February 12, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. Under a heavy blanket of snow with a thin crust of ice.

The hut with the red sex link hens and the Barnevelder chickens. They are not coming out in spite of the sun. Maybe a little later.

If you have been considering being a part of our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program then read our website page  “Our CSA Program”. This is the time when we are doing our most to plan the vegetable garden for the coming season and need to know as soon as we can how many CSA members we will be growing for. Contact us by e-mail as soon as you can.

The three work horses

The biggest event this week was the self re-positioning of our stallion Leucan.  Since the summer he has been pastured separately from the two mares, along with the old mare until she died late summer. His pasture was within sight of the mares pasture but not immediately adjacent. This allowed him to be able to see them but allowed us to pull out the two mares without having to deal with him. The miniature horse and the donkey are pastured far enough away that Leucan cannot see them but the two mares can. Tuesday morning early the miniature horse leaned over a low section of his fence and went over entirely. If he was to have explained it he would have said that he was merely leaning over to examine something when he accidently fell over. We are not sure what exactly happened so we’ll accept his explanation. I first became aware of it when I heard, from my spot in the house, Leucan calling and saw him racing about his pasture. Rushing outside to check on the suspect cause, the two mares, I saw them also racing about their pasture and the mini horse running about in there too. The little guy would get chased by the much larger Belgian mares. It took a little doing but shortly we nabbed the mini and led him back to his paddock and secured the fence where he went over. Everything seemed fine but the mares were still a little too excited and Leucan was way too excited and later in the day was running about the mares pasture and soon got in with them. We got him out and left him in a small paddock alongside the mares. He soon broke wires on the pastures and he ended up way off and the mares over near the mini. This happened a couple of times as the mares wre none too keen on having him with them. We eventually established Leucan in with the mares who after a day stopped chasing him about and generally accepted them in their space though he was chased off piles of hay and would often move to another . Four piles of hay widely separated in the pasture solved that problem and by Sunday things were calmer and a new normal is in place. The good thing about this is that perhaps he will breed the two mares come spring time and that will be a good thing, just what we want.

the miniature horse Georgio where he belongs.

Otherwise the week was more of the usual. Splitting and burning fire wood takes a lot of time each day. The other major chore is looking after all the animals. No new lambs yet so that has not compounded things but the recent snow falls are making getting around a little slower and needing more effort. We had to shovel a lot of snow to keep the drive way clear as well. Three times already. The chickens are still not laying near as well as we’d expect and though they had been increasing their lay rate for a couple of weeks they have now stopped that increase. The egg laying seems to be directly linked to the temperature, the amount of sunshine and the winds. This means that the chickens egg lay rate is directly related to their comfort and happiness. Chickens are comfortable and happy when the temperature gets above or close to zero Celsius and are even more happy and comfortable when their is a lot of sunshine and no wind. They seem to need all three things in combination. One further aspect of their surroundings that affects egg laying is snow. A lot of snow keeps them from going too far from their doors but when there is no snow or they can access some bare ground then hens are out scratching and searching for food and are then of course happier still. So the chickens, just like us, are now really looking forward to the end of winter and the coming of spring.

A blue Cochin rooster testing the cold morning snow

A Whiting True Blue rooster with a Buckeye hen facing him. The Buckeye chicken, along with the Chantecler is the most winter hardy of the chicken breeds.

We have been researching the feeding of laying hens for small flocks and for sustainability and organic production. This means developing sources of alternative feeds and cultivating various forage plants in the chicken pastures that have specific nutritional benefits for the hens. This means we need to be sure that our hens have enough amino acids, vitamins and minerals crude fibre and protein and whatever else is needed for them to be able to maintain themselves and lay a lot of eggs. The numbers have been very well known for about a century and the sources for all this as well. it is a matter of sorting it all out to apply to our situation; our management style, our growing conditions and the climate. we’ll also have to be watchful of how a changing climate may make the growing of some things to be difficult or impossible.


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