Gone are the bright green grasses of springtime. Like a slow-moving river, July has quietly slipped by us and now we find ourselves one third of the way into August. The pastures are beginning to brown in the heat of this hottest month of summer. There is a stillness in the air, a quietness that lays across the farm like a heavy blanket. Chickens crouch in the shade beneath the lone white pine growing in their pen. No scratching, no clucking, no dust baths. It’s too hot. Cows congregate on the shady banks of the creek, some standing in the water, some even laying in the water. There will be time for grazing in the evening hours when it’s much cooler. There are no songbirds, no crows, no chattering squirrels. Even the insects are silent on this hot August afternoon. Although the heat and humidity are oppressive, there is a feeling of peace that comes along with the stillness. There is also a feeling of anticipation in the air because autumn is just a few short weeks away.
Our egg operations continue to evolve. We have a permanent coop now, one with a concrete floor and an automatic door. We are making the switch to Gold Comets too. We bought 30 started pullets in the spring and placed blue colored bands on their legs. We will buy 30 more in the fall and put red colored bands on their legs. This winter, we will sell all the hens that are not wearing a leg band and when spring rolls around again we will buy 30 more and place yellow bands on their legs. When summer hits, the hens with the blue bands will be sold and then we will be set up with a rotational system where we purchase hens in the spring and fall and sell hens in the winter and summer. The hens will be around 18 months old when they are sold, so they will have at least 6 more months of prime egg laying before they start tapering off. This will allow us to sell them at $10 per hen which is what we pay for the started pullets. This system will allow us to purchase fresh hens twice a year with no out-of-pocket money. From spring to summer, we will have 90 hens. From summer to fall, we will have 60 hens. From fall to winter, we will have 90 hens. From winter to spring we will have 60 hens. The started pullets are around 20 weeks old when we buy them, and they start laying around 22 weeks. Also, when they first start laying, their eggs are small, so this overlap (when we have 90 hens) will ensure that our production does not fall off while the young pullets are maturing. Other things to wrap up before autumn arrives:
- Install lights in the coop to provide a couple extra hours of “daylight” so that egg production will continue throughout winter months.
- Install roll-out nesting boxes to keep eggs cleaner and reduce time spent washing eggs. Also prevents hens from pecking eggs and eating them.
- Install security camera and siren so that I can monitor the hens from my office and from my iPhone. Whenever I see a predator (hawk, possum, coyote, fox, etc.) I can activate the siren and frighten them off.
- Install a new watering system that utilizes a 55-gallon drum connected to a movable set of nipples. Will also need a warming system to prevent freeze-ups in the winter.
- Install a range feeder that I can close at night when the chickens are roosting.
- Put in a sidewalk from the parking area of our driveway to the coop. I want to be able to collect eggs in my bedroom slippers by not having to leave a paved area while doing so.
My goal is to reduce the amount of time that I spend taking care of these chickens to a bare minimum. Once we get our farm store up and running, I will probably stop wholesaling eggs altogether and just sell them at retail prices here on the farm.
When I finish everything on my list and have things running as I envision it, I may do a YouTube video so that customers can see the farm, see the chickens, and see the operations from start to finish (feeding, watering, collecting eggs, washing eggs, packaging eggs, and delivering eggs).
Anyhow, I did not want to let August pass by without a post and I’ll end this post with a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson…
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” ~ Morgan Freeman