Monthly Archives: June 2015

Meat Birds – 3 Weeks Old

Time is flying.  Our meat birds are not.

All is still going well, and our routine remains the same with them.  We empty the brooder of all of the dirty pine shavings, replace with new, fill up water and food.  Done.

Except, they have been knocking down their feeder and waterer a lot, so I have ordered a new feeder and waterer off of Amazon so that we can hang it from the ceiling.

I ordered two of these feeders:

This feeder holds 3 pounds of feed, and should last a little longer.  The fact that I can hang it up should prevent and spillage of food.  I ordered one for the brooder inside and one for the Chicken Paddy Wagon outside.

I also ordered one:

I already have one outside, and I only need one inside.  It is only 5 quarts.  This seems to be a complaint for many, but I think having a little less water is good.  That way, you clean it every time you change it.  This should prevent it from getting too yucky.

Also, I’m only raising 10 baby chicks at a time.  If I was raising more, I would want larger food and water containers.

I will let you know my impression of these purchases once I use them for a bit.

Our chicks are feathering out nicely.  Their feathers are coming in on their wings, and now on their tail.

IMG_0516

We also bought 10 “Miscellaneous” chicks.  We got 3 black ones, 3 light colored chicks with stripes and 3 orange-brown ones.  The orange brown chicks are about 2/3 the size of the other chicks.  I have no clue what kind of breeds they are, but they are all clearly different. The size difference is quite obvious in real life, but a little more difficult to capture in a picture.IMG_0515

Raising meat birds is so much fun.  I think this is something we will continue doing in the future.   I’m excited (kind of) about tasting these guys.

3 week old Chicks-progress

The journey continues…

Weekly Video:

 

Meat Chickens – Week Two

Our chickens are two weeks old!!!  Time is flying.

All ten chicks are still in good health.

What’s Changed?

I no longer have to do the daily Pasty Butt check.  But I do shovel out the brooder daily, and put in new pine shavings.

We have also removed the heat lamp, since they no longer need it.  We are in the beginning of Summer, so the weather is warmer.  When removing the heat source, observe the chicks to see if they start huddling together to gather heat, or if they act normally.  The types of chicks and the current weather make a huge difference as to the exact time to remove the heater.  That’s why it is so important to observe.

And finally, we have to do daily cleaning of the brooder.  This means we scoop out most of the (poopy) pine shavings and replace it with fresh pine shavings.  I put the used pine shavings around my blueberry bushes.  They love the acidity of the pine.

The chicks are quickly feathering out, and I think they will be ready to move to the chicken paddy wagon (outside) next week, or the week after.  Again, it’s all about observation.

Progress Pictures:

Here is a the progression of the birds aging:

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

Previous Meat Bird Posts:

Weekly Video:

Simple Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

It’s easy as pie.  Sorry for the hilarious pun.

Okay, quite frankly, I really don’t have the art of the crust.  I kind of botched this one.  But it was still tasty.

The filling, strawberry filling to be exact, was super easy.  And Simple.

And I think you may be sick of me posting these recipes that only have two steps and very few ingredients, such as homemade peanut butter, and dried strawberries.

But this is Simplicity for Julia.  So let’s go on with this simple recipe, which is my husband’s favorite.

Ingredients:

  • Unbaked Pie shell (I like the Fresh P’s all butter Pie crust, even though I still need practice)
  • 10 cups of whole Strawberries or 7 cups of sliced strawberries (for ultimate yumminess, make sure they are fresh and in season)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Powder (I prefer this to cornstarch, as corn is full of GMOs)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Vanilla

Yup.  That’s all the ingredients.

What To Do with the Ingredients?

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Slice up your strawberries.  You will have about 7 cups.  More or less doesn’t really matter, This isn’t exact. Place in a large bowl.IMG_0446
  3. Add Arrowroot Powder, Sugar and Vanilla. IMG_0449
  4. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes.  This will cause the strawberries to “macerate” or create their own syrup.
  5. Pour this into your unbaked shell.IMG_0452
  6. Place in your preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Reduce temperature in your oven to 350 degrees, and continue baking for another 40 minutes.  Be sure to check the pie often toward then end of that time so it doesn’t burn.  The crust should be golden brown.IMG_0456
  8. Let cool and then eat the heck out of it.  The addition of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is always welcome.

