22 February 2006

Chicken Little

Chicken Little

Once upon a time there was a tiny, tiny chicken named Chicken Little. One day Chicken Little was scratching in the garden when something fell on his head. "Oh," cried Chicken Little the sky is falling, I must go tell the king." So Chicken Little ran and ran, and she met Henny Penny. "Where do you travel so fast, Chicken Little?" asked Henny Penny. "Ah, Henny Penny", said Chicken Little, " the sky is falling and I must go tell the king." "How do you know the sky is falling, Chicken Little?" asked Henny Penny. "I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and a bit of it fell on my head," said Chicken Little. "I will go with you to the king", said Henny Penny.......................

Well we’ve been (er) busy the past few weeks. As some of you know we were in the process of incubating 18 hatching eggs of Rhode Island Reds. Some 21 days later our beginnings came to a not so glorious end. 0 Hatched. Daunted and somewhat disappointed we candled them (something we should have done about day 8) only to find out that they were mushy fellows and had no chance of hatching. Could have been the cold in shipping, viral infection in the eggs, not fertilized, and human error? Truth is we do not know. I emailed our supplier and she assured me she would ship out a fresh batch sometime soon. A generous offer on her part as we we’re not bitter or blaming the supplier in any way. As I told my wife, in life (as in death), these things happen. We’ll let you know when/if the new shipment arrives and our success or failure in that second endeavor. As I said in a previous post, not all things that end – end well, but they do end. To quote a Frenchie Say-La-Vee, “La Vee”. As you might note I’m somewhat of a backwater linguist. (::grin::)

Ok, so you might ask, “Where did all the chickens come from?” To that end my answer would be McMurray Hatchery. We received 25 baby Rhode Island Red chicks and one “mystery” chick, which they throw in free of charge with your order. (if you choose to receive it) He is the ‘odd one out’ of the bunch, so we’ll see who or what he is in a few weeks. So the house is alive with the sound of chirping, or should I say the back bedroom, now turned hatchery operations control. They are indeed ‘fun to watch’, better than television and commercial free! So soon I will begin the building of our coop for the backyard along the concrete and stone fence line. We’ll not be keeping the lot of them as we partnered with a farm friend to share in half the cost of ordering and shipping the chicks.

We’ll have enough layers, Lord willing, to produce between 18-28 eggs a week when grown. A friend of ours already enquired about how much we’d charge for a dozen? I hadn’t really given much thought to that, though, I know round these parts the local “stupor-market” charges between $3.29-3.89 a dozen of noncommercial raised eggs. I’ll have to do the math for acquisition, feed, shelter and general maintenance – sans labor to produce a price to cost ratio that will give us a break even target & poultry profit for an annualized (ROI) return of investment capital. I guess this is where our Farm Operations begin, today.

After all, as I remarked to Farmer John, this ‘isn’t no Hobby Farm’ a word I loathe to some degree, as it is 180 opposite of our operations, aspirations and goals. As I said to one fellow “we’re serious & we mean business”. And by the by, we mean to have some serious FUN with the thing! Some of our greatest joy over the past several months has been in the discussion and future preparations for our family farm. We are a few years out from large (micro-scale) endeavors that we hope to implement with the acquisition of more land, but we work with what we’ve got and the Lord has provided. It’s the faith in small things that builds greater trust and responsibilities for the larger endeavors. As a bean counter, counting the cost is second nature, and first priority before proceeding in any endeavor of capital or resources ~ time or fiat currency notes. Something I aim to spend more time in discussing over the next several months of web-logging. I think that in principal and practice a solid understanding of economy is of great benefit and oft neglected as ‘taboo’ in today’s modern society. Dispelling myths and opening eyes is a forthright endeavor to bettering our society, community and nation. Stay tuned.

Chickens aside for the moment, we are bedding out the back of the house in preparation for a larger planting this year. Several new crops will be planted from heirloom OP seed stock. Our worm farm population is growing and the ‘herd’ has about doubled. You might say I have some caffeine-nated critters, as the majority of feed for the red wigglers has been coffee grounds from our Company’s castings. From coffee ‘castings’ to worm castings, nothing goes to waste. I’d dare say we recycle more than most surbanites do in separating tin cans, glass jars and the lot of various bins to “save the earth” and assuage their ailing conscious. Not to poke fun at our “environmentally friendly friends” but the only tree I’d feel comfortable hugging is the one I’d cut down for firewood to fuel my family’s hearth or a fruit tree to fuel my family’s dearth. Trees are a renewable resource if forested and properly managed. It’s the consumptive lot of the mass of men leading quite lives of desperation that lead to our dwindling resources not the logger & axe of a local woodsman or cabinet maker.

