Life of a Farm Blog

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Sea of White

Well folks it’s official, we are chicken farmers. We got our first delivery of birds from Cobb yesterday. 7032 females and 610 males. More are coming today. I already have mixed emotions about this venture. I am a little bit intimidated by the complexity of the equipment. Absolutely everything is automatic. There is very little work involved. Basically the only manual labor will be walking the floors, picking the eggs up from the tables, and disposing of the dead. I feel for the birds. While they are loose in the houses and have quite a bit of room to move around freely, it just isn’t natural. They have shavings to scratch through, but no dirt. I’m used to chickens scratching for bugs and other critters. I geuss I’ll just get used to it. The birds really do seem content. I was glad that 4 State Poultry finally came through for us. When I started this project their rep, Vance Gates, convinced me to use them. In the end it was him who finally got this whole thing running. My hats off to him! Without his help we would not have birds today. I sincerely hope that 4 state knows what an asset he is to their operation! While I’m saying thanks to people, I need to recognize what an important part of this whole deal BJ has been too. Our relationship has been odd, strained, and downright bad a lot of this time, but she has always put her best foot forward to help me! I hope she knows she is appreciated!

             

Still no calf from the cow we bought that was obviously very pregnant. There has been so much to do at the chickenhouse I have barely had time to eat and sleep. Madison and Garett came running when the first truck of birds showed up. I made them stay outside because of the dust from the shavings. They were very excited though and can’t wait to get inside with the birds. It has been good to be close to the kids. It’s a relief just knowing that I am a stones throw away from them most all the time. My dad came and stayed with us the 2 nights prior to getting birds so he could help get everything ready. It was good to have him around and he was a big help too. He constatly amazes me with his knowledge of things electrical and mechanical, not to mention about life in general.

I was glad to get the 7010 back in action. Just a day or so after I last posted I got a package from both KMW and Mahindra. I now have the entire O ring kit for the loader valve as well as an extra load check plug and the internals. I’ve found the best way not to need a part is to have it on hand. You never need the parts you have. Turns out the 7010 was my transportation to the chickenhouse a couple days this week. Okay, I could’ve walked since it’s only a few hundred yards through the feild, but it’s just easier to drive. We got our first and probably only real snow of the year. It was only a couple inches, but underneath it was a layer of ice. I sent my truck home with our friend Kenny so I knew he would be able to make it back here to finish up the construction and plumbing of the wellhouse. Old Blue (my truck) isn’t doing too well these days. I’m seriously considering trading. Only thing is I’m not sure what I want if I trade. I’ve always been a GM guy, but this 6.5 litre turbo deisel has really turned me against GM. I’m really fond of the Cummins engine in the Dodges, but want an automatic transmission. Dodge automatics don’t have a great reputation. GM has the Allison automatic transmission which is awesome. I geuss the Fords are okay. My younger brother is a Ford technician. I just have always had GMs and can’t bring myself to go the Ford route. I hear Mahindra is bringing a truck to the US in a year or so maybe I can make “old blue” last until I get a peek at them.

BJ and the older girls have brought me into the technical age. They have convinced me that the farm needs a my space page. So with their help we’ll be adding to it all the time. We’re also going to try to set up our own website when we get time. I think it’s neat to have so many ways to share everything with the world. The internet is a great thing!

As always there is a whole pile of things to do and I don’t seem to be getting them done so I better get up from here and do something. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the pics we have added!

 


25 Responses to “Sea of White”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Congratulations on the chickens! We already have chickens, but having big chicken houses seems like fun! How’s your new Mahindra? As always, we’re on the lookout for new tractors, maybe our next one will be a Mahindra. Good luck with the chickens!

    Kyle

  2. sunnyacres Says:

    Looks real good Joel. I grew up around chicken farms, floor barns with broilers, floor barns with layer nests, and cage layer barns. Yours is the first setup of that type I have seen. Very interested to follow you through your first year. Very few chickens left in this area nowadays except for the big egg operations (Maine).
    Chickens are pretty easy, just pretty numb. They do scare easy, and will all pile up in a corner and suffecate some if they get scared. I’m sure you know, calm easy actions in the barn, no loud noises.

