We’ve been enjoying the extraordinarily mild weather here at The Welcome Homestead and appreciating the lack of frozen water bottles and jugs which makes chores a lot easier. It’s giving the baby chicks a bit more of a running start and the compost piles are still steaming. We are enjoying the green grass but not the flies, which seem to be hanging around longer than normal along with the ladybugs. As we enjoy the warmth we are aware that there may be consequences down the line as farmers depend on a thick layer of snow to insulate the ground and the spring melting of snow to soak the land in preparation of seeding the crops. Deep cold also kills bacteria and viruses so that may also have consequences in the coming year.
We have caught three more rats in the last two weeks and the ground under the coop and turkey shed are laced with tunnels. The turkey shed has large mounds of dirt in it being brought up from the tunnelling operation and the amount of dirt piles indicates that the rats must be about halfway to China by now. The dirt piles have come in handy, though, allowing us to fill in some low spots on the ground and level out the floor of the shed so as they say: lemons into lemonade. Hopefully we can keep the rat population in check although it would be better to eradicate them completely however they can be a real challenge to get rid of once they’re established. We are now starting to protect the feed better by using plastic totes and may enclose the shelf with the feed bags on it in wire mesh from some of the older cages we have lying around here.
The three winter chicks are now two. The smaller yellow one is gone, presumably killed and eaten by the other chickens. It was a bit smaller than the others and looked a bit frail so it might be a case of it simply being the weaker one that didn’t make it. It was fine at chore time Thursday morning but was gone a couple hours later when the water was topped up. It was seen being stepped on by a rooster and while the rooster was shooed away and the chick seemed fine there may have been an unknown injury to it and it may have died. Mama Hen was doing a fine job being feisty and protecting her little charges but if one got significantly weaker or injured it would have been vulnerable to the other birds. The rest of Thursdays chores were done with a heavy heart as we tend to get attached to the beasties around here and it’s always difficult to see Nature take its course in a very harsh way.
We have started feeding the chickens fermented feed, basically soaking scratch grains in water until it starts fermenting. It usually start to show bubbles in the first day and we are feeding it to them on the third day as this has been recommended by several sources as an optimal time in the fermenting process. Fermenting has a few benefits including producing healthy probiotics which are beneficial to the birds digestive system as well as producing some beneficial vitamins and bacteria. It also serves the purpose of softening the outer shell of the grains making them easier to digest and the grains absorb water which helps to keep them hydrated. This should also result in the birds eating less food due to the higher nutrition and easier digestibility and is also supposed to increase the egg production and size of the eggs and yolks. As we just started there is not much in the way of results yet although they are eating a fair bit less pellets after only a week on this feed plan so it is encouraging from that standpoint. Humans have been eating fermented foods for a long time, such as yogurt and sauerkraut which are known to have high levels of probiotics in them. Fermentation has also been used for centuries for preserving food.
Here are the little vultures attacking the fermented feed buffet:
We wish everyone a happy and productive week and a safe and very Merry Christmas!