Every year, during the time when the local kids have spring break…we start getting visitors. Friends and family members bring their youngsters out to play with the cattle, chickens and turkeys. This is always the time of year that reminds me of the biggest reasons why I raise, care and tend for animals the way I do.
Two days, two families. Smiles and laughter shared that no amount of money can buy.
Our first visitor that came this week was Sue and Ava. If you follow this blog on and off, you will know that Ava came out last year and the year before. Ava is a favorite, loyal visitor.
Last year, one of the calves kept trying to eat her hair. So this year…she was worried about her hair and kept telling them all “Please don’t eat my hair.” It is really amazing to watch kids with the animals though. This is what makes my job working with the cattle so important.
Not only with the kids…but with the adults it’s important too. You have no idea how many adults want to get “cow kisses”! It’s strange…but I get it. It’s that moment when you feel special with an animal. It’s that much greater because it’s a cow!
The following day after Ava came, we had new visitor for this year. A father (Pat) and his two sons (Logan and Connor). I didn’t know who was more excited when they pulled in…Dad or boys.
I haven’t seen smiles so big and so full of joy as when the calves started licking fingers and trying to get rubs on the head.
To those that don’t know me…this is the most important thing about what I do. Yes, I love raising our own beef, dairy and poultry. But, I LOVE sharing my passion for farm animals with KIDS! It’s an experience that I feel every kid should have.
There are really moments sometimes that almost bring a tear to my eye when I watch animals that are fearful of everything, nose up to a child. It’s one of those things for me.
To anyone in our area reading this…you are more than welcome to come visit, anytime. We love to have people stop by, young or old.
In the meantime, I will be out working (more like playing) with the cows…gotta get that next generation trained for cow kisses!
Nothing like starting right out with a photo that can manage to bring a big ol’ happy grin to my face and a twinkle to my eye. I love mud. Spring mud specifically. That greasy, slimy stick to everything kind of mud.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the truck or the four wheeler…I must drive/ride to get “dirty” every spring. It’s my way of saying GOODBYE OLD MAN WINTER! HELL-LO SPRING!
I think that thing that makes it best right now is the simple fact that my knee has been driving me insane over the last week. I think it has something to do with the 5-6 mile walks everyday, chasing loose cattle and sliding down very steep hills. Could just be old age too. Not really sure…all that matters is it gives me an excuse to get muddy! Mud makes me happy!
Babies make me happy too! Doesn’t matter what variety, two-legged or four. Covered in fur or feathers, doesn’t matter either. This time, we have NINETEEN babies! Little associated, mutt mixed chicken chicks ranging in all sorts of colors and color mixes.
They are so much fun to watch running around, learning how to peck at food and scratch the paper to shreds. The first day is always kind of quiet. It takes a lot out of the chicks to hatch…but they are just too adorable to watch as they run around and just flop down to take a nap.
Of course, all those fluffy feathers make it that much cuter! Nothing like babies to make a grown woman act like a young child.
Needless to say, I am definitely young at heart….now I think I need to act my age and take a nap. Maybe I can take this little chick with me?!?! Nah…maybe another time!
Since I always stress the importance of knowing your food. Today, I would like to talk about chickens.
The breed has survived at large for about 8,000 years—rare for a wild ancestor of a domesticated animal.
It is thought that the nearest relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex is a chicken.
This bird was probably first domesticated for the purpose of cockfights, not as food.
Over 9 billion chickens are raised for food annually in the US.
With 25 billion chickens in the world, there are more of them than any other bird species.
Chickens are omnivores. They eat seeds and insects but also larger prey like small mice and lizards.
Baby chickens are chicks.
Female chickens are pullets until they are old enough to lay eggs and become hens.
Male chickens are called roosters, cocks or cockerels, depending on the country you are in. A rooster announces to a flock of chickens that he’s found food with a “took, took, took.” But the hens don’t pay attention of they already know there is food around. Roosters perform a little dance called “tidbitting” in which he makes sounds (food calls) and moves his head up and down, picking up and dropping a bit of food. Researchers have found that females prefer a male that often performs tidbitting and has a larger, brighter combs on top of his head. Scientists think that the rooster’s wattle—the dangly bit beneath his beak—helps him to gain a hen’s attention when he is tidbitting.
Chickens aren’t completely flightless. They can get airborne enough to make it over a fence or into a tree. The chicken can travel up to nine miles per hour.
The chicken was the first bird to have its genome sequenced, in 2004.
In Gainesville, Georgia, the chicken capital of the world, it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork.
Alektorophobia is the fear of chickens.
The egg-laying process for a chicken begins in its eye. Chickens lay eggs only after receiving a light cue, either from natural sunlight or artificial light illumination. The light stimulates a photo-receptive gland near the chicken’s eye, which in turn triggers the release of an egg cell from the chicken’s ovary.
A hen must eat about four pounds of feed to produce one dozen eggs.
A chicken will lay bigger and stronger eggs if you change the lighting in a way to make her think a day is 28 hours long.
Some farmers add marigolds to the feed of their chickens to make the yolks of their eggs a darker yellow. A diet rich in corn will also make the yolks darker in color.
