zaterdag 2 november 2013

start a duck farm

Poultry is very popular source of income in the farm as the demand for eggs and poultry's meat keeps on rising. From the remote area of a farm down to the crowded city, the need for the poultry's output is very much high indeed. Poultry doesn't refer only to chicken-raising but also to duck-raising as well. Ducks' eggs are of high demand most especially to those health-conscious people. Start them Young It is advisable to start rearing a duckling as it is easier to handle than to have them as grown-up ducks. Grown-up ducks are noticeably resistant than the ducklings. Build a Coop that is Conducive to Growth Make your coop not smaller than 3.5 to 4 sq. ft for every duck as this will give enough space for the ducks to move freely. As they grow, they need more space, so better plan to build a shelter that will not hinder their movement as they are growing. Maintain enough number of ducks in a coop as this will reflect good output during the harvest time. Feeding the Ducks Have their foods wet rather than dry to make them eat more. Ducks love wet food and this affect their eggs, making it bigger and even heavier. Seafood like shrimps, fishes, clamps, shells etc. are the common and very nutritious food for ducks, however if these are not available, you may give them a combination of feeds and chicken laying mass. To increase their egg production, give your egg laying ducks with supplementary feed. Some alternative feeds for ducks: Banana Peelings – Instead of throwing it, have it dried under the sun and powder it by crushing as this is the best source of protein to help your ducks grow faster than the usual. Based on researches, banana peelings contain more fibers, fats and calcium but less phosphorus compare to rice bran. Sweet Potatoes and Cassava – If your farm has plenty of these, feed it to your ducks! Have it dried under the sun and pulverized it. As researches show that ducks fed with this food are laying eggs more compared to those ducks which are only fed by corn. Seaweeds – This may cost you little if your farm is near the sea. Researches show that ducks fed with half rice bran and half seaweeds laid more eggs than those ducks which are fed by pure rice bran. Additional Tip: have your duck farm with plenty of water for your ducks to swim into as this will affect their egg laying productivity. Prove it to yourself, and see the difference

