Entries in Eggs (34)

Thursday
Oct272016

Eggs are still in season!

This time of year, people familiar with pasture raised eggs really begin savoring each and every colorful shell they can bring home.  That's because eggs are a seasonal item.  A hen has a natural cycle to her egg laying and during the winter her body begins a molt where she will lose most of her feathers and replace those feathers with new ones.   While the molt is going on, the hen's body naturally redirects all resources into growing new feathers, and not into producing eggs.

This annual cycle is surprisingly triggered by the light.  As soon as the light dips below 12 hours, egg production takes a nosedive.  There are however many factors that influence that.  One big influence is the age of the hen.  A younger hen will often wait longer to go into a molt and will finish faster.  

This is what is helping our hens to continue producing so strongly.  It has been very nice to come inside with   egg baskets literally spilling over with eggs - in October!

Although we feel very fortunate, we know so eggs numbers will drop quickly and we will be back to having to ration out a small supply of eggs amongst a huge demand.  In the meantime, enjoy an extra egg in your omelet or buy an extra dozen in the next week or so to store for later when there may not be any eggs available.

Tuesday
Jul122016

Lots of Happy Clucking Going on Right Now

The hallmark of farming is innovation and adaptability.  That's because farming is one long continuum of unexpected circumstances that you must then respond to and come up with a solution that fits your specific needs at that moment.

This has been the case with the sudden and unexpected loss of our layer flock to an unknown predator.  It left us in a lurch on a few fronts.  Most importantly, our customers who rely on us to provide them with eggs no longer had their normal yummy nutritious breakfasts.  Also, our pastures were missing the fertility and pest control that our layer flock provides.  Additionally, the financial impact was substantial. 

The first solution we had was to collect our eggs from the remaining flock, breed those as replacement egg layers.  However, that is a seven-month process by the time we incubate and then grow the hens to laying age.  Most of our customers did not want to wait seven months for more eggs, but also could not stomach the idea of going back to eggs from the store.

That's when we had an idea.  This time of year is when our local hatcheries breeder farms are beginning to turn over their farms.  Typically these small farms, operated by Amish families, keep their hens for one year before selling all their current hens and getting new chicks in the late summer.  The hens who have lived on the farm one year have started to molt, meaning they lose most of their feathers while growing new feathers.  During this time, their egg laying drops dramatically as their bodies focus all it's energy on growing new feathers rather than producing eggs.  After new feathers have grown in, they will begin laying again, but at significantly smaller numbers than their first laying season.  Hatcheries have found it is best for their operations to simply start with fresh birds each year.

However, it is our thought that by taking these hens, who would otherwise be underutilized as low-cost meat, we would bring them onto the farm and integrate them into our pasture raised setting.  It is our hope and belief that this pasture-raised and organic-fed system will jumpstart the birds health and give them a couple more years of productive growth laying big beautiful eggs for us....and the great thing is they start laying right away, albeit in low numbers.

 
We traveled several hundred miles and brought home a trailer full of hens -- significantly expanding our original pre-predator flock size and put them is a separate pasture away from all other hens as we quarantine them for two weeks to ensure they transition healthily onto our farm.  It also gives us time to train them to our system.   They need to learn to free range during the day but return to their mobile coop at night.  Although roosting is an instinctual behavior they will do no matter what, without training they don't tend to all go in the roosts, rather they often roost on the undercarriage of the wagon their roost is built on or hide  in tall grasses of the pasture -- not safe. 

How do you train a  chicken?  With persistence and patience.  First, it's not much different than kids.  You have to make it their idea to roost inside.  If we simply scoop them up and put them in the roost, they do not learn nearly as quickly as when they find the way into the roost on their own.  The method we have found that works the best is for the WHOLE family to go out to the roosts each night about 30 minutes before dark and just keep shooing them away from the underside of the wagon and other hiding spots in their pasture - essentially making the inside of the roost the coziest, safest place to be.  It works.  The first night we had to hand carry in about 150 birds that did not get the courage to go into the roost before it got too dark for them to move around.  (Did you know once it gets dark, chickens essentially turn into immobile zombies that just plop down and wait for the sun to come back up?)  Tonight, we only had to put in 23 of the rather slow learners in the group.  We probably only have one more week of training?


SO ABOUT THOSE

EGGS?


We have spent this week collecting the eggs and giving them away to neighbors or using them in various ways with our family until we transition them into our organic pasture raised diet.  A little online research did not give any definitive answers how long would be necessary before the new diet would affect the nutrition put into the egg.  Most seem to indicate that it begins happening immediately and the effect becomes increased until it peaks after 1-2 weeks.  We have been watching the yolk as an indicator of how much grass they are getting in their system. 

