Spring has Sprung!

We are raising Freedom Ranger chickens this year to sell to our friends and community.

 

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The chicks are housed in a 4×4 tote that has been cut in half and filled with stove pellets to keep the ground clean. In the past, we have used heat lamps but due to us being off-grid and relying on our battery bank through the night we found the Brinsea Brooders use the least amount of energy. So far they have worked great and everyone is warm and active. I would not use them in a room that is super cold because I don’t think it has the capability to heat that much but at room temperature it works perfect.

 

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I fell in love the the Lavender Orphingtons I have been seeing online and decided to order a couple dozen hatching eggs. Unfortunately, our hatch rate was horrible! I ended up with five chicks out of the 25 eggs that were sent. I have always had success in my Brinsea Incubator so I am left wondering what happened.  I plan on ordering another set of eggs and trying it all over again.

 

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This little one is getting his or her feathers in. I am really hopeful I have at least one rooster and one hen.

 

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Not only are we raising little chickens we also have four Muscovy ducks in and out of the house. At night they get to go into a tote to stay nice and warm and during the day back outside. The nice thing about Muscovy ducks is you can tell the differences between males and females pretty quickly. The males get big fast and the little ladies stay petite. We probably won’t be keeping the males once they get to a certain weight because I have another chocolate and lavender male running around the ranch. The females will be here to provide us eggs and more ducklings down the road.

 

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We have had some hard times with our goats this year. We lost my first Oberhasli doeling at 5 weeks. I took her down for a Necropsy and there was nothing to report. It was heartbreaking and a huge blow to our perfect kidding record. Then we had Emily’s first freshener doe kid two weeks early and we lost the two bucklings. It is hard to type and admit to the losses but I think it is better to let people know it happens and it hurts but farm life goes on.

 

Here are some happy times with some of our yearling Nigerian Dwarfs:

 

Jack loves to run into the pasture and find “his goat”… this is Emmy giving him a hug.

 

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Emily loves to show me how strong she is and how she can still pick up the “babies”…this is Urban Acres SW Jit’RBug N’Jive.

 

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Oh and my sweet Elizabeth. She too likes to “hug her goat”…this is poor Emmy. (No goats were harmed in the taking of these photos)

 

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Next up to kid is A&W Farms CJ Valentine Olivia, she is due May 1st. Pleases keep us in your thoughts as we are hoping the troubles are behind us.

Quartz Ridge Ranch’s Goals for 2013

Every year we try to grow our ranch to allow for our family to be less dependent on stores and more on our land. The past year has been one of ups and downs, see (Do you Ever Feel Like Throwing in the Towel). I am looking forward to improving on some of our systems and adding new animals. I believe it is important for a ranch to have goals each year and have a plan to achieve those goals. We are at the point that our ranch has become a business and we need to have a business plan for it to be successful.

Goals for 2013:

  • Start American Guinea Hog CSA – Raise American Guinea Hogs to finish weight for members of our community at a reasonable price.
  • Start our Rabbitry – We will start with 1 buck and 3 does and grow from there when we get a handle on it!
  • Add in a few fiber sheep, preferably Finnish.
  • Purchase a used livestock trailer.
  • All pastures have automatic water for the animals by Summer 2013.
  • Participate in Farmer’s Market by selling eggs, AGH CSA and a few other ideas I have up my sleeve!

Projects for 2013:

  • Build a chicken pasture, divide it and plant it with a chicken forage blend.
  • Build a portable chicken coop for the chicken pasture.
  • Build a structure for hay storage so we can purchase in bulk with minimal loss throughout the year.
  • Add one more large pasture for growing out weaner hogs that connects to the other two hog pastures.
  • Finish front yard of our house – fencing, four gates, lawn and DG for walkway. Add more lavender and rosemary for farmer’s market.
  • Re-build out milking barn – add new windows and easier way to bring the goats in and out. Get our milking machine up and running.

What are you goals for your ranch? I would love any suggestions on ours too!!

Barley Fodder System

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With the increasing price of feed we had to find a solution to our ever growing feed bill. We wanted to keep with feeding our animals what they are supposed to eat and stay away from commercial feeds as much as possible.

We are lucky that we raise hogs that thrive on grass. The reason we purchased them, besides their social behavior, was they are grass eating machines. Our chickens, ducks and geese also eat grass. So, does our horse….Do you see a trend here?

The next thing we had to research is goats. Can goats live off grass only? No. Can they get a lot of nutrients, calories and minerals from it? Yes. Can they eat the fresh grass and then be supplemented with dry roughage? YES!! So we are able to decrease the amount of alfalfa pellets we are feeding, the goat pellets we are feeding and the hay we are feeding when we give them barley fodder!