donderdag 31 oktober 2013

How to start a small-scale rabbit farm on your smallholding

by Ruth Tudor

For a few years I have been on a quiet mission to promote rabbits as a cheap, sustainable and healthy source of protein. In the same way that families in towns used to keep pigs (picture men chatting over the hedge in a kind of ‘my pig is bigger than yours’ mode…) it seems to me that the rabbit could be the new back yard pig. Rabbits can be foraged for, eat household scraps, live free range, give pleasure, taste great and their sustainability is second to none.
Raising meat rabbits sits well within our wider philosophy at Trealy Farm where we are all about connecting people to the source of their food, about thriftiness, taste and wellbeing – including of the animals and the enviremont. Our radical Meat Course (see gives people the opportunity to have real contact with each aspect of raising and eating meat including farming practises, breeds, feeding, slaughter, skinning, hanging, butchery and processing. The people who come are always diverse but what they have in common is a curiousity to connect with the real sounds and smells of meat in all its incarnations.
Of the six species of meat animals raised at Trealy Farm it’s rabbits that we have had the most problems with. Although our rabbits seem to have a better time than the average pet most people do look shocked when they find out that the rabbits are raised for meat. The only time I have needed to take a rabbit to the vet the receptionist politely asked the rabbit’s name. When
I replied that she didn’t have a name, that she wasn’t a pet, there was a long silence before the shocked retort: ‘but what is she for then?’ 
However, the main challenge of raising meat rabbits in the UK is widespread ignorance which can make it hard to get information and support. For example, there are no veterinary products licensed for meat rabbits.  Similar to goat rearing – drug companies are simply not interested in investing in research in rabbits. If you are going to sell your rabbit meat it is important that you don’t use unlicensed products. If you want to read about meat rabbits then I recommend looking at North American websites.
Fortunately if you follow some basic guidelines around cleanliness, handling, feeding and accommodation your rabbits are likely to be healthy. Good husbandry is key. Our rabbits live in ‘free range’ conditions enclosed by security fencing with hutches for shelter. To date I have not had a meat rabbit showing any signs of being able to dig so keeping the rabbits in is not a problem. However, we do have an on-going  battle to keep predators such as squirrels, weasels and rats out. They attack baby rabbits and steal the food. However, we haven’t needed to cover the top of the enclosure against birds of prey:  presumably huge white, grey and black rabbits are simply not on their hunting radar!
There is also plenty of good news when it comes to raising rabbits. As Britain gets more cash strapped the demand for more traditional sources of meat such as goats and rabbits increases. Most farmed rabbits in the UK are raised on commercial farms which are intensive and where they have little space to be as rabbit-y as many rabbit meat customers might wish. I would definitely recommend giving them space, having them on grass and if you are selling then make these high welfare conditions clear to your customers.
If you don’t have enough space for free range then I recommend mobile hutches. They are clean animals and, like pigs, they keep a separate toilet area well away from their bed and food. This makes them easy to keep clean and their droppings make a great fertiliser. Try wrapping them in a muslin bag and seeping in water for an easy to use liquid application. They are engaging affectionate animals and as with all animals observation is key to detecting problems so I recommend spending time with them each day – if they are uninterested in food, hunched or scouring then it is worth taking a closer look.
I gave mine regular doses of cider vinegar in their water and apart from one severe outbreak of coccidosis I have not had any disease problems. Foraging for rabbit food is very straightforward as they can eat almost anything and it’s gratifying to see them always eat their greens first.
They also need hay to support healthy digestion and Vitamin A. Carrots are also a rich source of Vitamin A.
Female rabbits are extremely territorial so you do need to be careful around handling and breeding. Our first buck (male) got killed by one of the does (female) because I made the mistake of putting him into her space rather than the other way around. Since then I have put does in with bucks and the latter have survived intact. Does seem to live together well but I always put does about to give birth in their own small area.
Whenever you are handling rabbits it’s worth bearing in mind that meat rabbits have very strong hind legs and sharp claws. They will scratch and bruise you badly if you don’t handle them carefully. I lift them at the scruff and support them below the hindquarters. If I need to take a closer look I wrap a towel around them and kneel on the ground holding them between my knees – upside down if I’m trying to sex them, head up if I’m going to stun them.
When school groups visit our farm I often ask: how long does it take to grow a lamb?  Responses vary from ‘depends how old the lamb is’ to the ones I favour which include the pregnancy and the time it takes to bring the ewe to top tupping condition. In my view it takes at least eleven months to grow a lamb. But a rabbit? Well, frankly they breed like rabbits. The gestation period is only 31 days and most litters are at least six in number. Our does always make themselves big nests using straw and also their own soft tummy hair. Tempting as it is to keep peeping (baby rabbits are very fetching!)  I leave the young rabbits until they are at least seven days old as the doe can become disturbed, anxious and eat her young. The kits can be weaned after four weeks but we tend to leave them for eight. Similarly it is possible for the doe to get pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth but better to leave her until her young are at least eight weeks old. The young rabbits will be ready for eating anytime from about eight weeks. This is when they are at their most tender and in the USA where meat rabbits are firmly in the food culture this age group is referred to as ‘fryers’, becoming ‘roasters’ at ten weeks and ‘stewers’ after six months. If you are keeping any of the young beyond three months you will need to put them in separate sex groups.
On all our courses it is the slaughter which arouses most anxiety – and understandably so given that the vast majority of animals are slaughtered in huge industrial abattoirs out of plain view. But each time participants have experienced the killing as humane, calm and reassuring. As with cattle, pigs and sheep I prefer to slaughter rabbits using a humane killer.
The one I use has four different heads and the smallest – emitting not a bolt but simply a very strong puff of air – is ideal for rabbits. Having rendered the rabbit unconscious I sever the arteries in the neck and bleed out before starting to skin. If you are a complete beginner at slaughter I advise you to cut the head off before skinning as involuntary movements of the body can be disconcerting. Humane killers are costly and if you cannot afford the investment you will need to consider hammer blow to the head or breaking the neck by pulling the head down.
So – if you think that you would like to try raising rabbits for meat then I would encourage you. All you need to get started are a doe, a buck, at least two hutches, some commercial feed and / some hedgerows and spare vegetables.
There are many breeds to choose from but I favour the French Beveren, the New Zealand White and the British Giant. We tend to mix breeds as this helps us keep a track on incest (apparently not a problem in rabbits but I avoid it) and because it gives the usual hybrid vigour. You can expect to pay between £7 and £15 for each rabbit depending on age. Keep observing. Think about what you are seeing. Making changes if you need to and, most of all, enjoy!

vrijdag 25 oktober 2013

care for your goats

Wherever possible, your goat should be allowed to run free within a secure paddock. However, many goats do not have this luxury, and are often tethered to keep them from wandering and getting into veggie patches or gardens. Please remember that when you tether a goat you are making captive one of the most freedom-loving animals in the world.
One of the most important factors to remember when you rob it of this heritage is that love and a little daily attention will help compensate for the lack of natural living - but a tethered goat will never be as happy as a free-ranging one.


