Monday, November 16, 2015

Molting - Look Out I'm About To Get Naked

Her face is hidden to protect her identity, this a is Chocolate Orpington in full molt.   Molting is the process of shedding the old feathers to replace with new.  During this time they will often completely stop laying eggs and the reproduction system takes a rest.    This process can take a couple of months and usually happens during the fall.   If you are new to raising chickens and your wondering why your hen is naked and no longer lays eggs, this very likely is your problem.  A hen will have her first molt at the age of 18 months.

I have several half naked birds running around the farm right now.  Our pens look like there's been a massive feather pillow fight.
I often notice that the hens that are the most naked tend to hide in nesting boxes and are a bit more shy than usual.  I guess I'd hide too with such a sudden transformation.

 Roosters also go through the molting process.  This gentle giant has nice new feathers coming in on the neck area.

You have probably heard that during this time you should feed your poultry higher amounts of protein for faster feather growth.  It never hurts to give them more protein but your not going to make feathers grow any faster.  Just like the hair on your head, your not going to cause it to grow any faster than what it already does.

I shared this photo on face book a few weeks ago and had several responses from people saying they had thirty or more hens and getting only one egg per day.  It seemed as though maybe they didn't understand why they're experiencing a drop in egg production.    
Don't get discouraged with your flock at this time of year, they're just taking a break and getting geared back up for another year of egg laying.  
Although if your hens are three years of ago or older, egg production slows after two years and can severely decrease after three years.  If you depend on your hens for the eggs it's a good idea to add in new stock every couple of years.  
Happy Molting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alaska Visitors Come To Chicken Scratch Poultry

This week we had some special visitors stop in for a few days while on their way to Louisville KY. Our Niece Leslie and Nephew Kyle from Fairbanks Alaska are traveling to the FFA convention in Louisville KY.  They are both interested in Agriculture and what the future holds for young men and women who wish to have a career in Ag.  What better way for them to begin their journey than right here on the Poultry farm.  Leslie and Kyle were privileged to get a small peek at what a typical shipping day is like here at Chicken Scratch Poultry.
You would think our day would begin bright and early with a big country breakfast of bacon and eggs, sorry to disappoint but it begins with a snatch and grab whatever you can, eat fast and head out the door.
Normally my daughter / employee starts the day off by putting together large postal approved poultry boxes, fills them with wood savings and sliced cucumbers.  Sorry I didn't get a photo of this happening, I was off taking care of other tasks.  Today's shipment will take 15 large boxes.  Leslie helped  my daughter Heather assemble boxes while Kyle and I started catching pullets to fill the orders.

Kyle is a lean, mean, chicken catchin machine!  I'm in the back ground of this photo using a net to catch pullets, Kyle just snatches them up.  We caught up 36 birds for shipping today.

I turn my back for a second and suddenly it seems it's break time and everyone is standing around laughing and having a gab session.  Get back to work people we have 36 birds to get in boxes!
Once the birds are in the boxes, the boxes are weighed and we're off to print labels.

The Labels are printed and the girls are putting them on the boxes.  Make sure you get them on the correct box girls.  Heather and Leslie work very well together.

Once the labels are on the boxes, into the truck they go and off to the post office.  I then call each customer to let them know that their new feathered friends are on the way.

Kyle was a really big help to Larry while he was here visiting.  Larry is in the middle of a barn addition currently and is doing the work by himself.  Kyle was able to help  Larry get a lot of work done on that project in the short amount of time that he was here.  He's a good worker and was happy to help. 

They were able to get all the siding hung on one side of the barn plus they also hung all of the electrical wiring and light fixtures. 

Thank you Kyle and Leslie for all of your help while you were visiting us.  We hope you had as much fun as we did.  
Angie & Larry

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bottling Honey & The Clean Up

Last week we pulled the honey from our bee hives and began the task of processing.  We pulled about 3.75 gallons of honey from four hives.  This really was not a lot of honey considering the amount of hives that we have.  We started with two hives in the spring and both hives swarmed, I was able to catch both swarms and put them into new hives, which made us four hives.  When a hive swarms this puts them behind for the seasons.  So if they had not swarmed we would have gotten much more honey.  We hope to prevent swarming next spring but only time will tell if we're able to do so.
In one of our hives we put in about four frames with just wax foundation, that way we are able to cut the comb from the frame and leave the honey in the comb.  I like to cut it into pieces to add to the jars of honey, I think it looks pretty and the comb is good to eat.  The honey comb is suppose to also be good for arthritis.

