Explore the blog, Then Check out our website

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Chicken Scratch Poultry

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Setting Up A Hive From A Captured Swarm

Catching Swarms And Setting Up a New Hive

Each year right around the middle to end of April is the prime time that our hives will begin to swarm.  We've had our hives for right around three years but still feel very new to bee keeping, there is just so much to know and learn about the whole process.  We have tried to prevent the hives from swarming but so far we have not had any luck with that, so we have decided to embrace the fact that they swarm.  One thing that I have read is that swarming is a sign of a healthy hive, if that is the case we have some healthy hives!
The photo above is the first swarm this year and it was really big, the first swarms usually are the biggest so watch for those early swarms.  We happened to miss this one though, they hung for one day and we just didn't have the time to catch them the first day.  The second day while getting our box and frames gathered up we turned our backs for a few minutes and when we came back to get them they were gone.  It can happen just that fast.  The very next day Larry was walking across the yard and just as he looked up a swarm flew over his head, he followed it as far as he could but then lost sight of it.   Our hives always swarm the same day or within days of each other and it happens like clock work.  In order to keep them from swarming you must split the hive, we have not attempted this process yet .  I have six hives now and I ask myself how many more do I need?

Well apparently I needed one more.  I have a hard time passing up a mass of bees hanging on a bush. Just shake them off into a card board box or right into your hive box.  With this swarm after we dumped them into the hive box they stayed in the box for one day and then they decided to move out again, we had never had this happen before.  So we caught them again, put them back in the hive and tried something new.

We took a queen excluder and cut it to fit over the entrance of the hive.  This keeps the queen from leaving and prevents them from swarming.  This can only be left on the hive for a couple of days.  It did keep them from leaving again and they accepted their new home.  The next step to help the new swarm is to feed them like crazy!  It takes eight pounds of honey or sugar for bees to make a pound of wax, without wax and comb the new queen can't raise brood, so when they move into an empty hive with no honey and no comb they need lots of food to survive.  So Feed, feed and feed!
Just a warning about using the excluder this way.  Don't use it in the spring to keep hives from swarming or you can find yourself left with a virgin queen and a dying hive.  Also the drones can not leave or enter the hive, those drones that die in the hive, the worker bees can not remove them because of the excluder and the dead will pile up and block the entrance.  So this can only be used very temporary, I would say not more than 2 day.

Bee Blessed!

Friday, April 28, 2017

When Are My Chicks Coming - Spring On The Farm

Spring has sprung and the crazy hustle and bustle has begun.  It's been awhile since I've had a chance to sit down and write a blog, I want to give you a peek into why it takes so long to fill those chick and pullet orders.  Right now is the time when every customer that has placed a chick or pullet order, comes down with a bad case of spring fever and wants to know when they'll get there shipment of fluffy butts.   I get about 20 or more emails and phone calls each day asking that very question.  I can guess a time frame for shipment but it really means nothing when dealing with chickens because they really don't care about my plans.  There are just too many factors to figure when guessing a shipping time, here are just a few of those factors to consider...

Beginning in early February we stop selling hatching eggs and we start filling the incubators with every egg possible.  Egg production is not good at this time and fertility is poor but we begin anyway as we try to get an early jump on raising up the young pullets.  Good fertility doesn't happen until warmer, sunny weather, so hatch rate is small and the process begins slowly.
Our incubators are located in a Morton building without heat so temps fluctuate which also effects hatch rate.  We hope to fix that problem in the near future.

We place eggs in the incubator every Monday night, usually about 8 trays and we have a hatch every Monday night.  It takes 21 days for an egg to hatch.
The photo to the left is the farmer working on an incubator as quickly as possible before the eggs get cold.  It seems that this was the year that all of our egg turner motors decided to have a break down, if eggs aren't turned, eggs don't hatch.  You might read that eggs need to be turned 3 times a day...wrong!  Our turner turns the eggs every hour, more turns, better hatch.  Just one more thing that effects the hatch rate.  In the back of this huge incubator is a fan blade that is as tall as me and it needs to turn and blow air across the eggs at just the right speed.  If it's the wrong speed it effects the hatch.  That's Just one more variable to figure into many others.
So when a customers asks why aren't my chicks here yet, should I say the turner broke down, the fan was blowing to fast, it was to cold for fertility, or the hens decided not lay an egg last month...

