Archive | Chantecler Chickens

Feeding Fayrehale Fowl Fermented Feed!

How is that for alliteration !

Last Monday we were fortunate to have Lisa and Frank Richards of Mack Hill Farm in Windsor, Vermont attend our local poultry group’s monthly meeting.  Lisa was invited to speak on feeding fermented feed to poultry.

The next day I started fermenting!

I started immediately because I learned I could start by fermenting the feed I was currently using!  People ferment various whole grain combinations and I will make some minor changes as I progress with fermented feeding.  For now, the important thing to me was the fact I could take the feed I use and thus have and start fermenting!

That means layer pellets, cracked corn and water.

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 Let the fermenting begin!

Last Tuesday I started 3 buckets  and did two more Wednesday night. First feeding was  Saturday with a 3 day bucket. I used a 4 day bucket today (Sunday)  and will use  a 5 day bucket tomorrow  Monday) so I can see where in the 3-5 fermenting range we want to settle.

Because you can start with what you are currently feeding!, we started with a mix of layer pellets and corn. I checked to see if mash was less expensive as it soaks to mash and decided that the one penny extra per 50# bag for pellets was worth it to have less dust in the kitchen.

Pic #1 & #2 show the mixture in the buckets. Cheap bird feed (for sprouting) added to two (added to third after pictures taken). Middle bucket is just feed mix before bird seed

Pic #3 – water added to two – add tepid water  The two on the right already need more water:)

Pic #4 – no covers available when I picked up the buckets so I  used saran wrap to cover until I got covers yesterday.

Make sure you fill shy of 3/4 full w/ dry feed!  It swells and bubbles as it ferments.  I had to scoop  out feed as I learned the right level!  Keep adding water as needed and keep a little water over the top of the mix.  I now add the birdseed after the initial swelling has happened.

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There are currently six covered buckets in the kitchen! (only place warm enough for us to ferment right now)  I have friends that do it in their basement. You want a spot where you can maintain 60-70 degrees,  The open bucket is a 5 day bucket and will be fed tomorrow (Monday).  The second picture just shows who the nose in the first picture belongs to!  Abigail has been very intrigued and actually tried some before I found the covers.

You will note that I have the buckets sitting on boot trays.  They have swelled and bubbled over as I learn the amount of feed to start a bucket.

Fed Fayrehale Fowl First Fermented Feed

Yesterday (Saturday)  I took a 5 gallon bucket of fermented feed (3 days fermenting) and fed the birds. The 4 chicken pens attacked it like one would go after an addictive special treat! Crazily eating it.

The ducks and geese were more cautious and not so sure that “slop” was appropriate. The Saxonys dove in first and then the geese decided they were missing out on something good.

I was using 100# every 2 days of dry. 100# made 6 buckets of fermented so if there is a 50% cut, I will use 1.5 buckets a day. If a 30% cut, I will use two buckets a day. I will get this fine tuned!

Either way! 30% to 50% is a significant decrease in feed costs and the birds are healthier and the yolks will be larger!!!

Today, Sunday, was day 2 of feeding fermented feed! The birds were all excited and got right down to the business of eating. I like seeing all that moisture going in to them too during this cold weather!  I used 1.5 buckets today.

Looks like I am using about half the feed that I was using before. Will keep working on portions and number of feedings until I am sure they are satiated each day.

I plan to stick with this system for now with a minor addition or two!  I will add some dried kelp (a cup or two per bucket)  AFTER I check to make sure it is Atlantic Coast sourced and not from the Pacific Coast!.  I will also add my food grade DE (diatomaceous earth) to the mix when I feed it.  In the spring I will switch out the cracked corn for crimped oats.

That is what I am doing to start!  I will post several good links for you to use as resources and there is lots of research out there.  Fermented feed not only saves feed and cuts feed costs, it makes healthier birds.

 Resources:

Mack Hill Farm Fermented Feed

Mack Hill Farm Fermented Feed Follow-Up

Mack Hill Farm Fermented Feed Finale

10 Foods to Ferment For Chickens

Benefits of Lacto-Fermenting Feed For Chickens

The Science of Fermented Feed

Backyard Chicken discussion – Fermented Feeds

Why and How to Ferment Your Chicken Feed

The above will give you a great start. Our birds all seem happy with the change and I sure like to see all that moisture going in to their system during this frigid weather.  I feed twice a day so it is consumed before it freezes. You just have to work with your birds until you find the amount they will consume.  I still scatter some scratch (after morning feeding which is the larger feeding) to keep them occupied and to keep the bedding worked.

 Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 3 –  Feeding Fayrehale Fowl Fermented Feed –  observations and conclusions about feeding fermented feed! WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG ??

I had been verbally told that it was a good way to feed. I could have done research and started way sooner than I did! Thank goodness Lisa Richards of Mack Hill Farm came up to speak to our local Poultry Group!

It absolutely saves 30-50% on feed. Thinking that I will fall in the 40% area? 4 bags out of 10 not used, $40 out of $100 saved — I can handle that!!

I used 1.5 buckets yesterday (that would be 50% less) and I fed 2 buckets today (that would be 33.3% less). My feeling is that the amount needs to be in between these two amounts.

I will continue to observe — Thinking I may end up alternating days — 1.5 buckets one day, 2 buckets the next … all depends on clean up today. I am no more into creating frozen feed than I am in making ice w/ water:):)

Speaking of water! They get fresh water after they are fed (and clean it up) so fresh water taken around in the afternoon. They seem to be “washing their beaks”! and then it freezes over night.

Will keep observing this too. They are getting lots of water in the feed now. You will be amazed at the amount of water absorbed by the feed.

So I am thinking that real savings will be 40-50%.

The birds themselves appear much more content. They are excited to see the feed bucket and dive right in but it is not frantic! They tend to business and once satiated they roost for a while. AND, NO, they are not drunk! fermented feed does not have that high an alcohol content! I think they are pleasantly satisfied!!

Besides kelp (EAST coast sourced) I will also add a little alfalfa pellet — The Chanteclers, particularly, love hay and consume the best of what I put in their hoop.

So, I will keep observing, and continue to wonder! —

WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG ??

 

7

How We Ship Fertile Hatching Eggs — Successfully!

My apologies to regular readers who may not be interested in this specific post. I attempted to title it in such a way that you could skip opening it when you received your email notification if you were not interested.

Here at Fayrehale, we successfully ship fertile hatching eggs from our Chanteclers and our Icelandics all over the country. Including into the true wilds of Alaska! This particular Alaska mailing took 10 days and had an 80 something percent hatch!

I have been asked repeatedly how we package the eggs for shipping.  The easiest way to respond is to do a pictorial tutorial here, as a blog post, so that it has a URL that can be shared.

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Tri-Fold Egg Cartons

We use a tri-fold egg carton that is perforated to that it can split in half making two, six egg components.  Now, you don’t buy eggs! so you need to know someone in the neighborhood or at work who does and can save the cartons for you.  We are lucky!  Our Village Church has a monthly breakfast, Pete & Gerry’s donates the eggs, and they save the cartons for me! These tri-fold cartons play a large role in our success.

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Yes!  Toilet Paper!

Nothing fancy or pretentious about us!  Toilet paper is always handy and we use it to wrap each egg.  Roll the egg six or eight times in the toilet paper. The egg is in the middle so that there is extra paper at both ends. Stand the egg in a compartment as shown above. The extra paper on the bottom squishes around the bottom of the egg — remember this is the narrower end so that the air sac is up.  Repeat until six eggs are standing like the one pictured above.

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Snugly Encased

As shown on right side of picture above, the tri-fold is carefully closed. Extra paper nudged if necessary into its own egg shaped compartment. This folds the extra toilet paper over the top. Tape closed. Now each egg is gently and snugly encased in an individual egg shaped compartment.  Wrap each 6 egg unit separately in bubble wrap and tape.  I save and reuse bubble wrap.  If you do not have any, someone you know does!

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Boxing

Thicker (or more) bubble wrap is put around each 6 pack. The bottom of a Priority Mail Box is layered with bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts. The 6 packs are placed side by side in the center of the box. Narrow egg end down.  Bubble wrap and/or styrofoam peanuts used around all four sides and over the top.  The box is sealed with tape.  Everything is now snug. The eggs are very well protected.

