Monday, December 2, 2013

Chicken Update

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

As promised, this is the first of two updates. This update is about our chickens.

Egg production is down. At our peak, we were getting upwards of 15 to 16 eggs per day, sometimes as many as two dozen. We are now (as of today) down to 12 hens, having lost the others (including Red, our rooster) to our local fox. The fox is getting more daring and has taken at least 3 hens in the last week (in the past, the fox was taking 1 hen about every 7-10 days) and is even coming into the yard to get the hens. In fact, he actually tried to take one when Donald, Debbie, and Danielle were in the front yard today (he came back and got one anyway). As a result of feeding the fox, as well as colder weather setting in, we are now getting between 6 to 8 eggs per day.

Because the eggs are so good, and in high demand, we will most likely keep raising chickens, but will not add more until we can make some changes. While our intent was to be cage-free and free-range, we will no longer be able to offer free range once we ramp up our chicken operation again.

We are currently considering converting our small barn (right by the chicken pen) into a hen house and putting a roof (netting) over the pen so that they cannot fly out. We will be limited to a smaller area (the area that is currently fenced with permanent fencing) so will raise fewer chickens (probably about 10 - 12 instead of 25 plus). We will also work on the breeder pen so that we can raise our own.

The major change will be that, while they will still be "cage-free", we will not be able to call them "free-range" as they will not be able to leave the pen. This will also require us to have an ample supply of hay and supplemental feed available on the hill, which we will supplement in the summer with small garden crops that can be moved into the pen to provide a natural food source.

In addition, we will have to get another rooster, which is always a gamble, but well worth it. The chicken operation is a fairly easy operation to maintain, but we will need to work on curtailing feed costs.

We hope to start working on converting the small barn into a hen house the first of the year. We will partition off one-half of the barn for the chickens and will include nesting boxes and an area that they can occupy in cold weather. The other half will be left for feed, supplies, and equipment (candling, scales, egg cartons, etc.). We also hope to be able to run electric to the barn to provide for heat in the winter. We will need to purchase strong netting and build a "roof" over the pen to prevent them from flying out (they cannot get out under the permanent fence, nor can a fox get in). We may also add electric fencing around the pen just in case.

This is the one operation we will continue during the next year.

Our next blog will provide an update on our turkey operations.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created b the individual who can labor in freedom." Albert Einstein

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