With every hatch of these sweet little fluffy butts it takes 7 to 8 weeks to grow one up big enough to confidently sex and to make sure that is has just the right body weight to ship safely in the mail as a started young pullet.  If that little girl is not old enough she can not stay warm enough in shipment, if she does not have a good body weight she can not with stand shipment and arrives at your home weak and susceptible to illness.  We make every effort to insure that they are well prepared for shipment.  If you have an order of young pullets with us, please don't make us feel rushed to get your order out, we know what we are doing, we've been doing this for a very long time and we do a great job.  If I feel rushed it causes me to make needless mistakes on guessing of the sex or sending a pullet out that is just to young to ship.  Allow us to do our job to the best of our ability, I promise we haven't forgot about your order and these birds are worth the wait!

We just purchased 3 more brooders just like this one to give us even more space to growout chicks into young pullets.  We like to raise them on wire not in shavings.  Shavings + poop + water = Illness.

Another factor to figure when wondering why it takes so long to get those sweet little fluffy butts. We keep our flocks small, over crowded birds are unhappy birds.  You might think more hens is better, not always the case if you don't have sufficient space to support all of those hens.  Over crowded hens are unhappy hens, which means fewer eggs.  It is by far better to keep your flocks small, you can't make birds produce any faster by cramming more birds in.

Be patient with us as we continue to work through the orders, we're hatching just as fast as the hens will allow.   We like our hens happy and healthy and you'll thank us for it when you see your healthy fat beautiful chicks. 
Have a great day, I'll be calling you soon to say your chicks are on the way!
Thanks Angie

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rendering Lard

Lard, is it good, is it bad?  Well it just so happen it's not as bad for you as we've been told.  Pure lard has no trans fats and has half the amount of saturated fat of butter and is also high in Vitamin D. When I say pure lard I'm not talking about supermarket lard, I'm talking about home grown hog fat rendered into lard.  Lard that you purchase from a supermarket has chemicals and hydrogenated fats that are bad for you.  Another thing to think about with supermarket lard, pigs that are raised with antibiotics store antibiotics in their fat.  When you raise your own pigs you know what they eat.  I'm not saying you should live on Lard, everything in moderation.

Last year we raised up 2 hogs, when we had them processed I requested that they save the fat for me.  So it came in this large frozen hunk.  I weighed the hunk but can't for the life of me remember what it weighed.  I think it was around 10 to 12 pounds.

I thawed out the fat and chopped into about 1 inch squares.  Now that I've completed this process, I think next time I would run the fat through my grinder or cut into even smaller pieces but thinking the grinder is the way to go.
I think grinding the fat will cut down on the cook time.
Once cut into pieces I put it into my crock-pot with about 1/4 cup of water and turned the crock-pot on low.

Within a couple of hours you will start to see the fat turning into a liquid.  The trick to pearly white, unflavored lard is to cook it low and slow, yes it is time consuming but very much worth it!

I forgot to take a photo at this point in the process so I've borrowed this photo from mommypotamus blog, she has a very nice blog on rendering lard that I found very helpful.

Once your fat has cooked down to this stage you are ready to strain the fat but keep these nice little bits to make some cracklings, yum.

Pour the liquid through a cheese cloth right into your jars.  I put the jar lid on while the liquid was still very hot so that the lids would seal.  I keep mine in the pantry not in the refrigerator.  When I open a jar I do store it in the refrigerator.

This is what it looks like before it cools and hardens.
I know I told you to cook it low and slow, but to be honest, at the end of the day I was ready to pour that lard in the jar so I cranked up the crock-pot and finished it off.

Even though I rushed it in the end I still had pearly white lard.  It does have a tiny hint of pork flavor but it is amazing!!  I've not tried to make pie crust or pastries with it but it makes the best fried chicken, fried potatoes and stir fried vegetables are out of this world good!  
When finished I ended up with five half pint jars and two quart jars, I feel it was very much worth the effort.

To fry up the cracklings, just throw those brown bits of fat in a skillet, salt them and fry.  Be careful they will pop on you.  Marvelous!!
Have a great Day!