Category Archives: Backyard Chickens

Fodder from soup to nuts, or maybe seed to feed?

I know I have posted about fodder before, in this post in November I really thought I had it all figured out. WRONG, just like anything else in agriculture I am coming to believe that no-one ever has it all figured out. This Facebook Group has really educated me about how woefully uninformed I am. Todays post is going to outline day 1 of my fodder process, please feel free to share your differences or similarities.

Soak Bucket

Soak Bucket

I switched to 80 oz. Painters buckets from lowes or home depot, they are cheap and just the right size for soaking. The larger buckets I was using didn’t seem to give me as consistent germination rate, my theory is that with the seeds being spread out more some areas would dry out more than others. Who knows?

Red Wheat

Red Wheat

Today’s batch is Red Wheat with a bit of safflower mixed in. Why safflower? My Sweety, Karen, had given my a bag of sprout mix intended for parrots and it was mostly Safflower and had gotten dumped in my bucket before I moved to my current process. Now rather than just one big bucket of sprouting seeds I keep two; the first is primarily Red Wheat with a diminishing amount of safflower, the second is 100% barley. Right now the barley is producing the prettiest fodder but I still rotate, one day barley the second wheat. Why?  Variety I guess, I don’t have any real reason other than it feels like the right way.

1.7o Ounces of wheat seed

1.7o Ounces of wheat seed

A recent change I have made is reducing the amount of seed per batch from 4.5 cups to 3 cups. The wheat was fermenting a bit and I decided to see if reducing the depth of the seed bed in the trays would help, I’ll let you know if it does. Today Karen brought her kitchen scale home so that I can track what my seed to fodder conversion is, I keep reading of 1-6 and 1-7 ratios but don’t know.

Soaking the seed

Soaking the seed

Seed Draining

Seed Draining

The seed gets soaked for about 6 hours, I tried longer soaks but definitely saw an increase in funk with the 24-36 hour soak times. During the soak period I lift and plunge the buckets several times thinking that the agitation will help thoroughly wet the seed and help keep down the funk via aeration. After soaking the seed stays in the buckets being wet down daily for two days at which time they get dumped into the trays. I will outline that process in my next post.

Soaking/Laundry Sink

Soaking/Laundry Sink

P.S. This sink that my Sweety got me was one of the best improvements in the process so far! Outside the critters were always getting into my stuff, and in the kitchen Karen was always in my stuff. Now that the whole operation is confined to the Laundry room things are much smoother and controllable.

 

 

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Fodder 2.0

 

Last year I first gave Foddering a try. The concept is very appealing, turning 1 lb of nutritious seed into 5-6 lbs of more digestible highly nutritious fodder by just adding two ingredients, water & time. The system became more and more refined during the winter until I thought I had a fairly efficient system as outlined in my Chicken Fodder post this past January. Over on BYC the thread “Growing Fodder for Chickens” is what got me started on Fodder and the thread is full of fantastic information, but beware it has just reached 2500 posts and is still join strong!

How I began this year

How I began this year

This years Fodder season started up about a month ago when temps finally fell below 80 degrees. Last years setup was working OK but the warm temps and winds dried things out too quick and cut into productivity.

After some thought and a bit of fiddling around I came up with this indoor rack along with slightly modifying my process.

Seed

Seed

The first ingredient is the seed. Last year I tried several different kinds and have settled on Red Wheat as the primary ingredient and soak mix My Sweety Karen gets me that is mostly safflower. Barley and Oats caused way too many issues with mold last year.

Seed

2 Cups

 

Fodder Bucket

Bucket

2 Cups of seed go into a pail with water and a splash of bleach to soak for 24 hours.

Fodder

Holy Pail

 

Two Buckets

Two Buckets

 

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

After soaking for 24 hours the seed goes into one of 2 perforated buckets that act as colanders allowing the seed to drain. While in the pails the seed gets rinsed as often as I remember to daily.

The new improved indoor rack

The new improved indoor rack

After spending 2 days in the colander buckets the sprouting seed gets spread out in the bottom of one of 8 perforated prep trays to be rinsed once a day. The newest tray goes into the bottom of the rack and works its way up to the top as the oldest of 6 trays get used. 2 trays are always empty, I have found that rinsing the used tray out then letting it sit in the sunshine for a couple days has helped cut down on slime/mold issues.

