Sometimes when I do my chores I’ll take the time to watch the animals and observe things. Often, this practice can lead to more informed management decisions and practices.
Here are eight things I pondered while doing my chores this morning:
1. The insect activity around the persimmon tree is crazy active this morning. I see honey bees, wasps, fruit flies, houseflies, blowflies, grandaddy long legs, butterflies, ants and yellow jackets humming around all the fallen fruit.
It is sunny; temp is 70 degrees on this first day of December. There is still a significant amount of fruit on the tree. One more good rain and it will likely all be on the ground. Conclusion: Persimmon trees in the pastures and chicken yards can feed not only the insects but also the chickens through all of fall. To do: research persimmon trees and how to get them growing where I want.
2. I tossed a gallon bucket of the dropped persimmons and the kitchen scraps, which were mighty slim because we ate out last night, directly into the compost bin. A few hens surprised me by hopping in there as well, relieving me of my worry that they were not capable of flying into the compost bin.
3. The automatic deer feeder had reached its point of needing new feed this morning. Conclusion: it needs a five gallon bucket of feed added every third day if I start with two five gallon buckets and continue with this rate of feeding. Question: Does that mean the chickens are eating a five gallon bucket of feed every three days?? It is possible. This needs more thought since I am trying to move away from buying feed.
4. Adding grain to Coco’s diet has increased the spreading of her manure by the chickens. Conclusion: Manure spreading could be a job for chickens. Question: If I cut back on the chicken food, will they spread ALL of the cow manure? How will this impact the composting system? Which is more important? Also, what about when I wean Coco from grain? Will the chickens still spread the manure then? They did not last year, but…perhaps they didn’t need to because I was also feeding them.
5. It is possible to cut back on the chicken feed by raising the feeder out of the reach of the chickens and by adjusting the timer. I can also control whether the chickens are under foot when I go out to do chores by adjusting the timer to coincide with my chore time. However, when raised, the feeder then becomes less manageable by me….unless I hang it or have a better tripod built. The legs it came with are very unstable.
If the legs could be made fixed instead of simply propped, and wheels added, that could work. I would have to have a step stool to put the feed in and check how full it is. 🤔 Needs thought.
6. The current feeding plan has not adversely affected egg laying, as I collected 9 eggs this morning. Five were pullet eggs. So perhaps I can cut back on grain?
7. I am sure that my compost pile will not be completely full after 7 days. I am not generating enough waste for that. Tomorrow will be seven days since I began constructing this first pile. However, I had a good start on it already, with approximately one third of its contents already gathered. It will take me much longer to construct five piles using only inputs from the farm.
8. Not raking leaves may be better for the chickens. The leaves have made a good blanket in the area where the chickens hang out. My theory: the blanket provides warmth and habitat for insects, or live chicken food. The same is true in every area where I feed the ruminants hay. The hay that is wasted provides a habitat for insects. Moving the hay ring once a week will provide lots of little habitats.
Perhaps this is another less work -intensive way to compost?
Next steps: I will adjust the automatic feeder by raising it up so that the chickens cannot make grain fall. I will also adjust the timer so that it goes off for five seconds at chore time. This will coincide with the unveiling of the first compost pile. Over the next week I’ll observe and record egg production and chicken behavior. If there is no significant change, I’ll adjust the timer again, taking away five seconds.