This year we purchased a five gallon bucket with a honey gate for filling the bottles and jars, the honey can also be stored in the bucket until you have time to work with it.  A honey gate makes filling the jars and bottles just a little easier.  There are many more products out there to purchase for honey bottling but this is just a little more economical for our needs.
Here's a little tip if your new to processing honey.  The day before you are ready to fill your jars, sit your honey in a warm place.  The warmer the honey the fast it flows, the colder the honey the slower it flows.  Guess how my honey was flowing....

After we had extracted the honey from the frames, strained it with a strainer and filled our jars and bottles we had a lot of sticky buckets, spoons, strainers and bees wax that needed to be cleaned up.  The best way to clean up the sticky mess is to take it back to the bees.  Not one drop of honey will go to waste that way.

We laid some ply wood down and spread the wax out.  I want to keep the wax to make a few candles but wasn't sure how to clean it up all the stickiness.  Well the bees knew just what to do, it was really pretty amazing to see how clean they got it.

Within just a couple of hours they had licked every drop of honey from the spoons, buckets, strainers and wax.

Now that the wax is all cleaned up, it weighs just over two pounds and it looks like confetti.  I don't think it will make very many candles.

My sweet daughter made me some honey labels for my bottles.  We're calling it Birds & The Bees Pure Honey.  It's so delicious, the bees did an awesome job!
Stay tuned for some candle making.
Have a great day!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Harvesting Honey

Three weeks ago we checked the progress of the bees, knowing that we're very quickly coming to the end of the honey season.  As of three weeks ago the frames still were not full nor capped.  Three weeks time apparently made a huge difference for the bees.  The weather was nice and warm during that time and the field behind the hives were full of  awesome wild flowers.
Last year was our first time to pull honey from our hives and we've learned a few things from that experience that we don't want to repeat.  Last year we took the honey frames from the hive, trying to smoke and brush the bees away and take the frames to the house.  By the time we had all the frames at the house, we also had the entire bee colony at our front door eating honey as fast as they could and taking it back to the hive.  It was very hectic, crazy, honey harvesting.
Before we began the process this year we did a little research on how to get the bees out of the honey super the day before the harvest. We looked at several different options and the one that sounded the easiest with good results was to use a bee escape.  It works like a one way door to let the bees out of the honey super but won't let them back in.
Place the bee escape on the inner cover, place the inner cover under the honey box that you want the bees out of.  The bees go down the little hole but can't come back up.

The bee escape worked very well and we're able to take the honey supers with out much resistance.

Just in case the bees decided to follow we had a plan this time.  Larry was to throw the box on the four wheeler, at break neck speed take it into the Morton building and shut the door behind him.  The plan worked well, we got all the honey into the building without a swarm of bees.

We don't yet own a honey extractor so we scrapped the comb and honey from the frames.  This is not the best way to extract honey because it destroys the comb that the bees could just refill if  we had used an extractor.  It essentially makes more work for the bees, they will now need to rebuild the comb.  I will be able to use the comb in soap and hope to make a few candles.  
We used a food grade bucket and a strainer to catch the honey and comb.
As we pulled the frames from the box we began to notice the difference in the honey colors from frame to frame.  It was so interesting.  

This particular frame had super dark honey, that looked like molasses right in the center and very light yellow honey all around.  That's when I decided we needed to keep the different colors separate.  Men really love it when you suddenly change up the process in the middle of what they're doing.  You women know what I'm talking about.  So we began the process of scrapping dark honey into one bucket and light yellow into another.  In the long run he thought it was probably a good idea.

Look at the difference in the colors.  We're straining the honey into the buckets.  We left it over night, it's a slow process but works well.

The next morning it was ready to strain one last time.
  All I can say is yum! 

