Saturday, May 28, 2011

Next and To Do Differently

I have a list of things I would like to do differently, however I am trying not to be too hard on myself:) (If you are reading this post, you might want to visit the other posts to get caught up to speed.) I will break it down into to stages.

  • Use pine shaving for bedding. I used hay and it compacted too much and held too much moisture. I suspect that the moisture contributed to the birds I lost.
  • Clean brooder every day. I know this seems obvious, but I thought tossing new hay over their old, soiled bedding would save me time by not having to clean it out.
  • Make sure the waterer does not leak. I had an auto waterer in the brooder and it leaked in one corner. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, because the birds wouldn't be in there long--wrong.
  • Build a brooder with a bottom that can be scraped clean. I am not sure what will work best, but I have a garage with a concrete room. It might work best. My only concern about it is the cold that radiates from it. I suppose with three inches of shaving on the floor that wouldn't be a problem.
  • Build a more portable tractor. The tractor I built would have worked with more space, however it was so big, I couldn't rotate it enough in our back yard. The manure became too much to manage. I felt like the birds had a lot of room to roam, but I only moved the tractor four times in 30 days--too much poop in one spot!
  • Put the tractor on the side of the house. The smell wasn't too bad and the noise wasn't a problem. However, with a small tractor and new location I figure I will be able to move it every day and it will only visit the same spot twice in 30 days.
  • Make the feeder easier to access. My girls helped a lot with feeding the birds and because the hatch was hard to access there was a lot of spilled feed.
  • Make the waterer easier to access. My auto waterer was not cool. It didn't work well and I suspect it was my fault:) We ended up buying a five gallon waterer, but it was raised off the ground with bricks. If I move the tractor everyday, I need to figure out a way to keep it suspended.
Butcher Day (Probably the easiest part of the whole process--thank you youtube and local resources)
  • Try to coordinate the scalder and plucker with another neighborhood "insurgent." The cost is not bad--25 bucks--but the set up and cleaning is the same for 25 or 100. It could also be a good way to bring more of the neighborhood together.
  • Use different bags for the finished chickens. I knew I should have used other bags, but we had gallon bags in the house--the four pounders fits fine, but the five pound fellas didn't.
Feed and Misc
  • I was happy with the feed and price.
  • Maybe raise more birds. I wonder if I could do 40 if I moved the pen everyday. I don't want to get greedy or do more than my patch of ground can handle, but the work is all the same. I will go out and talk to 5 birds or 40 birds.
  • Welp Hatchery is worth another try. I lost 9 birds. One right away, two were a different breed and got smothered, one died from a heart attack, and the others died from what I am calling a failure to thrive. I know it is not chickenese, but they did not look like the others. The birds that made it to term were, healthy and feisty. They didn't charge shipping, which shaved 24 bucks off of the order.
  • I am sure there is more.

Butcher Day

It was 8 weeks and 1 day after their hatch day that my little flock met the knife and the freezer. In the end I butchered 16 birds in about two hours. Our family has been talking about the butcher day for a long while and our girls were really ready for it. They ran around, helped with catching chickens, and played in the yard.

The Process

The Catch
The birds were sort of hard to catch. I liked that we kept the birds in their normal pen. They were mellow, but used to staying in the pen. They didn't like to leave. We coaxed them out with a bit of feed.

The Cone and Kill
I hung the killing cone and blood bucket from one of our raspberry posts. I also put a piece of cardboard around the killing zone, so the neighbors wouldn't have to watch.

The Scalder
The scalder was rented from the Mason County Conservation District. It was really nice and kept the water between 145 and 147 degrees. We dunked the birds about ten times and checked their readiness by pulling a wing feather.

The Plucker
All I can say is the Featherman plucker is the best thing in the world! It turns a fully feathered bird into a rubber chicken in about a minute.

The Evisceration

I followed the advice from a ton of blogs and YouTube videos. I went easy on the knife and did more tearing. I started with the feet, then the head, made a small incision above the neck, pulled the esophagus and crop free, made a small incision above the vent, tore open the cavity, pulled out the guts, cut around the vent and presto change-o (I didn't save any of the organs, it was another part of the process that was a bit too much for me).

The Chill and Freeze
Once the birds were cleaned, we tossed them in a large rubber made tote to chill. I bought 8 blocks of ice and it seemed to do the trick. All 16 birds fit nicely in it and were chilled really quick. I was surprised how warm they were before the chiller and how tight and firm the birds got once chilled. We stacked the birds on our cleaned butcher table and stuffed them in freezer bags. THE END Just kidding. I am going to do one more post about what I would do differently and what my plans are for the next go round.