Friday, April 10, 2009

Thoughts on poultry

What an eventful week! After my "Spring is surely here" post we got 3 days of snow storms, that meant that Tansy couldn't be turned out to graze so she was in a flounce the entire time. Poor sulking beast! The mama banty only hatched out the 2 babies that I already mentioned, the other eggs were duds; apparently the rooster has failed to grasp the full import of his duties. I would be happy to dispense with a rooster altogether, but Mr. G thinks one vital to the mental well being of the hens. I think that he only chases and torments them endlessly and they would be calmer without him. But, either way, fertile eggs are lower in cholesterol than non-fertile eggs so I guess he will get a stay of execution for now.

The chicks that we ordered from the hatchery came at 8 AM Monday morning. It was a scramble to get everything assembled for them but we managed and got them safely settled in their temporary quarters. Once their box is set up I take each chick and dip their beak in their water dish which contains about a teaspoon of jello powder mixed in the water. The sugar gives them energy which is sorely needed after their travels through the mail. I have always made the food that our baby poultry eat since I think it gives them a better start. It is also better for them because I don't feed them anything that I wouldn't eat. Commercial chick starters, with the exception of organic starters, are all medicated and filled with nasty by-products. I have never needed to give antibiotics to any poultry and certainly never to chicks. My recipe is as follows:

  • 3 cups coarse ground cornmeal

  • 2 cups coarse ground wheat

  • large handful of rolled oats

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • smaller handful dry molasses (can use 1/4 cup liquid molasses)

  • 2 big pinches dried alfalfa

  • same amount red raspberry leaf

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 6 farm fresh eggs

  • enough milk to make it really moist

Mix dry ingredients then add eggs and milk. Bake on a cookie sheet at 300 until done. Let cool and then crumble. This batch I had neither alfalfa or red raspberry so we used plantain and dandelion instead. I have observed what chickens actually eat when on pasture and the greater majority is bugs and seeds, that means that they are ingesting a great deal more protein than even a 40% starter would have. My recipe contains huge amounts of protein due to the wheat, eggs and milk and I feel that they grow better this way. We rarely lose any. Obviously though, this is by no means a cheaper way to raise poultry, it's much more expensive and probably wouldn't even be possible on a commercial basis. However, I feel that for the 50 or so chicks that we have at any given time, it is the best way. Chicks also need grit but I use "kitchen economics" here also and don't buy any. I dig a cereal bowl sized clump of dirt and grass which they will scratch in thereby ingesting minerals and seeds while also getting the needed grit.

It's always exciting to see the new life in the Spring, to be reminded afresh of the annual renewal. I always wanted children in April, May, September and October. I succeeded on all counts except the April baby that never happened. Katie was born in May but she's my only Spring baby, we tend toward Autumn babies. Rebekah, Levi and Micah in August, Aleks in September, Tabitha in October, Abigail in November, and Elisabethe in December. And, the new arrival due in September! We're very excited (you'd think this doesn't happen with a fairly regular frequency!) and full of plans. All of my children were born on odd days: 23, 31, 29, 29, 21, 3, 21, 25. As you can see I'm missing a 27, so we'll root for that. ;-)


  1. Congratulations Paris! :)

  2. Wowee!! Congratulations Paris! How very exciting. I have a friend also due in September. You must look out on your little home and farm and your bevy of children and just thank God for so many blessings. I'm blessed every time I read your blog! :) Many congratulations and best wishes.

  3. Congratulations! What a blessing!

  4. I agree with you about the Roosters.
    I had no problem the day my husband went out there and took out about 30 of them in one day... The hens started actually laying eggs when most of the roosters were out of there. They must have been under a lot of stress :(