End of Chick Season

End of Chick Season

Our last batch of chicks just hatched, and since Mama Hens (two hens are Co-parenting) will raise them it’s time to start focusing on the next farm project.

Over the past 6 months we have hatched over 100 chicks and bought 28. To some that sounds like nothing and to others it sounds like way too many!

I expected we would loose more chicks than we did, they lived. It evened out in the end because a good portion of the chicks were roosters. To give you perspective of how many roosters, out of the first 85 chicks, we only got 22 hens. Since most of our chickens are slow maturing breeds it will be a few more months before we get a final hen count.

I’ve learned a few things this chick season. The most important lesson: Mama hens are the way to go!

Give them eggs, wait 21 days, check to see cute babies, and walk away.

Mama hens have a much better hatch rate than incubators, since God, you know, made them perfect for that job. They also feed, water, and heat the chicks perfectly.

The Chicken Lady, who I’ve bought eggs from, said she gave up on incubators and just lets mama hens do their thing. Here’s to hoping we get some good mama hens!

Thankfully I’m done with the hard work of chick care and get to enjoy the fruits, or should I say eggs, of our labors. The new layers are showing off and we are getting lots of colorful eggs.

So since the chickens are settled, what’s the next farm project? Pigs, more pigs.

We learned a lot with the last group, so we felt we knew enough to purchase breeding sows and boars… did you hear the sarcasm in my voice.

For now we are putting up lots and lots of fencing for the ridiculous number of pigs, who will be joining our farm in just a few short weeks.

Goodbye, last bit of sanity I had left, fare thee well.

Just a few thoughts

Just a few thoughts

When I was little, I wanted to be a vet.

I loved animals and wanted them all.

Then I volunteered at a vet’s office for a morning and a dog died. I realized then I didn’t want to be a vet.

It wasn’t really the dog dying that made me realize it, but it was the way the staff handled it. I remember sitting there as they made jokes and laughed. Someone then jokingly said, “we should be more respectful, this was someone’s pet.” My thought was, ‘YES YOU SHOULD!”

Years later when it came time to make the hard decision about my sweet Girl dog that I’d grown up with, the decision was easy. She was in pain and she was ready.

In the past few years I have spent more money and time taking animals to vets when most people would have given up. Yes, I’ve taken a chicken to the vet for a sprain. Yes, I’ve driven to multiple vets in a desperate attempt to save a goat. Yes,  I had spinal surgery, and months of rehab on a dog with only the hope of her maybe walking with assistance (guess what… she now runs around the fields like she is a puppy.)

What is my point with all this?

Well this was our first year raising our own pigs for meat, and this was our first time to butcher roosters, and it made me realize how it all fit, despite seeming contrary to my love of animals.

It goes back to that thing about being respectful.

If I am going to eat meat, which I am because I physically need meat in my diet, I want to know they were well cared for and lived the best life they could.

Our pigs were happy and got lots of yummy food most pigs never get to taste, in fact they got exotic and organic foods I’ve never eaten thanks to a local grocery store. When it came time to find a butcher we made sure they would do it as humanely as possible.

We had hoped not to have many roosters this year, so we could keep a few. Then someone messed up and we ended up with 25 roosters instead of pullets. Vince suggested we sell them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that again. Last year we ended up with 7 Lavender Orpington roosters, I tried for weeks to sell them. They ended up all being sold for $10 , and the way they were handled and transported saddened me.

Nope, if I put as much care into these roosters as we did, I wanted that same care and respect all the way to the end.

So when it came time to dispatch the roosters, we gave thanks for their sacrifice, we asked for the strength to do this right, and we did one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do.

It is never easy to say goodbye to a life, even one so small as a chicken. I am so thankful to know the quality of life they had.

I may sound sentimental, but these are the same chicks that happily cheeped in the background when Vivienne was born, so I am a bit sentimental towards them.

Home Processing

Home Processing

This Saturday, we set about the hard task of processing, aka butchering, all our extra roosters.

This was our first time and it was certainly a learning experience.

We had hoped to get it finished quickly, but 26 roosters took us about 8 hours. (If TSC hadn’t given us roosters instead of the pullets I bought, we would have been done after the first 6.)

Our only knowledge going in was a few vague memories from family and the internet. Thankfully there are numerous blog posts and YouTube videos to walk you through the process if you are new to this.

Most people pluck the feathers to leave the skin on, which is what you get when you buy whole chickens at the store. Without a plucking machine this is a very laborious task. My mother-in-law said her mom always just skinned them, since it was faster. So that was the method we went with. It sounded much easier than it really was. It requires muscles that I don’t really have, and those muscles let me know it the next day!

Since we had never done this before, and we weren’t sure if we could physically/emotional handle this, we started with two roosters that had to go for their own good. One of them had a beak deformity that made it harder and harder for him to eat and the other was crippled and was not eating either. They were so small and skinny that it helped to know they were out of misery.

After those we found our strengths and weaknesses. Vince took over the actual dispatching of the birds and removing heads, wings, and feet. I took over the skinning and gutting. As the day wore on his mom came to help me skin, and things went a lot faster.

Vince’s sister was tasked with the hardest task of all, watching Isaac and Vivienne.

After all the crying, screaming, and general craziness, I would completely understand if she never wanted to watch them again!

Twenty-six was a bold number to start with, but we wanted to get it over with. The only way I’m doing that many at once again is if there is a plucking machine involved.

One of the biggest issues was one I didn’t foresee. The overly long day took its toll on the tiny people and they let us know by having foul moods Sunday (Happy Father’s Day) and Monday. We are all still trying to recover!

Because of the nature of the day I don’t have any photos to share, so I leave you with a photo of our spoiled rooster Perceval. He is a jerk , but he was the first chick we ever hatched… and he’s beautiful!

(He has his own house, since he doesn’t play well with others)