SFJ

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

I have interspersed an Heirloom Poultry Breeds pictorial with today’s post. – EG

Raising Chickens on the Scheckel Farm

by Larry Scheckel of Tomah, WI

Matthew 23:37 “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”

Oh, did we raise chickens! It was a major source of income for the Scheckel family on the Oak Grove Ridge farm in the heart of Crawford County in southwestern Wisconsin in the 1940s and 1950s.

Mom and Dad bought chicks wherever the price was right, which means the lowest price. They would drive to Olewien or Cedar Rapids in Iowa or Prairie du Chien, in Wisconsin. The female laying White Leghorn chicks were received in April.

The Cornish Rock roosters were purchased in May. They were for slaughter and sold to stores in Prairie du Chien and Viroqua. Often, the baby chicks came by mail. Yes, the rural carrier mailman motored out of Lynxville and would have 4 or 5 boxes of the little peepers stacked up in the trunk of his car.

Dad and Mom received a postcard in the mail that gave the date the baby chicks were to arrive. There was always the worry over cold weather. Baby chickens need to be kept warm.

The big day arrived in late March or early April. The mailman pulled his Chevy Coupe into the driveway of the farmstead, instead of the usual mailbox stop. A rope from the trunk latch hung down over the boxes and was tied to the bumper.

All of us kids gathered around, getting as close as we dare. We could hear the chicks chirping and beeping away. We tried putting our finger into one of the air holes of a box. Mom scolds “back away kids”.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

One by one the boxes were lifted out of the trunk, kept very level by the handler. Three or four boxes were stacked on our toy wagon. We fought over who got to pull the wagon tongue. Phillip usually did, he is bigger, he is older, and he gets first dibs.

Bob and I held the boxes in place atop the kids wagon as we slowly made the journey to the chicken coop. We paused by the door. Mom opened the door, removed the top box, placed it inside the coop, and close to one of the brooder heat lamps.

The boxes were about 2 feet on a side, and 5 inches high. The side of the boxes had an ample number of half-inch round holes so that the little chicks could get fresh air. Each box was partitioned into 4 compartments using cardboard walls. About 15 White Leghorn chicks were in each little compartment. This arrangement of cubicles prevented the chicks from crowding together and smothering each other.

We reached in the box and cradled a baby chick in both hands. Then we would dip the chick’s beak into the drinking fountain water. Baby chicks had to be taught how to drink water. Then we would place them ever so gently under the heat lamp, amid admonitions to “be careful not to squeeze them.”

We found them so small and cuddly. We were curious about their tiny yellow feathers, small black eyes, and beaks that opened and closed.

Chickens were Mom’s job. That was her undertaking. Dad would tend to the cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, but Mom raised the chickens.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

The chicken coop or brooding house was prepared days in advance. Walls were cleaned, floor scraped clean, and disinfected with a smelly brown liquid applied with a wide paint brush and sprayer. That stuff was so bad it was later banned. But it did kill lice!

The brooder was installed. A contraption with a sheet metal hood, four sided, apron down to about 4 to 5 inches. A thermometer kept track of the temperature. Temp had to be about 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mom had to go out to check the temperature of the brooder almost every hour. Chicks soon develop their own heat, so the thermostat had to be turned down or backed off periodically.

We helped set up glass bubblers for water and small metal trays for chicken feed. Baby chicks needed warmth, water, food, and a quiet brooder house. Sudden, loud, sharp noises would frighten the wee fowl and they could bunch up in the corner and smother.

The Cornish Rock baby chicks arrived at the Scheckel farm in May. These roosters were raised for their meat in the local stores of Crawford County. Not all roosters are created equal. Once every few years there comes along a regal bird, so much bigger and haughtier than any other rooster on the farm. I was 12 years old, and one such specimen developed that year out of our 300 rooster flock.

This rooster strutted around the buildings, wearing a big bright red comb with a drooping wattle. The wattle is that fleshy piece of hanging down skin under the beak and combs. I later learned that the wattle helps cool the rooster by redirecting blood flow to the skin.

We kept our eye on this rooster. He was high entertainment for 3 boys and 3 younger sisters on that farm. We didn’t give him a name, just called him “Rooster,” and Rooster ruled. Other roosters moved out of his way. Hens cowered when Rooster appeared. My dog Browser wouldn’t go near Rooster. Rooster was invincible. Or so he thought.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

It was a Saturday in August and the whole family was gathered around the morning breakfast table. The usual routine was get out of bed, do chores, milk cows, and come in for breakfast, and subsequently, the farm day work began. Mom announced that we needed a hen or rooster for Sunday dinner.

