The chicken and the egg
April 22, 2022
Our second batch of chicks arrived healthy and well yesterday morning. The first days and nights with the chicks remind me of the early days with newborns. They need fed often, and we have alarms and monitors that wake us many times in the night.
Now that the snow has melted, we have a few repairs to make on the pasture pens. They were crushed by the heavy snow this winter despite our best efforts to keep them cleared off. Since we are having to the make some major repairs, we’re going to make a few design adjustments as well. We are going to change out the metal sheeting used on the tops for tarps. This will make them lighter and hopefully easier to move. We will then remove the tarps in the fall for storage which will hopefully prevent the extensive damage caused by heavy snow in the winter. The trip to the lumber yard was a bit of a shock…2x4’s that cost us $8.32 in July of 2020 are now $23.52. We try to use scrap and salvage lumber as much as possible but for this we just didn’t have enough scrap or the time to find more.
This is how we found the pens once the snow started melting.
We are also working on the finishing touches to WinniEggo 2 for the second flock of egg hens. Hopefully in a week or so we’ll starting moving the birds to pasture for the summer. We’ll see how much snow we get this weekend and if that delays our plan.
There has been a lot of uncertainty around poultry this year. We are watching as an outbreak of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) spreads across the county. Early in the year it was mostly in the East, and we wondered if it would be an issue for our hatchery in Ohio. Now as it’s traveled west, we are trying to figure out the best course of action. As of this morning HPAI has effected 229 flocks (ranging from backyard flocks with a handful of birds to large commercial operations with millions) in 29 states (including Colorado) a total of over 31 million birds. This is a scary time for poultry producers, and it will also affect consumers as well. I saw this week that chicken breast sold on the commodity market has hit an all time high price. I think we are going to start seeing lower supply and higher prices on eggs, chicken and other poultry very soon.
So what’s our plan? HPAI is spread across the country by wild birds. So far in Colorado it’s mostly been seen in geese. I have spent many hours on the USDA and CDA websites learning about their advised biosecurity recommendations. As well as talking to and reading the advice of our pasture poultry producers. The USDA recommends things like making sure the air in barns is ultra filtered so nothing from the outside can get in, that farm workers use different boots and clothing for each barn or flock they are caring for, that the tires of all vehicles going on and off the farm are sprayed with a disinfectant. These are procedures set up for massive operations that may have a million or more chickens in a single barn. Where most things are automated and one person is managing that many birds. Clearly these things are not possible for us to have a sustainable operation. We have decided that we will continue as we have the last few years. We believe that the birds being out on pasture and having deep bedding in the hoop houses plus the varied diet with grass and or hay helps their overall health. We also believe that things like our altitude, sun, extreme wind (who would have thought that one day I would see that as a benefit) will also reduce the chances of an issue in our area. We are adding additional immune boosters to the flocks as well: things like red pepper flacks, garlic water, and others to help naturally fight off anything that may come our way. We may have to pivot and change our plans but we are hoping not.
When everything goes as planned our first batch of turkeys will arrive in 3 weeks and our first processing of chicken will happen late May. Once we actually have the turkeys we’ll start taking deposits for them. We have been hesitant to start that process, until we see how things are going for the hatchery at that point. We are still well stocked on whole frozen chicken and fresh chicken and duck eggs.
Over the last couple years I’ve been looking at ways to stock and save things as we’ve watched changes in our supplies and ability to get products. Eggs are a great example of that. While with improvements in refrigeration and transportation eggs stopped being seasonal and became available year around at stores. In fact eggs are naturally a very seasonal food. Hens lay more when the days are longer. We have started trying different ways to have eggs around for our family when lay rate is down or demand is higher. Did you know you can freeze eggs for later use? I like to put them in silicone muffin cups and freeze and then transfer to a ziplock for long term storage, we do this for when they are less plentiful in the winter months. We also freeze dry eggs now. A couple years ago Farmhand 1 and 2 saved the money to buy a food freeze drier. They wanted to freeze dried fruit and backpacking meals. We have started using it more and more for long term food storage. Freeze dried eggs have a shelf life of up to 25 years! We are looking to add these to our store in the near future.
Well that was a long winded update about the chicken and the egg around here. It’s now time for me to go check the new chick babies again. I’ll keep you posted to any changes.
All the best in health and happiness,