December 5th, 2008
There is a rare, out of print book called Poultry Production in Hawaii by Charles M. Bice, published in 1947. It was mentioned in a great blog entry at Asagi Hatchery. I found a copy of the book! Although much of the information is general in nature or dated, some is fascinating and possibly relevant to sustainable production today.
Mr. Bice describes “All-Hawaiian Emergency Rations” which consist of ingredients which were apparently locally available in 1947, including: Fish meal, Red milo maize, Pigeonpea meal, Soybean oil meal, Peanut oil meal, Algaroba bean meal, Pineapple bran, Koa haole seed meal. He recommends supplementing with fresh Koa haole leaves, Pigeon pea leaves, Sweetpotato leaves, and Honohono grass.
I’ve typed in a small excerpt from the book so you can see it, and added a mention to the chicken notes.
November 13th, 2008
Ben is giving a talk about chickens today at NHERC (North Hawaii Education and Research Center) down in Honokaa tonight. I’m assembling some photogenic shots of our hens for his slideshow. You might wonder what breeds of hens do we have? It’s time I posted about our flock numbers!
- buff orpington, 8
- barred plymouth rock, 5
- black australorp, 4
- white plymouth rock, 6
- silver laced wyandotte, 7
- black sex-linked hybrids, 5
- dark indian game, 1
- light brahma, 1
- red turken, 1
That’s 38 in all. They are all brown egg layers; some are more friendly than others. My personal favorites are the Buff Orpingtons because they are gentle, friendly and best of all, most of them cuddle up with me. My allergy test shows I’m allergic to a gamut of furry creatures (cats, dogs, horses, goat, rabbits, rodents, etc.). Because I’m not allergic to my hens, I am so happy to they choose to cuddle up with me.
[I'm not supposed to play favorites as a chicken keeper, am I?]
The red turken also know as naked neck because the breed has a single gene that affects the arrangement of feather-growing tracts over the chicken’s body.
October 28th, 2008
I was surprised how much I enjoy “The Natural History of the Chicken” directed by Mark Lewis (VII) each time I watch it. Tonight I watched the video for the third time. (The DVD is available to borrow at the Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library in Waimea.)
I am entertained and educated by the many human & chicken stories, especially about the city silkie rooster and the country silkie hen.
Cotton is a white Japanese bantam silkie rooster who is Karin Estrada’s soulmate. (Silkie feathers looks and feels like long rabbit fur.) They live in West Palm Beach, Florida. Cotton is one spoiled rooster! He gets pampered by shampoo & blowdry; he has a special rooster perch in the passenger side of Karin’s car, he gets to watch TV, especially Pavarotti. And he has a teeny tiny little red diaper to catch all the poop. Karin thinks Cotton thinks he’s human. I think she’s right.
Liza, also a white silkie, is a courageous hen who lives in a minature hen house built by Pastor L. Joseph Tauer. He was inspired by Liza self-sacrifice to protect her 6 chicks when a hawk soared in the sky looking for food. He wrote “Call Me Chicken” which he narrates in the video. I shed a couple tears towards the end of his story. <sniff>
I definitely want to raise several bantam silkies in the near future. <sigh>
October 26th, 2008
There were 50 tables at yesterday’s agricultural fair – local farmers, producers, restaurants, school gardens. We were there with a informational table, telling people about chickens and tea, and sharing what i’ve learned about how to feed chickens locally. Mostly we answered a lot of backyard chicken questions.
Our fellow tea growers were there again this year, from Onomea Tea and Mauna Kea Tea Garden:
October 16th, 2008
Scott Johnson of Waimea writes:
We have a coop that fits 25 nice and snug with plenty of acreage for them to roam. However, when they were big enough to be let out, but not full grown yet, we had mongoose issues. A mongoose made repeated attacks on the young chickens (6-8 wks old) and killed most of them. We thought at first it was a dog, but couldn’t figure out how a dog was able to get into the small ‘yard’ around the coop. We were finally able to trap and dispose of the mongoose, which stopped the killing. Then when the chickens are full grown, the mongooses end up going for the eggs instead of the chickens, leaving few for us. My first question is how do you deal with the mongooses on your farm?
The short answer is, i believe we’ve been lucky, but also a bit prepared.
We have a chicken run fence, enclosing a roughly 40′x60′ area. It is chicken wire, buried a few inches into the ground. It surrounds and includes the coop. The chicken stay in their run all night and morning; we let them out to totally free range in the afternoon, and they put themselves back in, in the evening, then we go down and shut the door.
There are definitely mongoose living around here – we see them – but they have never attacked either chicken or eggs. Some factors that might explain why we haven’t been attacked:
- Much of the chicken’s time, especially at night, is inside a fence.
