Somewhere along my Anatolian livestock guardian dog road it became very obvious to me that I enjoy raising working puppies (I might be slightly insane I think). I love being a part of planning a litter, being there at birth, watching every milestone each little (soon to be big) puppy makes. I enjoy teaching them, guiding them, exposing them to new things to broaden their horizon and skills. I carefully document everything I can - I need to know everything there is to know about each puppy in order to place them in the correct new farm life or as a companion. I want each and every one of my puppies to succeed to their best of their abilities. Because I enjoy raising these wonderful dogs a good number of my puppies end up staying with me here on the farm for several weeks or even months to grow up even more successful under my guidance and more importantly - under my adult dogs guidance and the guidance of livestock that is very good with the dogs and growing puppies. The knowledge that an experienced adult livestock guardian dog can teach a growing puppy can not be replicated by a human.
While enjoying the unusual 60 degree weather today I decided to work/observe the dogs as my customary routine and actually video some of it for once. It's really hard to video sometimes but mostly I just forget until after the fact. I actually took several videos this evening. Shocking, I know.
In this first video (which is really fun to watch) it might just appear to you that's its just puppies of various ages playing (and an adult). Which they ARE - but keep an open mind and look beyond just puppy play.
I tried to keep up with them the best I could. I promise.
A few things I'll point out in case you missed them - these are learning tools for you about how important guidance is with raising these dogs.
A lot of the video is just playing - but part of that play is "fight training" - learning and perfecting the skills needed to take down predators. Part of understanding any dog's behavior is knowing the when and how they develop skills and enhance them. When puppies are young and growing is the time when things are imprinted in their brains - this DEFINES them their entire life. Understanding what is happening and at what age is imperative to raising successful, socialized, and well-rounded dogs. Add in the Anatolian breed nature - and it takes things to a whole new level. I'd like to help everyone understand all that but truly it needs to be an entire post of it's own as it may get quite lengthy.
This second video goes right along with raising Anatolian puppies. It is shorter but very imperative that you understand that I did a testing trial here. I have not had the young puppies in with the lambs yet mainly because they were all in a field with 2 adult Anatolians and a couple of the ewes are still very leery of any new dog in their field even though they share a fence line with them. I needed to remove my best teacher ewe and her lambs into another field for a more controlled environment. Due to many things, I just hadn't gotten it done. But yesterday for the second time these 2 twin lambs had gotten out of fence along the road (electric made no difference to these little buggers) so I put these twin ewes are their mom in a more secure field where they can't get out. It just so happens that the ewe is my best teacher ewe. Everyone needs a teacher like Gia. She will not run from the dogs. Even when I switch things around. She stands her ground and teaches manners because she knows what is and isn't acceptable behavior. Anyway - The puppies have seen and smelled the lambs multiple times because they do share 2 fence lines so the sight of the lambs was nothing new to them. Understanding the state of mind of the puppies as the video starts in IMPERATIVE to understanding their reactions. The puppies were at the height of full out playtime/puppy war. They had come up to get a drink of water when I was walking into the pen that Gia and her twins were in and I decided since it was just the 3 of them that I would let them in and see what happened. I fully expected chasing only because of their state of mind being playtime. Before I got the video started since I was closing the gate - that's exactly what happened. The two youngest when straight for the lambs running. The lambs aren't afraid of dogs but took off running. Gia corrected the puppies - they got distracted by the food bowl which was when I started recording.
You'll have to just "un-see" what's left of the mattress that I had given the dogs earlier this winter. Every time I try to remove it to throw it out a dog grabs it to keep it there. They love that thing and I just need to practice tough love and get rid of it.
Anyway - on to some learning points.
After I let these 3 puppies out - Capkin (the other brindle who smells the lamb at the gate) wanted to come in. He did awesome. He calmly walked within about 10 feet and just watched and when Gia didn't approach he went and smelled her rear. She did not correct him because he was calm and appropriate. He smelled each of the lambs and then walked away. Lots of praise and he wanted to leave with me since it was dinner time after all.
Hopefully you learn a little something about behavior. Feel free to ask questions - I do require approval for comments - just because it's all spam if I don't. But I will go through and post them and respond.
Raising any potential livestock guardian puppy around poultry can be the most challenging aspect of your puppy. I can be done. It can be done with minimal challenge and minimal mistakes for you and your puppy. It all begins with researching breeders and choosing wisely.
So where do I start?