Most eggs are laid between 7 and 11 am.
Eggs are a good source of lutein, important for eye health.
The waste produced by one chicken in its lifetime can supply enough electricity to run a 100-watt bulb for five hours.
Agricultural researchers have found a carbonization process that converts ordinary poultry manure into granules and powders that can mop up pollutants in water.
Researchers have found a way to turn chicken feathers into strong, plastic composites for products as varied as car dashboards and boat exteriors.
Researchers at NASA are testing a new jet fuel made from chicken fat.
Feathers make good paper, even for filters or decorative wallpaper. They work best combined with wood pulp to increase the number of times the fiber can be recycled.
The superfine size and shape of feathers make them well suited to filtration needs.
Chickens also require space. They will need up to 3 ft. of floor space in their house per bird. They also require lots of ventilation.
Nest boxes should be a minimum of 1 ft. wide by 1 ft. deep and be at least 1 ft. tall.
Chickens like to roost at night. They require up to 8 inches of space per bird while on roost.
Chickens consume approximately 3 grams of fat per day. Yet, the average egg yolk contains approximately 6 grams of fat. Much of the fat found in yolks comes from synthesized carbohydrates and protein.
2.5% of the fat found on a chick in located on the abdomen. Low-fat whole chickens sold in the supermarket have had this area removed.
Chickens have a focus range of 20 diopters, twice that of a 20 year old human. It vision is considered the finest of all animals. They have both monocular and binocular vision with a 300 degree field of view.
To predict egg color, look at the hen’s earlobe. If it’s white, then the egg will most likely be white. If it’s red, the egg will most likely be brown. This works about 75% of the time.
Eggs will last up to 5 weeks in the refrigerator. To check the freshness of your egg: fill a container with at least six inches of water. If the egg drops to the bottom, it is still a good egg. If the egg floats to the top, get rid of it.
I just realized that I don’t talk much about what goes on around here with our chickens. They are our staple animal. They provide most of the funds that keep me going.
To give a bit of a background story, when we first started on re-establishing the farm we started with one jersey steer that was given to us to raise for our own food. A few weeks later, Mr. Farmer and I were discussing eggs and chickens. He missed farm fresh eggs and I love having chickens around so we decided to order a batch of 12 birds. Six each of Barred Rocks (which I like) and Rhode Island Red (which Mr. Farmer wanted).
The week they came into the local farm supply store (locally owned and operated/not a chain store), we were called in to come pick them up. Mr. Farmer decided to stop on his way home from work, which is just about closing time for the store. When he got there, they had our 12 birds plus another 11 birds that hadn’t been picked up. So…they offered them to Mr. Farmer at a discounted rate. Needless to say, we ended up with nearly twice as many birds as I anticipated.
After about five months, they started laying eggs. At that time, we were eating eggs all the time and had no customers to buy any of the extras. In a months time frame, we would have almost 20 dozen extra eggs!!! We sat and discussed what we could do with the eggs. Donating them to the food bank sounded like I really good idea.
That is until we were told that the eggs had to be USDA certified! I wasn’t going to do that to donate eggs. So, we thought some more on what to do with them. Then as we were thinking about what to do on Saturday, it hit us. During winter time, the local Christian church that the whole family attends does a free will breakfast the first Saturday of every month. We contacted the Pastor and asked if we could donate the eggs to them and they gladly accepted! We provided 1/2 the eggs they needed for the breakfast every month from December to April. It didn’t help pay the bills, but it sure felt good to help out the church and the local community!
Once April arrived, the eggs started to accumulate again! There were seven dozen in the fridge the day we met the new neighbors that had just purchased Mr. Farmer’s parents old house! They were excited to learn that we had animals, including the chickens and started purchasing seven dozen eggs per week! They have a family of five and almost always have eggs for breakfast! As they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways!
We also started selling to another neighbor up the road and then in May, Mr. Farmer’s folks pulled back in with their camper! Now WE were running short on eggs! Not a single one left at the weeks end. We sold the eggs for $2.00/dozen. We have also had people telling us that these are some of the best eggs they have ever had.
No one can seem to understand the importance of good food, clean barns and happy chickens. You can’t have happy chickens without them being able to do what they like to do. My chickens are not penned or fastened in (unless the temperatures outside are extremely cold). They are allowed to run around all over. They dig and scratch. They spread out manure piles from the cows picking out left over grains and any bugs that may come around the pile. They dig up other bugs out of the grass and worms when they can find them. They have free choice food and water. I offer them a custom mixed scratch grain depending on the time of year in the mornings. They now get the whey from cheese making too! And they love that!
Back to the story….
In April, we also had Belle arrive that year along with two calves and we got another calf from the auction barn (for $4.07, seems wrong but that’s what we paid). Belle allowed them all to nurse while we slammed her on the grain, good hay and all the pasture grass she could eat. Those chickens and their eggs provided us with enough money to keep the cows in hay and grain! Those eggs also paid for the chicken feed and the winter hay we ended up buying in that year for five cows and calves.
Our little herd of birds has grown now to 47 laying hens! Right now, we have five dozen eggs in the fridge…but with the holidays upon us, I don’t think we will have an issue getting rid of them!