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Sick as a dog

June 18, 2008

I have been sick – actually we have all been sick.  DH and DD were sick with some kind of gastro trouble 2 weeks ago, and of course, me of cast iron stomach just scoffed.  My turn came last Friday, and I have been sick ever since.  Of course the weather breaks and I have to sleep 20 hours a day.  On Saturday I actually laid out in the orchard with the dogs and ate grass, they thought it was great but I didn’t get any relief.   So chores have consumed all my time, and blogging has went by the wayside, along with getting any garden planted.  I finally tilled on Sunday evening and the soil was borderline too wet for me.  The soil is also still cold.  We might warm up to a whopping 65* today, I hope.

I’m blaming our health problems on my bright idea of buying pepperoni for pizza.  Each time I made pizza in the last two weeks, someone has gotten sick.  Mine was the worst, besides the usual complaints, my joints were aching, making it difficult to even walk.  So what ever it is really got to us – confirming our belief that our food safety is dependent on us.  So much for my bright ideas.  Top all this off, our friends think we’re sick because we drink untreated water and raw milk, so no one has been sympathetic.  If we had a problem in those areas, I think we would have been aware of that by now.  Sigh…

I have gotten somethings done though…

Our broilers moved out last week on the first sunny day.  Head count:  68    We started with 72, one died during early chickhood, 2 have died of ascites(or pneumonia), and I killed a crippled one that would not have been able to survive the rigors of outside life.  (The kittens had a feast)

This is a regulation size 10 x 12 Salatin pen.  The right size for 75 birds.  I move this morning and night, now that they are at the 6 week stage.  We sold our smaller pens and a friend gave this to us and while it is OK, I preferred the lid design DH came up with.  Our pens were 8 x 8, sized for 50 birds.  Using 8 x 8 allowed us to use less expensive, shorter lumber which cut costs.  The top was divided in half, with hinged lids, and to access the inside you could hold up the lid with one hand and reach in with the other to get feeders.  Or if you had to work on the waterer, you could prop up the lid with a stick.  We also had latches to keep the lids down (on) during wind storms or to keep varmints from getting in as easily. 

8 x 8 field pen

Another thing I don’t like about the Salatin style pen, is the bracing on the interior of the pen, it is always in the way when it comes time to catch the chickens.  Ours, had a chain from the back to the front on the bottom, this is necessary so you don’t pull the pen apart when you move it.

I know people don’t agree with raising the broiler chicks this way, since they aren’t free ranging.  But, I have seen more breast blisters, and manure burned feet on free range, or “day range” broilers than I have on birds raised like this.  Several of our friends have went to the poultry netting with a shelter that gets moved “often”.   Sometimes, they just don’t get moved “often”, that’s where the problem lies.  Most times, people are just concerned with the chickens well being, so they think.  These birds are woefully inefficient feed converters.  Their manure still has visible bits of grain in it.  I don’t want to concentrate more manure on my pasture than it can take, so it behooves me to move that pen in a timely manner.  It’s good for the chickens, it’s good for us, and it’s good for the grazing animals that live here.


This area was grazed by cows first, and where Trace is standing shows one days impact from the chicken pen.  This area will not see another chicken or more fertilizer until next spring.  However, after the grass regrows this area will be grazed many more times this growing season.  These are some keys to growing good grass or hay.
♥ Grazing, and then rest, allowing for regrowth.  Even if you don’t apply compost or minerals, everytime you shear that grass off, the roots slough to match the plants, and that alone creates organic matter.
♥ Fertilizing with non-toxic fertilizers DURING the growing season.
♥ Feeding your animals good minerals, so their manure is highly mineralized.
♥ Mixing up the species, to break the parasite cycle and to utilize all grasses, and forbs.
♥ By “feeding” your pasture in these ways, you will see seeds of desirable species, that have been lying dormant for some time start to grow, as if by magic.  No need to plow and replant.  It does take time and patience however…

My routine with these fellows in the morning is:
♥  Take out feeders.
♥  Move pen.
♥  I don’t feed them for 30 minutes, if I put their feeders back in, they won’t graze, they will just start eating grain.  So I plan my chores accordingly.  They are hungry in the morning and more likely to graze while it is cooler.  By afternoon, if the temperature is warmer they don’t seem as interested in grass.  Note:  this step is only necessary if you are trying to get them to graze, if you’re not interested in pastured poultry you could just feed them, cutting chore time considerably.
♥  During this 30 minutes, I can replenish their water, and take greens to the pigs, and feed the bucket calf.
♥  My time spent on these birds amounts to 10 minutes a day.  When we raised 400 at a time, we spent about 45 minutes a day.
♥  These pens are excellent ways to start a new garden spot, bedded everyday and moved after a week, you could cover a good sized area with just one batch of chickens.  We have also raised them in the greenhouse in place and removed the bedding and then just planted in the soil. 

