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Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Yesterday, as we were moving the hen pen, Brittan discovered a big surprise.  Actually, it was a very little surprise.  One of our girls had laid an egg for us.  It was quite small, not much bigger than a quail egg, but perfectly formed.  We were so excited.

I have been saying it would be well into October before we got any eggs.  B has been convinced that September would be the month, so she got to enjoy an ‘I told you so’ moment.  Of course, it’s not like those are rare, but she gloated for a while just the same.

I am including a photo with a regular sized egg from a local farm for comparison.  You can see the color and shape are the same, but our egg is tiny.  Some people call them ‘pullet eggs’.  All hens pretty much drop some small ones to begin with.  Soon, the girls will be filling our fridge with plenty of tasty, omega 3 filled golden goodness.

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…everywhere a chicken, chicken.

We had a plan.  It was a simple plan.  It was a good plan.  I was running a little late home from work, so we would grab a quick supper of organic hot dogs and baked sweet potatoes, then dash to the farm.  We would move the hens from their large tractor to a smaller one and transfer the chicks from the brooder box to the large chicken tractor.  On paper, it works.

Reality was not written on paper.  Somehow, probably by donkey power, one section of the poultry netting was down, so instead of heading to their chicken tractor for safety when we arrived, the hens scattered.  And I mean scattered.

The ‘good news’ ( I used quotation marks on purpose) is that we only had 25 hens in that pen and the pasture they escaped to is only an acre.  But I assure you, an acre is plenty of room for the birds to keep us hopping.  With Brittan making creative use of the poultry netting (think movable fence) and me wielding the catch net, we slowly rounded up the strays.  There was much stumbling and muttering, mostly by me, and there were a few good laughs, mostly Brittan laughing AT me.  But in the end, the humans win again.

By the time we got the ladies transferred to their new digs, it was getting very dark, so the chicks won’t move to their new home until this evening.  Oh well.  At least they won’t escape the brooder box….I hope.

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  1. Featherman Chicken Plucker

    Chicken preparation requires a lot of equipment and significant set up.  Since we were starting from scratch, we pretty much had to acquire everything.  We bought a scalder, chicken plucker, catch net and a shade pavilion to work under.  Brittan designed and built a processing table, complete with counter top and sink.  It looks great and works like a charm.  There is a working station on either side of the sink, so two processors can work at once.  My one criticism of it, is that the table weighs a ton, much like the chicken plucker.  But the table is sound as a pound and should last for years.  I’m sure B will put some photos up on Facebook.  Since we live about 5 miles from the farm and store everything here at the house, we had to load and unload everything.

  2. It is impossible to have too many knives, or to have them too sharp.  I spent time on Friday sharpening knives, but they still dulled during the processing day.  If you’ll pardon the pun, I need to hone that skill.  One of the ways we show respect to the chickens is by making sure the kill is clean and the butchering is smooth.
  3. There is gore involved.  Processing chickens is not for the squeamish or sensitive.  It is a real world experience.  Life and death is graphically portrayed.  There is a great deal of blood and stench from intestines, heads and feet.  We also found that the actual killing of the birds is not for everyone.  In the end, I killed all but two of the birds.  There is no pride in being the executioner; it is fairly awe inspiring responsibility.  There is no shame in the inability or unwillingness to be the wielder of the killing blade.
  4. Many hands make light work.   There were 6 of us involved in the process.  Two of us did the catching and dispatching, two handled the scalding and plucking and two did the butchering and washing.  All of us took turns keeping the work site clean.  Once we got into a rhythm, the work became more like a dance.  We had a great time talking and sharing together.
  5. There were some surprising discoveries that made us happy we chose pasturing our chickens.  The main one was seeing all the grass and other ‘natural ingredients’ inside the chickens.  These birds lived like chickens are supposed to live, enjoying the sun, fresh grass and all the critters that live in the grass and on the soil.  Chickens are omnivores.  It was satisfying to know that our birds dined magnificently during their sojourn with us.
  6. It is mission critical to have the water temperature right for a good scald.  We got impatient to get started and scalded the first birds before

    Scalder

    the water temperature was high enough.  The result was incomplete plucking.  That meant some hand plucking and even skinning of birds.  At one point the water temp went above 160 and that caused the skin to tear during the plucking process.  But in a range between 140 and 155, the plucking was a dream.

  7. The Featherman Chicken Plucker rocks.  It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every penny.  We processed four birds at a time.  The machine cleaned the birds completely in 30 to 40 seconds.  It is a wonderful tool.

The day was hard work.  By the time B and I loaded everything up and got home, the day was truly done.  We were tired and sore, but our freezer, and those of several friends and customers are fuller than before.  We are providing a natural, healthy, environmentally friendly and humanely produced food for our table and the tables of other, like minded people.  The planet, the chickens, the American consumer, and our Great God are all respected along the way.  I am content.

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The big day approaches.  Saturday morning will see the team gather for Chicken Processing 1.0.  It should be a crazy combination of sweat, fun, productivity and bewilderment.  For those who have ordered chickens, they can be picked up between 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday, August 14 out at the farm.  The farm address is, 3673 Dallas-Acworth Highway Northwest, Acworth, GA 30101.  If you come here to the burb, there will be no one home.  If you get lost, you can phone.  The number is 678-641-2042.

