Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And So It Begins

We started seeds tonight. The first seeds of our new farming venture were put into soil in seed trays. Since this was the start, I put together a nice assortment of herbs and veggies, but didn't start too many, just a single tray.

I'll be starting more seeds in the coming weeks, hedging my bets that at least some of the plants will make it outdoors after the last killing frost. According to the Farmer's Almanac, last spring frost in these parts is May 20.

The herbs will stay indoors, on a sunny window ledge, but the veggies will eventually be moved to flats in the greenhouse and, finally, into the ground.

I am also nursing a sick chicken. Our Gold Sex Link has a runny nose and congested-sounding clucks. Chickens really don't catch a cold, they get some terrible infectious disease that wipes them out, causing massive culling and sterilization. If she had any of the "bad" symptoms (like paralysis, mucous eyes, drooping, lethargy), I'd be in trouble, possibly forced to cull all my chickens. But she seems to just have some small respiratory infection and is otherwise normal, even laying two eggs a day in her chicken hospital. Regardless, she is isolated from the others, next to a heater and with nutritional support, she is getting better. The rest of the chickens are asymptomatic.

Biosecurity is a major concern which is why I will eventually close my flock. As soon as I get enough breeders, I won't let any new birds in. Of course, chickens can still get sick at the drop of the hat (or the barometer, as the case may be), but you limit your chances. Avian flu, the scare du jour not too long ago, is not a real concern. I've done enough research to know that my small flock, on good foods and healthy conditions, has the best collective immune system around. It's the caged factory hens that are at risk.

As a weird aside, I noticed while looking at the pictures that my hands look like both my Grandmother's and my father's. It was a very surreal realization.


dp said...

Are there any big poultry operations near you? When we had the avian flu outbreak in BC a few years back whole areas were required to cull regardless of the size of their operations or the symptomatic state of their birds. I am not that kind of epidemiologist, but its was one of the few occasions on which my profession has come to the forefront around here. They never call the epidemiologists under happy circumstances...

Daun said...

I am well aware of the sterilization policies surrounding Avian Flu. If I sound a little bitter, it's because Tyson took advantage of the panic a couple of years ago and tried to get legislation passed which would make it illegal to allow chickens outdoors. Can you imagine? Can't keep a chicken outdoors??? Who would benefit? Only the big mega farms which keep their chickens in disgusting, packed conditions. Nearly all of the small flocks in America would be illegal.

Yea, I am bitter.

But I do take disease seriously. Even though my hen is just a little raspy, I am considering culling just because I don't want any weak immune systems in my flock. And most of the "bad" viruses are omnipresent, like Marek's. So you just have to do the best you can and if it's a reportable illness, I will report and cull.

But, no, there's not big poultry operations near me.

dp said...

That's good news (about you, not Tyson). The further the battery birds are from your flock, the safer your flock will be. And I agree with you. A selection at this stage might protect your flock against immunological weaknesses down the road.

Serena said...

Your photos are beautiful, btw!
I am not a gardener but i am going to try and grow kitchen-window sill cilantro this spring. Yup. Yum.

wolfandterriers said...

I just came over from your other blog and wow! I am maybe, hopefully closing on a very small home that has 5 acres and needs, oh, 25k worth of supplies to fix the house. So not only will I be dealing with medical school, but I am sure I will be the one wiggling through the 12" crawlspace to fix the plumbing as I am the only one small enough to fit through there! Oh, claustrophobia, leave me now!

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to have chickens as well. As a child, I had a varied collection of breeds and species (Polish hens, White Chinese geese, and later Cayagua ducks) before I got into pigeons. I'm seriously hoping for a pig and maybe to try turkeys.

I didn't realize that Tyson tried to prevent outdoor flocks during the bird flu scare. Yikes. NAIS geeks me out from the terms of a small producer as well...

In my short experience, I've found that the less healthy birds should be culled. The healthy ones simply last longer, producing more eggs and giving you less headaches over the long term. Yes, I've had a bird or two that I loved to pieces and babied (which is why I looooooove pigeons--they are ALL cuddly!), but if you are doing anything for strict production choose healthy stock first and foremost.

Just my two cents and what a wonderful little blog!! Maybe Brego can be coerced into a harness to help you plow?! (or not...) :)