  3. joelw Says:

    Kyle,
    Thanks, it’s little bit of a relief to finally get the chickens. I don’t know about the fun part. I sure don’t think it’s too fun when the alarm clock goes off at 4:30 in the morning or the chickenhouse monitoring alarm calls me and wakes me up to tell me the static pressure is high or something like that. The new Mahindra is good. Can’t wait to see the new 8560 Mahindra is coming out with. All I can tell you about shopping tractors is look at the dealer as close as the brand. When I took into consideration all the factors (weight, price, specs, dealer, and operator comfort) Mahindra was best for me. I shopped a whole lot of tractors. Didn’t hurt that the Mahindra dealer actually wanted to sell me a tractor, while the others seemed to care less, either. Mahindra has some pretty competitive pricig and financing right now. Click on one of the links on the blog to see the details. Thanks for the comment!

    sunnyacres,
    Thanks for complimenting the houses. What happened to the chicken operations in your area? Sure doesn’t take much to make the birds get silly. Sometimes one gets scared over nothing at all and scares a bunch more. Don’t even have to be around them and they get silly. They sure get excited at feeding time. Thanks for the comment. Check back to follow all the exciting adventures at the chicken farm.

  4. Kyle Says:

    I didn’t mean fun in that way, I’m talking about showing them off and your bragging rights. The kids must love telling that to their friends, I know I did when I first got mine.

  5. Jim Says:

    Joelw,the chickens look real good and tasty.lol also
    you realy should check out the super duty fords we had a f250 super duty crew cab fully loaded 4×4 5.4 gas motor loved it till it got stolen.we got a f 150 king cab 4×4 with a 4.6 v8 we like it alot to we put a new jasper motor init around thanksgiving rest of truck has 120000 miles on it still is a nice truck. i took it to paw paw wv. to get a our baler truck trailer and
    baler was about 14000# went down the road as fast as you wanted to go but only got about 9 .0 mpg norm about 15mpg. also if u want to get a webpage check out go daddy.com thats where we got our web page hes got some real good deals on web pages and hosting my son says if u need some help setting it up after you get it
    send us a email he can help u with it he done a summer cclass at wrieght state university up here in ohio last year for web pages. also we got our blog page up and running we went through word press also. ive also got pics of our farm and our truck crash on the pic page. if u dont mind Ill put a link from our web page to yours.also we got a my space page too my wife dose it for us. i went to the back doc hes talking about me being off for atleast 14 day if not a month maybe more if back dont start to heal up better than its doing. well i need to go for now. come check out our web page at 7csfarm.com.well god bless u and yours

  6. joelw Says:

    Kyle,
    The kids are really proud! They have even come home from school telling me that some of their friends have volunteered to collect eggs just so they can visit. Hopefully that carries through on into high school. I\’d like to bale a bunch of square bales at some point and sell them to the horse folks around here. Thanks for the comment!

    Jim,
    Neighbor has an F150 FX4 for sale now. I think it\’s an 04. The Chevy Duramax deisels I\’ve been looking at are in the $30,000 range. I found a ton Powerstroke F350 dually for $10,000. I could buy both the Fords for 2/3 of a Chevrolet like I want. With deisel fuel over $3.50 a gallon maybe that\’s the way to go. I\’ll check out godaddy.com for a web page, but I\’m also going to look for someone local. Feel free to link my blog with your sites. Send me a friend request on my space too. Whatever you do listen to the doctor on that back injury. Check back soon!

  7. lella Says:

    Well, you got those chickens finally! Good luck with them and may they all do well. Hello to BJ and the kidlets, too.

    You guys have weathered one heck of a winter! Best Wishes from California.

  8. Kyle Says:

    Remember, our webpage on freewebs.com and you saw how good that turned out. Even with a 12 year old running it, I think it still looks nice.