We have decided to start collecting eggs for sale to you after one week and give you all the information you need to make the decision that's best for your family.  Laura will contact customers who are already on our regular egg schedule and see when they are ready for eggs as soon as they become available.   We anticipate the addition of this many hens will get many people eager to buy eggs, so please let us know if you are interested, especially if you are a first time egg buyer.  The stress of moving into and learning a new environment -- although very healthy - in addition to their current molting status and age can cause their egg numbers to be down for a while.  We're hoping egg production will soon level out and we will begin getting lots of new eggs that we can share with you.  We are looking forward to an abundance of golden yolks!


 
Meet our newest farm workers! click image to play video
Tuesday
Jun142016

Prowling Predator - Sasquatch maybe?



Our farm has considered itself lucky that we have had very little problems with predators in the last five years. This is impressive when you consider the hundreds of birds we have free ranging on our property.  This month our luck has worn out, though.  When putting up our flock of around 150 layers, we do not count the hens every night when I close them up safe and secure in their coop.  However, I had thought they seemed a little more roomy than normal on the roosts one night and after a few nights of noticing the same thing, I decided to count beaks.  What I found was alarming -- we were down to around 70 hens.  This is a huge part of our flock and they had disappeared in less than a week or so.  And unfortunately, subsequent days have resulted in continued losses despite our attempts to relocate the coop, increase visual checks and install game cameras.

The problem is we have seen NO evidence of dead birds anywhere to give us a clue what type of predator we are dealing with.  It appears we are losing them during the day since the coop shows no signs of entry and removal.  Often, if you find the carcass you can surmise the type of predator because each eats its prey in a certain way.  However, without a body, it is hard to convict.  The evidence at this points seems to be pointing to a clear case of a sasquatch living somewhere on our property and taking the chickens with extreme stealth.  

We have set up game cameras to automatically shoot video when they detect motion  One big issue that has contributed largely to our predator problem is last summer we lost our male guardian dog and now just have Mara patrolling the property.  With only one dog, she is not doing as good a job patrolling the property and instead sees guarding the house as a more suitable job.  We are working on remedying that.  

The direct impact on you is that we are experiencing about an 80% drop in egg production, so many people will be disappointed to not be getting eggs.  We will rebuild the flock -- but realize in our world of real food -- that is a 6-month proposition from the time we get chicks to the time they are laying.  We're sorry for not being able to provide the eggs that so many of our loyal customers are ravenous about.  Our family has been skimping on eggs lately too, and it's no fun.

Wednesday
Feb102016

Winter Isn't So Bad! ...at least this week!

Winter has "so far" turned out to be pretty mild.  The greatest part has been the sprinkling of nice days that have consistently interrupted the cold spells that have shown up.  This has allowed us to get a lot work done on the farm beyond the daily subsistence type chores.  This weekend was filled with a couple of these bonus jobs that we might not have been able to do if we had been dealing with the extra work of extreme temperatures or snow.  


One big job that was completed was we moved a bunch of next year's layers out to the pasture flock.  These were chicks that we hatched this fall and had been living with our front yard girls until they were old enough to start working in the pastures. Combining groups of chickens always involves a 'getting to know you' phase of the two groups.  Although chickens can be somewhat resistant to making new friends -- we have found when given the right amount of space, they do just fine.  Pecking order needs to be established, but that can be done fairly quickly and then they act just like a flock that's always been together.  

Another job that got done was building a new paddock and moving our breeding pigs into that pasture.  We keep our boy and girls separate and only put our breeding stock together when we want to have piglets.  Today, we put our two sows and boar together.  This should lead to piglets in June sometime.  Pig gestation time is 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours.  Large Blacks typically have 8-10 piglets in a litter.  You might want to set aside sometime to come visit the farm in late June to see some cute piglets!

Monday
Jan252016

Pasture Raised Meats are Seasonal

Graph showing how many eggs were produced and sold from our farm.  


 Just look at the graph above.  It represent the numbers of dozen eggs we sold each week.  You will see that in the winter we get very few eggs, but that changes dramatically once spring begins thinking about summer.  This is a great graphical explanation of when you farm in sync with Nature like we do, you have to accept that the seasons dictate the best timing.  Winter may not be the time for pasture raised eggs.

However, winter is the time for pasture raised pork since our pigs are always at their healthiest and most tasty when the weather gets cold and they start laying on the extra flavorful and delicious fat.  This also coincides when their diet is at it's peak diversity -- adding even more flavor.

As Spring arrives and the green grass starts growing, it will be time to order your pasture raised chickens which we'll have throughout the summer and fall when forage is plentiful.  

Early summer brings us to the time when we grass fed beef becomes available.

Eating with the seasons goes beyond just your vegetables, it can also be considered when buying your meat and eggs.  

 

Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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