Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Feed woes and wins!

 On the Farm

Sometimes things just don't go according to plan...We knew that there would come a time that we would need to get poultry feed in bulk.  When I say "bulk", I am talking about tons of feed at a time.  If you go to the local farm store, you can buy 50 pound bags of feed.  We would go through a 50 pound bag of feed each day with all the ducks and chickens that Mark has.  We were buying 40 pound bags of feed from a local farmer and we were getting like 25 bags at a time.  This would last about a month and this is when Mark had 70some chickens and 40some ducks.  Since that time, we have added another 70some chickens.  The point is that this a lot of feed to move around by hand!  I started researching about feed bins and got in touch with a lady on a local Facebook homesteading group.  She sells feed and I was asking her about how she gets the feed and sorts it out for people.  She also had an egg business at the time, but has since sold her egg business.  She had a big portable grain bin and this seemed like a good way to go for buying feed.  She gave me the name of the individual that she purchased her feed bin from.
Three ton portable feed bin

Luckily, he was located in Post Falls, Idaho which is a couple hours north of where we live now.  We contacted the individual and set up a day and time to go and pick one up.  I also asked if he knew of any place where we could go and take it and get it filled!  He gave me the name of 3 local grain mills and I made some calls.  One of the mills was "kind of" on the way home so we set it up to get a ton of feed from them.  The portable feed bin holds 3 tons of feed but we could only afford to get one ton at the time.  I am going to call this first grain mill the "Valleyford" grain mill from now on (because it was located near a town called Valleyford).  
Filling the feed bin at Valleyford

There is a local grain mill that is only about 15 miles from our home.  BUT they are so popular that they have a wait list to get in and purchase feed from them!  We got on the wait list in January when we got our feed bin.  However, we were going to have to do something else in the meantime.  The individual that we were purchasing feed from in 40 pound bags stopped providing feed.  I literally got a text message from him while driving home with the new feed bin saying that he was getting out of the feed business.  Talk about timing!
Feed going into the feed bin

Okay...we got home with the grain bin and the feed.  This one ton would last about a month.  The Valleyford feed mill was 1 hour and 45 minute drive...one way!  I had been talking to another farmer that sells feed and they were much closer...about 40 minutes from our home.  It was a little challenging to work with him and he didn't always have feed but at one time it finally worked out that he had feed available and we needed some.  We headed out there to get a ton of feed.  We will call this one the Colfax grain mill.  The feed looked different and it had garbanzo beans in it.  They kept going on and on about how it was such good feed.  Colfax grain mill was cheaper and closer than the Valleyford feed mill so we decided to give it a try.  We brought it home and almost immediately, I realized that it was probably NOT even chicken feed.  No one would eat it...not the chickens and not the ducks.  They hated the garbanzo beans!  AND I don't think there was any minerals in it because we started getting soft shelled eggs.  I have no idea what they sold us but it was not good...and we had a ton of it!
The cats were very curious about the grain bin when we brought it home.

Shortly after getting this bad feed into the bin, I noticed another new local feed mill in our area.  It might sound odd but as the feed goes into the bin, the feed on the top actually get pulled through and comes out the bottom into the bucket first.  I say this to tell you that I had a great idea of putting some "good" feed on top of the bad feed and then it would "mix" together to kind of dilute the bad feed  as it came out the bottom of the bin.  We will call this one Garfield grain mill.  I asked what the price of a ton of feed was and it was a good price!  It was also fairly close...about 40 minute drive one direction.  We headed out and got the feed.  Then, we got the bill.  It was TWICE as much as I was expecting!  I think I even felt my heart skip a beat.  I almost wanted to cry...it was WAY more than we could hardly afford.  I asked for clarification.  See...I had asked for the price of a ton of feed.  She had replied with the cost of 1000 pounds.  If you didn't know, a ton is 2000 pounds.  SO...I thought I was getting a great deal on a ton of feed but it was only half of the price.  Does that make sense?  It was totally a miscommunication.  I just assumed that when I asked for the price of a ton of feed that she was giving the the cost of a ton of feed but her text clearly says 1000 pounds is $X amount.  It was super great feed but just way too expensive.  Like several hundred dollars more expensive than Valleyford grain mill.

We finally got through all the bad and expensive feed then needed more feed, naturally...the chickens and ducks want to eat every day...who knew.  We went back to Valleyford grain mill even though it takes a couple hours to drive there, an hour for the feed to load into the bin, and then a couple hour drive back.  It makes for a long day.  We even almost got into a super bad accident on the highway on the way there this time.  It is a little hard to explain but we had been following a truck hauling a boat for most of the way.  All of a sudden, I see them pull over onto the shoulder...remember, we are all driving 60 MPH.  The reason he hit the shoulder is because there was a truck stopped in the highway wanting to make a left hand turn in front of him.  I was trying to decide which one I wanted to hit because we were going WAY too fast to come to a stop.  I decided it was best to hit the boat but then at the last second I decided to go into the lane of the oncoming traffic.  LUCKILY, the car in the oncoming traffic realized what was happening and had pulled over onto their shoulder.  So, I flew through going about 40 MPH and we were all lined up 4 vehicles across the highway.  Then, the truck with the boat pulled in behind me and we just all kept going like it was supposed to happen that way.  My heart was pounding like a hundred miles a minute and I just could NOT believe that we didn't hit someone!  
A throwback pic of Mark feeding chickens!

