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Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

Wow.  I can’t believe how long it’s been since I blogged.  This summer was a whirlwind and I just didn’t have it in me to blog. This isn’t good because I use this blog as a personal journal, especially for my farm milestones, so I’m a little unsure of how old some of the animals are.  I didn’t log in the major events of the summer.  So I’ll try to catch up a bit.

Pigs!  We don’t have them anymore.  We had the butchered on August 4.  They were butchered, here on the farm, as peacefully as possible.  No stressful ride to the butcher.  No stress of smelling death in the air while awaiting their turn.  Simply eating grain, in their usual spot, shoulder to shoulder.  Nate Huse, a local 4th generation custom butcher came to the house with his well stocked truck.  Each pig was shot, bled and hung.  Skinned.  Placed in the truck, and brought back to Nate’s shop to be hung, and pieced.  Nate is fast, efficient, a master with a knife, and clearly cares for the animals with a great deal of peace in his manner and respect in his actions.  It was amazing to watch him work.  He processed them to our specifications, and sent them back all vacuum packed for the freezer several days later.  We have been enjoying the meat with such dishes as curried ground pork, pasta sauce, stuffed pork chops, and country style ribs simmered in cherries I put up last year.  My friend built a smoke house, and we will be smoking the hams and bacon over there in the coming weeks.  Check out her bacon!  MMMM.


Cows!  Declan is growing well.  He is still running with mama all day, spending time in his own space at night, and joining her again after morning milking.  We are going to have Nate come to butcher him this fall, before Winter hits.  We decided to try this as an experiment.  We don’t want to over winter 2 cows, that need to be separated, so that the nursing will stop.  We don’t want to have a steer while we are caring for Nellie and her new calf that will come next summer, if all goes well.  The meat should still be fabulous, even if it’s less.  Sort of like veal, but without the mistreatment associated with veal.  It’s an experiment.  We might like it, we might not, but we won’t know until we try.

Nellie is ready to be re-bred.  Truth be told, she’s past ready, so we have an Artificial Insemination technician lined up for the next heat cycle in another week or so.  We hope this takes the first time, so she will calve in early June and not need to be rebred for calving in July.  We’ll see.

The pasture area is starting to fill in with natural grasses and weeds.  I have been weeding it, to try to keep the weeds she doesn’t like to eat, out.  This month we are going to finish raking it, and start throwing down seeds and mulch, in the hopes that next Spring, Nellie will have a beautiful pasture to graze on.

Chickens!

Not a lot to say about them.  We’ve had a lot of loss.  Seems we had a bout with coccidiosis, that took most of one age group.  We were able to control the outbreak without employing any chemicals/medications.  So we felt good about that.  Next year we will keep chicks inside a little longer so they can get past their vulnerable age before going out into the environment.

We also had a coon that was far more successful than coons in years past.  We lost about 20-25 to that before we caught him and disposed of the little menace.

We will be selecting a breeding flock from those that remain, and hope for a better year next year.

Rabbits!

Also a summer of losses.  We lost Mimi and Isabelle to heat.  We lost Clementine to old age, but that is a happier ending.  She was retired, so she’s been lost in the since of one less breeding does, but she’s happily playing with her friend Clarice that she grew up with.  We are enjoying the rabbit ground pens we made.  They are eating grass, laying on the ground, safe, easy to care for.  It’s really the best of all worlds.  The rabbits will be moving around the pasture after Nellie in the Spring.  I’m excited with where our rabbit herd is and the direction we are moving.

Ducks!

We had a couple successful hatches of Muscovy.  We crossed our chocolates with blacks, and will be selecting a male from one pairing and 3-4 females from the other, so we can start a solid breeding program with that breed.  I’m excited about how that went.

We had a rough hatching year for the Runner ducks.  They hatched very poorly in the incubator, so I tried using a broody hen.  She did much better, so next year I’ll be using a couple hens to hatch out our replacement runners.  I have not divided males and females yet, but it looks like we will have a good little new flock to join last years layers this winter.

Garden!

Fail!  Seriously.  I am done with a large garden.  I scaled back this year and still found myself too busy during the critical times to maintain the thing.  My summer squash/zucchini all died.  My tomatoes (all 6 plants) were destroyed by hornworms.  I had a good crop of onions, string beans, and peppers.  My plan for next year is to sign up for a CSA and simply gardening with the girls.  I hope to create good little gardeners who can take over that part of the farm.  We’ll see.

