Monday, 14 June 2010

Making do when challenges come your way

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

It has been a challenging year here in the Pacific Northwest weather-wise, for gardeners and farmers. I wrote several weeks ago about my gardening challenges during the rainiest spring (since 1888) on record. This week I will share some of the challenges the rainy weather has had on our other livestock.

While our cattle have enjoyed the cool, damp weather and the pastures have flourished, our meat chicken flock has been in a holding pattern waiting for more moderate weather.

Ideally, we brood our chickens for about 3 weeks and then move them outside to their floorless pasture shelter for the remainder of their grow out time. This year the challenge was finding a window of 3 days or so for them to make the transition. It didn't happen. During the month of May and now into June our location never had more than about 20 hours without rain. I learned a long time ago not to be afraid to break the "rules." I could have stuck to my guns and pastured those birds from 3 weeks, but it wouldn't have been prudent to do so. On one hand we want them to have access to fresh pasture, but the flip side of this too, is that we also don't want them to be miserable, and consuming food just to keep warm. So we waited and we brought greens to the chickens, and patiently waited for spate of sunny days.

Finally, a stretch of dry weather was forecast, so yesterday we caught the broilers and pullets and moved them outside to their pen. The easiest low stress way (for them and us) is to just use a piece of plywood to block a few in the corner of the brooder at a time. Any scrap will do, this one happens to be my hanging plant shelf, and is about 2' x 8'.

Moving to greener pastures.

To move the birds a short distance and to make the move easier on everyone, we use what we call the CHICKSHAW. Basically a wheelbarrow with a lid of some sort. My husband had fashioned quite an elaborate Chickshaw out of an old wheel barrow, complete with a hinged lid, but it has seen better days. So we just improvised, and used a scrap piece of hardware cloth for a makeshift lid on our stable cleaning wheelbarrow.

Arriving at their new home.

Ideally, I would have liked to have the birds on pasture sooner, but we have to play the cards we are dealt. There are always pros and cons to everything and on the positive side, while the birds were in, we were able to add to the compost pile with the extra manure and bedding.

Signing on to raise our own food, sometimes means changing direction and following a different route.