Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I'm an emotional spender. I know this, I deal with it. But on my very worst days, when I'm feeling a wreck and happen to be at a store (which I try very hard not to do when I am emotional) I tend to well...over buy. Even if it's just a couple extra things from the dollar section. When I had to rehome the goats that was a very sad time for me. I compensated with poultry. Something tangible I could have. While they were a cheap investment initially, I am realizing these large water fowl are eating more than I was prepared for.
Ducks, Geese and Turkeys eat a lot. They are meant to get big, fast. Part of the over buying was due to the non-sexing the three hatcheries I bought from didn't offer. The turkeys came from a guy with a local hatchery a few towns over who sold as a straight run. The others from two different feed stores that also bought straight runs from the hatcheries they ordered from. Apparently, vent sexing these fowl is different from a chicken though I haven't had luck doing that myself either. So, I bought enough to cover any day-old losses and crossed my fingers I got some females, planning to sell off or eat whatever extra males I ended up with.
A few months later I have been able to get the ducks and the turkeys gender figured out. Mainly because they have distinguishing features. The flipped sex feather on the rump of the ducks. The pouffed out strutts on the turks. The geese? I'm still unsure of.
Out of six turkey poults I have four toms and two hens. I have a friend interested in one of the Toms for Thanksgiving and one will be ours for that day, too. I wanted to keep a mated pair or whatever females and 1 male to try and breed out for next year, these heritage poults go for $10 a piece at a week old, $12 for 2 weeks and so on. It seems like a good investment. That is, if the Toms will stop chasing the dog.
Instead of selling off one Tom -which really wouldn't put a dent in the food consumption- I think I'm going to ask for those interested to put a small deposit down on the bird of choice. Maybe $10 that would go towards a bag of feed and give me a guarentee that we would have a buyer for these twenty pound beasts come November. I need to research free range butchered turkey prices.
The ducks I wanted only a mated pair and out of four I got two sets of boy/girl. According to a farmer in the check out lane at Tractor Supply (where all the best information comes from), one duck eats as much as nine chickens in a day. Even without the paper backing, that I believe. I'm trying to find a home for one of the duck pairs now. Feeding the equivalent of 18 chickens in a day when they aren't contributing yet by eggs, is a little rough. We would dispatch them and eat them, but we're not big duck fans here. They were never meant to be food at our house anyway.
The little chickens I bought we only lost one day-old, so we will have 23 hens laying soon. I have been having a hard time finding buyers for the extra dozens of eggs I get each week (we're up to 6 eggs a day now, on average), so I am trading five of them for two weeks of organic produce at a nearby farm. The five little hens don't eat a whole lot, and since we free range them on 10 acres, they forage for much of their food but keeping track of them and feeding them is still in the cards. I'll still have 18 laying hens by the end of July.
This weekend we're dispatching at least one rooster and the last of the Christmas meat birds. The poor dear hen has started laying. When I saw her in the nest box, the expectant nervous look she gave me said "See, I'm contributing!" I've been adding one of her pretty brown eggs in with the blues and greens that I have been selling. We *may* keep on the smaller rooster just because there is an opportunity for us to sell fertilized eggs but I'm not sure it's what I want. We came out here to sell healthy food to those around us, science research is great. I'm just not sure it's what this litte farm is about.
Out of all the animals we have the poultry and fowl really are the easiest to care for and mainatin. Other than our one hen still nursing the injury from the roos we've been very lucky health-wise with our birds. So, for now we're downgrading a bit on the number of animals we have and planning out what to do with the rest. I'd advertise more loudly that we have eggs for sale but I've heard so many horror stories of people getting caught selling eggs without a license (that is very hard to come by) that even the little bit of word of mouth we've been doing has me on edge.
It makes me sad to think we live in a country where trading eggs or milk from your farm to someone else for money or other food is a crime. The regulations make it difficult for anyone without a subsidy or a bank loan to get a foot-hold in the Ag community. I'm doing what I can.