First quarter chicken financials.

 

My plan for making millions will not be involving chickens.  I have definitively ruled that out after Annmarie started making me keep track of the financials. 
For the first three  months of this year I averaged 17 laying hens/day, 3.4 eggs/day, 20% productivity (total slackers), 1.14 lbs feed consumed/egg produced, feed cost $0.37/egg, income $20/month, expenses $45.90/month, net income $35.05/month loss, profit to date $105.15 loss, amount of feed consumed 350#.  This is where it gets painful.  My feed cost per dozen eggs produced is $4.07 and total cost per dozen eggs is $5.08.  I currently charge $3/dozen for eggs.  No wonder I am at a loss. 

My chicken experiment is not going well.  I only collected three eggs tonight, 2 white and 1 green.  The sad part is there are only two chickens that lay white eggs and two older chickens that lay green eggs.  Tomorrow is day seven of the experiment.  I am thinking of culling 13 others and saving the rooster just so I will have one.  He looks cool, tends to keep the girls together and on track.  He also calls out when he finds a good food source. 

Two more lambs sold.

I got a call today when I was trying to catch up on my sleep.  Someone was interested in buying some sheep.  This didn’t really excite me as much as it should have.  I have had three separate parties interested in over 20 of the sheep and none of them are sold.  When the cash crosses my palm, I will believe you are interested.  They seemed excited and wanted a boy and a girl.  I told them the only boy I had was the “one- nutter”, and he might not be able to perform.  They wanted to give him a try anyways.  Which is great because I don’t have to get rid of him at 6 months old now.  He had one huge testicle and was very rambunctious after catching him.  One of the little girls that came with the parents picked out a white colored lamb ewe.  We spent about thirty minutes talking about the sheep and how to care for them.  We loaded them into the back of their minivan onto a tarp that had been thrown in the little cargo space.  We got the back hatch closed without the sheep jumping out of the car or into the back seat.  They took number 23B and 29R.  All six kids and two parents piled into the minivan and off they went into a new adventure. 

Zeke was the man today!!  The sheep were up on the back hillside when the people came to pickup the sheep.  He was sniffing and harassing them when I hollered from the front yard that he had “WORK” to do.  He came running back and headed for the sheep.  I then confirmed we were going to work the “SHEEP”.  I walked out the ram pasture and was able to send him up to the top of the hillside, he circled the sheep then pushed them down and toward the gate into the ram pasture.  He then took them all the way to the barn and guarded the door, a whole five minutes of work and all I did was stand in the pasture and holler commands!  Truly amazing.  We are never ever not having a working dog as long as we have animals. 

We have started to clean up around the house.  I picked up tools and scrap wood today a few more days and it will all be cleaned up. 

The chicken experiment is going, but not producing the results I wanted.  We collected 11 eggs in the last two days.  I wanted to be at a dozen per day.  Annmarie worked on the chicken spreadsheet and added a feed cost/dozen eggs and a total cost/dozen eggs.  My average is around $5/dozen now.  Ugh.  I will get the financials posted soon. 

Chicken experiment now in progress.

Wind damage over winter.  Door now falling off.

Yesterday Sarah and I finally repaired the chicken coop enclosure.  The wind had blown the posts over during the winter and the constant slamming of the people door had caused it to come off its hinges.  There are rocks about 12 inches down and I could not sink the posts very deep.  We attached a board to the coop building and outer wall then added a second board to stabilize both sides of the door.  It is pretty secure now.  I want to do a quarterly chicken report but the chicken tracker is acting all funky.  It wants the data from one month only to be the years values.  When you add the second month’s data it changes the previous month to match.  Annmarie will have to give it some TLC (10 minutes of magic) to make it work correctly.  Once that is done I will get the abysmal 1st quarter report out. 

Fixed!  Support added to building.

I locked the chickens up last night.  Today we got a whopping 5 eggs, not that great for 17 adult hens and 7 teenagers trying to lay eggs.  I have hope and the experiment is going to go on for seven days.  My iron barrel trough I use to catch water runoff in the chicken yard has a hole in it!  It was a hand made trough from forever ago.  I will drag it out and toss it on the scrap pile.  I have the other half over by the wood shed so it will just get relocated. 