First and foremost I cannot express enough to anyone to first choose the right breeder. Do your research. Talk to a lot of breeders. Visit if you can and they are too far away then ask for pictures and videos are even better. You want to make sure at least the adults (if there are no current puppies from the breeder) are truly kept with free range poultry the way you have them at your own home. By doing this, then you are one step ahead in your guidance of your new puppy because it’s not new to your puppy seeing a bunch of fluffy feather butts all around them. The second step of choosing the right breeder is the quality of the parents; health tested, well-researched bloodlines, not backyard breeding, etc. Third – you want a breeder that will help you choose the right puppy for your current needs/desires. Fourth – A breeder that leaves the puppies with mom as long as possible and preferably doesn’t let them leave until minimum 10-12 weeks if not longer. You are looking for a working dog - not a pet. There's a difference. The adult dogs can teach these puppies more than you or I EVER could in a very short time frame and much more effectively.
Do NOT buy a puppy on a whim if you expect it to succeed!
If you only plan on spending the least amount of money as possible on a puppy - then you might as well stop reading right now because none of what I'm going to tell you will apply to you. A cheap LGD is a backyard/farmyard bred dog usually because a) they had a male and female and wanted puppies or b) they didn't contain momma and - surprise she's got puppies. I'm not saying this is always the case, but it likely is.
If you want a great LGD, do your research, save your money, and prepare.
Anyway - next comes the puppy choice. You may not always be able to go to the breeder's farm and sit with the puppies and pick one out. I don't allow it and many other breeders don't either. I WANT my puppies to succeed and therefore select the best puppy for each individual buyer. I would rather raise a puppy out myself until the right home comes along than to send it somewhere where the buyers aren't prepared, the pup didn't met expectations, or the puppy just isn't the right fit for them. I never ever want one of my pups ending up in a shelter, rescue, or having to take them back because a buyer couldn't manage the puppy. Out of every 20 people that contact me about purchasing a puppy - 1 of those potential buyers ends up getting approved.
So let's say you can go to the farm - don’t pick the first cute adorable puppy that climbs in your lap. A good breeder will know which puppies show the greatest potential of a very successful poultry guardian and they should guide you to one of those puppies. It should be the puppy that has continuously shown the least amount of interest in the poultry OR has started to completely ignore the poultry after 1-2 corrections. No puppy is perfect. It’s a great big exciting world out there and poultry are cool squeaky toys who’s feathers look like oh so much fun to pull out. I expect half of the puppies in my litters to show interest in the poultry. But by 10 weeks I should be doing bare minimum intervention when it comes to interactions between the puppies and birds. Even without an adult LDG right there with the puppies – they are left alone with the free range birds because chances are very low that at this point in my guidance that they are even interested in the birds at all.
So now you’ve picked your puppy with the help of your breeder and you’re home. Now what do you do? Set your puppy up for success! Be ready before your puppy comes home. Have a safe, secure area (10x10 dog kennel with a nice dog house is fine) for your puppy to come home to. This is for the puppy’s safety and your sanity. Don’t take the puppy home and throw it in the yard with your birds and expect it to succeed. It won’t. Even after all your hard work researching and selecting - you can ruin that puppy. Your puppy is scared. Everything is unfamiliar. Mommy is gone. Brothers and sisters are gone. But YOU (the human) are slightly less scary because now the puppy has been around you for a little while and probably feels ok with you. Yes your puppy can bond to you and still be a very effective LGD. Safe, secure, and happy puppies develop better. Read your puppy’s behavior. Don’t rush introductions with stock, tons of people, other dogs you may have, etc. Let the puppy settle in and see his/her surroundings without a bunch of animals or humans poking, prodding, pushing around, etc. When your puppy settles in some, then start introductions.
Now just because the puppy was loose with the free range poultry at the breeder’s house, doesn’t mean it’s going to go perfect at your house. Your puppy needs introductions to your poultry. Your birds look different, smell different, and act different. It’s like starting all over sometimes. Let the puppy get close to the CALM birds to see them and smell them. It’s very important. Your best chance for setting the pup up for success is to not let it loose with the birds unless supervised. That way you can be close by for any necessary correction. If everything is going ok (this may be days or weeks) then increase the amount of time and your distance. But be alert. Prime times of the day I’ve found are mornings and evenings that the puppies are the most playful. That playful time is when the chance is the highest that the pup might decide to play with a bird. Be aware. Offer plenty of things for the puppy to play with that are acceptable. I rotate things in and out – toys that sit there all the time are boring. Once a pup leaves all its siblings and doesn’t have any playmates, they get bored. A lot of very young playing with poultry behavior starts out of boredom. I do recommend that when you leave the property and can’t supervise that you put the puppy in his/her puppy safe area so that there are no incidents. It’s part of setting the puppy up for success.
I’m a strong believer in being alpha. Some people don’t agree with that. At the very beginning it is important to be the boss. What you say goes. The pups momma was alpha, then the breeder, and now you need to be. Now when I say alpha – I don’t mean that you are scaring your puppy to death and screaming at it. It’s your actions, tone of voice, and choice of words. Usually there needs to be a few alpha rolls done at an early age. Done correctly – it is very safe and effective and no different than momma alpha rolling a pup. Yes your puppy will likely scream bloody murder. For more information on the alpha position, see other posts related to it coming soon.
