Stone Ridge Orchard
In the summer of 2017, we started to pasture our adult birds at Stone Ridge Orchard in Stone Ridge NY. The orchard is owned by Elizabeth Ryan, who also owns Breezy Hill Orchard and Knoll Krest Farms in Staatsburg, NY. We are delighted with this arrangement, and we are very grateful to Elizabeth for providing this opportunity.
During the fall of 2017 we maintained 3 flocks of geese and one mixed flock of ducks and geese in the orchard. The orchard provides a wonderful environment for our birds, apple trees give essential shade, grass and windfall apples supply healthy sustenance. Birds are also given a balanced game bird poultry feed. Water is kept in large reservoirs near the birds and dispensed into automatic watering systems.
In 2018, we added chickens and Guinea Hens to our flocks at Stone Ridge orchard, where they live in integrated flocks with geese or ducks. The chickens have access to mobile coops, but many prefer to roost in apple trees at night. In the fall of 2018, we opened up an older area of the orchard primarily for our waterfowl, and plan to use some open fields in 2019 to pasture chickens.
Our flocks are protected from predators by electrified poultry netting energized with solar power. During 2017, each flock of approximately 20 geese was allowed to establish its own hierarchy, and at he end of the season, the dominant gander and four geese were selected as breeding stock, and the remaining geese were harvested for Christmas goose. Over the 2017/2018 winter, we pastured one breeding flock at our home and one at the orchard. In early spring, birds were separated into three breeding pens, one German Embden, one of French Toulouse, and one with an Embden gander and both Embden and Toulouse geese.
During the 2018 season, eggs were collected from our flocks daily, and eggs were set weekly in our 3 cabinet incubators. Goslings hatched out from incubators were brooded for approximately 2 weeks indoors and then raised in pasture, either by their parents or with other waterfowl. All geese were moved to a large pen in Stone Ridge Orchard by late summer.
As apple pickers enjoy the orchard, our geese call out to them. They are very social birds, and they naturally assume the pickers have come to play with them, to care for them. They also talk to the geese in nearby flocks.
From October through December 2017 we raised heritage chickens in a different part of the orchard. The chickens lived in a large mobile chicken coop built on a hay wagon. This three season coop has a tin roof, plenty of roosting bars and open flooring to allow chicken poo to fall away from the birds, keeping their living quarters clean and dry. Moving the coop every 4-7 days keeps the chickens clean, and allows for natural decomposition of the manure. The chickens live in a large field of tall grass near rows of apple trees. This provides an ample supply of bugs, worms and apples, as well as some protection from hawks. The coop also carries its own food and water supply. In the 2018 season, we introduced an second mobile coop, repurposed from a John Deere Chuck Wagon by adding roosts and a hoop house top. Chickens, like all our birds, are protected from predators by solar powered electrified poultry netting at night, during the day they are free to roam the orchard.
We hatch and raise our young birds at our home in High Falls. There, we have a room set aside for our cabinet incubators and hatchers, a second location for stacking poultry brooders, and several sheds in which we raise all our baby birds from the time they leave their brooder until they are ready for life in large mobile coops or pastured pens. Our breeding stock also live at our home in wood coops with access to grassy areas and tree cover adjacent to the large coop where they sleep. Pasture is rotated to allow time for grass to regrow, and manure to compost naturally into the ground. As with all our birds, chicks are protected from predators with electrified poultry netting. Aviary netting covers the youngest chicks to protect from raptors.