Thursday, April 24, 2014

Homestead Animal Overload

The meat birds
I think I got a little overzealous. Back in the dead of winter Big Sister and I decided it would be a good idea to pre-order 8 ducklings and 2 goslings. Then I pre-ordered 15 meat chickens and 2 layers. The hatcheries threw in a couple of extra birds. Now I'm crazy busy caring for animals and I think I've overextended myself a bit. Here is the current tally of animals on our homestead:

16 meat chickens (to be butchered Mother's Day weekend)
2 pullets (soon to be moved in with laying flock)
1 rooster
13 laying hens (3 of whom are not laying)
1 Muscovy (duck) drake
9 ducklings
2 goslings
2 goats
2 cats
1 dog
3 children
2 adults

The meat birds in their chicken tractor. I move it to fresh grass every other day.

Whew. That's a lot of birds. I gave away three laying hens plus a ridiculous Silkie chicken of unknown sex to my neighbors this week. The coop was at capacity and I needed space to add the two pullets, which are currently being raised with the meat birds since they are the same age and still require chick starter feed. It was a great exchange. My neighbors came down the street with a little red wagon and a giant cardboard box. We loaded up the chickens and they gave me jars of homemade salsa, spice rub, and a full propane tank.

The ducklings and goslings in their "duck tractor". They get fresh grass every day.

The duck tractor right after I had moved it over to fresh grass. The bare spot to the right is where the tractor was located yesterday.

Have I mentioned I *love* to barter? I had an excess of chickens but really needed a propane tank for the gas grill somebody just handed down to us. A new tank costs about $45 so I was thrilled to not have to pay for one. (In case you haven't noticed yet, I hate to pay for anything. I'm not a cheapskate. I'm a conserver!) Speaking of savings, the gas grill costs $200+ new and we got it as a hand-me-down from a coworker who just bought a newer, fancier model. It even has a canvas cover, which will save it from the elements. I've been waiting for a gas grill to show up in my life for a year or two and it finally made it's appearance. I knew that it would if I could just be patient!

The main chicken run, which holds all the layers.

These banty sisters REALLY want to raise some chicks. They are so broody and sit on everybody else's eggs. They peck me mercilessly when I steal their eggs every day. They make excellent chicken mamas.

Because it is springtime and it actually rains here a little in spring, everything is very green. The weeds are growing like crazy. The Queen Anne's lace grows like crazy out back and, despite it's beautiful flowers, it makes a sticky seed burr that is a real nuisance. Therefore, I need to get rid of a lot of it before it goes to seed, otherwise I will have a very fluffy dog FULL of burrs! I used some old, rusty fence panels to enclose a small area of thorny vines, oak seedlings, 4-foot tall dandelions, and Queen Anne's lace. Then I threw the goats in there for an hour to work their magic. They were in hog heaven.

Brushy goat heaven

Goats are very good at leaning their way out of fences.

I just love to watch plants disappear into their mouths. It's very fast and comical. Their teeth are like a tiny typewriter.

I'm also moving the duck tractor through the Queen Anne's lace, eliminating a new patch every day.

I'm thrilled to no longer have baby poultry in the house. It is just so much work to have them indoors on shavings. I'm really looking forward to butchering day, too, as that will eliminate 16 birds from the feed roster. They go through a 50 lb sack of feed every week right now. Whew. As you can see, I bit off a bit much this year, but I think we're going to make it through.


  1. Oh, and you'll be so happy when they're all in your freezer (the meat birds, obviously, not all of your beings)!

  2. I felt like that when I brought home 4 chickens and 2 turkeys from the auction last year. I had this mild little panic that I wouldn't be able to handle it. But I did. And you are. And how deeelicious those chickens will be come butchering time!

  3. Wow! So impressed. You'll get through. How are you managing the processing of the meat birds? We are planning to get some female chicks later this month, or early next, and I'm trying to get geared up for the eventual reality that they will stop laying. I would like to say we'll use them for meat, but I'm honestly not sure. I think the method of slaughter would make a difference.


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