Goats detest getting wet, not just because they are fastidious, but because they are thin skinned. As goats have so little fat under the skin, they are very susceptible to chills.
In the bush goats have caves and trees for their protection, so your pet must be provided with shelter such as a wooden box, perhaps fitted with skids for easy mobility. Even a barrel (not to be confused with a metal drum) is better than no shelter.
It is quite easy to pull the box on the skids, or to tip it up and over to new pasture, or to roll the barrel to the next site chosen for feeding. A goat will often become very attached to its mobile home, as something of its very own, and will either rest on top of it in sunny weather or rush for the comfort of its shelter when it rains. Ensure that the shelter faces away from the prevailing wind.
If you must tether your goat, a wire stretched between two pegs with a ring sliding upon it, to which the goat's chain can be fastened, is a better form of tether than a single peg around which their chains can get knotted. The wire gives them more liberty of movement and a greater range to feed upon.


Feeding Time
Ruminants require bulky feed to enable them to digest properly, and if your goat is eating only grass, give it a daily treat of branches of trees or vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Kitchen scraps can include crusts of bread, but only in small quantities as too much bread, biscuits or meal can make the goat quite sick.
Ideally, all goats should have a little hay every day all the year round, but cut up carrots, their tops, cabbage leaves, ivy, dry fallen leaves, hedge prunings, vines and fruit bushes, dock leaves, thistles, and roadside gatherings of bracken and ferns, will give joy to the lonely creature. The importance of variety in the diet cannot be over-stressed.
A little dairy ration will also help keep your pet in good condition.

The fallacy that goats do not drink water is something which should be well forgotten. Every animal needs water and goats need a generous quantity. You may think your goat does not drink, but water must be available at all times for when it is needed. It should be changed frequently as the goat is fussy about the cleanliness of its water.
A spoonful of molasses in warm water is a delicious treat to the goat.

This is another essential commodity to health, and a lump of rock salt in a small box or a daily ration of iodised salt from your hand does wonders for the goat.

General Health and Care

Worms are often a problem in goats, particularly those confined to a small area. When you acquire your pet, ask a veterinary surgeon for worm treatment and for advice as to how often it should be given.
Lice infestation is also a common problem with goats. This can be easily eliminated, but you will need to ask a veterinary surgeon for the most effective remedy.

Through insufficient exercise and the absence of natural wear and tear, the hoofs often grow out of shape and become deformed and frequently infected with foot-rot. They should be examined often and kept in trim by paring away the over-growth of horn with a pair of sharp garden secateurs.

Companionship and Care If you must tether your goat, please remember that your goat will rely solely on you, its owner, for every comfort, and a little more is expected of one. Patience, gentleness and frequent visits to prevent utter boredom will keep up the spirits of a tethered animal and give it something to live for.
If you cannot be bothered to give a little attention to your goat, please reconsider adopting one. Goats love company and are miserable living a life of loneliness along the roadside.
Goats can make wonderful pets - but ONLY if you are sure you want them, and will care for them as a member of the family.
Whilst the well-cared for tethered goat can enjoy a good life, it is only fair to say that goats which are able to free-range, preferably in the company of other goats, are happier animals. It is, of course, still necessary to provide suitable shelter and food as outlined.

 The Kid as a Pet

Kids have bright amber eyes topped by alert silken ears, and their soft tiny bodies simply beg to be hugged, especially by adoring children. BUT, do remember before you keep a baby kid, the cute stage does fade and frequently "Nanny" or "Billy" becomes a bore, is tied to the roadside and is forgotten.
However, if you do earnestly want to keep a goat for a pet, and intend rearing it from birth, there are many essentials that must not be forgotten.
If it is a male, or billy, it is important to have it neutered by a veterinarian at about 12 weeks of age. Males which are not neutered can be very aggressive, and are always extremely bad-smelling.
With a tethered goat there is a tendency, particularly with children, to tease the animal. This MUST NOT be allowed or it will make the animal unhappy and it will become very aggressive.