- The run is not far from our garden and greenhouse, so the presence of humans might be scaring away mongoose.
- We are frequently going down to the chickens to gather eggs and spend time with them.
What do you do with your chickens after two-three years? We actually don’t eat meat, and we are not the type to kill them ourselves. We would be happy to give them away to someone who will use them for stewing, but have not been able to find that person.
We are still on our first time with such a large flock, so, like many people, we’re not quite sure! The options seem to be:
- Process and eat them ourselves (too much work for all 40 hens).
- Kill them and bury them in planting hole as fertilizer for tree crops.
- Find homes for them, families that want mature docile hens and don’t mind the low egg output of a 3-year-old hen.
- Find some local folks with intact traditions, who will happily take them for eating.
The only thing i don’t recommend is to just set them free, as some people do. They are likely to die of starvation or dog attack. Any of the above options seems more humane.
August 25th, 2008
It hasn’t been widely publicized, so i want to help: If you are in Hamakua, check this out. HHCDC’s Agriculture & Sustainability classes:
PRACTICAL AGRICULTURE FOR HAMAKUA 2008
Supporting local agriculture through classroom instruction, field operations and farm tours from specialists and local farmers who support sustainable agriculture in Hamakua
There are classes on soil, planting, monitoring, harvesting, value add, irrigation, aquaponics, biodynamics, alternative energy, food security – and a class on Poultry taught by me (Ben) on Nov. 13, followed by a farm tour here on Nov. 15. You can sign up for the whole thing, or just drop in on the events that interest you.
July 23rd, 2008
As my Azolla grew, i found a place to put in: in a plastic trashcan lid. On the gravel under the eaves of our house, it looks quite zen-like – if anything can be said to ‘look zen-like’, which of course would be rather silly:
I did drop a little manure in the water, but otherwise it just grows and grows on sunlight. Here is a detail of the structure:
The big test: I took a large handful of the Azolla down to my chickens in the morning, before their feeders were filled (they have all the feed they want all day). At this point they are very hungry, and will all swarm around me, begging to be fed. I walked into the throng and set down the handful of Azolla. Immediately, several of the most aggressive hens lunged forward and took huge mouthfuls of it. Then, they froze. Cocked their heads side to side, looking up at me, puzzled, as if to say, “What is this? We were expecting food! WTF?”
In short, they didn’t like it much. I came back a while later in the morning and they had in fact eaten it, but it took a while for enough chickens to wander by it bored/curious enough to take a bite. Here are my theories:
- It probably doesn’t taste very good. If i dried it out, i could mix it with the standard dry food and they might not notice it. That’s what they reportedly do in India.
- It does grow in stagnant water. Maybe i should rinse it before serving, to make it taste fresher.
- Like most things, i’m sure the chickens would be more interested if they had it from chick-time. These are 2+year old hens, already set in their tastes.
To grow a more useful amount of it, i’ll need to come up with some waterproof basins or troughs, and a way to maintain their water level. Also, mosquitoes are definitely an issue, so i’d either have to make my troughs deep enough for larva-eating fish, or some other idea.
May 7th, 2008
At last weekend’s famer’s market, the super nice Uluwehi farm folks brought me some Azolla. This is an aquatic fern which might prove to be an easily grown local feed for chickens. I brought it home and put it in some water with a little horse manure dissolved. It started growing right away:
I have updated the chicken notes page with a whole new page for Azolla as a Feed for Chickens.
March 10th, 2008
My back failed dramatically last week (sacroiliitis) and i was unable to sit or stand for four days. A great time to catch up on reading, i finished two ag books:
You Can Farm, Joel Salatin. A great book on how to realistically earn a profit raising food in a healthy, humane, sustainable way, on a family farm. It’s fun to read, blunt, loaded with excellent advice, and definitely not for vegans. Lots about chickens. One very interesting point Joel makes in Chapter 13: to have realistic access to markets, you should be within ~40 miles of a town of at least 25,000 people. Here in Ahualoa, we aren’t – all of Hamakua, plus all of Waimea, is less than 16,000 people. For people like us in such a rural area, selling enough products, and trucking it to markets, would be a real stretch (in time and fuel).
The Farm as Natural Habitat. It starts out kinda stuffy and academic, but there are some great chapters in here (all by different authors) on exactly how agriculture and biodiversity can and should coexist. Most of the book is about the US midwest, but there is also a chapter on Tule Lake in California, and the meadows of England. There are actually systems in place in the world where agriculture improves land for wild species, and vice versa – the farm doesn’t have to be a “sacrifice zone.”