Monday, July 17, 2017

The Chicks have Hatched!

Our Second Brood

We recently purchased a commercial version of a home incubator. A fancy way of saying a nice styrofoam box to hatch out chickens. We picked this up our local Del's Tractor Supply (no they don't sell tractors.) This one was the top of the line they had in stock. The Farm Innovator's Digital Circulated Air Incubator with Egg Turner.
 It has a thermostatically controlled heater, a circulating fan to reduce hot and
cool spots, a tray with room for 41 eggs, a motorized egg turner so we wouldn't have to, a lower set of water channels for maintaining the proper humidity, and small weave hardware cloth to keep the chicks out of the channels and the water once they'd hatched. It also has a large viewing window for watching the process, and a control module that keeps track on monitoring/ displaying the temperature, humidity % and the number of days left for incubation. Temp of the heater is preset, but you can change it to whatever you want in 1/2 degrees from, I believe, 98.5-101.  You can also set the egg hatch time for using this for turkey, quail, geese or any other bird's eggs.
This product did all it said it would, turned the eggs, though initially this mechanism was a bit loud, I was able to get it whisper quiet by applying a touch of Vaseline to the gear tracks. Didn't make a sound after that. 
We loaded up 41 fertilized eggs in to the unit and set it to work. After a week we candled the eggs, BTW- they provide a Candler! - and found that of the 41, 40 had embryos! We kept the 41st to check again at the next candling date, just in case. Second check same as the first. 40 developing embryos one clear egg. Third candling showed us only dark forms in the shell, and the outline of a very clear air spot. We could see movement, but no real definition through the brown shells. 

We were a bit surprised on the the first two chicks arrival since they hatched out a day early. Along with the new incubator, we tried setting eggs the commercial way. That is, chilling a number of eggs for a number of days to try to get them all to hatch out on the same single day. Whoops- didn't work so well at first. 

The next day was busy for the chicks- most of them hatched out this day- we had 12 eggs not hatching. We did get two more from this group to hatch out after midnight, so a total of 31 of the 41 we set actually hatched. We had one pip out that later died, but over all a hatch rate of 73.1 % or a 50% increase over our first time! Lightening is getting better at this the older he gets.  

We did get three chicks with Splay. This is a ligament stretching that leaves the chicks with their feet "splayed" out hence the name. They have a hard time standing since the ligaments are out of place. Most people with these chicks cull them out, but we are trying to fix this so we can keep the chicks in the flock. So far it is promising. we should only have to treat these little ones for another day or so. They are already up and walking, even hobbled as they are with the soft band-aid 'brace".

We are starting a Korean Farming Method of raising our chickens. We've been attending classes at the Hawaiian Sanctuary and per their instructions, we started them off by feeding them Brown Rice for the first three days. We start the boiled egg yolks for them tomorrow. And finally, we are moving them into their new home today, the red brooder in the coop, to get used to the hens they will eventually be flock mates with.

We have another new item to keep them warm; a brooder heating plate. 
Rather than a light that can burn out or worse, start a fire, we have a new flat plate heater that we can adjust the height as the chicks grow.  They are under it now, so I thin they'll be fine using it one we set it in the coop. This should comfortably fit all 30 of the new chicks and I will post an up date soon! 

Next: Growing chicks and prepping the new runs.




    

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Whats happening here

Something other than Chickens

What do you mean,"other than chickens?"

 Yeah, there is life other than chickens at our little one acre farm. Today, JoAnn and I got the log moving system perfected. Let me go flashback a bit to explain and get you up to speed on this. One of our good friends, Julia  introduced us to couple that had just gotten their Rainbow Eucalyptus cut down, but the tree guys left it laying in their driveway. Our friends knew I had a chainsaw and thought, how nice it would be if we could go over and cut up the tree and haul it off for them. If you've never seen one, the Rainbow variety of the eucalyptus is stunning while alive, sporting an exterior set of reds, greens, some yellows and a few shade of the above. The inner wood is a rich set of browns, and pale off whites when dry. This photo is not me, nor my friends but it was the best non-"enhanced" picture of the tree I am speaking of. It can grow quite large, 'ours being 30" and the base to about an 18-20" diameter for the smallest segment. 

The things we didn't have
We cut the trees (there were two) into 8' lengths that I would estimate at about a ton each. There were a total of 6 pieces at this length, with a single one of about 5' being cut up into 6" stepping "stone" slices for our friends. The last of that log went to Glenn and Julia for their garden as a bench project. We then had the fun of figuring out how we were going to get these things off the ground and onto my puny pick up truck. 