Even after doing everything right – you may still have accidental kills. Poultry and dogs isn’t an exact science. If there’s a valuable bird or a bird you absolutely couldn’t stand to lose – then I strongly suggest PREVENTING it and that means no access for the puppy. Puppies here are not allowed around my valuable peafowl. I would be devastated if something happened to one of them. So until 200% trustworthy – at absolutely no point in time is a puppy allowed loose with one. Either the puppy is penned or the peafowl are.
So what do you do when you find a puppy pinning a bird to the ground joyfully licking or pulling out feathers? Since you are alpha – you must remain alpha. Walk/run with a purpose to the puppy/bird. Wait until you are fairly close and then use a VERY stern BACK OFF command. If you are truly alpha then the pup will immediately leave the bird. Your pup should also roll over on its back when you approach in this manner. This is puppy showing you that YOU are alpha. If your puppy doesn't roll over- then you aren't alpha and you need to fix that. Immediately. At this point immediately remove the pup from the area and take it to it’s safe and secure pen. Don’t say another word to it. Don’t look at it. Put it in the pen, make sure it has water, and WALK AWAY. To be the most effective – the longer you don’t talk to the puppy – the greater chance this will be a one-time thing at this point. I’ve gone 3 days without even talking to a dog. This shouldn’t need to be said but you still need to make sure the puppy has food and water. But don’t talk to or pet the puppy. By your actions – you are telling the puppy/dog that you are very displeased. The behavior was unacceptable. When you feel the time is right – let the puppy out. I still don’t say a word at this point. If after several hours the puppy hasn’t done a single bad thing – then talk, love, and pet. This action here has been the quickest, safest, and direct the point to these dogs for me. They are smart. Thrive on our attention and presence combined with their flock. You take all that way and believe me – these dogs really do think about what they have done to get themselves in this “awful” position.
Every situation is always unique. I can't/won't guarantee any or all of the above will work for you. It's at this point that choosing your breeder right also comes into play - I'm always there to help all my puppy buyers in their situations and give advice unique to their situation to help them and their puppy succeed to the fullest.
One of the first things we changed in our family household was the cleaning products. I can not even begin to tell you how much money we have saved over the years by no longer buying commercial products. Let's just take Windex as an example - 32 ounces of Windex is $3.79 - my homemade EVERYTHING cleaner runs me $1.25 PER GALLON. It's so safe I can use it on wood, floors, countertops, glass, mirrors, stainless steel, carpet, and well just everything.
Why do you need to use harsh chemicals when there are natural options that don't harm you? There's no warning label on natural. You can breathe it in and touch it. Your baby learning to crawl can lick the floor (and we all know they do!) and you don't have to freak out because she just ingested chemical residue.
A best example that I can give you how harsh cleaning chemicals are actually comes through from of my cats. This particular cat has never been exposed to chemicals of any kind. By the time he came along - we'd already made the transition over. We have one carpeted room in this house and that's my bedroom. I needed to clean the carpet due to a cat urine issue from my elderly cat and had noticed a jug of the name brand carpet cleaning formula under the sink. I figured I would use it up instead of just throwing it away - it was my bedroom after all and not my kids. So carpets got cleaned (and rinsed twice) with the common name brand carpet solution. House took on a now unfamiliar chemical smell mixed it with whatever fragrance they scent it with. I wanted to choke. Hadn't dawned on me before how sensitive we had become to chemicals and then it makes you wonder how in the world you ever tolerated being desensitized to them. Anyway - this cat walked on the wet chemically cleaned carpet. Within 12 hours he was projectile vomiting everywhere. I've had cats all my life - have 6 of them now that live with us in the house. I have NEVER seen a cat projectile vomit like this. It was absolutely horrible. The amount of cat puke I cleaned up for 2 days I really would rather not ever think of again. I was on the verge of giving this poor cat an IV for dehydration because he couldn't keep anything down. I was starting to worry that maybe his kidneys would shut down and I'd lose him. It was just plain horrible. At first I couldn't think what possibly he could of gotten into. Then it dawned on me about the carpet cleaning solution. I immediately threw the rest of the bottle out. Took the carpet cleaner back in the bedroom used a vinegar rinse to try to remove all of that nasty chemically laden "petsafe" cleaner. It took FOUR MORE rinses (that's after the 2 I had already done when I cleaned the carpets the day before) to remove all the chemicals.
Anyway - on to my ingredients for natural cleaning.
It's simple really. White distilled vinegar, baking soda, and my Doterra essential oils. That's it - that's all. Don't need or want anything else.
