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Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

 
Mark Reed
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Posts: 260
Location: SE Indiana
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I don't know anything about fava beans, might have to look into them. If they grow in cold or cool, maybe I can plant them in fall like I've started doing with Brassica oleracea and carrots.

Yep, a docile looking chicken. How do you think the weather extremes, particularly the heat might affect the chickens and rabbits? Will you be able to keep them cool and comfortable?  How will you go about feeding them independently, is the material you collect and put in their pen, plus maybe the bugs it attracts be enough or will you have to grow or purchase additional food?

As far a brooding, I found that some individual hens just love to hatch babies. It's much easier that way but they tend to be less tame of course without that close contact when they are little. I'm right now out of the chicken business but considering building new coop and starting over.

Speaking of rabbits, we are completely overrun with them right now and also chipmunks. They kind of go in cycles anyway as far as population size but I've never seen it this extreme. I can easily count twenty rabbits on the 1/2 mile journey out to the blacktop. No clue why they like to sit around in the gravel road. One of my gardens is not sufficiently fenced against them and shooting two or three a day has had no noticeable effect. Plus, I'm growing more than a little weary of killing things.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Mark Reed wrote:I don't know anything about fava beans, might have to look into them. If they grow in cold or cool, maybe I can plant them in fall like I've started doing with Brassica oleracea and carrots.



Here we plant them in the fall, and that's it. They pretty much fend for themselves. I think they only mature a month earlier planting in the fall versus spring, from what I've heard, but it's way less hectic to plant them in the fall, and that month could be the difference between getting a harvest and not with the way things are going. Basically treat them the way you treat garlic... though they can probably take even more neglect than garlic. Still not sold on the flavor of the dry beans, but fresh is great, and just having something that's producing at least something reliably is not something I'm going to start complaining about.


Yep, a docile looking chicken. How do you think the weather extremes, particularly the heat might affect the chickens and rabbits? Will you be able to keep them cool and comfortable?  How will you go about feeding them independently, is the material you collect and put in their pen, plus maybe the bugs it attracts be enough or will you have to grow or purchase additional food?



Well, the chicks just went through temps in the hundreds for almost a week straight, inside a metal barn with no  air conditioning. Only the Bielefelders really showed any signs of heat stress, and pretty mild at that. They were faring much better than me, at any rate. I had anticipated moving them outside in to the shade, but it never became a necessity. My adult birds had no issues at all.

I've specifically selected breeds that are noted for being good with extremes of heat and cold (having only picked up chicks locally before, one thing I really liked about getting birds from Murray McMurray is that they provide ratings for things like heat and cold tolerance, disposition, meat and egg production, free range ability, etc. that makes it easy to compare breeds at a glance.) This is actually the least I've ever used a heat lamp with baby chicks (granted, I usually have them much earlier in the year so it's not this hot.) They got a heat lamp for the first week or so, and then they got a heat lamp at night for a week or so (because it was too hot to run it during the day), then I forgot to turn the lamp on at night once and they were all perfectly fine the next morning (turned the lamp on for a couple hours so they could warm back up.) At 4 weeks, they're now completely outside, with a heat lamp on a timer just in case they need it at night, but I went out at 4 the other morning and none of them were under it.

My chicken pen is on the north side of the barn, so it gets shade most of the day. It's two retired chain link dog kennels combined together. I'll be adding two remaining pieces of fence onto the end of it this weekend, which will expand the area to 280 sq. ft. I did a quick estimate of the area I'm planning to fence in, and it's about 4,000 sq. ft. Which I may or may not split into separate pastures so I can rotate them. But if I'm not growing a garden, I could likely just open things up and let them range as much of the 93 acres as they care to.

I saw a really cool colony setup where they had a mix of different birds plus rabbits all in the same shared space. That's what I want to emulate. Then I'd put a gate at the exit to the yard that the chickens can get over but the rabbits can't, that way I can keep the rabbits confined but give the chickens additional space. Which also means I can feed the rabbits separately from the chickens.

