In 2016, our first year on the farm, we raised 25 meat chickens. In 2017, we meant to raise more but ended up taking the year off. Last year, we raised 4 turkeys and 27 meat chickens late in the season. We found a wonderful local Amish family to process them for us, and a friend of ours helped us break down the birds and vacuum seal them into packs of breasts, thighs/legs, and wings.
Now that we have our systems pretty well figured out, I’m hoping to kick things into higher gear in 2019. I’d like to raise 75 to 100 total birds for our family (3 or 4 batches of 25 birds at a time). I’m planning to order chicks starting at the beginning of April. They’ll be in the brooder for about two weeks, then go out into a mobile chicken coop in our pasture. I plan to order the next batch of chicks to arrive about a week before the previous batch goes to the butcher, so there’s an overlap of about a week. We can easily get in 3 or even 4 batches of chickens this way.
Reconfigure the barn and work room.
Our barn setup is less than optimal with three box stalls and a lot of wasted space. We NEED more individual kidding pens and places to pen baby goats this spring, so we’ll be needing to deep-clean them barn and reconfigure pens sooner than later. (We have our first round of baby goats due to arrive at the end of March!)
Our work room (attached to the barn) has become a catch-all mess. It has leftover lumber, tools, stacked hay bales, feed storage, chicken brooding supplies, two freezers, old furniture, my milk stand, and my milking machine. This clean-up is going to have to happen in a couple stages: In the short-term, I need to clean up the hay and dust and get things ready for when we start milking (April). Longer-term, in my opinion, I want to move all the tools and wood shop type equipment into our garage (which needs cleaned out and organized). There’s a nice area at the back of the garage where we could set up a work bench and shelving. I want the work room to be used for feed storage, milking, and chicken-brooding. I just have to get the family on board with this because Mike would prefer to use the work room for a wood shop, but I don’t want sawdust in my milk machine. (Stay tuned to see how all this unfolds in the coming months… ha!)
Fence more area for the goats.
This has been on my list the last two years. Each year we add a few more cattle panels, but what I desperately want (and need) to do is put up a perimeter fence around the entire pasture (no-climb horse fence with a few strands of hot wire to keep the goats off the fencing). It’s a big expenditure and I’m not sure if this will be the year it happens (especially given the next goal below). So this year we’ll be adding a few more panels (some I’ve already purchased) as we are able to do so financially.
I’m also going to get together a true estimate for what it will take to do the full perimeter fence. I have some fund-raising planned for the end of the year to hopefully pay for the perimeter fence in spring 2020. (More on that later!)
Reduce our debt.
Without going into detail, 2018 was a rough year financially. We racked up some debt I’m not proud of, in addition to debts I have carried from the past instead of dealing with them and paying them off sooner. (All regrets on my part, but here we are and I have to make do and move forward!) I’m planning to do more strict budgeting and use the “snowball method” to hopefully get caught up on bills. I’m also planning to do more freelance work as well as some other projects to generate additional income streams to put toward our debt. (Wish me luck that my health and sanity can juggle all these plans!)