We’ve been wanting to do this for years. Really since we moved to the farm. Finally this spring we took the plunge. As this is our first time at this particular rodeo, we offered a limited number of meat birds to a very short (and we know forgiving) group of people. Buy in, we raise, butcher and track costs like some one way thriftier than we are normally. So far so good. The kids refer to the birds in the singular “meat”, and although a bit cold, they aren’t trying to name each different one. We have some egg chickens for that. And they are learning what it means to respect your food (although in some sick ways, they do get to play with their food…. I’m cringing inside. Really.)
Out to pasture, and moved to fresh grass every day. It’s funny that it bothers me that I still have a hard time leaving a ‘Mohawk’ of untouched grass between the path of the two pens. I used to catch it when I did that back home mowing the lawn. It took them about three days to realize the place to be was at the leading edge, that’s where all the bugs were. It’s cool to see them really forage for a portion of their feed.
And they are eaters, although now that they are on grass, they aren’t as voracious. Feeding time was getting to be a bit like feeding a shark tank.
Here’s what they were like a few days before they went out on pasture.
For these girls it is anyhow. They have spent several weeks in the stock tank in the house, then the big brooder in the deck, and now finally, out to one of the chicken tractors. Mostly green egg layers, and true to form, we will be selling some of these, as well as some one and two year olds. So if you are dreaming of having a hen, scratching away in your back yard, but don’t know if you want to deal with the ‘chick raising thing’ (possible mortality, the rooster question, and the smell/mess) we might just have your solution…. Just keep an eye on this space, for more details.
For now, let me introduce you to the girls, all wide eyed and full of wonder (and good forage).
It’s that time again. School starting, cool nights, and a last glimpse of what summer should have been like (for us in the PNW anyhow). I’ll not repeat what Lara had to say about her summer vacation here, but rather send you over to her blog to see what she has to say about helping us process a few old laying hens…
Thanks for the kind words Lara! Oh and seriously, check out the recipe at the bottom of her post, and leave her a comment while your at it!
What a trip it has been! From re-learning all the baby routines to helping a big sister learn that it’s not all about getting to be a ‘little mommy’. Now that she’s 2 her independent little personality is coming out. As if you could have guessed it would go any other way. She is learning to hold her own in conversations as well. Her vocabulary went past 300 some time ago and we have focused on more important things… Like trying to reason with her about her diaper. I don’t think Joscelyn thought she would be trying to reason with a two year old who takes her own diaper off during nap if it gets wet. Joscelyn walked into her room the other afternoon to find her standing in her crib, holding a wet diaper and saying “doaking wet Mommy. It doaking wet, I know.” Hard not to at least smile. She is still talking about her finger the chicken pecked to get the bread..
Yes Technically this should have gone up ‘yesterday’ but, with Easter, three birthdays, and my wife’s pending abdominal surgery, the week has just ran right away from us…
Well not exactly. But close. Sometimes really close.
We processed the roosters from this years replacement flock over the weekend. Only four. We intentionally did not want to deal with chicks this last spring, and with the hens in a smaller coop, we didn’t want to end up with loads of layers again either. As is the case there were a few that we had a green light to process. Some of the “surplus” birds this year were from family in the area, and some were from the “pre-school chicks”. The Pre-School hens are happily egging it out in the coop. And the Pre-school roosters went to good homes. After all, we had promised a bunch of cute kids that the little fluffy chicks would not end up in the freezer. And we did keep a couple of the new boys. It’s funny to watch the two of them try to integrate into the flock. Like two high school freshmen at the Jr. prom. Nervously edging up to the group, only to run screaming away if one of the hens looks at them…
But back to the time thing. So as usuial it took about 8 min to pluck each bird…. I had seen some videos on YouTube of a “WhizBang” chicken plucker, 30 seconds? I like that idea! Even if it did cost $100 or so in parts and an old free craigslist washer. What got me thinking was that some of the folks said they spent 12 to 25 hours building it… I could hand pluck a chicken in 8 min, in 25 hours that’s ~180 chickens… I don’t know that we will ever grow birds for anyone but us. Even if we did use 25 to 35 birds a year, that’s 5 years worth of birds. Kind of a “pay now or pay later” idea with the time. Plus I would have to find a place to store the thing….
And it’s not like a honey extractor… Nothing can do what a honey extractor can do. You can’t “hand extract” the honey. You can hand pluck a chicken. Now if I think I could DIY together in 3-5 hours? Then we would be in business….
One of the names we considered for our farm when we moved in was “iron wheel farm”. There were four or five of these old steel wagon wheels. They are about 3′ tall and weigh a ton.
One of the challenges I have had is trying to figure out how to move animal shelters around the property. Without a proper tractor, ti’s a bit of a no-go, but I think with a bit of re-design work, I might be able to incorporate two or four of these wheels in a coop or loafing shed design and make it something I can drag behind our riding mower.
To say the solution has been kind of staring me in the face is a bit of an understatement. If I can work out the details this could be a real boon. I am part of the way complete on a new coop and would be able to move it around the pasture. With a little bit of electroplastic netting from Premier 1 Supply I cold put the chickens out to pasture in the orchard or garden (to scratch up bugs and spread fertilizer. If this all works out you can be sure there will be photos following!
Here are a few of our farm fresh eggs. I will say it’s nice to only have 5 to 8 a day. Not the 18 to 24 a day of last year. Again there I go with the film… Shot with my (snif) Mamiya 645. Sometime last year… I have a few more film shots to put up, and then I will be done for a while. Really. I mean it.
That’s right. Shot and scanned and that’s it. No post (well except for the watermark).
Oh and while you are at it, take a look at the Seed Savers Exchange (we get some of our seeds from them). They have a really informational post about raising chickens in the city, with two really good links at the bottom to other resources for “urban poultry”.
Raise your own poultry