Processing Chickens

A couple days ago My Mom and I processed a bunch of roosters for the first time. Here is my experience. We learned how from Katie and Melynda at Half-Moon Hollow Farm. Thank you for teaching us.

This was my first time ever processing an animal. Originally, I thought it was going to be a lot harder and nastier but it was surprisingly easy once we got going. I killed the birds, got rid of the feathers and cut their legs and heads off. My Mom cleaned and gutted them. This was a very good experience, now I know how to completely process a bird.

I think it is very cool at how I watched these roosters life cycle. I saw them hatch, grow up and then die and soon being eaten. When we make meals from them it is going to feel super rewarding at how the whole meal will be made with everything that comes from our farm. Soon enough I will become completely self sufficient and live on the top of a mountain.

We processed thirteen Ameraucana roosters. This has made our farm a lot quieter as almost all thirteen had started crowing. Our fridge is completely full by these chickens now, so my Mom bought a new freezer as we are going to process two feeder boars and quail in the near future. I see a lot of meals made with chicken in my future.

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Updated Farm Goals: July 2016 “Mega Update”

Here is our list of updated farm goals. We are hoping to do one of these every three months to see what we got done and catch you up with what’s going on on the farm. 

This post written by Connor and Cristiana.

 Check out our photo gallery, then scroll down to see what we got done and what’s up next!

PIGS

Accomplished:

  • Shelters & two farrowing stalls– DONE
  • Fence – DONE, but will be expanding woodlots in the Fall
  • Rotational grazing – DONE, pasture management- in progress
  • Frodo DNA Test – DONE, unfortunately inconclusive. Since Frodo can’t be registered, we will be processing him within the next few months, as we can’t have an intact/unregistered boar in our herd.
  • 2 Sows bred and on homestead – DONE
  • Not on the January list, but we got a Karakachan livestock guardian dog and are training him to be full time with the pigs. DONE- but training is constant!
  • Piglets born April/May- DONE! Cassie farrowed 4/21, Chickie farrowed 5/2 for a total of 11 live piglets out of 12.
  • Build small pig shelters in rotational pastures for summer shelter – DONE
  • Sell higher quality piglets for breeding or pets, keep lower quality for meat- IN PROGRESS. We sold a few piglets as pets, are keeping one as a herd barrow, possibly donating two barrows into 4H and raising two larger gilts out for processing.
  • Built sun shade areas for pigs in each pasture with wallows, kiddie pools and rain barrel watering systems.
  • Built another small piglet pasture, safe within the central garden area. Also can be used for warm weather farrowing if we add crush rails to the shelter.
  • Learned all about vaccinating pigs for various things, how to give vaccinations and establish a vaccination/worming schedule. The importance of herd immunity, even on a small farm or homestead. We are keeping an online, detailed health record for each pig and litter of piglets.

Upcoming Pig Goals:

  • Frodo and Tiberius to processing at Carolina Grower’s Group. This will be our first experience with Kunekune pork, which is supposed to be amazing pastured pork. We’ve been giving these guys the best diet possible- Non-GMO feed, lots of grazing pasture and supplemental produce. And love. They will provide food for us for many months, lard for cooking and soap making, and other parts ground for use in making dog treats!
  • Welcoming our new registered piglets from Suwannee Valley Kunekunes! We worked hard on a business plan and application for the USDA Youth Loan, and it’s been accepted, allowing us to finally have registered Kunekunes here on our farm. We welcome Hilda- a ginger Jenny/Andrew gilt, Anna- a black/white Rona/Tonganui gilt, Dante- a cream/tri Mahia Love/Wilson’s Gina boarling, Giuseppe- a black/white Tonganui/Wilson’s Gina boarling
  • Building a new pair of sleeping stalls, on higher ground- in our central pasture area. We’ve had water drainage issues! Possible plans might be creating another carport barn with two large and very secure stalls- one for boars, one for sows… they would sleep in these stalls and be moved out to their pasture areas early in the morning. This will help us keep them separate and prevent any accidental breedings.
  • Dealing with water drainage issues in farrowing stalls and barn- we need to install a series of gutters, and lean-to roofs, rain barrels and water cachement/drainage. Our farrowing stalls quickly became flooded when the Spring rains began… we hope these upgrades will solve the problem.
  • Adding two square woodlot pastures in back- these will be nice large, shaded pastures. Plentiful area to forage, lots of oak trees dropping acorns.
  • Continued pasture management/seeding- We are working hard at removing weeds and trees from the pasture that pigs won’t eat. It’s been hard to get any new seed established during what’s been an extremely dry and hot summer. We also got two goats to help eat down the weeds.
  • Revamping electric fencing- we turned the electric off during farrowing and while the piglets grew up, and it has been damaged in many places by the pigs and our LGD during that time. We have a lot of work to do on it.
  • Adding a second breed of pig to our herd. This is a surprise! We’ve put a deposit down on a breeding pair of a unique, Heritage Breed pig. The gilt should be born soon, and the boar in the Fall. We’ll tell you more soon…
  • Experiment with growing Fodder for Chickens and Pigs to eat in winter.

