One of our young ducks has started laying eggs. If the others would join her that would be great. However, today we enjoyed our first breakfast made with duck eggs. We both enjoyed the treat!
Cattle need a year between birth and slaughter, much more time than poultry and rabbits. Cattle consume much more food. Pigs, goats and sheep fall in the middle for cost of feeding them out. Farm animals can be produced in such a way to make it worth the time and expense of raising them.
Selling duck eggs for $5.00 each, three dozen eggs will pay for a fifty pound bag of feed, which will feed the small flock of about 20 birds for over two weeks. The remaining duck eggs are free food and any that you incubate and feed out to butcher are almost free food. Since some breeds of ducks lay more eggs than chickens, they are quite profitable to keep.
Chicken eggs sell from $2.50 to $3.00 per dozen. Hatching chickens from your own flock provides the same results as the ducks in terms of nearly free meat and eggs. With the lower price for chicken eggs, you will have to sell more dozens to pay for the feed.
Guinea birds get bigger than chickens but their eggs are only about the size of a golf balls. They are great tasting eggs, but it takes more of them to make a meal. Most people in this region who keep them don’t keep them for meat purposes. They keep just a few as guard birds. But, for those who do eat guinea, they enjoy them.
If you breed pigs and butcher the piglets while still young they make a good supply of tender meat and at a very good price. Each litter will have 10 to 12 piglets per litter, twice a year. One half grown piglet will make many meals. Twenty-four piglets will provide protein for your family and those you don’t need can be sold. The parts of the animal you do not want to eat can be used for dog food. Pig ears are a treat no dog can avoid.
Cost of Food
Pound for pound, animal food is cheaper than human food. The problem comes when trying to feed out feeder cattle or feeder hogs. Since small farmers can’t buy the feed as cheaply as Tyson and Omaha Beef the cost per pound of large animals is higher than larger producers. That is if you are buying feed.
Many people begin comparing the price of beef in the grocery store with the cost of small farm meat production. The problem with making those comparisons is that the meat in the grocery store is only the best cuts of meat and burger. Rarely do you find ox tail, tallow and beef brains. The same is true for pork. The only lard to buy is loaded with preservatives and sold in a box on the shelf rather than refrigerated.
Why would you want tallow and lard? Rendering them provides a beautiful fat for cooking, using as fuel, and for soap making just to name a few. The point is that when you butcher your own animals you are able to keep the parts that would normally be sold to packaged food producers. The bones for making broth. Brains, liver, heart and tongue for making sausages. The list goes on and on.
Efficient Use of Livestock
Every product you gain from your animals drives down the price per pound of food. Don’t forget, if you have a milk cow your cow will not only provide milk for its offspring, but also will provide you with milk, cream, butter, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, and soft cheeses. If you are adventurous, you can learn to make your own hard cheeses too. The clabber, whey and excess milk from your cows (sheep and goats) will be good food for your other animals.
Further, you can add a few extra seeds to your garden to grow animal feed. Consider growing beets, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, and corn for cattle. Have an orchard? Cows will enjoy eating the produce as much as you. Do a little research to find out which produce you grow that will also serve to feed your livestock. Be sure to avoid onions, rhubarb, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and night shade family produce and pine needles. Not only will they eat almost any produce, they will provide plenty of manure for your gardens and can be sold for a profit.
When you consider that other livestock provides as much in terms of food and other products, it becomes clear that the efficient small farmer can reduce his grocery bill to nearly nothing while not spending large amounts of money to feed the livestock.
The success of your operation will depend on the available land, amount of time you invest in your operation, and your production choices. Think outside “conventional” farming feeds and methods. Good planning and education about how to raise and butcher various farm animals will make them profitable to keep.
In part one and part two of this mini series we talked about where to get compost material and how to go about it. Now lets talk about what to do with all that wonderful compost made with time, love and care.
First, you will need to screen the compost to remove anything too large. Make a screen using a wood frame with 1/2 inch grid screen attached on all sides. As you put the compost on the screen and shuffle it back and fourth, the smaller bits will fall through. Pieces that remain on top go back into the composting bin.
Combine one part screened compost, one part garden dirt and one part sand. Be sure to mix well. That’s it!
No, really, that’s it. You don’t need vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, or any other fancy ingredients. If you have them, use them up, but why use something you may not have access to later? Not only are they costly, but they are also not good for our environment because their production is unsustainable due to land degradation. Processing, packaging and shipping also add to costs both economic and ecological.
Time has passed and you start to think your home made dirt needs some sprucing up with fertilizers. You have choices!!
- Simply mix in more compost.
- If you have ducks with a special duck “pond” plastic swimming pool, you have it made! Insert a drain tube at the bottom. Use the duck water to water your plants.
- Cow patty soup. Remember those cow patties you collected? Put about a quarter of a large patty in a five gallon container of water. When mostly dissolved strain out the big pieces and use the rest to water the plants. Put the big pieces in to compost. No cow patty? Use the shovel again. Lightly water garden with cow patty soup.
- Chicken and horse poop too!
- Pet food. Add it to water, let it make a soupy broth, water your plants with it. You can also put it in the pot dry and let it decompose naturally. It might attract animals this way.
- Coffee grounds sprinkled around is a good fertilizer for roses.
