We continue to play with the game camera and it seems every time I get more disturbing results. First it was just feral cats, possums, blue jays, mice, and one very large and very old groundhog. I was perfectly content with these but when the dozens of raccoon photos started to pour in – on our very own porch. Well that wasn’t great but I’d just stop leaving cat food out at night and it’d be OK…
But then we put the game camera on the back of our property and found…. coyotes…
Several hundred more raccoon shots and then a sight that will fill any chicken owner with terror picking in our compost pit far closer to our barn…. a Fisher Cat…. at 8:30 PM!!
Well our incubator spiked at 103 for six hours… Was sure that the whole incubator got fried, and two and a half of the drawers indeed did (we lost half the bantams we were incubating as a favor, the Dorking, and the Brabanter drawer.) Despite this over 30 Marans hatched! I will be keeping them all and accessing who is worthy of breeding more Marans and taking the culls to breed Olive Eggers with.
We’ve since re-loaded the incubator and were expecting around 200 chicks in a little over a week. When I candled them I took out the duds and left 47 dual purpose sex-links, 45 barnyard mixes, 37 Silver Penciled Rocks, 35 Dorkings, 24 Seramas, and 15 Brabanters developing.
Even more exciting the Marraduna Basque Hen (AKA Euskal Aoila) eggs I ordered last fall came in! Two dozen! They’re in my incubator now and I am deliriously happy about it. I hope they hatch well! I intend to breed more Marradunas and cross some with a legbar to get a theoretically auto sexing Easter Egger out of them.
Starting a proper poultry farm is a bit of a bumpy road. Most probably start with someone wanting fresh eggs for breakfast getting a few chickens and over the years deciding they might need a few more chickens… until the town starts asking questions about all those chickens…
Our beginning was a little less subtle. We bought this property, and the a whole bunch of chicks and eggs, and for a little over a year we’ve been building feeders, nest boxes, breeding pens, barn doors, an incubator… and it never stops… and we keep adding on as much as we can. We’re getting so close to this actually being worth our time and effort! But alas…. taxes and laws and such need consideration too.
My dearest wanted to file as a business with the town. We’d already met the dog officer last Autumn, not knowing the property had changed hands he was all the happier to add us to his “Farm Book” during a surprise visit. Not to worry, all was well, and he enjoyed chatting to my dearest as I was oddly absent dealing with family business that day… In any event, although we were registered as a property in the town’s farm log this did not mean we were also a business, just that we had enough animals to need periodic supervision. That’s fine but we waned that glorious business certificate as we make a real go of it. So we asked the town. The town gave all sorts of paperwork to do and told us we needed to attend a public hearing where eight of our neighbors would be invited to express their concerns. If they had any there would need to be a judgement made, if no one shows up we’ll get a certificate and go on our merry way. I am nervous… I hate forced community involvement, in the past it’s never gone well… but I don’t think any of my neighbors are displeased and I will have to keep optimistic!
In any event this whole process ground to a halt when the woman dealing with us quit and no one knew what was going on. After a bit of a clusterfuck they figured it out and now we are set to have a hearing in May.
In the meanwhile I have tried my hardest to make the animal side of this business as legal and ethical as possible. Although I have no obligation to I have started to vaccinate my chicks for Marek’s. It is a surprisingly easy thing to do – yes, it costs me a little money but in the long run it makes me feel a lot safer. If any chicks are kept here they are safe in a vaccinated flock and if they’re sold they’re not going to spread this heinous disease to anyone as a silent carrier. It’s just good practice.
We’re also planning to get an NPIP inspector in here to get tested and certified. This will make it legal for me to sell eggs, chicks, juveniles, and adult birds across state lines and will open up our customer base to also include other NPIP tested farms. This is also good practice — that comes with some pretty nasty risks (including the destruction of the whole flock if they do turn up with a disease) but I think it’s the right thing to do.
In January I wanted to bring on some more Welsummers (as I needed a good rooster) some Rhode Island Whites to make sex links out of, and some Marans for chocolate eggs which I could also cross to the legbars to make olive eggers. People seem to love getting weird colored eggs. It’s a real selling point and I am always happy to share in their enthusiasm!
However I was already having a hard time figuring out where to squeeze new breeding pens and I figured out how to make sex links with the birds I already had. I still wanted those gorgeous chocolate eggs but I was content to wait… until I found myself on Craigslist trying to compare hatching egg and chick prices to figure out how much to sell my own for. That’s when I spotted a photo of the darkest eggs I have ever seen in the area…. a whole table full of chocolate wonders. $20 a dozen and no need for shipping. How could I say no??
