Today was compost aerate day at Back Yard Farmer, but it was not such a huge effort as I fortunately had a lot of help, as can be seen.
Organisms such as those we want to propagate in our compost heaps require oxygen to survive (Aerobic), therefor all high temperature aerobic composting needs to be aerated frequently for rapid odor free decomposition. The process of turning over and aerate the compost heap also helps to reduce the initial high moisture contents, but also turn those materials that were on the outsides to the center and expose these to higher temperatures as well. It is also an opportunity, if turned by hand as most small gardeners would do, to sort larger pieces which are slower to decompose as well as any foreign materials such as rocks, etc from your compost. A good healthy compost heap would smell like good fresh soil with a loose consistency with no compaction and slimy wet parts and contain a ton of worms, which more than often is a good yardstick of the general well being of the compost.
At Back Yard Farmer we keep a number of bins under the sink in the kitchen and sort our waste immediately when generated. We have bins for Compost, Worm Farm, Rabbits, Chickens and Quails as well as waste for disposal. Then all of our garden greens, poultry and rabbit used bedding and manure also goes into compost.
The fireworks started before dark and when I went to close the chickens at dusk I found they were sitting high up in the Ngaio tree. I tried to entice them down but when darkness fell I gave up. To protect my animals from stoats, hedgehogs, cats, dogs and all the wild things, real or imaginary, that roam the back yard at night I make sure that everyone is in and closed up properly. After a final check around the yard, with the racket of the fireworks still going on all around, I went to bed, hoping that nothing would get at my chickens.
At 1 am Alvin, the rooster, perched high in the tree, bathed in bright moonlight as well as the light of a new street lamp and fireworks still going, looked out over ‘his’ valley and registered his joy by crowing. The rejoicing went on and on. Every crow louder and clearer than the preceding one and probably heard by neighbours kilometers away. Mrs Back Yard Farmer, a light sleeper, started muttering at the initial crow, the mutterings grew louder and transformed into threats regarding wrung necks and then degenerated into some impressive swearing in at least two languages. By 4 am Mrs BYF had enough. It was when she rose from her bed like the proverbial phoenix, incandescent with rage, I realised that I did not take into account the most dangerous wild thing that could roam the back yard – an angry Mrs BYF. Armed with a few brooms and the flashlight on her phone she braved the dark, wet steps at the back door, located the rooster in the tree and threw brooms at him until he fluttered to the ground and took refuge under the coop. Mrs BYF, thinking her job was done, started the perilous journey back to the house only to hear a loud crow behind her. This time she tried to find the rooster, intending to murder him if she got her hands on him, throwing stuff at him as she went.
By daybreak Mrs BYF had returned to her bed and I pretended to be dead. Should there ever be a repeat of this Guy Fawkes night I am certain that the only thing that will save my neck is the lack of a big enough pot. The rooster will be cooked.
Treat them well and they would reward you for your efforts !
Give your birds :
1. A balanced and specie specific correctly formulated diet
2. Clean water and fresh feed at all times
3. Optimal environmental conditions with correct temperatures, dry and drafts free with correct lighting patterns and intensity
4. Enough space with clean dry bedding in well designed cages providing proper ventilation
5. Well bred animals housed in the correct male to female ratio
6. An owner that enjoys keeping and attending to poultry
It is easy and enjoyable to breed and keep poultry
6. Free of insects and other vermin
I did not know what to do with some wood that was always in my way in the workshop area. The wood was from an old bed I dismantled some time ago. I am building a new chicken house to accommodate some of the Anconas who are now temporarily in the rabbit hutch. While doing this, I was again made aware of the spillage and waste of layers pellets as result of the bad table manners of the chickens. Suddenly I had a use for the old pieces of wood – I made a chicken feeder the Backyard Farmer way!
I designed it in such a way that it holds 15 Kg of pellets – enough for five birds for at least two weeks (so I can go on holiday). Having ordered some water nipples, this, together with the new feeder, will virtually make the chickens self maintaining. (I wish!)
I have also designed it in such a way that with a few adjustable hole positions in the lifting arms, it could be set that it works for any size poultry – from Quails to those Jumbo Cornish Crosses.
The proof of the pudding was to see what the intelligent Anconas think of it as they have been in the rabbit hutches for only one day, and will be there for a short time while I am busy constructing their new luxury apartments. I was a bit worried because I was sure they would not appreciate another change in amenities and environment.
While the boys were measuring each other up for size, the girls were interested in more important matters – FOOD! It took them less than one minute to decipher this piece of “modern” technology and enjoy a feast.
I got 12 guinea fowl eggs as a gift, and so far 2 have hatched. When the first one was dry and in it’s cage, I thought it was lonely and I put a 2 week old quail chick (the same size as the guinea fowl chick) with it for company and to teach it to eat. It chased the poor quail all over the cage. I swapped quails thinking it may be a personality clash – same thing happened, the quail had to run for its life. When the 2nd chick hatched I put the 2 guinea fowls together and they cuddled up and went to sleep. I don’t know what I should have learnt from this.
Good stock is the one ingredient a kitchen should never be without.
Chicken bones or (quail back bone, neck, wing tips and excessive skin) – About half a Kg in total or more if you want to make a stronger stock.
2 onions (No need to skin) – Washed and roughly cut up. Could be replaced with Leeks
2 large carrots leaves and all) – Washed and roughly cut up
half a bunch of Celery (Leaves and all) – Washed and roughly cut up. You could add celeriac leaves if you have any
salt lightly to taste
8 Liters of water
I often buy chicken frames from the supermarket (sorry, but sometimes I have to go there) or use the back bones and necks of the quails, when I slaughter, which are both good for stock even though different. Quails make a much stronger stock than chicken. You can also do a fish stock, by replacing the meat with fish heads and frames. I keep the stocks separate so I have different flavours for different dishes. Put all the ingredients, including the water (cold) into a meat stock pot and boil over a low heat for at least two hours, but preferably more. Let the liquid reduced by about one third and keep topping it up with more cold water to keep it at this level. Stir every so often to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom.
Strain the liquid from the solids using a colander and return the liquid to the stock pot and heat until boiling again. Immediately pour into clean containers and seal immediately (I use 2 liter plastic buckets). Should the lids fit properly, the reduction in product temperature will form a very effective vacuum seal. If you have maintained a high level of cleanliness and your containers were clean, the stock will remain good for months in the pantry, even though I normally keep mine in the fridge. Once opened it should be kept in the fridge and used within a couple of days. The vegetables are good to feed to your Chickens and Quails.
With home made stock, soups are delicious and easy, pasta sauces and stews shine and you cannot make risotto without it. Braising meat and keeping it moist with the correct stock also ad complexity and additional flovour.