September 30, 2015

Learning to live together

So it's been a couple nights now that the two generations of ladies have been sleeping together.  As I wrote in a previous post, the first night almost none of the babies were brave enough to try to claim a spot on a perch.  Mostly they slept in a big pile on the floor.

I went in to see where they were tonight and was delighted to find a change.  The adults were on the top two perches and up in the rafters.  The little girls were on the lower two perches and on the new small perch I added along another wall.  Just a few of them were still on the floor.

It is obvious they are establishing a pecking order, with the bigger birds higher up, but the little ones are finding their place too.  They are learning to live together, which is good because they are really all one flock.  Progress!

September 29, 2015

Chicken dinner

I roasted our chicken tonight. First I made a mix of butter, garlic and honey. 

I rubbed our guy down in this and a heathy serving of salt and pepper.  Then he looked like this:

He went into the oven at 375 degrees. My recipe said he should cook for 15-20 minutes/pound, which would only be about 40 minutes for our little guy. He actually cooked much longer though. When he came out he looked beautiful!  

The honey in the glaze made the skin brown and crispy. Now I have to admit that the meat was a little underwhelming. The legs and wings were the darkest dark meat I have ever seen. The breast meat was juicy and delicious but there wasn't a whole lot of it. We aren't raising broilers here so oh well. We ate what we wanted and the rest I am boiling down now with the carcass to make soup tomorrow. The broth looks rich and  yummy. 

Along with the chicken we had green beans from the garden, probably my last harvest of the year. 

I also made roasted potatoes and my mother in law brought some corn bread with jalapeños. All in all, it was a pretty good meal. 

And for dessert we had an apple pie made from apples we picked at my sister in law's house in Michigan. It was the crown jewel of the meal!

We survived our first chicken harvest; the rooster did not

A few nights ago I decided it was time for the babies to sleep in the large coop with the adults.  They had been mingling nicely in the yard together for a few days, but at night all the adults went to roost in the large coop and the babies went to the small coop.  The little henhouse was really getting to be too small for 22 growing birds.  I closed their coop up before they went in for the night, and as I expected, when it got dark, all the babies frantically piled in front of the door to the little coop.  So I scooped them up a couple at a time and pushed them in through the chicken door to the large coop.  Initially all was okay.  There was a lot of chirping but nothing crazy.  

Then as I got to the last few babies, I heard a terrible squealing noise inside so I ran to look, getting there just in time to see the rooster pin a poor white baby to the ground and peck her hard, pulling out bunches of feathers.  I yelled and he looked up at me, beak full of feathers, giving the baby enough time to escape.  It didn't take him long to catch her again though.  I went running around to the back to try to catch him but they ran out into the run.  He chased her and pinned her a couple more times before I finally scooped him up and shoved him into the baby coop to isolate him.  I gently picked up the baby, who had buried her head in the dirt and was shaking all over.  Amazingly, she didn't look too injured, just terrified.  The rooster pounded on the walls of the coop and thrashed about crazily, but a calm settled in amongst the other birds.  I put the poor little white bird in with the others and she snuggled in with the pile of her sisters who were sleeping in a corner on the floor.  For their first night in the big coop not many of the babies attempted to claim a spot on the perches.  

I sent a message to my husband: it's time for a chicken dinner.  

---Warning: the next part of this post is a little graphic ---

We left the rooster in the small coop with just water for a day so he could cleanse his bowels.  Then Josh went and got him out. 

We set up this contraption in the workshop with a cone, similar to things we had seen online.  The bird goes in the cone, like he's doing a headstand.

Then you pull his head through the bottom...

And off with the head.

Josh held him in the cone for a minute or so while he thrashed a little, but this was much more contained than the old stories of when you cut the chicken's head off and he runs around the yard.

The five gallon bucket caught most of the blood, but there was a little splatter, which we promptly cleaned up so the workshop wouldn't permanently look like a crime scene!

Next the rooster came out to our work station we set up on the deck.  I boiled a pot of water on the stove and brought it out for the first step: plucking the feathers.  The water is supposed to be 150 degrees to make the feathers easier to pull.

Josh dunked him a few times.

Until the feathers started to release.

Then he went into a bucket of cold water to stop him from cooking.

Time to pluck!

And pluck!

And pluck some more!

Finally, he got most of the feathers off.

Now it was time for a bath.

The tail feathers wouldn't come out but that part of the bird gets cut off anyway so we didn't worry about it.  Here's what the plucked bird looks like.  Now it was time for evisceration.

First the feet come off.

Then the neck.

Then the bowels and organs.

Next he took off the wing tips.

And one more bath to clean the insides and outsides really well.

And wah-lah!  It's dinner!

We weighed the finished product and surprisingly he is only 2.5 pounds.  He looked huge compared to the other birds but I guess a lot of that is feathers.

I put him in the fridge last night but he's getting roasted tonight.  I'll post a picture of him when he's cooked.  I can't wait to taste him.  I've never had chicken so fresh before.

September 28, 2015

"Raising Pekin Ducks"

Check out my newest article which chronicles our adventures trying to get the ducks situated in a good home here at the farm.  It's on the Backyard Poultry website:

September 25, 2015

Peppers, peppers and more peppers

I harvested buckets and buckets of peppers this week from my garden. 

Sweet peppers...

Bell peppers...

Poblano peppers...

Habanero and jalapeño peppers...

It took me days of working in the kitchen but I finally got them all processed. I canned about two dozen jars of pickled sweet peppers with shallots. I also made candied jalapeños, which I can't wait to try. The recipe said I have to wait 4 weeks for them to season before I pop the first jar. I froze bags and bags of individual portions of chopped bell and poblano peppers for soups, sauces, etc throughout the year. Finally, I tried something new in hanging a bunch of peppers to dry so that I can make hot pepper flakes and chili powder. 

When you go in my pantry there is such a rich peppery smell. I paused when I went in a couple times today to enjoy the aroma. 

My pepper plants are still producing too so I may be doing this again once more before frost arrives. 


cracked the giant egg from yesterday for breakfast this morning...

...and it had three yolks!  

That chicken would've been having triplets.  Instead I had a huge breakfast. I scrambled those eggs up; they were so light and fluffy and delicious!  It is hard to image a chicken laying that enormous egg but it is also hard to imagine three little chicks pecking their way out of one egg.  Now that would have been something to see.

September 24, 2015

An egg mosaic

The eggs are coming in such variety of shapes and colors. The picture above shows the ones I just took out of the nesting boxes. They range from dark brown to almost white, and pale blue to rich green.  One of the green ones has brown speckles. It's like a mosaic in my sink!

One of the ameraucana eggs is just enormous. Look at it compared to a normal sized egg:

That had to hurt coming out!  Poor girl. One of the Ameraucana hens has been laying these huge eggs almost everyday. They are usually double-yolkers.

September 22, 2015

Unwelcome guest

It's a little bit difficult to see in this picture but some critter got into the duck nest yesterday. There is one crushed egg towards the back and there was another pulled out towards the front that was broken. 

Plus, all the food and water was devoured. 

Sometimes I really wish we had a nanny cam in the bird houses so I could see what goes on during the day and at night, when I'm not around.  I wonder what kind of animal it was and when it came in.  The house is open all day while the ducks are out on the pond.

I'm just happy that not all the eggs were taken. Bossy pants still has 12 left. That's a lot of eggs, a nest full.  She has yet to show any interest in incubating them though.  She's only six months old herself; maybe she hasn't developed her maternal instincts yet??