I finished the upper fence today.  Another 300 feet done (almost done, it needs stays but I don’t have any yet, not till late May or June) and ready for animals.  Tonight, Monica and I went up on the hill and relocated the electrical fence straight up the hillside.  It opened up another 200% of pasture for the sheep.  On a plus note, all that fencing in the yard gave great respect of the white fence to the sheep.  I forgot to plug in the last two strands of fence and the sheep never even tried to push past it!  They just saw an evil biting white fence and stayed away.  This time I remembered to plug the electrical connections together.  This should buy me a couple more weeks.  I will start working on the next 300 feet of fence next week.  I need to dig out the weeds, remove the bottom three strands, straighten half the posts, build a rock crib then tighten the top four strands of wire.  Most of the woven fence is approximately the same height, so I am just going to set the top four strands at the newly completed neighboring height and hope the woven wire fits.  If needed I can add a single strand either above the woven or at the top of the fence to make up any difference.  I called a guy about buying a lot of the sheep, the price is only $1/lb live weight for lamb no matter the age (as long as it is under 1 year old it is still lamb).  So I renewed the craigslist ad.  I didn’t change the price but next week I will lower the price on craigslist.  I plan on butchering a couple myslef this year.  I would like to do that in about 6 weeks.  The sheep need to fatten up. 

New cattle guard decoration plans.

Fancy wheel fence in the making.

I needed another project because I don’t already have enough!  Years ago when we lived in Moscow, ID there was an old farm house outside of Pullman, WA on the road to Lewiston, ID that had an iron tire rim fence.  The farmer had collected them over his entire life and welded them into a huge fence that was over 1/4 mile long.  It was gorgeous!  I loved it and always wanted to do something like it.  I talked to Annmarie about doing it front of our house but it is about 250 feet of fencing and I didn’t know how long it would take me to find that many tire rims. 

Wheel fence will go from left of picture to right side on either side of cattle guard.

I had mentioned my desire for a tire rim fence last year to the owner of the metal scrap yard.  I had noticed he was saving iron rims at the scrap yard.  Even at scrap metal prices I knew it would be kinda spendy so I had been putting it off.  The scrap metal yard is cleaning up and getting rid of “junk” in an effort to clear enough space to build a shop.  So I went over and collected about 3000# of steel tire rims!  They are going to go on either side of the cattle guard out by the road.  This will set off the drive way very nicely and still keep the animals inside.

Goose checking us out for nesting spot.

We had a couple of geese come by the other morning to check us out.  We figure they were looking for a nesting spot but our ram pasture is pretty busy with all those sheep so they didn’t stay long. 

Fencing again.

Creek crossing with no fence in place.

 We put up the temporary electric fence on the back hillside.  The yard deal just did not work out.  I still needed to cover the creek crossing and about 30 feet of fencing on the hillside.  It took three tries of stringing the fence to get it the way I liked it.  That doesn’t sound so bad but the hillside is very rocky and it was hard to find places for the poles to go into the ground.  I am sticking with the cow panel concept for creek crossings.  It is just easier.  If needed the panels can be lifted and moved fairly easily (doesn’t take hours on end).  I got the upper creek crossing done and then used some wire mesh to cover the last 30 feet of the electric fence. 

Creek crossing with fence in place.

I then went up on top of the hill and started working on getting the barb wire moved. I rolled up the bottom strand and cut it loose from the fence.  There used to be several rock cribs on the fence eons ago but they have disinegrated into a pile of rocks with the occasional piece of wood sticking out.  I needed one to pull the woven fence tight.  Luckily, right were I ran out of woven fencing is where an old rock crib used to be so I implemented my new rock crib plan and used a cow panel.  I used a 12 foot section and formed it into a circle and then bent the cut bar pieces around their neighbors.  It is mighty sturdy.  It took a lot more rocks to fill than I expected.  I had to toss rocks for over 20 minutes to get it full and the rocks were right next to the new crib. 
This is the design I saw when I went and picked up the cows in Antelope, OR last year.  They didn’t add the wooden post but I like nailing the fence to wood so I added it.  My total cost is $20 for this crib, not bad at all.  The sheep finally came out and explored the back hillside.  We will see how they do overnight. Tomorrow, I will finish getting the other two wires removed and then I can raise the four remaining strands and attach the woven wire.  Once that fence section is completed we can run the electric fence straight up the hillside and open up about 400% more pasture than is fenced now.  We opened the gate and are going to allow the horses to roam the upper pasture.  The fence won’t keep the sheep or cows in but since the horses won’t cross the creek and don’t usually try the fence we think they will be okay. 