I've considered a lot of different factors regarding how to feed them. The way I've been managing my birds so far is to trade 45 eggs for a bag of feed, and that's worked out fairly well. Did get behind over winter because of a lighting SNAFU and lower overall production, but I've just been giving extra eggs every week this season to make up the difference, and according to my numbers, everything should be squared away by the time they need feed again. So, trading/selling eggs is one way I can cover feed. I was able to mock up rough egg production numbers for the year based on not harvesting excess pullets until fall so that I can get a few months of egg production. That puts me in the 40-50 eggs a day range, i.e., roughly enough for a bag of feed a day.

The idea is to eliminate the commercial feed, though. And to breed a bird, not unlike the Icelandic, that can forage for all of its own food. So, the flip side is to just give them what I've going to give them, and if that's not enough, then start at the bottom and start butchering birds until I have a population that's small enough to thrive on the available resources, that way I'm ending up with the genetics that are built for the system I'm trying to create, rather than trying to build a system that accommodates all of the genetics I have. It's just a question of whether I can focus on production qualities when I'm making my selections, or if I have to focus on survivability to begin with. Obviously they'll grow slower (and I'll have minimized my yields) if they're never really quite getting enough to eat, so that's really the last ditch effort.

So the other side of the equation is, how much can I produce on site in order to eliminate commercial feed? I've seen people raise birds on home and commercial scales feeding only yard waste and food scraps. I can scythe about 4 yards of material every morning, so that's kind of my baseline. I'm also currently getting the food scraps from 4 different households, with many more that I can hit up for scraps as my flock grows. I'm also planning to fish some azolla out of the pond or creek today and start  playing around with producing that as animal feed. It's one of the things that Carol Deppe promotes in The Resilient Gardener as an animal feed, given that it's 40% protein and can double in volume every day at the peak of the season. Duckweed is the same, though I've only noticed the azolla growing out here. And finally, I've ended up with black soldier flies in my worm bins before, so I might as well slap something together for the express purpose of producing them. They're also a great high protein/high fat poultry feed. I've been toying around with the idea of a more free form insect production right in the chicken yard, but the risk of attracting rodents probably outweighs the benefits of the more streamlined process.

Then there are all of my options for buying feed, if it comes down to that. Selling eggs is obviously one option. I can also sell excess pullets at, or just before, laying age. And I've also already had local people asking me about getting birds from my landrace. I don't know if second generation birds are really anything worth selling, but if I'll already have an incubator, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to hatch out extra chicks to sell. That's one reason I was looking to get a larger cabinet incubator, but I don't know if it's really practical.

I figure at the maximum size of the flock, it would cost about $48/week to feed them if they were getting absolutely no forage, food scraps, or anything else other than forage. If I can put in a bulk order for feed, that drops it down to $40/week. Total value of the eggs would range between $20 and $120 per week, depending on the size and average age of the flock. I'll also have roughly 5 pullets a month that aren't going to make the cut for my breeding program, which can be sold for the equivalent of $25-$40 a week if I don't keep them around as extra layers. Then there are chicks. If I take orders, then I can hatch out what I need to fill those orders and won't have any babies sitting around eating up feed. I think the incubator I've been looking at holds 35 eggs. With a 100% hatch rate, that'd be about $46 a week. Of course, a 100% hatch rate is unlikely, and I'll be taking up over half the capacity of the incubator with my own birds for the better part of 5 months, but $46 provides an upper limit with that incubator. The cabinet incubator I've been looking at can hold 270 eggs, which would work out to a maximum of around $360 a week... but that's a much bigger investment, which I'd only be able to consider if the writing job pans out. Plus, I don't know that there will be a demand before I get my landrace established. There's interest, but until my birds have proven themselves, I don't think there's any real way that I could hope to sell that many birds.

