The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

June 2, 2010

Baby Chick Feed

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 10:47 am

Last post I promised I would discuss chicken feed. My intent is to cover commercially available pre-mixed feed.  Mixing your own feed is a different topic.

The photo above shows three forms of commonly available pre-mixed feed.  On the left is a fine grind or “mash” which has ingredients mixed together but each ingredient remains separate. This is the easiest form of feed for very young chicks to eat.

In the middle of the photo we see the “crumbles”.  In this form the ingredients are  finely ground then mixed and compressed into small nuggets, resembling  Grape Nuts cereal. The advantage to this form of feed is that in theory, each tiny nugget contains some of each ingredient.  The chick will not be able to pick through and choose only the tasty part of the mix.

The pelleted feed on the right is much too large for chicks to eat.  The pellets are also quite hard, so that even though they will pick at it, they cannot break them into smaller pieces to swallow.  Pellets are best left for older birds.

Sometimes chick starter is sold as “medicated” feed containing an ingredient to help prevent coccidiosis.  Coccidiosis is a disease caused by a number of related parasites that infect the intestinal tract of the chick. This parasite often kills the bird. It is found in the soil in the chicken’s exercise area or run.

If you are raising chicks for the first time, you may not need medicated feed because the parasite population has not built up enough in your soil to do much harm.  Medicated feed is only fed for three  weeks to allow the medication to be eliminated from the chick’s body.

Each bag of feed by law has to have a label attached to it indicating weight, ingredients and manufacturer. Here is a typical label found on a feed bag:

Notice all of the vitamins and minerals added to the grain. This assures that the chick gets all of the nutrition it needs to grow healthy and strong.  Good growth while they are young equals good egg layers later on.

Don’t be too concerned about meat or animal by products in a feed mix. Chickens are omnivores and if given the chance will eat nearly anything.  Chickens left to run freely in the yard will prefer insect, worms and small animals whenever they can find them. An unnatural feed for chickens is an all grain diet, although if properly balanced, chickens can thrive on that type of diet as well.

The feed commonly called “chick starter” contains at least 20% protein and is fed until the chicks are about ten weeks old. They are then switched over to a “grower” containing 15-18% protein until they reach 18  weeks of age.

At 18 weeks, the pullets will begin to lay eggs and then must be fed a layer mix containing 16% protein and extra calcium needed by the chicken to produce egg shells.

Do not under any circumstances feed layer to growing chicks, the high amount of calcium in layer will cause abnormal bone growth in your developing chicks.

There you have a quick introduction to chick feed.  I’ll discuss more about feed as the birds get older.


May 18, 2010

Follow Along Our Chicks as They Grow

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 7:12 am

We received our 50 newly hatched chicks back on April 15, tax day. I got a call from our local post office letting me know that I needed to come in to pick them up.

Chicks are shipped in special crates designed to keep them in good shape during transit.

Ours came from Town Line Poultry Farm and arrived in tip top shape. This box holds 50 chicks and has a divider down the middle separating the chicks into two areas, each holding 25 chicks.

It doesn’t look like it but there are fifty chicks in that box.

The next order of business was to place them into the brooder. A brooder is a heated area, safe from predators, where the chicks can begin to grow.

We turned on the red heat-lamp which gives off plenty of radiant heat too keep the chicks at their critical temperature of 95 F.

We didn’t just dump them out like a box of toys but rather carefully took them out and set them down onto the brooder floor.

We made sure a thermometer was inside so we could monitor the temperature.

We made sure the chicks had plenty of the proper food.

They also needed clean water.

It’s really amazing how they know how to eat and drink without being shown how. After all, they are essentially orphans with no mother hen to teach them what to do.

Next time we’ll talk a little bit about feed requirements for baby chicks.


May 14, 2010

Chance of Spring Frost Nearly Over

Filed under: Uncategorized,Weather — bob @ 12:45 pm

We have arrived at the middle of May and that signals the beginning of the main part of our gardening season here in Southeastern Michigan.

According to records kept by the National Weather Service, the chance of a late spring frost happening at this time of the year is around 10% in the Monroe County Area.

NOAA has developed this map to show the chance of temperatures reaching 32 degrees or lower.