Kids and Milk
If the kid has been taken from its mother in the bush, it may still need colostrum, which is the milk the newborn must have in their first few days in order to survive. Artificial colostrum has been used very successfully on many farms resulting in the survival of many lambs and kids that would otherwise have died.
Cow colostrum is of some benefit to young orphaned kids in the first day of life to provide some of the antibodies. This is the recipe:
1 dessertspoon (10 mls) of sugar or glucose
1 teaspoon (5 mls) of cod liver oil
1 beaten egg
1 pint bottle (600 mls) of cows milk (goat milk preferably if obtainable).
Give six ounces (175g) of this mixture four times daily for the first 48 hours, after that period the kid may be fed on cows milk, giving two-thirds milk and one-third warm water. For the first week maintain a four-hourly feed programme of 6 to 8 ounces (175 - 225 g). In the second week the kid could be given three feeds with an increase in fluid.
It will not be long before the kid will determine how much milk it needs, but dont give more than a pint (600 ml) at a time. At the end of six weeks it could go on to two feeds a day. The time limit for milk feeding is up to the owner, but for the kid's sake a period of at least two months is desirable.
In pedigree herds kids are sometimes kept on milk feeds for six to eight months to promote growth and strength. They also receive a daily ration of dairy meal to build stronger animals. You can substitute this with left-overs from the kitchen - crusts of bread, vegetable scraps and stale biscuits are all treats to the goat, but remember not to overdo those foods rich in carbohydrates.
Remember also the most cherished foods - branches from trees and shrubs, but take note that the following common plants and shrubs are poisonous to goats: Rhododendron, Oleander, Geraniums, Daphne, Caster Oil plant and Privet.

Care for your chickens

  • What to Do on a Daily Basis
  • Keep feeders and waterers full.
  • Make sure the waterer is clean. Chickens will be less inclined to drink dirty water, and a dehydrated bird can very quickly become ill or die.
  • Check to make sure they all look active, bright and healthy. Make an appointment with your vet if they don't.
  • Collect and refrigerate eggs, pointy side down for maximum freshness.
  • If you've opened the coop door to let your chickens out, always be sure to close and secure it at dusk (once they've all returned!) to make sure predators can't get in. (Tip: if you have a cell phone that allows you to set a recurring alarm, try that as a reminder.)
Keep in mind that you CAN leave your chickens alone for a few days provided they have enough food, water and space for the duration of your trip. The eggs they'll have laid in your absence should still be good to eat. Fresh eggs keep for several days without refrigeration. Surprised? Consider this: hens lay an average of 10-12 eggs per "clutch" (the group of eggs that a hen sits on to incubate). They lay one egg per day and at the end of a 10-12 day laying period they roll all the eggs together to incubate them. That means the egg laid on day 1 is still good enough on day 12 to become a living, breathing baby chick - so it should be good enough for you to eat too!
Egg Tip: Your eggs may have some slight traces of dirt or chicken feces on them. Resist the urge to scrub them clean! Outside the egg is a delicate membrane called the "bloom" that wards off bacteria and other foreign matter. Scrubbing will damage this membrane. If you're one of those Type A people that needs perfect-looking eggs, rub them with your fingers very gently under warm water. Then, wash your hands thoroughly.
  • What to Do on a Monthly Basis

  • Change the bedding in the coop and the nest. This is necessary for sanitary purposes. Excessive ammonia buildup is dangerous to poultry and can cause respiratory illness.

  • Remove the feces. We put ours in the compost bin or use it as fertilizer.
What to Do on a Bi-annual Basis
Twice a year you've got to really scrub your coop clean! Remove bedding, nest materials, feed and water containers. For a cleaner, we recommend a concoction of 1 part bleach, 1 part dish soap, 10 parts water. A strong citrus cleanser will also do the trick. After cleaning, rinse well and let dry before replacing with fresh bedding. Do the same with the feed and water containers: clean thoroughly and rinse well, and replace with a fresh supply. You should be able to do this all in a couple hours!
Foods Chickens Shouldn't Eat
As mentioned in the first chapter, one of the great benefits of having chickens is they take care of your unwanted leftovers! There are a few foods they shouldn't eat, though (and thanks to our customers for helping us beef up this list over the years!):
  • Citrus fruits and peels (they can cause a drop in egg production)
  • Bones
  • Any large serving of meat, or meat that has gone bad
  • Garlic and onion (unless you want your eggs tasting like them)
  • Avocado skins and pits
  • Raw potato skins
  • Long cut grass
  • Chocolate (as if you'd give that up!)

