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Winter is coming–how to winterize for your quail

The leaves are turning here in Ohio, and the night are getting cold. Thus I am forced to face the fact that winter will soon be here, like it or not. I am an “or not” person. The thought of tending to the animals in snow, or wind, or wind and snow sounds downright awful. So we prepare. We prepare now so there are fewer minutes spent fumbling around the barn LATER.

Think about your flock- Now is a good time to inventory your flock and decide who stays and who goes. Extra males, and older weaker birds that may not be able to survive the winter are sent to freezer camp– along with any trouble makers (you know who I’m talking about). Try to leave around 15 birds in your covey or per cage so they can cuddle up for warmth if need be.

Thoroughly examine your cage/coop/quail area. Patch up any holes that can create drafts, fix that loose latch, and dig out that old tarp. Tarps are great for small rabbit hutch type designs. you can leave it open in the front during the day and close it off at night without much fuss. Coturnix quail are quite cold hearty but won’t fair well left exposed to harsh wind, rain, or snow.

 

 

Have a plan for waterers. If you are in a below freezing area, keeping waterers thawed out can be the worst part of animal husbandry. Water lines that freeze, or waterers that won’t dispense because they are frozen solid make for a bad morning. Plan ahead! If you are going to purchase a water heating “pad” that the water can set on, you should be set for the winter… these are wonderful and I highly suggest them if your set up allows…. but if you have no electricity or have cages stacked, you may need to get more creative with your winter war of the waterers. If you are using the mason jar waterers, switch to the plastic jars that can be bought at your local feed store. In case they freeze at least they won’t bust and create a potential fatal accident for your quail. I also suggest that you have replacements for all waterers so that when you go out for your morning chores than you can grab the replacement and swap it for the frozen one. Take the frozen one inside, and it will be thawed and ready to go for tomorrow, when you can swap it out again. Then you don’t have to put the time and energy into thawing a single waterer out in the cold winter mornings.

 

 

If you are using bedding, that will help insulate your birds. A thick layer of pine bedding will help to keep heat in, as well as some straw to burrow into will provide an added layer of protection. Just make sure that is doesn’t become to soiled that it becomes damp. Damp + cold = unhappy quail.

 

It you are using light to extend your laying season, take note on when your birds lay everyday and collect eggs shortly after. That way you can avoid frozen busted eggs.

Most of all use good ‘ol common sense. Notice your quail’s behavior and determine wether or not they are handling the cold. Birds that are puffed up are liking trying to tell you something!

 

So stay warm, plan ahead, and please share if you have any tips for lasting the winter!

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So your gunna be a quail parent….tips and ideas for a easy hatch

So your gunna be a quail parent…..

 

Below is a short list of ideas to help you with incubating eggs and your new babies.

  1. Let eggs “rest” overnight after your receive them in the mail pointy side down before setting them in your incubator. This lets the air sack in the egg go in the correct position in the top or fat end of the egg. This is also when you want to heat up your incubator (99.5) to stabilize the temperature BEFORE setting eggs. Humidity should be between 35%-45% in some of the more humid climates you may not need to add water to incubator. This is referred to as “dry hatch”
  2. Setting eggs is easy. Put them in turner pointy side down. If you have a turner made for chicken eggs, you can make holes smaller by adding paper towels to each hole. If you are turning by hand you should turn eggs 3x a day.
  3. Hard part- waiting! Day 1 – 14 eggs should be turned, kept at the 99.5 temperature, and the 35%-45% humidity.
  4. Day 15 take eggs off turner! They are now in “lockdown” This means that the eggs should no longer be turned because the chick is positioning itself to hatch out. Humidity is bumped up to 55%-65% Water should be added to the bottom of incubator a little at a time…its amazing how a few tablespoons can change the humidity so drastically!
  5. Day 17-19 The day you have been waiting for! Hatchday! Eggs will begin rolling around and you may hear peeping! Usuallyeggs are pipped and hatched within a few hours. Try your best not to open incubator as the humidity level drops and other hatching chicks can become stuck in their shells. The chicks will be just fine without food and water for their first day. (if you choose to take dry babies out during hatching spray inside the incubator with a mister-think old windex bottle- to make sure humidity stays up.) I usually take out dry babies every 12 hours.

 

If your hatch goes over day 18 it is probably because your temperature is low. They can still hatch as late as day 23…Hang in there!

You are a quail parent….now what?!