Why was I too busy to garden, blog and get the cow bred?  I had a lot going on with my full time job.  I went to a large trade show of sorts in July, so all of June and July was spent making inventory and getting things ready to freight to Seattle WA area.  Upon return I had a lot of orders to fill, followed by my friends wedding!  It’s been a good and fun summer, but now it’s time to settle into a new rhythm.  The rhythm of fall.  Foraging, picking, canning, preserving, organizing, knitting, and all around hunkering down for Winter.

I did my canned good inventory, and am quite proud of my last year canning self.  I canned enough for last year, and for many things, this year!  I have 65 quarts of diced tomatoes and 33 quarts of peaches.  We are looking good on jams.  I will be canning apple sauce on a large scale and a moderate number or of Pears since we are down to 17 quarts.  I am hoping to can up some tomato paste, various chutney’s, a little salsa, mostly fun small batch canning.  I’m very excited to be in such good shape already.

Homeschooling!

Eowyn is now a “first grader”, so we are officially homeschooling.  We have, of course, been educating our kids since they were born.  Hours of reading, and many other hands on activities to help them make connections in their brains.  But with the official homeschooling we are working out what our rhythm is for that, as well.  The girls are excited to do their “lessons” each day, so we are off to a good start.

Bead Making!

I’m back on the torch.  The show this summer, along with some other fun things, motivated me to making spending time melting glass a priority again. It’s been fun, and I’m glad to be back.  I will share some things here, from time to time.  Here is the necklace I made to wear for the show, this summer.

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I had a friend come by today, and it was such a delight.  She wanted to learn how to make Kombucha so that was what we started out with, but she also wanted to spend the day on the farm.  We planted potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, beans, asparagus peas, swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos and winter squash!  We came in and out, throughout the day, dodging rain drops, and we fed Nellie a nice pile of weeds from the garden.  It was great fun!

My Speckled Sussex arrived today!  This is a “new to me breed” of chickens.  I love them.  They are so beautiful.  A deep mahogany with white specks on the tips of their feathers, and a thin black bar a bit in from the white, gives their feathers interest.  They are a dual purpose bird, and have Dorking in their lineage, which should make them an excellent meat bird.  I’m excited to get to know the breed.  I purchased them from Tony Albritton from Idaho.  He was a delight to work with.  I prefer to order birds from breeders, rather than hatcheries, because the time put in by a good breeder does so much to improve the quality of the birds.  Hatcheries, while important for many reasons, don’t have the time to put into each breed the way a dedicated breeder of just one or a couple breeds are able to do.  It’s worth paying extra for well bred birds, whenever you can.  I’m excited to see these birds grow out, and will be selecting a breeding flock from them this fall!

But don’t worry little Ancona’s, you have my heart, and while I may go on about the beauty of the Speckled Sussex, don’t think for a moment I don’t swoon over your stark black and white, with that gorgeous red rose comb!  You’re large white egg is nothing to be ignored, either.

Today I was clearly reminded of why I LOVE breeding.  When you have an animal that you have selected from all the animals on your farm, who goes on to outshine their parents…well, that is what good breeding is all about.  I had a rabbit, Edna, who was the daughter of a very excellent doe, who died last summer from heat stroke.  I selected Edna, and her sister Eliza from the 6 does in that litter.  I selected them for their body confirmation, with the hope that they would also have their mother’s ability to throw a good litter, and keep them alive until weaning.  Both Edna’s mother and herself have out shined Edna’s grandmother, Clementine, who never kindled more than 7, and most often only raised 5 to weaning.  She was a lovely rabbit, but not what her daughter and granddaughter went on to be.

I have to wait to see if Edna will follow through and be a good mom, now that she’s kindled this lovely litter of 8, but to have 8 on her first litter, is quite amazing.  They all seem of solid, and consistent size, too.

I love breeding!

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Proper breeding…my goal for this year with the Ancona.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I think it’s super important to share information about good breeding of animals, in general, especially chickens.  There is a huge surge in backyard chickens which is awesome, and I’m not of the opinion that everyone who has chickens should breed chickens, but I do think than everyone that has chickens and enough space, which may be less than you think, should CONSIDER breeding chickens.

Why?

You love your fluffy wyandottes, you think those Buff’s are so sweet, but remember they have specific genetics that make them what they are.  If no one takes on the job of steward of those genetics they can all to easily be lost.  At one time Farmers bred chickens.  They were hatching and culling and the process built up the breed.  There were a great many Farmers who were showing birds alongside fanciers.  Now the Cornish Cross and the high production birds have taken over industry, and the Farm, as well.  Farmers don’t breed they order chicks each year.  This doesn’t improve the old fashioned breeds that have been the foundation of our food system.  That is the philosophical reason but it leads into a very important practical reason.