Lets talk about the use of manure in fertilizer. Manure from chickens, horses and cows create heat as they decompose. That is exactly what you want in the compost heap. Not so much in the garden. If you put too much manure in the garden the plants can burn and die or be extremely stunted. That’s why only 1/4 of a large cow patty does so much.
There is a wide variety of other things that can be used to fertilize your garden. Most of them have other uses, such as dandelions. They are edible. Why use the dandelion for fertilizer when you need to eat it? Comfrey plant is another plant that can be used to make fertilizer. It has a better use as a medicinal herb. So, in case of a life changing event, don’t be in the habit of relying on commercial fertilizers but also don’t use products that could serve a better purpose as a food or herbal medicine.
Did you ever go to dinner with someone who never once took a drink of beverage during the whole meal? Did it seem weird to you? Most people drink a beverage during the meal, but not everyone. Chickens are like the person who doesn’t drink during the meal. Ducks on the other hand, are like people who drink a beverage during their meal.
Why are poultry drinking and eating habits important to preppers? Because it will help determine how to house ducks and chickens. From the beginning, chicks and ducks raised together do great, from a social standpoint. They don’t know about breeds. But some important things to consider before making that decision come to mind.
- While it’s a fair bet that most of you have eaten and like chicken and their eggs, it might not be true about ducks. Before purchasing ducklings, closely examine why you want them. If it is for their prized eggs, go for it. Do the math about how many eggs you can use and sell per year. If using the ducks as meat birds, be certain you like the flavor of duck. Look on craigslist to find one to purchase for that purpose. The duck may be expensive, but if you don’t like the flavor, at least there won’t be a whole flock in the barnyard waiting for you to eat them.
- How many birds? The more birds there are, the more feed, water, work and the more eggs and meat production. It’s important to do the math before your buy your first flock of birds. How many times last year did you serve chicken? Or, how many pounds of chicken did you use? What about ducks? Did you prepare even one duck in the last 12 months? Will you use duck in addition to chicken for meat or will you substitute one chicken for one duck? Once you have done the math order the chickens and ducks to be delivered on the same day if they are to be housed together. You can separate them later if you like.
- Are you going to sell the eggs? Canvas the area to find out how many people will buy them. You’ll be surprised how many people will say they want the eggs. If you are going to have ducks, check local restaurants or bakeries too! If a particular breed lays nearly 300 eggs a year, and you have ten birds, you will get close to 3,000 eggs per year. That is nearly 20 dozen a month.
- After you know how many birds, when? Consider how often to butcher birds. Some people do it once in the spring for the whole year. Others in warmer climates do it two or three times a year. Birds ordered for butcher will be ready at the same time. How old will they be when butchered? This is important! Breeds mature at different rates and max weight varies between breeds. Do you want to be butchering chickens and ducks at the same time?
- If you are going to use housing, what kind of housing should be used? The more birds, the more space you need in order to maintain a healthy flock. There are other things to consider such as which predatory wildlife needs to be abated.
- Housing ducks with chickens will require a water system that provides constantly flowing clean water, or frequently cleaning the water container, since ducks leave floaters in the water as they enjoy beverages with their meal. Water pans are not suitable for the water supply since ducks will get in and defecate in the water. Chickens might get in the water, but they don’t like it and will get right out.
- How much time do you have? Babies take up a good amount of time, and chicks and ducklings are no different. In a few weeks they will be old enough to be left alone all day as long as they have an uninterrupted supply of food and water.
While there is a great deal to consider before choosing to raise poultry of any kind, it is both satisfying and rewarding to know that you have a supply of eggs and meat as well as an income from selling your meat birds and eggs to customers. Enjoy your birds!
It is important to be sure your flock is well cared for, receive appropriate food and water and have ample space to remain healthy. Clean the water and food containers daily to prevent disease. If birds are housed in a building, it will be necessary to clean and disinfect the floors often or daily. Housed animals of all kinds need adequate fresh air.
Those who allow their animals in the barnyard to roam about and forage have healthier birds. This is how most preppers raise their birds. We know how important it is to treat the animals with regard to their health instead of only trying to get the biggest meat birds or most eggs. There is a trade-off, but it is worth it to make sure the flock and humans are healthy. The consequences of not providing proper care to the flock can be costly.
Which brings us to the concept of putting distance between the home and the flock. It is important to keep the flock in a location as far away from the home as is possible. If you have to take a little hike to look after them, good. It is better for you and them. If you want to see what they are doing and if they are safe, add one or two security cameras to the pen and barn. Then you will know if there are foxes in the hen house day and night. The distance from the coop and good hygiene and safety practices will help prevent the risk of salmonella or other livestock related diseases.
Let’s not let prepper flocks become a source of concern as the global poultry industry, including China’s recent H7N9 outbreak that caused many farmers to panic and destroy their flocks.
Last month’s news about H7N9 virus (avian flu) in Chinese flocks brings to light the differences between a family farm and a commercial operation, not only in China, but around the world.
Given that commercial farms often raise fowl in large buildings with little wiggle room, it is no surprise that diseases spread through a flock quickly. The fear of H7N9 virus infecting humans who tend them and then spread through the human population caused Chinese farmers to decide to destroy their flocks of chickens, ducks, and all manner of fowl.
The possibility of finding H7N9 in the Chinese farmers’ flocks seem to bring panic to these farmers with good reason, as you will see in the following video.
It seems they have good reason to act out of fear. Make sure you read the subtitles clear to the end. You may have to click pause to read all of them since they go by at the speed of the speaker.