This morning was not our crowning glory of organized small holding farming techniques.
We went out at the early time of 7:30 a.m. to get out 14 meat chickens that we had isolated the night before to take in for finishing. We had intended to use one of the dog crates, but silly us, we had left it outside, with water in it, taken apart as we had been cleaning it out. So in the frosty morning, it was full of ice, and brittle and did not want to go together to save our souls! We fought with it for at least a half hour and it was not pleasant. Finally, we just decided to transport them in the back of the wagon, loose. So we began the long trek back and forth from the barn to the wagon, oh, 7 times. Maggie and I. At one point our trusty little wagon broke, so we couldn’t even use it and a cardboard box to make it a little easier. The birds were cool with sitting in the back of the wagon, it was kinda humorous. When you raise your own birds, and interact with them their whole lives, they are much easier to pick up and handle.
But about half the way through our trips, we hear Ratchet and Evee barking their fool heads off in the dog yard. Of course, at first, didn’t think too much of it, figured it was a dog across the road or someone walking on the side of the road. But then I checked and it was a RACOON in the dog yard and they were keeping it from getting up a tree. Oh my gosh… so we get them in the house, only to find that it’s really not doing well, and not from too much trama from the dogs, it just looks old and like it’s having a heart attack or something odd. Thank goodness, both dogs are up to date on any rabies and such, and we haven’t had any rabies in the tri county area for years, but still, it was clearly something odd up. It might have gotten hit on the road and just not killed and wandered into the dog yard, I don’t know. But I got a big stick and it grabbed hold of it. So I carefully lifted it up and over the fence and laid it under a pine tree to see if maybe it would recover and scamper off, or die quietly and hidden away. I’m sad to report that it passed away, and we will be burying it within a few more hours.
Well, we were 5 minutes late for our appointment at the finishing school, but thankfully, they were behind and very nice about it. Just hate to be late to things that are run on a tight schedule. This family processes chickens on Fridays and you need an appointment and all, because they fill up fast! They had some cages and we were able to easily transfer our birds to their holding cages. Before we do this again, I am going to invest in a couple chicken crates for certain. They work good and are just for transporting birds. This morning was chaos and I just hate chaos in our day!
Now, taking the 14 meat hens out of the little coop left our black copper Maran new roo, Dammartin, with only his BCM hen, Amanda and our 5 little Bucka Roo pullets that we hatched out in the summer. I was a little concerned that he might be a little rough on the pullets, without all the 14 nuggets in there to keep things busy. So I had considered either going to the auction tomorrow, or seeing about a Craig’s List seller that was just 3 miles up the road from the processor!
We decided to go to the Craig’s List fella, because his ad said he had a mixture of heritage breed birds and all for 7 to 8 dollars a bird. That fit our budget fine and we like getting birds that we know more about, then at auction. Auctions are fun, but you just don’t always get a nice range of young birds.
This fella had a nice group of at least 50 to 60 birds, in a electric net fence and a big trailer coop! Reminded me of the Joel Salatin setup, where they could move that rig around and keep their pasture from getting all nasty. And the birds were all beautiful, nicely grown and well kept. We wanted to get just a couple hens to help teach the pullets to lay, and give Dammartin some mature birds to fool around with, and also take a little heat off the few hens in there. And we knew we wanted to get some unique ones, some that we didn’t already have, to just make our collection of layers neat to look at and easy to name!!!
So we got a nice little golden Comet girl, we call Goldy. (Yeah, we are very creative namers in the early morning! Haha…) And we got a English Susex that we named Elizabeth. And a Jersy Giant in the blue and white splash color that Maggie named Bionca… which she thought was a good Jersy mafia wife name! Haha… More on Bionca in a moment. The last girl, which we have no picture of, because she won’t come out of the coop yet… is a Amerucana blond and white hen that looks a bit like our free range girl, Mildred! We love Mildred and her coloring and so we named the new girl Irene, since that was my grandma Mildred’s middle name! We’ll get a picture of her soon enough, when she gets a little more comfy.
We originally were going to get Bionca and see if our neighbors wanted her, since they are trying to establish a good Jersey Giant flock. But we couldn’t get Bionca into the crate with the others, there was just not any room for a hen of her size! So she just rode in the back of the wagon, happy as could be. We stopped at McDonalds for lunch, since around here, that’s a treat… the closest one is nearly 15 miles away or more. And Maggie was delighted as Bionca was sitting on the back of the seat and eating some of her breakfast sandwich with her! And then she named her and it was just so perfect. We fell in love with her gentle nature! I had to call and ask Miss Julia if she minded if we kept her, as a fun addition to our flock! Of course, she didn’t mind, and I told her that they had two other Giants… a blue and another splash, so I hope maybe they go and get them over the weekend! They would be nice additions to their flock for sure!
