Spring is in the air and the excitement is increasing on the farm! I scored an incredible deal on three Little Giant egg incubators and spent the morning with one of the kids setting them up. Each incubator has the automatic egg turner which is awesome. I'm going to have 1 incubator set up for the eggs, a second on standby in case something happens with the first one and a couple days before the hatch, I'm going to move the eggs to the 3rd incubator for the hatch since eggs stop getting turned at that point. I don't want any little ones getting squished from the egg turner! We will be able to do 48 chicken eggs in the one
A customer complained about the price of our eggs. I thought a little perspective might help:
$2.50 per dozen for organic, pasture raised, free range hens that are never confined and are allowed to engage in all their natural behaviors such as scratching, dusting, foraging for vegetation and bugs, playing, and being treated with love, respect and appreciation.
My cost for 120+ birds:
~Feed: $13.75 per 50 pound bag of feed (x 4-5 bags each week-MORE in the winter!)
~Oyster Shell: $12 per 25 pound bag (we get about 4 bags annually)
~Cracked Corn: $10.50/bag (The hens really burn through this in the winter to keep warm and because they love it and I can't resist spoiling them with it)
~Bedding: $6.99 per bag (I use 10-15 bags annually)
~Water: $1.50/gallon via Dry Prairie when the well isn't working and we go over our monthly allotment (They drink about 40-60 gallons weekly and right now the well is AGAIN not working)
~Delivery: $3.74 per gallon of gas (I get 13mpg so automatically use that JUST to drive in to the stop light by Albertson's and back to my house.)
~Egg Cartons: 50 cents EACH (unless we reuse which is frowned upon by the state)
~Straw bales: $1.50 each (to insulate the hen house so they don't get frostbite) 200-300 bales in the winter
Other costs include electricity to keep their water from freezing, light to keep them laying over the winter when it is dark, etc.
STILL THINK $2.50 PER DOZEN IS TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR? If so, go to the grocery store and buy tasteless eggs from unhealthy hens that are stuffed in stacked cages with NO natural light, NO grass, NO room to spread their wings, NO nests, NO love, FORCED to molt by STARVATION, NO fresh air, feathers falling out, waddles and combs pale from the unsanitary conditions, etc. See for yourself by Googling "Battery Hens" and then clicking on "images".
Know where your food comes from and support HEALTHY and HUMANE farming. I should be charging a LOT more. I don't raise chickens to make money. I do it so my family and friends and community have healthy and FRESH eggs and meat from animals who are raised with dignity and respect.
Typical battery operation in the U.S.:
A few pictures of how I raise my poultry:
Notice there are no fences. The birds have all of their feathers. They look happy and shiny and cheerful. They are mingling with each other peacefully. This is what my farm is about. It's not about profit. It's about doing the right thing.
One of my favorite phrases is from the Latin poem by Horace from Odes 1.11: "
It's been a busy week on the farm. After the rains subsided it was time to do a damage assessment and begin clean up. We lose one line of fencing entirely. Our bridge was destroyed. Our septic is going crazy and our well quit working today. Never a dull moment, right?
We received a call from dispatch about 3 loose horses. Went out to investigate and found they were some horse a neighbor had been boarding. We were able to round them up and get them back inside their pasture. Then we were off to Nashua where someone reported a dog that had been wandering on the highway for over 24 hours. He is believed to have been dumped. We retrieved him and on our way back to the farm we received another call from dispatch about two wiener dogs running along to highway. So, off we went to find them before they were run over. We knew people in the vicinity and just as we3 suspected, they were just wandering too far from home. They were retrieved and we returned to the farm.
Yesterday there was a free spay/neuter clinic in Frazer sponsored by the Northeast Montana Fort Peck Tribal MASH, so we rounded up 6 dogs of various ages here on the farm and off we went to get everyone "fixed". We are SO happy to get everyone current on shots, wormed and given a flea & tick preventative. This would have cost us over $1,000 at the vet! We are SO thankful to Teddy Kaschube who organized the clinics!
We also received a call yesterday, while at the spay/neuter clinic, about 2 large dogs who were displaced from the flooding. Their owner was being evacuated and called in need of somewhere to put her dogs. We made space for them in one of our outdoor kennels as the owner said they didn't play well with others. Later on, an "orphaned" dog was pointed out to us who'd been left at the post office in Frazer and we were asked to take her as well. Unfortunately we had to decline as after taking on the two big dogs who were displaced, we just didn't have another kennel or crate available. It was hard to say no and we realized that we need more supplies to keep up with all the animals who need help.