  9. joelw Says:

    Kyle,
    It never even entered dawned on me to check out freewebs.com. You’re right though your page looks nice. I’m sure even though you’re only 12 you’re more capable with a computer than me. Thanks for the comment, I’ll check out freewebs.com . Check back soon!

    lella,
    Thanks, we need some good luck. It seems it’s all been bad lately. The weather hasn’t been too bad here, but it’s been cold a few times. I remember years when there was lots of snow, but recently it hasn’t even stayed cold enough to thin out the bugs. It’s the warm and cold transition that gets us. 30 today and 70 tommorrow. I’m just hoping I can get outside some this spring and summer. Good to see you’re reading! Thanks for the comment!

  10. sheila Says:

    just curious , why do you have the washer and dryer in the chicken house? Also are you contracted to cobb and who owns the chickens? I know you own the houses. Are you and B.J. employed by cobb? Im just confused by how it works. Thanks Sheila

  11. joelw Says:

    sheila,
    We own the houses, but Cobb owns the chickens. They lease the buildings from us on a square footage basis per year. They provide all the feed, tech support, and veterinary support, as well as lots of the everyday use things. We provide buildings, equipment, labor, and utilities. We are known as contract growers. The washer and dryer are for bio-security reasons. All clothing worn inside the chickenhouse must be laundered inside the chickenhouse. That way no germs are coming in from outside. You must shower as you enter into the building. Then change into clean uniforms. Hope this helps. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Jim Says:

    Joelw as you know im a trucker and a farmer the cleaning policy for cobb is top notch. the transportaion industry has been getting real tight on keeping the trailers we haul things in very clean.Also we got the link on our web site to your site. hope ypur readers will come over to our site to read our blog. wehope to start getting more posts and pics on it we have some pics of the barns and the big rig we crashed last month. hope you all are well and safe .good luck with the cluckers.

  13. Zach Says:

    Hello again Joel :)
    To answer your earlier question about where I work, At the moment I am working for a company called Miller Machine and Welding which is a small town shop where there are maybe 25 people total working there. I am a CNC Machinest and I run a CNC mill. I am on my 3rd factory job and I have worked here a year, I started at Martin Sprocket and Gear they are a fairly big company but by moving around a lil bit I have gotton the chance to negotiate wage increases which has been good for me. I hope to one day be self employed also but for now I just have loan payments to make lol.
    It is neat to see that you have finally got the birds in! I hope you like poultry, I raised pigeons and showed them when I was knee-high to a grasshopper and in May I am building a small chicken coop so that I can have eggs from laying hens. Its cheaper to feed chickens then it is to buy eggs from the store. The price of everything is so crazy now!!! How is finding a hand to help on the farm going?

  14. paintsmh Says:

    Oh boy that is a lot of chickens!! And congrats on the myspace page. A bunch of my buddies convinced me to put one up a few years ago and it has been a fun experience.

  15. joelw Says:

    Jim,
    Sometimes I wonder if Cobb’s bio-security policy isn’t over the top. When they delivered chickens and shavings they were allowed to drive a forklift in and out of the building repeatedly without sanitizing it each time. They also drove that forklift around and around the building and came inside without disinfecting it. Doesn’t really matter to me as long as they keep paying the bills! Catch ya later!

    Zach,
    Machinist huh, that’s respectable. My neighbor and good friend James is a retired union machinist. I think my dad has done everything. He was in the machine shop at Toyota for a while.
    The only thing I’m not liking about the chickens so far is getting up at 4:20 to feed them. I kind of don’t like the fact that I’m not allowed to own any other birds either. I miss the spring chick and duck order we usually placed. With grocery prices rising I can see 2 things happening. One, smart folks will raise their own as much as possible and two, corporate agriculture will follow manufacturing overseas. My prediction is they will stay here long enough to raise the prices and then set sail on the promise to lower prices which will never happen. We are rapidly becoming a lower class nation while others are moving up in stature. It’s really sad to see. Thanks for the comment and check back soon!

    paintsmh,
    15,262 chickens to be exact. Hopefully I can find time to work on the my space page. Thanks for the comment!

  16. paintsmh Says:

    Yikes. We had thirty or so at most when I was a kid. That was MORE than sufficient for me!

  17. sunnyacres Says:

    Joel,
    Lots of reasons it went out. The stated reason was
    High transportation costs = high grain prices, and high winter fuel prices on startup for broilers.
    Reality is lots of reasons, including obsolete processing plants, changing work force.

