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Posts Tagged ‘pastured chicken’

We get asked a lot of questions by customers, neighbors, readers of this blog and other curious sorts, about the diets of our animals.  Mostly they are regarding soy, antibiotics, growth hormones and corn.  Some are from people genuinely interested in facts.  Some are from people who’ve recently watched Food, Inc. and are looking to change their eating habits or want to make sure we aren’t cruel to animals.  Some, though, are well meaning, but misguided.

One of my favorites is from people looking for eggs, “Do you feed your chickens an all vegetarian diet?”

“Umm, no, why would we do that?”

Usually, that’s followed by an indignant, “You don’t?” and a rapid end to the conversation.

I always hang up the phone with an amused shake of my head.  The question is so bizarre, that it makes me wonder about the American Public School system.

Ok, to be fair, the marketing of some supermarket eggs, labeled, “fed all vegetarian diet” contributes to the confusion.

The simple fact is, chickens are omnivores just like most other birds, pigs, dogs, cats, grizzly bears and humans.  Ever heard the phrase, “The early bird catches the worm”?  Note: worms are not vegetables.  Chickens love worms, bugs, slugs, ticks, grasshoppers, milk and even meat.  If a chicken dies in the pasture, the rest of the flock will usually eat the thing pretty darned quick.  I’ve seen a carcass picked clean as a whistle by a flock of hens.

A vegetarian diet is not natural for a chicken.  They want to roam the pastures finding goodies hiding in the grass.  Sure, they eat the grass, too, along with corn, oats, wheat and almost anything else that will stay still long enough.

There is nothing noble or healthy about a vegetarian chicken.  We find that our chickens are happiest when they are allowed to free range and eat whatever they can find.  Even after a day of foraging, they clean up their chicken feed and still have room to muscle their way into the pig trough for a bite of whatever goodies the porkers are chowing on.

Admittedly, B and I have only been raising chickens for a year and a half, but we’ve had several hundred pass through the farm and we have yet to meet a vegetarian among them.

Cows are vegetarian. So are sheep, goats, mules, donkeys, rabbits and horses. Chickens and yes, turkeys, are omnivores.  Don’t tell PETA, it will ruin their delusion.

 

 

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We have set our next chicken processing day for Saturday, October 1.   It’s about time.  After the predator problems forced us to start over, we thought the day would never arrive.

As it turns out, we will have a few chickens available that were not pre ordered.  If you’d like to go to the store at the farm website and order, that would be great, or simply drop us a note and tell us how many you’d like.

Pick up will be at the farm between 3 and 4:30 on processing day.

Oh, we are also still looking for volunteers who’d like to help for the day.  Please feel free to let Brittan or me know if you’d like to assist.

 

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Over the weekend, Brittan and I exercised a very uncontrolled experiment by eating only processed foods.  In part, we were taste testing some items to add to our emergency storage.  Much of our storehouse is made up of dried or home canned goods.  We also have two freezers and are about to add a third (exclusively for frozen goat’s milk).  We thought, though, that having a few MREs and freeze dried meals for emergency purposes was a good idea, so we bought some packets and buckets of goodies and added them into the mix.

We decided, in advance, that we would eat these prepared ‘meals’ over the weekend and see what we thought.  We had lasagne, macaroni and cheese and beef stroganoff.  They were, well, less than gourmet, that’s for sure.  I believe the word was, ‘edible’.  It reminded me of Crocodile Dundee when he said, “It tastes like S*^@#, but you can live on it.”

We also ate out a couple times.  I freely confess that eating out is convenient and relaxing.  It is not, however, tasty.  We have become so accustomed to meals from home grown or locally raise produce and meats that nothing else tastes right.  Restaurant and grocery store tomatoes are bland, lettuce tastes like vegetable wash, meat has no texture and chicken only tastes like whatever it’s topped with. Don’t even talk to me about eggs.

It’s safe to say that farming has given us back our taste buds, but that might not always be a good thing.  We have been spoiled by taste.

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FREEBIRD

Meet Blondie.  Blondie, is a one year old Dixie Rainbow.  Technically, she lives in a pasture with 10 of her sisters.  Her job, along with theirs, is to keep the pasture clean and provide nutritious, tasty, free range eggs.  I say, technically,  because Blondie has a wandering spirit.