Fodder02

 

 

Fodder06Fodder04

 

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

Fodder07

Fodder03

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Narrow Crotches and Slime

My Mulberries are trying to be bushes when they are supposed to be trees, so this week I performed corrective surgery and amputated the extra trunk on each of my two largest trees.Mulberry #1 Mulberry Tree #1

Two different views of the first Mulberry Tree I planted in my orchard last spring. In the lower picture you can clearly see where I cut out the second leader.

Mulberry #2 Mulberry Tree #2

This Mulberry was planted mid-summer of 2012 and has done very well, again in the lower picture you can see where the second leader was removed. All 4 of the Mulberry trees I have are Pakistani Mulberries. I probably harvested 4 quarts of long, dark, very sweet fruit from the trees pictured above. There is still fruit on all 4 of my trees that look like they should be ripening over the next couple of weeks. We are really looking forward to next years production seeing as how even after cutting half of the tree off they are still over double the size they were last fall.

Butter Lettuce Bok Choy

Fodder production has been highly variable lately due to low germination rates and slime. I think the heat is finally interfering with my setup (we officially hit 100 F for the first time this year monday) and I am pretty sure my sweety Karen wouldn’t tolerate my dripping trays inside the house so it’s back to alternative foraging from my favorite oriental restaurant. The manager is super cool and even personally delivered this batch of greens for my gals. Fermenting though is really cooking in this heat, cranking out a good sour-smelling mash in 2 days easy. The flock is swelling again and I really do need to cull but aint quite ready yet…. I’ll get there though. Maybe when it officially hits 110 f for the first time this year?  Nahhhh probably not.

 

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Fruits of my Labor

Today was a big day, I harvested and consumed the very first fruit ever from my orchard!

Mulberries fresh from the tree!

Mulberries fresh from the tree!

We had a big wind storm last night and this morning I found several ripe mulberries on the ground around my trees. This weekend I had noticed one or two were starting to turn colors but not on the tree I found these under. All total I found a good handful under the 2 trees outside the chicken run. They were very sweet but lacked any sense of tartness. Not exactly what I was expecting but very good for my first mulberries ever.

These were hidden in my #1 raised bed.

These were hidden in my #1 raised bed.

Sunday I had chopped and dropped all the cover crop/weeds in my #1 half-assed hugel bed, under all that muck I discovered 3 strawberry plants doing well with ripe fruit on them. The strawberries were a bit tart but balanced out well with the sweet mulberries.

I think we are up to a dozen now!

I think we are up to a dozen now!

Silkie Chickens

Momma sure makes it hard to get an accurate count.

While they aren’t technically “fruits” and I didn’t experience “labor” in their creation these little puff balls are definitely another milestone for my little endeavor. They are the first chicks produced by my girls without any outside assistance. I love my fluffy butts that are hatched out in my incubator but there is just something magical about these little puff balls.

 

 

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Woo-Hoo!!! My Silkies are Broody and My Sweety ain’t!

Nobody likes to brood on things and it sure ain’t pleasant when someone you love gets that way but when it’s your Silkie Hens that are broody it’s GREAT!!

This was a couple weeks ago. They had been laying in the container I put in as windbreak rather than the nest box.

This was a couple of weeks ago. They had been laying in the container I put in as wind break rather than the nest box. You can just see the second hens face peeking out behind the other girl.

This Mornings discovery!
This Mornings discovery!

Broody02 Broody08 Broody07 Broody06 Broody05 Broody04 Broody09 Broody10 Broody Hens

This is my buddy Mark, he is always broody.

This is my buddy Mark, he is always broody.

As of this evening 4 chicks had hatched out, all of them have 5 toes and black skin so they are probably from the pure silkie and not from the mixed hen with the red comb. This is my first batch that have hatched out under a broody hen and it is taking all of my willpower not to scoop them up and put them in the brooder.

 

Karen was worried that Gooey wasn't eating enough Hay........

Karen was worried that Gooey wasn’t eating enough Hay……..

 

Easy fix,just put the hay on the other side of the fence!

Easy fix,just put the hay on the other side of the fence!

