Explore the blog, Then Check out our website

Explore the blog, Then Check out our website
Chicken Scratch Poultry

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pigs Grown Out And Ready For Processing

 You might remember back in January we traded three chickens for two little pigs?  It's been pretty amazing how quickly they have grown.  When they first arrived we offered them raw eggs on their feed and they looked at it as if we just ruined their food, they would push the eggs to the side and eat the dry feed.  After about a week they decided raw eggs were pretty good.  As you can imagine we have a lot of egg waste with eggs that are too dirty to incubate or eggs that just don't develop during incubation.  Well it didn't take long for these little pigs to know that eggs were like manna from heaven on the poultry farm and they began to grow very quickly.

Our plan from the beginning was to process the pigs on our own but plans can change.  The pigs would be ready to process in the spring during our busiest time of the year, so we decided to send them off to be processed by a professional, we'll save that adventure for another time.

The pigs could probably have still used a little more growth but the business that will be doing the  processing stops taking pigs at a certain time in the spring, so we're working with a deadline that we didn't want to miss.

Like I said before, when we began the growing out of the pigs we planned to butcher them ourselves so we really didn't think about where we set up their pen.  We put the pig pen way back behind our old barn where there is no access to it by truck or trailer, not very good planning.  When it was time to think about transporting them to the meat processor that's when we began to think, how are we going to get them there...
You can't really see the pig pen from this photo but it is back behind these chicken pens.  So we ran some wire up to the back of these chicken pens, opened up the chicken pens and ran them through the series of gates.

 Just a small amount of guiding them with a piece of ply wood and they went right into the stock trailer.

Into the stock trailer and away they go.  They'll be back and in the freezer in two weeks.  My bit of advise to you, if you plan on growing out your own pigs, it's not difficult at all and they grow very fast, just put your pen in an area with easy accesses for a truck and trailer.
Have a blessed day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Catching Bee Swarms

This spring has been a busy time of catching swarms and working with our hives.  My parents have a wild hive in their front yard and every year just like clock work it swarms.  This year that wild hive did something we were not prepared for, it swarmed four times.  It's possible that it does this every year but we just don't always notice it each time.

The first swarm from the wild hive was pretty large and hung in two clumps, which a first we thought it was possibly two separate swarms but once we caught them and seen how they reacted we made the assumption it was one swarm.

 The swarm had landed rather high in the tree which makes it harder to reach as you can see.

We got them into the box which isn't difficult, just a couple of good knocks and they shake right into the box.  The question I get asked most often is, how do you know you have the queen.  You need to watch how the bees act once you get them into the box.  They won't stay in the box if the queen isn't in there.

Another way to tell if you caught the queen, watch the bees, if she is in the box, several of the bees will sit on the edge of the box and fan their wings sending out the scent to the other bees telling them hey the queen is in here.  Leave the box sit until every bee has went into the box. Then you can tape up the box and load it into the back end of your truck (I don't think I would transport them inside your vehicle) and take them home to their new hive.
Since this wild hive swarmed four times it was getting  expensive to set a new hive each time we caught another swarm.  It's about $140 - $200 every time you set up a new hive, if you don't already have the hive boxes to move them into.  So we started doing it a little different.
The second time this hive swarmed we tried something new that we had not tried before, we combined the swarms.

To do that we stapled news paper to the bottom of the brood box.

 Sit that box on top of the hive you are wanting to combine the new swarm with.  Once it is stacked, shake the new swarm into the brood box, add your frames and a hanging feeder to that box and put on the inner cover.

Watch the bees for a little bit once you put on the inner cover.  If the queen is in the box the bees will stand around the inner cover hole and fan like crazy telling everyone she's in the box.
Once all the bees go into the hive put on the outer cover.

Within just a couple of days the bees have removed the newspaper and now they have become one hive.  I think at some point one of the queens will be killed by the other queen.  Not completely sure about this since I am still very new to bees.  So far so good with this procedure.  A couple of days later we also took some brood frames and honey frames from one of our other hives and put them into this hive just to give them a boost and a good start.

Did you know that 42% of the bee colonies in the US collapsed in 2015?  70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees.  Have you noticed that the honey bee is no longer on the Honey Nut Cheerios box?  Does this concern you?  Did you know that once the honey bee is gone, within four years the human race will be gone?  What are we going to do about this?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Our Trip To Greenfire Farms

Last week the Chicken Scratch Poultry farmers took a road trip to Florida to visit the Greenfire farm and pick up some new breeds to work with on our farm.  It was a beautiful drive down and their road that lead to the farm was so pretty draped with in moss.