CHICKENS

Accomplished:

  • Chicken coops assembled – DONE
  • Safe chicken runs made (three of them) – DONE
  • Getting eggs by spring– DONE
  • Eggs to sell- DONE
  • Selling chicks/hatching eggs– DONE
  • Our chicken goals have advanced quickly! Not only did we meet mostly all our goals, we exceeded them. We have three Ameraucana breeding pens, a group of laying hens just for eggs (Easter Eggers/Barred Rocks), a breeding trio of black mottled bantam Cochins, and two Silkies, one which is currently sitting on a nest. We started incubating eggs and hatching chicks, and have 27 Ameraucana chicks growing out right now. We will choose the best of them for next year’s breeding pens.
  • Building chicken tractors to move breeding groups to pasture area- the area where we built our runs is very wet, so it isn’t a good place for them. – ONE COMPLETE, THREE IN PROGRESS
  • Get some meat chickens to raise out- IN PROGRESS
  • Get some bantam Cochin chicks- DONE – we have buff barred, smooth and frizzle black mottled Cochins, all hatched on our farm
  • Choose chickens to use for breeding program, and sell the rest.
  • Guinea eggs are in the incubator, and hatching at end of month. We want guineas for tick control and because they’re so cool to watch.- DONE, 14 guineas are growing out!
  • Possibly quail- for meat and eggs- DONE, 23 quail grown and due to lay their first eggs
  • Possibly NPIP testing in the Fall, so we can ship hatching eggs and chicks- IN PROGRESS, waiting for appt. times.
  • Experiment with growing Fodder for Chickens and Pigs to eat in winter.

Upcoming Goals:

  • Completing chicken tractors for our breeding pens (3-4 remaining, first one turned out awesome)
  • Choosing which birds we keep to breed. Unwanted roosters will be sold, or processed for our freezer.
  • Getting NPIP/AI certification so we can sell/ship hatching eggs/chicks
  • Awaiting our first quail eggs and learning how to process quail for meat. Possibly selling quail eggs, or hatching more quail to sell.
  • Releasing guinea fowl to free range, once they are NPIP/AI tested and leg banded.
  • Moving small wood chicken coops to a more shady area. Will require some man-power!
  • Reworking quail pen frame and putting a roof over it

GARDEN GOALS

Accomplished:

  • Got garden beds assembled, thanks to an Upstate Farmers Helping Farmers event at our farm.
  • Built a cattle panel trellis between beds – DONE
  • Greenhouse halfway assembled- This greenhouse assembly was way past our skill set, so thank goodness for Upstate Farmers Helping Farmers!
  • Getting garden beds filled with mulch, compost, soil- DONE
  • Start seedlings or go to a plant sale to start summer garden, since we missed out on Spring preparation– DONE
  • Planting berry bushes- DONE, kind of- we got 4 blueberry bushes.
  • Finish greenhouse – need to add panels, windows and door. – NOT DONE!
  • Plant fruit trees – Apples, Pears, Peaches, Figs- DONE
  • Winter crops in greenhouse- NOT DONE, it’s not winter!
  • Selling produce– NOT DONE, maybe next year…

Upcoming Goals:

  • Add compost/soil to remaining metal raised beds
  • Start planning Fall planting
  • Continue adding compost to the “no till poop garden”
  • Work on establishing/planning perennial beds of herbs and things like artichokes, asparagus, etc…
  • Finish Greenhouse

OTHER GOALS:

  • Continue learning how to build things to use around the farm- pens, fencing, coops and hutches, etc. – STILL LEARNING< BUT WE BUILT A LOT OF STUFF!
  • Research heritage breed rabbits and choose a breed.- DONE! We now have a breeding trio of rare Blanc de Hotot rabbits.
  • Build a rabbit hutch- HAD ONE BUILT FOR US in trade for a piglet, and it’s wonderful.

