Saturday, August 25, 2012

July 16-17, 2012: Chicken Processing

Don't Worry! Nothing gross in this post.

We started off Monday morning early at 6. The chickens had not eaten to clean out their system and we were a little nervous about how we were going to handle butchering 70 some-odd chickens. Ter took us through a run through with just one chicken (which took about an hour), then we really got started at a quick pace of 2 birds in about 30 minutes. Ha! We had a huge learning curve and Monday evening we were watching Joel Salatin eviserating a chicken over and over again on youtube so that we could get faster at it. Tuesday went a lot better and we were pretty fast by the end with the eviserating only taking about 2 minutes per bird. Let me take you through the process. 

The broilers were in the back of the pickup ready for the knife.

These are called kill cones and we put the bird in there upside down, slit its throat (trying not to cut the windpipe), then let it bleed out into buckets on the board below.

My dad was in charge of that operation. On Tuesday, when he put the second bird in there and cut its throat, he got a huge surprise right on the top of his head. I guess that bird's system wasn't cleaned out all the way. :) Thanks, Dad, you're a trooper! By the way, dad also helped us with making the scalder stand and figuring out the system.

After the bird is drained, they are put two at a time in the scalder. Dad attached their feet to a rope pulley and dunked them in the hot water until their feathers were loose. He then cut off the feet and wing tips.

After the scalder, they go into this magical machine called the plucker. The kids were in charge of this operation. You put a couple birds in there and the bottom of the drum spins around while someone is squirting the inside with the hose. It takes about 30 seconds and all the feathers are off the birds.

Then they go to the eviserating station.

Ter chopped off the head and then he and I cleaned out the insides. We had never done this before and it was a little intimidating, but after a while we came to really like to hear the sucking slurping sound as we pulled the guts out the back because that meant success. Nothing like it.

My mom was in charge of quality control and packaging. Ter and I put the finished birds into an ice bath and mom took the birds and made sure the quills were all out and drained the water. Then she put the birds in shrink bags, clamped them and dipped them in boiling water for about a second and then put them in the freezer.
Actually, I was pretty proud of what we had accomplished. It was a lot of hard work - not just the processing, but the weeks before too keeping the broilers. It was hard when the weather got really hot and we had to check on them 4 times a day and refill their food and water and make sure they were cool enough with the fan. We also started moving them twice a day which was really hard when Ter was out of town sometimes. The kids and I learned a lot about hard work and persevering and putting something else's needs before our own. Character building at its best! It was a relief when it was all over Tuesday afternoon and we could look in on a freezer full of meat that we had put up ourselves.
For those of you with the big question in your mind...Yes, I think we're going to do this again. Just not in July!
Happy Processing!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Portaits of the Farm

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 118:1

June 7, 2012 - Our Babies Are Two Weeks!

Yes, they've kinda hit that awkward pre-teen stage. E won't even go in to see them and you can tell by the look on Z's face that he's not exactly enjoying holding this gal for a picture. They're losing their baby feathers aand some of the adult feathers aren't in yet, but their wing feathers are mostly in. And their feet are huge! Like I said - awkward.

But we figured it was time to try them out in the pasture since they are pastured poultry. We delicately lifted them up out of the brooder.

Put them in their royal carriage a few at a time so that each one could make a grand entrance into their pasture pen where all the grass bowed before them. 

We gave them a delicious gourmet feast to celebrate the occasion.

We even threw grit confetti as they paraded around their new abode.

They were truly honored and grateful for all the fanfare. And now we have happy hens once again!

 Happy Clucking!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

May 23, 2012 - Meat Chicks Arrive

The day we've been preparing for...100 Chicks make their debut on the farm.

You know that panic feeling you got when the doctor put your first newborn child in your arms and you thought, "What in the world am I supposed to do now?" It was kinda similar today - 100 chicks and we have no IDEA what we are doing! I mean we've read about it but we all know it's not the same. Good thing they're cute. Ok, let's do this thing!

The chicks came when I was getting milk from the dairy and the post office called Ter to pick them up, but my phone was on mute (always convenient), so he couldn't get a hold of me and had to leave work early and go to the post office himself. Sorry, hun! Anyway, he and the girls got the chicks put into their brooder, dipped their beaks in water and showed them their food and they were all set.

Not really sure what to say here.

We all thought these chicks were just the cutest things and played with them for a long while. Even Bo held them gently...enough. We were surprised to see them still alive the next morning. Success! Now 8 weeks to go.

Happy new experiences!



Friday, June 8, 2012

May 19, 2012 - First Hens Moving Day

We have our hens in a portable hen house but it also has a portable electric fence around it so that the hens can move around freely and pick up all kinds of tasty treats from their yard. It's also supposed to deter any predator or curious passerby. But we hadn't tried moving until today...

Saturday was super windy (that would be a strike against us). Multiply that with frantic hens, a curious dog and people who have no idea what their doing and we're in for a crazy mix. :) Of course, we did have a fearless leader so what more could we need.

We finally got all the chickens rounded up and safe inside the hen house. Then we moved the fence around by everybody grabbing a couple posts and moving simultaneously. (Think uncoordinated synchronized swimming.) We got all the posts pushed back into the ground and then we staked the lose ends. After that we tied a couple of spots to tree branched so the wouldn't fall over in the wind.  

See the fencing in the picture above? You can see how much the wind blowing by looking a Bo's hair and how much the fence is curving in between posts. 

We managed to get it up without too many harsh words. The hens seem to enjoy their new space especially around the trees. We learned taht we're not going to do it the same way next time. We're going to follow the recommendations from the fence company (imagine that) and gather up each post while not crossing the mesh fencing and then we'll lay the fence flat in the new spot by laying down each post and then standing then upright when we get it all arranged correctly. (Reading directions is a marvelous thing.)

Happy Boundaries!


Friday, May 18, 2012

May 12, 2012 - Happy Hens

Thanks to one of our friends we were able to get 7 laying hens for free! One Rhode Island Red and 6 Plymouth Rock. Ter picked them up today and brought them home. The kids were all squawking in the farmyard like a bunch of hens themselves when the truck pulled up. The electric fence was all set to go with the hen house inside. The food and water were all set out with some grit for good digestion. Ter held the chickens while I gave each of the birds a wing clip and we set them in the fence. They immediately started pecking and scratching around their new home. Of course they weren't too sure of the 5 non-feathered friends that were following them everywhere they went, but they were pretty content with the new surroundings.

The kids were fascinated and watched them for quite a while. They were also trying to outwit the electric fence, but soon realized that it was futile to attempt hopping the fence without turning the electricity off. :) Nothing like consequences really to teach the important lessons.

After checking on them one last time before heading off to bed, Z spotted a lone egg among the potato plants. He got the trophy for finding the first egg. A good day.


Happy pecking!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 7, 2012 - Our Girl's Mowing!

E has been dying to get a chance at mowing the lawn on hte riding lawn mower for a long time now. Daddy wouldn't let her at our house because there were way too many rocks and hard places for a novice mower. At the first opportunity, she got her first lesson and mowed the entire front yard at the farm. Ter just had to finish a couple rough spots around trees and such, but she did it all and enjoyed her new accomplishment. She like it because it was "complicated." She announced that she's going to be doing the mowing from now on, but we'll see what transpires in July. ;)