We use regular Priority mail and insure in case package is destroyed en route.  Remember you are mailing fresh, unwashed, clean eggs. There is plenty of time! Remember the eggs we mailed that took 10 days to reach their destination in the wilds of Alaska! When a hen starts a clutch she selects a nesting spot and lays an egg every day (occasionally skips a day) until she has a clutch of 16-20 eggs.  That means the eggs sit for three weeks or so before the hen judges the clutch big enough and settles on the nest to incubate. 

The point of that reminder is to let you and your customers relax! The eggs you mail will be received and will start being incubated faster than a hen would do it naturally!

IMPORTANT Note:  We do NOT annotate the package in any fashion! We do NOT say “fragile”, We do NOT say “Fertile Hatching Eggs” – We just address and mail the package as if a regular (light weight) gift!  This is important. It is known, and has been confirmed to me by people in the Postal System, that there are postal employees who will deliberately mishandle packages that are so marked. No need for them to know!

This system has worked very well for us and our customers have been very happy.

Three weeks after receipt they see the results!

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Happy Mailing – Happy Hatching

12

Living an Earth Connected Life of Elegant Simplicity – WITH? / VERSUS? – the Internet and Social Media!

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I find myself pondering, all to often, the impact of the internet and social media on my  earth connected life.  Can the two extremes function together?  I  have been going back and forth and back and forth and…………. I think I have finally come to a satisfactory conclusion  *for me* !  They can work together!

I was born on the Family Farm in Concord, Massachusetts. While life has taken me to many places and in many directions, I have always maintained a connection to the soil, to the land. It is in my blood!   As a child, I lived in the country, we had a big garden and I can remember renovating a large shed with my brothers (using lumber from a collapsed barn, salvaged nails, a hand saw and a hammer) to ready for the pair of bottle lambs our neighbor was giving us.

Later as an adult, we raised our own beef, pork, lamb and poultry. Hand milked our Guernsey cow, Molly, and eventually her two daughters Matilda and Martha.

During these years there was only television and it played a very small role in life!  Strictly controlled when we were young ( Black & White) and not that important in later years.

WELL, full disclosure requires that I confess to watching a full week of Betty Davis movies (two per night) when I was in college!

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Now, in my 65th year, the world is much different and more complicated

The world is wired.  Computers and Smart Phones link to the internet, facebook, twitter and on and on.  Many people are “connected” all the time. Separated from real human to human interactions. Families, under the same roof, connect individually to the net while often communicating with each other electronically!   This electronic evolution/revolution seems to isolate and separate from other people and from nature.

Part of me has argued internally for outright rejection. I resisted computers until I decided in 1997 that I needed to learn how to use them or be left behind. At that point they had not become so invasive.  I decided, that in order to understand how they work, I needed to create a webpage from scratch using html codes. I did it and never have had to since as an IT Husband does it for me now:)

I do not have a smart phone! I do not want or need one. I do have a cell phone. I can make  a call, send a text and take a picture. That is all I need.

My being loves having my hands in the dirt in the garden, the poultry, the natural world in general AND my being enjoys and needs nice things – books, art, silver and china. That combination creates what I call “elegant simplicity”

Nothing beats an evening with friends, gathered at a nice table, with good food and conversation and suddenly someone says: “OH my goodness it is after midnight” Those not frequent enough occasions are the frosting on life.  Now, chances are the communications that gathered us together were via e-mail.

SO yes, modern technology fits an earth connected lifestyle if it is managed to enhance and not take over!  I use facebook!  Not for a zillion friends I do not know but to maintain contact with a few friends scattered far and wide.  Friends from my days at Borders. Friends connected to Star Island. Some friends I have connected with because of joint interests in gardening, poultry, food and lifestyle.  I use FB for gardening connections.  How else would I be able to connect with and follow Ben Falk  or John Forti  or, or, or……

I use the internet for this website, where I connect with people around the world and promote our poultry which I hatch and ship.  I maintain a facebook page for our Chanteclers  and our Icelandics.

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Fayrehale White Chanteclers in winter housing.

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Fayrehale Icelandics in winter housing

Currently there are 427 people following the Chantecler page and 75 following the newly created Icelandic page.  That is over 500 people that we have connected with for our poultry sales.  Something that would never have happened without the internet!  Our beautiful small Vermont village is the perfect place to live.  Selective utilization of modern technology allows us to connect across the country and around the world with like minded people.

