Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Poultry nutrition and Omega 3's

Feeding the girls...

I was nervous about feeding the chickens and ducks when we first got them.  If you Google something like "make your own chicken feed," you will get a LOT of opinions about how to make a balanced feed ration.  Here are a couple of things we learned:

1.  Growing ducks need niacin
If ducklings do not get enough niacin, they will have leg abnormalities, failure to thrive, lack of weight gain, seizures, and eventually death.  Luckily, it is easy to make sure ducklings get enough niacin by feeding specially made waterfowl starter and grower feed.  You can also put niacin in their water or add brewers yeast to their feed.

2. Growing chicks do not need too much calcium
Calcium is needed in adult chickens so the egg shells are nice and strong.  BUT growing chicks can have kidney problems if they get too much calcium.  Also, they can get rickets if they have too much calcium.  Again, these problems are easy to avoid if the correct starter and growing feeds are used for growing chicks.

3.  Protein requirements change for growing poultry.
Chicks need a high level of protein so they can get a good start.  As the birds age, they need less protein and that is adjusted in the type of feed they eat (starter vs. grower. vs. layer feeds).

4. Supplementing...

Black Oil Sunflower seeds

We also give sunflower seeds as a treat.  I have read that you can feed 15-30% of their daily ration in black oil sunflower seeds.  We don't feed quite that much...more like 10%.  We bring it out to them in the afternoon and they LOVE them.

Benefits to feeding black oil sunflowers to laying hens include:
The oil in the sunflower seeds is good for their feathers
An increase in egg production
Vitamin E to protect immune system 
Great source of protein
Rich in antioxidants


Our birds are all out on pasture right now so they are getting green grass each day.  In the winter, we are going to start adding some flaxseed to the chickens to keep the omega 3 fatty acid level up in the eggs.  Flax seed is high in protein, oil and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega 3's

Let me go down the Omega 3 rabbit hole here for a minute...I am going to try to keep this simple (click on any underlined text for more information)...

Omega 3's are good for you and most people do not get enough of them. 
You have probably heard of Omega 6's.  Most people get plenty of Omega 6.  The problem is that omega 3 and omega 6 are metabolised by the same enzymes, so if there is a flood of omega 6 in the body, omega 3 may not be available to the body in the required levels, even if sufficient quantities are consumed.

Grass fed animals have more omega 3 in their bodies.  For example, animals being outside and feeding on grass and plants has a big impact on the fat composition and may increase the amount of omega-3s in meat by as much as 25% while lowering harmful saturated fats.  The same is true with eggs from chickens that are out on pasture!  More omega 3's!

Take home message: eating eggs from pastured hens are good for you because they have more omega 3!

We purchased feed from the feed store at the beginning.  Now, we get our feed from a local grower and supplier.  It is non-GMO and does not have soybean in it.  I think it is mostly barley and peas. 

Not the most eggciting topic but this is something that we think about a lot as poultry egg farmers...have a great day!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Gifted a family heirloom!

The Wetzel side

Maybe egg farming and delivery is in our blood.  Mark's great grandfather (Henry Charles Wetzel, Sr.) was a farmer and sold eggs!  He also had dairy cows and delivered milk/eggs.  Recently, Mark's great aunt Louise sent us the egg scale that he used on his farm.  What a great piece of family history!  
Mark's great grandfather's egg scale that he used on his farm from 1935-1955
Here is a picture of Louise and Butch (Mark's grandfather aka Henry Charles Wetzel, Jr.) on the farm as kids.  They say they remember their father sitting at the kitchen table with fine sandpaper, cleaning the straw and "chicken dirt" off of each egg.  Then he would place them in the egg cartons and deliver them to his customers.

Henry Charles Wetzel Sr. (Mark's great grandfather) bought a farm in 1935 and married in 1943.  They left the farm in 1955.  Before becoming a farmer, Henry Wetzel Sr. was a professional golfer.  We even have a trophy of his that has been made into a lamp!
Trophy says "Henry Wetzel North British Annual Trophy Won By"
FYI: Henry Charles Wetzel Jr. (aka Butch) was a golf course superintendent for over 38 years.  Mark's dad (Henry Charles Wetzel III) has a degree in plant pathology and specializes in turf pathology (as in golf course diseases).  So, it seems that farming and golfing run in the Wetzel blood!  What an interesting combination...

Mark's maternal grandfather was a milk delivery man!

The Klenda side

My maiden name is Klenda.  I grew up in Kansas on a small diversified farm.  Our family had a farrow to finish hog operation and raise beef cattle.  My dad also grows wheat and other grains.  