So, even on a bad week, I should be able to scrap up enough to cover half of their feed. Most weeks I should be able to cover all of it. And that's with the goal of having all of their feed come from on site, and commercial feed just as a backup. There are lots of moving parts, so it's hard to know how things will actually work out, but I have a bunch of different options depending on how things shake out.  Right now the goal is to just start amassing biomass in preparation for feeding a larger number of birds. But that this point, feed's covered for all of the birds I have currently.

Rabbits I haven't put as much thought into yet. We had them on the farm I worked at in college. I never personally worked with them, but we had a rabbit tractor, and I'm pretty sure they didn't get commercial feed at all. I've since seen people who feed their rabbits exclusively from the greens on their own property, or else sell one or two kits from a litter to cover the feed for the rest. I don't have a source for rabbits yet, or the money to invest in breeders, so I still have time to research and see if things are tenable. Lots of unknowns, but at the end of the day, the solution is the same. If it doesn't work out, I butcher and eat them, and that's the end of the rabbit project.


As far a brooding, I found that some individual hens just love to hatch babies. It's much easier that way but they tend to be less tame of course without that close contact when they are little. I'm right now out of the chicken business but considering building new coop and starting over.



I had a hen go broody last year and was 2 weeks in before a pair of hens broke in and kicked her off the nest. I've seen eaten those hens. No one's gone broody this year, but they haven't been given a chance to sit on eggs. They're definitely less tame when they aren't handled as babies. That's the problem with my current flock. Respiratory issues trying to brood them in my RV, so I had my mom take them until they were big enough to be without a heat lamp. And of course, that means they never got handled. They're not terrible by any stretch, but they're certainly not as friendly as birds that get a lot of handling. That is the part of using a broody hen that I don't like. But everything else about it is easier. Especially getting them onto forage from a young age. Ultimately I'd like to have a self-managing flock, and broodiness is important for that, but it's trickier to manage in these early years when I need to be a little more hands on.


Speaking of rabbits, we are completely overrun with them right now and also chipmunks. They kind of go in cycles anyway as far as population size but I've never seen it this extreme. I can easily count twenty rabbits on the 1/2 mile journey out to the blacktop. No clue why they like to sit around in the gravel road. One of my gardens is not sufficiently fenced against them and shooting two or three a day has had no noticeable effect. Plus, I'm growing more than a little weary of killing things.



Rabbits were out of control last year. Predator population seems to be bouncing back. I haven't seen any rabbits this year.

Killing is something that I still do not enjoy at all. If you live in a place where apex predators can peaceable establish, then killing too many prey species has one of two effects: predators target your animals because they're starving, or they die/move on, which means that the prey population is going to explode in their absence. I would prefer to let predators and prey balance each other out rather than involve myself in the process and create more work for me.

The other side of the equation is that we've created so many environments in which predators just can't exist in any meaningful way. In those instances, we either have to introduce predators (like dogs and cats), or we have to be the predators. Same when we introduce an animal to an area where it has no predators. We have to be the predator. Doesn't mean it's fun, but we're responsible for the problems we cause.

I've only processed two chickens so far. I do worry that it'll be harder to process a larger number of birds. The two that I killed were serial escapees who trashed the garden, kicked my broody hen of her nest two weeks into setting on eggs, and were just constantly getting into shit they weren't supposed to. They easily got third, fourth, and fifth chances. When I finally killed them, I was pissed. That makes it easier, but it's still not easy. I worry that when it comes down to having to kill birds that haven't done anything wrong other than losing the genetic lottery, it's going to be a lot harder to do. But, at the end of the day, I've gotta eat. And this is what I'm doing to get perennials established so that I can ultimately circle back around to eating mostly plants. Assuming the climate hasn't destabilized too much for that. It's going to be a year of a lot of firsts.
 