But, there are many ways to raise chickens, this is just what works the best for us.  We have found if we are mindful of our pasture first, and watch how we impact it in all the ways we use it, our animals enjoy better health.  And so will we.

Here’s one thing that likes our cool damp weather of late.

Fabia rhododendron

Our climate favors the less hardy orange, yellows, and apricot hued rhodies.  This one is a beauty!



16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2008 2:02 pm

    I am so sorry to hear that you have been so ill! And I’ll bet you were right about the pepperoni. We all get sick whenever we somehow get pizza with artificial cheese or certain ingredients in cheaper ice cream. Our local dairy bar changed their formula and now we can’t eat there any more…darn it…

  2. June 18, 2008 3:36 pm

    That is what we do with out chickens too. Our layers are in chicken tractors and we move them every couple days. Our broilers are in 4 ft fencing with lightweight post and a lean-to to get out of the weather and it is easy to move. We have to move them more often because they are quite messy as you know. We have 23 for our own consumption, do you sell any of yours or utilize them all? ~Kim

  3. June 18, 2008 5:28 pm

    I’ve been wondering if all was ok in your neck of the woods. I’m sorry you have all been so ill. Pepperoni, YUCK!! I have a family that loves it but it takes a whole lot of convincing to get me to buy it. I think it simply ruins a very good home made pizza. I’m glad you are all on the mend.
    Your broilers look great. I raised themn just once. Didn’t have a great set up and I don’t think I’ll do it again. We aren’t big chicken eaters – I barter with a friend who raises them for 6.

    I would like to raise turkeys next year. I like the idea of moving them daily. I’m sure DH could devise a type of pen that would work for turkeys similar to that of your broilers.

    Beautiful rhododendron!

  4. Kristen permalink
    June 18, 2008 5:30 pm

    I hate to hear that you haven’t been feeling well. I had to laugh at you eating grass in the orchard with the dogs…they were probably trying to figure you out!! I missed “hearing” from you…..I am making a mental note…no more store bought peporoni. You mentioned manure burned feet on the chickens…what does that look like? I got a rooster a couple of weeks ago and after we got him home I was checking him over real good…(I know a little too late) and I noticed he had bumps all over his legs. I called the guy we got him from and he said he thinks it is something to do with the breed because only one other one has bumps…so he said it was normal. But the more I look at it it looks like a fungus or something….real crusty looking and just plain ugly and everytime he picks up his leg it shakes really bad. ( I hope your stomach is feeling better) Anyways does that sound normal to you?

  5. June 18, 2008 9:11 pm

    glad you’re over the nasties. ugh. that is no fun!

    when you mention salatin style, are you referring to joe (or is it joel?) salatin?

    i like your 8 x 8 set up with the hinged lids. that sounds great. if we build another (ok, a real chicken tractor, not a portable coop), i’m going to suggest your design.

    question on your pasture, i know you mentioned you haven’t seeded them. do you know what type of grass you have growing in there? do you have orchard or timothy growing? i’m trying to decide which i would prefer to have in our hay fields/pastures when i seed them.

    technically, they are free ranging in the tractor. i think the standard definition of free range is access to the great outdoors. they’ve got plenty of that. others would argue they are ‘pasture raised’ but heck, they are getting a better diet/life that 100% of the commercial variety!

  6. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 18, 2008 10:23 pm

    Threecollie, it seems like less and less food choices out there. We experienced the same thing with the ice cream as you. However I still can eat Haagen Daz!!

    Kim, moving the chickens is the only way, especially if your trying to build up your pasture for grazing animals. We use about 50 chickens a year and use the rest for barter. In an earlier post titled “PUPPY TRAINING” I gave a recipe for how I cook one a week to get a constant supply of nutrient rich bone broth for cooking. Formerly we sold about 1600 a season, but have stopped raising poultry because grain is so expensive in these parts. We also sold eggs and I wrote about that part of our business in a post titled JIMMY CRACK CORN, AND I DON’T CARE. If you’re interested in these posts click on pastured poultry in the category sidebar.
    Are you selling yours or keeping them for yourselves?

