Farewell to Turbo

Today Turbo left us. While we still had longer we could keep him on trial, there were a few specific issues that led us to realize he wasn’t the right long term horse. For now, instead of seeking a new horse, we are going to ride King and focus on more lessons for Rob on advanced school horses.

Thomas Caleb Sawyer

We are sad that Thomas Caleb Sawyer will not be living and growing up with us here on Earth. However we are comforted in the knowledge that we will see him again in Heaven. While the outcome has not been as we hoped, we are at peace. The EEG that was done Saturday night at 6 was flat, however, the official reading of the EEG has not taken place, the results were very obvious to the nurses, technician and to Benji & Beka. Based on all the information, we expect all the other clinical exams that will take place today and Monday morning to officially say that Thomas is brain-dead will confirm what we already know.

Benji & Rebekah had already decided that if Thomas was not going to be able to survive, the best case of the worst case options would be for Thomas to be an organ donor. The organ donor team is now preparing for the Monday morning official report. The donor testing and matching process will begin today, however, we are not sure how long it will take for the nation-wide recipient matching. Thomas will remain on life support until this process is completed. After that, Benji & Rebekah have decided they will have Thomas cremated and have a memorial service. The timing of the service will likely not be decided until after transplant phase has been completed.

Our prayers now are for continued peace and comfort for our family as the grieving process continues. Also, please pray the doctors and families who will be the recipients of the life that Thomas will not be able to experience, but that Benji, Rebekah and Thomas are so loving giving.

contributed by Liz Sawyer

The Freedom Rangers have arrived!

Today our batch of meat chickens (Freedom Rangers) arrived at the post office and Anna picked them up. The 51 chicks are 2 days old. Since this is our first experience with an actual meat bird, we will be keeping detailed records. They should be ready for harvest around July 7/8.

In other news, we have decided to cut back significantly in our chick hatching. After a review of the records, we just aren’t really making enough for it to be worthwhile. We definitely have a market for the Jersey Giant chicks, however, the other breeds don’t seem to sell very well. And when you are running 5 heat lamps at a time, it costs $5-6 a day to raise the chicks and your electric bill gets pretty high. So while we can make some money selling chicks the first week after they hatch, we lose all the profits on the extras that don’t sell.

With arrival of the meat chicks, by my spreadsheet we have about 162 chickens on the farm right now,and less than 50 are mature. Between all the different chickens, we are using about 30lbs of feed a day (that was before the 50 meat chicks got here). Did I mention it’s time to cut back.

Mobile chicken coop

I have completed another chicken coop for the farm.  I used a farm wagon (purchased used for $100) under a shipping crate (free) for the coop.  The shipping crate was laid on its side, making a 7’x7′ coop that is 44″ high.  The 8 nest boxes inside were free from someone else no longer keeping chickens.  I put ventilation on 3 sides and both a front and rear access door to make cleaning easier.  Once it warms up, we will get some more oops paint at Home Depot and paint the coop a natural color to blend in to the scenery.

Total cost on this coop was a little higher because of the wagon.  I spent about $125 with the wagon, hardware ,and lumber used.  We plan to house up to about 25 chickens in this coop with electric netting around it.  Once the netting arrives, we will move the Jersey Giants into the coop (even though there are only 6 birds) and put it near the back of the farm.

Chicken Tractor, Sawyer style

For those of you not into the grow your own meat movement, a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken pen.  It is intended to be moved daily to allow the chickens access to grass and bugs while providing shelter at night and protection from predators.  We needed a chicken tractor to house chickens as they grow to be replacement hens, roosters for meat, and our upcoming order of broilers.  For now, we have only built 1 tractor to decide what we do and don’t like about it.  There are many common designs, and probably the most notable is Joel Salatin’s design.

Our chicken tractor is made entirely out of red oak.  Now you might be wondering why I would make a chicken pen out of red oak, and it’s a very simple answer: mahogany would have been ridiculous and maple shows the dirt too much.  Seriously, I just had a lot of extra red oak on hand and it made more sense to use excess wood I have than to spend money on new pine.  I also had 6′ 2″x4″ field fencing, so that is what I used for the sides.  I built the tractor 8′ wide and 12′ long.  I specifically chose 8′ (instead of the common 10′) because if we move or I decide to sell this version, it is still small enough to be transported on a flatbed trailer.

What makes this Sawyer Style, it the recycling.  The total cash expended on this project was $25 for the 2 wheels and 2 door hinges.  Everything else was stuff we already had here on the farm with no predetermined purpose.  Sure, at some point I bought the red oak, but it was almost firewood, so I might as well use it in a project.

We did put a roof made of OSB to give the birds shelter.  The sides under the roof will be finished in using feed bags to provide wind shelter.  We will still add a waterer and feeder that can be accessed from outside the fencing.  We also put roosts into the back of the tractor in the sheltered area in order to give the birds somewhere to get off the ground.  Hopefully, that will keep them healthier and minimize the chance of a predator pulling them out from under the edge.

A few immediate observations of what we don’t really like.

1. The only access is from the 4′ wide door in the front.  You have to get down on the ground to get inside.  I think that will get old in bad weather.

2. The extra support frame at the divider between the shelter and open areas is a death trap for the chickens.  When pulling the tractor on the ground, the birds tend to stay towards the middle.  Unfortunately, that cross-bar is in a perfect spot to trap chicken legs and cause injuries.  I may have to cut it out.

3. Red oak makes a heavy tractor.  I did include wheels on the back, but it’s heavy.  On the positive side, it is definitely sturdy.

Here are some pictures.  The tractor was put to use this afternoon with 38 birds we are raising that are 8-9.5 weeks old.  If you are thinking about building your own, come on over and take a look.