I am state emphatically that modern technology enhances and expands our simple, earth connected life!  It allows us to be connected with like minded people and thus less isolated in our existence.

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So, as the Hackmatacks turn yellow and prepare to shed their needles, we have moved back into the house for the winter. It is time to dust and clean the dining room  (The incubator ran in the dining room from March to September:) so that we can have friends over for supper.

And YES, we will use e-mail to make the arrangements!

7

Royal Mail Delivery !

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This morning’s mail delivered my copy of the August 2013 issue of The British Magazine Home Farmer.  Exciting to actually hold this great magazine and to be able to turn the pages and read it. Sightly over size at 11.75 x 8.25 it is full of helpful articles.  Like magazines used to be here back in the 60s and 70s.

August contents

A quick look at the table of contents shows the great range of articles in this issue!

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Suddenly you reach page 23  and there it is!

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The layout about the Pallet Garden here at Fayrehale Farm.

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And from Great Britain we head for New Zealand where the pallet garden will be featured  online in Garden NZ  and in the printed magazine Rural Living.

Those of you trying this system should feel free to relate your experiences in the comments section of this entry OR the original blog entry.

7

“Peggy” The Chantecler Chick !

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“Peggy”

On June 4th a local woman contacted me and asked for one fertile egg. They had placed a supposedly fertile egg under their hen and their small children were waiting eagerly for the egg to hatch …….. egg was a week over due…… so not going to hatch.

I candled the eggs in the incubator and sold her one egg as she requested… She picked it up, wrapped it in her sweater, and took it home to slip under the hen. Hatched on schedule last Sunday (6/9) and her update follows!!:):):) :

“Hi Jim ~
Just writing w/ an update for you. Our new little fluffy addition to our family arrived on Sunday afternoon, just as you predicted. Mom (Maple) is very proud indeed! My children are sure that she is a girl and have named her “Peggy”. Maple sat on her for Sun and Mon but today she is out exploring her world ~ acting quite healthy and spry. My children have enjoyed lots of quiet time observing and loving her. Maple has been very trusting of us since she too, has been given lots of affection since she was newly hatched. It’s been just perfect. She will be very loved here… thank you so much!!
~ Ruth”

Events like this make life special!

Update on “Peggy” The Chantecler Chick!  –  August 17, 2013

So many of you enjoyed hearing about Peggy that I thought I would bring you up to date!  Peggy is doing well and growing in to a beautiful white Chantecler hen!  Word and pitures from her family today.

“Peggy is great and we’re assuming she’s still a she!  She has become friends w/ our two other little ones which are about her same age (I had purchased two female chicks from Agway since the kids wanted a barred rock to replace our lost one). The flock accepted them all quickly and that was a relief.  She still hangs out w/ her Mom, Maple, but is definitely independent.  She’s become quite friendly to us too! Here are a few pictures taken yesterday.  Thanks for checking in on her ~ I’ll tell her you were asking!
~ Ruth”

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Peggy with her Mother, Maple

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Peggy !  Isn’t she Beautiful?

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Peggy with a Barred Rock Friend

0

Believing in and Preserving the WHITE Chantecler – The original Canadian Heritage Breed bred for Cold Weather Production

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When I started researching endangered heritage chicken breeds prior to retirement, I settled on the Canadian White Chantecler.  A Breed developed by Brother Wilfred Chantelain, a Trappist monk and Doctor of Agronomy at the Oka Agricultural Institution, an agricultural school at his abbey which is affiliated with the University of Montreal.

In 1907, the Brother set out to  create a practical chicken that would be suited to Canada’s climate and production needs -working at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka.

This marvelous breed nearly disappeared in the late 70s. Fortunately there were small numbers (less than 2000) still being maintained by a few small farms. In the 21st century, the breed persists, but is listed as Critical by The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Once I had made my decision to work in retirement, preserving, breeding and promoting the WHITE Chantecler, the search began.

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Photo courtesy of Gina Bisco.

Finally, one day, after searching and sending e-mail inquires hither and yon, I was referred to Gina Bisco in Central New York State. After three years of extremely educational communication with Gina, I acquired six hens and a rooster.

