Food cost of raising chicks and hens.

2017 is going to be our start in trying to get things to pay for themselves and see what income, if any, we can generate from the smallholding.  We’ve lots of thoughts as many people who have done this, will have had over the years.  Ultimately the main goal is to feed and sustain ourselves from the smallholding.  Part of that may also be financial but it isn’t the main focus.  Self sufficiency is the focus with a side order of thoughts on making an income.  Clear as mud?
So to do this we need ideas and records.  Lots of records!  I don’t mean LP’s, I mean the kind I should have kept last year but didn’t manage to 100%.  So we’re off with a flying start when I report in with this.
We started a little experiment when out chicks hatched in December.  It took 14 chicks 39 days to get through a 20kg bag of chuck crumb.  The bag was £7.50.  That means the cost per day was 0.19p so it was slightly over 1p to feed each chick per day.  We will weigh one tonight to see what weight it got up to over the same period.
I’ll run the exercise again in the summer to compare a summer hatch to a winter hatch and then we know if it’s worth it or not.
Here they are trying to make an escape:
The cockerels will either sell or go in the freezer.  There’s 7 cockerels and 7 hens.
In addition our remaining 46 poultry (including 4 geese and 4 ducks in that total), got through a 25kg bag of layers pellets plus almost 2 20kg bags of corn in 6/7 days.  This is around £20 worth of food in a week!  The corn was fairly expensive this time round, however as we will get it from the farmer most of the time, it’ll be a lot cheaper then.
Eggs sales have made us £25 in 10 days, so I’d say at the moment, they are just covering themselves!  Of course it is winter and we’re lucky to be getting eggs at all, however we got 15 eggs yesterday, and the previous days haven’t been too shabby so as long as we can keep up the egg sales and they feed themselves then that’s ok.  However we need to be mindful of these figures going forward.  I haven’t taken into account bedding  or time and effort. 
They will potentially bring some pennies in if we sell a trio of the chicks, and some geese and ducklings when they hatch some out, plus there’s always our rare breeds.  So watch this space. 
Of course the eggs are feeding us too, so that isn’t a bill I need to pay the grocery shop for.  Little things…

Chicken and egg

We have been extremely lucky as our chickens have not gone off lay which we expected over the winter.  We’re getting plenty of eggs each day still and combined with the youngest lot coming into lay in December, we’re very pleased with our daily yield as previously we’ve gone down to zero over winter.  I am going to start recording the daily amounts in my diary, yesterday was 10 from 37.  I was  supposed to start it once the whole bird flu thing has passed but it seems that is hanging around a while and I don’t have time to wait for it, it will now be business as usual in this household.
With eggs in mind, I am very conscious that we need to be paying more respect to the humble egg.  We have them at our disposal and it should play a bigger part in our journey to self-sufficiency that it has.  Therefore I shall be making more of an effort to have them as the main ingredient in at least 1 evening meal starting next week.  Wednesday’s meal will be shrimp egg foo young.  I had this many years ago and it was delicious but I’ve never had one since.  I’ll also be using them more in my day to day life, eggs for breakfast or as an ingredient.  I use a fair few, but shall give them more stage time!
Now to the goose.  As per a previous post, we are very surprised to have 3 geese eggs hiding in the shed.  I wasn’t expecting them at this time of the year, and hadn’t researched something else to do with them (yes, they’re just eggs, I know).  Last year I made lemon cake and it was delicious.  We have enough sweet food in to feed an army and I am cutting back on sugar intake for a while, so cake didn’t appeal to me.  I will spend some time looking for other people’s suggestions, so if you have any, please shout up.
Today, Ste and my Dad have been putting a greenhouse frame together and covered it in mesh. This is going to be used as a fruit cage this coming year. It is very light to lift so I can see it lending itself to multiple jobs.

Grace and I collected the soil from the ever growing mole hills and put it into one of the new beds. It only took 20 mins and we may as well see the silver lining in it. 

I put together one of my Christmas presents which is a seed organiser.  I will be filling this tomorrow.

The next door neighbours children have spent the afternoon here and seem to have enjoyed it. I fed them tea after giving them a couple of hours with the ponies.
Also, home made pizza on the menu yesterday – love home made 🙂
Now for a night in front of the fire.