A Few Notes:

This is a relatively low sugar recipe.  Most fruit pie recipes call for 1 1/4 cups of sugar.  I really don’t think you’ll miss it.  I think you could use even less sugar and still get great results.  Play around with it, and I think you will find the ideal amount of sugar that meets your tastes.

Meat Chickens – One Week Old

Our meat birds are celebrating their one week birthday.  It has been a relatively easy week.

Notice the chicks are starting to feather out.  They start this at the tips of their wings.

Notice the chicks are starting to feather out. They start this at the tips of their wings.

The how-to’s of their first week of life is pretty easy, and not very time consuming.

What is the daily chores for week old chicks?

I check on the boys (as we ordered cockerels, all male) at least once a day, and usually twice a day.

Once a day I pick up each chick to check for Pasty Butt.  Pasty Butt is when the chick’s back end (poo hole?) is clogged with poo.  This can actually kill them.  So as soon as you find it, take a warm, wet rag, sponge or paper towel and gently clean it.

The bummer about this condition is that if your bird gets pasty butt once, they are likely to get it again.  BUT it’s super easy to take care of.

I check to make sure that they have plenty of fresh drinking water and that their food is full.

The chicks eating their feed.

The chicks eating their feed.

Then, I add in some more pine shavings to keep everything clean and smelling fresh.

Why Pine Shavings?

I like pine shaving over other bedding for the brooder because the high acid of the pine neutralizes the smell.  Also, the chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, while wood is high in carbon.  This makes the perfect combo for fertilizing your plants when it’s time to clean out the brooder.  While the  nitrogen in the manure is good for plants, it can be a little too much in the fresh poo and burn the plants.

Be Careful NOT to use:

  • Cedar Shavings – the oils from this will hurt the chicks lungs.  Avoid this throughout the chickens entire life span.
  • Newspapers – the newspapers create a slippery base.  Chicks also have a natural desire to scratch and dig.  Please let your chicken express his chicken-ness, and give him something to dig in.

So far, so good.

It’s been amazing to watch these guys grow.  They have two or three more weeks in the brooder and then we’ll be moving them out to the chicken paddy wagon.

Left: Chick One Day Old Right: Chick One Week Old

Left: Chick One Day Old
Right: Chick One Week Old

Here’s this week’s video:

Strawberries – Dehydrated

The strawberries are here!! That means summer is here.

And we have oodles of strawberries.

WAY more than we can use just for fresh eating.

IMG_0429

There are so many things you can do with your strawberries:

  • eat fresh
  • preserve into a jelly or jam
  • strawberry pie (my husband’s favorite)
  • Strawberry Muffins
  • Fruit Salad
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  •  fruit leather
  • freeze
  • dehydrate

With today’s batch-o-berries, I’ve decided to dehydrate.  I like dehydrating strawberries as a way to preserve them.  It’s a much healthier snack than jelly (which is made from the juice of a fruit) or jam (which has the chunks of fruit in it.) as those tend to have lots of sugar, but I still make it.  It’s a tasty treat.  Especially when paired with homemade peanut butter.

Back to the Dehydrated Strawberries

I think they taste like a gummy fruit snack.  However, this is coming from a person who has probably eaten about 5 fruit snacks my entire life, and has not had one in years.  I believe my opinion on this snack being akin to fruit snack is similar to a vegan’s opinion on meatless bacon.  But these are pretty dang tasty.

And easy to make.

What do you need to make this delicious snack?

  • A dehydrator – You can certainly use your oven on a low temperature overnight, but I really do like my dehydrator.  It’s easier than my oven and more fool proof.  So while I encourage LESS clutter and LESS equipment, I do like having a dehydrator.  I use it to make Kale chips, fruit leather, and other dehydrated fruits
  • Fresh Strawberries – I used about 3 1/2 cups of fresh whole strawberries. Try to get them local and seasonal.  The better the ingredients the better the finished products.

How To Make Dehydrated Strawberries:

  • Slice them about 1/8 of an inch thick.  You can also put them on whole if you have small strawberries.  Keep in mind: the thicker the strawberry the longer it will take to dehydrate, AND the strawberries will shrink when they are dehydrated.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

  • Place them in a single layer on your dehydrator.  If they are layered, they will stick together.  They will still be deliciousIMG_0437
  • Set your Dehydrator to 135 degrees F and let it do it’s thing for about 3 hours.  It may take longer or shorter depending on the current climate and the thickness of the strawberry slices.IMG_0440
  • EAT THEM!

