2013 was a year of novelty for MacCurdy Farm. 2014 has brought it’s own new additions to the farm grounds. The school year is winding down with assessments, school trips, and other educational activities each with it’s own stresses. Meanwhile, our diversifying farm continues to provide it’s own busy work. We are ready for the arrival of our 200 meat king chicks this saturday. I completely overhauled the roof of each triple p. The tin had to be removed, new rafters installed, and gussets nailed to reinforce the load bearing capacity of the roofs during our heavy snowfall winters. I’m confident that the improvement in the design will withstand next winter. However, i’m keeping my fingers crossed. We don’t house anything in the triple p’s past the first snowfall, which means we only have to worry about structural damage.
Newly renovated portable chicken housing
Our egg wagon is coming along nicely. The frame is up, the rafters are on, windows and doors are framed, and the nesting box is nearly complete. The board siding is complete, the tin roof has been installed. We just have to construct and install a door and it’s ready for pasture. I’ve found, given the limited amount of time I have to devote to growing the farm infrastructure, that starting a project immediately after another project has been completed, greatly improves productivity. Perhaps, I’m feeding off of my natural propensity to always be working but I find that when one takes the time to get another project off the ground as the other finishes, one can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. An egg wagon, for those of you who may have not heard the term before, is a chicken coop on wheels. The egg wagon is constructed from wood and bolted to an old wagon frame at the farm. It will house 30 – 50 hens the first summer on pasture, and 50 – 75 hens the second summer. Weight is an issue as the wagon has to be physically lifted at this time to be hitched to the tractor. We constructed all walls and rafters with 2 x 2 lumber and the window openings will only have hardware cloth over them, no windows, to minimize weight for the time being. We have scrap tin that we’ve used for the roof, as well. The name of the game is minimal weight. Eventually, we’ll mount a trailer jack to the wagon frame.
Pastured Egg Layer Palache for the Summer
Egg Wagon nearing completion
In terms of our pastured egg production, there are two issues we have to solve. (1) We need a B100 solar energizer to charge our electric poultry netting and (2) we are waiting on our heritage breed chicks to come to laying maturity so we can provide more eggs at the Restigouche Farmer’s market. In our first year of breeding chickens, we currently have 40 chicks that we are raising to be layers. All roosters will go to table. I have one last hatch planned to start within the next two weeks to produce additional Black australorp hens and then the incubator goes into storage for the Fall and Winter until next Spring. Patience is necessary as we continue to develop our flock. Patience on the part of the farmer who has to wait 22 – 26 weeks for the hens to reach laying age and patience on the part of the consumer in understanding what is involved in producing hen fruit (aka. eggs). We apologize for any shortage of eggs at the Restigouche Farmer’s market this Spring and Summer and look forward to bringing more of our eggs into your kitchens this fall.
I am also putting out a call to anyone with a portable chicken processing unit (scalder, de-featherer, processing cones, processing table, etc.) to contact us at the farm about processing our heritage breed roosters, and potentially our turkeys later in the year. We’d be willing to talk price and dates. We’ve collectively decided that it’s time to butcher our roosters that we will not be keeping for breeding purposes. In the process we’ll eliminate the noise commotion on the farm. It’s hard to make the decision but to prepare your roosters for the table but it’s something that has to be done once they’ve reached the desirable weight. Most importantly to us, it has to be done ethically. We don’t want some gunslinger with zero respect for life processing our chickens.
In other news, our pastured meatking chickens and turkeys have adjusted nicely to their daily salad bar on pasture. Thankfully, we’ve had very few issues with lameness, limping, an leg problems. Our hospital pen has a few in it for the time being and I pray that they’ll rehabilitate and regain their strength. Water and feed will be the key for the next few days and Lord willing they will survive. Our goal at the beginning of the year was not to lose a single bird to sickness, injury, or predation. They’ve been going through alot of feed (25 – 35 kg /day) and water given the recent spike in the heat. Thankfully, with our fourwheeler and wagon addition to the farm, it has become alot easier to fill up the waterers as we leave a 55 gallon drum of water next to the PPPs on pasture. Once we purchase bulk feed, I’ll be leaving a 55 gallon drum of bulk feed in the pasture to further lessen the impact on the body. One really needs to develop means of minimizing the amount of physical exertion on individual activities so energy can be put towards multiple tasks. I sometimes cringe at the working methods of the older generation. I look at them with great admiration and profound respect for the sacrifices they make, but on the other hand I’m always looking for ways to minimize the impact on the body so that we can further diversify our farm operations. The old adage says, “Many hands make light work.” In my circumstances, only my hands do the work when it comes to the chickens and turkeys (sometimes with the gracious help of my wife or father), so the many hands option is out the window. If I didn’t minimize the amount of physical exertion on my body, I’d be burnt out, without accomplishing my goal of providing healthy food to people in our foodshed. Don’t get me wrong, I love work and in farming the work never ends but sacrificing healthier working alternatives for pride and a “that’s the way it’s always been done” mentality is bad for business. Writing metaphorically, would someone rather stare at a stagnant mud puddle or a moving brook? One is teeming with life and forever changing it’s composition, while the other dries up, is sometimes restored, and has no life in it. The key in all this, is help. A successful family farm needs help, from every member, young and old.
The key word in this post is motion. Everything must be kept moving on the farm. From the locomotion involved in daily farm chores, to moving the pastured poultry pens, to exchanging advice, caveats, and reminders. A farm without motion, is not a farm at all. Hayseason is just around the corner so look for another blogpost on haymaking on MacCurdy Farm in the very near future. Finally, I am taking orders for chicken and turkey on our facebook farm page (MacCurdy Farm), on our blog website, at the Restigouche Farmer’s market, and by phone at 506-684-2297.