Friday, January 21, 2005

Head Counting

Phew... we do keep busy here. Seems there's not much time for blogging.

Our chicken world has changed since I last wrote. All the white birds have been slaughtered except for one, who has been claimed as a pet by Farmer Boy. After a week of slowly integrating her, she now comfortably waddles through the masses of smaller chickens with the superiority of a know-it-all older sister. She had to go through a series of challenges by the teenage roosters who are busy establishing the pecking order, but by sheer bulk she has subdued them all.

A few weeks ago we spent an afternoon at the farm of our friends who, until recently, ran a commerical poultry farm. They have a state certified processing facility, and were kind enough to allow us to use it and teach us some tricks. I still have not done, or even seen, the killing, but I actually can eviscerate fairly quickly now.

Can you believe it? I can't. I have a lot of dead birds in my freezer. Big ones... up to 8.5 lbs! That's practically a turkey!

The other chickens continue to grow, and we awaken to genuine cock-a-doodle-doos every morning. We still have a few months until we get eggs.

As for dogs and chickens, to date 11 chickens have been killed by mammals other than us. The last we actually know of for sure as having been killed by a dog was on Christmas Eve.

If the courts can distinguish between murder and manslaughter, I suppose we can distinguish between canine-poultricide and equine-poultricide. One of the 11 deaths falls into the latter category, and was amusingly referred to by Stephen as "an unfortunate industrial accident".

Seems horses haven't read the books that say they shouldn't eat spoiled, poopy hay. Nor have they grasped that they should be appreciative of the fact that their grain ration is way up because it is winter and they are getting fed more than twice what they were in December. To them, food is food, and they don't hesitate to use their considerable mass to increase the size of the openings to places that harbor hidden treasures of food, like, say, the opening to the chicken house and its trove of nasty hay.

Hank the wonder horse, known around the farm for his stubbornness and extremely small personal space zone, crashed his way to the front of the chicken house, in the process knocking down our makeshift hardyplank door. It wasn't until several hours later, when Stephen went out to pick up after him, that he discovered the, er, chicken pancake.

The next day Hank knocked down the extension ladder and further damaged the door, necessitating a brand new and innovative door design hammered together as the sun set by none other than your fearless blog author. :-D It remains as our chicken house door, in all its makeshift, ugly glory.

And dogs... with Christmas came guests, freezing weather, two new dogs, and an end to canine-poultricide. Weird, eh?

I actually think this supports my theory that Molly was bored, and was just playing with the chickens. She *would* eat them, but I don't think that was her original plan, if dogs can be said to be of the planning sort.

Fred and Luke are settling in. They both very much like being here, although both were a little confused and mellow at first. Now they are annoyingly spastic, so to speak, at times, but we are managing.

Our current trial with Luke is that he got bitten by the "Let's bark at cows!" bug when his brother came to visit, and has had a terrible time restraining himself since. This is mildly annoying when it is our own cattle... it is very unneighborly when the cattle are across the street.

Fred just likes to bark. And I think he is going deaf. I have to get his attention physically and try to distract him away from whichever critter he's in the middle of haranguing. He is an ancient dog, and while well endowed with sweetness and a huge heart, very minimally endowed with brain cells. I don't think Fred is going to be with us for long, and I'd like his retirement here to be pleasant, but I simply can not have him tormenting the horses and cat. We are working on it.

So our chicken head count is going down, and our dog head count is going up. Still no goats because we still have not finished either the fencing or the repairs to the barn. We continue to be amazed by how much work there is to do, how much more time than we expect each job takes, and how little time we actually have available for farm work. We have other small matters eating up our time, like off-farm work, home schooling, and tending to the every day needs of all the critters (human and otherwise) who already live here.

I am working on planning our first gardens. I will be putting in some fruit trees tomorrow, and have picked the spot to put veggies and flowers for this year. I think I will ultimately want the garden space to be elsewhere, but with all the animals I have to find a spot that won't be trampled or eaten up. The space I have picked is the easiest to manage fencing-wise. I still have to put in some fencing, but it can just be metal t-posts and chicken wire... it's in place where it doesn't have to keep out a 2000 lb animal.


Rurality said...

Ewww, chicken pancake! What a mental picture I have now.

Our original plan was to get straight run chickens and butcher the excess males. The coyotes beat us to them though, before we got our dog.

Did you skin your chickens or pluck them? I'm still not sure that I'm up to the task of butchering chickens at all. Love the eggs though.

Patti said...

Yah, I'm glad I was spared the visual as it was my fearless husband who found the "pancake." Blech!

The straight run idea seemed like such a good one, but I am now understanding why people don't do it. It sure does take a lot of time (and food) to get these other guys big enough to eat. Costwise I think we'll be coming out behind having done it this way, but it has been much fun nonetheless!

We have not tried the skinning idea, although Stephen was planning to do that for the next home-slaughtered chickens. Our last batch we killed at our friend's processing facility where they have a super-duper indstrial plucker that plucks a bunch of birds in something like 15 seconds. We'll try to have amnesia about that luxury when it comes time to pluck again here!

As for eggs, oh boy am I longing for the day when we get our first egg. We should have something like 35 females, so we are going to have a lot of eggs once they all start laying. I am thinking of selling the surplus at the Farmer's Market. Do you find you end up with a surplus? What do you do with them?

Rurality said...

Oh yeah we have a lot of surplus! Right now we are just giving them away. I suppose we should sell them but I don't think you could get much for them around here anyway. We did get in exchange the very best sweet potato pie I've ever eaten!

The first eggs we got were very small compared to the ones we get now. My mother-in-law called them "pullet eggs".

I'm going to add a link to you from my page if you don't mind.