Jan White
pollinator
Posts: 714
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
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I'm sorry so many things haven't worked out. Every year, I go from spring enthusiasm to summer despair to fall resignation 😁

A lot of your challenges sound much like some of what I'm dealing with.  My "soil" is also abysmal. it's really subsoil.  Most of it is sandy rock and the better parts that I try to garden the most in are silty sand (with a good sprinkle of rockπŸ˜‰). No organic material, unless there's some bracken, which is hydrophobic and allelopathic. Tomatoes and squash still grow. I've grown them in some of the rockiest, fastest draining areas (like dump a bucket of water on the ground and it's gone before the bucket's empty) and had them struggle through. I didn't get a crop, but they survived.

Even in a normal (haha - yeah, right) year I get pretty major temperature swings. Sounds like I got pretty much the same temperatures you did this time. Ours were a little lower than yours that first cold day.  I didn't water anything through a week of 40+ degrees. Lots of stuff died, but not the squash and tomatoes. Some of them didn't even seem stressed. We haven't had rain since the first week in june, and had a very dry spring.

I'm trying to encourage you not to give up on squash and tomatoes πŸ™‚  I plant my squash into mulched beds, thin the mulch where I've planted, and walk away.  I always get a crop.  My tomatoes haven't yielded well, but not because of the soil. I've been trying to force my favourite long season varieties to perform as short season varieties. This year, I bought nine or ten of the shortest season varieties I could find. These are the ones that did fine with no watering. Tomatoes straight out of a packet, not even adapted to my site. I started these ones in May, in unprotected pots outside to mimic direct seeding.  I transplanted sometime in June, mulched, and walked away.  Once I have enough seeds, I'll direct seed and treat them the same way I do squash.

Another thing that will probably do really well for you is winter grain. I chuck seed around any time from September to November. You could probably go quite a bit later in your climate. Then, same thing, you walk away and forget about it until next summer. Threshing and winnowing is a bit of work, but you can tuck the grain heads away somewhere dry and do it whenever you have time over the winter. If you're going the chicken route, you can always just give it them, too. Grain does well on poor soil, takes advantage of fall and winter moisture, dries down in the heat of the summer, puts good root structure through the soil, and covers the soil with straw after harvest. Rye is the bulletproof one for me, but I'm trying out some wheats and barleys this year and next to find something as easy as the rye.

I hope your seedling potatoes work out, cause that's another crop that seems to do really well for me with total neglect.

I also hope the weather this year produces some star survivors in your garden you can spread around.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Posts: 414
Location: Oregon 8b
108
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Jan White wrote:I'm sorry so many things haven't worked out. Every year, I go from spring enthusiasm to summer despair to fall resignation...



Yeah. It's not a complete abandonment of annual veggies. Just a reprioritization. Animals first, because they'll produce calories even on crappy soil, and while being relatively hands off (compared to a vegetable garden in these conditions.) I haven't had the time to really tend to perennials because I've been dealing with annuals. So, perennials will be the next highest priority. I have lots of them that are dying and need more TLC than they're getting. I'm still figuring out what vegetables will look like. Most of my regular fall/winter stuff is still on. Favas and garlic are still on. Greens, brassicas, and root crops are on. Not sure about quantities. I still think I'll be working on my squash and potato projects over spring/summer, but that means I need to do a lot more prep ahead of time. I've had wheat the last two years, and the squirrels have gotten 100% of it, so grains are more dubious. I'm thinking about doing amaranth and/or sunflowers along the fence line of the chicken yard, but I don't know yet. What I do know is that I need to concentrate the few resources I have into a smaller space so that they can actually get the job done. Putting my mulch thicker, on fewer beds, would have done a lot more good this year. Instead, I tried to stretch it too far and just made a paradise for the thistles to move into. I'm only planning to have animals in half the garden, so that gives me the other half to play around with in addition to the east and west fields, which will likely be potatoes and squash. But we'll see how things shake out.
 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Mathew Trotter wrote:
relatively hands off (compared to a vegetable garden in these conditions)



Matthew Trotter wrote:
but that means I need to do a lot more prep ahead of time.



That's what I'm getting at. Some of these things don't need all the work we think we have to put into them. Rather than fighting to change or compensate for your conditions, figure what what will grow in them and focus on those crops.

