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.  

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