Chicken Pasture

Chicken Run

Most summers here at Highland Heights are busy with different building projects, this year not with standing. One of the projects this year was to get the poultry moved out to a larger pasture. Quite frankly, while we loved the chickens near the house it became a constant battle cleaning up their mess, in the barn, on the porch or worse yet our picnic table. We needed to get them relocated.

With any project comes planning, so we spent a few weeks mapping out different possibilities. Adding fencing is always a big consideration, once built it becomes a permanent feature of the farm; not easily moved. We settled on dividing one of our pastures. This meant we could utilize two side of the existing fencing to save on cost. In the future we will be able to divide the remaining area of the pasture to make an area for our future goats and cattle.

With help of a friend and the use of his tractor and post pounder, we were able to put in the fence line in a few hours. We decided to put in standard farm fencing and over lapped it with a 24″ tall poultry wire to keep the chickens and ducks in and other predators out. Over the next few weeks we worked on stretching the wire around the new pasture. Our oldest daughter (4) and I then took a week putting up the poultry wire. We worked our way down the fence line with zip ties to secure it to the previously installed farm fence.

Hard Lessons Learned:

For the last six weeks our 30 chickens and 4 ducks have been enjoying their new digs. What I didn’t take into account for was how hard it is on the poultry to change their environment. Even if it was just a across our property. We quickly began to see a problem develop, our chickens stopped laying eggs. Normally for a short period of time this wouldn’t be a big deal but we have a lot of regular customers who stop by for their eggs, in addition to selling at the farmers market. At first we put it down to stress, but when it continued, we started doing some more reading and believe this is due to two things; first because of the move, we changed their environment causing stress to the birds, second their new pasture did not have enough shade. They had full access to their coop but that wasn’t enough to lounge outside and cool off in a dust bath.

The first problem will fix itself with time (6-8 weeks is not unusual). For the shade we build an a-frame shelter we are able to move around the pasture to give our poultry much needed respite from the hot sun. Watch for another post on how we built that shelter, including a full material list soon for anyone who would like to use it. Less than 2 hours of work and well under $75 in materials, making it cost effective and easy to make.

As we enter into fall I hope to see our egg production start to increase as the bird continue to get settled in. There are always lessons to be learned on the farm. Happy Farming!

Summer Camp with the Clinton County Extension Office

Last week we hosted a Farm Camp Experience at Highland Heights Farm. We partnered with Purdue Extension’s Learning Network of Clinton County. It was a great week for us and for the kids. Each day we had a different theme, based around one aspect of our Farm: Honey Bees; chickens; horses; planting/seeds and then we had a nature/fun day on Friday with a campfire and s’mores. You really can’t spend a week on a farm and not end the week with a campfire, after all! Here are just a few pictures that capture our week together.

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Horsenality

In 2013, to help promote our new EAL business, we offered free EAL demonstrations on the farm. In these demonstrations, one of the topics we always covered was our horses. We want the therapists we work with to understand more than just WHAT we do, but HOW the process works, and part of that is understanding how the horses themselves are part of the therapeutic process.

Similar to many family pets, horses have their own personality (or as some call it, a horsenality). For example, our youngest horse, Hawk, is very playful and curious. He has a high flight trait in response to stimulus that he sees as a danger.

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Arrival

Each year that we have lived here at Highland Heights Farm, we have added or expanded what we do on the farm. We had hoped to add chickens a couple of years ago, but since we were expecting our first child in the Spring 2012, and were doing some major indoor restoration projects, we decided to wait another year before adding chickens.

Instead we spent that year reading multiple books on raising chickens. In early Spring 2013, we started talking to our local feed store, because we knew they ordered chicks close to Easter each year. We decided on 10 Golden Comet, 10 Silver Laced Wyandotte and 5 Ameraucana and placed our order with the feed store.

We had spent a whole winter planning. We were ready!

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