Essentially Everything Spray Cleaner
*50/50 Water and White distilled vinegar
*Doterra Lemon Oil
That's it. This gets used on everything. It's a disinfectant, great for respiratory, improving your mood, use it to stop tarnish on your silver, and more.
Honestly - you can use all kinds of essential oils depending on your mood and what you are cleaning. Just add to the vinegar/water mixture.
Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Again, you can do any mixture of oils you want depending on your mood. Most of the time I use Lemon and Doterra Purify Oil. I use about a gallon of water, couple cups of vinegar, and a few drops of whatever oil I want. I don't measure anything. I use the Purify Oil because it's awesome at getting eradicating nasty smells.
Hardwood Floor Polish
About a cup or two of Olive Oil - mixed with whatever oils you want. Last time I used Purify, Lemon and Geranium. My floors still smell lovely. The oils restore much need moisture to old hardwoods.
Carpet Stain remover
Vinegar mixed with baking soda to start - this causes a reaction and this is what lifts your stain. Let it dry and vacuum it up. Old stubborn stains may need more than one treatment. Please test treat a hidden area on your carpet. I've heard some carpets react to you but I've never seen it. And I haven't used this mixture on our true Persian Rug. I don't think I ever will because I don't want to risk even a small area being ruined. Instead I just use baking soda and Purify Oil to remove any odors.
So essentially that covers what you need to clean your entire house. Next time I'll touch base on cleaning "animal specific" problems in your house.
So you've decided that you want to go more natural and you heard the hype, tried to research it and you instantly became overwhelmed and gave up. Sound familiar?
It happens a lot and I'm hoping that maybe I can help you out some.
I can go on and on about why do many things in modern medicine and the food system today are not beneficial for you and your family and there is so much out on the internet today that I couldn't even begin to get to it all in a single blog post. And honestly - I don't want to. What I want to do it help you get started in moving away from modern and getting back to nature.
First - start with your food. This in itself is a very hard one to switch. It's hard to move away from your favorite brands - you know the ones you've used your entire life? Well you NEED to. Our food system is NOT what it was 10, 20, 30 plus years ago. Today's food is filled with nasty stuff (that's not even food!) Let's take a look at ketchup from one of the top ketchup manufacturers - their ingredient list is as follows: tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavoring. Now take a look at an original recipe of ketchup (you know the kind your great-grandmother made from scratch) - . Do you see the difference? Don't even get me started to what's in "natural flavoring" because it's not even natural. It's a gimmick.
Anyway - I know you are already thinking - I can't afford to buy organic and natural food. YES YOU CAN, You can't afford NOT too. Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself. I suggest you start switching your condiments over. Sometimes you have to try a few brands before you find one that suits you. It's HARD to give up what you've always known and loved. But let me tell you - I've found new brands and new tastes that I adore! And because they have pure ingredients - I find that we end up using LESS and therefore save money. I don't go to the grocery store for all our food anymore. Actually there's very little we get there to be honest. Monthly - we order the majority of our food from a company called Azure Standards. It is a co-op. You order your food by the deadline each month. The following week the food is delivered by semi to a designated point. You simply show up, collect your boxes, and go home and put your groceries away. The trucks are refrigerated and frozen. You can buy single items or in cases. It's ultimately cheaper than the grocery store. You aren't buying nasty products from China. There are other places that we order from as well, but a lot comes from Azure. We buy singles of things until we find a new brand and then we buy cases of items that keep well. We have a "store" in our basement where we store it all. Ketchup runs out in the fridge? No biggie - just go downstairs and get another one.
This last year we started making a lot of our own items too. I'll be honest with you - a year ago I'd never canned a thing in my life. Didn't have the slightest clue. I started with jam. Super simple - and everyone loves it. In 2 hours I had a years worth of raspberry jam. Granted - I had to go to the my friends farm and buy the awesome raspberries - but STILL - It's PURE food and so incredibly simple. I made pickles too - in another 2 hours we had our pickles for the year. Boom. Done. Once less thing to buy and it cost me pennies on the dollar. Tomatoes - I have an entire massive shelf filled with tomato jars for this year. Tomatoes that grew from TRUE heirloom seed, on this farm. They never left here. IT WAS SIMPLE.
So you don't have time to grow things? NO BIG DEAL. Just go to your trusted farmer and buy what they grew! Take it home and CREATE WHAT YOU WANT!
Don't tell me you don't have time - I work way more than full time here on the farm. I run a successful real estate rental business as well. I have a high needs father. I am a mother to 2 very active children. I'm a wife. I have a house to keep up. If I can make it work - so can you. And you know - get your kids involved too - it's amazing how much they want to learn and do and the more they get involved in the process- the more good foods they want to eat. It's pretty cool!