Baby quail are TINY because of this they need a little more care.

Food should be small enough for them to eat, so you may need to crush up your crumbles using a food processor, or save the crumbs from the bottom of your other feed bags. Quail thrive best on high protein. A game bird food or turkey starter will do the trick!

Water is the#1 cause of death for baby quail. They think they can scuba dive…I assure you, they cannot. Add rocks or marbles to water dishes for the first two weeks.

Heat is also a critical component for chicks health. Temperature under the heat lamp should be around 100 degrees for the first few days and then slowly decreasing. Make sure you have an area of heat, and one without.If you don’t have a thermometer thats OK! The babies will let you know! Babies piled under the heat lamp are too cold, babies trying to get away for the heat are to hot. You may need to raise or lower your light after the babies are put into the brooder after you assess their behavior.

They don’t stay small for long! You will be enjoying your very own quail eggs from your new covey in about 7 weeks!

Have a question? Email me at jenna@myshirefarm.com or message myshire quality quail on Facebook                                

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4 tips for a wood burning stove

Tips for a wood burning stove.

When I moved into my house 5 years ago. I didn’t know what the large black box metal box was in the kitchen. I knew it was ugly, and it took up too much room. That space could be used for something practical like cabinet space or extra seating…Then I realized what is was… a terrifying-i’m never- going-to-use-this- wood stove. After all, I had a 1 and 1/2 year old boy who was not so good at listening, and I preferred to keep out of the ER. Not to mention, I didn’t want to burn down the house while we were all sleeping. So it sat there all winter, a silent monster watching me cook all our family meals. We paid 1200 in fuel oil to heat the house over 4 months.

The next season, I had to reconsider my stance. MAYBE I could try and see if this would work. I wasn’t very optimistic, I mean, Our house is old, (like 100+ years) has 2 stories, and the windows are drafty on a good day. But baby was a slightly better listener, and 1200 in heat was not in the cards so I lit my first fire. To say it went badly, would be an understatement. I used a few pounds of paper, with some logs, and it never did get started. But try try again, and eventually I got the whole paper, small sticks, bigger sticks, THEN log thing under control.

So I got the whole staring a fire thing down, but regulating a constant temperature in the house, and keeping a fire going all night was another challenge. I would have it so hot in the kitchen I literally made my taper candles fall over into an “n” shape. It got so hot, the kitchen windows would be wide open-snow flying in- all the while upstairs would still be cold. I was up with a new baby ever few hours, so at least I was up anyway to put more logs in at night, but still, the wood burning stove was my nemesis. An alway greedy, unpredictable, enemy that had an insatiable appetite for logs. Heat bill $600

Winter 3: I found my new best friend the damper. There was these two little knobby things in the door of the wood stove.. I hadn’t thought much of them..probably should have paid more attention… they just screw in and out in order to let more air into the stove, or you can screw them closed so no air at all can go in. These dampers are kind of a big deal… and I finally mastered the art of the wood stove! I can keep the temperature an even 72 degrees! I can sleep all night without putting in more logs! I don’t have to spend a fortune on fuel oil! I can even cook on it! The black metal monster is AMAZING! Fuel oil $200

TIPS

  1. Take you time when building a fire. It is much easier to take a little extra time stacking correctly, then it is to try and light a fire the second time. I start with paper trash (cereal boxes ect.) then small sticks, larger sticks, small logs, once it is going nice and strong add on the big guys. Having to relight means trying to move hot, not quite lit logs to try and add more paper material. I do this more often than I would like to admit. It is not fun.
  2. Use dry logs. Dry logs start easier and burn hotter.
  3. Use a trio log formation. Two on bottom, one on top. Make sure air can get around all the logs.
  4. USE THE DAMPER. Open damper means lots of air and a fast hot fire. If you are trying to heat the room up quickly open them up. If you want a slow cooler fire close them up. If I am leaving the house for a few hours or turning in for the evening, the air gets shut off and the logs burn slow enough to last through the night. I have enough embers to get it going again with minimal effort again in the morning.
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Honey badger gardening gloves