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Young Bisco Pullets

Then the search for some Canadian birds. This was a more difficult endeavor and then I saw a posting from Greg Oakes stating that he would bring prepaid trios across the border to the Poultry Show in Michigan. Greg had three lines and I bought a trio from each line and then added two extra cocks while at the Poultry Show to pick up my trios.

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Canadian Chanteclers arrive at Fayrehale

My original intention to maintain separate pens and combine various lines was altered w/ a predator attack that took some but not all birds from each line.

Thus the combined flock that gives me the BEST Genetics in the Country!

The alarming discovery today that crossbred birds have come into Vermont resulted in a warning on my Fayrehale Chantecler page.

I also decided to write about my breeding philosophy. The Chantecler is a dual purpose heritage bird. I am interested in breeding and working on restoring the Chantecler to its original status as a good eating carcass and a good laying chicken (200 plus eggs a year).

I believe this can be accomplished by selective breeding within the breed WITHOUT crossbreeding to other breeds including the Partridge and Buff Albertans — Canadian breeds the the American Poultry Association arbitrarily classified as “Chantecler” as if any Canadian chicken was a “Chantecler”!  This abomination has caused some people, inattentive to history, to think it is all one breed.  It is not. The so called Partridge and Buff Chanteclers are in fact very separate breeds (Albertan) from the Chantecler.  The APA’s arbitrary classification does not in any way change that historical fact!  The other breeds should never be crossed with the White and original/real Chantecler!  NEVER!

The Partridge Chantecler was developed approximately 30 years after the White Chantecler, by Dr J E Wilkinson of Edmonton AB.  Just as Brother Wilfrid made a series of crosses to come up with his “ideal”, so did Dr Wilkinson.  Ultimately he came up with a bird that he called the “Albertan”.  It is important to note that they actually had nothing at all to do with Brother Wilfrid’s White Chanteclers and that they were essentially completely different breeds.  However when Dr Wilkinson submitted his “Partridge Albertan” birds for recognition by the American Poultry Association, they did accept them but then rather arbitrarily renamed them as a Partridge Chantecler, much to his huge disappointment!

My first step, because I have such a good gene pool, has been to sell chicks and fertile eggs all over the country. From one coast to the other and up in to Alaska.  These small flocks (12-60 birds) help disseminate this great heritage breed that nearly disappeared. The new flock owners get excellent birds. Good if they just want a heritage flock for the family and excellent if they want a gene pool to use for selective breeding as they work for body size and egg laying rate.  It should be noted that my Bisco line hens have better bodies than my original Canadian hens. These genes are in the pool.

Second step, will be (and has started) breeding to increase carcass size.

Third step, will be to invest in a trap nest and record egg laying rates per hen and hatch from the heaviest laying birds.

Currently I am communicating with a couple breeders in Quebec and working to bring some of this old Canadian blood, that has not strayed far from the original flock, over the border to add to my program.

This takes time and it should!  The answer is not to cross breed.  I can not stress this enough. The Chantecler deserves to be preserved without bastardizing!

So as I continue being dedicated to preserving, breeding and promoting the WHITE Chantecler, I ask you all to be very sure that your Chantecler stock is coming from someone who understands the history of this great Canadian breed and is seriously committed to preserving the Original Chantecler without corruption!

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Mature pair in the “grow pen”

I invite you all to join with me in this significant endeavor.  Where ever you acquire your breeding stock,  please be sure it is not corrupted.

New site on Facebook! The Original White Chantecler / Le Chantecler blanc original

5

Time Flies by this Time of Year.

Time seems to have gotten away from me as I move through one day after the other progressing towards Memorial Day when we can plant the garden.  I have learned over a life time NOT to push it!  No matter how warm and beautiful it may be,  the soil hasn’t really warmed and there can still be frosts. Like the three frosts we experienced last week after nearly two weeks of sun and temperatures in the 70s and low 80s.  We have to get past the Corn Planting Moon in May!

The people who rush, replant!  OR the seeds lay dormant and wait.  By June and July our garden, though started later, will equal or surpass the early planters.

This time of year is one of my favorite! (I say that about every season:)  I do love lilac season.  We have in excess of 60 lilacs blooming here and I can always find a spot to plant one I do not have in the collection.

