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News from the Farm: Chicks are here!

Good morning friends and local food eaters,

It's been getting warmer more frequently, which makes it easier to believe that it's time to be raising chicks again. The first batch arrived 2 weeks ago.

There was quite a bit of setup to do to prepare for them. The shipping container that we use as a brooder had to be thoroughly cleaned out and set up again to provide shelter and heat to baby chicks.

We're trying out something new this year in the brooder: an automated feed and water system. Yup. We've gone industrial. On a micro scale.

Our reasoning behind this is NOT to avoid labor. We have interns, and also, feeding and watering the chicks takes much less time than the other tasks - providing clean bedding, moving them out to pasture, moving their pasture pens daily, feeding on pasture, and later harvesting/butchering.

The main aim of automation is to provide a more consistent and higher quality environment for the chicks. We have learned that the chicks are super sensitive, when young especially, to temporary lacks in feed and water. There were times when we would be going out three or four times a day to refill their food, because they needed the constant supply to maintain proper growth. Water disturbances are even worse. Both not enough and too much water are basically deadly for a young chicken (for all animals? Maybe, but chickens especially.). We've had brooder floods and brooder droughts that resulted in disaster for some chickens. This is the kind of thing we're trying to monitor and prevent, and fortunately we have modern technology available and useful at a small scale.

Here's Brooks, observing the newly arrived one day old peeps, making sure they are trained to the new water system. It requires them to peck at a metal "nipple" to get water. Amazingly, they were smart enough to figure this out quickly, and now 2 weeks later it seems to be working well.

And here's Terra else simply enjoying the new chicks....

Last week, day old turkeys arrived too. These will be finished in early summer, for us to make more of that tasty ground turkey and smoked turkey products that everybody loves.

In other farm happenings, sheep have continued lambing well on pasture, in snow or sun. They have hay and shelter, but generally prefer open pasture and foraging for last year's dried up grass.

Brooks has made time to prune some of our fruit tree plantings on pasture. Below, in some balmy 50 degree weather, he is in the field North of the barn and house, working on a long row of apple trees planted into a berm, or small ditch to capture water that flows down the hill.

Trees on pasture, especially ones that will produce calories for humans and pigs, are one of the ways we are farming in a regenerative way. They will capture solar energy, provide shade, sequester carbon, provide a buffer against the effects of precipitation inconsistencies, and more.

And here comes the sow brigade! These mamas are getting to farrow in the next month or two, eating hay and grain with access to pasture during their gestation period.

That's about it for now.

Thank you all so much for supporting local agriculture. We appreciate you and your part in changing our food system for the better!


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