So today I received a pair of Honey Badger gardening gloves. At first they looked like a costume piece for wolverine, or perhaps cat woman. I must admit, I was a bit hesitant. My sons age 6 and 7 were the first to break them out of the bag. “These are sooo cool! Are they for the sandbox?” Already their creative little brains were coming up with practical uses beyond halloween costumes. I informed them they were for gardening use–Faces looked disappointed..–“but you could help me garden…”–faces change to scared “..you can wear the gloves..”–faces change to excited– So I had some new recruits. Generally speaking gardening doesn’t excite my kids. Unless its time to pick something delicious, like strawberries, they usually have to be coerced in someway. But not today. Today, I found a new secrete weapon, in a strange looking pair of gloves. Game on! They dug all kinds of holes, they dug holes when I needed hole, they dug holes when I didn’t need holes, they dug holes just to fill them back in again. MY KIDS LOVE THESE GLOVES! And I love that they are gardening with me! I’ll admit my turn with the gloves did not last long, then they were passed to another eager set of hands(I do have 5 kids after all, and moms turn always gets cut short-unless its my turn for dishes) So for me, theses gloves are a win! A little unorthodox perhaps, but for us they are just what we needed to get gardening together. There is little else that brings me as much joy as doing things together as a family. So thanks Honey Badger for bringing out the primal in my boys to work in the dirt! P.S. I did let them take the gloves out to the sandbox when we were done, and they dug more holes for over an hour!

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How to be a homestead friend.

I have never had a lot of friends. Growing up homeschooled I only a few close friends, and I was completely satisfy with that. Into early adulthood, I was never the “social butterfly”. I had a few friends from work, or neighborhood acquaintances, but never any homestead friends. Now that we have moved out to the county, and we no longer can see a living soul in any direction, I stay at home with the kids and don’t interact with clients. How is one supposed to be make a friend? Well, slowly. As we have been here we have met fellow farmers, joined a homeschool group, 4-h group and even Facebook group and have slowly begun networking a group of homesteader friends. These friends have taught me the true meaning of friendship, one that I had never experienced inside city limits.

Sometimes friendship comes in the form of advice, we have a dear neighbor that had mentored us in everything from growing potatoes to raising pigs. He has been invaluable in letting us learn from his many years of wisdom and experience. Who else would be able to tell you “when the potatoes flower: thats when you put the water to them… or piglets pop out like popcorn. If they’re not, somethings wrong”

Friendship comes in the act of teaching: calling on a fellow farmer to show you how to butcher chicken or how to split beehives. These time gifts given to us are priceless nuggets that we have tucked into our our homestead arsenal. The old saying if you give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. This couldn’t be more true. Now we have been taught and will be able to pass this knowledge on the our children.

Friendship comes in the act of comrodery. An afternoon spent with friends, or a night roasting marshmallows while kids run to and fro, these beautiful time with friends although seemingly fleeting and “unproductive” add to the richness of homestead life. A richness that I never knew I was previously missing.

Friendship comes in the act of gifts, sometimes in comes in the form of baby bunnies delivered to your door easter weekend. How can you say no to a gift like that? Sometimes in comes as in the form of a freshly baked loaf of bread, an always welcome treat, because well, I LOVE bread. Its right up there with baby bunnies. Add some butter… I mean seriously does it get any better?

As you can see, this whole homestead friendship thing is pretty complicated. I mean, its hard right? And now its my turn to be an advice giving, skill set teaching, comrodery giving, and gift making homesteading superhero. I’m not sure if I am up for this challenge. I mean, loading stubborn hogs into a trailer is an easier feat than being a homestead friend. But, I’m going to give it my best, after all, my friends deserve it.

 

 

 

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Time for sale

So as we all know, gardening is a hurry up and wait game. Hurry get your seeds in, wait forever until harvest. But now, as I am trying of making money on the homestead, have realized that people buy time. A seed packet that costs $3 and contains 25 seeds will equal 25 large plants that sell for $5 each.  Those same seeds are now worth $125. All that is added: time (and some dirt and water). A egg cost .25 cents; add twenty eight days in the incubator, now is worth $3. Add another twenty weeks to laying age, now worth $10. Just add time (chicken food and water). Strange that farming seems to work this way, most jobs you get paid for your skill set, or selling a readymade product. But here, all you need is some time (and hopefully a green thumb,) to turn cents into dollars. People generally don’t have time, convenience items are a must, and easier is better. So now more than ever, people are willing to pay for time. Which leads me to my next thought, is my time for sale? I suppose it is, so why not spend it on doing what I love? If I can teach my kids along the way to garden their own food, milk a cow, tend to bees, and care for tiny quail, isn’t it time well spent? Sometimes it isn’t the end of the road that we should try to get to, the million dollar idea realized, or the checklist completed. Sometimes it’s just enjoying the time along the way. Of coarse, this is only made possible by have a loving husband who is the actual breadwinner, my goal is to earn enough so that my hobby farm is self supporting. Hubby keeps the lights on. So  I am forever grateful to him that I have time. After all, a little time is all we get.

