Farm Animals

15.Jun.2013 by Alex Howe

This year the Farm Animals team has started raising animals for the center.  The team decided to start with laying hens, pigs, and turkeys for this summer.  Our mission as a team is to provide the center with quality eggs, pork, and turkey grown on center land.  All of the animals are pastured and rotated every couple days to provide them with a fresh grazing area while keeping them healthy at the same time.

Having never raised animals at the center before, we planned to have between 50 and 70 layers, but due to small local flocks we were only able to get 37.  We picked up our laying hens on May 7th from a local farm in Hardwick, Vermont.

creatingeggmobile

Emily and Alex framing in a front wall on the egg-mobile!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

We wanted to build an “egg-mobile” that could be moved easily while being large enough to have an option of expanding the flock in future years.  We found an old silage wagon that was for sale in the area and determined that it would be fairly easy to turn it into a predator-proof coop!

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Mike painting the egg-mobile white to keep the chickens cool inside!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

Once we had the chickens happily in the field our attention turned to the pigs who were due to arrive shortly.

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The egg-mobile can be seen at “Gerry’s” in the fields above the house!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

We picked up our pigs from LeBlanc Family Farm in East Hardwick, Vermont on May 17th.  We got 10 pigs; 5 from an 11 week old litter, and 5 from an 8 week litter.  We built two shelter that are 8′ by 8′ to keep the pigs out of the weather.  They will be moved around from pasture to pasture with the pigs.

pighouse

The frames of the two shelters. The finished shelters will have 3 walls and metal roofing!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

When the pigs first arrived they were not electric fence trained.  We put them into a small pen that was between the house and a stone wall.  On the inside of the house and wall we put strands of electric fence.  This way when the pigs touched the fence they would back up instead of going forward, which taught them to always stay inside the electric fencing.  They stayed in this pen for about a week, just to make sure they knew the rules before being let out into the pasture.

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The pigs getting electric fence trained in their small pen!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

Pig troughs cost quite a bit of money, so we built some using 2″x 12″ boards.  The end walls are 6′ long to make sure the pigs can’t flip the trough over.  Once the trough was built we soaked them with water so the wood had a chance to swell and then be able to hold water without leaking.

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The pigs getting used to the electric fencing and new troughs!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

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The pigs sleeping inside of one of their new houses!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

After successfully learning to obey they electric fence, the pigs were let out into their new pasture.  They are moved onto a new piece of ground every week.  Both the chicken fencing and pig fencing run off solar electric fencing systems.

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Emily leading the pigs around their torn up pasture. 10 pigs can act as a great cultivator!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

Once the pigs have completely turned up their pasture we move them onto a new area. This keeps them happy, healthy, and helps us increase soil fertility in the center’s fields!

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The pigs are growing very quickly. This is their first day on this piece of ground, soon it will be all torn up!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)

Several days ago our turkeys arrived at the center.  Until they feather out and can produce their own heat, they will be living the back of the shop!  Once they have feathers, they will join the rest of the animals in the fields!

Turkeys

Turkeys are very vulnerable in their first weeks, so we kept a warm light on them! Now they are growing fast and will be outside in a couple weeks time!
(Photo courtesy of Judy Geer)