I mention tomatoes and squash because I'm successfully growing them in shitty dead dirt and don't get rain for 2-3 months in the summer.  I think you have some idea what that's like 😁

I know you're relying on your crops in a way I'm not, so you feel more pressure to get a yield. But even just one year of being really mean to your plants, saving seeds from the ones that can handle it, and letting the rest die makes a huge difference in what the next generation can take. And it's way less work for you. Since you've got a backup income lined up, this can be your year to see what survived neglect and base your garden around those things next year.
 
Jan White
pollinator
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By the way, where did you get your Florida betony?
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 260
Location: SE Indiana
147
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Jan White wrote:
Rather than fighting to change or compensate for your conditions, figure what what will grow in them and focus on those crops.


That's the conclusion I came to quite awhile back. If you read about any particular thing there is always the recommendations on what it likes. Watermelons like sandy soil, tomatoes like this and beans like that. Well tough luck for them because the soil I have is the soil I have they can like it or not. And as it turns out a lot of things will grow pretty well anyway. Some things might fail completely, some might thrive and lots do good enough.

Planting lots of different things and just letting them decide for themselves if they are worth your time is overall the best approach I think. Once a species reveals itself to be at least accepting of my conditions then the Lofthouse "landrace" approach has shown to be quite effective in increasing productivity, the same with things I've always grown but used to keep as inbred varieties.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Went on a short foraging trip with a friend. It'll be another week or two before things really kick into high gear, but brought home a small haul off thimbleberries and huckleberries. Nibbled lots of oxalis as we wandered. Got a few salmonberries, but birds had already picked most of the bushes clean. And that led to the observation that compound berries, especially salmonberries, are very well adapted to being eaten by birds. The birds just never quite got the whole berry, leaving behind at least a few seeds from each to maintain the local population even as they spread the rest of the seeds around.

Also got my first zucchini. And possibly the last. I'm down to my last surviving plant and I'm not sure how much longer it's going to make it. But at least this was a reminder of how much better home grown zucchini is. It's been so long since I've grown my own that I'd totally forgotten that zucchini can actually have flavor.
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Mathew Trotter
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Location: Oregon 8b
108
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
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Extended the chicken pen another 10 feet. Built a new roost that could accommodate all of the birds. Might have to build another smaller one once I'm in the thick of breeding. Added a couple new nest boxes and repaired one that the hens had broken. They'd already laid all of their eggs for the day, so I didn't get to see how they liked the new arrangement. The extra room is nice. Allows me to give the rooster a wide berth, and that's usually enough to keep him on his best behavior. He was a little less patient today after I'd spent the whole day in with them, rearranging their world. I'm also glad that I decided to spend a little bit of the money I've made on an automatic waterer and large no-mess feed trough. It's given me a little breathing room so I can actually take a day off if I need to, and removes some of the human error, like not noticing they've emptied their water on a hot day. Way less stressful knowing there are checks in place on the days that my ADHD is making it difficult to compete the mundane, day-to-day chores. I just have to check that everything's clean and working, and that's way less hassle than having to haul feed and water in once or twice a day. And the feeder has almost paid for itself in saved feed. Definitely going to help me get caught up on eggs.

Speaking of the rooster, decided to catch him the other day and get a weight for him. Only 6Β½ish pounds. I'd like to see at least another pound and a half on him, if not three and a half. He's terrible at foraging and gorges himself on layer feed, so I suspect a lack of protein is to blame. But it could also just be terrible hatchery genetics. The rooster is definitely pretty chill once you've got a hold of him, though. I carried him around for an hour or so, and things were much calmer in the pen after that. He was so stressed about me being in the enclosure that it was stressing all of the hens too. They'd bolt any time I got anywhere near the nest boxes. After carrying him around they started staying on the nests when I walked by, even within a foot or so.  Way better than it's been.  Being in the chicken tractor as long as they were definitely put them on edge. I won't be repeating that experiment until I can build something much larger and cozier.