My great uncle Paul and great aunt Dorthy (on my mom's side), had an industrial chicken egg operation.  They did not live far from us.  As a child, I remember going to their egg barn, sitting down at a desk, pushing a button, and a little conveyor belt would just bring all the eggs down to the desk area.  Then, you worked like crazy to pick up all the eggs and put them into big flats.  We loved finding the squishy eggs that had not developed a hard shell.  

After I left home and went to college, my Aunt Julie (on my dad's side) started a free range chicken egg business.  She also lives really close to my parents.  Every summer, I remember going to her house for chicken butchering day.  It was truly a family affair and everyone had their job (scalding, picking, eviscerating, etc...).  In the summer of 2015, I took Mark and Joshua to visit her when we were trying to determine if an egg business might be a good fit for Mark.  
Aunt Julie's free range egg farm
Aunt Julie's egg business is truly free range, there are no fences anywhere.  There are shelters for the chickens to go into at night but other than that, they just roam all over their farm.  I think the name of her egg business is Cackleberry Eggs.

Mark's egg business will probably not get to the scale of these other egg businesses.  BUT we are only in phase 1 of the business.  We plan on growing and adding more egg laying chickens/ducks this fall and next year (phase 2 and phase 3 expansions).

I have relatives with egg businesses on both ends of the spectrum...industrial and free range.  Henry's grandfather used to farm and sell eggs/milk.  Does everyone else have egg farming in their families?  

Have an Eggcellent Day!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Raw Honey - How Sweet It Is!

Bees and Honey

We have 2 beehives on the farm.  Years ago, Joshua, our youngest, was interested in keeping bees for 4-H.  We bought and put together a top-bar hive in 2016.  Top-bar hives are considered a more natural way of keeping bees.  Here is a pic from 2016 with Joshua holding a bar from our top-bar hive.  
The bees draw their honeycomb from the bar at top of the hive and move horizontally through the hive.  When the honey is harvested, the honeycomb must be cut off the bar and then crushed and strained. 

After moving to the farm, our bees did well and grew so large that they split and swarmed.  We caught the swarm and I ran out and bought a Lansgstroth hive.  These are the more traditional hives that you see that look like boxes on top of each other.  
In the Lansgstroth hive, the bees live in the lower boxes and put honey in the upper, super boxes.  One of the benefits of the Lansgstroth hive is that you can add more boxes onto the hive, encouraging the bees to store more honey.  In comparison, the top-bar hive cannot be added on to.

Last fall (2019), I felt that the top-bar hive seemed pretty weak and did not have much honey stored.  The Lansgstroth hive seemed much more prepared (i.e. had lots of honey).   In February, I found that the top-bar hive was actually still alive!  I looked closer at the Lansgstroth hive and the bees had died.  I ordered new bees.  Then, in March, I found that the top-bar hive was also dead.  Shoot!  I ordered more bees...
Package of bees headed to the top-bar hive
The top-bar hive did not have much honey to begin with so I cleaned it out and put new bees in on April 18.  The Lansgstroth hive had a LOT of honey in it.  It was almost like the bees did not even touch any of it.  I took all the honey out.  I don't have a spinner so I had to use the crush and strain method.  I cut the combs out of the frames and crushed it.  The honey drips through a strainer from the top bucket into the bottom bucket.  

We never heat the honey so it is unpasteurized, raw honey.  I was also able to collect a bunch of wax!
There are lots of benefits of raw honey:
  • Raw honey is full of disease fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients
  • Raw honey is antibacterial and can be used on burns and wounds
  • Raw honey contains natural sugars, minerals, vitamins, and pollen (and little pieces of wax)
  • Raw honey can be used to sooth a sore throat and cough
I use honey in a lot of my baking and I love to just put butter and honey on fresh baked bread.  Fortunately, we have way more than we can use so I have bottled some honey into 1 pound jars.  They are available for $10 each.  Let us know if you are interested!
As the growing season progresses, we will also have various jams/jellies available.  Right now, we have some Roasted Rhubarb jam.  Soon, there will be raspberry jam.  Then, blackberry, huckleberry, elderberry, apple, plum, pear and so on, just to name a few.  I think you get the idea.  We only make jam or jelly from plants that we grow or can forage from. 

If you are interested in honey, email me at remarkablefarms@gmail.com  

For some reason, I cannot seem to comment on my own posts!  I'm sure there is a button somewhere I need to push to make this possible but I can't seem to figure it out!