When you pull up to the farm you will need to wait at the gate for someone to let you in.  We need a gate at our farm.  You wouldn't believe how many people pull right up to our barns and just begin their own farm tour without ever even knocking on our door to see if we are around.
It was so interesting to see how another poultry farm works and operates.  I found that we are very similar in the hatching, vaccinating and shipping of chicks.  The one difference that I seen is that they don't raise up started pullets like we do.
What I was most curious to see was if they kept their flocks as small as they claimed and yes they do.  So if you wonder why it takes so long to get your chicks from us or them that is why.  We are working with small flocks also and when you get your chicks you will see the difference that it makes.  I often hear from our customers about how big and healthy our chicks are compared to large hatchery chicks.

With their warm climate in Florida they are able to keep their breeders outside all year long with no need for a 

This is one of the new breeds that we picked up while we were there.  They are Malines.  If you notice they are the only birds here on the farm with their faces smashed up against the fence wanting attention.  Super friendly birds and suppose to be really good egg producers.  I think we're going to love this breed. Can't wait to share it with you!
We also picked up a couple others breeds but I'll share those in another blog.

This is their incubator room.  Lots of eggs in there getting ready to make some customers very happy.  

This is the room where they raise up new breeds. They mostly import  hatching eggs from other countries and not full grown birds.  It was very interesting to hear how they do it all.   

Hope you enjoy this peek into the Greenfire farm.  Please  keep in mind no matter where you order your chicks from, it's a stressful and busy time of year for farmers.  It doesn't make them able to go any faster if you call them weekly to check on your order and we can't make chickens lay eggs or grow any faster than what they already do :)  Please be patient with whatever farm you order from, It takes time to raise up beautiful birds and fill numerous orders.
Have a blessed spring!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alaska In March

We were blessed to be able to take a quick trip to North Pole Alaska a couple of weeks ago to visit family again.  I Thought you might enjoy seeing what's going on the month of March in the arctic.  There was still snow on the ground but the temps hovered around 0, the coldest that it got that week was -5.  The McEwen household is a busy bustling place of home schooling, birthing of baby lambs and goat kids. Andrea spent every night sleeping on the couch and getting up hourly to check on expectant mothers.

twins are born

So soft and sweet!

Sheep, goats and poultry do well here even with the harsh long winter months.

This is Brody's seven year old Blue Laced Red Wyandotte hen Whisper from Chicken Scratch Poultry.  You can also see Whisper on our website from her younger years as a blue ribbon winner at the fair in Fairbanks Alaska.

The dog mushers race was on Sat. March 19th so we took a ride out to the Musher Lodge to check things out.  It was very cold that day and Larry and I were not dressed appropriately for dog mushing and about froze our butts off.  The dogs were so excited, you could tell they absolutely loved what was about to happen!     

My hands and face got so cold I would have paid anything to get 
this guys beaver gloves and hat from him.

This beautiful little girl was snug and warm in her fur lined sled. 

It was neat to see all the different fur hats, boots, coats and gloves that the locals wore.  

The fur action was going on before the dog race. Lynx sold for about $400, fox $300, wolves $500, martins sold for around $100. 

All the trucks are equipped with dog boxes that held several dogs.

After the dog races we headed over to check out the ice fishing a Chena lakes.  We drove right out onto the lake to watch the fishing.  There were several tents and sheds set up for fishing.  We spotted a guy cleaning trout, they are very tiny trout though.

This guy was nice enough to open his tent flap and allow us to watch for a minute. 

He had a small heater inside the tent and it was surprisingly warm inside.   He has a camera that he lowers into the ice hole to watch the fish.

This is one of the fishing sheds.  You can rent them by the day and they will drill the fishing hole for you.  That's on my list for next year.

Hope I didn't bore you to death.  It such a beautiful place with so much to do and see no matter the time of year or season.
Have a Blessed day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Getting Ready For Chick Season / Chicks For Sale

It's that time of year again, hatching season!  It's a hectic busy time but I'm looking forward to it. We've had December, January and February to rest up and get ready to hit the ground running once again.  Before we hatch the first chick of the season there's work to be done to insure that we hatch the healthiest chicks possible.