 

 

 

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Indigenous Organisms in my Chicken Feed

My chickens get a fairly diverse diet. Is that because I’m all into optimum chicken health? or is it that I’m obsessed with maximizing egg production? The answer to both of the above questions is an absolute resounding definite kinda maybe. Yes I care about my chickens health and yes I get bummed on slow egg days but neither of those issues independently drive my choices in feed. I find that as I get older I am becoming more concerned about sustainability. The most fascinating thing I have discovered about sustainability is that it meshes nicely with my deeply ingrained cheapness. The best lesson my Grandpa taught me was it is better to buy a good thing once rather than replace crap constantly. For some reason that lesson transmorphed in my head into a system that classifies things as either things that are “worth it” or “luxury” items that aren’t. Refined processed expensive Lay pellets have found their way into that “luxury” slot in my noggin.

Scratch and Grain Feed fermenting in IMO

Scratch and Grain Feed fermenting in IMO

Scratch and 8% feed grain mix fermenting in Lacto from Braggs vinegar

Scratch and 8% feed grain mix fermenting in Lacto from Braggs vinegar

About 50% of my flocks diet is coming from fermented feed. I have a 35 gallon Rubbermaid garbage can with a tight-fitting lid that gets filled up with whatever falls into my “worth it” slot while wandering the feed store. Currently there is Scratch, a little sweet feed, some 8% Grain Feed mix, and a little whole grain pigeon feed in the can. Sometimes my Sweety, Karen, gives me a bag of parrot food of one kind or another. It doesn’t really matter it just all gets dumped in. My fermenters are two sets of two 5 gallon buckets nested inside of each other. The inner buckets have a butt load of 1/8″ holes drilled all over the sides and bottoms to turn them into large colanders. Each bucket gets loaded with 5 scoops of the custom designed mix in my Rubbermaid garbage can, the scoop I use is that nifty one from Starbucks that I told you al about in my post Starbucks Rewards and the Outriders of the Alien InvasionThe hooch in the buckets never gets dumped out it just gets replenished with dechlorinated water when necessary. The orange bucket was originally inoculated with my homemade IMO and Lacto-Baccillus culture, while the blue bucket was inoculated with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar which has the “mother” or active Lacto-Bacillus cultures. You can definitely tell that there is difference in the micro-organisms working on the feed in these buckets. The Braggs one has a very strong sourdough smell while the IMO one has a bit of an earthy sweet hint to the strong sour smell. Neither one has an off, bad, or funky smell though. According to my very basic understanding of fermented feed the idea is basically to predigest the feed to make the nutrients more bio-available to your chickens. The blog Scratch Cradle some very informative posts on the science of this process. I have tried fermenting other stuff but always find myself drifting back to whole grains, why? I don’t really know other than that mash and pellets get really gooey. In the winter I do add cooked rice I get from a local Asian restaurant but once it warms up it seems to jump-start the brew a bit much.

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What’s up wit dat?

Spring has sprung and my incubator is cranking, 20 of the first 24 I set hatched. I did lose one after the hatch, no clue about why, so there are 19 little fluffy butts eatin, drinkin, poopin, and growin in my new-found brooder.

What a mess of chicks

What a mess of chicks

Lexi waiting for her new favorite chicken to hatch

Lexi waiting for her new favorite chicken to hatch

Lexi swears that this little guy looked right at her when he popped out of the egg and said "momma"

Lexi swears that this little guy looked right at her when he popped out of the egg and said “momma”

The new brooder is working out great!

The new brooder is working out great!

So far my list of barnyard critters is limited to chickens and ducks, I have wanted to branch out into bees but my sweety Karen is adamant that ain’t gonna happen. It always gets pointed out how many chickens I have, in fact just last week I got asked “what in the world are you gonna do with all of those baby chickens?” See if you can spot the irony in the situation when you look at the following pictures taken at the time that silly question was being asked.

Tuey's new baby "Gooey"

Tuey’s new baby “Gooey”

Gooey and her bottle

Gooey and her bottle

Gooey and Annabelle

Gooey and Annabelle

Karen says that Gooey is the foundation of her new venture into making goat cheese and goat soap. Gooey is now two weeks old, walks on a leash, lives in a kennel in the living room, drinks her milk from a 2 liter pepsi bottle with a nipple on it, runs to karen when she hears her voice, head butts the fridge to tell you it’s time for her bottle, and goes for car rides “just for fun”. Yeah goats are so much more practical than bees.