Breeding improves YOUR birds.  You want a good egg layer, one that is not just prolific for a year,but productive for a couple, or more years.  You want your meat birds to have good size and get there efficiently.  You want all your birds to survive your winters, or your summers in good order.  All these things are bred into a bird.  If you select well your birds will pay you back in better and more efficient production.

Breeding creates community.  If you have ever stumbled across someone how has a breed of chicken, rather than a mixed bag of fun chicks they picked up at the feed store, you know they are excited about their breed.  Even folks with mix bag flocks often find they have a favorite breed in that mix.  When you get a few people together who all like the same breed…that is when great discussion can take place.  People can get ideas, learn from each other, and build a breed together.

Breeding opens you to showing, which opens you to exposure to other breeders, learning from each other, the community I mentioned, finding outlets for chicks/young birds.  There was a time that Farmers supplemented their incomes by selling breeding stock to others.  It’s great for the farm economy, as well as the new breeders and, again, the breed itself.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but those are enough to make it worth considering.

So what do you need to breed?  On a smaller scale, like I’m doing ,you could have a growing pen that can house 100 birds to about 12 weeks, and then 75 birds to about 4 months, so about 400 square feet, which would be 3 growing pens that are 10×12.  Maybe less, if you pasture them.  Then you need a couple Love Nests.  These are spaces for your breeders.  A simple small scale breeding program can be done with just 2 roosters and 4-6 hens.  That is what I’m doing.

I have Rooster number one in with 2 pullets from last year.  I have Rooster number 2 in with two Hens that were pullets the year before.  I will be marking the eggs and when they hatch the chicks, to keep track of who came from who.  Next year I can breed daughters back to fathers, which can be done for a couple generations.  Then when genetics are getting tight, I would breed the daughters from Rooster 1 to the sons of Rooster 2 and the Daughters from Rooster 2 to the sons of Rooster 1, then start breeding back to fathers again for a couple generations.  When done with good records you can keep just a small flock of breeders, basically 8-10 birds and still improve the flock each year.

The birds you hatch, about 100-150 birds can be culled (turned into meat), sold as breeding stock, or kept as your replacement breeders.  Oh, and the other upside to breeding… you don’t have to order in from hatcheries each year, paying shipping fees, and chick fees.  You make your replacements.  You always have enough hens to replace any older girls that aren’t laying and you have plenty of meat in the freezer.

So if you have space for the housing I mentioned, and a place in your heart for a breed of chickens, you might want to consider breeding.

Today we set up the roosters, with 2 hens each, and will be hatching every egg they lay!  It’s exciting to be starting on this new adventure.  I’ve been working towards breeding in earnest for a while, and have been dabbling to get my feet wet, but this year I’m all in!

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There is nothing to the replace proper tools for the job.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a yankee, I can get behind Red Green’s motto, “Any tool can be the right tool”.  I’ve done some serious jury rigging, to get the job done, but…

Over the past 3 years my canning buddy, Jessica, and I have been acquiring better tools for our long canning sessions.  The Amish canner, huge bowls, spoons, knives, colanders and lots of great big pots.  All this has cut down the work hours, and has made the process so much smoother.

So when we were sitting around discussing our Spring hatching plans, and our current incubator situation, it was becoming clear that we had outgrown our Little Giant basic incubators.  We decided to take the plunge and ordered a GQF Cabinet Incubator!  It arrived today, and we are collecting eggs for our first set!

Digital Sportsman

 

 

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This summer we will be offering chicken processed in an old fashioned way.  We are dedicated to breeding and raising the Rose Comb Ancona Chicken.  It is an endangered breed, and one that has so much history and potential, it would be a shame to lose it.  We procured our original stock from Yellow House Farm, and have bred them for a couple years.  This year we will be hatching a large number, in the hopes we will be able to select a top notch flock of egg girls for the coming year.

In breeding, at least with poultry there is a rule of 10.  For every 10 birds hatched 1 will be great. The other 9 will be okay to good, but for the most part 1 in 10 will be great.  If you want a flock of 12 great hens, you need to hatch at least 120 birds, and maybe more because you are hatching males, too.  But you get the idea.  To improve the flock you need to hatch a lot more birds than you need.

On a homestead or small farm, trying to house 100-150 birds for 6 months could be challenging, in regards to space.  This is where spatchcocking comes in.  To spatchcock is to butterfly a chicken.  When you butcher, you remove the back bone of the bird, which give you easier access to the offal on a small size bird.

The benefit to the homestead or small farm, is that this can be done when a heritage bird is about 13 weeks old.  So just as it’s starting to need more space and the testosterone would be kicking in creating a chorus of crowing prepubescent roosters in your yard, you are harvesting.  The Ancona is especially well developed for this style of butchery because of it’s early maturity, so the meat has started to form well at the age of 13 weeks.  A bird at that age weighs about 2.5 pounds, dressed.  We find one bird to be just about perfect for our family of 4, and you could probably feed 5, if  you were creative.

