This list will hopefully grow over time with your contributions and our finds!
This list will hopefully grow over time with your contributions and our finds!
As a member of 4-H, my daughter is heading into fair season with great excitement to show her poultry at the local 4-H Fairs. I am also excited for her but the reality as the parent is a little more daunting. There are several things that need accomplished in order for your child to show at the fair. We at least have the basics covered, she is a 4-H member and we own chickens. woo hoo. Ok, the next part is that you need to register for the fairs in advance, have bloodwork drawn on your birds and receive the results in enough time to take those results with you as you go to the fair with your birds. The 4-H member will be judged on Showmanship and then the birds are judged on how they stand up to the Standard of Perfection.
For Pennsylvania, along with many other states, 2015 was a year when poultry shows simply did not happen. Due to the Avian Influenza, the fairs did not have poultry at the fairs so that makes this year even more fun to see the birds all return. We registered for the Northampton County 4-H Round-Up Fair. The Poultry Club leader coordinated bloodwork for all of the families to make the process simpler but also to keep track of it all. For folks with a dozen chickens, the task wasn’t big, simply do a blood draw on each bird. However on our farm, we have over 100 birds, between Bourbon Red turkeys, chickens and our 2 lone ducks. So the day came, the poultry techs arrived, put on their white suits, protective foot coverings and got to work. There was a cost for them to come out of $20, then there was the lab fees which were about that also.
It was a hot, sweaty, sometimes bloody and often poopy job. I caught birds from various pens for a random sampling. Not all birds wanted to cooperate and Adrienne held them afterwards to soothe them, sometimes hold a paper towel to the draw area to wipe excess blood off. We didn’t want to send fresh blood into pens so some birds needed held longer than others. The Bourbon Reds definitely took longer to heal than the chickens and we did 12 of them.
Afterwards, my little 4-H member helped to clean up, sort through her birds and make final decisions about which birds would go to fair. The ones she chose were an Easter Egger (Ameraucauna crossed with a Wheaten Marans) and then her Buff Orpington hens that she received for her 9th birthday. The normal day to day routine continued up until 2 days prior to fair.
That’s when it gets hilarious. You gather your chickens in order to bathe them! Adrienne and I got chickens for fair up to the house and used the bathtub to wash them. Outside a pen was set up in the sun for the birds to dry off and preen.
We transported the birds to fair the following day using small dog crates in the back of our pick up truck. Signing in was easy but we needed a few things also:
I was so impressed with how Adrienne held up under pressure. This photo to the right was taken immediately following the second time she has ever shown a goat! We learned from the poultry judge that Adrienne’s Buff Orpingtons were too small in stature. They simply did not compare to the other birds in their class. Class is where each breed originally derives from. So for the Buff Orpington, they are in the English class. Another 4-H member had beautiful, large Australorps in that class as well so it was pretty easy to see why her Buffs were considered too juvenile. Lesson learned, bulk up the hens! ha!
After the show ended and we could take our birds home, we quarantined them in a pen away from the rest of ours. I did a a DE dust bath to each bird, added probiotics to their water and lots of fresh water and feed. All that travel, public commotion and being in a confined area with other birds puts them at risk of getting sick. Just doing a little precaution is what was suggested to us and I am thankful for that.
In case you’re interested in knowing more about The American Poultry Association’s list for the Standards of Perfection for Poultry, here is a link.
So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.
Across the street from us, our neighbor owns Green Shadow tree service, so I walked over to ask Chuck about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.
This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.
If anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.
In our large common indoor pen, we built an access panel to accommodate access to future nesting boxes and we finally got around to building the nesting boxes this winter.
For those of you who saw our post about the turkey nesting boxes and noted the 2×4 roost, this one is considerably smaller. That is due to the fact that chicken hens way a lot less and also have smaller feet, allowing the more size appropriate roost.
The external access is great, and would make egg collecting chores easier, except we added other nesting boxes in the main pen for breed isolation during the spring egg season. Once we mix the hens again, this will be more helpful!
Our turkeys got to laying stage and needed something besides finding piles of hay or straw to lay eggs in so we used up a variety of the scrap bits we had around to set up a 2 seater nesting box. The back is screwed into the barn structure, so there are only legs on the front.
The front of the nesting box has a 2×4 step up rail to give the girls an easy way to get in and out of the nests and has worked quite well.
Now we are ready for eggs! We did note that we should have installed the back rail to keep eggs from rolling out the back when the hens got carried away, but that was an easy fix and we are now in business.