I contacted the guy and asked for two dozen, because why not… after having such a terrible hatch with the Mille Fleur Leghorns I wanted to err on the side of caution and get more than I normally would. I told the guy I’d pick them up the following weekend and all was quite good.
We showed up and this guy was fanatical about his eggs. They were deep dark and some had delicious little speckles. I was delighted. He said I could cherry pick the best for $3 an egg and I was more than happy to! That’s where things got a bit awkward…
He’d recently hatched some chicks but the hatch rate wasn’t all he wanted it to be — how bad you ask? 80%! An 80% hatch rate would make me deliriously happy… but he wasn’t impressed so he offered me all the eggs he collected during the week, more than fifty, for $20. Seriously? 50 eggs for just 20 dollars?? You got to be kidding! I tried paying him more to be fair… but he didn’t want my money – he just wanted his eggs to go to a good home. So they’re in my incubator now. I have found they are too dark to candle with any certainty so I have left them all in there… and time will tell what happens! I’m super excited to have chocolate eggs
When we first got into chickens I wanted Barnevelders. They’re a Dutch breed and they laid big dark eggs and had a pretty lacing pattern. I had bought some eggs and they were some of the first birds I hatched — but they died of Marek’s not long after that. This was on the old property with my first flock. Later I learned this breed is particularly susceptible to the disease so I never tried to get them again…. until I moved to a fresh new property and learned how to vaccinate chicks.
But this is a simplified version of what happened. In reality I was looking for nearby hatching eggs when I found something wonderful. Just a few hours away was an old Dutch man who had a flock that he had kept since the 1970’s that were descended from eggs he smuggled home on the plane from the Netherlands – you know back in the days when you could still buy Bowie knives at the airport and no one gave a fuck about whose suitcase was stuffed full of chicken eggs… I fell in love with the story and was greatly dismayed to see a paragraph later that he’d died and his flock was being run by his widow. Still… I couldn’t resist. I contacted her and asked if I could buy some eggs. She said she’d sold the flock to a woman in NY. So I contacted the woman in NY who said she’d send some eggs in the Spring. Well Spring came and nearly went when I contacted her again. I had been forgotten. Not only had I been forgotten she refused to sell me eggs collected then…. instead saying she had a handful of chicks she’d just hatched if I’d like to travel four hours to get them…. well, at the time that was just not feasible and I should have taken this as the first red flag. Who can’t give up a dozen eggs in summer?? Were her birds that bad at laying despite being from a flock that were supposed to be machines? If so whhhy?? I was polite about it, didn’t ask why, told her I would be happy to wait until the following year… and I did.
So this year I got a dozen eggs and she asked if I wanted any form her Blue Barnevelder pen. Not really, but at this rate I am paying full price for something I waited two years for… adding extras of ANYTHING seemed fine by me. So she sent six extra eggs from her blue pen. On the box was suddenly noted these were from heavily mixed lines… she had not kept the old man’s line pure. I was pretty annoyed at this point. Had I known that two years ago I probably would have found eggs elsewhere… but I popped them in the incubator hoping for the best. At day ten I candled them and found four of the regular Barnevelders were infertile as well as four of the extras. So I was probably hatching eggs from poor layers and less-than-vigorous roosters. Sigh.
In the end I got eight to hatch, seven regular, one blue who now was sort of lonely and purposeless. One of the regulars died a few days after hatch. It hadn’t acted right since I vaccinated it for Marek’s. We’ll see how they turn out. With any luck they’ll be fucking spectacular and all this will have been worth the frustration and wait! For now I did get the damned cutest photo out of the Blue pen Barnie…
I wanted some pretty egg laying machines to add to my laying flock after eating egg sales started to surpass expectation. To keep up with demand I needed something stellar – I needed some leghorns. The thing is I don’t really like leghorns. They’re usually all white birds who do well in heat but not so much in cold, often losing their fabulously large floppy combs and wattles to frostbite. They’re also know to be skittish and flighty. They are in essence the perfect bird to get if you’re running an industrial farm in Tennessee. But I could not argue with their egg laying capacity, so I looked to see if they came in any other colors. I was awe struck they came in two of my favorites – Mille Fleur and Isabella (called Porcelain in bantams, don’t ask me why.) I searched everywhere and found almost nothing. I found two sellers willing to sell a dozen eggs at auction for $100. Seriously?! You’re talking about a bird that lays almost an egg a day for two years straight… why on earth would I pay $100 for that?! This is where I get frustrated at people. Over and over again I see people selling their eggs at auction for outrageous prices whenever they need a buck or two. Almost never do I see anyone selling hatching eggs regularly for a sane price – which in the long run would be far more profitable! I mean if you can get $100 for a dozen hatching eggs once or twice great…. but you are raising a bird that each hen lays three hundred eggs a year. Just supposing you had one hen and rooster if you sold each dozen for $25 you’d still make $625 by the end of the year so asking $100 is well…. stupid.