I had a chainsaw, a tow chain, an O'o Bar which is a large prying lever, some rope, and a come-along. I like to think that I can sometimes be a bit smarter that a log, so I thought, "what would an ancient do?" I came up with this: 
Enlarge the photo to see a tripod made of 2) 4" x 4" x 96" wood and one 2" x 4" x 96" bracing leg held together with a 5?8" galvanized bolt. With this contraption we are now able to get the log up off the ground, one end at a time, Balance it in the air, drive the truck under it to wedge it on the bed, where we then use the O'o bar to hold it in place as we re set the chain to the rear of the log still on the ground. Lifting this last end up, we can then pressure the log to slide on the plastic bed liner. It is working so well that we actually got two logs today! It's been a week of building the a frame, testing it, lifting the logs, cutting the stepping stones, delivering them. Then working out the lifting procedure for logs that weight way more than my truck, let alone what it is supposed to handle carrying. 

 JoAnn is standing by the truck here with the last log we hauled today still inside the bed. We attached the log to a stump I had left for this reason, and I simply drove out from under the log.  It bounced a bit  but it was easily put into place next to the others.

SO what am I going to do with 8 ft logs? Ahh- the 64$ question. I am going to mill them into dimensional lumber and build some furniture out of them. I have plans for a behind the couch table, and a custom door to name just 2. Stay tuned for that adventure!




Tuesday, July 4, 2017

13 Mile Farm Tour

Our Tour 

Smell Free is possible!

Farm Classes every Thursday Morning
JoAnn and I signed up and attended a two part class at Hawaiian Sanctuary "Starting a Poultry Flock"  by Chris Hardenbrook, Owner of 13-Mile Farm. During the class he mentioned that his farm was smell and fly free and neither of us really believed that statement. We have been fighting flies since we got the chickens and we don't want to be bad neighbors so we were eager to talk to him more about this.  We waited after class to talk about arranging a farm tour and a few anxious days later we were very excited to meet up with Chris. After getting lost once on the way, (it turns out that 13 mile road isn't really on any of the Hawaii maps), but we got there after a few clear directions by phone. 

A little history: I grew up in an area that raised chickens for the some of the big commercial brands, Zacky and Foster Farms were the biggest, and the ranchers that raised the birds would muck out their barns once a year with a backhoe / loader. Their idea of manure management at the time was to raise a full year of chickens then clean the barns out once a year.
Though we were miles away, we always knew when they were mucking out to reload the barns with chicks because of the odor after the tractors pulled the knee deep refuse out. You really couldn't get away from it and even miles upwind wasn't safe. Needless to say, I had my doubts about a smell free, fly free system of any kind working at all.

Walking up to the pens, Chris told us he had 200 chickens in a converted greenhouse that he divides up based on age.  He keeps the young chicks and poults separate from the laying hens, both having separate grassy pasture areas for themselves.
Based on my youthful experience, 200 chickens should smell pretty ripe especially since he maintains a 'deep litter' system. In my head that means lots of uncleaned out poop that = smelly.  

Wow, what a deal. I didn't smell anything but jungle foliage and earth until I was in the pen standing among the birds. The smell of chickens was there, but not of chicken manure. I couldn't believe that that many birds smelled like a small fraction of them. It was amazing! The floor was indeed thick with bedding- straw, dirt and mulch  to about 6".
He stated that he adds a bit of straw as needed which worked out for him about once a month; a little handful here and there and that was it. I really can't tell you how clean this smelled, and it would be folly to try since there is now such thing as smell-a-vision for your proof. All I can say is if you are wanting to go smell free to call and visit someone's farm in person that
employs the KNF [Korean Natural Farming] method of Deep Litter husbandry. It is not just about letting the floor accumulate bedding material and feces, but the carefully controlled micro-organism soup application in KNF that makes the magic possible. Cleaning out the pens is done quarterly, with 2/3rd's of the litter going directly on the garden or into the mulch piles making a valuable resource out of used chicken feed! the remaining 1/3rd charges up the litter with the beneficial bacteria.

You must / need to experience this for yourself! Yes, there were a few flies, but with the smell so unobtrusive they weren't nearly as numerous as they should have or could have been for the number of chickens!

