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Bye bye roosters
Old 10-28-2008, 08:40 AM   #1
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Bye bye roosters

Sarah, please don't take this too hard, but the flock got culled by half last Wednesday. I took eleven roosters and one scrawny, harried hen to the butcher. Now, not having had chickens since I was 15 and having never been involved in butchering them I didn't realize how big our birds were. But the Mennonite boys who did the butchering sure did.

Cleaned, dressed, and halved they averaged 3 lbs each. Which means they were an average of 7-8 lbs live weight. Those are pretty big for heritage dual purpose breeds. 12 birds filled an entire shelf in our freezer. And one half chicken feeds both of us for one meal.

I plan to start earlier next year so I can get two harvests in. We should be able to grow all of our own chicken for an entire year with two flocks of 30 each or so.

Oh, and Sarah, I did save two roosters (Arnold is a New Hampshire Red and Seymour is a Barred Plymouth Rock) as well as 13 hens. Even in the "slow" winter months we are averaging 4-6 eggs per day. I expect that to go up to about 10-12 since I am installing a lamp in their hen house today. They slow down egg production due to the shorter periods of daylight. But according to the Homesteading Today poultry forum they can be tricked into full production with artificial light.
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:52 AM   #2
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What is the ballpark cost to get a dozen chickens butchered by "the boys"? Do they raise chickens? What's the cost difference to just buy from them? Or, is it a quality issue?

The butchering would be the annoying part, to me. All the plucking, field dressing or whatever, etc. I've cleaned lots of wild game...

-CC
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Old 10-28-2008, 12:01 PM   #3
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Sigh....this is why I can't have chickens. I couldn't choose which ones would live!

I am glad that you have some tasty bird for your freezer that you know were raised humanely and butchered in a reasonable manner. I buy my chickens from a pastured poultry producer in Darlington SC who I feel does an excellent job of raising his chickens outside (pastured, obviously) and butchers humanely a short distance from his farm. Fresh, natural, grass-fed chickens are nothing like what is available in stores.

Congrats on your successful operation and your steely resolve in culling them. So did you name all of them, or just the roosters you kept?
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Old 10-29-2008, 07:15 PM   #4
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What is the ballpark cost to get a dozen chickens butchered by "the boys"? Do they raise chickens? What's the cost difference to just buy from them? Or, is it a quality issue?
It costs $2 a bird for them to clean and dress them. Then I had to pack in the Seal-a-Meal when I got home. I don't think they sell any as their chicken tractors were not "production" sized.

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Congrats on your successful operation and your steely resolve in culling them. So did you name all of them, or just the roosters you kept?
It was an easy decision. Roosters can only pay for their keep ONE WAY. Hens produce eggs. So far as I know, only the alpha hen has a name. She's a bossy little thing, aggressive enough to be a rooster, who my wife named Henrietta. And she even comes to her name. So named birds are currently limited to Arnold, Seymour, and Henrietta.
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Old 10-29-2008, 07:17 PM   #5
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The neighboring farm where I grew up raised a pig one year. I called it Mildred. They butchered it and I ate the offered taste it to gross out my younger sister.
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Old 10-29-2008, 07:26 PM   #6
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The neighboring farm where I grew up raised a pig one year. I called it Mildred. They butchered it and I ate the offered taste it to gross out my younger sister.
When I was 5 or so, my parents (we were on a farm) raised a lamb. The guy who sold it said I would make a pet of it. Every day I took out a pail of water, and every day it kicked it over. I found it to be delicious.
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Old 10-29-2008, 07:52 PM   #7
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Example of a disfunctional family:

When DW was a girl her grandparents bought a cow and named it after her. She usd to visit it, feed it, even ride it. One day after a lovely steak dinner with granny she went out to visit and the cow was gone.

She still has a slight problem with beef.
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Old 10-29-2008, 08:41 PM   #8
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When I was 5 or so, my parents (we were on a farm) raised a lamb. The guy who sold it said I would make a pet of it. Every day I took out a pail of water, and every day it kicked it over. I found it to be delicious.
My mother had a wonderful story of the neighbor's goat. The family was living out in Pennsylvania Dutch country at the time. Anyway, big mean aggressive watch-goat. She had to stand it off a few times with a broom / pitchfork, whatever.

She found the stew, when the then old 'n tough goat went into the pot, delicious.

ta,
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Old 10-29-2008, 10:03 PM   #9
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My grandmother (born in 1896) homesteaded in NE Montana in the 1920's. She used to tell stories about raising chickens for the pot. When it came time to butcher them she couldn't bear to cut their heads off, so she learned to shoot them in the head from across the barnyard with a little single shot .22 rifle! She was in her 90's, living in a nursing home in KC when she told me the story, and still had a twinkle in her eye about being a crack shot during her frontier days.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:40 AM   #10
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Just curious - are 4-5 eggs/day not enough? Why go through the extra work/expense to make them lay more? The rest probably is good for their health - but I dunno?