Electric Fence Fail

Steve posted a picture of the labrynth he created with the electric fence, and described the challenges of containing the sheep in a relatively small space with it.  What he failed to tell you was that he had surrounded the entire house with the electric fence, which is all in all, not so bad, since the idea was to let the sheep into the part of the yard we wanted them to eat, and no other part.  But, he did not leave a path for humans to get out.  The only ingress or egress was over a laid-down portion of the (turned off) electric fence.  Bear in mind that this fence is a net, and is too long to step over when laid down.  Also bear in mind that I wear healed boots to work, and that I usually come home with my hands full.  You can see where this is going, can’t you?  The fact that the charger is not on the side of the fence that is accessible from the house just adds to the comedy factor.

Yesterday, I came home and noticed that vast portions of the electric fence were not as I had left them that morning.  Sarah was home sick, so I had left her inside with the dogs (they have access to grass to do their thing, and turned on the fence as I left the yard.  Something had obviously gone wrong, so I went to the end of the house, pulled two stakes and laid down a portion of the fence.  Mind you that I did this with my briefcase, purse, and groceries all in my hands.  As I was stepping on the fence, I could feel it grabbing at my shoes (netting, remember), and was trying to step carefully.  Apparently I was not stepping carefully enough, because I was about half-way across the net when it grabbed my foot and held on.  Yes, I went down.  Unfortunately, I went down when I was close enough to the porch to catch myself on the edge of it with both forearms.  It’s better than my chin, I admit, but dang!  That hurt.  Oh yeah, and I spilled my coffee too.  So, being the understanding and supportive wife, I called my husband, who is of course, at work in the Tri Cities, and explained to him that is was not a good idea to not allow for an easy path for people to enter and exit.  He will plan better next time.

On another, note, Pilot Rock is under a flood warning until noon today.  This does not surprise me, as I watched our creek rise nearly a foot in 15 minutes as I was cooking dinner last night.  It was pretty impressive.  Monica and I went out and raised the panels that Steve had supposedly made easy to raise.  Not so much.  The panels are held together with carabiners, and they had shifted a bit so that it took us about 30 minutes, and much silent swearing on my part to get the clips off and the lower panels removed.  They had already begun to collect debris, and were bowing out in the direction of flow, which only made things even more interesting.  Eventually we prevailed, but it was not as easy as advertised.  But, the fence is now clear of the creek, and the creek is still mostly within its banks so no harm, no foul.  There is a log that is collecting tumble-weeds and creating a wide spot, but it’s too heavy for me to move, and I can’t get to it to get a chain on it, so it’s going to have to stay where it is for a while.  I’ll have Steve take a look when he gets home.

Continuing the ramdomness, we’re still feeding.  The sheep ate an entire bale in about 45 minutes last night, and were still hungry.  I fed them more, along with the horses and the cows.  The cows had been ignoring the hay, but now they are breaking into Mom’s yard, so they are getting fed too.  If they don’t start behaving, they may have to move to another pasture, but for now, we’re still feeding every night.  It’s kind of odd because everything is green, but apparently there’s not much real food value yet.  The sheep are all pretty scrawny.  Hay and grain should fix it.
 

Biting Fence.

Portable electric net fencing.

 The electric fence charger came yesterday.  We ordered an all in one unit designed and made for Premier fencing.  They do mostly sheep gear and are a working sheep farm.  Great products, worth the price.  This is a self contained solar charged electric fence charger with batteries, switch and clamps all in one heavy duty aluminum watertight box.  I wanted to hook it all up and see how it worked so I strung it out in the front yard.  Needless to say there were some issues. 

Solar powered with custom metal box.

 I did read the directions this time.  I had to finagle the fence around to get the extra strung out so that it was all off the ground.  I got it up, the charger on and the sheep in the yard.  I then waited to see what would happen.  The sheep would bump it and then jump 2-4 feet sideways.  The real trouble was all 50 sheep would shy.  I had a 20 foot tunnel that caused the sheep to bump someone into the fence.  The teenager panicked, typical teenager, and started running down the electrified fence.  Stupid idiot got physically tangled in the fence and ripped down 40 feet.  I had to run over and turn it off and physically unravel the lamb out of the fence.  I now have straight sections of fencing.  Zeke accidently hit the fence and you would have thought he got shot!  He squealed and ran away and followed me around for the next two hours.  The cat didn’t like it either, although she just yowled and jumped between the hot strands.  The sheep did get used to it but they are rough on it.  I need to put the charger on the opposite side of the fence away from the sheep.  They knocked off my cables once. 

Solar powered with batteries and fence generator self contained.

We took the pickup in to be serviced.  Not taking it to a shop for years kind of makes the little things pile up.  $2000 later it runs like a new vehicle!  I was quite surprised by the smoothness and having the passenger side mirror working again is a nice bonus.