Gooey a week ago

Gooey a week ago

Gooey Yesterday

Gooey Yesterday

Isn’t it amazing how much Gooey has grown in just one week? She drinks about a third of that 2 liter bottle three times a day along with eating hay and weeds in the front yard. Lest you think “Tuey” just went off half cocked on this goat thing she did do a pretty good job of researching and choosing the proper breed of goat. Gooey is a Nigerian Dwarf Goat, she should only get about 20″ tall and weigh somewhere around 75 pounds when fully grown. From what I have read the “dwarf” part of their name is just a label that has been hung on them because they are small. They weren’t bred specifically for size but just turned out that way as a result of breeding for good milk production in a harsh environment. Nigerian Goats are one of the best goats for feed to milk conversion and have sweet milk that is very high in butter fat. Obviously Tuey weighed these factors and made a rational decision rather than falling in love with a “cute little goat” at a feed store in Escondido. Tuey would never track down a breeder of “cute little goats” and convince them that she was an expert at bottle feeding animals and could be trusted with a week old baby. Additionally Tuey would never pester a breeder of “cute little goats” so much that he made he regular phone calls to update her on the status of her becoming a “goat momma”. Yeeeeeaaaah Tuey would never do something like that…..would she? Of course she did! Thats what Tuey does, and in truth one of the things I love so much about her. So you would think with my indulgence of Karens fascination with Nigerian Goats and African Grey Parrots (last count was 10) a few little bees wouldn’t be such a big deal.

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2013’s First Chicks

3 weeks ago I set 6 eggs in the incubator, they r second row up from the bottom in the picture below.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

They started hatching last night and as of now I have 5 cute little fluffy-butts.

Newbs

Newbs

The 5 newest members of The Fruity Chicken flock

The 5 newest members of The Fruity Chicken flock

One egg still hasn’t pipped but I’ll give it a couple more days just to be sure. So far it appears that I have two Golden Cuckoo Marans (the light colored ones) one Black Copper Marans (on the left in the upper picture) one F1 Olive Egger (came out of the one green egg) and a mutt (BCM daddy and Red Sex Link momma).

These next 6 are due Friday

These next 6 are due Friday

Pictured above are the next batch of eggs that went in the hatcher tonite and should Friday. From left to right is a Golden Cuckoo Marans, then Two Easter Egger X BCM crosses (should yield F1 Olive Eggers). Bottom row is Olive Egger X BCM( should yield F2 Olive Egger) on either end with another EE x BCM in the middle.

That leaves the outer two rows in the incubator that go into the hatcher on Sunday. Maybe next week my sweety Karen will make a run to Utah to pick up those Cream Legbars and Basque hatching eggs she’s been promising me.

Check out the latest Critter to be caught in the act of egg thievery!

Check out the latest Critter to be caught in the act of egg thievery!

 

It's Lexi!

It’s Lexi!

 

 

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Look what I found!

Digging around in the barn for something I decided to see what was in the loft and lo & behold look what I found!

What is this thingy?

What is this thingy?

It's a brooder!

It’s a brooder!

And it works!!

And it works!!

I had been using my Sweety, Karen’s, bird hospital cubicles as both hatcher and brooder. This practice had led me to rush my chicks into the juvenile pen after 2 or 3 weeks in order to avoid complaints about the odor. Now I can set up this brooder in the office of the new house for this season and then find it a permanent location when we move up the hill. I do need to figure out exactly how to set it up properly, temperature I get but this has a curtain that I ain’t quite sure what purpose it serves.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

This find couldn’t have come at a better time. The half dozen eggs in the second row up from the bottom go into lockdown this friday, the next half dozen just above go into lockdown 3 days later, and finally the outer two rows go in a 4 days later. Hopefully within the next 2 weeks I’ll have a brooder full of fluffy butts and an empty incubator ready for the Cream Legbar’s and Basque hatching eggs Karen is teasing me with AGAIN.

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Ghost Goose

I was gone for the weekend and came home last night to find what appears to be a Black Copper Marans Goose egg in one of the boxes! The problem with that idea is two-fold; First, to my knowledge there is no such thing as a BCM Goose; Second, I don’t have ANY geese only chickens and ducks.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

 

What the heck did this come outta?

What the heck did this come outta?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

 

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