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Category Archives: Chickens

Update Reducing Chicken Smells

Well, it has been almost a week since we put the sand in the chicken run to reduce the smell of the chickens.  The chickens are no longer in mud.  The eggs are cleaner (which is a big plus!!!)  I think the smell is not as bad.  But we are having rain right now so…..we will see if the drainage is better.  We will keep you posted.

 

Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Chickens, How To

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Reducing The Smell from the Chickens

With all the rain we’ve had, our chickens have been claw deep in mud lately….with the mud comes the stink!!!  The placement of our chicken coop was not necessarily the best.  It is one of the lowest areas in our yard.  The chicken run has became very muddy.  The chickens don’t seem to mind but the eggs are muddy and need to be washed.  Even though the rain has tapered off, the run is not drying out enough.  We are having some issues with smell from the chickens as well.  Wet chicken poop smells more than dry poop…who knew.  What are our options???  We considered moving the coop and the run to higher ground but how?  That seemed like a huge undertaking….so off to the internet for help.  After cruising the chicken chat rooms,  we decided on a load of sand. The sand should raise the level of the ground.  The drainage should be improved.  The chicken poop should dry quicker which leads to less smell.  Also we are hoping to have cleaner eggs.  We will let you know if this works next time the rains come; or if we need to move the chicken coop.

 

Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Chickens, How To

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Freezer Camp: Chicken Harvest 2010

I’ve been putting off this post for a long time. Here’s the short version of why: “Harvesting those chickens was NOT fun”. It was important. It was educational. It will provide us some awesome meals over the next few months. I’m really glad we did it. But it was NOT fun.

Having grown up in suburbia and never really being exposed to farming of any sort (until recently), this experience was a wake-up call. Stepping on ants or killing spiders in the house is relatively painless for me. But the whole process of catching a live chicken, hanging it upside down, slitting it’s throat, watching it bleed to death, cutting it’s head and feet off, plucking it, cutting it open, pulling it’s guts out, cleaning it and stuffing it in a bag, then repeating the process 15 times, took it’s toll on me. I am really grateful to be living in a time of history when grocery stores and restaurants are everywhere and everything is packaged and sanitized for me. I just wish I had more confidence in the food industry in general.

As of right now, we don’t have plans to go through this process again any time soon (except occasional culling of a single bird from the laying flock if necessary). I’m glad we did it and I’m proud to say that we know HOW to do it first-hand now, just in case of a disaster of some sort.

So, let’s get down to the process we went through. If we ever do it again (buying a bunch of meat chickens and harvesting them all at once), I’ll definitely invest in (or build) a plucker – pulling the feathers out is very labor intensive. We had to kill all of the chickens at once, because based on what I’ve read, they will start dying of heart attacks (one did a week earlier) and/or breaking their legs if we let them live much longer. It’s the way they’re bred (they are Cornish X Rocks).

Here’s the video introduction:

I don’t have video of actually catching the chickens. The first few were easy. The last few literally tried to run for their lives. In fact I had to use a net to catch the last 3.

This is the killing video. It’s disgusting and if you have a weak stomach or some psycho problem about animals being part of the food chain, don’t watch it, or better yet, click off this page and browse elsewhere. This is the first chicken I killed that day. We could have used a “killing cone” instead of hanging it by a rope, but the cones I bought were not big enough for these huge chickens. This video actually makes me a bit nauseous and I’m not real proud of it. But this is the reality of what we were doing.

These chickens spent their entire life (about 8 or 9 weeks) eating, sleeping, defecating and laying around – often in their own feces. So their big fat bellies were caked with excrement and food scraps. We decided to do a quick pre-cleaning of their bellies before starting the scalding/plucking steps. The chicken is already dead in this video in case you need to know that.

Next we scalded the chicken in 150 degree water for 30 to 45 seconds – actually 5 or 6 cycles of 5 seconds in the water and 3 seconds out. That makes the feathers easier to pull out.

The previous video shows me dunking the chicken in a second container of cooler water before starting the plucking. We ended up skipping that step for most of the rest of them. I think keeping it warm made plucking easier.

Next I cut off the feet.

Then I cut off the head (probably way too carefully!) while talking to Kevin about some baby turkeys for sale at the local Tractor Supply store (maybe some other time!).

Carol took over at this point and did the evisceration. She had this down to a science after the first few.

At this point, she rinsed it real well and then put it in a tub of water with some apple cider vinegar in it. She left it there until she was finished with the next bird. Then she put it in a freezer bag and stored it in a cooler. Some of these chickens were so big, they wouldn’t fit in a one gallon freezer bag. So we had to cut off the thigh/leg portions and store them separately. We kept the chickens refrigerated for a couple days and then moved them to the freezer. That’s why we called it Freezer Camp.

