Tag Archive | meat birds

Spring goings ons

I finally think that Spring might be coming to Baltimore.  We are going to have a night this week close to freezing, but Spring is really trying to push through.  We have been busy!  Unfortunately busy means that I do not have as much time to write, so I am going to try and bring everyone up to date on the farm. We have many new inhabitants of the farm, 60 some I think.  I hate to say that I have lost count!  We have our “meat birds”, that we raise out for our family’s year supply of chicken.  This year we are raising Rainbow Reds.  These are a pasture chicken that does not have as much breast meat as the Cornish Crosses but still produces a 5 pound roasting bird.  We also have a couple Cornish Crosses, because they were on sale at Tractor Supply.  That store is dangerous in the Spring!  Total we have 30 meat birds. They are scheduled to go to butcher the middle of May.

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Laying hens:  Our current laying flock is getting to be of the age that it is time for them to be soup.  We have 14 birds and we are lucky if we get 7 eggs.  We have had 3 become egg bound in the last month and a half.  I hate to see them suffer and I really hate to waste the meat.  So we prefer to butcher them before they start to have problems, this way nothing goes to waste.  We keep debating whether all 14 are headed to the soup pot, or if we are going to try and wean out the ones that are still laying.  That decision is still up in the air, I hate to go a couple months with no eggs.   We are raising out new laying hens.  They are 8 weeks old right now.  We chose to raise 15 Ameraucana Chickens this year.  These birds will lay blue or green colored eggs.  I am excited to get the colored eggs, but I have to say I am not impressed with the breed so far.  These birds are very skidish.  We have never had birds that we could not easily pick up. We handle these birds twice a day and they are still very skidish.  When you stick your hand in to change the water or to feed them they freak out, flying against the walls and screaming.  The meat birds that we are raising are so much calmer than these birds and those we don’t pick up often.  Hopefully they will calm down soon.  We also have 6 random laying chickens from Tractor Supply that we used for a Urban Farming presentation. I told you that store was dangerous. They are incredibly friendly and do not see why chickens need to be kept outside, when the living room is so warm and full of kids that feed them leftovers from lunch and dinner.  They were moved out to the brooding barn this week, much to their dismay. wpid-ncm_0033.jpg Ducks:  Yes I said ducks.  These were purchased just for my Urban Farming presentation, for the 100% cute factor. One is a yellow Pekin Duckling and the other is a Black Runner Duckling.  I had already found a farm that would take them after the presentation.  This farm even had a pond for them to go live in.  Well, I am a complete softly and have fallen head over heals in love with this crazy ducks.  They still live in the living room, because the kids can not bear the idea of them being outside.   They eat their breakfast of greens while taking their morning swim in the bathtub.  They are then dried off with towels by the kids while watching morning cartoons.  The ducks have imprinted on my 6-year-old daughter and it is cute beyond words.  They follow her everywhere.  She is diligently working on teaching them their ABC’s and 123’s.  She feels all ducks should be properly educated.  Needless to say, the ducks that were never meant to live at my farm, now have names and are not going anywhere, anytime soon, except to play house in the backyard with my daughter. wpid-ncm_0001.jpg wpid-ncm_0122.jpg That is all for new animals.  We still have the rabbits.  We have 3 does still available for sale, after we sell those does we will not breed again still August.  We will maintain our breeding stock of 3 bucks and 3 does.  These rabbits are absolutely amazing.  We took one of our youngest does out to the Urban Farming presentation.  There was 50 plus people that wanted to love on her and touch her.  She loved every minute of it.  She was passed around, flipped upside down and petted for two hours.  She never ran from the kids, she let everyone one of them love her.  The only rabbits I have ever owned is American Chinchilla Rabbits, so I just assumed that this is how ever rabbit acts.  I was amazed at how many people came up to me and told me stories about how grumpy their rabbits were.  If you are looking for a rabbit, American Chinchillas are the best way to go, they are fabulous rabbits. wpid-ncm_0014.jpg Fish:  Our tilapia are finally outside!   The weather has finally become warm enough for them.  Right now we have put them in the sump tank.  I have kept the smallest of the fish in the house, so that they can get the food they need to grow. Veggies:  We have started our seeds and we have some of our over winter veggies that are growing well.  I will do another post about veggies so that I don’t go over 1,000 words in one post…. yes I know I need to post more often, I will work on it. Big BIG things are happening on our Farm.  I can’t wait to share all the details about it in the next week our so.