Fodder? What is Fodder you ask?

Well…for us it is sprouted barley seeds. In our system we have built it takes 8 days for barley to grow from seed to feed all hydroponically.

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We start by soaking organic barley seed in a bucket of water for 12 hours. Then we lay those seeds out in a grow tray with holes punched in the bottom. We then water a few times a day to keep the seeds wet so they can germinate. We continue to water a few times a day until it is green and lush enough for our animals to eat.

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A 10×20” tray feeds all of our chickens (30), geese (3) and muscovy ducks (6) and costs less than $2.00. If we were to weigh the barley fodder and feed according to weight, we would only feed a half a try to them a day. I tear little pieces of it off and throw it into their bowls.

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This chicken was sneaking a treat while I was feeding everyone.

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Since we started small (2 trays a day) we are only feeding our birds and the three American Guinea Hogs. The AGHs are thriving off of it! They eat it like it is candy. The horse took a little while to get used to it. She would eat the green part and leave the roots until one day the roots were gone. She now eats her entire biscuit.

We are slowly building a larger system to grow enough barley fodder for our entire ranch. I would like to be up to 8 trays a day so I have plenty of feed to add on more animals in the future.

One thing we are having some difficulty with is temperature regulation. The barley grows best at about 70 degree. If it is hotter it will mold quicker and not grow. If it is colder it will grow but take twice a long. We are insulating the area we are growing it in to keep the heat in. I am trying to figure out a way to heat it without spending a lot of money on a heater, wasting propane or using up our electricity.

As soon as we get the system fully running I will make a video to share with you all!

Video Tour of Quartz Ridge Ranch

I wanted to share a little more about our ranch and so with my Bloggie in hand I visited all our animals.

I feel like we have a unique little ranch and some people hear me talk about different breeds or how easy they are to manage but seeing it is a different story!

I think I will do a video every once in a while just to showcase the different breeds or different projects we have going on. I think a video is a million times better than photos.

So, please enjoy a little taste of QRR…Welcome

 

 

The Real Chicken

The chicken meat that most of us eat is very different from what our grandparents ate. Chicken was served on special occasions due to chicken being raised primarily on family farms. The flocks were small because they fed themselves through free foraging with some supplementation of grain and scraps. In 1922, the discovery of Vitamin-D made it possible to keep chickens in confinement year-round. In 1950, large farms and packing plants could grow birds by the tens of thousands. By using selective breeding the poultry industry developed a chicken that would take 6 to 7 weeks to grow known as the Cornish Cross. Poultry lost its status as luxury foods and chicken became a common meat product in the United States.

 

The Cornish Cross breed of chickens weigh up to 8.5lbs at 8 weeks!! These frankenchickens, as they are nicknamed, have been developed over the past few decades to put on astounding weights in a short period of time. This growth rate causes many a chicken to suffer from broken or deformed legs, heart attacks and heart failure. I have many friends that raise these types of chickens and from what I have seen they have been successful in raising them for 8 weeks with little problems. They did ration the food so the chickens didn’t overeat. Our problem with these chickens is that they have been genetically developed to be the only chickens the large scale producers use. Think about this…there are only a handful of bovine breeds used for milk, a handful of goat breeds used for meat, a few chicken breeds used for eggs…see the big picture? What about the hundreds of other breeds that are being lost due to lack of genetic diversity in farming.

When we decided to move from laying hens to meat birds we did lots of research on what breeds we could choose from while still holding on our beliefs of raising heritage breed animals. We went with both the Delaware and Jersey Giant breeds.

Although Delawares are not a particularly large birth, they do mature more quickly than heavier breeds. In fact, they were one of the most popular broiler breeds in the U.S. before the Cornish Cross emerged. They then became critically endangered because they no longer had a commercial use. Today they are on the “Threatened” list by the ALBC.

The Jersey Giants are the largest breed of chickens. During their first months they build up their bones and then the begin to fill out. They were nicknamed “the poor man’s turkey.” However, due to their slower growth, they were replaced and are now on “watch” list with the ALBC.

Now for the gross part…did you know that the chicken you buy at the grocery store may be up to 30% saline? The amount of water pumped into these chickens is so high that they have started to add sugar and other “broths” to recover some flavor that is lost. This is known as “plumping.” It makes the chicken tender but it also makes it bland. Oh…and if they are plumped up with 30% saline and other liquids…what are you paying for?

There are other chicken raising practices that I don’t agree with but that is a whole other blog. We will continue to raise happy and healthy chickens for both meat and eggs. I am hoping in the near future we will be able to sell fodder raised chickens to our community. In the mean time, please read the labels on your food and research company practices before you buy.