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“Maiden’s Blush”

“Maiden’s Blush” is a nice pink.  We also have a couple “Primrose” (yellow)  and have been lucky to obtain from a private collection such rarities as “Priscilla” and “Banner of Lenin”.”Excel” and “Annabelle” are heavy bloomers and “Annabelle’s” fragrance permeates the back yard. “Beauty of Moscow”, “Sensation”  and  “P P Konchalovskii” are favorites. I feel guilty for not mentioning all the others as I LOVE them all!

Once the 40 some odd named hybrids bloom, the Canadian lilacs will  bloom and extend the season.  The yard is intoxicating right now with the perfume of the lilacs. I can’t remember it ever being this powerful.  A perfect year for lilacs.

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“Silver King”

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“Sister Justina” (left) & “Betsy Ross” (right) are nice white lilacs

There have also been some additions to the poultry here at Fayrehale.  I knew the American Buffs were setting and one day while walking Abigail on the other side of the fence, I discovered the Sepastopol/American Buff cross goose on a nest!

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Not sure the eggs under the American Buff (left) will hatch. There was a hard freeze the night before she settled on the nest and I believe they should have hatched by now.  Wednesday the crossed goose (right) presented me with her 4 new goslings!  They will raise them.  What a joy to see them around.  They make me smile.

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Besides the new goslings we have added some Saxony Ducks

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The Guinea Fowl, which have been free on tick patrol for several weeks, immediately rushed to the back yard to see what this new intrusion was.  It was comical to watch them chatter and discuss the situation before going off about their business.

We continue to ship White Chantecler chicks and hatching eggs around the Country. It is nice to have these small flocks starting as the White Chantecler is a Canadian Heritage Breed that nearly disappeared.

And believe it or not we actually took some time two weeks ago to have our first (and only one this substantial!) cookout of the season.  After this one it will be chicken and burgers when we can find (make) the time!

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That shares a little of our busy lives these past few weeks.  I plan to move into our summer sleeping quarters this week!

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Summer Sleeping

Everything will be ready for the move to summer quarters once I get the blankets and comforter washed, dried and moved out.  This will be the third season we have slept outside. (Queen size bed in this tent! I am too “mature” for sleeping bags on the ground).  We will move back in to the house in October sometime.

This arrangement gives us plenty of fresh air and enhances our closeness to the natural world.

1

Busy Spring At Fayrehale Farm !

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The Forsythia Has Started to Open – 4/24/13

I just realized that nothing has been posted since 3/31/13 !  Over three weeks ago!  I was looking at fayrehalefarm.com site traffic.  2/3s of the visitors are new and they come to the site for some specific initial purpose. That leaves the other 1/3 of you who are return visitors!  Unless you have noticed some of the small updates on various pages you haven’t seen any activity since 3/13/13.

Nothing philosophical or earth shattering !  Just a little pictorial catch-up on our busy spring here at Fayrehale Farm.

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Chantecler chicks are hatching weekly and heading to new homes around the country!

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Geese are setting. American Buff on the left and an American Buff/Sepastopol cross on the right.  Not sure goslings will hatch as there was a hard freeze just before they settled on their nests.

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Our self-service egg selling refrigerator is back up.  We have been very busy w/ egg sales. Interestingly enough many are just traveling through.  They often stop to chat.  Even had visitors from Germany pick up a couple dozen.

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Making preparations for a 4 pallet garden in the front yard!  Food and Laundry Drying out front to set an example for all.  Diminish lawn and grow food!

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Last  weekend we took an existing platform that had been intended for another small coop and turned it into a hoop pen. It is designed so that it can be one 4’x12′ pen OR a divider can be placed between the two closely spaced hoops in the center and it becomes 2, 4’x6′ pens.  The young Icelandic Chickens will grow here once it becomes warmer and they have grown and feathered out

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Busy with seedlings.  Nature has not cooperated.  Cold and cloudy.  Some have had to be restarted. Soon we will start using a hoop house for the seedlings

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So, as the Magnolia buds swell and start to show color, we are busy with Spring endeavors and hoping we are beyond the point of hard frosts!