    Tom

  18. John Says:

    Hi Joel,

    I wouldn\’t be afraid of the GM Diesel. It isn\’t the same as the old 6.5L. It came from Isuzu which is owned by GM. The smaller Isuzu diesels are known for their relibility used in refrigerated units. The Allison Transmission is a very good transmission also. I work for a company which supplys parts for them and from what I have seen GM has done a better job on this diesel program. Ford is having issues with Navistar which concerns me. Navistar quit shipping engines as result of a despute with Ford over warrenty claims last year. A Judge forced Navistar to fufill their contract. Not good! Dodge is using a 6 speed automatic in some of their 3500,4500 and 5500 Cummins Diesel Trucks. It is a Aisin Seiki Transmission, also used by Toyota. It is a world class transmission same as Allison is. Dodge definitly needed it. It is a toss up between the Dodge Cummins and the GM Duramax. Good Luck with the Chickens also! I think you have done Great Job!

    John

    John

  19. joelw Says:

    paintsmh,
    Now I’m wondering if 30 or so wouldn’t have been sufficient for me. All the little bumps in the road I’ve had the last few days with this equipment is driving me batty. Thanks for the comment!

    sunnyacres,
    Don’t know why it went out here so many years ago. Could have had to do with disease. There was a chickenhouse on every corner. I think the government supported the soldiers returning from WWII with them somehow. There also was a processing plant just up the road in Burnside. It left at the same time. There has been some discussion that the processing plant got into trouble with the EPA when they impounded the lake. Also heard it had to do with feed conversion. Every chicken farmer had pigs too and they say a lot of the farmers fed the chicken feed to the pigs thus the feed coversion got way out of hand. Thanks for the comment!

    John,
    Not afraid of the Duramax, just have a bad taste in my mouth from GM because of the 6.5. GM plain did 6.5 owners wrong all around. I’ve read accouts of brand new 6.5s broken down by the side of the road on the way home from the dealership. GM really dropped the ball with the 6.5 and they kept it too long! At it’s best it is an overheating panting dog. It has a useable range of less than 1000 rpm. Outside that range it won’t pull a wet noodle. If I go with a Ford it will be an F150 with a gas engine and a older F350 7.3 powerstroke. I really wanted a 3/4 ton truck so I geuss Dodge is still out in the automatic category. Aisin makes good stuff, but I’m not familiar with them ever being used in a real heavy duty application. The Allison is used in big trucks all the time. Fire trucks, buses, construction applications, etc.. Funny you should mention Toyota. They make a really nice half ton truck. How long ago did Dodge start using Aisin? I’m shopping a used truck. Don’t really like any of the new ones except Toyota. Thanks for wishing me luck with the chickens. I’ll need it! Thanks for the comment and check back soon!

  20. Colleen Says:

    Hi Joel,

    I\’m new to your blog and found it because I just wrote a blog post stating that I couldn\’t find any other blogs written by farmers ;) .

    So, I\’m impressed with how clean and white your new chickens are but I understand your not being a 100% sold. The not being allowed to have any other birds is pretty crappy. As you can see if you check out our website, we\’re on the other end of the farming world than you but one one level, I can see why you put up with the parts of your chicken operation that you don\’t agree with. Dollars are a good motivator when you\’re trying to pay the bills! (I know cause we\’re deadly short in the $$ department!)

    Anyway, good luck finding your peace with your farming path. And enjoy the birds.

    Cheers,
    Colleen

  21. Kevin Says:

    Hi Joel!

    I haven’t stopped by and checked up on what you’ve been up to, looks like a lot!

    I didn’t understand that you were getting grown pullets. I thought they were shipping you chicks, that you would raise on site. A lot tighter bio-security control when you do that (only two farms involved that way; yours and the hatchery). The way they did it you get at least two, if not three or more farms involved, plus the risk of shipping from farm to farm. I’ve only had chicks a few times so far in the mail I’ve hauled. (The weather here was too nasty for most people to even think of ordering thier chicks.) Sunday it looked like there were quite a few starting to be moved, probably this month will be the “boom” month. I know I was planning on ordering some chicks for delivery in late March/early April. (Less time that way with them in the basement/garage under a brooder lamp.)

