Spring is here, so it's time for a little update on what's going on at the farm. We've been a little busy lately. Kristen gave birth to our son, Theodorus Evander, on December 23rd. He's already helped Kristen out in the hazelnut field.
Above is our first egg. Yes, it's blue. So far, only one of our hens (out of about 20) is laying. Most likely she's just early. But it's also true that our chicken setup needs a lot of work. For inspiration, we decided to visit Appalachian State's research farm in Valle Crucis. We want to transition into a pastured-poultry system this spring, and definitely needed some ideas for coop construction. Many thanks to Dr. Fanatico of ASU for a tour of their poultry operation and lots of great advice.
This rooster was enormous. The chicken yard was much better kept than ours as far as bedding goes -- keeping a good layer of straw on the ground helps prevent the spread of disease.
Here's one of the mobile coops they have. A roosting and nesting area is to the right, with easy-access to nest boxes. The design looks very sturdy and waterproof.
What we want to do is incorporate chickens into the rotational grazing system we have with the sheep. We think this will add to the fertility of the soil, keep the pest load down for the sheep (and possibly the hazelnut trees), and keep the grass under control.
To do this, we have to build mobile chicken coops similar to the manufactured one above. Kristen's been working on the design, and we hope to start construction in the next week or so.
Speaking of sheep...
Notice the difference here grazed pasture (bottom) and ungrazed (top). You'd think it would be the other way around, but in addition to the sheep manure, grazing actually stimulates root growth in the ground cover. (The white tubes, by the way, are young hazelnut trees).