Thursday, August 20, 2015

MEAT CHICKENS. HOW DO I LOVE THEE.. LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

WARNING! Some chicken images may be graphic.

Well my friends last week I killed, plucked, and cleaned my first chicken. Yes that may come as a shock... but hey, better late than never eh? 

Heck the day had to come some day, I have been dreaming this whole meat chicken project thing up for about a year now. And holy cow is there a whole heck of a lotta work involved. Honestly more than I ever expected... 

Spencer was supportively reluctant at the thought of adding more animals and more responsibilities to say the least...

"But honey this is the next thing!"

"Q, what's the next thing?"

"Broiler Chickens!!! The next thing we need to incorporate on our homestead for self sufficiency!!! And... I just watched this crazy video that turned me off store bought chicken for good... I must have meat chickens! I must have them! I must!!! Muhahaha!!! Plus look how cute they are as babies!!! Honey you know how I love babies."



Ok I didn't really laugh like a villain, but really, as I add homestead hack after hack to my awesome bright shiny homesteaders belt, I feel somewhat like I'm conquering a new world.... What's that you say? Don't you all have one of these shiny belts?.. Ok that part IS make believe, and yes its okay for adults to have imaginations to. 



Homesteader's really aren't marked with shiny belts or fancy badges to set us apart. We're marked with skills, hacks, rabbit scratches, poop, dirt under our nails, 476 runs to the feed store, hours of research, more poop (only this time its from a tiny human), hours out in the cold/heat with our animals, gardens, or broken vehicles.... Anyone can do this just like we do, but not everyone will. 



Meat chickens, are my ode to this homestead life, a messy messy job.. Yes I could buy organic chickens from the store. But for some weird innate reason unknown even to me I've discovered I would rather kill, process, and cook a chicken from my own farm and through my own hands. The feeling I got after it was all said and done, I want that feeling everyday for the rest of my life. 



A little sappy for ya? What can I say I love my homestead and this lifestyle.. I'll yell it from the rooftops! I'm proud of my birds, don't hate.

Yes I love chickens, so, bringing meat chickens to the homestead was an obvious next step. As much as chickens are amazing, beautiful, lovely, funny animals, and it is no doubt they are some of the best farm animals. Commonly referred to as "the gateway drug to farming," chickens are many a thing, but there are some things that chickens are not.



Things I've learned, relearned, and decided about chickens are as follows;

Chickens are not clean.. They poo everywhere.. their water, their food, your back porch, the laundry...nothing is sacred to them..

Chickens are not smart... They'll drown in their drinking water if you give them the chance.

Chickens are not easy to catch... unlike ducks, chickens do not flock well..

Chickens are terrible landscapers..they don't care if your flower beds or yard look pretty... They'll scratch up and dust bath away all your hard work if let to free range.

Chickens are not very polite.. They'll come right into your front door if you aren't watching out.. Look back at my post about chickens IN my house last fall.

Chickens do not understand personal space.. "What't that in your hand?  A bucket with feed? Well let me just flap all over, scratch you, and jump on your head..."

Chickens have terrible instincts sometimes.. "Oh my stomach can't digest grass and my crop will get impacted if I eat it? Well, a chickens gotta get sour crop sometime, screw it let's eat a bunch of grass!"



You see, chickens can die so easily they are practically suicidial, this is why its so easy to loose chickens in all sorts of ways. So they must be cared for accordingly, still seem like the easiest farm animal? Chickens are a commitment, especially meat chickens. A big commitment, but with such great pay off. 



I say this only because I jumped in head first.. without a plan, without much knowledge of food to weight ratios for growing at the fastest rate, without knowing exactly how much square footage per bird for foraging I would need, and never having killed and processed any animals before..nerdy stuff like that...


All the things I've learned in the last 4 months has left me yearning' for more learning'! ? Here's a taste of some of my new knowledge about the birds;

I learned what products to use and when to worm the birds, I also learned the meat birds should be wormed every two weeks after the initial dose. This is to maintain a worm free bird, we used a simple liquid wormer, which is easily added to their water. 

I learned about sour crop/ impacted crop and of a condition called pendulous crop, which is caused from chronic stretching of the crop muscle. All of these condition which can be avoided with proper access to grit and scratch to aid the crop in digesting food. 


I learned that chickens cannot digest grass (as my chicken narration stated before) or other long vegetation, since it does the former and causes issues with the crop.

I learned how and what temperature to scald the chicken to remove feathers the easiest... I also found the plans for a homemade chicken plucker which will be added to the 'homestead TO DOs' list..

I learned that the birds really need to be killed before the roosters start to realize they are roosters and begin beating each other up.

I learned that they need to have a good source of shade from the heat in summer and need twice as much water since they pant like dogs. 

I learned that with meat chickens, more space is always better. The ground won't suffer as much, the poop won't smell as bad, they run less chance of tearing up the ground, and they will have better access to grit and scratch. 

I also learned the stage of barley fodder at which the chickens enjoyed it most.. about day 3-4, before the grass has come in and just the root mat exists yet.

I learned the fastest cleanest way to make the kill. And too make sure you let it bleed all the way out before scalding..

And hell I learned how to completely pluck, clean, gut, skin, and preserve those little mother cluckers. I say that is a pretty darn good accomplishment looking back on the process. 

Most of all, I learned that patience is key while learning to master a new skill. Skills are after what drives homesteading in a way. Learning to do things you formerly couldn't to become self sufficient. In a sentence isn't that why we're all here? To get back to basics.
You see folks, this is why I blog. I blog to save all my progress in one place for y'all to see... And hopefully learn from my mistakes. I want to show you this life is possible on a budget. I want to show my kids one day how we made it to where we're going. Where it all began. 

Yeah this post is turning into my love letter to homesteading than about chickens... A love letter I want to keep writing. About my kids. My animals. My bearded love. Our crazy projects. Ups and downs. And our quirky crunchy organic country lifestyle.

I saved the graphics for last, so scroll on, only if you dare.
Photo credit: KC Vipperman, Quincy Burke