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Food for thought

I recently had a request via craigslist for balut. To be perfectly honest I didn’t even know what they were requesting, I had to google it. This is what I learned. Balut is chicken or duck eggs that have been partially incubated so there is a small chick inside. It is then hardboiled and eaten, usually in a broth. These eggs are eaten in Asian countries as common street food. It made me want to puke. The thought of eating that…how could they! This request was at the forefront of my thoughts the entire day.So….what IS the difference? I eat chicken, it fact, it’s one of my favorite foods. I also eat eggs that are laid on our farm, which means they are fertilized, and have a teeny weenie atoms of a chick started in there somewhere. A McDonalds chicken nugget has more nasty things in it then a balut egg.13 ingredients to be precise, most of which I can’t pronounce. Plus, how old is that grease?  On the other hand balut (1 ingredient:egg)  is more nutritionally superior than regular eggs.For example balut has 100mg of calcium in it, an egg has only 25mg. Hmm, So I made myself reconsider my EWW position. It was just a cultural difference I wasn’t prepared for, and certainly never thought about selling. After a lot of consideration, I did offer our craigslist customer balut eggs, but we didn’t come to agreement on price. So in the end, I didn’t have to actually have to pull the eggs out of the incubator. I was secretly glad about that, but I hope next time I am faced with the “weird” I will take a step back and actually consider the real food aspect.Normally we judge food on a yummy or gross scale. Watermelon=yummy, clams=gross, store bread=yummy I could go on and on. However, let me suggest a new way we should judge food. Real or fake. This would be a much healthier way to eat. This would mean watermelon=real, clams=real, store bread=fake, and yes even balut=real.This being said, I don’t think I will ever eat balut, likewise my children may never eat onions, it is a little hard to get off of that yummy vs gross scale after all.But I just wanted to make the argument for real food, and say cheers to all my real food friends.Thank you for starting to change my scale.

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Wish we had a good mother chukar

We hatched our first baby chukar. It was adorable. But at about half the size of a baby chicken, it seemed frail to begin with. It died 3 days after it hatched. Hence, I wish we had a good mother chukar. So what went wrong? Human error strikes again. The first ever egg was laid in our aviary by my daughter’s chukar. Chukars are in the partridge family and are used mainly for hunting purposes. My daughter thinks they are cute, and she is hoping to raise some to eventually sell. So we excitedly put the egg into the incubator and waited our allotted 23 days. After the first egg went in the incubator, she laid more subsiquent eggs. Then they too were put in, making all the hatch days different. So all the eggs were carefully marked and moved to a separate incubator on day twenty, therefore taken off the egg turner and we could increase the humidity. So all was well, and the little guy hatched on schedule. After it was all dry and cute, off he went to the barn, where heat lamps, food, water, and fresh straw were waiting. It’s behavior seemed off from the beginning. It just hid under the straw, unlike other chicks we have hatched out that seemed more energetic and curious. Then, much to our dismay, 3 days later it died. My only conclusion is that because chicks are meant to be raised together, the little guy just couldn’t function on his own. If he would have had a good mother to teach him the ways of chukardom, he would have been alright. The instincts however, of most american birds have been literally bred out of them. They no longer know how to hatch out their own eggs, or care for their young. Humans have been taking their eggs away for so long in order to maximize productivity, broodiness (the sitting instinct to hatch out eggs) has been lost. One more silent casualty of our industrialized world. Another single chukar chick hatched today. We have some 2 day old meat chickens, so we made the call of putting the new guy in with them… at least he would have some birdy friends that could show him the ropes. His friends are almost giants in comparison, and I am worried he will be smothered under a fuzzy pile of yellow chicks, but we had to try a plan b. Plan c that we should have started with, is to hold all the eggs we receive for the week and put them into the incubator at once, resulting in more chicks on one day. But, like with most things, we learn the hard way. Hopefully we can learn our lesson and move on, and maybe even teach someone else what not to do with this story. I’ll keep you updated with our chukar/chicken roommate situation. Thanks for reading!

