A Morning with Wesley and Roland

June 30, 2014
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Just Imagine!
 
What if you'd wake up on The Family Cow farm some warm dewy morning in June. What if you could tag along with our boys, Wesley and Roland (13 and 11), for the first hour of their day...go with them every step of the way as they carefully tend the hens that produce The Family Cow's truly pastured, soy-free eggs?
 
In this early morning photo tour through Wesley's eyes, we’ll let you peek briefly into a typical farm morning and at the same time get a behind the scenes look into the holistic pasture and livestock management that we put into Family Cow pastured eggs.
 
It's all yours Wesley!  Show them a good time.

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Good morning everyone!
 
It’s 5:30 Monday morning and like other mornings, the first thing Roland and I do after crawling out of bed is get a cup of organic coffee. We boys like Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings because we get to sleep in till 5:30. Most of the other days of the week we have to be up at 4:00 to help the rest of the family and team pack drop-point orders.

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Over coffee we sometimes talk about the work of the day, but mostly we talk about what we hope to do after the chores. Ground hog hunting, swimming, caving, reading or helping the men and big boys with whatever project they are working on are our favorites. Hey, we better get moving! It's 6:00 already!

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Roland’s first job is to go into the big freezer and get some meat scraps to chop up for our four dogs. Our Labradors, Dingo and Simba, don't do much work, they are just pets. But our Great Pyrenees sisters, Nikki and Tasha, are the working dogs. They stay out with our chickens all day and night to guard them from all kinds of things. Skunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, weasels, fishers, martins, foxes, coyotes, possums, hawks and bald eagles all seem to like our chicken!

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Simba is really good at catching his meat in the air. Roland likes to throw it to him from the back of our Kioti 4x4. Dingo is getting old and can’t seem to see well enough to catch her food in the air so she waits her turn.

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When it’s her turn, Dingo likes to sit in the driver’s seat and eat out of Roland’s hand. What looks like eggs in the buckets are actually eggs shells we are taking out to throw to the hens. They love them!

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So...now we drive out the ½ mile long pasture lane that runs through the center of our 120 acres of organic pasture. The slight hill in the distance is about half way out the lane. Right now in the pasture rotation, all the cows and chickens are in the back 60 acres of the farm so we can't see them till we crest the hill.

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As we pop over the hill, the back half of the farm comes into view. The milk cows are on the left (they just got finished with the morning milking and are back in the pasture for their breakfast), the meat chickens are on the right and the hens are just beside and beyond the cows on the left.

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As we pass the cows' section and turn left off the lane into the grass, the first of our mobile chicken houses comes into view. Daddy likes to call them egg mobiles because that's what Joel Salatin calls them.

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When the chickens hear us coming, they come running to greet us. They always do this. I don’t know why they are so excited to see us. They have plenty of grass and bugs and feed to eat and water to drink. I think it is because they are curious. Or maybe they just like attention.

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Nikki and Tasha come running too. They are so glad to see us again. I do know why they like to see us...

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It’s their breakfast time too! If there are any leftovers, the chickens fight for the meat scraps.

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Roland and I discuss who is going to do what. Roland says he’ll check all three egg mobiles to be sure all the nesting boxes are open, clean below each roosting area and make sure all the waters are working properly. (The nesting boxes are solar powered and open and close each day on a timer, but we need to check to be sure they are working properly.)

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While Roland does that, I agree to take care of checking the feed bins and fill any water tanks that need filled.

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Yup…the water tanks are about empty so I jump on the Kioti and drive back in the pasture lane, past the cows and pastured meat chickens toward the barn to get the wagon with the 500 gallon tank full of well water to refill them.

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Once back at the farm buildings, I hitch the water wagon up to the Kioti...

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And drive back out the pasture lane again.

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I hook up the 2 inch water hose, fire up the water pump and wait till the tank is full. When it’s full, I unhook and go to the next egg mobile.

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By the time I’m hooking up the last one, Roland is done with his work and ready to help...

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So I let him start the pump this time. Pull starts can be tough to learn, but we boys got the hang of it pretty quick.

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Now comes the fun part…moving the chickens to new grass. Roland and I use the Kioti to move each of the mobiles about 100 feet everyday. This gives the chickens a totally new area of bugs and grass and clover to eat each day and allows the chickens' droppings to fertilize a new area of pasture every day too. Some of the chickens ride along, but the others just run along behind. They all seem to think it is great fun. And it keeps the eggs clean and healthy too.

 
Hey it’s 7:00! We got to get into the house. Mom and Gwendolyn are sure to have breakfast waiting!

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LATER THAT DAY: At about 2:00 each afternoon, Roland and Jefferson go out to the pasture to gather eggs. sometimes I help. The nest boxes are designed with roll-away nests to keep the eggs nice and clean. When the eggs roll away after the hens lay them, they roll onto a net/belt. When we are ready to gather eggs, we flip a switch and a small solar powered motor runs the belt very slowly and brings the eggs to the front so we can put them easily (and very gently!) into crates.

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Jefferson is pretty little, he’s only 8, but he learned to spread his fingers just right to pick up three eggs at a time with each hand, so he's just as fast as the rest of us! Or maybe I should say, he can be fast when he's in the mood!  Actually, he usually does like to help. Sometimes when us bigger boys are busy helping with other farm work, Jefferson gets on the Kioti and goes out and gathers the eggs all by himself. He likes to do it sometimes to surprise us!

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The best part is that usually we have some time to play with Nikki and Tasha. It's neat how they are such gentle friends with us and their beloved chicken family but still such ferocious guards if other animals get close. After we play with our dogs a while we drive carefully, slowly in the pasture lane back to the barn with the egg crates. Daddy says we’re not allowed to drive faster than 5 mile per hour when we are hauling eggs.  :(

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We rinse off all eight crates with cold well water, and then push the stacks of eggs into the walk-in egg cooler till the next day when they will be sorted for size and checked for cracks and put into cartons to be sent to you!
 
We hope you enjoy your Family Cow eggs!
 
See you all later,
Wesley (with Daddy)
 
 
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Note from Dad: So many of you have exclaimed over the awesomely vibrant taste, color and vitality of our eggs that I thought you may be interested in seeing in more detail what and how the pastured hen system works. So I hope this answers more questions than it raises!   
 
To the engineers out there: The credit for our very ingenious, solar powered egg mobiles does not go to us. They were 100% designed and built for us by the Roman Stoltzfoos family of Springwood Farm.
 
A few years ago we had three hoop barn pastured hen shelters with pasture netting that made perfect eggs too but it was killing us with labor. One day I was visiting the Stoltzfoos farm and I saw their egg mobiles. It was love at first sight. We first bought a used one they were willing to sell. We liked it so much that we bought another renovated one and finally asked them to build us a third one brand new. After that, we started converting our old hoop barns into turkey shelters.
 
So anyway, I just wanted to tell you that the credit goes to the Stoltzfooses. If I wouldn't have told you, I'd have felt a little guilty showing you our remarkable hen buildings knowing that you would think that we had built them ourselves.  :)
 
All the best of food and blessings,
 
Your farmer,
Edwin Shank

For more pictures of the chickens visit our Hen Egg Layer Photo Gallery. It is the best way to take a virtual tour!

Show your friends Real Pastured Chickens!

 

 

Edwin Shank

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