Side-by-Side Testing: This is the Age of Science!

You have to make a choice: Do you want the truth or your comfortable illusions?

Frankly, I think most people prefer illusions, because of their comfort value, but there’s a lot to be said for truth, especially when the future is riding on it! One of the most useful ways of getting at the truth is the side-by-side test, which has lots of applications in everyday life. I’ll talk about farm-related ones here.

I frequently tell people that I have “the best eggs ever.” Is this true? Well, so far it is! But I don’t just rest on my laurels. Once in a while, I go out and buy other people’s eggs, then cook them up in exactly the same way and do a taste test. Ideally, this would be literally a blind taste test, since my eggs tend to have very dark yolks compared to other people’s. In a blind test, you don’t know whose eggs you’re tasting, so your preconceptions and wishful thinking are kept in check.


Off to the Big City I go

I’m spending about a week in California, on a visit to my day job, Citrix Systems. At one point I was flying to California every week (which was exhausting!) but tight budgets have kept me at home for nearly two years!

That’s left me more disconnected than is good for my work — I write the user documentation and kibitz on improvements in our super-spiffy network accelerator, Branch Repeater (and if you were wondering, no, I didn’t write the product description the link points to).


Raccoons Cause Trouble, For a While

If you’ve had chickens for a while, you loathe raccoons. If not, you will. Here’s why:

A while ago we started losing 1-3 chickens a night. Some were completely eaten, others barely touched. This is one of the more infuriating aspects of predators: they don’t have an “off” switch. Instead, they keep killing until they run out of targets.

In the wild, their prey scatters and the predators only get one or two victims. But a fox or a raccoon that squeezes into a closed henhouse will kill your entire flock.


Rats on the Pasture!

Karen and Dan were moving a batch of pullets from the brooder house onto the pasture one evening, and saw three rats scurrying around. You know what that means: if you see three in the open, there must be thirty in hiding somewhere!

We usually don’t have much trouble with rats on the pasture. Our chicken feed is in big galvanized range feeders outdoors, and we move the feeders each time we refill them. Any rats who take up residence in tunnels under the feeders have their tunnels exposed when the feeders are moved. Something — probably owls — takes care of the rest.


What Kind of Grass is Best for Chickens?

If you’re wondering what kind of grass is best for grass-fed chickens, the answer is, “green grass.”

What I mean is, lush green grass is loaded with vitamins and is has lots of available nutrients, but as it fades to brown, it becomes more and more useless to chickens. Chickens aren’t ruminants and can’t digest cellulose, so it’s the soft, green, palatable grasses that count.

Lush spring pasture is the best, of course, and that’s easy enough. The trick is providing green grass year-round, or close to it. Cool-season grasses will stay green all winter in mild climates, and warm-season grasses will stay green all summer when the cool-season grasses have all browned off.