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Sunday Summary

In the Kitchen:

It is the week of Christmas, every year I plan on giving my family homemade gifts and every year life gets the best of me and I do not do it.  This year I did however make homemade caramel candies.  The only problem with the “gifts” is that my family is eating them faster than I can package them to give away!  So I guess that means I have found a good recipe and hopefully it will make a good gift for our family and friends next year…so if you get some act surprised!  The blog that I found the recipe on I really enjoy and am inspired by it, if you have time check it out!  http://www.willowcreekfarm.wordpress.com

Meat Birds:

I received a Christmas gift early!  As I mentioned last week our meat birds need to processed.  I have been sending emails, making phone calls and asking everyone I know, in order to try and find a processor or someone to let us barrow a plucker.  Well the family that I buy my rabbit feed from was able to get me in contact with another family that processes birds for the 4-H kids.  I tried most of last week to get ahold of this family and when I had not heard from them by Thursday at lunchtime I had just come to the conclusion we were going to be processing these birds on Friday.  When my husband called me during his lunch break on Thursday I told him I still had not heard from the processor and that since he was off on Friday we would just have a processing party.  He then informed me that he had to work on Friday.  We were out of feed, so the birds had already received their last meal, I had two choices; buy feed or do what needed to be done.  Well, I decided it was time for me to put on my big girl panties and process these birds.  I did have some help, a high schooler from our church is a hunter and was willing to come and give me a hand for a couple of hours, but neither of us had ever plucked chickens before and I really wanted roasters.  I spent the rest of Thursday afternoon mentally preparing for what was going to happen on Friday.  I received a phone call at 5:30 Thursday evening from the processor.  He was planning to process our birds Friday morning and I all I had to do was drop them off after 9:00.  I screamed.  Not just a little wahoo scream but a win the lottery scream.  I was so grateful to not have to kill, scald, pluck, gut and package these 23 birds, Merry Christmas too me!

The Rabbits:

Well it has been a sad week and a half.  Of Aurora’s 7 kits only 2 are still alive.  The good news is that they appear to be very fat and happy.  We put a heating lamp directly above the nesting box outside the metal wire cage.  I think the babies were getting too cold, Aurora was not covering them up.  She had pulled her fur, and she made a great nest but she was not covering up the babies. The heat lamps really seemed to help them, it was funny to go into the Bunny Barn and see the babies “sun bathing” on top of the nesting material, most of the time belly up!

Laying Hens:

We have a little red hen that is a Houdini Chicken.  She gets out of the chicken pen everyday.  I know she is not getting out when we go in or out.  I have checked the fence line and there is no holes or cracks.  How is she getting out?  I guess that is a problem we will have to solve this week. 

Something that we are very grateful for is that we have been able to sell our eggs.  We have a couple family that buy from us regularly, and it is nice to be able to make some spending money.  Mostly it just pays for the chicken feed but every little bit helps.

Aquaponics:

I have transplanted some broccoli plants into the aquaponics system, I will keep you posted on how they do through the winter.   Almost everything else has died.  All we have left is a lonely beet plant, it seems to be doing well, but the beet is not getting any bigger.  We are going to leave it in the system just to see what it does.  I was not able to plant seeds this week, there is always the hope for next week, but with it being Christmas I am not optimistic.

Merry Christmas everyone, from our family to yours!

 

Chicken Tractor- Meat birds

So we decided to raise more meat birds.  The did a group of 15 in the late winter and the spring.  They turned out really well, and we have been enjoying them.  It is true what they say, it tastes so much better when you raise it yourself.  My husband says, “You can not buy chicken that good at any price in the store”.  Even though, we calculated that our birds cost about $10 for a 5 pound roasting chicken.  Not bad in my book and cheaper than the store!

We recently ordered 24 slow growing cornish rock.  These birds take about 10 weeks to grow to roaster size, between 4 and 5 pounds a piece. We decided to go with slow growers because watching the fast growing cornish rock birds grow was freakish.  The grow so fast they can hardly move.  We wanted birds that were able to forage and scratch and be more bird like.  I found the slow growing meat birds at the Welp Hatchery.  We have had them for about 3 and half weeks and we have already noticed a big difference between them and the fast growers.  These are much more chicken like.  They like to scratch and roost.  They are very active, enjoy worms and fly larva from the compost pile, which is great because it saves money on feed costs.  We are even feeding them hay and they enjoy that.  The meat bird we raise at the end of winter did not do anything.  They just laid around all day.  You could tell that all of their energy went to just growing.

