Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ram wrangling

I learnt a very valuable lesson in how to free a ram from a fence today.
  1. Wear gloves or use a towel their horns really hurt your hands. 
  2. Get on the other side of the fence to the ram, even though he is a placid boy, he's not happy stuck in a fence and will body slam you, and he weighs a LOT. 

Thankfully he ran away as soon as he was free. I got him some food to make it up to him. Now to try and get whatever is imbedded into my hand out.


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Meat chickens

I killed our first Plymouth Rock rooster 16 June 2012. 

He hatched out 15 November 2011 and was so much smaller than the others that I expected him to die in the first few weeks.  He did not get feathers until very late in his life, weeks after the girls got feathers.  His brother is larger but it is raining hard so I plan to do him another day (or sell him as he is pure bred and a stunning looking bird). 

It is difficult killing something I hatched out, fed, watered, and looked after.  He was a beautiful looking animal with a calm temperament, had I entered him he could easily have won medals in poultry shows.  He lived a calm and happy life, and died an honourable quick death, not at all like the terrible and painful life and death of a commercial meat chicken.

At the age of 7 months he weighed 3.71kg live, when he was ready to go in the freezer he weighed 2.50kg.  That is a dressing percentage of just over 67%, not too bad for the first rooster I have processed in such a long long time.

Unfortunately I did not keep records on the food he ate to reach this size.  If I were to guestimate based on the feed that he has been consuming over the past few weeks I would say it cost about $19 to get this far (which works out to about $7.30 per kg of chicken).  The actual cost must be lower than that as he certainly did not eat this much when he was a week old.  Next time I plan to keep stats and keep the young chickens feed completely separate from all other poultry feed so I can work out accurately how much it costs to feed a chicken from hatching to eating size.

Plymouth rock egg stats over a year

I was meticulously recording egg statistics (among other things) for our hens every day.

On average our plymouth rocks laid 221 eggs per hen per year.  That works out to an average of just over 4 eggs per hen per week.

This average over the year includes each hen moulting twice (they do not lay through a moult), some hens going off the lay as they were injured, each hen going broody and not laying an average of 0.3 times each (they were not allowed to hatch so stopped being broody after 2 weeks or so). 

Average number of eggs per hen per month:
April            23
May             21
June             19
July              20
August         16
September   18
October       15
November   17
December   18
January       17
February     18
March         19

These hens were free ranged through the orchard and not provided any extra light or heat.  They foraged for between a third and two thirds of their diet depending on the season.  Feed costs should be very low on acreage as they can forage for most of their feed.

We had one hen who lays a different looking egg, she laid far more than the others, her eggs were not counted so that we have a more accurate average number of eggs for my old strain of plymouth rocks.  I also did not include eggs that were laid while we were away as they were collected by our neighbours and I did not want to impose that they also count eggs as well as feed and water them.