It’s been a couple months since we actually did this. We’ve had the opportunity to eat some of these chickens. They are VERY GOOD in my humble opinion. It’s also nice knowing that they had a decent life compared to what it could have been on a factory farm. They were given NO medication or hormones or any other crap during their short life. They were treated well and fed well and had a decent amount of space to move around in. And we’re thankful to have been rewarded for our efforts raising them with the nutrition and wonderful taste they provide, along with everything else that goes with a high quality, healthy meal. Your comments are welcome.

We used a lot of sources to gain an education about the entire process, including Backyard Poultry Magazine and this blog post from The Deliberate Agrarian. A YouTube search for “Chicken Harvest” also turned up countless videos.

 

Posted by on December 28, 2010 in Chickens, How To

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Preparing for Freezer Camp

Our meat chickens are almost ready to go to “Freezer Camp”.  I know this is not a pleasant topic but we are concerned about our food source and we would like to control what we are able to control.  We also want to be prepared if we need to depend on ourselves for our food source.  Jim and I have researched the most humane way to process our meat chickens.  We have read many articles and watched videos to help us prepare.  We thought out the lay out of each station, reviewed the process, and purchased what we did not already have on hand.  Just to make sure we knew what we were doing, we thought a trial run might be in the best interest for all involved.  We will post about the process when we document the Road to Freezer Camp at a  later time.

We decided that since the roosters are supposed to be ready for harvest a week or so before the hens, a rooster would be the logical choice.  We learned somethings during the processing of this chicken.

*  Our homemade killing cone was not big enough for our chickens.  We decided to make one instead of purchasing one because we are not sure we will do this process again. We will review and discuss everything later.

*  The water was hotter than the recommended 150 degrees.  We did not think that a couple of degrees would make that much difference……Yes it does!!!  The skin was very fragile and tore when we were plucking.

*  We also forgot to put dish soap in the scalding pot.  Meat chickens are a lot more dirty than our laying hens.  Our meat chickens have debris on their bellies.

*  When making the access for the removal of the insides, I made it too big.

So while these errors were fresh, I recommended to try again to get it right.  The second chicken was processed much more efficiently.  After cleaning up, Jim went to collect the eggs from our laying hens and discovered one of the meat chickens was dead.  We are not certain why.  Once processing this chicken we discovered that there was a lot of dry feed in it’s throat.  The chicken was found near the water.  Did it choke or have a heart attack?  Both of these are good possibilities.  The meat chickens are known for having heart attacks and breaking legs when they get closer to harvest time.

We are prepared for next weekend.  Jim and I will be able to direct those who choose to help us.  More information on some of the articles and videos that we used for research will be included in that post.

 

Posted by on October 24, 2010 in Chickens, Uncategorized

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Meat Chickens

While the weather is still reasonable, we decided to get some meat chickens. We ordered them from http://www.mthealthy.com/.  We got 16 Jumbo Cornish Rock Cross chicks. They were hatched and immediately shipped to us on September 1.  I picked them up at the Post Office in the morning on September 2.  All healthy, chirping and active.

Ordered 15 baby chicks and received 16 - kudos to the US Postal Service for their safe arrival.

Here's what I saw when I opened the box. Look how tiny they are.

I moved them in to a larger container and got them started on food and water. These little chicks are specially bred to grow VERY fast. They should be up to 3 or 4 pounds within about 8 weeks. Most dual purpose (egg and meat) chickens take about 6 months to reach that weight.

All moved in to their new home. They will outgrow it within a few days. There is a red light bulb making the odd color - that's to keep them warm.

They stayed in the basement for a few days, but they were already getting a little crowded, not to mention the odor! So I prepared a new larger home for them on the front porch.  They sure are growing fast.

Second new home in less than one week!

Happy and healthy so far. One week old already.

 

Posted by on September 8, 2010 in Chickens

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First Chicken Coop Project

Portable Chicken Coop

We decided to build a chicken coop and get some backyard chickens in the spring of 2009. We purchased the plans and got some great advice from Dave at Catawba ConvertiCoops.

All the Materials

Just getting started

Mike measuring for the deck

Deck and chicken wire installed

Handles installed. Beginning of the roof

Brent putting the sides together

Finished side (it slides both directions or can be lifted up and removed)

Ends installed (Square Foot Garden in background!)

Finished product. Two people can easily lift it up and move it around the yard.

First chickens – One Jersey Giant and one Black Star

Got the chickens on a Saturday and the next day (Easter Sunday!), we got our first eggs.

We used cedar chips for the nests at first, but have learned that’s not the best choice. We’ve also tried Pine Shavings, but Straw seems to work best for us.

 

Posted by on August 23, 2010 in Chickens, How To

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