After this I decided to go rogue. I Googled “Mille Fleur Leghorn Craigslist” so I could see any and all ads pertaining to the breed on all of Craigslist both close to home and across the country. I found someone in California and begged them for eggs. They thought I was a scammer at first but after some coaxing they said OK… and that’s how I ended up with two and a half dozen eggs shipped to me a few months later.
Six of the eggs were smashed in the box. Twelve of the eggs were infertile. Eight of the eggs hatched but of those three definitely aren’t mill fleurs (perhaps barnyard mixes!) and of the five that are correctly colored three are roosters… Here’s a photo of them – it’s blurry because despite being called “the most docile of the Leghorns” they’re freakin’ insane and won’t sit still for anything. You can see in the photo a few Seramas mixed in as well as those three dark brown wrong-colored ones. SIGH. I will not be pestering the inexperienced into sending me eggs again… (Though I will be crossing these with my Legbars to make for crazy colored “super blue” egg laying hens… Got to get something out of this!)
I’ve been very bad with keeping this updated but a lot of great stuff is happening here on the farm! First we got our official website set up at http://www.rindleridgefarm.com complete with our DIY logo created by my dearest.
Secondly we are in the process of getting our farm to be officially registered as a business with the town. We’ve submitted all sorts of paperwork and will need the approval of our neighbors. A public hearing will be instated and we’re really crossing our fingers it all goes well.
We finally got all our birds in breeding pens and they’re not happy about it! Most went on an egg laying strike but it didn’t much matter as I was waiting to be sure the right rooster tagged them anyway. The Dorkings and Brabanters have been set up for a month now. I am getting 6-8 eggs from the Dorkings a day and about three from the Brabanters a day.
I have filled our incubator with eggs – barnyard mixes, Brabanters, Dorkings, Miniature silver appleyards, runner ducks, and two batches of eggs I bought to add to our flock – Barnevelders and Mill Fleur Leghorns. This is our first large hatch – around 100 possible chicks and ducklings and it’ll be our first batch we’ll be vaccinating for Marek’s.
Sadly we had to rehome Jade – the pit bull mix we rescued from Death Row. I tried and tried and tried to work with her but everything I did she’d find a way to sabotage it. She was far too excitable around the chickens and refused to calm down enough to be near them. I even raised a few to adulthood in the house hoping it’d help. She was fine with them in the house…. outside she’d be back to going nuts. So I tried keeping her in an adjoining pasture when I was working out in the barn. She learned to escape this and wandered the neighborhood – having no real desire to come back when called. Then I tried keeping her on a long lead. She somehow managed to hogtie herself in a matter of seconds and spent the next minute hysterically screaming until I got her out. I also couldn’t have her outside, even within fences, without having her leashed or having a sharp eye on her because if she felt I wasn’t paying direct attention to her she’d escape and wander off. So she spent most of her life in the crate… it wasn’t a good situation. We rehomed her with a family that promised to fix her but she acted too weird around their small child for them to trust. Eventually she ended up with someone who worked at a popular doggie daycare. She now spends her days there. It’s been a great ending for a pretty sad situation.
And finally, in celebratory news, after TWO YEARS of searching we finally found Max, our free range Belgian Hare, a wife!! I paid more for this bunny than most people spend on a pedigreed goat. She came to me via a land shipper who was late by a whole freakin’ week! She was thoroughly insane from being in a cat carrier that long. We’ve named her Freya and she’s in quarantine until she gets to meet Max. In the meanwhile we’re working to litterbox train her and get her accustomed to us so she can run around the house cage free. We’re looking forward to helping preserve this nearly extinct bunny breed which has brought us so much joy.
Well, it took us long enough but we finally built a cabinet incubator. Instead of relying on a small foam Hova-bator we now have a 5 drawer cabinet incubator which seems to do a lot better keeping at the right temperature and humidity. We can now potentially do hatches of several hundred chicks at a time! And we’re super excited to get the opportunity. Here’s a photo of it, still missing four drawers but you can at least get the idea. We have some Miniature Silver Appleyard duck eggs and a bunch of barnyard mixes in there to test it out and all seems to be going well. Two more weeks until the verdict is in… .