Also, we hear from chicken pros that Morning Glories and Daffodils are poisonous to chickens, and even though chickens will generally know to avoid them, you might just want to keep an eye on them around these plants. How to Handle Chickens
Handing chickens is an art, and practice makes perfect! The key is finding the balance between being gentle and letting them know that no matter how much they wriggle or squirm, they're not getting away.
First, put your dominant hand (the hand you write with) on the middle of their back. If you're new to chickens, it's helpful to secure their wings as much as possible with your thumb and forefinger. (Pros don't need to secure their wings at all!) Your other hand will need to take their legs out of the equation. Secure one leg between your thumb and forefinger, and the other between the forefinger and middle finger of the same hand. Then lift them, supporting the lower portion of their body with the heel of your hand and wrist. Your dominant hand should still be on their back. Once you've got them up, holding them close to your body will prevent further wriggling. And again, as you get better at this you won't need that hand on their backs!
Winter Precautions
If you have cold winters, you shouldn't run into any problems provided you choose the right breed. Our customers want to do the very best they can for their flock, and we often get asked whether they should heat their coop during winter. Our feeling is this isn't a good idea. Chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature -- so if the heat were to accidentally cut out causing a sudden change in temperature, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight. We've seen it happen.
That said, if you live in a really cold climate there are a few precautions you can take to make everyone's lives easier (by which we mean you and your birds!):
  • Protect combs and wattles from frostbite by rubbing on petroleum jelly or another heavy moisturizer every few days.

  • Make sure the water supply does not freeze! This is very important. Chickens cannot live long without fresh water. If you don't have electricity in your coop and therefore cannot provide a water heater, we recommend you bring the waterer into your house every night, and return it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it's not frozen.
Summer Precautions
Excessive heat is a real risk to birds. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Provide them a source of shade outside and as much ventilation as possible inside.
Note: Your hens may lay fewer eggs during heat waves. This is a sign of stress, but laying rates will return to normal once the heat has receded.
Fertilizers & "Turf Builders": Are They Safe?
Heck no! If your birds are free-ranging on your lawn, abstain from applying fertilizers or "turf builders". These products very often contain pesticides, herbicides and other harsh, nasty chemicals. Not only can these cause illness in your birds, but you don't want to be eating eggs containing these materials. Part of the benefit of keeping chickens is the comfort of knowing that those fabulous, fresh, delicious eggs are safe for you and your family. Fertilizers and turf builders negate all that. That said, we understand the pressures of suburban life: if you can't be the only chump in the neighborhood with dandelions and various other weeds, we recommend you use organic fertilizers in the front yard and limit your birds to the back.
What to Do if Your Chickens Get Sick
Most chicken illnesses are curable if they're caught in time! If you suspect one of your chickens may be under the weather, take the precautionary measure of isolating it from the rest of the flock. This will help prevent illness from spreading. (And of course, make sure the isolated chicken has access to food and water!)
Second, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. You need to find one that specializes in Avian medicine or farm animals, and we recommend that you find the nearest one prior to getting chickens.
  • The following symptoms indicate illness:
  • Mangy appearance
  • Visible mites
  • Abnormal stool, including blood, visible worms, diarrhea, droppings that are all white. (Normal stool is brown with a white cap.)
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of energy or depression
  • Sudden, drastic reduction in position in pecking order
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stunted growth
  • A few things NOT to worry about:
  • Your chickens' first eggs will be pretty pathetic! They'll be small, shells will be weak and some won't even have shells at all. Don't worry! This is not a sign of sickness.
  • Your chickens will lose and re-grow their feathers once a year. This is called "molting" and is perfectly normal. They won't lay eggs during this time. (For more on this, see the next chapter.)
  • A tiny speck of blood in an egg. This is normal. Don't worry about it. If it becomes frequent, or if there is a significant amount of blood, that's another story.
Remember, the most important part of keeping your chickens healthy is disease prevention! Follow the care instructions and coop specifications above and you'll have a happy, healthy flock. However, as with any animal, there's still a chance of illness. Since you'll be checking on your birds daily, you'll catch the illness early and increase the chance of a positive outcome. Dealing with Death
Losing a pet is always terrible, and chickens are no exceptions. If you've lost your bird due to old age or a predator attack, bury it as you would any other pet: a full funeral, bagpipes, the works. Dig a hole several feet underground to prevent anything from getting at the corpse. If, on the other hand, your bird displayed signs of illness or died suddenly, for no apparent reason, you'll need to investigate.