I am happy to help guide you in you are serious about changing your food from the ground up. I can talk to you until I'm blue in the face - but it only works if YOU will put in the effort for you and your family. It's not going to happen overnight - but there are simple ways to get started where you are not overwhelmed. I'm more than happy to help you get there.
Next blog post I'll talk more about natural remedies in your home for cleaning and for your health.
2014 has been an interesting year for us filled with ups and downs. We've learned a lot, grown a lot, and made a lot of new friends throughout the year. We started the year off raising thousands of poultry - some for your eating pleasure and some to go on and lay eggs for you. We've worked non-stop all year working on fencing, raising animals, selling feed, and more. In September we participated in our second Fall Harvest Farm Tour. We had well over 1200 people visit the farm that day. All the animals were on their best behavior and did plenty to entertain our guests for the day.
We've had other visitors to the farm for tours on a weekly basis almost all year.
We've been published multiple time with different articles and newspapers this year.
I've continued to teach classes this year so that others can learn about poultry and raising them naturally. I hope to expand these classes into other aspects of our farm soon.
This time of year we are winding down on any public visits to the farm and tours. We've been doing final preparations for winter. I just hope that this winter doesn't end up as bad as they say it is going to be. We've been moving hay, moving animals, finishing the last of our fencing, and getting buildings prepared for the winter months.
Because my mind never stops thinking about where I want to go with this farm and what I want to do - I'm already thinking about what I want to happen in 2015 and making preparations to make those projects happen.
Our breeding flocks of chickens and turkeys have increased this year a lot. No longer is the space that I've been using enough for the amount of breeding birds that we have. We need to build new buildings and fence in areas for our breeding birds while they are separated from the rest of the flock. I usually separate them in December - I guess I better get moving!! For the start of 2015 we will have Marans eggs and chicks and we will also have Bresse chicks and eggs available. In the spring we will be hatching turkeys and guineas as well. I probably won't start incubating until February this year just in case there's any chance of a winter like last year.
We will be scaling back a lot on the poultry in 2015. While we will still hatch a lot - I would like to sell the majority as day olds and not raise them out. This goes for chickens, ducks, and turkeys. We raised so many birds in 2014 that I'm slightly burnt out and did not get as much done around here as I anticipated since I was always taking care of birds.
We will have up to 4 steers/bulls that we will process in 2015. They are all 100% grass-fed, no antibiotics - just nature and pasture. We will ONLY be selling as quarters. There will not be the availability to purchase whole or half beef yet. The demand we have for beef is too large right now and by quartering each of them out, we can split each cow with 4 families. Prices will be determined in the spring. You can let me know if you would like on a waiting list. When I know the approximate date of availability, I will contact the next people on the list - if still interested, you will have 48 hours to get me your non-refundable deposit. Payment is full is due after I've dropped off the steer at the processing facility and I have the hanging weight. More information will follow in the spring.
We will also have pasture raised, non-GMO fed pork available later in 2015 as well.
Soon (weather dependent) - we hope to have a small building erected by the house for our milking parlor. Our Randall girls have been progressing very nicely in their milking training. Each day I work with the girls who have yet to calve getting used to me touching them and handling them. We need to get this building built (it will have a milking area and also a separate area for a refrigerator for milk pickup), a shelter and secure paddock built for the calves since I will have to pull them from their moms after they've received colostrum. We will still be raising the calves on the milk, I just get to decide how much and often they get to drink. Please let us know if you are interested in milk. This will help us gauge how many girls we need to milk.
We have expanded a lot this year with our natural treatments for the health of our animals. I hope to be posting some introduction to natural animal health informational posts soon. It's a lot to learn, so I will be starting with a lot of basics.
Will have unrelated breeding stock of our Hog Island Sheep available in Spring 2015 after weaning. Please let us know if you are interested. We already have several people on the list.
I want to take a moment to Thank each and every one of you for your support this year. It's meant a lot. We've come a long way and have so much more we want to do. We'd like to do a lot more hands on training with those who want to learn. It was really successful this year and I enjoyed it alot. Let us know if you are interested.
Enjoy the rest of 2014!! Bring on 2015!!! God bless.
This year we raised and processed approximately 2000 chickens for your eating pleasure.
I'm sorry to say that as the year winds down, we will no longer be offering pastured poultry for public sale. Having this many chickens here this year has honestly made me want to hate live chickens. It was way too much work for one person to do. All I did was care for chickens. Nonstop. I didn't get anything else done this year. No buildings built. No new fences. My pastures didn't get mowed all the way. NOTHING. I can not advance the farm and make things better if I don't have time to do anything but feed, water, and move shelters and netting. I didn't break even money wise with these birds and yet everyone complained about the price. So as we finish out the last 2 processing times of the birds, we will stop raising them. We will raise enough for our family and that's all.
