Introducing Our Micro-Farm: Part One – Animals

We own an acre of land in a subdivision in a rural area in the Southwest area of Virginia. Currently, we own two cats, 12 chickens, two turkeys, and about a billion honey bees. We have on order another 17 chicks as well!

Let’s introduce you to our animals!

We have 5 two year old hens that were an amazing gift from an amazing friend. We renamed them: Deborah and Becky are Rhode Island reds which is a dual purpose (egg and meat) breed. Caramel, Apple, and Fudge (P Trupe picked these names) are black sex link birds. These birds are a hybrid of a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and a Barred Rock hen. They are also dual purpose birds and are called sex-link because you can tell what sex they are when they hatch because of the coloring – males have a white dot on their heads at hatching.

Some of our laying chickens

Our one year old hens (named by A Trupe) are Karen – a Rhode Island Red, Susan – we think she’s either an ISA brown or a New Hampshire (she was a bonus chick from our hatchery last year), and Patricia (the manager) – a gold laced wyandotte. We picked gold laced wyandottes because they have a great temperament and they are so beautiful! Unfortunately, we lost the other two we originally had and one RIR to a predator last year. Lessons were learned. They are also a dual purpose bird. (Are you seeing a pattern??)

Patricia

This year, I happened across some $1 chicks at Tractor Supply and scooped them up along with two turkey poults. The new chicks (8 weeks old now) are ISA browns. These birds are not really dual purpose but their genes do include RIR and Rhode Island Whites. ISA browns are eggs-cellent egg layers though! The turkeys we got are white broad breasted birds. They are bred specifically for meat and we plan to process them at 6 months of age.

The turkeys getting older – 9 weeks in this picture
The baby ISA browns look like this at 10 weeks

I mentioned we have chicks on order too. They should be here the week of May 11th. We are getting 10 jumbo Cornish X rock chicks. These birds are bred specifically just for meat. They are a cross between Cornish chickens and white rock chickens. The males can be processed in 6-8 weeks, and females in 8-10 weeks at a 3-4 lb weight.

Because of that, we also ordered 6 straight run Barred Rocks (or Plymouth Rocks). We want to get to a point where we can raise our own birds for meat. Straight run means that the chicks aren’t sexed at hatching. So, we could end up with all roosters or all hens or a mix of both. We are hoping we get one rooster and at least three hens. The Barred Rocks are a heritage breed that were created in the 1800s by crossing Dominques with Black Java chickens. These chickens are great egg layers and cold weather hardy – so you’ll still get eggs in the winter! They reach processing size around 14 weeks but that can really vary. You’d probably not want to butcher them past 18 weeks unless you’ll just be using the meat for stew/soup. The meat on birds gets tougher as they get older.

Babies in a brooder

We’ll have a “surprise” bird in our box this year. Some hatcheries throw these in as a freebie. One does it with the caveat that you donate the meat or eggs. We give eggs to people who need them on a regular basis.

We also have around a billion bees! We have 15 active hives and around 10 NUCs which are splits from our stronger hives. Eight of the hives are managed just for honey that we sell locally. The others are managed for selling bees and pollination. Pa Trupe is the keeper of the bees. He builds all our hives and wooden NUC boxes himself! I help with harvesting the honey – far away from the bees who scare me a little less than they did when we started.

Our beautiful honey hives

We also have two cats: Jack and Ginger. Jack was given to us by a relative and is about 7 years old. He doesn’t have front claws so we try to keep him inside as much as possible. He doesn’t like that very much. He tolerates us most of the time. Ginger we got as a kitten from a friend. She’s a great mouser which is why we got her in the first place. She love everyone, unless she doesn’t.

Jack

We’d love to expand someday. We had goats for about 8 months, but due to some health issues had to give them up. I’d love to get more, but Pa Trupe is hesitant. We’ve talked about raising pigs for meat as well. We don’t have enough land for larger livestock, but we’re making due with what we do have!

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