During the thaw, my chickens (actually, half I was just chicken-sitting for) really started to lay eggs. I got big eggs, small eggs, blue eggs, and even duck eggs again! This made me very happy. At one point I was getting 15 eggs per day. At this point I am watching to see how much egg production goes down. Depending on how many eggs I get from my own chickens, I may begin selling eggs to out-the-door customers soon.
One problem I ran into this month was leg infections. The chickens I was babysitting had been marked with spiral leg bands. Toward the end of the month, I noticed one of the roosters limping. Upon further inspection, the leg band was somehow causing infection in that leg. It was almost like the leg had grown over the band! I removed the band (which was pretty well lodged) and then fed the roo some garlic for a few days to help with the infection. After about two days, he was walking fine again.
About a week later, I noticed one of the hens limping. Sure enough, the leg with the band was hot and a little swelled up. This band had not lodged into the leg as much, so it came out easier and I just let the hen go. I decided to look for any more limping chickens, and sure enough I found another rooster hopping around on one leg.
The second rooster's swollen leg was HUGE, and a big black scab had formed OVER the back of his leg where the spiral band was. I didn't feel prepared to tackle this one on my own, so I took it up to the shop and Hubs helped me with it. He used some pliers to pry part of the band away from the leg, and then he used wire cutters to cut a piece of the band off. Then, pulling on one end with the pliers, he was able to pull the remaining band through the scab to get it off. We were both surprised at how well the rooster handled such a procedure.
I think the spiral bands worked okay for the smaller-legged chickens, but for the older hens and in particular the roosters, perhaps they were just too tight or constricting. I don't know.
Adi is fast approaching her due date, so I'm keeping an eye on her. On the last day of February I noticed a bit of mucus/discharge coming out the back. In 2016, this happened a couple weeks before the kidding. Her udder is starting to fill up, but it's nowhere near the size it needs to be. So I am going to sit tight for a couple more weeks and see what happens.
Profit & Loss
Note here: I've decided to count any farm-related book sales/royalties as hobby farm income. This is part of my transition away from farmers markets and toward easier streams of income such as online sales. I still plan on going to markets this year, but only once a month. In future years, I'm hoping that book sales will give a year-round income (however small). It is one more thing I can use to pay for the hobby farm.
Layer mash: $66.00
Total expenses: $96.00
Net profit: $(92.68)
Year-to-date net profit: $(121.68)
Note: In January I just tacked on my (negative) net profit to 2016's positive net profit. However, after looking over my records, I think it would be more informative to start the year at $0.00 and see how everything progresses from there. Otherwise I might get to the end of the year and think, "Wow, I made $200.00!" when that money was actually made in 2016, and 2017 was a negative year.
So far, then, my hobby farm is $121.68 in the hole. $35.00 of that went toward goat hay, and the rest was spent solely on chicken feed. In January and February, the chickens were eating $1.70 worth of feed every day. And toward the end of February that wasn't terrible, considering the fact that they were laying over a dozen eggs every day (bringing the price per dozen to $1.57). But it's still not that great of a deal. When the weather warms up, I'll be able to sell some eggs to offset the cost of feed.
Improving My Flock
One of my hens had some kind of ailment (I think it was an injury) that made her sick. She hardly ate, didn't walk right and just didn't move a whole lot. After a month of nursing in her own separate dog kennel/cage, she is back up on her feet and eating. One thing I haven't seen, though, is any eggs. So I have fed this chicken for the last month, and got nothing in return. I did the math, and for that one month it cost about $1.20 to feed her. That doesn't sound like much, but multiply it by eight or 10, and it's a lot to pay for the privilege of having a bunch of non-productive pets.
One of my ideas to try in March (or whenever most of the chickens are laying) is to isolate one older chicken every week and see if she lays eggs or not. One egg and she is allowed to stay- no eggs and we might have chicken dinner. Who knows, I might be able to do a rooster every time I process a chicken, and then we can have twice as many chicken dinners and cut even more non-productive animals out of the flock.
Chicken-sitting helped me realize how many more eggs are laid by a young bird than an old bird. I only bothered to get three or four new (young) birds last year, and the rest of my flock is older hens and roosters. Apart from processing the roosters (a task I love to put off until later), one way to have a more efficient flock would be to cull the older hens and then replace them with young hens. My brother has an incubator, so it would be very possible to selectively breed, and then incubate my own eggs in order to save money on new birds. That being said, I am currently doing a little research on what breeds would make the best dual-purpose meat birds and egg layers.
Til next time,