Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chicken Update

The first hatch this year, started in April while our temps were still up and down, produced 13 chicks out of 42 eggs.  A 31% hatch rate. 

All of them are doing well.  They're almost completely feathered, and starting to fly up onto the nesting boxes.

They're growing really fast, too, like creepy meats.  Their vitality impresses me.

I discovered after they hatched, when the feed store was closed, that the leftover chick starter I had from last year had gotten wet and molded.  These chicks were started on scratch with no additives.  They're busy little foragers right from the get go.

Hatch #2 yielded 20 healthy chicks out of 24 eggs, for an 83% hatch rate.  I think I hit the sweet spot on the incubator.  One additional chick got stuck on the way out- part of another shell stuck to his egg.  I gave him some help, but I don't expect him to live.

They moved to the coop this morning. 

I'm only feeding this batch scratch as well.  The floor is covered in weeds in both pens, and of course, bugs are readily available.

Both of these batches came from the chantecler mix pen that I hatched last year, with the second smallest combed chantecler mixed rooster.  Most are mainly white, with one red tinted chick in each batch.  A few have a few black wing and tail feathers, and I expect will look more like the Frey's dual purpose rooster I started with last year.

Since egg production is down right now, it'll be about a week before I start batch #3.  That will be a mixed breed hatch with a chantecler cross rooster- the smallest, but pointed combed rooster, and eggs from all hens.

We butchered 8 roosters.  I love the chanteclers.  The white feathers and light coloured body turn out very clean carcasses.  The red roosters have very yellow skin, and their quills leave noticeable marks.  It never bothered me before, but it was somewhat surprising to see the difference.  I didn't weigh them, but I would guess they were all in the 6-8lb range, almost as big as the Frey's roosters.

The red and Frey's roosters also had a lot of fat on them by comparison, leading me to believe the chantecler crosses have a better feed to meat conversion ratio.

We ate one. Delicious.  The meat is so juicy and tender.  The flavour isn't dramatically different from any chickens we've raised ourselves before, but definitely juicier.  I've always preferred dark meat, because I don't care for the dryness of the white.  With these birds the white is as juicy as most dark meat.  The bird easily made three meals for 6.

For the time being, I will continue with my crossbreed experiment, but in the future I plan to add more purebred chanteclers to my flock.  What's not to love?  Heavy meat birds, taste delicious, brown eggs right through the winter, great foragers, good feed conversion, pullets lay early, no frost bite, excellent winter hardiness...  These are the birds I was always meant to have!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Spring Update - Calves

Dorie calved - May 30, 2015.

It's a boy.  Tagged, but not yet castrated.

Nelly calved - June 3, 2015.

Another boy, not yet tagged or castrated.

Mindy calved - June 13, 2015.

Not even a picture.  Not sure if it's even been sexed...

Bugs - Not too bad this year.  Very light on the blackflies.  Mosquitoes heavy in the mornings and early evening.

Weather - Beautiful and warm.  Rain was excellent in early spring, a little scarce now.

Chicks - First hatch - end of May.
            - Second hatch - June 26, 2015

Chickens - all extra roosters butchered.  I bred the first two hatchlings with a roo with a smaller comb and fewer points.  The rooster I kept has the smallest comb, but more points.  I figure I'll have a bit more genetic diversity that way, while keeping in line with my overall goals.

Hens are all moved to the garden pen now, with extra space around the greenhouses.  I bought snow fence for the vines in greenhouse #3, and then decided to section off half the garden for the birds since the weeds were going crazy.

Egg production was amazing in early spring, but dwindling now.  I believe it's insufficient protein for most of the birds, and too hot in the chicken coop for the chanteclers.  Since they have free access to lots of greenery, I'm buying straight black oil sunflower seed for them now, to boost their protein.  Hopefully I'll start seeing the difference soon.

Greenhouses - Lost some brassica transplants, and the pumpkins haven't come up yet.  Otherwise progressing nicely.

Garden - started late and not doing well with lack of rain.  Peas are good, beans are just starting to come up.  Only half the garden has been tilled, so I didn't plant nearly as much as I had planned.  Weeds, of course, are doing fantastic.

Wild Edibles - Lamb's Quarters - Oh My...  Why haven't we been eating these all of our lives?  Delicious! They grow everywhere, so easy.  Tastes like spinach.  I pull them while I'm weeding, pluck off the upper leaves, rinse and cook.  And cooking- so easy.  I just toss them on top of whatever I'm making for supper for the last 5 minutes or so.

Cadets - #2 leaves for camp on Monday.  He'll be gone for 7 weeks as staff, have a blast, and come home with a tidy paycheque.  #3 will be going to the same camp, at Base Borden, for three weeks in July.  #4 will be going to Trenton for two weeks in July.  We have one more cadet night this week, and I have to finish next year's training plan and send it in by Tuesday, and then I am off for the summer.  May and June were much busier for me than I usually allow, which is partly why I'm so behind and disorganized now.

Quads - the other reason I'm so far behind.  Both Husband's and my Quad went in for repairs at the beginning of May.  Husband picked them up yesterday, not fixed, and took them to a different place.  Nothing against the first place, just personal circumstances and he doesn't have time to do the work.  But it's the end of June and I haven't really started on firewood or manure yet, so I really, really, need my baby back.