I set up my little azolla pond, and that should eliminate any concerns over lack of protein. Now I just have to find since azolla. Gonna hike down to the creek tomorrow and see if I can still get some fish there. The pond has dried into a mud pit, and the creek wasn't looking much better the last time I was down there about a month ago. I'm guessing it's all dried up at this point. If only people would learn to leave things alone. Not that I'm any better. I've been irrigating a lot more lately just so I can try to keep the animals fed. Which has already been hindered by the lack of scythe. I think I mentioned losing the screw that holds the blade in when I was running from bees the other day? Of course, it's a special screw, so I've gotta wait for it to ship. Wanna finish getting the "pasture" mulched so it can start filling in with whatever weeds are in the seed bank. I'll do another cut in mid-August or so you take off whatever new growth the thistles have managed to put on. After that I'll broadcast some additional seeds for winter roots and greens that I have a lot of, and that should give me and the chickens plenty to eat going into fall and winter while also protecting and improving the soil.

Still haven't figured out my soldier fly set up yet, but I just emptied out a tub to use. That's one of the next things on my list. I think the major problem I'll end up having with it is getting enough material to feed it. Especially the high energy, low fiber types of things they enjoy. Hopefully I'll have something to show for it in another 3 weeks or so.

Bummed that I didn't get a rabbit yesterday. Found a New Zealand mix that someone was giving away. Sounded like she might not be great mom material, but I'll never know, since someone else just barely beat me to her. I don't even know what made me look, since I wasn't really planning to start working with rabbits until next year. But now I'm watching for ads. And I have a friend who can pick them up to the south of me... they go for a half to a third of the cost down there. Maybe they're cheaper because they're inferior rabbits, but if I can grow them out for free, then I don't really mind if they're not as big or aren't the best rabbits. Food is food. I can worry about genetics later.

Anyway. Gonna pass out. Wanna be up at first light so I can get my chores done and get to the creek before it's hot. Granted, I think it's supposed to be 6 degrees cooler tomorrow, so it won't be too understand.

Catch you all later...
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Extended and rearranged the chicken pen
Extended and rearranged the chicken pen
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Set up for azolla
Set up for azolla
 
Mathew Trotter
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Went down to the creek first thing this morning. Earlier in the season it was exclusively azolla, but now there's no azolla to be found, but there's duckweed covering every square inch. Chickens are supposed to find azolla more palatable than duckweed, but both plants have similar growth requirements and nutritional profiles.

Harvested the shelling pea seeds this morning so I could repurpose their trellises. Not sure if shelling peas are something I'll grow next year, but I should have lots of seed if I do.
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This hen is fascinated with the babies.
This hen is fascinated with the babies.
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Didn't find azolla, but did find duckweed.
Didn't find azolla, but did find duckweed.
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Shelling pea seed harvest.
Shelling pea seed harvest.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Well, I shot 20 hours of time lapse to show the growth of my duckweed, and ended up showing the opposite. Good thing I had the time lapse, otherwise the subtle degradation may have gone unnoticed. I'm guessing that my air pump is to blame. The closest thing I've found to an expert on growing duckweed and azolla has suggested that oxygenating the water massively increases production, but you have to accomplish that with very little water movement, which duckweed can't handle. The pump I have is from an old compost tea aerator that I built. It was a bit underpowered for compost tea, but overpowered for duckweed. C'est la vie.

My other thought was that there's too much nutrient in the water. The impression I've gotten is that there's no such thing as too much nutrient for duckweed, but I may have overdone it. I'm going to go back down to the creek and scoop a fresh batch... and bigger this time, since there's no shortage. The stuff I've still got in my duckweed pond may recover now that I've adjusted things, but I anticipate that a fresh batch is thing to get up and running faster than the one batch will recover. If taking the air pump out of the equation doesn't improve things, then I'll try diluting the water so there isn't as much nutrient.

