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!