The slow growers are also able to be kept outside, which is another reason we wanted to raise them.  We were able to raise the other meat birds in our garage and it worked, but it was very dusty and to be honest with you at the end of the 8 weeks I could not stand the smell anymore.  This go around we wanted to keep them in the back yard.  My husband built a simple chicken tractor using 2×4’s, chicken wire and a dumpster bag for a roof.

The chickens were inside the house for about a week, then they moved to an empty rabbit cage in the bunny barn and finally they have been put outside for over a week.  At night, we pull the dumpster bag down so it covers the sides and we turn on a heat lamp.  During the day we open the sides so that they can get fresh air.  We move the tractor every couple of days so that they can get new grass to eat and new dirt to dig in.  We still use some bedding but not as much as we did before.  Our back yard does not have the best soil quality, in fact it is all construction fill dirt, and there is almost no soil at all.  After we move the chicken tractor we are planting grass seed in the bedding and covering it with straw.  The only problem with this plan is when we let our laying hens out in the afternoon they are eating all our grass seed.  But either way, we are still creating more soil and increasing our ability to hopefully grow grass in the future. Right now we have more weeds than grass.

It is hard to believe that these birds have already been here for more than three weeks and that they go to be processed in less than 7 weeks.  It is pretty cool that I have not bought chicken from the store in 9 months and we hope to never have to again! Next fall I might even be able to convince my husband to let me raise our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey!!! That would be so cool!

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Days old

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Week 1

Week 2

Week 2

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Our chicken tractor and the birds at 3 weeks!  They grow quick!!

Broody Hen

Fall is the time of year for changing of leaves, harvesting, splitting wood, pumpkin everything, and baby chicks!  Most people do not think of baby chicks when they think of fall and honestly until this year I have not either.  It all started when we had a hen that decided she wanted to be a momma.  She would gather all the eggs from the day and sit on them.  She would get oh so very mad when we would try and take them away.  My son called her “beach ball” because she would puff up so big when you opened the door to get the eggs.  We have never had a broody hen before, so we really did not know what to expect or what to do with her.  We decided at first to just ignore her, I mean really how long could this last.  Well the days turned into weeks and she still was adamant about sitting on those eggs.  I will get back to her in a moment.

Image Our broody hen!

Last year we raised meat birds in the late winter, early spring.  It took 8 weeks, we kept them in our garage until they were ready, took them to be processed, and we had a full freezer.  It was a thing of beauty.  We have been enjoying those meals through out the year, especially the ones cooked on the grill, and we needed to raise some more to get us through the winter.  So we have been thinking about getting more meat birds but still had not decided one way or another and I had been dragging my feet on ordering them.  Our broody hen helped us to make that decision.  We ordered 24 more meat birds and asked them to add a couple egg layers for our broody hen to raise. 

We ordered our birds from Welp Hatchery, a mail order company.  And for those of you that think it is cruel to order birds in the mail, please send a letter to my Councilman and tell them why I need to be allowed to have a rooster!   The company was wonderful and all of our chicks arrived in perfect condition.  The cheeping box made the people at the post office smile.  The mail order companies always add extra chicks to your order just in case some of them do not make it, so we really were not 100% sure about how many we were going to get.   We ended up with 24 slow growing cornish rocks, and 8 pullets of unknown breed. 

ImageOur box of chicks, when we picked them up from the post office!

Back to my broody hen.  Once we ordered the chicks we moved the broody hen or our isolation coop.  It is always best to move a bird at night.  They go into a trance and don’t really know what is going on.  We put 8 wooden eggs under her and let her sit.  The next morning she was very happy to have her eggs and to be in her own space.  She was really happy because we put food and water close to the nesting box.  She had not been really eating or drinking much the last two weeks because all she wanted to do was sit on eggs.  The baby chicks arrived in the mail early in the morning.  We fed, watered and watched them for the day to make sure they were all healthy, and then that night we removed all the wooden eggs and put the pullets under the broody hen.  When we checked in on them the next morning they were one big happy family. 

ImageMama and her babies!

It has been  a pure joy watching her raise these chicks.  She is very protective and will run at you when you try to change the water and fill the food.  She has been a very good mama bird.  She has taught her babies how to scratch and eat worms.   ImageMama with a chick on her head!

Today I was able to get a good look at the chicks.  They are three weeks old and I think that we have 4 barred rocks and 4 golden laced wyandottes. A great addition to our egg laying flock! They are still in isolation, but in another couple weeks we hope to let them run with the rest of the flock.  What a great experience and I am sure we will do it again.