Archive for the ‘Animals – Chickens’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s some of the chickens out on pasture in their fancy red roof inn.
They are about 3-4 weeks old now.
Three of the bonfire piles await the burning tile in the background.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
Today, we helped some neighbors butcher their chickens. It was great to see all the kids help with most aspects of the process. I was particularly enamored with a five year old girl in pink pants and chore boots who carried chickens from the killing cones over to me at the plucker.
These kids have skills!
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.
Yesterday 103 broiler chicks arrived at the farm. They are safely tucked in the brooding area.
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.
This year, I thought I’d try to occasionally post some everyday farm scenes that have become routine to us, but probably not for everyone. Today it is to the chicken coop.
Here’s a laying hen (as opposed to a broiler, which is raised for meat). Generally in the first few hours of the morning, the hens will hop into a nest box where they feel a bit protected, and lay an egg. They prefer to lay an egg in a nest box where there is already an egg. They are trying to make a clutch of 10 or so eggs to sit on and raise into more chickens. Unfortunately for the chickens, we come each day and take the beginnings of the clutch and they have to start all over the next day.
This is what might have been under the hen had I disturbed her – this is from a different box. We often get asked how you can get eggs without a rooster – hens will lay eggs whether or not there is a rooster around – only difference being if there is not a rooster, all the eggs will be infertile and will never hatch.
The last few mornings have been foggy. Haven’t had many days when we’ve had to chop ice off the turkey water yet and Thanksgiving is almost here! The weather chat on the Weather Underground is that following the coldest October on record, November has been warmer than October – and that has never happened. It might not keep up the last week of the month, but so far it’s been nice – pasture still green, lettuce still in the garden.
One of the rooster announces the start of the day.