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Andrew Mayflower

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since Oct 13, 2017
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Recent posts by Andrew Mayflower

If OP has land and freezer capacity raising a whole years worth at a time provides an economy of scale that can significantly reduce the per chicken costs.  Both in $$ terms and the time spent caring for the chickens.  It doesn’t take any extra time to feed and water 100 chickens than it does for 10.  And if she raised 100 she can keep 50 for herself and sell the rest of the 100 that survived to slaughter day and make back some/most of the input costs.  That’s what I do.

If she doesn’t have enough land for that, lacks freezer capacity, or is just committed to butchering as she eats them and never freezing them then obviously that won’t work.
1 month ago

Beth Mouse wrote:I would like to raise 3 or 4 hens for meat as I don't want roosters.  I plan to butcher one at a time maybe each week.  Like what my Great Grandma talked about doing.  I have 3 laying hens in a coop that I would like to let out in the evening to forage for a bit and think I would like to keep these birds separate from the hens.  I bought electric poultry netting and also bought an A frame poultry chicken tractor that I raised some roosters in this Spring (they started crowing and I can't do it again).  It was great when they were old enough to stay out there in it but when they got older, they never went into it at night and roosted on top of it so I need to have something bigger they will roost in at night.  It's around 3 1/2 feet tall and 3  feet wide and 10 feet long.  Not sure how big I need but I want them to go inside because we have owls.  Surprisingly none of my roosters got taken though.  I guess I will raise hens as meat birds and wonder if anyone can share what I could keep them in out on my pasture with a poultry fence around it?  Thinking about Sagitta breed.  If I got Freedom Rangers not sure if they're sexed.  

Working backwards on your post.  Freedom Rangers (from the original hatchery in PA) are sexed.  You can order all males, all females, or straight run.  Minimum order is 25 I believe.

Sagitta are OK as meat birds, but nothing like Freedom Rangers.  You'll get a much bigger carcass in a lot less time with Freedom Rangers.

Raptors are a problem everywhere.  The most effective deterrent I've found is fishing line strung every 10-15' with flagging tape or something flashy every 10-15' along the line.  The bald eagles in my area though got smart enough to hover down carefully and still picked off a lot of my hens this summer.  I might need to go tight enough with the line that they can't get down between them easily.

As others have mentioned, cockerels will work fine if you butcher them before they get noisy.  I'd probably just identify each bird as it starts to crow and take them in that order.  Freedom Rangers will often be barely crowing or not at all when they reach butcher age/size at 10-12 weeks old.  Obviously all females won't have that issue, but they're also much smaller.  Never kept any accidental females (sexing is 90-95% accurate, so you'll always get some small number of wrong sex birds) so I don't know how well they lay.
1 month ago

Jim Fry wrote:Simple fix to stop your chickens from flying. Early in the morning while they are still all in the coop, pick them up one at a time and use a scissors to cut short the feathers on one wing. Then toss the chicken out the door so you don't get confused which are done. By cutting the feathers on just one side it unbalances them so they can't fly. Repeat every six months or so, as needed.

I found if I don't clip both sides pretty heavily the slender ones still fly over fencing.  Results may vary.
3 months ago

Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:We are talking over our options.

The Pig Option: Justin Rhodes has a video out on youtube about raising pigs in a small space which he calls the "pigport". Nothing too crazy. And we have considered something a little bigger to add a wallow. Carports are expensive, but we could build them a little wood shelter, and pigs are not fussy; or prone to get killed by raccoons and birds of prey. I already have the posts for the enclosure, I can use woven fence for it. Pig wire is half as expensive as sheep wire, and I would need only a half as much of it. Justin uses deep bedding. What I can get is leaves and hay. Still working on finding woodchips. The watering system could harvest roof rain from my feed shed. The feed and water are right there. No carrying feed and water out to a distant pasture system.

The Meat Chicken Option: Red Rangers, an electric poultry net, and a chickshaw. This one has less financial outlay, but is more work. I would have to move them often, even when I don't feel well. However, They are very productive. We eat about 50 chickens a year. Assuming 10% loss to predators and mistakes, we would need 60 meat birds. They would improve the pasture in prep for eventual sheep.

We are not ready for any other critters. Ducks need a turtle-free pond. Egg layer chickens need more financial outlay than meat birds. Sheep and Goats need lots of equipment. Cows we don't have the space for.

Regarding chickens.  Consider Freedom Rangers.  I've raised them the last couple of years in a similar style to what you're considering.  They hit their weight a couple weeks sooner than the Red Rangers, but are still slower and have fewer health issues than CRX.  Mine produced an average 4lb 14oz dressed carcass (not including neck or edible organs) in 9.5 weeks.  Saving that couple weeks on grow out time is nice in that it reduces the risk of predator loss just because of the shorter time period.  Also, if you don't want to listen to crowing it's that much less time to deal with that noise.  Last year they started crowing at 7 weeks old, though it didn't become obnoxious until 8.5-9 weeks old), and this year there was almost no crowing at all up to slaughter day.  And, FWIW, we did a taste test comparison with a Freedom Ranger and a Wyandott rooster we culled at probably 16-20 weeks old.  Nobody in the family could tell the difference between the two in terms of flavor or texture.  That said, the Freedom Ranger hatchery also sells Red Rangers, and the Reds are less expensive as chicks.  You'll feed them more however, so if you're using economics as part of the calculation you'll need to work out which is cheaper at the end of the day.  They ship on different days, but you might be able to call them and see if they'll ship 30 Reds with 30 FR's if you are close enough to be likely to get them the next day.  They might say no, but it's worth asking.  If not, order the Red's to arrive 1-2 weeks before the FR's, and then you can do a proper side by side comparison between the breeds, and have slaughter for both groups at the same time.