 

*update the chuker put in with the meat birds also died…I think it was crushed. We did hit a turning point when we had an adult quail “foster ” the next little guy and he survived. The rest hatched in groups and have been great. Please learn from my mistakes and don’t incubate a single egg. It doesn’t work out well.

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Slimy yet satisfying

The next latest and greatest on the farm is the aviary, it is only days away from completion. It will eventually get filled with a menagerie of birds.These birds will need to eat. Baby birds especially need a high level of protein. So at Christmas, I  decided to get some mealworms. In attempt to grow our own source of renewable, organic, birdie food. The mealworms overtime turned to pupa, then into darkling beetles. An interesting metamorphosis that has been educational for both me, and the kids. They have been in the beetle stage for about two months and yesterday, I was tired of always feeding them with no results. I thought that perhaps they were eating their own eggs. So I hired my boys for 25 cents, to get all the beetles out of the ten gallon tank, and move them to a different plastic container.Thus leaving behind all of their wheat bran, so as to hopefully let their eggs alone and have some hatchlings. There are hundreds of beetles, and after picking them out one by one for awhile,they got out my spaghetti strainer and sifted through all the bran. These bugs are interesting in the fact they don’t drink water, they get all their moisture for food or air. I have a jar of water in the cage they cannot reach for air moisture, and feed them kitchen scraps of fruit or lettuce every other day. Cucumber seems to be a favorite. Anyway, as the boys get to the bottom of the tank, I go to check on the progress. This exercise took much longer than it should due to the fact the boys are having way to much fun with any escaping beetles. Even Madison (4) was eager to grab the quick little bugs. So with all the darkling beetles moved to a new home, I peered into the now seemingly empty tank, and yet the bran was definitely still moving. After very carful observation, there are tiny little mealworms still in the bran. The exact same color of the bran, no bigger then a grain of rice. Yay! Of course the process still took longer than anticipated. In my research, the whole life cycle is 3 months. I am three months in, and the babies are tiny, but I am still encouraged. I’ll keep the beetles a little longer, hopefully get another batch of eggs in the new tank. Then take them out to the birds. So my baby quail and pheasants will get the extra protein boost after all. Slimy yet satisfying!

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How to render fats: making stuff to make stuff

One of the ways I love to exercise my creative side is to make soap. There is something gratifying to me about smelling my own homemade lavender soap. I alway try to use farm made products for my projects. I like to make stuff to make other stuff, and this is no different. The main ingredient of soap is fat. Either vegetable or animal, it is then mixed with sodium hydroxide, aka lye, which changes the chemical component of the fat and makes it into soap. (Lard is also used in making pie crusts and biscuits, frying potatoes, and lots of other delicious ways)So what if I could make my fats? That would  be super awesome! Then I would have a free, organic source for lard and tallow (pig and beef fat). Here on the farm we butcher and process our own meats. We are still learning all the cuts of the pork and beef, so we had a butcher come to the farm to begin to teach us last year.(Thank you Zink family) While these beautiful cuts of meat are making there way to the freezer, a few lowly five gallon buckets were filling up with scrap fat. No, its wasn’t very appetizing, but the gross and very heavy bucket turned into my beautiful soap. The next step in the fats extreme makeover, was to run it through the meat grinder. It starts as big slabs, sometimes weighing a few pounds, it gets cubed enough to fit in the grinder, and pushed through to make “spaghetti” noodles.(if you want to do this at home cutting it into strips in fine too) Then I have a buckets of spaghetti, than need to be rendered down into the lard or tallow. How do I do that you ask? Don’t worry, Ill tell my secrets. To be rendered down, it has to be cooked slowly, separating the fat from any bits of meat remaining with it. It also turns the fat from a solid, into a clear liquid than can be poured into jars for longterm storage, where it hardens up, until it is melted again before I make soap. So rather than spending the day in front of the fire fit, like our foremothers did, I  enlist the help of humble crockpot. I can fill up the crockpot and comeback about 5 hours later when most of the work is already done. It then gets ladled through a strainer(I used an old thrift store sheer curtain. Cheesecloth would also work, but once the fat hardens it is very hard to clean up) into mason jars. I got about 20 jars this year. Enough to hopefully last me until next butcher date. Warning:this soap making thing is highly addictive. Soap at your own risk, you may not be able to stop yourself and before you know it, you have hundreds of bars, then you have to try to sell them or your house might be taken over by soap, your husband and children may want to throw away your soaping supplies, just to see the counters again,  it could be bad. Not that this has happened to me or anything, I’m just saying…