’s never in one spot long enough to do damage to the grasses/plants and the birds aren’t in dirty conditions. Moving it once to twice a day when they use it as shelter/night protection only kept them bedded on clean ground.

Materials list:

(1-2) roll(s) of 36″ x 25′ hardware cloth (for top + door) – about $26 a roll at Lowes – 1 roll if you will be putting at least 3′ of roofing on, 2 rolls if you will not be using roofing material.  You could use chicken wire instead of hardware cloth . Hardware cloth really holds up much better, keeps predators out netter and overall is a more suitable material in our opinions. (1-2) roll(s) of 24″ x 25′ hardware cloth (for sides)- about $25 a roll at Lowes- 1 roll if you will be adding sides under the roof, 2 rolls if not.

Frame (All treated lumber)

(2) 2x6x12 (ripped down to 2x3x12 to create bottom and top frame long sides) (2) 2x6x8 (ripped down to 2x3x8 to create bottom frame short sides) (2) 2x4x8’s (cut to 2′ lengths for vertical supports. We made our tractor 2′ tall.) (2) 2x4x8’s (ripped in half to create “2×2’s” and cut to length for diagonal bracing) (1) 2x4x12 (ridge pole) (1) 2x6x8 (ripped to make 2x3x8 for horizontal support of ridge support. If you’re going with diagonal braces, you could probably get away with a 2x4x8) “Left over” lumber will create a hinged door/lid & misc. needs


large box of 2 1/2″ screws large box of 1.5″ screws 4 boxes of  washers with 1/8th” hole (to aide in holding hardware cloth on), we used “fender” washers. ($6 each) handle of some sort for lid ($2) 2-3 hinges (for lid) ($2-$3) 2 wheels (We used the back wheels off of a lawnmower that was junked) 2-3 panels of corrugated roofing (more if you intend to put it on the back and sides as well) ($12 each at Lowes) Some boards will require ripping. If you do not have the capabilities, you will need to buy boards in the ripped dimensions above or larger width boards to accommodate. 2×3’s are plenty sturdy enough for this applications, 2×2’s are taking a chance it will not be sturdy enough (depending on your weather) and you could easily go with 2×4’s but the added size will change the weight quite a bit. Our goal here is to have a tractor sturdy enough to stand up to the daily strain of movement but be heavy enough to stay put on the ground during our high Kansas winds. Additionally, we took into consideration our goats may take a jump or two on top and added supports specific for that where as some other tractors similar to this design employ diagonal supports to the roof beam. A 200 lb. person can walk across the center ridge with these supports, with diagonal supports I am not so sure. Every piece we used is integral in this tractor for our specific application.

We used treated lumber as we do not intend to add a finish it. You can use un-treated lumber, however expect to either stain/paint it or expect that it will rot sooner. Having a flat surface to work on is essential. Think: shop floor, concrete pad, driveway, etc. This can be made with one person and some ingenuity but it’s really better as a 2 person job for most of it with help putting on the top frame with 3-4 unless it is constructed differently.

First we started by ripping down (2) 2x6x12’s down to 2x3x12 and (2) 2x6x8’s down to 2x3x8 which gave us (4) 2x3x12’s and (4) 2x3x8’s. We mitered all the corners at a 45 degree angle with the miter saw. We made 2 boxes with all 8 pieces (a “top” and a “bottom”  both 8’x12′. In hindsight, we should have made them about 7’10” or so by 12 foot and I’ll tell you why… If you plan to use 8′ long pieces of roofing and you plan to have siding, you’ll want to cut your frame down by at least 1″ to accommodate putting  siding on. If you do not cut it down by an inch or more (depending on how thick your siding is) to something like 7′ 11″ (give or take) x 12′ as opposed to 8′ x 12′, your roofing will not cover your siding that is applied at the end.

We had originally planned to use 9′ long tin roofing, but in the end, went with lighter weight panels that were 8′ and with the box being exactly 8′ x 12′, the siding we applied extends past the roofing. We’ll cover our exposed siding with just a simple piece of flashing to protect it.  You could cut your roofing so that it drains off the back as well, we did not cut ours, it will drain off the sides.

mitered corner, screwed on both sides

mitered corner of frame, screwed on both sides

After both of your frames are made, set one frame to the side and add 2′ 2×4 vertical supports to the bottom frame. One support in each corner, 2 more on each 12′ side spaced at 4′ apart and 1 support on each 8′ side spaced differently on each side to accommodate 4′ diagonal brace (These off-center vertical supports also act as sort of a guide for the center upper ridge beam. We should have waited to add the vertical supports on the 8′ side until we could place the ridge beam once the top frame was attached because we did not know the diagonal would not reach the center. We removed the center verticals on each side and readjusted so the diagonal would reach and the center beam had a vertical support to screw to on either end. I’ll update measurements for these supports later.)