    Debi, it probably did seem unusual for me to be so quiet!!
    I’m turned off the pepperoni now for sure. I know better, but a lapse in judgement happens once in awhile.
    We weren’t big chicken eaters either until we started raising them. Now my husband takes the biggest share for his lunches, and I make enchiladas or some other quick dinner with whats left. I’m really after the broth, which I cook with a lot, and use for a dog food supplement.
    Chicken is one of those meats that I can take or leave, but beef is what I can eat every day. If the grain keeps going up like it has, this might be the last meat chickens for awhile for us. I used to raise rabbits in 4-H and I think I would go back to that before chickens, since I liked the meat better.
    I’m sure your fellas could whip up a good turkey pen for you. Turkey really graze and do well with the Premier Poultry fencing, with some housing for night time. I like the turkeys, they are the sweetest babies and a joy to have around because they are so personable. Don’t believe the old stories about how dumb they are! We can’t get out of the brooder when they are little, since they bond so well with their caretakers!

    Kristen, you’re so sweet – I felt terrible wasting the first dry weather in weeks. My dogs don’t know how weird I really am – I’m afraid Trace will get older and go searching for his biological mother! When he finds out she is an agility dog, he might want to run away and join the agility circus, and not live on a boring old farm! I see my imagination came through this pepperoni sickness intact…
    Egad – I hate thinking about crusty sores on a rooster – that doesn’t sound normal or breed related to me. The manure burns the pads on the bottom of their feet, not their legs. It sounds like he has what I had, too much pepperoni!! Just kidding – The CHICKEN HEALTH HANDBOOK has good info in it, but a warning you will think your chicken has every disease in it when you read it. It is a good reference and hopefully your library has a copy. But I can’t really say – except ICK.

    Kristine, I feel much better now, at least I can catch up on blogging activities! Yeah that is the famous Joel Salatin, he’s still my hero even though he rubs some people the wrong way. I loved those 8 x 8 pens, they moved so easy, and were so much more workable, than this one I have now.
    When we did seed pasture, we used a pasture mix, with Orchard grass, Timothy, perennial ryegrass, Red Clover, and Dutch White clover. If the fertility isn’t there, though the Orchard Grass, and Timothy won’t stay. I’m trying to get some decent pictures of our different pastures, since they range from poor to good and everything in between. I need to do a post just about the grass and other plants growing in our pastures. The seeds of those grasses are probably dormant in your ground already, and just waiting for the right conditions. On our field where we pastured our laying hens, one season of summer grazing by chickens caused the field to change dramatically just by basically having chicken sh_t everywhere. That pasture was plowed and seeded in 1980 and after two years it just went back to the standard poorness – after the chickens (almost 20 years later) went through we had Orchard grass and Timothy everywhere!
    I agree on the chicken tractor, if ours where totally out in the great outdoors – they would be bobcat, coyote, or owl crap on some trail in the woods. I prefer to feed myself not the resident wildlife.

  7. June 19, 2008 2:17 pm

    Sorry to hear you’ve been so sick. It’s always a drag when reality barges in like that. I prefer to labor under the delusion that I’m as strong as I think I am. 😉

    My in-laws are coming down this weekend and bringing good Italian meats for antipasto. They always taste so good, but leave me feeling ick the next day. Still I eat them and enjoy them and pay the price later. We have finally managed to convince her to cut back on the quantity, so we’re not eating quite so much of it.

    For store-bought ice cream, I’ll stick to Breyers, thank you very much. But I much prefer my homemade ice cream these days—yum!

    I hear what you’re saying on the Salatin pen issue. We’re lucky enough to have few predators (knock on wood) and have had really good luck with our Premier fencing instead of pens. I like having them managed as opposed to total free range.

  8. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 19, 2008 2:52 pm

    Danielle, I feel much better now, but OMG it’s pizza night. Back to homemade Italian sausage for us. Last year we were without ground pork between pigs – so I purchased some from the local health food store. In ONE day, it was slimy and sour like ours would get if I forget that it is in the refrigerator for over a week. We tried different, high traffic health food store and watched them grind it – same thing. It has to be unsanitary conditions at the slaughter plant causing this. The abattoir we use is USDA but they are very small, with about 4 workers in addition to the couple that owns it. Much easier to keep clean and they take days off, so the buildings and equipment get rest. About once a year I fall off the wagon and look what happens. That’s nice your in-laws will bring less, and not be offended. It tastes so good, but the aftermath is terrible.

    DH loves Breyer, so we served it at our wedding, (how’s that for redneck) but since they have changed their formula it doesn’t agree with me, but I love it anyway. Hmmm kind of like DH.

