We decided to add Kune Kune pigs to our farm this year. Kune Kune pigs are a breed that originated in New Zealand but almost became extinct in the 1970s. They are a smaller breed of pig growing up to 250 pounds. These pigs prefer to graze solely on pasture, when pasture is growing, and are known for not rooting because of their upturned snouts. They are very friendly and docile in nature which makes them perfect for a small homestead and around children. They are considered a meat pig with a sweet tasting pork.
We started with two young sows and plan to add a boar to the herd in the near future. Meet our two new farm members, Helen and Della. They have really been a fun addition to the farm as they really love to hang out with us and love to be scratched. They also love fruit, but especially bananas.
We have always ordered freedom rangers for our meat chickens, which are a slower growing meat bird. This year we decided to take the plunge and try the fast growing Cornish cross chicken for the first time. When they arrived they came with 25 more than we ordered. I guess I should have been suspicious right there, but I just figured they just messed up on the number of birds. It never occurred to me that we might have the wrong birds. Who can tell those cute little yellow fluff balls apart anyway. I remember being amazed at how tiny they were. I thought, “wow, how can these tiny little chickens grow so fast into those big meat birds”. Then when they were old enough to leave the brooder and head out to their own private section of the chicken coop, I was amazed at how active they were. I had always heard about how lazy the Cornish cross chicken was, but these guys never stopped moving and scratching and chasing bugs. I guess I should have put two and two together at that point, but having never seen a Cornish cross chicken, I hadn’t yet figured out that these were not Cornish cross chickens. I finally got pretty suspicious that something was wrong when they were about 5 weeks old. They should having been weighing at least 3 pounds by now and my chickens were not even a pound yet. Meat birds have really wide chests and big bulky legs to support all that weight. But these guys are fairly thin, have thin legs, and are always on the move. And they don’t even finish the food I give them! Meat birds are like Labrador retrievers, they eat everything in sight until it is all gone. The hatchery won’t acknowledge that they gave me the wrong birds, but there is no question that I got layers not meat birds. So here I am stuck with layers and I don’t even know what they are. I have done a lot of research and talked to friends and I am thinking that they are Plymouth White Rocks. In order to get a Cornish cross chicken they cross a White Rock with a Cornish ( and a lot of years of specific breeding). My best guess at this point is that they sent me some of their breeding stock of White Rocks instead of the Cornish cross. Well, no matter how it happened I now have over 100 laying chickens that I need to sell so that I can recoup my money and start over with meat birds. I am thinking we might keep 20-30 of the hens and let my boys start a small egg business. They really are very sweet chickens with a very mellow disposition.
So if anyone would like to buy some layers let me know or if anyone thinks they might be a different breed post your thoughts in the comment section.
We are asking $15/bird but will give discounts for larger quantities.
We were very excited to move our chickens out to pasture a few weeks ago and give our new mobile chicken coop a trial run. Our chickens live in our brooder for the first week to two weeks, depending on the weather and temperatures, and then are moved out to our chicken coop for another week or so until they are big enough to head out to pasture. In the past we have tried several ways to free range our chickens. The first year we tried two Joel Salatin style chicken tractors. If you want to see these in action check out this youtube video. joel salatin chicken tractors Although they work well we ran into a couple of problems. One is they were difficult to for me to move by myself and often had escaped chickens and needed help from my kids to round up chickens following the daily move. The biggest problem arose when our horses decided they would really like to eat the chicken feed themselves and figured out how to break into the chicken tractors, eating the food and setting chickens free for the coyotes to eat. Seeing that the chickens share the pasture with our cows and horses this became a big problem. The last few years we just parked the chicken tractors up near the house and let the chickens free roam during the day and they used the chicken tractors as their coop at night. Although this worked, they were not protected during the day from coyotes and we have some bold coyotes who have no problem coming near the house in the middle of the day to grab a chicken snack. This solution also did not get the chickens out on our pasture where we want their manure to help improve our soils. Well this winter we came upon the solution. A mobile chicken tractor that one person can easily move. It is designed by Justin Rhodes over at abundantpermaculture and he calls it the ChickShaw. So we built a ChickShaw and bought ourselves some electrified poultry netting to create an area that the chickens can roam free but still be protected from predators. The ChickShaw has been working beautifully and I can easily move it myself, even with a hurt ankle, and the chickens happily use it for a coop at night. My eight year old son can even move it with a little help to get it going. Here are some pictures of our new set up and my sons enjoying the chickens.
Chickens grazing in pasture
Our new mobile chicken coop