A few chickens are still available for last minute shoppers.  Just go to the EOE Store and place your order.

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The East of Eden store is open for business.  We are taking orders now for pastured chickens to be ready for pick up Saturday afternoon, August 14, between 2 and 4 p.m.  Supplies are limited, so first come, first serve.  We are very excited about this initial offering, especially in a year that’s seen so many setbacks in our vegetable garden.

To order, you can go to the website (www.east-of-eden-farms.com) and click on the ‘store’ button, or, you can simply click HERE.

Special thanks to our son in law, Rene, for getting the store up and running.  Stay tuned for future products and announcements.

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Finally, the long awaited day has come and gone.  Our first batch of chickens is on pasture.  I must confess, the transfer was more difficult (and stressful) than expected, mostly due to rookie mistakes (me being the rookie).

The first head scratcher, was the fact that the brooder boxes were wider than the basement door.  With the bottoms of the boxes compromised from three weeks of chicken waste and water spillage, it’s not like we could do a lot of manipulating the boxes.  So we grabbed on of our dog crates and converted it into a chicken transportation system.  I grabbed the chicks, handed them to B, who placed them into the crate.  So far, so good.

Once we loaded the crate into the pickup truck and covered it with mesh netting as backup, I rode in the back with them out to the farm, while Brittan drove.  It’s only a ten or twelve minute drive and was uneventful.  But along the way it dawned on me that getting the chickens out would be harder than getting them in.  The boxes and the chicken tractor are top load.  The dog crate is front load.  Once all the chicks flee to the back of the crate, obtaining them could be a challenge.  I was right.  In the end, B said we should just set the crate down in the tractor and open the door.  We did that, but no one was coming out.  After a bit of pacing and pondering, Brittan climbed into the tractor and hand delivered each little Orpington into his or her new home.  Have I mentioned how valuable it is having a young wife who has not grown brittle with age?  I nearly broke a hip just watching her climb.

After much ado, the little critters are comfortably housed in their new, tasty digs.  They went straight to work grazing and scratching.  It was so cool.  An hour or so later, I went to the house and brought back the feed.  As the photos show, it was a welcome arrival.  So far, so good.  Can’t wait to see what adventures await during our first move of the tractor this evening.  Yikes.

One final note; B and I can heartily recommend NOT keeping 75 chickens in your basement.  Next time we’ll build a brooder out on the farm.

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Chickens, Oh, Chickens!

I should learn to carry my camera all the time.  I mean, that’s why I bought it.  Pics add such a great dimension to blog updates, but alas, I must use a thousand words instead of the one picture….

It’s humid this morning.  We had some great rain last evening and expect more throughout the weekend, so today will be important in getting projects done, as we have the lowest expectation of precipitation of the next three.  Although the temps are pleasant (mid 60s), the humidity is way high and I worked up an impressive sweat just doing the rabbit and chicken chores this morning.

The chicks are still in the basement.  They technically have another week to go, but if we get the chicken tractor (movable coop) finished, they will go to the farm sooner.  We need our basement, and the oxygen level, back.

About a week ago, B made little roosts out of simple wood strapping.  She put one in each brooder box.  The chicks loved them from the beginning.  They are about a third of the way up the side of each box.  They sit diagonally and protrude an couple inches or so outside the boxes.

This morning I was greeted by a chicken roosting peacefully on the outside part of one of the roosts.  He was alone, happy and content to the point that I expected him to start snoring.  Unfortunately, we prefer the chicks INSIDE the box, so he needed to move.  The little fella (or gal) hopped neatly onto my hand and I placed him back in the box with his cousins, then proceeded outside to work on cleaning the rabbit cages.  I looked in the window and the next box along had a chicken out.  I went inside and transported him back to the general population.  By the time I got outside, a chick from the third box was up on top of HIS box.  OY VEY!  Back to the house I proceed to return Mo, as I had done for Curly and Larry.  As I scooped up Chick # three, I discovered a rather large deposit of, well, what chickens deposit, on the floor between the box and the wall.  The only way that could get there is either teleportation (still scientifically unlikely) or some of the chicks are going AWOL then returning to the box after some time harborside.  I have left the evidence for Brittan to see before I clean it up.  I need a witness.

For the last two days, I have been closely observing one very tiny chick.  This little bird is only about half the size of the others, maybe less.  She (I think) is constantly kicked and trampled by the other birds.  They don’t pick on her, but she really gets jostled in the crowd.  She manages to eat and drink, but not as much as the others.  I honestly think she has a self esteem issue, or perhaps she’s blind.  Her eyes are good and black like the others, but she seems a bit bewildered all the time.  I’m thinking of separating her for a few days to see what happens.  Nature is rough sometimes.

Apart from that, its all routine.  We didn’t get much accomplished yesterday, so today I’m going to start on overseeding the pasture while B starts on the chicken tractor.  Well, here comes the sun, that’s my signal.

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