    I like the pens for the broilers, and the fencing for the layers for us, but each person has to find what works for them. I have found that most people who free range, or day range aren’t really getting the permaculture concept of stacking as Joel has applied it to multiple species grazing. Also, I can see problems on our place that we have created by leaving animals “just one more day, or week…” , because I have been here for a long time. The first year we used the feeding shed concept, I felt sorry for the cows and gave them a larger sacrifice area, now that space appears healed to the eye, but when you walk there you can feel the difference in the compaction in the soil.
    I’m sad I won’t have homemade ice cream for a while – I dried Della up this week! Enjoy!

  9. June 19, 2008 4:56 pm

    Glad to hear you’re back on your feet. Though I think the world would be a better place if everyone took a day lying out in the orchard with dogs every now and again.

    Can’t get over how quickly those chicks have grown!

    And boy what a beautiful flower. We don’t have those here, though it looks similar to our day lilies.

  10. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 20, 2008 9:19 am

    Karen, I think the dogs loved it – sometimes the faithful trudging gets to them I think. They are just about out of their winter coats, but a day in the shade is what they like the best.
    How is that for CHICKZILLA, that’s what I meant about the cuteness factor disappearing fast! You should see a breeder flock of Cornish – they don’t even seem like real chickens.

    Rhodies love our climate, so we get to grow some of the more unusual colors and styles.

  11. June 20, 2008 4:54 pm

    for truly sinful ice cream, starbucks almond mocha is the bomb. 😀

    i just got 4 turkeys poults this week. i love them! they make sweet sounds. they are about 15′ away from the kitchen window right now so i hear them all day long. i’ve gotten several comments about how dumb turkeys are. we’ll see!

    btw, i just noticed my name got changed on my log-in id. don’t know why but i’m also ‘tansy’…i swear i do not have a split personality.

    (ha! that’s what you think!)

    who typed that?!

  12. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 20, 2008 6:47 pm

    Kristine, don’t even tell me about more ice cream, since I have about 10 “favorites” already!

    We love the turkeys – even the broad breasted white ones. They are soooo friendly, and so easy to handle, they learn when you tell them something, and they pay attention. I think the dumb stories come from the fact that they are fragile and have bad eyesight right after hatching. Kinda of like human babies!

    I knew you where Tansy too, but you never know with wordpress what you’ll find when you come back. I just always check the spam, sometimes regular commenters get sent there???
    I think since you have only two names, (I have 3) you have to give me some pie cherries!!

  13. June 20, 2008 8:52 pm

    Hi, I came over from Hayden’s blog after your comment about old time farming. I must say, I love your blog. I have scanned just about every post on the page. And I learned a lot from you. Thanks for all your wonderful insight. Keep up the good work.

  14. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 20, 2008 11:22 pm

    Dawn, Hi – thank you for such glowing comments, I’m not sure I deserve them. I’m just writing about what we do every day, boring or not. But, gee thank you again. I can’t wait to see Hayden’s pictures of her place! Doesn’t she know she can’t take a vacation…

  15. June 23, 2008 8:43 pm

    vacation? who me?

    Well, I learned a lot. Never stopped with the questions and can now identify timothy and brome, lots of trees. Folks seemed a little taken aback by my fundamental questions (are those blueberries high bush?) but willing to take the time to talk my questions through…

    sorry the pepperoni didn’t ‘set well’. I don’t eat well enough to notice too much yet… but… was shocked by the almost total absence of veggies in family diets back there. Armed myself w/ a bunch of bananas, bag of apples and one of carrots, and survived.

    thanks for the chicken/pen detail. haven’t decided yet, but am biased towards raising ducks or turkeys the first year and leaving chickens ’till later – well raised chicks are locally available. I’ve been racking my brain over Salatin’s advice – I know I need ruminants, but don’t feel up to a cow. Maybe a few sheep. I don’t know. tough to figure out where/how to start.

  16. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 24, 2008 6:10 am

    Hayden, they’ll gradually get used to your questions. How else can anyone learn? Questions are good.

    I’m no stranger to Doritos and Dr Pepper, but anymore I can’t hardly eat any processed food. The latest is cooking oils that get rancid easily, like soy, canola, sunflower etc. Which probably have a preservative but it doesn’t have to be listed on the label. If I eat organic corn chips with sunflower oil, I get tired in about 30 minutes. No ingredients listed on the package except corn meal, masa, and sunflower oil. Same with organic mayo. I don’t always have time to make mayo – so I like to have it on hand. Most of these things are not worth it.
    You’ll have enough work on your hands without adding in animals right away. Cattle and pigs are easy to contain with minimal electric fencing, sheep are harder, unless you spring for the netting type. Many ways to go…

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