Turkey's! So when we were first looking into raising turkeys, we became very excited by the idea of heritage breeds. We love heirloom vegetables and it always feels good to buy them and support the continued cultivation of these rare species. We feel the same way about Heritage Turkey Breeds which is why we chose a heritage breed to raise.
We looked around and found a batch of Narrangasette pollutes for sale. Narrangasette turkeys are a heritage breed which originated when wild turkeys from New England were bread with a domestic breed from Britain. They are a beautiful heritage breed with destictive markings and rich flavorful meat. They do not get as large as some of the more commercial breeds and they remain leaner especially in the breast but have a much richer flavor!
We were very excited to discover we had two Toms (male turkeys) in the batch of five turkeys we started out with. Now they are getting larger and bolder they puff up whenever we come by and show off their impressive plumage! Incredibly beautiful to see!
Another exciting thing about our first batch was a rare white hen! The breeder was unsure how she would grow but we have not had any problems with her and she is keeping up with the other hens beautifully! It is interesting and exciting to see her white feathers stand out so clearly from the rest of the group! The breeder was afraid no one would want to take her so I am doubly pleased to be raising not only a heritage breed but a rare white that may not have been raised at all if we did not take her!
We are extremely excited for thanksgiving to come so we can taste the meat ourselves!
So chicken tractors are a wonderful concept. They allow for chickens to live on pasture eating bugs and grass and enjoying the sunshine while also providing a predator proof enclosure.
These tractors are built to be moved daily (twice a day towards the end of the chickens life when they are biggest and need more access to fresh pasture). For us since we are living off site, chicken tractors are the only way we could possibly raise chickens without loosing them all to the foxes, rats, weasels and hawks!
After doing a lot of research (there are many design options) we decided to go with a chicken tractor that a human could stand in. We may change our minds later but the ease of being able to walk in and out appealed to us though it definitely adds weight! Field was initially concerned the tractor would be too light and not sturdy enough to hold up to a large storm. This proved not to be the case and our tractors are so heavy they need to be pulled by a machine! For now field doesn't mind and they are (if I do say so myself ) stunning and effective chicken tractors!
The construction itself was very exciting. We called in extra hands to help get them done in time to house the rapidly growing chicks. We built an 8'-12' frame and used three cattle panels to create the hoop.
Field then built framing and a door way. Next was covering the whole thing in chicken wire.
Last field used sheet metal to shelter the back end and provide shade along the run( you can see how it got heavy quick!)
we run 50 chickens in each tractor and, for our first run at least, field started moving them twice a day at 6 weeks to make sure they continuously had access to fresh pasture. Our first run is about to hit the eight week mark so we plan to butcher them this week! And as for the tractors they have worked great and ended up being the perfect design for our needs!
While it is slightly embarrassing to write about, all's well that ends well, and it is an important part of our history! So here goes: our first day getting pigs we lost 3/4 of them within 5 minutes of letting them out of the trailer! (Remember I said this ends well!)
The story starts with us picking the pigs up a day before we were ready to have them. It was the only time that worked for Field and the farmer we were getting them from. But we still had work to do setting up our feed and water stations and properly testing our electric fence(that one is important!)
So when Field arrived back at the farm we parked the trailer in the shade and went to work! The pigs were happy sleeping in the trailer so we felt comfortable leaving them for a bit. Well time passed and we got the food water and shelter set up in our training paddock. Training Paddocks are used to train pigs to electric fencing. Our training paddock was made up of a number of cattle panels for a secure physical barrier and two stands of electrified poly wire running around the interior so the pigs could learn to respect the electric while temporarily enclosed in a physical barrier. At least that how it was supposed to works in theory.
Trouble started when the pigs woke up in the trailer and started getting restless. One of the piglets we had gotten was new to the group(he came from a separate litter) so even though he was older and larger the other piglets had been picking on him as the outsider. Some of the more rambunctious pigs started chasiing the big guy around the trailer, biting at his ears making him squeal. Obviously we became concerned and panicked slightly, deciding we needed to get them out of the trailer asap! So we backed it into the pen and despite knowing it was best to let them out one at a time to prevent panic and ping ponging around the electric fence, we decided to just let them all out at once to prevent any more fighting.
Well out they all came and within 10second I spotted two outside the fence! 12 more followed right after! Leaving only 5 pigs in the pen! Apparently the holes in the cattle panels were large enough for the piglets to squeeze through! Additionally one of the panels was not attached well enough at the base and they could push it open enough to slide right out! Because we had not taken the time to recheck our electric we did not know the older solar energizer we were using has decided to stop working just in time to have zero effect on our stampeding piglets! My father kept the 5 who were left in the pen secure, while field and I chased the rest. They split into two group 5 headed downhill into the bottom hedge row while the rest swerved left into the hedge row next to the pen.
We circled wide, Field heading off the 5 renegades, while I headed into the neighboring pasture to make sure none of the pigs kept going past the hedge row! Field was able to slowly steer his pack back toward mine. Once we had them all in one place . I stayed with them making sure they didn't leave the hedge row or keep heading downhill. While field and my father wove chicken wire around the cattle panels so they couldn't squeeze through and secured every angle of the fence imaginable!
After about an hour working like crazy in the sun while the pigs happily chomped down in the hedge row we were ready to try and heard them back into the pen. We moved our cars and trucks into place along the top creating a barrier/shoot back into the pen. My mother (who was watching Clara at the time) kept an eye at the top by the cars. My father came in from the right below the pen, I covered the bottom, and field came in from the left. By slowly closing in on them waving our arms, clapping and hollering we were slowly able to heard them back into the now secure pen!
It was one of the craziest few hours of my entire life. We could literally see all our time, energy and envestment slipping through our fingers! It was surreal and probably the greatest learning experience we would ever have!
So in the end all 19 were back, safe and sound! Mom and I went out to buy a new energizer so we could get the electric up and running while field and my father continued to secure the fence and bed the pigs down for the night!
It was the craziest start to our pig farming experience we could have imagined! Add the toddler and my being 7 months pregnant at the time and it becomes a story to remember and tell our grand kids!
Well we have started to farm! While part of me thinks we're crazy and part of me loves feeling like i just jumped into the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim, I am overwhelmingly excited about the fact we have started to raise our own meat!
So what are we doing and why? Well food has been a passion of my husbands and mine since the beginning of our relationship. In many ways our commitment to local, organic, clean foods solidified our relationship. Yearly CSA shares, shopping at our local whole food store and committing ourselves to supporting sustainable, local farming operations gave us something important to share and work towards. Aside from feeling it was important for our own health and wellness it also felt important on a communal and then global level. The state of the agricultural industry is becoming quite desperate. Animals kept in deplorable conditions with their waste being spread into our communities and water systems is a true environmental crisis. This makes our food choices even more important. Like my husband is found of saying every time you make a purchase you are casting your vote for that product and the way that product is created. We have been voting for sustainable practices for years and now we'd like to go a step further and join those working to create cleaner, healthier, more human standards in meat production and processing. Our hope is to create a product we can feel good about eating ourselves and good about sharing with the community.
So the adventure begins! I hope you enjoy following and reading about our journey as much as i am enjoying the journey itself! I will post again soon to give you a picture of what our first few weeks have looked like!
Mother of 2 beautiful girls! Our growing family is the largest drive we have to build a life filled with good food and a connection to the land.