Both of the goats are fat and happy. I was able to avoid feeing hay for most of the month because it was SO, so nice out and the grass just kept growing. Now I am feeding them hay leftover from last year, plus "treats" that I grew/harvested myself like overripe summer squash and sumac.
Chickens & Ducks
Egg production was up and down last month, depending on the weather. During the last few days it finally got cold and egg production went down to 2-4 eggs per day. The good news is that I consistently get one duck egg every day! That is pretty decent coming from two laying ducks. Especially when I realize that I have 20+ hens producing between 1-3 eggs every day.
My one new learning moment this month was: our first hawk attack.
One morning I went out to do chores, and saw that one of the roosters was out. That was kind of funny, because only the smallest of my hens can escape the pasture. As I got closer to the coop, I saw a large bird swooping about. I knew right away that it was a bird of prey. Fear struck my heart for my precious chickens!! I hurried to the gate, got inside, and sure enough, a big white hen was collapsed near the fence. The hawk was at it's side, but flew off when it saw me start to run over. I noticed, thankfully, that most of the other chickens were in the coop at this point even though it was a gorgeous, 70+ degree day.
The hen was dead, unfortunately. However, she was still warm and not stiff at all. I suspected that she had just been killed. I took her up to where Hubs was working, still scared for the rest of my chickens. We decided to do an emergency butcher session to see if the meat was salvagable. In the meantime, I locked the chickens inside the coop until I figured out what else to do.
We ended up eating the breast meat of our salvaged bird, but nothing else. The legs were very tough. The bird was older, and extremely fatty on the inside. She was probably too fat and old to run away from the hawk. In the future, I don't think we will try to salvage any more birds. It was a lot of work for a little bit of breast meat. I wouldn't recommend it, as most birds die more questionable deaths via sickness or attacks by dogs or raccoons, which are more likely to carry disease. In our case, the bird was killed by suffocation and it was a fresh kill, which is why we attempted the emergency processing. However, like I said before, the small amount of salvageable meat was not worth it.
For the rest of the day, I decided to let the goats in with the chickens. When it got colder (and I hadn't seen the hawk in a few days) I separated the chickens and goats again, and we haven't had a similar occurrence since... that I'm aware of, anyway.
Since there's not much to write about in the way of animals, I thought I'd write about my new garden pest discovery: grey aphids. These little bugs were all over my broccoli. Apparently they make their appearance during late summer or fall, which explains why I didn't notice them early in the year. Organic methods of control include insecticidal sprays (dish soap + water, etc.) and possibly row covers.
Profit & Loss
Goat mineral block- $4.04 (I used a 10% off coupon... be proud!)
Total Net Profit: $3.96
Year-to-date Net Profit: $429.22
Looking Forward: Bees or No Bees?
If all goes well, I'll end the year with a tidy $400.00 profit for my hobby farm. Of course, I'll spend $100.00-$200.00 in January and February for chicken feed and goat hay, with little or no income. I am still trying to decide if 2017 is the year for bees or not. I really want bees. The problem is that a bee setup cost around $500.00. I'm not sure if I am ready to invest that much of my hobby farm money for something that will not give an immediate return.
Cons of Getting Bees in 2017:
1. Less time to prepare and learn about bees. If I wait until 2018, I will have a whole year (and plenty of hobby farm money) to buy/read books about bees, visit bee farms and possibly attend a class or two.
2. Less time to shop around for deals and/or DIY some of the equipment. I know that Hubs could build some of the boxes, which would save money. I'm sure there are other ways to save on individual supplies as opposed to buying a kit. If I got bees this year, I would just buy a kit.
3. More cushion in the budget. At the end of 2017, I will have a larger chunk of "investment money". This means that I could use 100% "farm money" to pay for the bees (and still have extra left) instead of subsidizing the bees with our personal money*.
Pros of Getting Bees in 2017:
1. The earlier I get bees, the faster I will get honey... for a long time. After the initial investment of equipment, the bees will support themselves and not require more money (unless they die, but replacement bees are nowhere near $500.00).
2. I don't plan on getting more animals this year. That means I'll have more time to dedicate toward the bees. Who knows what could happen if I waited that might prevent me from having the time to do bees?
3. I just really want bees. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to jump in and do it. If you keep making excuses, "educating yourself" and whining about lack of funds, you end up never doing it.
*Note: money is not tight for us, so I could easily afford to get the bees. It's just the principles of frugality and a hobby farm supporting itself that I like to uphold.
What do you think? What would you do if you were in my shoes?