I know that even in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula gardeners are thinking pretty seriously about setting out plants even though it is fairly common to get a frost as late as the end of May in their neck of the woods.

The Upper Peninsula is another story.  For example at Tahquamenon Falls or other places in the UP like the small town of Herman there is still a 10% chance that the temperature will get down to 32 degrees as late as July 11th. Anyone who has camped out at Tahquamenon Falls State Park can tell you that it can get pretty chilly there in the morning.

For us “trolls” living  below the bridge, it is time to get busy gardening.


May 4, 2010

30th Annual Plant Sale

Filed under: Events,Uncategorized — bob @ 8:16 pm

Still not decided what to do for Mother’s Day Weekend? Why not take Mom out to the big plant sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

This is a wonderful chance to see what’s new in the world of horticulture  and purchase some plants that may be very hard to find elsewhere.

Members of the Gardens get to look everything over on Friday evening and make their purchases first before the rest of the public is let in. Here’s a little secrete: if you are not a member, you can show up on Friday anyway and sign up for your  membership right there at the door and they will let you in with full Member’s privileges…just as if you were a 30-year member!

Member’s night runs 3PM-7PM Friday May 7th. Along with all of the plants there will be a Party (members only of course) featuring Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, and refreshments by Angel Food Catering (Michigan Radio Network is also a sponsor).  Plus there will be discounts on plant sale purchases and gift memberships that evening as well.

Since the Sale takes place under a huge tent, it will go on rain or shine.

People are encouraged to bring along wagons or garden carts to carry their plant purchases.

The Sale continues Saturday from 9AM to 4PM and Sunday 10AM to 4PM.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, call them if you get lost along the way ;): 734-647-7600.

See you out there.


April 23, 2010

New Fruit Trees From the Roots Up

Filed under: Fruit,Uncategorized — bob @ 9:39 am

Many mail-order companies will be shipping out their fruit tree orders the next couple of weeks.  If you have been out and about I’m sure you have noticed fruit trees for sale in local garden centers as well.

The fruit trees you will be receiving from catalog mail-order companies will be shipped bare root; which means just as it says, no soil at all around the roots.  Larger nurseries dig their fruit trees in the fall and store them in cold storage units at precise temperature and humidity conditions.  By doing that, they are not at the mercy of unpredictable spring weather like we had last month.

The smaller nurserymen, those without cold storage, have to leave their trees in the field and dig them as they are sold in the spring. If an unusually warm spell occurs, the trees will begin to leaf out and grow.  Since the trees are in a fragile condition at this stage of their growth, they cannot be shipped. So this year the smaller fruit tree growers had an extremely early and short digging and selling season.  For the larger growers of course, it was business as usual.

A bare root tree has the advantage of growing and developing roots in the soil  in your yard, thereby adapting itself to your growing conditions.

Trees you find in the garden centers are also a type of bare-root tree  even though they have soil around them.  In this case the nursery takes the bare root tree and places it into a pot or bag with a moist, light-weight potting mix around the roots.  This is done so that the when the tree starts to grow, it can safely be sold at a retail garden store and be in great shape for you to plant into your yard.

During the growing season if a fruit tree is not sold, it is usually then moved into a sturdier container. These are the trees in the nursery pots  you see at garden centers and are fine to purchase. The containers allow the trees to develop roots and grow like a potted plant.

The final type of tree you might see being offered for sale are the  ‘balled and burlapped’ trees, sometimes known as “b&b.   These trees have been left to grow to a larger size out in the field.  When the tree is dug, a large mass of roots along with its’ soil is dug and wrapped in burlap.  The nurseryman takes care not to damage the roots and digs a root ball large enough to support the tree after it is planted.

The advantage of a b&b tree is that it is much larger and older than a bare root tree. Often these trees are ready to produce fruit that season and you have an “instant orchard”. The disadvantage is the cost of purchasing these trees, even the relatively smaller b&b trees can cost $200 or more compared to $20 for a bare root fruit tree. The cost of shipping a b&b tree is also quite high due to the weight of all of that soil.  Also, the tree roots may have trouble adapting to the soil in your yard and simply stay confined to the root ball. The sheer weight of a tree of this type makes it hard to handle as well.

Fruit trees are offered for sale as dwarf, semi-dwarf or full size trees; we’ll discuss that issue next time.


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