Well so much for the burly, windswept winter we got all geared up and buttoned down for. Our kids have been wishing for snow to go
skiing and skating, though we haven't heard many complaints about nothaving to shovel the pond! Dave and I aren't complaining this year. The weather has allowed us to work on many projects and get us ready for the coming spring and summer far ahead of schedule.
We are redesigning pasture housing for our laying hens to make them more efficient, comfortable, solar powered, and portable. The new houses are going to be awesome, we can't wait to get them full of birds. We are also experimenting with growing sunflower shoots for our birds during the long winter months that no matter the temperature, have all of us craving fresh greens.
Also exciting is we have received a Vermont Farm Fund Loan to help scale up our egg production and laying hen part of our farm. This is our second Farm Fund Loan, both of which we used to scale up egg production. Three years ago we grew our numbers of hens from 300, and this time we are growing from 1,100 to 2,500. We received our hens as chicks in November. By April they will be mature, laying tons of eggs and ready to head out to pasture. This year will will be managing two flocks of hens as we grow. Our same hens we have now and then our new young ones. Animal science is a huge part of what we do and raising hens to be efficient egg producers, while still giving them pasture, freedom and a fabulous life, has been a challenge we are loving. We are also using them to fertilize our fields. We use an intense rotational grazing system during the grazing months, and during the winter we compost their manure to spread on the hay fields in the summer, making them lush and productive. Each year we get better at it and learn more. It's rewarding. We have just applied for a Working Lands Enterprise Investment Grant to work in conjunction with our Farm Fund Loan to help us perfect the housing and egg production of our hens year round. Receiveing the Working Lands Grant will help increase our profitability and overall success of our farm. And help us produce tons of delicious eggs! Last year was a year of challenges and this year we are making plans to avoid many of the obstacles we encountered. Growing quickly as we have been doing takes a lot of working capital and having a grant to give us that boost to the next step would be helpful. It's pretty exciting.