Let me back up for a moment.  Because of the layout of our farm, it’s proximity to major roads and that there are still large segments of the place without perimeter fence, we have a modified rotational system.

Right now we have 4 pastures fenced, with a larger pasture that will be finished very soon.  Each pasture has a small flock of chickens to clean up after the grazers.  We have three cows and two miniature donkeys along with our assortment of goats, sheep and pigs.  The chickens spread the manure and keep the fly, grasshopper and tick populations in check.  Each pasture has a shelter with laying boxes for the hens to deposit their appreciation of free ranging.  Sometimes they lay in the boxes, sometimes they find creative hiding places.  We’ll address laying hen hide and seek another day.

Back to Blondie.  Blondie has a wonderful, lush pasture, one of our better ones, that she roams with 10 other hens.  The pasture is a little over an acre, giving plenty of space for the girls to wander, forage, aerate and fertilize.  But that world is too small for Blondie.  She sees the entire planet as her pasture.  Each morning, Blondie bids farewell to her sisters and flies over the fence to the greater farm beyond.  She heads straight for the barn, because she knows full well that is where the feed is stored.

Blondie will hang out in the barn while we prepare the morning feedings, picking up the chicken crumble scraps that inevitably fall to the ground.  She pecks around the dirt floor,  picking up insects while checking in on the chicks in the brooder box.  Then she’s off to explore.

Normally, she goes from the barn to the cow pasture to say hello to the bovines and greet the hens who maintain that pasture.  Then she is off to look in on the dairy goats.  She will frequently move from there to the neighbor’s side yard to pick off any unwary grasshoppers.  Finally, she will waddle down the driveway to go visit the rabbits, who are in a large open pasture.

Usually, Blondie follows me back to her pasture for night time feeding, where I presume she spends the night and lays her eggs.  There is every possibility, though, that she has a clutch hidden somewhere that we may never find.

We don’t have the heart to try and force her to stay in her pasture.  She makes us laugh with her sociable clucking and relentless nosiness.  So, for the time being at least, Blondie lives truly, totally free.  I only hope she does not become a bad influence on the other hens.   I worry about what she tells them.

 

 

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Holy Cow.  We told you this was not the year of the chicken.  The disasters lasted right up to processing.  First, one of the elements in the scalder shorted out, meaning it took twice as long to heat the water as it should.  Then the garden hose we were using to wash down the equipment blew, requiring a trip to the store for a replacement, thus slowing down the project.  If that wasn’t enough, I didn’t buy enough ice for the coolers so we had to send someone on an emergency run.

Because of these little mishaps, it took us 2.5 hrs to process 15 chickens (including clean up).  That, my friends, is moving in the slow lane.

Many thanks to Bill Dier and Robin Haase for your assistance this morning.  As usual, Brittan was a chicken dressing artiste.

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Coyote!

From the Headline, you can guess we made a positive id on our predator this evening.  He boldly stepped out of the woods about 7:45 p.m. and watched us putting away the chickens.  I had a handgun with me, but it was loaded with buckshot for snakes.  There was no way I was going to hit a dog at 60 yards with that.

B and I dashed home, where I grabbed a rifle and loaded my handgun with .45 bullets and she packed up her 9 mil and popped some mini mags into her .22 handgun as well.  Obviously, we didn’t need to be loaded for an invasion, but we wanted whatever we needed depending on the shot that would be presented to us.

Unfortunately, he did not return.  By a little past 9 it was just too dark to see, so we put the chickens in a guaranteed predator proof pen and came home.

We may spend the night in the field Thursday night, or we may just keep the remaining birds near the donkeys until the Livestock Guardian Dogs arrive.  This much I know for sure, the rascal made his first mistake tonight.  His next one will carry consequences.

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It’s over for this batch of birds.  The predator came back last night, tore open a hole in the chicken tractor and killed 20 birds.  I am in my office at work.  Brittan is left alone to clean up the carnage.  She is moving the few remaining birds to a safe house close to the big animals.  We’ll likely move the donkeys to the same field this evening.  We’re considering a stake out tonight, as well.  We’re still two weeks away from getting our Livestock Guardian Dogs.  It appears to be time for some vigilante justice.

If you are a customer, please understand that we will not be able to fulfill orders in June now.  We will move all orders to our Sept. date.  Pre paid orders can be refunded, if you don’t want to wait.  I’ll send an email to customers tonight explaining more.

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