Emma's Family Farm in Maine

  (Windsor, Maine)
Seasonal ramblings about Farm activities, trends, and Nature's occurrences.
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Keeping an Egg Flock: Spring Begins!

In order to sell free range eggs, one must be keeping free range layings hens as naturally as possible. If the farm is to be diverse, those hens should be relatively easy to care for and meld into the farm's systems seamlessly -- in other words, each step of the work should integrate into the work system and stand a chance of making a profit. This, at least, is what we believe right now. Farming since 2004, we view each part of our operation as a separate business unit, so, here we're talking about two units: 1. Egg sales. 2. Live animal sales. 1. Egg Sales: As spring begins here in Maine, we need to ready our customers and wholesale accounts for an uptick in our egg production. Although we have experimented, somewhat successfully with solar lighting, we have made the decision Not to light. Since our pullets are usually due to begin laying in late October or early November, we have found that our production works well with our demand without lighting. So right now, we are peaking through the spring and early summer with egg numbers. 2. Live Animal Sales. When the new pullets come on board in November, we cull the two year olds and rehome them through individuals or auction. The full sized Rhode Island Reds and Aracanas that we use bring decent prices even at the slower time of year, they are good looking birds having lived their lives with freedom to move in and out of doors. Optionally, we could slaughter some of these birds to feed our meat market with "soup chickens" or birds for stock. In the spring, we need to decide whether to buy a large amount of pullets so we can replace our culls in November plus sell day old and started pullets to those who wish to have small, back yard flocks. We have, traditionally, sold pullets. It is a bit time consuming and sometimes a lot of communications are necessary. As long as we have time, though, we will do this. It doesn't make us a pile of money (but what does in farming? :) We just have a good time interacting with those who wish to raise hens and keep poultry. They are always pleased with the birds we sell and usually wish to buy more than we have. We review this decision every year and seem always to say "Yes, we have the structure to do this within our chores, and communications' system." and off we go. It does fit in with our chores. We begin having meat birds here in mid to late April so the brooder is warm and since its expansion last year its large enough to hold hundreds of chicks. By May 9, we will have brooders containing hundreds of chicks -- meat chickens and around 375 pullets. The Windsor Post Office (04363) will be Peep Central each week throughout the summer, but especially so in May. By summer, all of the girls who haven't sold will be out on the range in pens, hopefully learning to graze and enjoy the outdoors while staying inside a reasonable but confined space. We will continue to sell these pullets, as they grow, until we reach the number that we plan to keep as new layers beginning the 2013 season. The seasons, they go round and round.
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Thanks for the article! We have kept about 2 dozen hens for our family's pleasure, our own personal egg usage, and to supply a limited quantity to others (when we have them to spare). This is the first year of offering the sale of eggs regularly to our neighbors. Your blog is interesting and has some great ideas!

Thanks, again!
Sonja Twombly of http://lallybrochfarms.blogspot.com/

Posted by Sonja Twombly on May 18, 2012 at 03:34 PM EDT #

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