So what will we do with poultry??
Here's the plan. We will have way too much money invested in our breeding stock to give it up. We DO still love our birds. We will continue to maintain our breeding flocks of French Marans (Black copper, blue copper, silver birchen, and blue birchen), plus our American Bresse. We will sell day old poults, we will ship eggs. We will also continue to raise out a select number of pullets to sell at point of lay each year. We also will be keeping our Welsh Harlequin ducks and selling eggs and day old ducklings. We will be keeping the Royal Palm Turkeys and selling day old poults, will ship eggs, and we will raise a select few to adult hood. I do not think we will be keeping the Chocolate Turkeys.
So what are you going to do with your spare time?
Well it's already full. There is no spare time. We will be concentrating on new fencing, new pastures, better rotation, building a milking barn, building a calf/sheep barn, isolation areas, bull/ram shelters, running water lines, running electric to the barns, and so so much more. Calving season is upon us already and hopefully soon we will begin milking a few of these Randall girls so we can enjoy their wonderful milk.
We are planning to add pastured pork next year as well.
Your comments are welcome. We look forward to providing you with better products from our grassfed livestock in the very near future!
This topic is one that often isn't thought about much. Many people believe that care in the winter is easier than in the summer. It is actually quite the opposite. Poultry really require more hands on care in the cold weather than in the hot weather.
One of the most common mistakes in the winter is that flocks are often sealed up in tight buildings with no access to the outdoors. This is absolutely the worse thing you can do for the health of your flock. While it may make us humans feel better to see that our flocks are inside where it is warm and dry, it is very unhealthy for your birds. Birds produce ALOT of moisture and heat on their own. When there is no air movement inside your coop, all that moisture and heat builds up and creates condensation inside the coop which can be a death sentence for the birds living inside. The ammonia levels also build up inside closed coops. While we might not be able to smell it right away - the birds do, and they breathe in those toxic ammonia levels and it can damage their lungs.
Another common mistake is providing heat for your birds in the winter. Birds are actually very well insulated from the cold air by having feathers. They are able to fluff out their feathers and trap the warm air created from their body. This is sufficient enough to keep your birds warm. If you ever watch poultry at night in the winter - they fluff up, sit close together, and tuck their heads inside their feathers or under their wing to keep their head frost free during sleep. It really is unnecessary to heat your coop.
The biggest danger with heat lamps is the risk of fire. I have seen post after post on different forums where people have advocated heat lamps and say that they secure them in 4 different places so that there is no way that they can fall and catch bedding on fire. While their securing may in fact keep the actual lamp from falling - it does not prevent the bulb from falling out. What happens with these cheaply made heat lamps is that when run for extended periods - the heat produced while eventually cause the actual bulb glass to become disconnected from welds that secure it to the part that screws into the lamp. So then the hot bulb falls out and falls directly onto your nice and dry bedding and likely catches on fire. Chicken coops that are kept appropriately dry will catch fire and become engulfed and burn to the ground before you even know that anything is wrong. Any birds inside will be dead from smoke inhalation long before you see any smoke or flames.
The only time I will provide any type of heat for my poultry is when the daytime temperature does not exceed 10 degrees or if the wind is coming hard out of the north and it's consistently below 20 degrees during the day (This may not apply to you if you don't live on top of a ridge like we do). This doesn't happen too often in KY, but it doesn't happen. When I do provide heat, I take an extra large dog kennel suitable for airline use and hang a Sweeter Heater inside of it. I then cover the kennel with a blanket to help keep the heat in. Sweeter Heaters provide heat directly underneath them and have absolutely no risk of fire. If a bird has gotten too cold, or a comb starts to freeze - the bird can choose to go inside the kennel and warm up and get their blood circulating properly again. This doesn't heat the whole coop, only the area inside of the dog kennel.
The best advice I can give to keep your birds comfortable in their coop is to make sure that your coop is built good - is draft free, but well ventilated. I didn't build our coop - it was a building that was here when we purchased the property. It was originally built as a chicken coop though. The birds absolutely love this coop more than any coop I have ever had. I don't know why - it's an eyesore (even though it looks better since we painted it). It's mismatched in all the materials. But they still love it. Unfortunately the main large door faces the north. Most of the year, this works to our benefit and becomes a place a refuge from the sun in the summer. In the winter when a lot of the winds come straight out of the north - it creates a problem because those cold, harsh north winds go directly into the coop. Cold winds like that can be a death sentence for your poultry. They have to be able to get out of the wind. We solved this problem by cutting a large "pop" door on the south side of the coop. So when the north winds blow, we close the main door and open the south door. Everyone is happy and the coop is once again a draft free refuge. I should note for those that have been here and seen the coop in the backyard - you probably noticed the large window on the west side of the chicken coop. In the summer time - this is completely open. As winter approaches - we have a clear plastic type roofing material that we use to "close" this window. This allows the winter sun in the coop, but blocks all winds from coming inside.