I think the dark molasses colored honey is from a field of Goldenrod just behind our house.  It sure makes some good honey! 

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are like honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Have a Blessed day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Barn Expansion

As fall approaches we begin to think about the process of choosing our new breeding stock and with thirteen different breeds it takes a lot of barn space. Thirteen different breeds means keeping a lot of extra roosters on hand.  Breeding is not as easy as just throwing a hen and rooster together and hoping for the best.  Well, as Larry and I stood outside talking about beginning the whole process we decided it was time to make the barn bigger.  When we built this barn about three years ago we had out grown our old barn and thought this would be plenty of space but as I'm sure you know you can never have to much space and so the building process begins again.

This our other barn and both are full of birds.

Most of the building supplies have been delivered.

The trusses came on a semi truck today.  No these do not all belong to us.  Ours is the tiny stack on the back end.  Apparently someone in our area is also building a new house.

When Larry built the barn he was thinking about the future and knew that someday we might want to expand.  So he made it to where he could take the whole backside off, build on and then put the backside back on.   He has the back ready to remove and he's beginning construction.

Making good progress.  He's almost ready to put up the trusses.

We've made a lot of changes in three years time.  I'll share the progress as the new part of the barn goes up.  It's an exciting time for us and we look forward to having more space.
Have a great day!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Checking The Progress Of Our Bee Hives

Last week we checked on the bees just to see what kind of progress they're making on honey production.  We started out with two hives last spring but as I shared with you this spring, both hives swarmed early in the spring.  I was able to catch both swarms and started new hives with them but in case you are also new to bee keeping, when they swarm it really is not a good thing.

 The bees are working very hard and have made great progress.  Last year we got about two gallons of honey from one hive, this year I'm not sure if we'll get any.  The main concern now at this point is for them to have enough honey to get through the long winter months.

They still have the month of September to work on the frames so we might still be able to pull a small amount of honey from at least one hive.  Come on little bees work faster!

Right before the bees swarm they gorge themselves on honey and then half of the workers move with the swarm.  This put the hive they just vacated at a loss of honey and workers and those that left in the swarm are also at a loss of honey and workers.  It basically puts both hives at a deficit for a whole year.
Come early spring, before the maples begin to bloom, we need to be ready to juggle the empty frames and add more honey suppers.  I have the whole winter to read and get prepared.  I thought I did that last year, oh well.
Any of you experienced bee keepers out there, feel free to give some advise at any time.
Bees are very interesting creatures and even though we would like to think we have some control over this bee endeavor, we really do not.
Have a great day!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Home Grown Garlic

Did you plant garlic this year?  Well if you did it's time to check and see if it's ready to harvest.  I've never planted garlic but I've never needed to.  When we moved to this farm 20 years ago, the elderly couple who lived here before us planted the garlic and I've been reaping the benefits since then. Evidently the type of garlic that they planted all those many years ago is self seeding and continues to spread.  From what I have read about different varieties of garlic, it looks like mine could be silverskins, it has a nice strong full bodied flavor.

 The reason I think my garlic is reseeding, do you see the sign on left side of the road?  Well from that sign, clear down to the curve, the garlic has spread along the ditch bank.  Nice bulbs of garlic.

Garlic everywhere

How do you know when it's time to dig the garlic?  When the stem of the garlic down close to the ground begins to die and turn brown, it's time to dig.

After a good summer rain about a week ago,  I pulled the garlic up by the hand fulls.  The ground was moist and it was easily pulled up.  It's best to plant garlic in an out of the way spot because it does spread like crazy.  I'm pretty sure that is why it's on this ditch bank.

Fresh garlic adds amazing flavor to meat and vegetables.   Larry even noticed when I used it for the first time and he never makes a comment about food.  He'll eat just about anything with no complaint.  When I added the fresh garlic to stir fired vegetables, he said "wow that's good what did you put in this that's different?" It really does make a difference.

Garlic will keep best in a the refrigerator but If your going to use it up quickly you can leave it hanging in a little garlic basket.  I made this basket pretty quick out of some scraps of chicken wire.
Add some flavor to your life, plant some garlic.