Evaluating 2011

This is a good day to look back on the year and see what has been accomplished, to see which goals were reached and which ones weren’t. It’s also a good time to look forward into the next twelve months and decide on changes and additions.

My goal for 2011 was to start a hobby farm. That was accomplished.

On this farm I wanted chickens, goats and sheep. All three of these animals now take up residence on the croft. I also wanted to reopen the garden and enlarge it, planting strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and potatoes. All of that was done.

The other goal I had in 2011 was to begin on the journey of being self-sufficient. That goal was also accomplished. Over the summer, my garden produced 20 pounds of potatoes, ten pounds of onions, five cups of blueberries and two cups of peas.

Okay, so those numbers weren’t great, but they’re a start. Next year, I plan to at least double them and also produce strawberries and raspberries from the plants set last summer. If I can open up more garden space, corn, tomatoes and peppers will be added.

In the meat department, I raised four White Beltsville turkeys and slaughtered them in November. Next year, I plan to raise heritage chickens that are known for their weight and slaughter them for eating. I’m not sold on raising more turkeys, but I may. Turkeys are a little quirky, but the real reason is that I prefer chicken meat over turkey.

White Beltsville Turkeys

Turkeys are strange characters.

My largest production item in 2011 was eggs. In total, I produced 629. If the number of hens remains the same, the projected egg count in 2012 is somewhere around 2,160. That’s a lot of eggs. Still, I can’t seem to keep them in the house. Farm fresh eggs are in high demand. Below is a table which breaks down the breeds at Moon Meadow Croft and their production. (*Indicate number of hens. The number in brackets is the current count, having lost a few to rats.)

Breed

Number*

Began   Laying

Age   (weeks)

Eggs   Produced

Americauna

4 (3)

Aug 24

22

98

Brown   Hens

5 (4)

Sep 6

19

493

Chantecler

5

Nov 20

23

34

Buff   Orpington

1

Dec 17

27

4

The regular Brown Hens began laying at an earlier age and produced more eggs than any other but that doesn’t indicate they are the best breed of chicken. As mentioned before, I have this particular breed – which isn’t a heritage breed – because I had them as a child and enjoyed them. These hens which were bred for out-standing egg production provide data that can be compared with the other breeds.

The Americauna hens which lay greenish to bluish eggs appear to be the least efficient breed. They’ve produced fewer eggs than any other over their laying time. If these numbers are any indication, they are not the breed to own if you only want a few hens and a regular supply of eggs for the family. I’m hoping with age and warmer temperatures, their production will pick up. If not, we’ll keep the ones we have for the novelty of the coloured eggs, but won’t invest in additional hens.

On the other hand, the Chantecler hens are producing well given the time of year and have grown to a fair size. They are proving themselves to be what many others have claimed them to be: a dual purpose bird, good eggs and meat. The medium-sized Chantecler cream-colour egg is appealing. There’s even been a double-yoker in the bunch.

Our Light Braham Standard and Rhode Island Red hens should begin laying within the next month unless they decide to wait for longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures.

For more detailed numbers on daily-egg counts by each breed, visit the Egg Production page. Each day, I calculate the eggs gathered, mark it on a calendar then enter the data for the month on a web page.

That’s it for this calendar.

May the year 2012 not be the end of all things as many folks fear but the beginning of things better.

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