Nick Truscott

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since Sep 14, 2013
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chicken dog duck cooking pig wood heat
We are two 50+'s working towards a greater measure of independence and self-sufficiency in North Central Bulgaria on about 8,000 square meters (about 2 acres) - and learning as we go with growing and raising livestock as naturally as we can.
We've been here full time since Summer 2015, starting with pigs and growing with them, trialed some goats (too smelly, badly behaved and too much work), have a small flock of Geese, Indian Runner ducks and Light Sussex chickens. We raise/keep our livestock with no chemicals at all - not true, we used antibiotics for a lactating sow with mastitis - but nothing apart from that.
We breed our poultry and livestock and sell the offspring (as young stock) mainly within our village, and of course slaughter and butcher what we need for our own family consumption.
We have a small orchard that we hope one day to evolve into a food forest, and we have planted a copse that we hope will develop for nuts, fodder/forage and canopy cover for our flock and pigs one day.
We are not "purist" permies but are trying to work wherever we can naturally... in line with what nature does, not against it.
We are confident that we will continue to learn and enjoy many contributions in the forums and hope we can share some of our successes and challenges for others to learn from.
Alekovo near Svishtov, Bulgaria
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Recent posts by Nick Truscott

I'm envious of the success of the original poster in generating the magic pooh.... but in our case, our free range birds don't spend enough time in the coop to do the work to this particular standard!  Our chooks come in at dusk, get up on the roost and don't come down until sunrise.  We don't have feed or water in the coop unless there are new hatchlings, not even when hens are setting 'cos they consistently come out to feed and drink during the day.

We use woodshavings on the floor and straw in nesting boxes / stuffed tyres for all our bird accommodations (geese, ducks, chickens).  I rake/toss the floor covering every few days, sweeten it with additional woodshavings and a few scoops of DE when necessary and for the past 3 years have only changed the bedding every 3-4 months, when it has built up into a good thick layer - so we do get excellent composting material which either goes onto the compost pile or directly onto fallow/over-wintering growing areas.

As an anecdote, we found by accident (when they escaped under their fence) that letting piglets root up the deep litter in the bird houses was absolutely the best way to loosen it up before cleaning!
2 weeks ago
We usually harvest as we eat.... our earlies in June/July (planted in Feb/Mar) and main crop from late August.  Last winter was mild here, with only a few weeks of deep snow and lows of -15C with a few exceptional nights of -20C.... we harvested main crop tatoes from the ground through this February.  We plant our main crop spuds in straw-lined trenches, a few inches of home-made compost on top and then mulched with 12-18 inches of old straw animal bedding or spoiled straw that would have been used for cattle bedding.

The past 3 years we have regularly had volunteer potato plants emerge very very early in the year, and providing they are not in a disruptive place we let them grow to productionsize.
3 weeks ago

Danella Barnes wrote:I’ve got two Toulouse Geese. One has gone absolutely broody while the second has become broody in the past week. I have NO gander. They’ve lost weight sitting on infertile eggs. What should I do? I found both of these geese walking down the road a few minutes this ago. They weren’t claimed and I know next to nothing about geese. I do enjoy them but want to care for them appropriately. Advice is needed please!

Remember these critters are not as "sensate" as some of us might like, they are not "decision makers"..... we have come to our own conclusion that birds decide to sit when THEY decide they have laid enough eggs (some times on 4 eggs, sometimes on 23 eggs!!) - and that likely has nothing at all to do with whether or not their is a male or whether the eggs are fertile. Although no expert, I'd let the birds sit for 4-5 weeks, then remove the eggs and then see how the goose behaves.  

As to feeding....the only birds we've had that never bothered to look after itself with food and water was a female turkey who actually died sitting on 19 eggs.  I would keep putting food and water out as normal, but throw some succulent treats down within the gooses' reach (tomatoes, fruit, cucumber, lettuce) so they can nibble while sitting.
3 weeks ago
Let them dry, gently brush off any remaining earth, store in a DRY place, and plant them out where you want a lovely new flourish to erupt in Spring 2020 - best of luck!!
3 weeks ago
Although here in Bulgaria there is a huge and healthy hawk population, where we live the main threat to our poultry are foxes and byalkas (a ferret like critter with a penchant for ripping the heads off of any birds it can, leaving the bodies and stealing eggs - bloody destructive!).

Our growing flock of chooks, Indian Runners and geese free-range from sunrise (or as close to sunrise as I manage to get up) and whenever the ambient light makes the chickens take themselves to bed.  Many locals (there are only 500 families in our little village) keep dogs on chains close to their poultry - having said that most locals keep their chickens in cages although ducks and geese often free range around the roads and on common land.  We have 4 dogs but they are not trained or trusted to interact with the poultry, but most nights after the birds are locked up the dogs free run or patrol during the evening and night around our barnyard and poultry "pasture" and pig paddocks to mark the property boundary. My son and I also regularly take a "pee" around the edges of our property - well they say that human urine can be a deterrent to foxes.