Adding the verticle supports

Adding the vertical supports

top frame

top frame- corner vertical support

roving coup top frame

top frame has been screwed on to vertical supports. Note: the vertical supports on the short ‘8 side are centered in this photo. We ended up having to unscrew them and readjust on each side. They are both off center to accommodate diagonal brace and the center ridge.

Once your top frame has been screwed on, it’s time to add the diagonal 2x2x8 & 2x2x4 braces ripped from a 2x4x8. We did not bother mitering the edges at an angle but you certainly can.

diagonal brace

diagonal brace on 12′ side

Now that all of the diagonal braces are on, it’s time to add the center ridge beam (a 2x4x12). Then the horizontal supports (as noted, you could put diagonal braces from the center ridge beam to the adjoining vertical supports on the 8′ side) but because the goats may be jumping/laying on top of this, the additional support of full horizontals, we feel, are necessary. roving coup 003 We are using 3 pieces of corrugated roofing placed side by side on the top overlapping by one “wave”. The roofing is 26″ wide by 8′ long. This overlaps the hardware cloth by just a couple of squares. We rolled over the sides just a little Stretching it as tight as we could, we screwed 1.5″ screws and washers to hold it secure. Next, we installed the side hardware cloth. roving coup hardware cloth washers roving coup close up hardware cloth We framed in the door, clipped the hardware cloth back, screwed it down along the framing. Our door is 17″ x 21″, we mitered all the corners, applied hardware cloth to the top,  added cleats inside the frame for the door to rest on when closed and installed hinges and a handle. We’ve seen the bigger access doors on these coops, but we don’t feel there is much need for one larger. Installing it in the center and not in one corner, allows better access throughout the entire coup to gather chickens from it. They could probably easily be coaxed over with food as well and this size door is big enough for even a larger person to get in to if need be.

roving coup framing in the door

framing in the door from inside the coop. The hardware cloth where the door will go has not been cut out yet.

door cleats attached to the frame for support

roving coup 011 roving coup 015 The back is a piece of treated plywood ripped length-wise (1) 2’x8′ piece. The sides are the other half of plywood ripped in two lengthwise which gives you (2) 2’x4′ pieces. Details: The opposite side of the tractor from the door we did not install anything for the roof to attach to (lumber wise). None is needed but there was a little bit of space between the hardware cloth (it sags just a tiny bit) and the roofing. You could easily install a header from center to side to attach it all too but because the support isn’t actually necessary, we just took an 18″ (or so) piece of scrap and while someone was inside the tractor pushing the wood from below, someone above put a couple screws in which held it all together nicely. The goal was to relieve the tiny gap between hardware cloth and roofing.

roving coup awning

Scrap piece of wood used to eliminate slight gap between hardware cloth and roof. Photo taken from above.

roving coup underneath

photo taken from inside the coop of the underside of the roof. Specifically you’re looking at the far side of the roof (lower right) of the scrap board used to eliminate gap between hardware cloth and roofing.

As I stated earlier, we weren’t entirely sure what kind of roofing we were going with. The barn siding we had would have been fine and is 9′ long and would have hung over the edges. However, we went with much lighter weight brand new sheets that are only 8′ long. If you don’t intend to put sides on, it’s not a big deal but we regularly (when we’re not in a drought!) have summer storms and wind and I wanted them to have protection from 3 sides. Making the frame 8′ wide meant that the 1/2″ plywood we used would not have been covered by the roofing. In hindsight, we would have cut the frame down from the beginning but putting flashing on to cover the plywood’s exposed side wasn’t a big deal. Here is how you properly cut flashing to bend around an angle, nice and neat! roving coup flashing(Above) First: mark your corner based on measurements and mark a 90 degree angle. You’re looking at the top of the flashing which sits on the top of the tractor. cutting flashing 2(Above) 2nd: With tin snips, clip one side of your mark. cutting flashing(Above) 3rd: cut your other mark to the top cutting flashing 1 (Above) Which will give you something that looks like this. flashing (Above) Bend to a 90 degree…100B8711[1] And apply to to the corner. This keeps the plywood siding protected from moisture penetrating it directly. If you cut your frame shy by 1/2″ – 1 1/2″ to begin with (if using 8′ wide roofing), you will not need this. But it is a good lesson in cutting 90 degree flashing anyway =). The wheels were from the rear of a junked lawnmower. I think we picked them up at a farm auction as an item that was “thrown in” to move it off the trailer, if you’ve been to a farm auction you’d know what I was talking about. Jeremiah, being a welder and fabricator and machinist, made up the wheel mounts. Truth be told, and to give credit where credit is due, a friend of ours did the actual machining while Jeremiah fabricated the frame, etc. roving coup wheel

maiden voyage roving coup

Maiden voyage! (Taking it out to the pasture)



May 18, 2013

Lap turkey

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May 3, 2013

Land of milk and eggs


Challah braids

It’s that time of year, we’re happily wallowing in milk and eggs! What better way to put it to good use (other than making piggies and doggies happy)? Why, make those around us happy too! I love sending yummy goodies to friends, slipping soap samples in with bags for locals who visit for farm fare or hiding little rounds of eventual lather-y goodness in with shipments of cloth diapers to my customers.

