Thursday, June 28, 2012

City Girl to Country Girl - chicks and haying

Yesterday was a big day at the farm - I'd had trouble sleeping and was awake for an hour or so in the middle of the night so I jumped out of bed at 7am in a bit of a panic when I saw what time it was.  After a quick breakfast I dashed out the door to pick up the new chicks we had ordered.  200 little-fluffy-bundles-of-peeping-cuteness.

Someone asked in the comments yesterday:  what on earth were we going to do with so many chickens? Yes - we've gone from 6 chickens in the back yard to hundreds of birds and suddenly I AM a chicken farmer!!  Here in Ontario - I think perhaps in all of Canada - the maximum we are allowed is 100 egg layers and 300 meat chickens in a year if we don't have quota.  The Chicken Farmers of Ontario says this: Quota can best be described as a license granted by CFO that allows the person to whom the license is registered to produce and market chicken in Ontario. 

One thing has led to another and our customer base for eggs is growing as people discover the health benefits and the beauty of free-range eggs.  Right now we have about 45 layers - we had more but the flock has suffered some losses over the year by raccoon and other predators - almost always at night when they don't come back to the coop - naughty chickens!  

Chickens lay reasonably well for about two years but after that it is more sporadic which is difficult when you have customers who expect them to be delivered regardless of what actually happens on the farm.  Things were simpler when we had fewer girls - more than once when we've had supply problems I have said to a customer - I don't lay them myself and I can't squeeze them out of the chickens any faster!  All of our customers are personal friends so they understand my humor!

The end result was we need to replace our laying hens and since we've been having trouble keeping up with orders we went with the maximum allowed - 100 Black Sex-Links.

One of the other problems with having any number of chickens over 6 - is that you eventually get to the point here you can't tell them apart. (yes- I just admitted I can't tell Gertie from Clementine!) We have some that are 3 years old and some that are around 2 and a few younger ones but unless they are completely different breeds - ah - I can't be REALLY sure.  So this time we went with the color-coded system.  The new ones are all black making it simple to know which ones we keep.  In a few years we'll order Red Sex-Links - fool proof (I hope!)

The little yellow puff balls in the picture are the meat chickens - they will turn white as they mature and start growing feathers.  When ordering chickens you can have them "sexed" - for us that means we choose to order all our meat birds as roosters because in the end they grow bigger and faster.  Bet ya never thought that all that chicken you've been eating were BOYS!  I  didn't either before we had our own! We are aiming for the maximum allowed in a year this year because my kids have had difficulty finding summer work and this will allow them to make some money.  

The other exciting thing that happened yesterday was our first experience haying.  Use 
"exciting thing" interchangeably with "exhausting" in this example.   I'm writing this post at 3am because I'm awake having an allergy attack but by the time I fell into bed last night I was like the walking dead.  Pooped!

Farmer Gord came on Monday morning and cut the hay.  The weather was perfect on Tuesday for drying so by Tuesday night he was baling.  Somehow watching this on OUR farm - knowing the hay will end up in OUR barn is way more exciting than just watching it otherwise.

Yesterday morning my son and I along with my parents - who rock! - emptied the hay wagons into the barn.  Such a simple sentence that doesn't do justice to the amount of work it took.  We got a system going and it took us an hour to unload the first wagon.  Farmer Gord was sending someone over at around 10am to switch the wagons for us so after a coffee break (my dad doesn't have blood in his veins - just coffee) we went out for round two.

Farmer Ryan was there switching the wagons - a young born-into-it farmer of many generations - he had been haying since he as 8 years old.  We could tell.  He stuck around to help us unload so he could drive both wagons back to the farm in one trip.  We had the wagon empty and stacked in 25 minutes - that's because we WERE DOING IT WRONG!  You are supposed to stand in the wagon and heave the bales 25 feet into the barn with one arm.  Yeah - like we could have done that!  

When we were finished it was a good feeling to stand back and see the hay stacked in the barn - enough hay to feed the animals for the whole winter.  OUR hay from OUR field. That was a very good feeling indeed.  

If I'd ever had any doubts - I felt like a farmer at that moment!  I think I can say the transition from City Girl to Country Girl was somehow completed yesterday - DREAMS COME TRUE.


  1. Congratulations, you ARE a country girl!

    Question: How many animals are you feeding and how many acres of hay does it take to last through the winter?

  2. Well - I'll try to keep it brief. It depends - the end. :) We have approx. 7 acres in hayfield but it is not prime stuff because it has been rather abused over the years. The Farmer-who-shall-remain-nameless just cut, baled and walked away. He never thought to spread the cow manure on it or do anything to increase fertility. A good steward of the land would plow it under and plant some kind of nitrogen fixing crop like peas or soy beans for a few years and then put it back in hay. A really good hayfield should produce 100 bales per acre in two cuts - the second cut later in the summer is about half of what is produced in the first cut. For example if you got 70 bales an acre the first time around you would get about 35 the next time. If your field is not as good you will get anywhere from 50-75 bales an acre in two cuts.

    Right now we have 7 big animals - 1 donkey and 6 sheep. They need to be fed from November till May - approx. 7 months with some months just supplemental feeding and most months complete feeding. They eat about 1.5 bales a day between them all. So 7 months x 30 days x 1.5 = 315 bales plus a few extra and we stored 330 altogether. It's a rough guess and we know Farmer Gord down the road has more to sell back to us if we run out but I suspect we'll have lots.

    Now 7 acres will produce more than we need - we didn't get the final numbers on this cut yet but the Farmer has offered to sell the extra hay for us which would off set our costs. Hay is predicted to see a rise in price this year for various reasons - drought in some places and farmers growing other crops on speculation that the prices will be high. In my area hay currently sells for $4.00 a bale and it could go up to $5.00.

    I even SOUND like a farmer!

    1. I coulda said - HAY - I even SOUND like a farmer!

  3. Wow, great job Anita! A real, live, farm! MMMMMMMM the smell of fresh cut hay - I love it as I'm driving home and catch a whiff......

    1. You are a sweet and faithful reader :) hugs my friend!

  4. Yeah, I remember putting in the hay...somehow I always got stuck stacking in the loft. Talk about hot! Then again, I was always the guy on the wagon stacking too because the farmer didn't have one of them fancy bailers that pitch it onto the wagon.

    1. I'm glad one day of haying was enough for our needs - that is hard and dirty work! Feel free to come for a visit and re-live the experience next spring!

  5. Ohhh I am so jealous -one of my most precious memories is haying back in MB -back when we had rectangular bales and I was a very young 20 yrd old - the sweet smell of fresh cut hay is still my favorite of scents - you are truly blessed


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