Regarding peak oil, we, Lord willing, will have our first ‘alternative’ fueled vehicle on the road by this fall. A delay in scheduling put this project to the back burner for 2005, but we are going to make another ‘go around’ at it this year. I have an old 1980 Mercedes 300TD diesel wagon that I purchased to be converted to bio-diesel & WVO operation. Just for the record WVO and bio-diesel are two different processes altogether, and oft confused by the mainstream media & press when discussing “alternative” fuels. Originally Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run on peanut oil and was interested in providing a means to reduce cost for farmers in their agricultural operations. There is a company close to us called greasecar that sell a conversion kit for straight WVO operation and I am working toward more involvement with a local group who produce and process bio-diesel using an appleseed processor. I’m anxious to hear about Tom’s endeavors with corn-esters for farm operations there in MN.

Like it, love it or loathe it, big oil is going down deep into the pocketbooks of everyday Americans like never before in the history of this great nation, the ripple effect of their actions will be nigh miss the economies of the US from Food, Fuel, Jobs, Housing, lives and what ever you like to the list, as we have enjoyed a season of long suffered cheap fuel and the “piper is calling” and the season is changing. Lest you think this is some ‘doomsday sonnet’ it is not, far from it. With great challenges there is great reward, whether the glass is half empty or half full is a matter of perspective, our greatest challenge may be to keep our consumeristic neighbor from drinking the other half of the glass! I hold firm in my belief that this great nation founded upon the bedrock of principled men and watered by the blood of patriots is not easily ripped asunder or plundered beyond repair or rebirth given that we who may act upon principle, steadfast and like flint look to the betterment of society by first bettering our homes. Lest we sacrifice another generation to the soul sick tendencies that have diverted our path and our purpose, let our standard and practice be something greater than ourselves, and so claim a noble birth right for our children. It can be done, it shall be done, so let it won by the victor of time immortal Him alone.

(to be continued…)


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

Great post! Our family is also excited about all the possibilities up here on our 160 acres. Jim and the boys will be very interested in what you are doing with alternative fuel.

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Morning Scott!

Great post!!!

Hope your second attempt at hatching chicks is successful!!! Usually, the biggest problem with artificial incubation is maintaining humidity for the eggs. You need to keep a small pan of water in the incubator and mist the eggs once in a while---I forget how often. Hopefully you have an instruction book that gives you guidelines. Also turning the eggs twice a day is important to keep the embryo from settling to the bottom.
Candling the eggs several times is also important. You can tell the amount of moisture inside the egg by the size of the airspace. It's been a long time and I may not have this right but the size of the airspace (located at the top of the egg and seen as a circle & small space of a lighter color) should be about the size of a nickel or was it a dime? If the size of that airspace gets to be the size of a quarter, then your eggs are too dry.

With candling, you should be able to see the progress of embryos from a 'bloodspot' to a bloodspot with veins to a small embryo thru development to a chick. Another critical time is hatching. The inside membrane may have dried out too much for the baby chick to peck thru. You'll notice a small break (an outward dent) in the egg. Start timing the hatching process. I forget how long the process is supposed to take. If it is going too slow, start helping the chick by breaking small portions of the egg outward. If you do too much, too quickly, the chick will hatch too soon and may die. The yellow yoke is being absorbed into the chick's stomach and skin is closing around it during this final process. The chick needs time to finish this process but too much time will exhaust the chick and it will die.

That all sounds really complicated but when it works and you have a bunch of peeping chicks, it give a major feeling of satisfaction.

I hope that you don't keep your chicks in the house for more than a couple of weeks as their bedding will start smelling terrible!!! You can change their 'diapers'(newspaper & bedding) frequently to reduce the smell.

Thank-you for the "Catskill Coffee" it's wonderful!

Best wishes! Let your light shine!

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Joe Greene said...

Great post, Scott. I'll be interested more posts in economic stuff. We'll be ordering chicks soon for pick up next month.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Northern Farmer said...

I'll second that on the coffee, it's wonderful, and I'm kinda an expert on coffee, being in the cattle business. It's the oil that keeps it going.
We brought home eight bags of Minnesota 13 seed corn yesterday to plant and try out this year, dual purpose corn, makes mighty fine "shine", that's what my forfathers cooked. Supposed to make good alcohol. They sure drank enough of it, but we'll try it mostly for fuel. But will taste test :)

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Emily said...