The benefit to spatchcocking from a kitchen perspective, is the fact you can grill or cook at high temps a heritage chicken!  Many people sacrifice the faster cooking techniques in favor of using a “proper chicken”.  When a bird is 6 months old the muscles are well developed and they need to be allowed to cook slowly, and depending on the age, with enough moisture, so the muscles do not constrict and become tough.  Because the spatchcock bird is so young, it’s muscles are still very flexible.  This means you can cook them hot and fast!  Grilling, broiling, frying, are all great techniques for the spatchocked chicken.  The fact it doesn’t have a backbone allows it lay flat, making the breast and legs about the same thickness for consistent cooking.  It is layed flat with a leg and a wing/breast on each side, looking something like a butterfly.

We will be offering Spatchcock Ancona Cockerels this summer.  I cooked one, from last summer, tonight, and I can’t wait for a freezer full of them!  So tender, ready in 45 minutes and so delicious!

On to the recipe:

Spatchcock Ancona Chicken with Bacon, on a bed of thinly sliced onions and minced garlic.

  • 1 Spatchcock Ancona 2.5lb
  • 4 Slices of bacon
  •  1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Place garlic and onions in the pan, lay chicken (skin side up) over the onions and garlic,  top with 4 slices of bacon. I put a little lard in the pan with the onions.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the bacon and chicken skin are crisp, and the meat is to temp (165-170 degrees).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plating the Spatchock Ancona with Bacon on a bed of onions and garlic:

I cut the chicken into 4 pieces, 2 thighs and 2 breast/wings. Side dish: Thinly sliced potatoes roasted in a pan with salt/pepper and lard/butter/duckfat, or other traditional fat. Roast for about 35 minutes until cooked and slightly crispy. Place chicken on plate, spoon potatoes, followed by onions and garlic from the chicken pan. Dice bacon, and sprinkle on top. Garnish with fresh, local greens or micro greens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources for this delicious dinner:

  • Iva Swaine Homestead – Microgreens, Spatchcock Ancona
  • New Roots Farm – Bacon
  • Nippo Brook Farm – Onions, Lard
  • Root Cellar – Potatoes

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I was looking for pictures of my Ancona chickens to send to the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) because they were asking for some.  I was looking through old posts on here, and came across several that really amused me.  In particular the recounting of the Muscovy Broody Poop incident of April 30, 2010.  I have, by the way, never forgotten the tip I shared in that post.

We explored several options for housing the pigs, some at my house and some at my parents.  We finally decided on a spot at our house, and set to work putting it together.  We used 5 pieces of Hog Panel, that we secured to the trees, since the ground is frozen, so stakes would not work.  We constructed a 3 sided run-in shelter for them, and today went to pick them up at Jessica’s.

They are settling in nicely.  Shortly after being unloaded from the truck, they were even more interested in the kids than the kids were in them!

They have figured out where the feed dish is.

And have enjoyed some rooting in the shavings.

 

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The bad news first.  My experiment with the two sister rabbits didn’t go as I’d hoped.  The one with three left had her nest box full of litter and all the babies were dead.  Not sure if it was an issue with them sharing a space, or if she’s a bad mom, or what, but I decided to pull her out today, leaving the other sister in the housing with her one baby…Considering what to do next.

My broody hen finally got some real eggs today and she is on them like a pro.  So in 21 days we should have baby chicks.

So there was a bright spot to ease into more bad news.  I have now lost all but 3 of the 10 Muscovy Ducklings.  I have no idea why the last group all stayed alive and why these little ones are dropping left and right, but the next hatch will be put in a brooding cage for 2 weeks, or more so they are stronger.  That way, I might end up with some duck in the freezer for winter!

Ending on an up note.  Nellie got her new lead today.  She was so pleased.  It was longer than her older one, by a few feet, giving her access to new grass.  She was super friendly tonight, and gave a little moo-ish moan when I gave her neck a little scratch.  Nellie and I are learning to understand each other.

Tomorrow night after the animals are in bed, Nellie is tucked in, and our girls are off to dream land, Grammy is coming over so we can go out to the Brookford Farm Movie Night!  Two cool documentaries about farming, some local farm made goodies, under the stars, on a nice cool night!  If you’re free around 9pm tomorrow night, head on over!

Free Outdoor Film

The Plow That Broke the Plains & The Greenhorns
June 4th – 9:00 PM
On the Farm at 278 Sligo Road, Rollinsford, NH

 

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