Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Poults & Plastic

April sure has been a roller coaster, weather-wise, so far!  We're not even 2 weeks into the month and we've had everything from snow to thunderstorms to 80+ degree temps!  We're hoping things will even out and dry up a bit soon so we can get serious about preparing our fields for planting.  Getting the horses harnessed up and making the first few rounds with the plow says spring more than anything else here!

The started sprouts have been getting some good greenhouse time, and I see new growth daily.  I'm getting ready to start some more things that we'll want to plant as seedlings, but in the garden rather than the greenhouse.  This will include some of our open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes and peppers as well as things like zucchini and squash that just don't need greenhouse space, but that we want to get a jump on in preparation for our sales season.  We are also hoping, if the weather cooperates, to get in some serious work on the greenhouses this weekend.  We plan on putting up plastic on one of the metal frames for our tomatoes, cukes & peppers.  We may also tear down one of the frames that is not in good shape.  There is also some repair work to be done on the small one I'm currently using for seedlings.  The back end of that greenhouse was made of untreated wood and is in rough shape.  The recent winds went a long way towards removing the plastic on that part, so we'll work on that and tearing down the lumber supports.  We've tossed out ideas for what we'll do with that space next- it could be anything from an asparagus bed to a new pavilion for poultry processing. 

But the most exciting event of the recent past was definitely on Sunday.   We have been hatching chicks for the past few years, and have over a thousand healthy chicks under our belt, so while it is exciting and fun, it's also not groundbreaking when the first fuzzy chicks of the season hatch.  Our incubator has also brought other birds to life, in the past few years we've had good luck with ducklings, quail and even peachicks.  We've also tried goslings, but they seem to require such high humidity that they don't hatch well, especially if we need to balance it with the needs of the chicken eggs in the incubator at the same time.  So we just let the geese do their thing, it works much better.  Our hope this year was that the Bourbon Red turkeys we bought last year would lay eggs and we would, for the first time ever, be able to hatch our own poults.  We've found eggs everywhere, it seems.  The hens have rejected my cardboard nest box in the safety of the turkey coop.  Instead, I've collected eggs from the yard, the woodshed, the bad part of the greenhouse, my front porch furniture, and the most popular spot, the neighbor's brush pile across the road.

 Since this is their first year to breed, so many things could go wrong.  Are they fertile?  Will the first eggs be viable? (often the first eggs laid by a chicken don't have as good of a hatching rate as ones from a slightly more mature hen.)  Did I find the hiding spot before the eggs got too cold?  Will we have any luck at all???  We set our eggs weekly, so that they don't get too old & lose viability.  The first time I set turkey eggs, I had a total of seven.  They take 28 days to mature (chickens take 21) so this weekend was the time to find out what, if anything, was going on inside them!  I had hoped that at least a few of the first eggs would hatch.  I was optimistic we wouldn't fail totally, but  was prepared to call even two poults a success.  I pulled out the hatching tray Sunday morning after hearing telltale peeping.  We had chickens in there too, so I saw a rainbow of adorable fuzzies...Barred Rocks, Cochins, Phoenix chicks...and two little turkeys! SUCCESS!  I removed all the dry birds to the brooder pen.  Then I snuck a look and noted that other eggs were also pipped (showing the first cracks as the bird works its way out).  More chickens and also more turkey eggs.  In the end, we had what we considered a monumentally successful hatch with 6 of 7 eggs producing a healthy baby turkey!

 We are looking forward to more hatching this weekend, including a bunch of Mille Fleur bantams from purchased eggs, more of our own variety of chicks, lots more turkeys and possibly a few ducklings as well.  I'm confident we'll have success, but as the saying goes, you really can't count your chicks (or poults) before they hatch...

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