If you do get the meat chickens you might consider getting another large bird to go with them, like turkeys, or geese.  I found that having some broad-breasted turkeys mixed in with the chickens kept the aerial predators at bay (I had 11 turkeys with 100 chickens).  I got them as early in the spring as I could, and then got the chickens 4-5 weeks later.  By the time the chickens were ready to be on pasture the turkeys I think 7-8 weeks old and were averaging 7.5-9.3lbs live weight.  The ravens didn't mess with my meat birds at all, even without any physical barrier to keep them from flying in.  We slaughtered the 3 smallest turkeys with the chickens, and the dressed out a little under 14lbs each.  I think they were 14.5 weeks old at that point.  The rest we let go for another month.  The biggest tom dressed out over 33lbs.  I think if I do it again I'll get the chickens when the turkeys are 6-8 weeks old and then slaughter them all together.  That should give me some turkeys in the 16-20lb range for roasting, and some pushing high-20's to low 30's that I can part out and do things like smoke the breasts for lunch meat.

We built a coop for our hens.  Not cheap, but not super expensive either.  With the hens we're taking care of for friends, plus the hens that survived the winter, and the chicks we got again this year I think we have around 36.  So far no crowing from any of the chicks, so maybe we got lucky with no roosters.  Or if there are roosters we got lucky with some quiet ones.  Right now they free range on our 4.77 acres.  But we're trying to get fencing up to contain them to about a half acre.  The poop on the deck, and everywhere else we like to walk is getting annoying, plus they're hiding some eggs.  But if you know you only want, say, a dozen hens the coop doesn't need to be very big or fancy.  

Bit of an update, given 3.5 or so years more experience.

I still find Freedom Rangers to be a great meat bird.  But, there's more variability from year to year than I'd like.  That original post I got almost 5lbs dressed weight (not including necks) at 9,5 weeks.  This year at 10.5 weeks I saw about 4.5lbs including necks.  Kind of disappointing.  But they still taste just as good.

Turkeys are next to useless at guarding chickens.  They might try to intimidate the aerial predators, but eventually the raptors and ravens learned to ignore them.  I now put fishing line with flagging tape over their area.  Much more effective, if also more unattractive.

I like to get the turkeys (broad breasted) 6-8 weeks before the broilers.  That gives them 16-20 weeks (I give the freedom rangers 10-12 week) to grow out.  That gives a nice size for even the hens, without the toms getting tooooo large.  I usually will keep a few turkeys to 6-7 months to let them get super huge and will cure and smoke the breast and thigh for lunch meat (wings and drums are excellent braised, and of course the rest of the carcass makes great stock).  

I now have permanent fencing to contain the meat birds to a portion of the yard.  I'd like to put up permanent fencing with gates for cross fencing, but not there yet.  Making due with temporary cross fences.  Much easier than electronet to move them around, but also a big investment.  However that investment has allowed me to get sheep too.
3 months ago

Nancy Reading wrote:As others have suggested, we also make use of the goodness in bones for our dogs. I actually boil them up to make bone jelly and feed this to the dogs since I am worried that bones alone could splinter and cause a problem if fed directly to the dogs.

Raw bones are entirely safe for dogs.  Note, even large dogs shouldn't be given the major weight bearing bones of ruminants - they're too hard and dogs can damage their teeth trying to eat them.  But those weight bearing bones also are great for marrow extraction.  

Bone jelly would be better than otherwise whole but cooked bones.  But you can save the bother by giving them raw to the dogs.
4 months ago
Depends entirely on the pasture.  Most ruminants will eat 3-4% of body weight per day from pasture (2% roughly in dry mass).  If the acre will produce enough to feed them and/or you’re willing to bring in enough hay to fill the gaps then you’ll be ok.

Keep in mind that the longer you keep them on any given paddock the worse their parasite load becomes.  And you need to give at least 60 days without grazing animals to avoid recontamination of the animals, and 90 days is much better.

Running chickens behind the grazers can help reduce parasites as well as the chickens will break up the manure and they’ll consume parasites eggs and larvae.
4 months ago
Assuming we're talking homestead level butchering here, not commercial scale.  Between a preference for bone-in cuts, making stock, and letting the dogs eat them we don't really have any issue disposing of bones.  Cooked bones go in the garbage.  Could compost them but I'm not set up for hot composting.  I cut a salmon yesterday for dinner.  Our female german shepherd scarfed the carcass as part of her dinner (the male turned up his nose at it).
4 months ago
If you have 200 acres why not get both?  Not like you'll be at risk of running out of forage.  If one type just isn't working for you they always be sold on to someone else, or eaten.  The one acre that's fenced right now won't be enough for either breed, so you'll have to fence additional areas regardless.  If they're trained (or if you can train them) to respect polywire hot fence it'll be relatively easy to move them around the property.
4 months ago
I have no idea if they're available in South America, but Freedom Rangers are a popular alternative among homesteader types to cornish cross for a reasonably fast growing (but not freakish like cornish cross) broiler that will forage effectively.  Mine usually average a 5lb carcass weight at 10 weeks old, 6.5-6.75lbs at 12 weeks.  I usually order all males, if I had a straight run the females would probably average a pound less than the males at the same age.  If you have the ability to be flexible, harvesting the males at 10 weeks and the females at 11-12 weeks would result in them all being about the same carcass size.

You might contact those folks and see if they either have a licensed breeder in South America or if they know of a similar/comparable breed available there.
4 months ago

Steve Taylor wrote:I didn't know till recently how wonderful possum's are.  They like to pick through our worm bin for produce scraps. We have the bin just off the deck out of sight.  Now we all like it when the local crew drops by at night.

Turns out opossums are basically useless for controlling ticks.
4 months ago