I spoke with someone today who owns a building that may be an ideal location for a pet boarding/shelter/retail store. The rent is really high and I'm not sure the revenue would be there to cover expenses. I would like to be able to take in animals as the need arises and also provide a boarding service that doesn't break the bank. People are paying more to board their animals here than it costs to have a child in daycare...and animals require MUCH less care! That doesn't seem right to me so I am going to investigate this further and talk it over with the hubby.
Below is a link to photos of the flash flooding that occurred here today. We got well over 2 inches of rain in a short time. The ground is still saturated from the snow melt (and more is left to melt still in Canada that will run down here). Thankfully, we did purchase a FEMA Flood Insurance policy. I am hopeful that it will cover replacing the bridge, culvert, rebuilding our road to our barn and replacing the fence. Our governor already has asked Obama for a Presidential Disaster Declaration so if he [Obama] signs it, we should see some extra assistance that could cover the damage if the FEMA plan doesn't. Needless to say, I will be on the phone with our insurance agent first thing in the morning.
Aside from that, all chickens, horses, ducks, gander, and dogs are accounted for. Our house is not in danger at this time. The waters should recede quite a bit in the next few days IF the rain doesn't repeat what it gave us today.
Click here ---> Flash Flooding Pictures <---Click here
Maddie's puppies are now 4 1/2 weeks old. One male, dubbed "Jayden" by my nephew, left the nest a little early and made the trek from Montana to Washington to reside in his new home with my Step-mother, Grandfather and nephew who is two. We found the puppies were eager and willing to eat soft puppy food and we added in some small puppy kibble. Maddie seems happy to not be tied down so much to the pups. I named the other male "Jäger", short for "Jägermeister" and the female was named "Jazmine" by my husband. We didn't plan on naming all of them with names that start with "j" but I think the names suit them well. We need to find homes for these babies ASAP as now that we've named them, it's hard not to get more attached!
My oldest son found what he believed to be a newly hatched duckling in a puddle from the flood water. I was at kickboxing at the time so instructed him to put it in a box and I would care for it myself. He and a friend managed to stumble upon the duck egg nest that our Rouens have laid though it appears the eggs may have been briefly submerged in the flood. I don't know if they are viable or not but we did have a hen who has been broody the last week or so. I was just thinking about caging her temporarily to break the brood. Instead, I gathered up the duck eggs, marked them with a sharpie pen and brought them over to the hen house.
Lifting the hen in my left arm, I let her watch me place 13 duck eggs in the next (where she'd been sitting on invisible eggs for over a week!) and then placed her on top of them. The eggs were cold and I wasn't sure if she would accept them. Much to my delight, she immediately pushed the eggs around until she was able to sit on all 13 of them! I read that duck eggs can be stored at cool temps (below 60 degrees) and once they are set (or incubated) at temps above that, the duck will begin growing. It takes 28 days so I guess we will see if this hen is successful in hatching out 13 ducklings. It will be interesting to say the least. From what I understand, the first thing a duck lays eyes on after hatching becomes "mother" so this hen will have her work cut out for her with 13 ducklings!
Back to the puddle "duckling"...I got to examining this "duck" closer after returning from kickboxing, I'm not so sure it is a duck. One thing I noticed is that this bird has all black skin. And it's feet aren't webbed. I'm thinking now that it may be a wild bird that fell out of the nest. But we have no way to tell until it feathers out. It certainly looks like a duck at first glance. But it is so tiny. I don't know if this thing is going to survive. I did get it to drink some water but it is so small. I'm not expecting it to be alive in the morning but I do hope it will be. Would be kind of awesome if it was a magpie. I love those birds. They are so beautiful!
As for the veggies...my starts are doing pretty well. My Amish Paste tomatoes haven't germinated as well as I hoped but my other tomatoes are already 8 inches tall! Now if only this damn rain would quit so I could get my beds built...I need to get these starts and the rest of the seed in the ground before it's too late. Our season is so short as it is... The hubby is buying a dump truck load of top soil for me to fill the raised beds with. I am hoping to make huge progress tomorrow and get everything in the ground by the end of this week.
Speaking of rain...we are flooded again. This is the worst it's been so far. We've nearly lost one portion of our fencing and I'm worried about the integrity of our road that leads to the barn. We did buy the FEMA insurance so I will be checking with our agent to see if the fencing and road will be covered. Thankfully our house is perfectly safe and we don't have to worry about that.