The first place we begin is in the incubators and hatchers.  The photo to the left is one of the hatchers, we have three of this size and two large incubators twice the size of the hatchers.  We clean them all thoroughly and then a disinfectant is sprayed on and left to dry.  One of the worst possible things you can do to chicks that are hatching, is to let them hatch in a unclean hatcher or incubator.  The problem with this is, the newly hatched chick has an umbilical cord that disconnects from the egg sack just as it hatches and the abdomen can be slightly open at hatch time, once the chick dries off it seals up and you don't see that.  If you hatch them in a dirty hatcher or incubator the chick can get an infection in the abdomen, it might not kill the chick at that time but they will be birds that never thrive and are always unhealthy and unproductive.

The next place the chicks go once they're hatched is into the brooder house.  We have two stacking brooders in here.  Larry has disassembled the brooders, washed the brooders house walls and floors and sprayed with a disinfectant.

Power washing the stack able brooders.

Once the brooders are thoroughly  washed he sprays them with the disinfectant and allows them to dry completely.

Once the brooders are competently dry and the heaters are running, the babies are ready to move into the brooders and another busy chick season begins.

We are still taking chick and started  young pullet orders at this time.  We are not shipping the chicks yet, we won't start shipping until we see warmer weather.  Our egg production is still very low at this time but the girls should be kicking it into high gear as soon as they see some steady warmer weather.  Our temps have been on a roller coaster ride in our area this has the hens a bit unpredictable with the laying.
If your interested in placing a chick order head over to the website http://www.chickenscratchpoultry.com/
Hope you have a blessed day!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Barn Addition Is Complete

Back in September Larry and I made the decision to build on to the barn that he had constructed on his own back in 2012.  It was a 20x24 barn (not counting the over hangs).  With the addition it is now a 20x64.  When breeding poultry it takes an unimaginable amount of space to do it correctly.

Just as he got the roof on the addition,  we stood back and looked at it and said let's go bigger, the photo on the left is at the point when we decided to go bigger.
We aren't getting any younger, might as well do it now while we can.
Larry was able to put all the trusses up by himself with a homemade crane and a come-along.

Our nephew Kyle came down from Alaska for a few days and was a tremendous help to Larry.  They were able to get all the electrical and lights fixtures hung and all the wood siding hung so that the barn was completely enclosed.

Larry now has all the pens on the inside up and ready for poultry, he's cutting doors so that each breed has access to the outdoors.  Once he's finished constructing doors they will be automated to open and shut at dawn and dusk.

Here's a peek inside the barn, this is the Coronation Sussex pen.  Bigger breeds are allowed bigger space.  As you can see the Coronation love to eat.

Larry is making a mechanism that opens and closes all the doors.
In this photo he is connecting a short round shaft inside of square metal tubing.  This round shaft will ride on a bracket that holds up the length of the entire drive shaft.  There is a round shaft inserted between two square tubing's every eight foot.   The J shaped brackets support the drive shaft at the round bar connections of the entire mechanism.

A little grinding here and there and everything fits together smoothly.  This is from a woman's point of view :)

That shaft runs 64 ft and opens 11 doors on this side of the barn.
I'm also suppose to tell you what a miracle this contraption is, that not just any ole Joe could design and craft this automatic system.  Well done Larry, well done!  He was needing a pat on the back.

This is the gear motor that opens the doors.  It hangs at the back of the barn under the eves so that its out of the weather.  This motor runs cables that pull on arms that move the shafts on both sides of the barns, opening and closing all doors at the same time.  The use of a gear motor allows for slow, smooth opening and closing of the doors.

The cables from the gear motor are kept snug by pulleys.  These pulleys also allow for pulling on the drive shaft arms at the correct angle.  Larry has found that using garage door spring pulleys work best.  They have a deep grove that keep the cable from falling off the pulleys.

This is the brain of the operation.  Larry had to implant part of himself inside of this small computer.  This box contains a PLC (programmable Logic Controller).  This device controls the lights and the automatic door operation.   The PLC is programmed to open and close the doors at a specific time after daylight and after dusk.  This time changes automatically everyday keeping our birds safe from night time predators.  It also allows us to control the hours of light the chickens get each day.

Now that the doors are operating, the pens are up and the vents are open its time to cover the pens in netting.  We cover all pens so that no chicken has the opportunity to jump over and get into the wrong pen and it also keeps them safe from hawks.

That's a lot of netting!  We hope you enjoyed this blog about our expansion of the barn.  It's been a big project and Larry has done a great job!  
We're still taking day old chick and started young pullet orders.  If you would like to check out all the different breeds that we offer just head over to the website http://chickenscratchpoultry.com/
If you think you might be interested in advertising your business on our blog just clink the advertise button on the left side of the page for more information.
Hope you have a great day!