Using milk and eggs to make Challah, lard and milk to make soap, pouring gallons of milk or dozens of scrambled eggs into the pig’s trough and dog’s bowls are all ways in which we use the extras!

Cha cha chai & tea tree camomile

Cha cha chia & tea tree chamomile goat milk soap

Citrus hibiscus  & natural

Citrus hibiscus & natural scent goat milk soap

shampoo bar

Last week shampoo bars came out of the mold (above), a light lime scent and full of extra Vit. E. for shine, mild but cleansing which will effectively remove oil and dirt from scalp. Nothing artificial in these bars, they do not contain petroleum products or carcinogenic chemicals such as glycol distearate. Healthy oils for healthy hair!

May soaps 021

Also, fresh outta the mold, lime & sea salt (above) because at least there has to be some sense of tropical paradise around here…with it snowing on the 2nd of May and still freezing overnight, we can pretend to be somewhere warm while using it.

We’ve lost two fruit trees to the cold. I won’t even think about putting any delicate garden plants out until I am fully sure we are not in for any more freezes, it’s just not worth it, they are happy in the greenhouse and growing well. I do have to transplant some of the tomatoes and peppers though, they are outgrowing their digs!

A few goats have gone to new homes. One of Mags’ triplets was wethered a couple of weeks ago and Pejamy’s spotted doe kid along with Bear went to their new home in Mo. today.

I can honestly say it has been a true pleasure keeping a few of the pups on here for further training. It’s been amazing to watch them learn from King and Snow and watch them interact with the other animals. One of our visitors today said it was like Noah’s ark here the way everyone cohabitates together, even the dogs like the cats and the chickens can be in the pig pen without fear of being eaten and the cats don’t go after the chicks! Minus the rooster, who will meet his fate one day when he’s gone after me one too many times, everyone is family.  I took the goats out to the far woods today and Eddie followed right along, he comes when called and he’s leaning to sit. I am sure he will be a bit sad and lonely without Bear to play with but I think he is starting to mature in the fact that while it’s still fun to be a puppy, there is usually work to be done and that’s OK.

We’re thinking about attending a show next weekend a couple hours away. I’m still not sure I want to wake up as early as I would need to to get all the chores done and be out of here by 5:30 AM to be to the fairgrounds on time. Oddly enough, even though a dual ring show to include bucks seems like a lot to pack in, and it is, I much prefer the single day shows than the long drawn out weekend shows, it’s just too much and doesn’t turn out to be a whole lot of fun waking up early two days in a row, staying late to keep pens clean, feed, milk, etc. then to have to go home exhausted and do all the same at home before crawling into bed, etc. and it’s hard on my animals, I won’t speak for anyone else. With the weather, I wouldn’t have to do much but winter clip…who can’t appreciate that =)! However, the single day shows are hard to prep for in the milking doe dept….getting udders to fill up on hauls under stress…there’s always pros and cons =). We’ll see.

We’ve been getting good rain about once a week for at least the past 4 weeks. Several weeks ago I noticed the oats coming up in the eastern pasture. I was glad for that. I saw some brome coming up but not what I thought should be there so I was a little disappointed but after this past cold storm, wow (!), boy is it really coming in thick and well!

The strawberries we planted in barrels a few weeks ago are looking fantastic. I covered them up 3 weeks ago with straw when we froze overnight several nights in a row with that ice storm and it’s done them well. We just planed potatoes a few evenings ago, a little late maybe but I was later in getting them in last year. We got some lettuces & beets planted outside as well. I have some in the greenhouse but figured with as cool as it’s been, I may as well see how they do. I am sure they’ll be just fine. Kansas is much different than Northern California for planting times and it’s taking time to adjust to that.

We have chicks popping out of their shells this evening. I think we may do one more round and put the incubator up until later in the year when I can get some pure Wyandottes. Right now the new roosters just aren’t old enough yet but give them a few more months and they’ll be old pros =). The girls have been laying super super well, no doubt do in part to all the yummy bugs out they are getting and the fodder that we’re still growing.

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos from here and there =). Have a great weekend y’all!

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