This month I cleaned up the chicken pasture. It is amazing how much junk ends up out there over the winter- random pieces of wood, debris from the bunny pen, extra water containers, pallets. I cleaned out all of the junk so that there is more room for pasture to grow. I also planted some raspberry plants along the fence in hopes that my birds can benefit from the berries (or I can... whatever!). When the canes start to multiply in a few years, I can let the goats loose in that pasture and they will clean it up. In the meantime, I want to try making this a permanent (permaculture) chicken pasture/garden.
And... I have begun the process of chicken-weeding to determine who is laying eggs and who isn't. To do this, I've been separating one chicken per week and putting it in a dog kennel (with food and water) in where the goats sleep. My first chicken laid an egg on the second day and passed the test with flying colors. I marked her with a yellow piece of string around one leg and put a new chicken in the kennel. Each chicken has one week to lay an egg, and if none appears I will assume that she is ready for the stock pot. That way I will eliminate the non-producing chickens from my flock.
Already I can see the fruits of my "weeding" labors. My chicken feed is lasting longer. The chickens stopped eating all of their feed, so I cut it back from six pounds per day to five pounds. We bought some feed in March, and I expect it to last through May at least.
One of my ducks died this month (he was sick from being pecked on by the other ducks). That was a bummer. Looking back, I should have separated him and his incubated brother from the other ducks when I noticed they were getting pecked on. And looking farther back, I probably introduced them to the flock too early. Perhaps if I had waited longer, they would have incorporated better.
I saved almost two dozen fertilized duck eggs for my brother to incubate (don't worry, I won't be raising them!), and now the two remaining male ducks are slated for the chopping block. But until that happens, they are happily munching grass and making a mess in their water. Speaking of which... I found my much-coveted duck pond! It was a kiddie pool that cost $2.00 at a garage sale. My ducks absolutely love it, and I love it too because I don't have to change their water every day. Only every other day. :/
Kidding and all that follows was 100% easier this year than last year. Dehorning, for one, was much easier. Because all the kids were male, we disbudded (with the iron I already bought) at four days. I wasn't as nervous/newbie as last year, so I got a nice copper ring around the bud with no slipping or other mishaps. So far I've not noticed any horn regrowth, which was a big problem last year with all of the kids.
Training/socializing has also gone 100% better. I made it a point to hold/cuddle each goat for 3-5 minutes every day until they were two weeks old, with only a few missed days. It was time consuming, yes, but I'd rather do that than bottle feed. At two weeks, I started separating them from Adi at night, so I could milk her in the morning. Before I let them back into the pasture with her, I feed each kid a single raisin. They love the raisins, and they love me. They actually follow me around now! Last year the kids would walk up to me if I sat still for several minutes, but would run away as soon as I reached out for them. This year is totally different.
One new thing for us this year was giving vaccinations. It was my first time ever doing shots, and it went... okay. So far I haven't noticed any lumps, but perhaps I didn't look hard enough. As far as cost, my CD&T from last year was still good (I bought it but didn't use it), and I just had to buy needles and syringes. These were a couple dollars. I decided to do shots because it increases the sell-ability by a lot for only a few dollars per goat. Speaking of sell-ability...
ALL OF THE GOAT BABIES ARE SOLD! They are still at my house, but both buyers have come to the farm and put deposits down for their goats. Last year I waited until the goats were ready to leave the farm before I put them on Craigslist. It took at least a month to sell them, and I didn't get as much money as I had hoped. We had to weed through a lot of potential buyers and no-shows. This year Hubs suggested that I sell them early by just asking for a deposit. It worked like a charm; they sold in a single weekend! What a huge load off my chest. Just goes to show that sometimes husbands know best. :)
Adi is giving less milk than she did last year; about 2.5 - 3 cups per milking at this point (I am milking once a day). This is still enough for Hubs and I, but there won't be much extra, I'm guessing. Adi is five years old now, so probably not in her prime anymore. Still, she is a good little goat and I intend to keep her as long as possible.
Profit & Loss
Milk products- $10.00
Goat deposits- $65.00
Syringes & needles- $4.43
Duck pond- $2.00
Total net profit: $105.57
Year-to-date net profit: ($80.51)
Yay for some income this month! I was able to sell quite a few eggs, some soap, and of course the baby goats, even without any farmers market. Next month I've scheduled two weeks of farmers market, which I hope will bring in enough money to get my year-to-date net profit back to zero.
In June I'll receive the remaining $160.00 on the goats, which will be enough to support my little hobby farm through the summer at least. I don't expect to EARN a ton of money this year from my animals. I would like to make about $500.00 to buy some bees next year, but that money will probably not come from farmers markets.
A New Venture
In the next hobby farm update, I'll be sharing a new venture that I'm starting. There is a lot work involved, but the work is more aligned with my personality (less people, less traveling) and has five to ten times more earning potential than farmers markets. This year it will involve $100.00-$200.00 of monetary investment, but also some paid work/training that I hope will offset a little bit of the investment. We'll see!
Until next time,