Okay...back to the feed...the first batch of feed we got from Valleyford grain mill was ground up very fine and it kept getting like "stuck" in the bin.  I would have to open the top and climb up there and knock it down with a hoe.  Remember, this is back in the winter when things are cold and icy.  I did not like having to climb up the steel ladder and try to knock the feed down while balancing and trying not to fall down 10 feet to the ground below.  I asked if they could do a more course grind, hoping that it would flow out of the bin better and they were able to do that and it worked great! 

In late summer, we needed more feed and we went back up to Valleyford grain mill and I asked for the course grind.  Unfortunately, this time, the feed did not get ground up enough and we ended up with a lot of whole peas in the feed.  The poultry cannot eat whole peas so there was quite a bit of waste in this batch.  The whole peas would plug up the feeders and it was a mess.  You can see the peas in the bottom of this feeder...

I was going to have them just grind it up fine again the next time BUT WE FINALLY GOT THE TEXT THAT WE WERE OFF THE WAITLIST AT THE LOCAL GRAIN MILL!!!  This is such a blessing!  We can drive there, get the feed loaded and drive back home in less than an hour!  AND...it is the BEST feed!!!  The girls and ladies all LOVE it!  So happy!!!  Here is a close up of the feed that we have now...it is perfectly ground...
I know this blog has been a bit of a rant...who knew that getting feed for poultry could be so challenging!  I thought we were going to have to start our own grain mill business!  I hope this local grain mill never goes out of business!!!  I know there are lots of exclamation marks in this post too!!!  BUT we are SO happy!!!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Welsh Harlequin ducks??

 In the Coop

A couple of weeks ago, there was a post on a local homesteading Facebook page that a pair of ducks were available.  The breed is called Welsh Harlequin.  
I have always been interested in this breed for Mark's egg business.  Before we got any ducks, I spent a lot of time researching breeds.  The Welsh Harlequin is a great egg layer.  I started reading about hatching eggs to produce our own new ducklings and it got really complicated, very quickly.  To purchase a good incubator was very expensive (several hundred dollars).  Then, what would we do with the drakes (males - this was before we were processing meat chickens).  I then discovered the Golden Hybrid 300 egg laying ducks and this seemed to be a good way to go to get the egg business started.  But the idea of having our own breeding system to replace old layers never went out of my mind...a way of being more sustainable...

Then, last September, the opportunity came up to purchase some Khaki Campbell ducks and a drake (Dudley).  
Khaki Campbell ducks and drake
Khaki Campbells are well knows in the duck world as excellent egg layers.  I was told that the mother of the drake laid over 320 eggs in her first year.  That is a lot of eggs for one duck!  The plan was to sequester them into their own pen this last spring (2022) and let them hatch out some replacement ducks.  This just never happened because I got busy with the meat chickens earlier this year.  Also, we were getting SO many eggs this past summer (we had a 90% lay rate for much of the spring/summer!).  It did not seem like we needed more egg layers right away so that project got put on the back burner. 

One thing that bothers me about the Khaki Campbell and the Golden Hybrid 300 is that the ducks are high strung and energetic.  I have read that the Welsh Harlequin resulted from a couple mutant Khaki Campbell ducks that were bred specifically to create a new breed in 1949 so it is a relatively new breed.  The ducks are active but more docile.  I was talking with a women at the Farmers Market and she mentioned that she had some Welsh Harlequin and the drakes got larger than the Khaki Campbell drakes so that they are better for dressing out.  As soon as she said this, I knew that we had to get back to the original plan of growing out the Welsh Harlequin...
Female and male Welsh Harlequin ducks
The duck and drake that we purchased were hatched on the same day but I don't know if they are related.  I think it is safe to say that they probably are related.  Also, the female we got is all white.  The Welsh Harlequin I have seen online have creamy white heads with brown "stippling" which is a way of saying brownish spots all over them.  To introduce some variability and get back to the original breed description, we got some Welsh Harlequin ducklings!

Unfortunately, one of the ducklings passed yesterday.  So, we have 4 ducklings.  Another nice thing about the Welsh Harlequin is that you can sex them by the color of their bills when they are born!  So, it should be easy to separate out the drakes and grow them out for meat.  I actually had someone ask just last week if we had duck meat for sale.  I have also read that they pluck out more easily than other waterfowl.  This is a plus because I have read that plucking duck feathers is more challenging because their feathers are water resistant and harder to remove.  

We will probably not even be able to breed the Welsh Harlequin next summer because they are just ducklings and it takes several months for them to mature.  In the best case scenario, we will be able to breed them late next summer (about a year from now)...we will see...so that is our duck story and it may seem a little convoluted but sometimes that happens when you are figuring things out...

The days are getting shorter and I need to get the coop lighting set up...
Have an eggcellent day!