Even today as we gather with our families on this Thanksgiving - there's 2 inches of snow on the ground and a chilly 19 degrees here. The north coop door is open halfway (about 4 feet - its a large door). The birds are free to come and go as they please. About half are outside and the rest are inside.
Water is another concern that is almost more important in the winter than in the summer (Almost!). In the winter when its consistently below freezing, I typically use rubber bowls (found in the livestock section at your farm store usually). I fill these with water about 2-3 times a day - this will vary depending on how many birds you have. Ours go through about 10 gallons a day in the winter because of the amount of birds we have. I don't usually use my plastic waterers because they will freeze and crack. The rubber bowls won't crack and if the water freezes in them you can just turn them over and step on them to get the ice to come out. Now - if the temps are really low and the rubber ones are freezing faster than the birds can drink (which does happen!) - I use heated dog bowls. I have 2 of them and when the temps are so cold that I'm using them - I typically have to go outside 5-6 times a day to make sure they are filled with water. They don't hold much in comparison to how many birds we have here. Now if you only have 20 birds - you probably would only need to fill one once a day. It's easy for me to do this because I'm here on the farm almost all the time in the winter. It's not practical for everyone and I know that.
I also keep their feed totally free choice during the cold weather. If there is snow on the ground, I usually have alfalfa hay for them to munch on and provide daily "treats" such as cabbage and other produce that they like to eat. Several times a week I will make a large (ok very large) - batch of oatmeal and mix in whatever I have an excess of in the freezer or pantry. I've done sweet corn, peas, blueberries, pasta - just to name a few. Sometimes I scramble some eggs and mix it in too.
That's all I have time for today. If I think of more - maybe I'll make a part 2. If you have questions - feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer or just make it part of part 2.
Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. Enjoy every minute with your family.
It seems that FINALLY the bad mojo has left the farm! Woohoo! This is truly a reason for excitement!!!
We are still waiting on 5 more Randall girls to calve this year. It's looking like the farm tour guests are going to get to see some brand spanking new calves when they come visit!
My Hiland Feed business is growing SO rapidly that it's been hard to keep up! Last month I sold more than 17,000 pounds of feed. This month I've ordered about 23,000 pounds of feed. That's incredible!! This is with no advertising! All world of mouth! It's absolutely phenomenal!!! So I'm sure you're asking why I don't advertise... well there's a simple reason for that. I didn't have a forklift. Every month I would hand upload pallets of feed off the semi when it came. Every month I felt like I would die. Last month when it was over 8 tons, I said enough is enough. Yesterday, my forklift was delivered. Yes it used. Very used. It's from like 1960. It needs some maintenance, but that's ok - I can deal with that. It works - and I don't have to lift 50 pound bags over and over and over again. I'm happy!Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the fact that in a little over a year and half that I have been able to build this business and farm to what it is already. Can you imagine where we will be in 5 years?!?!? Wow.
The farm tour is right around the corner. You really do need to plan to come out and tour these southern Kenton County Farms. You won't be disappointed! It'll be a great day for everyone young or old and even in between. I promise that will be a lot of animal interaction here at our farm!
We are still needing as much help as people can give here on the farm to get ready. We are really far behind and there is so much to do! Yes I'm begging for anyone to come help!
Dan Masters, owner of Hiland Naturals, will be here on the farm the day of the tour. This will be a great time to come and learn about Hiland and ask Dan himself about his feed.
I'm out of time - but wanted to share one more cool thing with you. It's not everyday that you get a helicopter to land in your fields. This happened to us last week. It was pretty cool since this helicopter had a really really big chainsaw hanging from it. It takes a lot of talent for a pilot to be able to land it! Here's a couple pictures for you to enjoy.
Summer has flown by! I can't believe that my girls are back in school already. On one hand, it's hard to let them go every August because I miss my every day help around the farm and their companionship and with the other hand I'm pushing them out the door to get out of my hair. It's a true love/hate relationship.
The Randall girls are busy having calves (we have 2 on the ground so far) and we are still waiting on another 5 to present theirs. We've been lucky so far and both calves that have born are both heifers. They are absolutely beautiful and I could spend hours watching them play every day.