I am sold. I will be using this method on our chicken run expansion for day one, and I am convinced that we can be as smell and fly free as a chicken pen can be. I'll keep you posted on this one.  


Friday, June 16, 2017

Is Smell Free, Fly Free Pig Farming Possible?

I have to find out more!

I thought farms and flies/smell were synonymous, but Hawaii being the paradise it is, I heard it just might be possible. I needed to find out how we can do this. Fast.

Our farm, if we are 'allowed' to call it that, is a single acre in a semi-residential community of one acre lots that are zoned Ag. It's actually a 135' x 330' lot of wavy undulating lava rock with a smattering of cinder soil that can support some grass, a few trees and some local Hawaiian plants. Our current placement of the chickens is in the far right hand corner away from the main house (NE corner) and takes up 20' x 20'. We have 30 chickens, 15 full grown and 15 adolescents and 10 young growing turkeys. They have plenty of wing room right now, but we are getting ready to move the poultry by enlarging their pen to one that is 120' x 20'. We are planning to fence in the entire rear of the property and let them roam in a large pen with both goats and pigs. We want to get three female goats and three female pigs to start our heard of sustainable stock. 
Pigs and goats, but no flies? The decisions for the new animals are set, but now that there may be a way to do this without the usual farm pests and stink, the way we set up the new pen is not.

Looking on line for fly free farming, I ran across two dominating methods so far. KNF and The Salatin Method.

KNF stands for Korean Natural Farming* who's main focus is a select few solutions made up of various concentrations of  micro-organisms gathered from the farm site or nearby. Add this initial solution to other elements and organisms gathered and fermented according to a regimented set of protocols, applied to the pen site in stringent rates claim to build a bedding litter that is indeed fly and smell free. This method takes a high investment of initial time in making and understanding the hows and whys of the beneficial organisms and their use. Once started, this method is supposed to take only an occasional input of additional solutions to correct or adjust issues seen.

The Salatin Method is the one started by the family farm owned by Joel Salatin. His Polyface Farm** uses Animal rotation by way of  'Portable Pens' and electric fencing to utilize the best grazing, foraging and pasturing of all their animals to their fullest potential. Carbon footprint, Land use, Pasture reclamation, water management, local topography and indigenous flora, and marketability of their animals are taken into consideration. Though they have a 650 acre farm, they believe their ideas are scale-able for the small backyard farmers. Time investment for this method revolves around an intensive rotational management of the pens and animals in their farm. Fly and smell free claims are not a major part of their stated benefits. More a potential side effect [my assessment] through the frequent movement of manure sources before it gets to be a problem.

JoAnn and I are taking classes in KNF, theory and will be aiming for a certification in level 1 solutions in anticipation of the Level 2 and advanced level certification. We want to be able to understand these better. We will also be reading and viewing more videos put out by Joel to further understand his method better, but will be reserving our decisions for which method or combination to use.

Next Post: Can fly free really be true?




* http://naturalfarminghawaii.net/tag/master-cho/
** http://polyface.com

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our Turkeys

Up close and personal....

Well, I have been letting a lot of our friends know about our new turkeys and to the last person, everyone wants to remind me to be sure to bring them in during a rain storm since they are so stupid, they'll drown looking up in the sky totally befuddled as to where the water is coming from. Both Snopes and Cracked.com refute this old wives tale. No more stupid turkey talk. Well, I do think they are not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it's been a week and a half in the rainiest part of the Big Island (200-300" per year) and we have just as many as we started with. SO what does it say about the humans that are willing to believe this?
On to the Photos
The white ones with black spots are the Royal Palm breed, and the smaller (younger by a week) turkeys are the Bourbon Reds. We got these birds because we want to put more meat into or freezer and reduce our food monthly bill and secondly to start a breeding stock that will flood the island with turkeys! Well, not really, but it would be nice to supplement the egg sales from the chickens with the occasional turkey sale for luaus or Thanksgiving. I haven't been able to see any turkey products in the stores with any regularity, but up around Wiamea or Kohala area on the northern end of the island has a feral turkey problem akin to the hog problem else where. Maybe no one here likes turkeys. I guess we'll see.
Since we need  pairs of them for getting the breeding going, we have been watching them and it appears that we have at least three Royal Palm Toms and one Bourbon Red Tom, with the rest being hens. We base this on the fluffing, strutting and chest bumping that the same three do among themselves and the strutting that the lone Red is starting to try. The rest are un-impressed so we figure they are the hens. I have yet to catch them strutting but when I do, I'll post photos here.
You can see that though the chicken layers we have are larger they are just at a year old vs the month and a half that the turkeys are. Yes, the hens are doing the hen-pecking-to-set-the-natural-order-of-things, but very soon, these little turkeys won't be so little and will realize they will be able to rule the roost. The other thing that we have noticed is that except for a very little pecking the hens and Lightning the rooster leave them be. We were a bit worried about the hens bothering them because at $25 a head, these chicks are already more expensive than a full grown bird at the store. Even one or two losses would be a hit. So far, so good. I'll rest easier in a few weeks.
These guys walk around together, they eat and fly short distances to stretch their wings together, and lie down in the sun together. Definitely a pack mentality. They don't go out of their way to avoid the chicken poults, but they do not bother nor pester the 'adolescent' chicks either.
 Next time: Updates on the birds and news about the farm

