Adapting routines and a little business venture

Thank you to everyone who is commenting. I read every comment and will reply in due course. For now, I’ve a load of blog posts filling my head that I just need to get out there!! Here we go:

In addition to the quail expansion, we have lots of other ideas and rods in the fire.

We’ve taken on more laying hens, so we have 31 now and another 15 or so coming in 5 weeks time.  The idea of doing this is to provide ourselves with all of the eggs we could ever need and with a view to selling the surplus.  
There’s your basic brown hen and white leghorns here, very prolific layers though the white ones are extremely skittish and flighty.
Below are the eggs starting to build up, we’re averaging 20 a day right now and every one is spoken for the day or day after it is laid.
Our duck total is currently 4 Aylesbury, which we bought as 3 girls and a boy and since have proven the fertility of the eggs to only be low but still a reasonable amount.  We have put 19 in the incubator and will check for fertility again in a few days to only keep the good ones.  The plan for ducks is to grow some on for meat as we like duck, to sell them to friends as meat but then we would also like to become a local supplier of the breed as they are like hen’s teeth around here.  We will also sell the fertile eggs once fertility is up and also sell the duckings and adults.
At the end of February I received an early Mother’s Day gift which was just lovely.  Ste and the kids bought me 10 chicks from Durham hens.  I was sooo happy to get these, look!
There’s 8 Lavender Araucana and 2 Cream Legbars.  The first you can’t sex at birth but the legbars you can (from colourings).  Both of these hens lay blue-green eggs which is exactly why I wanted them as my own special addition.  We are going to breed these beautiful rare breeds too, which we hope will be the first of many to add to building up this little business.

Now taking all of this on whilst having a family, working full time, running a home and smallholding etc etc isn’t something that you can do without planning.  It means you have to adapt, change your routine, plan, review and do it all again if needs be.  Something that we are getting so much better at is doing this.  It’s no longer a shock to the system, which when you first set out it can be.  It’s planned in, dished out and gotten on with.

Every morning Rodney and I feed the horses, exercise (myself) and he sits and looks like he is training with me, I open up outside pens and feed the animals, starting at one end and systematically working to the other end.  Daily the horses stables are tended to morning and evening.  On a weekend I clean out what poultry houses need to be changed over.  The kids and Ste take turns with this but all have their own jobs too.  
I mean, do you even lift bro?
My barrow on our cleaning travels
However, now we’re getting more poultry we need to adapt.  What needed now is a daily spot clean of the poultry houses as this stops the hens and eggs becoming dirty and makes the weekend cleans fewer.  Once done, with a small bucket of chicken poop, I will head over to the compost bin and add it to it, along with any veg peelings and so on.  The horses muck goes to another pile as there’s SO much of it.  We also sell that to local allotments as we don’t use chemicals or straw and they can’t get enough of it.  It really is good sh1t!  We bag it up for them but currently don’ t have enough bags!  We reuse as much as possible to avoid increased plastic use.


We have another big change just happened too, more soon, which means even more adapting and changes which are all for the greater good and fantastically exciting.
Just as a side note, we did buy an incubator out of our savings to help up on our way with this.  It was a budget version and you may get what you pay for, however we will write a review once we have data to review.  In the mean time, this is it for anyone that is interested:


Take care everyone.

More planning – this time meat

Now I appreciate not everyone wants to raise, kill and eat their own meat and in this post I am thinking more about next year and planning the meat,  Writing it down here lets my thoughts develop.  So if this isn’t for you, please take this as fair warning J  If you’re all about knowing where your meat comes from, giving animals a happy and healthy life and ensuring their dispatch is a stress free and quick as possible, then do read on.