Other than that, we did have an incident with my oldest daughter's gelding. A neighbor stopped my youngest son outside and told him that one of the horse was cut up from the fence. Fearing the worst, I got my daughter up and we went out to investigate. I was so afraid it was my mother-in-law's mare. Thankfully (sort of) it was our gelding. He was at the fence where he likes to meet up with the neighbor's mares. I'm not too sure what went on but I think he must've jumped or maybe reared up. He caught his right from leg on the middle wire. As he brought his leg up, he crossed the top wire and it got tangled behind his leg while the middle wire caught on the front of the same leg. He was stuck with his leg in the air. We don't know how long he was there but our neighbor came out to help us get him freed. He was cut up on the back of his leg and also on the left side of his chest, where I can only assume he injured while struggling to free himself. He is fine now. We are taking care of his wounds and I think he will be okay. We just , have to take it easy with his training while he heals up. Hopefully there won't be any long term affects from it.
Other than that, things are going good. We are boarding a teacup poodle for the summer for a family that is traveling to Israel. We will also be boarding a few corgi's for a couple days for the graphic designer who did our logo for the farm. Our one last flood dog that we've been boarding will be leaving tomorrow afternoon so we will have a kennel open. I will be a little sorry to see him go but we can't keep every dog that comes through the farm. ~
I met with the County Sanitarian today. It was a very informative meeting and I am glad I went. We talked about some of the things I do here on the farm and there are things I need to have a license for, such as if I want to sell online or sell salsa or pickles, I need to have a license for that and process it in a certified kitchen. I can sell at the Farmer's Market, however, without a license unless it is acidic foods like tomatoes, salsa, pickles, etc. which again requires licensing. Since most of my veggies are in infancy stage, I have time to get that lined up and in order before it is time to can everything.
The puppies are getting big. So fat, in fact, that I am surprised they can move at all! Maddie is doing a great job mothering them and I am very happy with her. We also got a 3rd kennel donated to us that is 13 feet by 7 feet and has come just in time as Cheyenne has found it nearly impossible not to chase the hens! I hate putting her in the kennel but it is also tick season and she and Maddie are bringing them into the house. Thankfully it will pass and we will be able to have our house dogs again! Well, almost. Maddie will go to her new home as soon as her puppies are weaned.
The plant starts are doing well. Every rhubarb I planted has sprouted! I am happy to say I have had nearly 100% germination on everything, with the exception of my Sioux Tomatoes which seem to be sprouting on their own time. I'm not giving up on them yet! I am hoping to build my raised beds around Memorial weekend and hopefully get my plants transplanted in early June. Then I get to hold my breath and pray we don't have crazy hail or destructive wind or anything else that can harm the vegetables. I will be on pins and needles until harvest!
Baby chicks are no longer babies. They actually are 8 weeks, 3 days old now. I can't believe how big they are! They are mingling with the hens quite well. I've seen them even picking at the hens' food even though they have their own chick grower crumble. The hens have become wise to the fact that the chicks have crumble and discovered they can access the chicks' feed if they get up into the rafters and fly down into the chick's room. In another 4 weeks or so we will be able to take down the chicken wire that is keeping the hens (mostly) out of the room and let them all eat together from the community buckets. I need to get a couple more roosts built as well. It's kinda cute to see the chicks roosting on the "Big Girls Roost"!
There is so much more going on but I will save that for another post! Good night!
WOW! What an awesome day! The kids and I got SO much accomplished! I couldn't do it without them! We spent a good five hours cleaning the muck out of the hen house and sectioning off one room for the chicks so we could move them out of the mud room and into the barn! In the process, my oldest son and I built two more compost bins to contain the muck! We couldn't have asked for better weather as it was in the 70's today! After relaxing at the ice cream shop this afternoon, the kids all took a dip in the pond behind the house to cool off after a hard day's work. I am SO proud of all the kids and our guests who came by to help! We kicked major butt today and the chicks are totally happy in their new environment!
This next entire week I will be working on finishing up my classes for my degree and getting ready for graduation next month! Counting the days until the kids are out of school...it will be SO awesome to have them home for the summer! I can't wait!
Now that the snow has melted and the flood waters are receding, we have fallen quickly into Spring Fever! It is so awesome to be outside working with the animals and getting things ready for summer! We have 350 seed pots started with hopes to put them into the ground around the first week of June. That will give the us about 6 weeks to get the beds built, filled and ready for seedlings! Instead of buying lumber to used for borders, we are going to use the sand bags we have on hand from flood preparations. It will be an experimental plan and we've been asked to take photos and document how well it works. We have a newly certified Master Gardener who will be volunteering 40 hours on our farm and we can't wait to begin working with her! The crops will be amazing! Good thing too because I have about 750 empty canning jars that need to be filled before the end of the season!
