By the end of 2016 it became clear that chickens have the best potential of all activities so far. So 2017 became a year of the chicken!
Training the chicken- guard dog, Ava.
“Recycling” after – cage chickens. Some of them died soon, but many survived and laid eggs from June to December
Ava guards chickens, march 2017
After loses of 2015- 2016. I decided to build chicken tractors, as a protection. They showed their efficiency and versatility later.
There were many incubation attempts. Though the hatching rate was 20 – 30%, I learned a lot: dry incubation, better incubator insulation, better temperature control.
Many chicks hatched in 2017, but the best survivors were the first ones. Rabbits escaped later from a chicken tractor and disappeared.
Many chicks were lost during the flood of May 2017.
An attempt to interplant garlic with potatoes didn’t yield much potatoes. Mostly because of luck of care.
Chicken tractors appeared to be very convenient to keep chicks with a broody hen.
Chicken tractors performed really well in open field.
While chickens were doing well, worms got a problem – moles. I caught 8 of them with bare hands during the season.
Another use of a chicken tractor and extra roosters. Roosters are good baby-sitters for chicks of 6 week and older. They teach to forage, heat chicks and sometimes are capable to protect from small predators like rats and mink.
My most important discovery of the year was the “golden hen”.
Hens live up to 8 – 9 years, but lay eggs only 3 – 4 years, why? My assumption is that like human grandmothers old hens can adopt ANY orphaned chicks! The only problem is how to convince the old lady… Here is a solution: chicks should be left in the chicken tractor under their heater plate. There should be no perches or other high places unaccessible for chicks inside the tractor. The hen lives in the same tractor and she sleeps in a place accessible for chicks. At night chicks “migrate” on their own under the hen’s wings. When all chicks sleep under wings and the hen starts to call them for food, heater plate can be removed! That’s it. Now this hen will accept any chicks straight from the incubator for the rest of her precious life. She saves electricity, space, and so needed farmer’s time. She worth gold by her weight (if the dead metal can be compared to a living creature). Chicks survival rate is almost 100%. The chicken tractor can be moved to an orchard or a lawn – no electricity needed! Picky, the hen on the picture, raised 45 chicks in one summer and died from a sickness in November…
Here is Picky with her 3rd brood of the summer.
One more use of a chicken tractor – a chick attraction for urban kids. It’s easy to pack the chicks, load the tractor into a car and drive to a local market or fare.
In October Philip came with an idea of getting goats and sheep.
Philip built a temporary bioshelter that, in spite of some technical problems, performed very well during the very cold winter of 2017-2018.
First goats arrived. They were not in a best shape plus luck of our experience – we lost two of them by the end of November.
Sheep arrived at the beginning of November
Thanks to Philip’s help we improved the little pond at last!
By the end of November all chickens were moved to chicken coops joined together under a car shelter.
The chicken coops didn’t perform well in the harsh winter. They need better insulation and a better chicken run shelter. We lost many chickens. Also we moved ducks into the same shelters, that might carried some deceases. Ducks themselves survived winter very well.
In December we got two alpine goats to compensate loses
With some experience we started to walk with goats and sheep, training Ava as a shepherd dog.