Items to remember if you build your own:
We know that our goats are pregnant thanks to the presence of a buck in their pen for the last six months. We had the vet out and he suggested that we save our money and not do the ultrasound test since we could see by the visibly growing bellies that they appeared pregnant. The Vet laughed and said that we could pretty well guarantee a happy kidding season in our future since we choose to pasture them together. So without knowing an exact due date we proceeded to prepare for kidding season.
I wanted to create some good calorie boosters aka boredom busters for our chickens and turkeys. Jim and I decided to use the fat from our butchered pig along with various grains.
I chose black oiled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, scratch grains and then filler. I found oatmeal pancake mix that had not been a hit with the kids as well as bulk oatmeal that has been around a while.
I looked around online and saw interesting articles by folks who also were including herbs. I checked the cupboard again and found the oregano that I normally sprinkle in the food and dried dandelion for teas.
I cooked the fat down and did equal parts of all bulk ingredients of 1 cup of each with 2 TB of the herbs. Cooking the fat is also called rendering.
All the ingredients were stirred and pressed into bread pans or whatever I had around.
I can say that the thing I’ve learned now that I’ve shared these with the birds is that putting wax paper to ease the pressed and solidified cakes out of the pans is very helpful.
I pressed the ingredients into the pans and repeated the process a dozen times. In order to not have the fat stay sift, I stored all the pans in our garage where it’s below freezing here in NE PA in January.
The birds are getting a chunk every few days and the suet has been a hit.
When we got our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we had to build a shelter quickly, and they ended up with a small 4×8 shelter that has served us very well. We were able to pick up the house and move it to their larger pasture on the forks of our tractor and despite the moving and shifting, it has worked out very well.
Now however, we have been able to build a larger barn and plan to over winter our goats there, to facilitate the kidding process and simplify chores. We have attached paddock areas for the goats to get outdoor play time complete with climbing toys, but the objective inside the barn was to have separate birthing stalls and a means to contain them while in the barn.
You can see in these (admittedly messy construction time) photos some of the details we built into the project. The coolest part of this build, it that we used oak board, harvest from our trees we removed to make way for the barn. We used a local sawmill and it was a good feeling to see the full circle for this lumber.
Each of our girls have their own stall, though as often as not they all pile in together. We will be adding stall gates to isolate them for the birthing. We are also planning to remove one of the wall boards to create feeding stanchions to better control what they are eating individually, but right now we manage that with buckets. The hay and straw rack on top is a handy addition that we use for storage as well as feed to keep things contained.
Lessons learned here include the fact that even little goats can climb! Note the photo of our buck on top of the wall. Overall we are happy with the result, but we will be making some updates in the coming months after we get a bit more time in to see what else we can improve.
I’ve always enjoyed extreme weather. Even as a Kindergartener I remember taking rides with my Grandfather to see the destructive path of a tornado. As an adult I like my hubby to take me for rides in our truck to watch rising streams, places where rivers have breached their banks or ice on tree limbs. However these days as we are immersed in raising our food in the way of poultry, goats and our pet camelids, I am left preparing for weather in a different way. Knowing that rain is coming means to fill hay feeders so you aren’t carrying that valuable green stuff and risking it being wet when it can be avoided. Cleaning and refilling waterers so you aren’t trudging through mud and risking a slippery fall with a full bucket. Taking longer to muck pens to avoid the task on a stormy day. Getting all excess buckets or farm stuff tucked or put away to avoid the wind blowing it all over.
My perspective on inclement weather hasn’t kept my curiosity at bay. It just means that preparation is different now. I personally enjoy a good chat with my goats with the sound of rain drumming on the metal roof of our barn.
We enjoy banana chips, as well as many other dehydrated fruits, but making them is a tedious process. We invested in a food slicer to process bulk meats and more solid fruits and veggies, but bananas are a different challenge. When my wife brought home a large load of very ripe (and discounted) bananas, I decided to make a large batch of chips, but wanted an easy way to slice them. I looked at the egg slicer and decided it would work great if it was a larger version, so I whipped up a prototype.
I pulled one and ran it through the planer after cutting it down.
I cut the board down to make the frame pieces, and also the internal cutting board, then glued and nailed up the frame. I then spaced and drilled a series of holes to weave the wire in.
I did not buy any special wire since this was just a prototype, but I did have some steel wire on hand I use for repairs, and it worked great.
After cleaning up the boards I oiled them with some olive oil I had on hand and you can see the result here. It was an acceptable finish for this little project. Here is the test cut in action. It worked exactly as planned.