Tag Archives: laying hens

Chicken 201…

The Feed Yard Foodie family entered the realm of Chicken 201 this spring as we started our second flock of Rhode Island Red laying hens. After four years, the first flock suffered “laying fatigue” so it was time to replenish with young birds. The plan was to start all six chicks at once — After a cat defugalty, we ended up with two sets of three birds each about 3 weeks apart in age.

The first set of three grew too big for the horse water tank that we start the chicks in, so we spent some time Easter afternoon preparing the coop and moving the larger hens out of the chicken crib and into the big kid house…The smaller set will remain in the chicken crib for a few more weeks while they grow and become better able to keep themselves warm.

My favorite farmer has been fighting a nasty fever virus, but he cowboyed up and helped to fix a few things in the run. He seems to be pretty susceptible to the requests of his girls 😉 One of the things that I like most about the chicks is the projects that they make for Matt and the girls to do together. While on a smaller scale, they are similar to the cattle handling projects that the girls and I share.

Ashley Grace is currently teaching the hens how to leave and re-enter the coop so that they can enjoy the sun, food and water that we put out in the run. It is highly entertaining! We are looking forward to having a constant supply of eggs again.

Grandma spent the Easter weekend visiting from Florida. She got to play farmer a bit between the cattle at the pasture and the chick project at home.

Easter blessings from our family to yours!

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1200 Calves, a Dozen Eggs, and the Start of Winter…

The last six weeks have been truly a blur. This time of year I loose sense of the day of the week as the days all seem to run together amidst a common theme —

Take care of the calves.

Unquestionably, October and the first half of November are the busiest times of the year at our feed yard.  Mother Nature stops giving the gift of grass, so cattle must be moved and fed in order to remain healthy for the winter. Breeding cattle (cows and bulls) are trailed or trucked to winter pastures where they receive supplemental feed or moved to graze the remnants of corn fields after harvest.

Cattle that will become beef are trucked to feed yards.

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The majority of the calves that are moved into feed yards like mine during this time are animals that are 8-9 months of age. Many of them are bawling calves which means that they are weaned from their Mamas at the same time that they leave the home ranch. These cattle are undeniably high maintenance and take a lot of work. Limiting the stress for these animals is critical, and they require a lot of time and care.

I am extremely proud of the care that my crew and I provide — we focus on what is best for each calf and work tirelessly to provide it.

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  • Exercising
  • Acclimating
  • Feeding
  • Maintaining comfortable pen conditions
  • Identifying any sick animals that need special care

All these things fill our days (and likely a few of our nights).

By the middle of November the fatigue sets in, and my crew and I anxiously await the end of the fall run. This week (for the first time in six weeks), we have no new animals set to arrive at the feed yard. This gives us the opportunity to catch up on secondary work that has been set aside as we cared for the new cattle and, hopefully, to take a few deep breathes in order to cast off the weariness.

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On the home front, I am happy to report that Ashley Grace’s chickens have begun to grace us with eggs. The laying process began slowly, but we are up to 2-3 eggs per day from her 5 laying ladies. While I sternly remind the feathered girls that they are food animals, I have to admit that I find myself talking to them while I do home chores…

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

My favorite farmer was pretty proud to be the one to find the first egg!

I am sad to report that it appears that winter has arrived in Nebraska. We worked cattle Monday with sub-freezing temperatures and a 50 mph north wind. Today, I exercise calves at dawn with temperatures hovering around zero degrees.

I am reminded that this is the time of year to cowgirl up as working at a feed yard is not for the weak of heart!

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