We also have lots of trees around the edges of our pig paddocks and in the barnyard and our chooks often roost in the lower branches especially in very hot weather which surprised me.  The ducks and geese are very adept at hiding in the overgrown "weed" edges to our yard and we usually have at least two pig paddocks that have been sown with random seed, which they (a) graze on and (b) can hide in/under.

Our geese are very protective of the whole poultry flock and give the best alarm - our gander "Brian" has taken on a dog fox, who dropped the hen he had caught and was carrying away - the hen survived!!

The other critter we originally thought would be a threat, especially to chicks/ducklings/goslings were feral cats... until our boar and breeding sows were seen catching, killing and eating feral cats who chose to walk through their areas.... we do have a tom and 2 she cats (feral) who live in our hayloft, but they only seem to live there when breeding and we haven't seen them go into the poultry accommodation.  Rats were a real threat in the early days of us raising poultry offspring, but the cats living in our hayloft have pretty much eradicated them from our feedroom and poultry areas.... we also have a parliament of owls about 150m from our barnyard and they regularly come after moles, mice, rats - the rats regularly took eggs in our early days.

Although we did once lose 9 birds in one night to a byalka, we have been very very lucky (and we know it!).
1 month ago

R. Steele wrote:... it's best to work with nature, rather then fight against it, and in working with nature,, find a way that nature can be a benefit.

Could not agree more - we are definitely not experts never having had anything other than domestic pets until 4 years ago.... but observing critters to see what they do "naturally" has been fascinating, humbling and incredibly beneficial to us as we learn about how we can raise high quality produce for our family and enjoy the experience AND not cost us an arm and a leg!!

R. Steele wrote:... I'm sure someone my have tips on discouraging a broody goose, but rather then put the animal under more emotional distress, I say let her raise her offspring.

Absolutely agree :-)
1 month ago
The last pig we had slaughtered (December 2018) was a 3+ year old breeding sow, 354kg. From drop to hanging the 4 quarters in my garage was 90 minutes including skinning and giving the stomach and intestines a first wash-out.  However, the processing which we started 5 days later took 3 days including butchering, tasting, mincing and dicing, sausage making, tasting, brining bacon and gammon cuts, making and jarring larding, boning out the head and boiling, packaging for the freezer.  We have used / are using 95% of the organs, and the skin was washed, cut into strips and roasted for dog treats.
1 month ago
We had a similar situation with one of our Saddleback geese.... this year we decided to keep collecting all the eggs to eat, and then one goose went broody on her empty nest - she made a full size nest, went stupid crazy aggressive when anyone went in the house. Without humanizing the critter, she was clearly in distress after 3 weeks sitting on an empty nest.  So we gave in and the next few eggs that were laid we put under her and she continued sitting for another month until all 3 eggs hatched, we lost one but she is now raising the other two.

My simple minded approach after only 3 years of having geese (and other critters too) and watching them closely is that they are designed to do 3 things.... eat, drink and procreate - some are more sensate than others, and most will revert to their basic genetically designed behaviours if they are allowed to. If any of these functions is missing the critter is likely to not "behave" as they were made to and not thrive.
1 month ago
This picture illustrates what I mentioned in my earlier post... these piglets were 6 weeks old and already trained to their own feed.  We found this really eases the pressure on the sow. Our biggest lesson was the increased difficulty in "hand catching" older piglets, say more than 8 weeks, for selling LOL.  Our sows have never complained or attacked us when we have removed the little ones.
1 month ago
We've weaned our piglets at 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 10 weeks with no apparent ill effects on the sow.... the sows very quickly teach the piglets when to stop suckling, our experience and observation is that they do not just let the piglets keep suckling (unlike some other mammals or when there is no alternative food for the offspring).  We are not long time experienced pig raisers but we've had 6 litters from our own boar / sows.... our piglets start eating / tasting the sow or boars feed about 4-5 days of age and the sow has often pushed them away... days later we run a line of feed away from the sows feed (on the ground) where the piglets eat and not interfere with the sow... when the piglets go in and run with the boar he lets them share his feed (sometimes LOL).... and by roughly 5 weeks old we put down a line of feed for the piglets well away from the sow or the boar.

We also put in a lot fresh feed (e.g. mangels, melons, squash, pumpkins, fruit of any variety, kale, rape, sugar beet, maize on the cob, jerusalem artichokes) into the pens/paddocks so that the piglets are not competing with the sow and reduce the piglets' dependence on the sow.

Best of luck!!!
1 month ago