September 21 is the Kenton County Fall Harvest Tour. If you have never been, you really should plan to make a day of it and visit some of the farms here in Kenton County. Most people have no idea how much agriculture is right in their own backyard. From cattle farmers, to dairy farmers, to goat farmers, horse stables, sustainable farms, excellent local wineries, and even a shrimp farm right here in Kenton County! 13 farms total will open their gates and allow the public in to see what we do. It promises to be a great day for the ENTIRE family. Rain or shine 9-5. You can read more about the tour here: http://kenton.ca.uky.edu/CommunityEconomicDevelopment
We are doing a ton of work here on the farm in preparation for the fall tour. We greatly need people who would like to help to come to the farm and help us get it ready. We have buildings to paint, weeds to pull, fences to fix, outside clean up to be done, repairs to be done, and more. Regardless of your skill level - I promise there is something for everyone. And yes even kids can pull weeds growing through the gravel. Most actually love it. We also need help the day of the tour. There will be TONS of people here visiting. We always need people to be here to make sure that our animals and our property stay safe and to keep the people safe and make sure they don't go where they aren't allowed to go. We will have informational booths set up, food booths, craft vendors, and if our luck holds - Dan himself from Hiland Naturals will be here to talk to people about feed. This will be a great opportunity for you to meet Dan if you have never met him. If you know of anyone locally who would be interested in setting up a booth to sell their handmade items here, please let me know. There will be no charge, however they do have to provide their own tables and a tent if they want it (sorry - we won't be hosting anyone that is a distributor for products like cosmetics, purses, etc. - it must be handmade products.) Contact me at email@example.com if you are interested.
Our Hiland Feed business is growing so fast that it is a little hard to keep up. I have someone that has graciously offered to help. In the next several weeks, I will be getting her set up to handle a lot of the daily emails in regards to feed. I will also be setting up monthly newletters packed with information, updates on Non-GMO issues, studies, and more. Soon I will be designing a new pricing list that hopefully will be easy to follow and find out how you can get your Hiland feed cheaper. I am also in the process of building an online store for ordering purposes. I am hopeful that once this is up and running that it will streamline the ordering process and make it much more efficient. It's getting fairly difficult to keep up with 100+ orders every month by email alone. Join us as we continue to grow!
We are also thinking about hosting school field trips here to the farm. If you are a teacher, contact me so that we can talk about what you would like to see offered for your kids here on the farm. We want to be able to offer opportunities here that other farms can't or won't do.
I think that's it for now. I've got fences to fix so I guess I better get busy working.
It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that we will not be raising any more pasture raised heritage chicken for you to eat this year. I've worked 6 months this year to raise some of the best tasting poultry you will ever eat. Hours and hours of care have gone into these birds to make sure they are raised as naturally as possible and fed non-GMO grains without any chemicals or antibiotics to contaminate you and your family.
Two weeks ago, I took the first batch of birds to be processed. These birds were all spoken and paid for before I even left for the processor. The birds were dropped off without any problems. The following day when I returned to pick up the processed birds, I was informed by the processing facility that they will no longer be processing any heritage or dual purpose breeds. They will only process birds under the age of 11 weeks. This makes it impossible for me to have birds processed at the nearest USDA poultry processor in the state of KY. I will not raise cornish-cross chickens. I also really don't want to raise Freedom Rangers. I really want to stay with the heritage breed birds as they have the most flavor.
The next closest facility in KY to process poultry USDA is in Paducah. I do not have the time to drive that far and make an 18 hour day once a month to get birds processed. This alone would drive up the cost of the birds and that's not fair to you as the consumer.
We have other options, but there is no way that they will or can be implemented this year. We really don't have the desire to do on-farm processing nor do we have the facilities or equipment to do so. In the long run, it may be our only option if we want to continue to raise heritage poultry to eat. If we were able to purchase the equipment and get an area set up, then the issue is the labor. We can't process the amount of birds that we would need to process on our own. We would need help. Anyone that would be interested in helping process in exchange for meat, please let us know as it will help guide us to our final decision on what to do.
Having to make this decision has made me furious. All we want to do is raise livestock and poultry in a sustainable, healthy way for our family and yours. The processing facility that we have used for 2 years since they opened preaches that they are for the family farmer. The following is directly from their website: "locally owned, Butchers Shop, Farm Market,and Processing Facility.We partner with local farmers who share our commitment to sustainable, humane, and natural production methods." They say this - but they won't process anything but Cornish-cross which AWA won't approve as humane because the birds grow so fast that it is detrimental to their health (and I agree with AWA - the birds are gross to even look at alive). Cornish-cross are NOT sustainable. You can't have a breeding flock of cornish-cross and breed your own birds.
This is taking a turn that I probably shouldn't get into today. It makes my blood pressure go up.
Anyway - we have a large amount of birds for sale at the moment. The more you buy, the better the price (and they are going at bottom dollar to begin with). I don't need to be feeding birds that I don't have an outlet for. If you want to purchase birds and finish raising them out, there is a local place that will process them for you. They are not USDA certified - so I can't take birds there to be processed and then sell the processed birds to you
Rising Phoenix Farm
14093 Madison Pike
Morning View, KY 41063