Storage

I store mine in a mason jar in the fridge.  They may not need to live in the fridge, but I think that’s the best place for them.  They will last for months, if you don’t eat them.

Uses?

These are good for snacks, or in granola, or in cold cereal.  We really like to eat these as snack plain.  I love having this healthy, convenient snack in the cooler months, long after strawberry season has passed.

 

Our New Adventure – Day 1, Batch 2

As a family, we want to make sure we source our meat from local, humane and sustainable resources.  Sometimes we aren’t successful, but over 95% of the time we are.  We have a great resource for chicken, but we have agrarian dreams and we wanted to raise our own.  Okay, mostly, have agrarian dreams and a very supportive husband.

Our First Batch

So our newest adventure is raising meat birds, particularly chickens.  We started our first batch five weeks ago, and we got our second batch of ten chicks last night.  We start them in our homemade brooder, where they live for three to four weeks.  You can read about this DIY brooder here.

We ordered six cockerels (male chicks) for our first batch.  I also picked up two turkey poults at that time, one male and one female, from a different local farmer.  This first batch of chicken should be ready to be processed (a nice way to say butchered) in about three weeks time.  The turkeys will take about six months and should be ready around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Six chicks and two bronze Turkeys.  Another agrarian adventure begins!

Six chicks and two bronze Turkeys. Another agrarian adventure begins!

 

I’ve read that we should raise the turkeys away from the chickens, and I’ve read it doesn’t matter.  Having the turkeys and chickens together so far seems to working out wonderfully.

Our Second Batch

We ordered 10 chicks for our second batch.  That seems like the ideal amount for the Chicken Paddy Wagon.  The Chicken Paddy Wagon is a 8 foot by 4 foot shelter that we move daily.  This is the Joel Salatin Method.  Everyday, we move this enclosure to a new section of grass.  We do this so:

We got a mixed batch of broilers.  Here they are:

IMG_0426IMG_0428

And a video describing their second day:

Types of Birds

We order “broiler” chickens from a local hatchery.  They are a mix of large bodied heritage breeds that will have a decent amount of meat in a little bit of time.

We did not choose to use the “Cornish Cross” chickens.  Those birds come to full maturity at 6 weeks. If they are not processed by about 8 weeks, they start to die from enlarged hearts, or their legs collapse beneath them from the heavy body weight.  These Cornish Crosses get so large their feathers do not cover their body.  From what I’ve read, these fraken-chickens are not interested in eating bugs or grass.  Essentially, they have lost the “chicken-ness” of being a chicken.  This seems highly unnatural to me.   And a lot of that extra nutrient which pastured poultry is known for comes from the birds eating bugs and grass.

That being said, I think I will experiment and buy a few Cornish Crosses in the future.  I have had a lot of experiments go differently than what I read.  My plants and animals have not read the same resources I have.  So I would like to see the results given our inputs.

Processing the Birds

We have processed birds here before.  We did that last fall when we found that we had 4 roosters, and we ordered all hens.  It’s not a great idea to have that many roosters.  It’s really rough on the hens, and the roosters can fight with each other.  So we had to cull 3 roosters.  (Culling is when you process chickens due to excess roosters or if they have lived past their laying prime.)

Costs

I am also keeping a running tally of the costs associated with raising meat birds.  I saw a whole organic chicken for sale at the grocery store for under $8.00.  I’m pretty sure our birds are going to cost more than that.  However, organic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Organic is better than conventional, but it stinks compared to pastured.  These organic birds that you can buy at a store just eat organic food.  They probably still live inside of large over crowed chicken houses with little to no ventilation.  The birds are probably not eating any bugs, digging in dirt, or eating any grass or weed seeds.

We are feeding our birds 100% organic feed while they have access to the outdoors during the last half of their life.  We want our chickens to be happy and to live healthy lives.

So join me on our journey with meat birds from day one to our table.

 

Link to the water and feeder for your Brooder:

Baby Chick Feeder Bottom

Water Bottom

Bottle for Food and Water