As the days get shorter and the weather colder, things are slowing down here on the farm. While there are still daily chores to be done, such as providing hay for the cows and feeding the pigs and chickens, most of the “projects” are on hold. It’s just hard to get motivated when it’s cold and dark. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of projects that need attention (like fixing broken pipes from the freeze), but the pace of things has slowed way down.
We typically move into hibernation mode just after Thanksgiving, but this year we had to run a late batch of broilers due to the closure of our local chicken processing facility. The closing of Dewberry Hills Farms left many Central Texas chicken farmers searching for processing dates, we had to take what we could get with Burgundy Pastured Poultry, even though it meant running the chickens into December. This was a risky move because of the unpredictable weather, but we were fortunate to have a warm month until last week's colder temperatures arrived.
We were scheduled to take the broilers in on December 23, but the weather forecast was predicting an arctic blast moving through on the 22nd. Not only was I concerned about the birds surviving the trip, I was also concerned that Burgundy Pastured Poultry (BPP) would have trouble with frozen pipes and employees taking off (both due to the weather and Christmas). I was relieved when BPP agreed to move the processing date up to the 22nd, which enabled us to bring the birds in before the extreme cold arrived and potentially disrupted operations.
When we learned that DHF was closing, and that we’d have to drive 2 hours and spend the entire day in Hillsboro at BPP, we decided to increase our batch size from 200 broilers to 300 broilers to maximize the trip. This of course meant building more chicken tractors and equipping another brooder. It also meant we’d have to load and transport another 100 birds. When DHF closed, I took the liberty of buying 10 more transport crates, among other things, so that we could manage the increased batch size. Of course, having the extra crates is essential, but the birds don’t just jump in there, so Molly and I spent Wednesday evening loading the 300 broilers into the crates and loading them onto the trailer, along with 12 igloo coolers (4 of which were new to handle the increase).
Early Thursday I set off for the two-hour drive to Hillsboro with a 28 ft. trailer in tow. I arrived at the crack of dawn without incident and unloaded the trailer. Once the birds were situated, I headed into town to the local car wash to clean out the trailer. It was about then that I noticed the winds picking up and the temperature dropping. By the time the birds were processed, the winds were clocking in at 25 miles per hour and the temperatures were in the low 20s. Fortunately, the winds were coming out of the North and I was headed South. It’s not much fun fighting crosswinds while pulling a 28-foot trailer down I-35 through Waco. I was unable to beat the front home; when I arrived back at the ranch it was below freezing already and starting to get dark. I had just enough time to get some hay out to the cows, feed the pigs, and pickup eggs before it got too dark. I wasn’t worried about the meat in the coolers since it was below freezing – so I left that till Friday morning.
All-in-all, it was a very successful chicken run, despite the larger batch and the weather. We’ll get our next batch of broiler chicks in February where we’ll do it all over again, but until then we’ll be enjoying the reprieve of not having to move the chickens daily and worrying about the weather. With all the extra time on my hands, I really have no excuse for not getting some projects done this winter. I need to put some walls up on one of our shelters so we can move the brooders out of the garage. This will free up my workshop for some of my backlogged projects and cut back on the flies around the house. Keep following our newsletter to see if I come out of hibernation and get anything done this winter.
The Pflugerville Pfarmers Market is closed until spring 2023. We will continue to bring pre-orders to the market location each week and we encourage you to visit our other market locations until the Pflugerville Pfarmers Market reopens.
Heritage Square Farmers Market will be closed Dec. 24th, Dec. 31st. The market will reopen for the 2021 season on Jan. 7th.
The Hutto Silos Farmers Market will be closed Dec. 25th and Jan.1st. The market will reopen for the 2021 season on Jan. 8th.