Monday, August 18, 2008

Update on the Summer's Happenings

It has been a while since my last update. Some of the happenings in the last couple of months:

The last of our New Hampshire Reds are no longer with us. The second to last disappeared without a trace. Something must have snagged her in the woods, because I didn't even see the telltale scattered feathers that usually accompanies an attack. The last one didn't lay an egg for three days. She was kinda moping around. Then she laid the biggest, fatest egg I have ever seen. After that, her laying-end did not look good and she died in the coop three days later. So, now we are not getting any more brown eggs.

This summer, the colored eggs have been popular. We have seen an increase in egg sales during the tourist season and have sold out of the araucana (blue) eggs a couple of times. We have not yet sold out of white eggs, but our backlog is only a few dozen.

Our sales have been pretty sporatic - we sometimes don't sell any eggs for 3-4 days, and then we sell eight dozen in one day. Weird.

I will be redoing my cost model soon - the reduced feed consumption during the summer (due to free-range foraging) has led to a significant deviation from my original model. During these summer months, we are showing an operating profit. However, we still probably are showing an overall loss due the the fact that I fed 75 chicks for several weeks just to have the majority of them wiped out by a weasel.

We are talking seriously about building a new coop. We want to address a couple of important deficiencies of the current coop that we inherited from the previous owner:

1. It sucks in so many ways. It leaks (the roof doesn't extend all the way to the exterior walls). It is not predator-proof. The door is too narrow to walk through while carrying a fifty pound bag of feed. The door opens in and extends low enough that every time you close it, you pull a bunch of chicken poop out the door. Very nasty "mud" when it rains.

2. It is at the top of a hill far from the house and barn. This is not bad in the summer, but in the winter it is too steep to snow-blow a path. And the path gets icy anyway. And it is a long way to carry water on a steep, icy path.

3. We want a dual-coop. We want to be able to run two flocks in the coop at once. Typically, the second half will have broilers (but will also have layers occasionally when we want to "reboot" our laying flock). The idea would be to have a wall across the middle of the coop with a door in it. The "wall" will probably just be chicken wire.

We will probably build a new coop right behind the barn. It will share a wall with the new sheep shed that I need to build. Supposedly, sheep and chickens are quite compatible. The sheep will be in this shed and adjoining pen during the winter months when there is no pasture for them to eat. I have a vague hope that with the sheep stomping down the snow in the pen, the chickens might be able to have an outdoor area where they can be free-range even in the winter. And maybe they can forage for some of their own food among the bugs attracted to the sheep, the sheep poo and the hay/bedding for the sheep.