Dammartin approves of the new harem members and he was pretty quick to welcome them to the flock. He was a bit intimidated by Bionca, however, as she is as tall as he is and much fluffier. He did his little dance and crow for them, but they were not as impressed. He’ll have to work a little harder to gain their admiration. As a diversion we brought out some stale taco chips and everyone set to getting those goodies.
Goldy was the first to intergrate with the others, because I think she really likes chips. She braved the BCM hen Amanda and one of the bossy pullets, Emerald, to get her share of the goodies being given out. Being that the new girls are all mature hens, I didn’t seem much in the way of squabbling. Just a few little staredowns and a bit of ninja kicks to establish who was who.
Now that the freakishly huge meat chickens are out of the equation, little Miss Amanda here is the queen of the coop. She came with Dammartin and she was, until now, the largest mature hen, so she was pretty quick to hassle the new girls a bit and put them in their place. She is a beautiful feather shanked black copper Marans hen and I do hope she’ll start laying soon! Her eggs are going straight into the incubator!
This is Silver, one of the Bucka 5 that we hatched out in summer. She is just beautiful! We think she might be a he, but there are no spurs yet, no crowing. However, she/he and Copper, are both starting to grow out lovely long tail feathers and also beautiful neck mantles. The other three are definitely hens, with the proper body shape and all that. We always suspected that Copper was a boy… but now, we’re just waiting to see what comes of it. Since they are both young, they might get along just fine with Dammartin, since he is a mature one year old and dominate rooster. We’ll have to see! We don’t have a good idea of what to do with extra roosters… however, if they are as gorgeous as Silver is? We’ll be selling them off as prized Marans crossbreds with wonderful temperaments!
These ladies are from the free range flock and Jessy just caught a nice picture of them drinking and visiting. A lot of chicken goings’ on and they had a lot to gossip about, I’m sure!
We picked up some more pallets to finish our pallet fence and another nice shipping box to make another nest box out of… and then went and picked up our 14 finished birds. Wow, they look awesome. Just the right little bit of fat, and heavy! These 14 birds averaged 5.5 pounds each! One was six and a half pounds! Just amazing. And the lady said they were beautiful birds! That is now, the third processor to remark on our birds. I asked her if she said that to everyone and she laughed but then added, no… these are very nice birds! And she knows her meat chickens.
That makes me happy to hear. Yes, maybe it is a little bit of customer appreciation, but I do say, our birds did look clean and plump and healthy compared to some of the birds in the waiting area. I’m proud that they had fantastic chicken lives, even if they were short. These birds ended up being 4 months old. About 16 weeks to be exact. We took in all the roosters at 12 weeks and they were good sized and great eating. These girls we let get a little bigger and older, and I think it turned out just fine. They were all still very active and ran and played outside, coming to the fence if you called them and had treats. None seemed to develop any leg trouble and seemed very nice and healthy. One of these birds makes us 3 meals… we roast one and have a nice sliced roast chicken meal once… and then the leftovers go into 2 more meals with rice or casseroles, that sort of thing. So at one a week, we’ll be fine into the first of the year! We have decided that we don’t want all the chicks and work during the winter, so we will probably order a batch in the early spring. And I suspect we will do 50 this time, since so many of our friends enjoyed their gift birds from our first batch! And we have been enjoying them as well! I do think we will make a chicken tractor for 50, however, and move them around the yard and such.
But that’s an adventure for the spring!!!
So the Windhaven total of chickens is now… 44 birds and one turkey! A nice collection. Since most of our free range, egg flock is molting, we’re only getting an egg or two a day! Oh no! And of our 44 birds, 16 are pullets and not yet laying. Pullets are young hens. Only 24 are laying hens. We hope to add a few more Marans to the flocks, preferably black copper Marans, since we only have one girl at the moment. But around here, it’s been hard to locate them! I will be haunting Craigslist to keep an eye out for them! And we also want a nice Buff Orphingham hen.. but that’s it for now! 50 does sound like a nice number, eh? Once our girls start laying again, hopefully within a few weeks, we are going to start hatching out as many as we can, so we can have spring sales of our homebred crossbreeds! And some purebreds too! It’s all part of our 5 year plan for the homestead!!!Pin It