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Has it been THAT long?

Lots have happened in the months that have gone by

Lightning has healed, grown and fathered his first two broods of chicks. 12 chicks total of straight run, meaning we are still a bit unsure which one is what yet, but they are getting bigger everyday and we have introduced them into the main flock already. 
The Marans.We purchased 6 Cuckoo Marans at the Pahoa feed store. We were in the area and dropped in to see what was up and there was their chick delivery- peeping away. We knew this breed laid a deeper shade of chocolate brown egg and bought the lot of 6. Turns out this breed isn't one of the "hardy" listed breeds and we lost one within a week. They are now feathering out nicely, and we were assured that all our chicks were hens. 
 
We have also gotten turkeys! Sadly, not the breed we wanted, but then the state of Hawaii is a bit militant as to what they will and won't allow on the island. We wanted the Oscillated  breed, but since we can't import ANY turkey at this time, we found a breeder that had some Heritage Breed (turkey breeder code for, "I'm going to charge you more and you can't do anything about it") Bourbon Reds and Royal Palms. These are one month old, straight run, purchased for 25$ each. We bought almost all they had- RP= 7 chicks (all but 2) and Reds=3 (all they had) for 10 turkey poults total. So far we have identified three of the Royals as Toms, and one of the Reds as a possible as the Reds were a week behind their Royal brethren in hatching. These are planned as brood stock, with all extra Toms going into the freezer. I want to keep only one male of each breed to avoid to much fuss. I am still looking for the standard Bronze. I know they are already on the Island, so it's just a matter of tracking them down. 

These birds are already as tall as the chicken hens, though you can still see their kindergarten mental states. Young though they are, the Toms are already fluffing and practicing their strutting. I have not been fast enough with the the camera yet. They don't hold it long. They also can FLY. Not the chicken flapping-getting-a-foot-off the-ground of the chickens, it's full fledged, Wilbur and Orville Wright flying. Word is, they can get airborne as young as two weeks. It's a good thing our poultry pen is covered in aviary netting.
We have integrated them into the flock as well, only the Marans being segregated. The Marans are n the coop Brooder right now and will be moved to the Chicken Condo today or tomorrow, since the turkeys and the first brood have gotten mixed into general population. 

Next post: more photos and news on the start of a bigger set of pens!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Expansion

Expansion

Lightning gets his own place

After the head and neck injury Lightning sustained we did segregate him in the octagonal pen as last blogged. This proved to be a great way to grow him up both safely and keep him close to the hens he would eventually be re-united with. 

Our plans were to add on to the octagon pen by adding new panels atop the current ones, matching the paint and adding a floor to make a Chicken high-rise. We would add a half floor similar to the one we have in lightnings cages so there would be two town house layouts for a total of four floors of Chick spaciousness but it has not happened yet.

Instead, the pullets we bought are matured and laying! The girls are 21 weeks old and are starting to lay. We don't know which brown eggs are coming from which hen. but they are laying.

Lightning figures into this as well, we graduated him, moving him from the Bachelor pad to the main pen when he reached 16 weeks. His neck appeared to be as healed as it was going to be so we thought we'd try putting him in with the girls. It went well. There was two challenges to him from the biggest pullets, and he flared up, feigned a strike and then they gave up and he has been there with them since.

We are getting blood spots in the eggs now. We have also set aside 12 eggs under 2 of the mountain hens that were getting broody now that there were more eggs in the boxes. Hatch day is calculated for March 7 though I am not sure we'll get anything but hot eggs on that day. Here's crossing fingers!