Wet and windy weekend

Well we haven’t had a weekend like this for a while. The sky is at best a murky grey and at worst resembling the depths of night time. We’re dashing out between downpours to feed the animals. The horses are inside a barn so I am dry when I am working with them however yesterday was soaked and filthy from putting them in and out of the field and taking their rugs on and off. The ducks and geese aren’t bothered by the weather of course!
Friday night we braved the cold (but thankfully not wet) to go to Sunderland illuminations. It took us around 40 minutes to get there and we then used a park and ride to take us into the main event. It was a pleasant evening but bitterly cold as it is by the coast. The kids enjoyed themselves and we headed home. A late night for the kids means they would be tired Saturday.
Before we left on Friday I checked the sheep who was poorly. She had a really runny tummy, I’ll spare you the photos. I cleaned the muck off the ground just in case it was diseased and it means I can keep an eye on new ones to see if they are runny. On Saturday we picked up some coarse mix feed for them and she came over and ate it which is a great sign. She seems so much better so let’s keep our fingers crossed for her.
The place we got the lamb/ewe mix from sells chicken and horse feed too, so I am pleased we’ve found somewhere else in case our current supplier is closed or whatever. The sheep were happy under the tree (puzzle tree?) staying out of the bad weather.
Jack and I took the puppies out for a walk when there was a break in the weather and coming back we saw the most stunning rainbow. Typically, and very unusually,  I did not have my phone so when we got back I ran in and got it, dashed back out and got a few pics as it was starting to fade. Here’s a photo of Jack in front of the house too, for a nice memory for us both. It really was beautiful and so vivid.
Also our Vorwerk hens totally free range and of all the places to lay an egg, she chose to do it on top of the empty bedding bags!
In the picture of the ponies in the field, you can just make out the brave chickens wandering in and out of their legs. Brave? Or stupid? I’ll let them decide 🙂

My night

Today I have felt off, having gone to bed with a niggle of a headache that was still there when I woke up. I felt quite short tempered all morning which isn’t normally me. So when I got home, I got in with jobs thay I knew being in a bad mood is good for. Cleaning! The kitchen got an overhaul and I started to feel better. I then took the puppies out for a lovely long walk. Despite it being a really blustery afternoon, we had a lovely walk out. The dogs found fox holes and something large has been wandering through the previously 3 foot high grass. I then put the ponies in the field for an hour, put the potatoes in the Aga for jackets, went back out and mucked the ponies stables out. Steven and I caught Barbara,  one of out sheep and checked her feet as she’s developed a limp. There wasn’t anything obviousl so I iodined them and she was free to go. She seemed easier on it just 30 mins after so whether the iodine worked I don’t know. Fingers crossed she’s fully ok tomorrow. Once the ponies were mucked out, I fed the chickens and got the geese their tea. In between this, Steven had to go for an appointment and we had tea when he got back. After tea I went back out to finish the horses and Ste went to his boxercise class (rather him than me). I collected the eggs and noticed there was a chicken egg in the duck house. I think they’re trying to confuse me.
I’m all finished until the morning now, in the house in my own which is very strange. The kids are at grandparents tonight so I am having a shower and washing my hair before I have to work 8 to 10. I do my evening work from home and it’s not hard, so I won’t complain.
In the photo with the chickens. Can you spot the odd one put?  Our cockrel isn’t supposed to be in here! Cheeky.

A little chicken and goose update

When Steven called in to the neighbouring farmer to buy some corn he enquired as to when the new additions we’re supposed to be getting from him will be ready to leave and his reply was they should be ready soon.  I think a farmer’s “soon” is as noncommittal as my “maybe” to the kids!  Anyway we should be getting them at some point in September!  We’re really looking forward to it.  It really feels like we’re starting to build up good foundations to really run our home as a smallholding.  I’m a bit conscious that we’re getting them later than I hoped – by that I mean we’re moving into Autumn, darker nights and if things go wrong, less daylight hours to fix it (or find them if they get out 😉 ) but we will manage and enjoy it.
3 of my bought in hens have recently started to lay eggs now they’re old enough.  The next lot will start to lay early October, so not too long to wait. The breed of chicken is called Vorwerk and are classed as a rarer breed than most. They are really pretty and the 7 of them have free ranged with Ryan, our house goose, since we have had them. So given that they free range across the whole smallholding, it will be interesting to see where they lay their eggs!  We have 4 hens and 3 cockerels in that group, all of which are getting on fairly well though I suspect at least 1, may 2 cockerels will have to go.  They won’t make good table birds, so they will probably be sold.  They make me laugh every day with their antics.  It’s so lovely to have them wandering around the place doing what they wish.  Of course Mr fox may take advantage of it one day and we’re know there are foxes around as we’ve seen them, I just hope the 8 geese we have is enough to keep him at bay. 

The last lot of this year’s birds were born in July so their point of lay is early December for those which are girls.  Any boys from that group will be leaving us before then, to start the stocking of our 2017 freezer.
Now to the ‘would you believe it’ part.  We were under the impression that geese only lay their eggs in the Spring.  So when one of our females started behaving particularly evilly (is that a word?!) I wasn’t overly impressed with her, until I saw what she was guarding.  An egg!  Well, 2 in fact.  I have taken them off her as I don’t want her sitting on them at the moment as she will need to up her body weight for winter, not lose it.  Also the goslings will have a better chance of survival if they arrive in spring instead.  More eggs! 😀