Our Fuzzy Chicken Army!

You know we have Ameraucana chickens, Barred Rocks and Easter Eggers but we have some other birds too. They are our Bantam Cochins and Silkies. We have three Cochin birds, two are hens and one is a rooster named “Elvis”. They are breeding birds so we are hatching all the eggs. We are going to sell them and make more breeding pens to have even more birds. Then we have the Silkies. They are there to take hatch eggs that couldn’t fit in the incubator. We already have a bird hatch some Cochins, Amercuanas and a Silkie. These birds are my favorite because of how small and fuzzy they are. It is very sad you can’t breed frizzle to frizzle Cochins otherwise I would have a frizzle army.

Our Silkie was very broody, she sat on a nest of eggs for twenty one days straight only getting down to get food and water. She hatched them all perfectly and we also gave her some chicks from the Incubator to watch over.

Cochins

The Cochin is a Chinese chicken, that was brought to England in the mid 1800s as a gift to Queen Victoria becoming a popular bird. They are very docile and friendly, they can live in small places these attributes make them super easy to care of. I personally like them for their feathered feet.

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Silkies

The Silkie is breed of chicken named after its fluff that feels like silk. They also have black skin, bones and they also have five toes instead of four. They are known mostly for their broody nature and taking care of babies good. The Silkies come from China same as the Cochin.

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Soon we will start making pens for more Bantams. Also our Guineas hatched.

 

 

Farm Extravaganza

The past week at Corva Bella has been a hectic one. We got a huge amount of work done and it feels awesome. Chicks hatched, electric fencing was completed, Vladimir arrived, and some pullets started laying their first eggs. After around twenty hours of work the last few pastures got hot wired completely finishing the circuit. It is doing its job very well keeping Vlad and the pigs off the fence after a couple painful shocks.

Speaking of Vlad, we got him this week. He was delivered on an animal delivery truck. When they first got him out, I was amazed at how huge his paws were. He is the fluffiest and most funny dog I have ever met. He is doing a better job than we could have ever imagined, already getting used to his animals, being defensive of his property against unknown things and knowing to not mess with the chickens the pigs, or our house dogs. In about six months time we will get him a partner.

During the weekend we had a bunch of amazing people come out to help us put together garden beds, a greenhouse and spread hay and rake up some mulch. We all worked very hard and all got red as a lobster from the sun. Thank you Michael Shirley for letting us into the group- its amazing to be apart of it.

Twenty Two days ago we put thirty two eggs in the incubator to hatch. Two days ago the baby chicks started to pip at the egg shell (Baby chicks have a special thing on their beak that lets them break the egg shell. At the end of the time they are in the egg they will break the egg by pushing on it to break it) Seventeen are alive, ten haven’t done anything and four were presumed dead when my Mom candled them. We got ten lavenders, four blacks, two blue and one splash. We set up brooders and heat lamps and the chickens are growing up in them. This week our Easter Eggers and Barred Plymouth Rocks started laying very small eggs.

Next week, we are going to rake up the rest of the mulch and seed our pastures to get them all nice and green for the pigs.

Cluck Cluck Chickens Inbound

Two weeks ago, a box arrived full of baby chickens. Early in the morning, my mom picked up the box at the post office and woke me up to see them. My first thought was, “how did they survive in a box?” Then how cute they are. They were super small and fuzzy. We got fifteen hens and one rooster. They are Barred Plymouth Rock which is a black and white looking breed and Easter Eggers which are tan and black and lay colored eggs.

We got a huge storage bin, a heat lamp, some wood chips, a board and a ladder to make the ultimate chicken nursery. We attached the heat lamp to the board that was held in place with the ladder and a drawer.

When we get our land all setup, and move in. We are going to put the chicken coop in a pasture area with the pigs, electrify the fence and add motion lights.

Chickens provide free eggs and who doesn’t want eggs?. Free range chicken eggs are better for you then store bought eggs. Chickens also eat bugs which will stop pests, they also stir up hay to look for bugs and eat pig poop to get seeds and grasses. In the spring we were cleaning up brush and got covered in ticks it is good chickens eat ticks.

I am very excited to start my farm and get my chickens on it.