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Poultry Breeding Pens

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We have just experienced the Blizzard of 2013.  We are shoveled out and all the birds are fine.  I can’t stop thinking about the approaching breeding season!  I am resisting and controlling all urges to start the incubator!  That has to wait until March when we do the fertility check prior to shipping hatching eggs and prior to hatching the chicks we will ship.Those lucky chicks from the fertility check will live a good live and die a fast and humane death so they can feed us next year.

In the mean time, there has been interest in our small breeding hoop pens.  They are easy and cost effective to make, great to use for breeding pairs or groups and moveable. They can work for poultry other than chickens  and modified to any size you need.

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This picture gives you a good view of the frame work. We made a 4’x6′ box with 2″x10″ boards.  As you can see a piece of strapping is added to the 6′ sides. Electrical conduit clamps are added above the strapping (which serves as a stop) to receive and hold the 3/4″x10′ PVC pipe that we used for the hoops.

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We made six units and moved them into place behind the Apple Arbor and in back of the tent where we sleep three seasons of the year.  We placed a piece of strapping along the top of the hoops and used plastic ties to hold the hoops evenly  spaced. The we put 1″ chicken wire over  sides and back.  Again plastic ties held the wire to the hoops. If using 3′ wire it will take 3 pieces (6′ wire will take 2 pieces and join with an overlap at the top).  Start with the first piece on top. This way your side pieces, which will overlap UP over top piece (predator can’t nose in) and go down below the strapping used as a hoop stop.  NOTE: Depending on your situation you may want to use hardware cloth around the bottom instead of or over the 1′ chicken wire.

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Rain Cover: Once wired, we used an inexpensive blue tarp to cover the back half of the pen. It wraps around the back but does not totally close the back so there is air flow in the summer.  These pens back up against mature conifers so the opening in the tarp cover in the back is shaded.

Perch: As you can see, we nailed a 2×4 upright to each side and placed a 2×4 across for the perch.

Door: You may not like what we did for the door and you can be as fancy as you like when placing door on open end.  We took a 4’x4′ piece of 1/2″ plywood ( 2 pens to a sheet) secured the bottom in a groove made by nailing a piece of strapping to the top of the 2″x10″ front base. Be sure to leave a little more than a 1/2″ space.  The bottom of the plywood front sits in the groove (can’t be pushed out) and then we added screw eyes (bolt style) near the top of each side so we could use bungee cords to secure  to a hoop.  The picture above shows this and as I said be as fancy as you wish if you don’t like our system! It works well for us.

Cost: There is no point in my discussing costs. We are entering our third season with these pens.  You can easily make a materials list and price the materials in your area. I know they are the most reasonable and versatile system we could come up with.

As an aside: We have kept yearling peacocks successfully in one through the winter by using  greenhouse plastic to cover all but the front (closing off the back).  We then places two old quilts over the top (not all the way down the sides) and let what ever snow falls add to the insulation.  This has worked in Vermont with spells of subzero weather.

Good luck with your 2013 season. We are looking forward to ours!

ADDENDUM

I have received numerous requests, on here and through other electronic media, to provide pictures of the door system we are using on our breeding pens. I will add three pictures and hope they provide the necessary information.

door1

Not the best day for taking pictures as everything is wet!  Look carefully and you can see the scrap of strapping we used..  10-12″ ….there is a matching piece on the other side (3rd picture). One could put it all the way across but we saw no reason to. Slight warp shows some corn. This pen is wintering 2 young peacocks.

Door2

Neighboring pen that we are not using this winter. Plywood has been set aside. I took the snow off the scrap of strapping  and left the snow on the front baseboard.

Door3

If you look closely (sorry wet day so all wood is dark)at the top of the picture, you can see the end of the far side “stop” .

We also had inquiries about opening the pen.

To feed and water, I open the right side either by sliding or by lifting up and over the “stop”.  This allows me to feed and water alone.  If they won’t lay eggs up front I use a small net to retrieve them.

Major work, like moving birds etc., requires the help of a second person to “man the door”.

DSCN1024[2]

April 20-21, 2013 we added this hoop pen

This past weekend we changed plans and rather then build another wooden coop, we hooped the floor platform creating a 4×12 pen that has been designed so we can slide a divider between the pair of closely spaced center hoops.  Divided we would have another pair or 4×6 breeding pens.  WE PREFER frames on the ground as the ones first discussed above have.  We already have the platform  and so we used it.

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