Our oldest son worked on the hen house today...muck duty! He built three very large compost bins and was given the task of placing the muck into the bin for composting. He's quite innovative and I watched, amused, as he wheeled a load out of the hen house to the compost bins. Instead of forking it in with the pitchfork, he constructed a movable ramp to wheel the barrow to the top of the bin where he simply dumped it in! I would have never thought of that. In no time he had all three bins full and informed me he needed more supplies to build more bins! We will certainly have some awesome compost! The baby chicks are now 5 weeks old and are HUGE! It's amazing how fast they grow! Our laying flock is averaging over two dozen eggs a day currently. So far we are meeting demand and will be thankful when the chicks are old enough to go in to lay which could be as early as 16 weeks old!
Our oldest daughter sold three rabbits today and they were picked up to go to their new home. She is eager to breed the lops again and see what colors and coats we get next round. Out of this litter of six, we did get two with angora hair. We had a request from someone who wants as many angoras as we can produce so she can spin the hair into wool! All of the mini lops are sold. We do have a few Californians left. We made a trade with another local breeder and added a New Zealand White buck to the herd to join our doe! We are so excited to have a breeding pair now! He's a beauty! This next round will enable us to offer purebred Mini Lops, Californians, and now New Zealand Whites! Our oldest son built some wooden pedestals for the rabbits to chew on and sit on in their cages a few weeks back and the rabbits have REALLY enjoyed them! Soon he will be building more. We've had a request from another breeder who would like to buy some for her herd and also wants him to build her a hutch!
We also set up a 50 foot round pen for our oldest daughter so she could begin training her horse. He's going to be four in July so it's time. She is so excited to have a round area for training. Trying to do it in the corral was proving challenging for her due to corners in the fencing. We are excited to see her progress and will be working with the gelding that joined the farm a few weeks ago. Thank God for Clinton Anderson and one determined teenage daughter!
We were fortunate enough to purchase two very large kennels today for the dogs. One is occupied by a pair that was displaced due to the incredible flooding! They will be leaving sometime next week. The second kennel was quite a chore to retrieve and set up only because the area it was in had been under water that became slippery, sticky gumbo with some areas having over a foot of water remaining. We got a very good price on them and will definitely put them to good use!
Madison went to her new forever home today! A nice couple, whose beloved dachshund had passed away, fell in love with her. We are so happy for Maddie! Our oldest daughter will miss her but we can always go see her and visit since her's is a local adoption! YAY. Now, if we can just find a home for Felipe...the little corgi with HUGE personality!
Tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday and we will be attending church with friends followed by an easter egg hunt on our farm and dinner. From our family to your, we wish you a very blessed Easter! He is Risen!
Today was a great day! The kids are involved in 4-H and participated in Life Skills Day. This is an annual event that is actually part of the NE Montana Fair. Collectively the kids earned one rosette, six blue (1st place) ribbons and two red (2nd place) ribbons. Our oldest daughter also earned a free trip to 4-H Congress! We are very proud of their accomplishments! Each was a bit nervous and not sure what to expect since this was their first time participating. They are already making plans for next year's Life Skill's Day and looking forward to the fair in August!
Things on the farm are REALLY picking up! The hens are laying very well and the chicks are getting so big! They are already 23 days old! We drug a wading pool out to the ducks and they have been enjoying it! Even the gander has taken a dip! The ducks are pairing off though three of the drakes are interested in one of the hens...poor girl! She needs to make up her mind soon! The other two hens have chosen their drakes and it seems understood by the remaining ducks who belongs to who. The rooster has started doing naughty things with a few of the hens. He would go to freezer camp if he wasn't such a good gander deterrent. Each time the gander tries to attack one of us, the rooster swoops in and defends us. Interesting as I had always understood roosters to be somewhat aggressive. This one isn't, until the gander has a mood swing.
The baby bunnies are SO big and about ready to go to their new homes (or Freezer Camp). We will be breeding again probably next week. We have such a long list for mini lops. We would like to get some rabbits in the freezer before winter and we have had some people wanting meat. We will be butchering chickens too once our chicks begin laying regularly. The goal is to have all of our freezers full of meat before the first snow falls. With all four kids eligible to hunt this fall, that shouldn't be a problem.
Our biggest priority now is getting the garden seeds started so they are ready to go in the ground around June 1st. We also need to get the hen house cleaned out and new bedding laid and get the rabbits moved to a new location. Our oldest son build some new compost boxes so hopefully this week we will get the old bedding out and get it composting. Once we get the rabbits moved, our son will begin vermicomposting and learning vermiculture. We will have some VERY happy plants which will make for a very happy pantry when we get it all canned, froze and dehydrated! No worries this winter if all goes well!
Soper Family Farm