September 22, 2013 – Fillin’ the Freezer

Emma played the good daughter when she said she’d come home from school Sunday afternoon to help us move 40-some chickens from outside to the freezer.  It certainly kept the line moving much faster than it otherwise would have.  Linda and Emma cut up all but about 10 of them for parts for quicker meals than a whole roasting chicken, but we left a few to roast or BBQ whole.

The plucker does an amazing job of taking the feathers off.  A just-plucked chicken must be the model for a rubber chicken!

It’s nice to know where the chicken we eat comes from and have a year’s worth of chicken in the freezer.  Especially now that the U.S. made it ok to sell chicken processed in China in the U.S. without having to reveal county-of-origin labeling laws.

July 27, 2013 – They Grow up so Fast!

Fifty-two little yellow fuzzballs arrived this week.  It doesn’t matter what time of year we order chicks, we can always be sure it will bring a cold snap.

Although I must admit that July cold snaps are much more enjoyable than March.  It has been close to or in the 40s, flirting with record lows since they arrived.  But all are doing well so far. In less than 8 weeks they will be all grown up and in the freezer!

October 7th, 2012 – Chickens to the Freezer

Today we were grateful most of our chickens made it safely to maturity (unlike the 10 turkeys this year who all perished by deformed leg problems, storm, or dog).

Martin hauls the chickens to the killing cones, where I deftly make a cut on the side of the neck where they bleed out.

Next, it’s a few dips in about 150 degree water. The chickens are ready to scald when wing feathers pull out easily.

The chickens before the plucker spins.

About 30 seconds later, most of the feathers are gone.

Then the chickens go to a different pair of hands for cleaning and later cutting up into meal-sized portions.  I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly fun day, but it is rewarding have control of the chickens from chick to freezer  - knowing how they’ve lived and been processed.

August 31, 2012 – Trying out “Ranger” Chickens

We’re trying out a new (for us) breed of broiler chickens. Called “red rangers” or “freedom rangers” they grow a bit slower than the super hybrid chickens used in confinement (8 weeks to a 4 lb chicken) and faster than the standard breeds (14 weeks for white rocks or barred rocks).

These guys looks good so far and are supposed to be good foragers as well, wo they maybe a better match for the chicken tractors if they do a great job of foraging.

October 3, 2011 – Chicken Butchering Commences

Yesterday was the day to put the chickens in the freezer.  We skipped the first step in the photo sequence of butchering.

Here a nice bird is ready for the scalder.

A few dips and twists in the hot water and as soon as a wing feather can be plucked off easily by hand, it’s done.

Into the plucker.

about 15 seconds later, they look a lot like rubber chickens.

Emma and Linda cutting them up.

When we went to the chicken tractor, we found one critter had eaten part of a chicken through the wires.  It’s always disheartening to feed an animal to its last day and lose it, but it was only one, and it could have been, and has been worse.

one year ago…”Marching Band Contest”

October 2, 2011 – Getting Ready to Fill the Freezer with Chicken

Here’s the scene the before the chicken butchering commenced.  We’ve now done it enough times that we’ve got it down pretty well.

The line starts in the distance where the chickens are first hung upside down and bled out, then brought to the scalder, then the plucker, then the eviserating, and finally a couple of cold rinses before they are later either washed and bagged whole or cut up.

one year ago…”Chicken Butchering”

March 19, 2011 – New Fence

One thing that is under-appreciated by most urban dwellers is the work and importance of fences.  They’re more work than they seem with branches falling on them in storms and mulberries growing up in them. Lately, we’ve been having too many chicken escapes – they are scratching up the garlic beds and going where they are not supposed to go.  We don’t allow them in the gardens during the growing season.

We put up 150 feet of woven wire around part of the chicken yard.  It used to be cattle panels, with old bits of lath jimmied between the wider squares near the ground the chickens could sneak through.  Now any chickens that get over are flying and get a “wing haircut” to keep them in their place!

We dragged the panels to the back pasture where we could extend our back pasture a bit more as well.  It pretty much shot the afternoon.

one year ago…”Last Lambs Hit the Ground”

January 29, 2011 – Smallest Chicken Egg Ever!

There was a bit of a surprise in the chicken coop this evening – a mini-egg!  This egg was so small it would fall right through the egg basket!

smallest chicken egg

We’ve had some weird eggs before, but never one this small.  I guess if you were on a low cholesterol diet, you couldn’t get into much trouble eating this one.  I was hoping it would have a perfect little yolk, but it was all egg white inside.  Wouldn’t that have been cute in the frying pan?

one year ago…”How Much Noise Does a Skystream Make”

November 17, 2010 – Winter Layer Ration Delivery

Today we got one ton of layer mix – which should hold us until spring.  I make a supplemental cocktail with ingredients from Des Moines Feed mill on Hubbell Ave.  There’s a guy there named Stan who thinks a lot about feed mixes.  Interestingly, there is not any GMO corn in the facility.

For the chickens, I have a mix of probiotics, kelp and many other goodies.  I bring that to the local mill to mix in with the usual feed.  Most of a ton fits in the corn caddy and the rest go in an old stock tank.

one year ago…”Corn Caddy”

October 11, 2010 – Lovin’ the Garden Chickens!

In addition to the mechanically-managed garden spaces, an even better method is the chickens! These chickens are in the garden that contained early season crops and was planted to buckwheat that was allowed to go to seed. Now, the chickens forage over the buckwheat and leave their trail of fertilization.

The left side of the photo shows ground the chickens have already passed over and the chicken tractor will now be moved downhill towards the camera.  I like this because it cleans up the buckwheat and some other seeds but yet leaves some plant material that decomposes easily on the gardens over winter to protect the soil.

“one year ago…”Front Page News: Part 2″

July 28, 2010 – New Layers

New laying chicks came today. These ladies will be in full production next spring.

We’ve got some hens three years old and a handful have learned bad habits, so this fall, we’ll get out supply of stewing hens for winter-time chicken soup.

The turkeys this year turned out badly. The message is that we can’t leave the farm this month. Of course, we lost Tank on the vacation to Minnesota, and a one-night getaway last weekend, the farm watcher dis chores in the evening, and in the morning 17 of the turkeys were dead. It was a hot day. They were not smothered in a pile, nor were they at the extremities of the brooder, nor did they have visible marks or bites. The only thing out of the ordinary (but not this year) was a big lighting storm. At any rate it is a bit disheartening to lose them – both for the price at $5 per poult and the lack of turkey at Thanksgiving.

one year ago…”Sunflowers”

May 5, 2010 – New Chicks Arrive on the Farm

Yesterday 103 broiler chicks arrived at the farm.  They are safely tucked in the brooding area.

chicks under brooding light

I’m sure there will be more photos as these guys grow up.  The weather, of course, is supposed to turn colder this weekend – into the 30′s (no matter when the chicks are ordered, you can always count on cold weather very soon after their arrival.

one year ago…”Feeding the World”