We considered incubating eggs but Herrick Kimball recommended our getting the chicks to start out with since this is our first time, so we'll be ordering them mid-spring or so. Joel Salatin says in Pastured Poultry Profits that it's best to wait until the birds can be shipped in temps above 50 so hopefully we'll avoid the bottom wipings! P.S. How does one get a sample of your coffee?

At 7:39 AM, Blogger threecollie said...

It was fun to read your post on hatching eggs and raising chicks. When the kids were younger we bought an assorted bunch from Murray McMurray every year and so enjoyed watching them grow and figuring out what kind they were.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Scott Holtzman said...

Thank you all for the positive comments, it’s good to know there are active interests in this online community of soil & sun……..


I will be posting about our endeavors here in the future regarding alternative fuels and various topics of interest regarding energy. There are many and broad discussion going on about energy production as sources of fuel, heat and power. Brooke and I are trying to sort through the methods available to meet our family’s current and future needs for our situation and goals. I do not think there is any one application to paint a broad stroke and cover all need for everyone. Just as I know that trying to grow a particular crop in a region that does not support its cultivation and growth, so it is with sources of energy & fuel. Every application of technology is best suited first to make sense. When looking at a problem/situation/solution it is oft easier and dare I say “more American” to focus first on the solution then to take a good hard look at the problem. This keeps our economy in line with our situation, and makes us balanced.


Thanks for the additional info on the eggs. We will be giving the hatching eggs another go round if/when we get the second shipment from our supplier, since it will be at no additional cost. Regarding the chicks, we plan on moving them out of our house and into their own house/coop at week 4 or 5, depending on weather and my coop building skills. I have the plans and most of the materials for the coop, just need some 40+ weather to get it done. Ground is hard as rocks here in NY! As I just spent the better part of an hour digging out some fence line that got knocked down in one of our wind storms that seem to have hit us hard here this past winter. The ground was none to “giving” and I took a pickaxe approach to the project, as the shovel was bending – oops!


Hope all goes well with the chicks, we were well pleased with the shipment we received and all but one was health and survived. They tossed in two extras so in the end we came out ahead. Great fun! Will be posting some more on economics soon I hope.


On coffee: “It's the oil that keeps it going.” I read that in one of your past posts, kind of liked that particular quote. Had a hard time finding about Minnesota 13, found some small references to it and it’s good dry down properties. I’m sorely tempted to put together a small still I have plans for to experiment with our corn crop this year, kind of a “trial run” at the idea. Though with most things, our operations “need” currently is biased toward bio-diesel, and our economy & time may not justify the expense. (Time or Money) I do know that it is something we will ‘look hard at’ once we have more land and the equipment to run & grow production quantity corn to help with farm expenses. Right now I am in the research phase and looking at the arguments, pro & con on the ethanol debate. Walter Jeffries had a good post on the No-Nais web site regarding propaganda and logical arguments that is worth a read and applicable to many such discussions in the public forum. I’ll see if I can get a link to it in my next post.


Hindsight being 20/20 I’d have to agree with Herrick on this one, getting chicks for starters has many positive attributes. Brooke & I were discussing this in the car on the way to assembly this morning. Always reasoning together to be of one mind about what we do for our family operations and sharing an active role in our endeavors, we concluded that we would continue with ordering chicks until our land acquisition is complete. We do not intend to keep rooster(s) while residing here in Catskill as our neighbors are close and, having a good relationship with them, we don’t want our animals to ‘nuisance’ them in any way. As well we are not planning on having out chickens set eggs, so the requirement of a rooster is not preeminent. We are going to give a second go around if/when we receive the hatching eggs (2nd shipment) from our supplier, though that will be the end of our hatching operations till later. Looking at it from an economic perspective the cost of ordering chicks vs. hatching eggs is nominal. Add to that the investment of time for turning & watching the eggs is not a ‘best practice’ allocation of resources during growing season, which is fast approaching. Chicks provide a 100% hatch rate and survival is high. Our approach to hatching would be best served when we have hens to lay and set and a rooster to provide the ‘duty’. Then if we do not get a good hatch our costs will me minimal to nil. It is surprising to us the initial interest in eggs, I have been asked four times so far about others who are serious about buying eggs when we get to production stage – God is good! It is encouraging to see the interest. As to wiping chicken butt, it’s not to bad after you’ve done it 30 or 40 times, at least you get a crash course in chicken anatomy 101. (::Grin::) We look at as in caring for the animals needs they in turn provide for our families needs, and to quote my wife “They’re so cute”. Ok, so I say, they’re *interesting*………..

I’ll email you about the coffee.

Three Coliees,

Just thought I’d say Howdy, and thanks for stopping by! We like McMurray, good service, nice people.

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