Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA

New Hens

On every farm, you have a division of labor according to each person's skills and comfort level.  While either Dan or I can care for any of the animals here, we each have our own chores we do daily.  We never sat down and formally figured this out, it came rather naturally over time.  For instance, Dan usually feeds the pigs.  Not that I can't, but most days it just makes sense because it involves frequent lifting/moving of feed sacks weighing 100 lbs.  I have trouble with 100-pounders and need to empty part of it into a bucket first, while Dan can carry two at a time.  While Dan is feeding the hogs, I'll take care of the chickens.  It's no less important, but the feed comes in 50 pound bags and chickens eat a lot less than hogs, so I don't even have to move those all that often.  As a result, I'm much more in tune with the birds.  I know which breeds are laying best, when we may need to fix a fence or put up a light, and when birds are missing and we need to set up traps for predators.

Fall is here, and the shorter days mean less eggs.  We'll fool mother nature somewhat by putting up a timed light to trick them into thinking the days are still long, but production will slow down.  It's also a good time to think about culling the less productive hens.  Commercial egg factories eliminate any hen going through her first molt, which happens when the hen is about 1.5 years old.  As they are small and wiry by then, they become the chicken in your soup or pot pie, or the "real meat" in your pet's food.  We aren't that draconian, but when they are no longer producing, we can't afford to be running a retirement home for washed up hens, so we take them to a local auction.  Some of our flock was getting as old a 3 years, and while we do hatch our own replacements, it's always wise to have some fresh bloodlines from time to time.  

Normally, I confer with Dan before making most any farm decision, but I decided that now was a great time to order female chicks to be replacement layers.  Why now? A hen doesn't begin to lay eggs until she's 5 or 6 months old, so chicks hatched now will start to lay in March sometime, which is when we begin to really need an increase in egg production.  So I decided what I wanted and called up the hatchery we deal with.  Next week, I'll be getting some little fuzzy chicks.  Some will be mostly coal black and will grow up to be my black and white speckled Barred Rocks.  Some will be yellow, and will grow up to be my favorite birds, Delawares, which are mostly white with a bit of black on their wings and tails.  I don't know what colors to expect the rest of the chicks to be, as they are Ameracaunas. They are known as the "Easter Egg chicken" since they lay blue-green eggs, which I just love.  They have fluffs of feathers that resemble a beard under the beak and on the sides of the face that look like earmuffs (called, not surprisingly, muffs and beard!)  They come in a rainbow of colors as well, I've had jet black girls, brown, white, and multi-hued Ameracaunas.  So I'll look forward to opening that box and meeting them!

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