As we won’t be self-sufficient in pork etc until November 2017 and as I am getting itchy feet I think I will ask Steven to bring home half a pig from work.  For those who don’t know, he is a butcher.  We would need to buy it from the shop of course, but I would be very interested to watch him do his thing and fill up the freezer for the coming months in 2017.  It would also aid me in my quest to be stocked up for the new year on as much as possible from day one. 
We eat a fair amount of meat.  My motto for food (and drink for that matter) is everything in moderation, which is key, but as there’s 4 of us we do get through a fair bit.  Most weekends we have people visiting and I usually feed visitors.  In 2017 I hope to have family round for Sunday dinners as we’ll have the dining room useable by then.  I would like to be able to put a roasting joint on the table every weekend and look forward to that being from our own smallholding.
I have decided (a stake in the ground was required, so I may be way off) that I would like 40 roasting birds and 40 jointing birds.  A lot right?  Well given that we have chicken a lot during the week and some weeks enjoy a roast mid-week, plus some will be given to family and that we host a lot of gatherings during the year where I put a big spread on, I think this is a reasonable amount to aim for.  I could be way off but until I try, I won’t know. 
We’ve made enquiries about getting fertilised eggs from a nearby farm for a large breed of hen. I think they are called Cornish or Ross cobs, either way, they are big.  We’ll pick 40 eggs up early in the New Year when they are available and get them straight in the incubator for dispatch early May.  The next 40 can go in later in the year for dispatching October time when the flies have died off a bit.  That should see us right with the chicken we would like.  I will need another new freezer though.
We also would like to increase the numbers of our laying hens and to ensure a good start to the year, have decided to trial some hens eggs that we’ve not bred from before.  The eggs are going into the incubator this Friday, 18th November to hatch in 21 days, meaning they will be point of lay (22 weeks) on 12th May 2017.  May 2017 is obviously getting on for half way through the year, so you see why we want to get going on that project?  The chicks will live in the warm kitchen or utility in the house and move to the barn in straw bedding when big enough.  They’ll be under heat in the garage in between those periods as winter isn’t the best time to hatch eggs out.
Obviously some of those will be cockerels so they will be our next table birds which will be dispatched as and when they are needed.

Come November 2017 we’ll have our own pork too.  That leaves lamb.  Our current girls will be going in with the tup in 2017 so we hope to have April 2018 lamb.  Yes, I do like to plan.  😉

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 🙂

Lots of little updates…the best kind

We now have 9 chicks with the last one being hatched today which is day 24. They are all gorgeous and seem to be thriving well. My handy husband has made them a bigger brooder ready for when they are too big for their current cardboard box. The new one is fully collapsable and can be stores flat if required. I did remind him I intend on having all kind of chicks in there for the coming few months so it’ll be staying put for a while.
Lovely and clean
Brooder # 1
Brooder # 2
One hour or so later!

Today 🙂

Today I have applied for a cph number as we’re hoping to get some pigs in the next month or two and this is something we must have before we can buy them. They said we should have it within the next 15 days. That fits in well time wise. 
There’s no sign of any geese eggs yet but a couple of friendly bloggers have said it’ll probably be March time before we can get any. I’ve also checked for a nest and not noticed anything yet. They have started taking themselves to bed on a night though so that’s a nice step forward.
The geese having a nosey at what seeds I am planting in the greenhouse
Follow the leader
The hens are doing well and the eggs are intermittent. Some days we get 3 and others 2 but that’s fine by me for now. They are young girls after all though maybe some would say that means they should be producing daily.  They are starting to follow the older girls and getting closer to my daughter, occasionally getting close enough to eat from her hand.
Loving our hens
We have also managed to move a ginormous water container in to place to harvest rain water. That will be used to water the plants and for the geese to wash in etc. I’m not sure if it will be OK for the geese and hens to drink so I will look in to that.
The first water container in place.  2nd one behind it ready to be installed.
Seedlings wise I have planted a few more tomatoes as I’m trying to do them staggered over a few weeks. The first lot I sowed are looking strong which I am really pleased with as I thought they might die.
I’ve set myself a challenge if only shopping every 2 weeks for food and the first delivery is on Friday.  I’m going to update the menu plan page for those interested. The budget is £350 a month for all groceries Inc meat and toiletries. That’s to feed these monsters :).
Our gorgeous daughter and her chick
My amazing som with his little chick
The mood last night – stunning
The moon tonight – again, stunning.

Free range eggs!

 What a lovely day.  Today, we had three eggs from our new girls and one is huge.  It might even be another double yoker, we’ve had two already.
Here they are having a good feed together and enjoying the welcome warmth of the sunshine.
The geese were funny, playing in a new tub of water I put out.  They have popped their paddling pool so I will pick them up a plastic one.  When I put this down, the goose with the lighter beak who we call Neville, promptly jumped on to the back of another goose and started trying to pull her around.  Therefore I am slightly more convinced that we have a boy and a girl.  Excuse the shadow of me!
Happy Friday eve!