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Old 10-30-2008, 02:10 PM   #11
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ERD hens from the dual-purpose breeds like I have are generally good for 280-320 eggs per cycle. Then they go into moult (think feather exchange) and start all over again. From everything I've read hens are a lot like women. Except they drop an average of one egg per day as opposed to one a month. Mess with that, like letting them rest, and nasty things start to happen; like tubal pregnancies and miscarriages. But in hens it means getting an egg stuck in the tubes or getting backed up. Which can get pretty painful for the hen I would think. So actually, by running the extra light I'm doing them a favor.
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Old 10-30-2008, 11:41 PM   #12
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L_PA, interesting, I did not know that 'resting' was actually more dangerous for them. Thanks for filling me in.

I don't recall if we discussed it or not, but I think you would find the book, The Omnivore's Dilemma interesting. He goes into the whole cycle of chickens feeding off bugs in the cow waste, and the chickens fertilizing the grass for the cows, etc. And a whole range of field-to-table issues.

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Old 10-31-2008, 08:24 AM   #13
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ERD, that book is simply amazing! I also read his follow up book, In Defense of Food, and it was excellent as well. That book was part of the reason I moved to buying mostly grass-fed beef, chicken and pork, as well as signing up for a CSA. Michael Pollan is a fascinating author for sure.
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Old 10-31-2008, 10:38 AM   #14
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Sarah - yes, I was very impressed with Omnivore's Dilemma. I have not read his other book yet, did hear him interviewed on it, I need to get around to reading it.

BTW, if there are others like me that really aren't much on reading books (I hate to say that, but it's true of me - I guess I have ADD tendencies, I just have trouble focusing on a long drawn out book, I'm more of a magazine or news article, internet page kind of guy) - this book held my interest all the way. One of the keys was that it really is sort of like 4 or 5 different short stories, and they all link together in very clever and informative ways so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I even pictured how he must have sat down with outlines of each sub-plot on a page, and drew lines from one to the other to map out how he would tie them all together. Fascinating to me.

The most interesting part to me was, how it seemed like he was leading up to saying we all need to be vegetarians.... but then he turns that around and shows how the whole animal-plant cycle needs to be supported in the same way nature does, and the economics of that means that farmers need to grow meat as a product too (to fertilize the crops). But probably less than we consume today.

I still need to try the grass fed beef. DW does most of the shopping, so I don't even know if it is available to us, I'm sure it is, just need to look. About the only change we've really made, is I think I've made a little progress in getting DW to focus less on the meat as the meal. She has worked on some good occasional veggie recipes, and a few more that de-emphasize the meat.

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Old 10-31-2008, 11:04 AM   #15
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ERD, check out your local farmers market--that is where I found my beef guy. Plus, the wonder of the internet is you can buy from farmers elsewhere and have it shipped. I figure that the (comparatively small) premium I pay for meat makes me more willing to make it a lesser portion of my overall meal picture--ie, we eat more vegetables as our meat is more expensive, which is better for us!

And if LeatherneckPA gets his farm going great guns--we can buy from him!
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Old 10-31-2008, 02:05 PM   #16
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Our co-op sells grass fed beef, along with free range chickens and turkey. You might check there.
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Old 10-31-2008, 05:12 PM   #17
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If you enjoyed the Michael Pollan books, you might try:

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. An interesting read, and fun too. She and her family tried a year of eating locally, preparing their own food. Lots of background about the corn/feed/livestock industries. She writes the chatty family stuff and daily farm, chores and cooking stuff. Her husband wrote some technical science-y stuff and her daughter threw in some recipes! They are wonderfully intelligent writers and it was really readable. I've been recommending it all year as a follow-up to the Michal Polan books.

Hope others enjoy it
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Old 10-31-2008, 05:40 PM   #18
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If I slaughtered Sparky, our rooster, my wife might divorce me, or have me slaughtered.

These stories remind me of my grandmother. She was raised on an Iowa farm, originally a homestead, very early 1900's. They farmed and raised all manner of livestock. Her father gave her a new lamb that she adored. The lamb would follow her everywhere around the farm. They were apparently big pals. Farm kids find their kicks where they can.

One day at the end of November she overheard her father telling her mom that it was time to butcher the lamb for Thanksgiving. Horrified, my grandmother, probably around 8 years old at the time, led her pet lamb to the far side of the farm and tied it to a tree in an attempt to hide it from her dad. Alas, when Thanksgiving meal time arrived next day, there was her lamb on the platter in the middle of the table. My grandmother was devastated by the affair. She told me this story in her mid-eighties and still spoke lovingly of the little lamb; her dad, not so much.

I have a daughter born the year my grandmother died. I would hate to leave my daughter with that kind of memory of me!
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