I'd still like to figure out a way to use the air pump so I can see what difference it makes in production, but I'm gonna have to see if I can DIY a way to make it a little gentler. The way I saw something else doing it was to pump water into a jug in the middle of their "pond" and the overflow is what oxygenated the water. But that requires a water pump, not an air pump. But perhaps I could pump air into a jug with holes and that would pacify things enough. Something to experiment with at least.

The other thing to note is that one of my baby bielefelder roos managed to escape into the larger chicken enclosure. Without incident, I might add. I'm guessing the chicken wire was flopped over enough that he was able to climb up and over the top. I tried to get video, but my camera was still set to timelapse, so guess how that worked out? The big chickens didn't pay any attention to him. I'm inclined to just remove the chicken wire and leave the welded wire up so I can keep their food separate but allow them to explore the larger enclosure and mingle with the big chickens, but I still want to do weigh ins and get leg bands on them at some point, and they'll be a lot harder to catch in the larger space. Also hoping to let the big chickens back out to forage soon, but I don't have any way to keep the babies in the enclosure, and they're still small enough that our hawks can scoop them up and fly away with them. So, for the time being, I think it's better to keep them separated.

I did find a study from Vietnam in feeding duckweed to laying hens. In Vietnam, chickens are fed on rice and soybeans. Birds did best when 75% of the soybeans were replaced by duckweed, with researchers noting that this ratio showed the best improvement in the protein and omega 3 content of the eggs, while also inducing the hens to start laying younger than birds fed conventionally. There wasn't a lot of other research on laying hens specifically, but there were more studies on meat birds and the results were less encouraging. It wasn't that the birds didn't survive just fine, but rates of growth were slower. Full details of those studies weren't publicly available so I don't really know what to do with that information. I suspect these were hybrid meat birds which were bred to put on insane amounts of growth when fed commercial feed, and thus I don't find it surprising that they grew slower. I'm not sure that that would look like with a dual purpose breed. Will they struggle to get up to a size that makes them worth eating? Will it take them significantly longer to size up? How much longer? Will it impede my butchering schedule enough that I end up with too many birds at once? Too many questions that I can't answer with the available information.

Other interesting factoids: apparently duckweed, at least some species of it, produce vitamin B12, which is pretty rare amongst plants. It's on a slowly growing list of plants that can make that claim. 13 grams of dried duckweed is supposed to provide 100% of an adult's daily B12 needs. If I get a good system down, and I find it palatable, then I may be growing it as people food in addition to animal food.

I found one source that gave production information, though they weren't very forthcoming with the growing conditions, so that makes the data less useful. At any rate, they stated that the yield was 1 kilo per square meter per day, which is just under 2 pounds for a square yard. Still a lot of unknowns there. I'm guessing that's fresh weight, and most of the research on it's use as livestock feed is looking at dry weight. I'm not sure how dry weight compares to fresh. If we're feeding 40% of the diet as dry duckweed, that works out to about β…’ of a pound per bird per day.  Have to do a little more digging to figure out the water content of fresh duckweed and do the conversion. And then just figure out what actual production is under my conditions and then just tweak things to see how close I can get to that kilo per meter figure.

Anyway. Off to the creek for more duckweed. Gonna have to bundle up. It's downright chilly this morning.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Location: Oregon 8b
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Chickens loved the duckweed. Scooped enough out of the creek to top off the duckweed pond and had enough to feed them a bit. They weren't particularly interested at first, but at some point in the few minutes between when I went inside for something and when I came back out, they'd devoured all of it and were begging me for more. Unfortunately, that'll have to wait until the pond gets up to full production. That's just more of a hike than I'd like to make for a couple bites of food, and I've scooped just about everything I can without risking kidding a boot to the mud. At least until it fills back in.

Did find traces of azolla in the stuff I scooped today. Not much, and I'm not sure it's actually alive, but I guess time will tell. Depends on which one prefers my setup. Whichever one is happier with my setup should take over and outcompete the other. That is, assuming the azolla is alive enough to put up a fight.
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Sad looking azolla
 
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