    The company I work for has four Dodge 3/4/one ton Cummins diesel pick ups for service/owner use. All of them are 4×4, and have the auto tranny. Only one of them is a standard cab, the rest are extended cabs. The owner’s wife’s truck regularly pulls a 28 foot fifth wheel camper, and 4 horse slant load trailer with a 16 foot dressing room. She hasn’t had any trouble with it. His has a cab high topper on it, and he uses it for hauling tools, parts and pulling various bumper hitch trailers. His son’s has a tool box in the bed, and other than some towing of small trailers and pulling out stuck semi’s and straight trucks it has had mostly highway miles racked up on it. His truck had some problems, but they were related to the fuel pump and injector system. The mechanic’s truck has a tool box in the bed, and it has been used about like the son’s truck, but it hasn’t had any problems. Overall, I am impressed by the Dodge pick ups. Mine is a 1990 D150 (1/2 ton) that I bought used off of my boss. It had over 100k on it when I got it in 1997, today I estimate the mileage at over 300k! (No major engine work, just one tranny overhaul!) It’s rusted through and needs some work to get it past the inspection for license renewal, but I am going to keep it awhile longer. You know how it goes, hard to justify payments on something when what you have doesn’t have any.

    You are partly right about the past situation with the chicken producers. Only thing was it was actually during the depression of the 1930′s when small poultry producers got thier foothold in the business. Then in the 1980′s it was more the situation of the contract grower system that took them out. If they weren’t under contract to a large company they got squeezed out as the number of independent processors went out of business. (When I was in high school, the 1970′s, there were a number of small growers in this area, and there were a few small independent processors still around. By the middle of the 1980′s most of them were out of business. Today there are a few independent processors, but they are concentrated in niche markets; organic/free range or kosher poultry.) Basically the same thing has happened in the pork production business. Our local newspaper ran an article late last year about the last of the independent pork producers in our county shipping out his last load of hogs. Between market prices, production costs and the contract grower system the independent producer has been virtually squeezed out. (Now to pile on top of it we’ve got animal/premises ID, DNR/EPA requirements, planning and zoning restrictions, high land prices and some time in the future heightened bio-security requirements. The small and beginning farmer is virtually unable to start in the business.)

    Sorry if I rambled on a bit. Hope everyone is doing well, and I understand about those early hours. (I get up at 1 AM to head back to work M-Sat, and get to “sleep in” until 4 AM every other Sun, and then get one Sunday off!) Well, just keep at it!
    Kevin

  22. Lella Says:

    Yes, I’m still reading. But you must be very very busy with your new birds and all. Hope the weather has been kinder lately and you are all OK, too.

    I heard from a friend who lives in Kentucky that they had rain just pouring a few days ago.

    Wishing you the best..

    L

  23. joelw Says:

    Colleen,
    Thanks for the comment. Doesn’t seem to be too many farmers left out there. Most all types of farming are tied to a corporation now. You either grow for somebody per contract or you’re out on your ear. I am okay with this more everyday. I just didn’t particularly like the way the chickens were handled during transport. They seem to be doing fine now though. Keep checking back. There is always something happpening here!

    Kevin,
    Yep, I’ve been busy. Hard to find much time to write anymore. Like I said in my recent post, hopefully things are settling down a bit. I miss this time of year and the new birds we always tried to get. Ducks, giuneas, chicks, and even pheasants and quail. I raised several hundred when I was in FFA.
    My grandparents built chickenhouses in the 60s and were out by the 70s. The big guy is squezing out the little guy everywhere you turn in this country. You just about have to be tied to a corporation to farm anymore. I wonder where it’s all heading?
    Thanks for the comment!

    Lella,
    Good to know you’re still reading. I’ve been so busy lately I havent had much time to post or respond to comments. Weather has been in the 70s a few days, but like your friend will tell you lots of rain. It’s pouring now. Thanks for the comment and check back soon!

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  25. Cherlyn Torrain Says:

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