I don’t recall who said it first. But Rooster’s name came up. Yes, we all agreed. It was time for Rooster to become a meal. Rooster was big enough to feed 6 kids and 2 parents. Imagine the size of his wishbone. That would be a real prize! We gulped down our last bit of Oat Meal, bacon, and bread.

There was a problem. Before Rooster became a meal, he had to be caught. That would not be easy. Rooster was fast. Rooster was cunning. We had our work cut out for us. Bob went to the garage to fetch the chicken catcher – tool with a wooden handle and hook on the opposite end.

We spread out and walked around the barnyard, chicken coop, hog house, and corn crib. We were quiet and stealthy. Bob hid the chicken-catching-tool behind his back, lest Rooster was smart enough to figure out what was going on.

Phillip spotted Rooster between the chicken coop and the corn crib. He was majestically scratching the ground. Phillip put out the call, “I’ve found him.” There was a space about 10 feet wide between the corn crib and hog house with a fence on one side and chicken coop on the opposite side.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

We talked strategy. Bob said, “Phillip, you stay here on this side, and Lawrence and I will go around the chicken house and come in on the other side, and then we’ve got Rooster trapped between us.”

That sounded like a good plan. Phillip was bigger than Bob and I, much more agile, faster, and athletic than both of us put together. Surely this plan was foolproof. Our two teams closed in. Rooster stopped scratching and raised his head. He sensed danger. The two teams approached slowly, quietly, and keeping Rooster between us.

Each team was about 5 feet from its quarry. But wily Rooster would have none of this. He jumps up, squawking loudly, wings flapping, and goes right between Bob and me.

Phillip yelled, “you let him get away.” Of course, we knew that. Oh, the shame of it all! We had a plan, a good plan, but Rooster overwhelmed Bob and I and made an escape. Now the chase was on. All three of us boys, Phillip, Bob, and Lawrence, now joined by our sisters, Catherine, Rita, and Diane.

Diane, we figured, was of no help at all. She was only 3 years old. She would only be in the way. But that did leave a posse of 5. Certainly 5 Scheckels could outthink, outsmart, outrun, and capture Rooster. All we wanted is for Rooster and be the centerpiece for our Sunday dinner!

We thought we had Rooster cornered several times. Each time Rooster rose up, flapped his wings wildly, and escaped. We lost sight of Rooster several times. But with 5 pairs of eyes he was quickly spotted.

Plan two or perhaps three or four. Phillip and Catherine will chase Rooster around the chicken coop. Bob, Rita, and I will stay put, hidden around the corner. When we hear Rooster approaching, we’ll jump out in Rooster’s path, and one of us will grab him.

Aw, it worked to perfection. Bob caught the wing of Rooster who put up a desperate struggle. But the rest of us closed in and finally got hold of his two feet, at which time the bird was doomed. Even on death’s doorstep Rooster put up a fight. Bending his head around and up so as to bite his captor. It was to no avail, Rooster met his end. I do believe he raised his head just in time to see the axe blade coming down. That Sunday meal was one of the best ever for the Scheckel family.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Jimmy Red Corn

Jimmy Red Corn

by:
from issue:

Chewning loves to save seeds — he has revived nearly extinct corns, beans, heirloom radishes, watermelons and field peas. He rescued Jimmy Red as well, growing it and saving kernels each year, increasing the seed stock. Little did he know that soon it would burst on the restaurant scene as a prized heirloom cultivar that makes unforgettable red-flecked grits and a rich, smooth whiskey with honey-nut undertones.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

by:
from issue:

After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

by:
from issue:

The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

by:
from issue:

The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

by:
from issue:

Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

by:
from issue:

Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

by:
from issue:

Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

Cabbage

Cabbage

by:
from issue:

Cabbage is the most important vegetable commercially of the cole crops, which include cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collard, broccoli, and many others. It also ranks as one of the most important of all vegetable crops and is universally cultivated as a garden, truck and general farm crop. The market for cabbage, like that for potatoes, is continuous throughout the year, and this tends to make it one of the staple vegetables.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting Part 2

by:
from issue:

Budding is the operation of applying a single bud, bearing little or no wood, to the surface of the living wood of the stock. The bud is applied directly to the cambium layer of the stock. It is commonly inserted under the bark of the stock, but in flute-budding a piece of bark is entirely removed, and the bud is used to cover the wound. There is every gradation between budding and grafting proper.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT