Posted in All about them Chickens, Food Facts, The Scoop from the Coop, Uncategorized

The 411 on Raising & Cooking Meat Birds

Head of 2 big white chickenThere are a ton of Meat Bird articles out there on the web. How to butcher, raise and so on. This one has a few tidbits I never saw in those. Hopefully, they will help you– the things that others may have missed or I learned the hard way. winks


It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I apologize for that. It was a busy time for my Salon, small Farm and then, of course, I had to have some serious surgery, which could have all been avoided if I wasn’t misdiagnosed several years ago. (Long, long story). I don’t want to talk about that, though. I want to talk about some of the major things I had going on in the “Farm” department. And when I say “Farm”, ya’ll know I only have an acre or so, that’s backed up to National Forest, but that’s enough to raise chickens, turkeys, rabbits and even some hogs.


This past year, we decided to try our hand at Meat Birds. The Cornish breed. The kind that raise up and get nice and plump within’ 8-10 weeks. I know there are a million articles on these suckers out there but I think I have a few things to add that those articles missed or didn’t realize like we did. Here’s hoping something here helps you….

We had been considering these birds for some time and  after stumbling into Tractor Supply and finding them marked down to a buck one day, we went ahead and took the plunge. I decided to roll with them instead of the other meat variety like, Red Rangers, for quite a few reasons. I wanted them raised up fast for the freezer. Rangers, and others, take longer. The cost of Feed and what you would be getting didn’t pan out to me compared to the Cornish Crosses. For example, A Ranger might free range, but it still lives anywhere from 4-6 months. It wouldn’t be as easy to pluck, perhaps not as plump (I found by research) and not as tender. Everyone has to weight the pro’s and con’s and decide for themselves, though.

But at a buck, who could pass that up? Thanks, Tractor Supply! That day, we brought home 17 Cornish Crosses and then after finding them a few more times, we ended up with about 40. After getting a taste of it, that led us down the road of ordering 100 more from a Meat Bird Hatchery. One experience was completely different from the other– which I will explain.


The first 40 were actually divided up because the first batch had about 2 weeks or so on the second half we bought. This actually taught us a huge lesson – one we wouldn’t realize until our 100 arrived. Again, more on that a few paragraphs down.

Two weeks may seem like nothing when you’re raising regular chickens but 2 weeks between these birds defines a bold line between toddler and teenager. That is a drastic statement, I know, but that’s what it seems like between the size difference. This is why we didn’t mix one batch with the other. We didn’t want the two week ones snuffing out the younger birds’ chance at food.

A food is what they want and need most of all. They want food and water. They need heat, as well, like other birds, and get ready to do some cleaning because they go to the bathroom ALOT.

Feeding time is like dealing with a bunch of raptors. You need more than one bowl or feeder. Usually the first feeder gets them detracted long enough so you have a chance to fill the others before they just completely swarm and overwhelm you.

 

Feeding goes like this…

For the first 2 weeks (some say 10 days, others, a month) you will give them food 12 hours with and 12 hours without. Water all the time. We did 2 weeks. They say this lessens the chance of heart attacks, etc. While you want to feed the birds enough, you don’t want to overfeed. While I didn’t have any die of heart attacks, some family members did. You start off with a Starter Feed, either non-medicated or medicated. That’s up to you. I chose, with these, to actually use a medicated with the first and second batch. With my egg-birds, I never used that but with these, I did because I wanted them to get a healthy start and since they weren’t going to live long, I didn’t have the same concerns – them becoming immune to meds, etc— that I had with my lifers– the egg ladies. I didn’t use medicated with my 100, and I think that led into some problems– which, again, I’ll explain in a bit. I kept them on the Starter Feed for two-three weeks.

After that, we fed a Grower Feed, early in the morning and in the evening. Some family members also fed during the day. But again, a few of theirs fell over from heart attacks.

My first two batches were BIG birds when it came time to butcher. My husband, who usually eats about four thighs from the store, was more than satisfied with just one thigh and a slice of breast from our home-grown. That’s one of the differences that I noticed, that you may not find in another article. What we raised ourselves, took less to feed us than what we bought. Not only in weight, but as far as when we felt full. We also felt full without feeling uncomfortably bloated and miserable. Now, I can’t argue the science of that. I can only tell you how we feel. We went from eating about two whole birds from the store, to one home raised one.


Size wise, the first and second batch of birds ranged from 6-10 pounds. We bought a chicken plucker – a Yardbird, to be exact– so when time came to butcher, it took us about 3 minutes per bird. That’s carrying the bird to the “Cull section”, carrying it to me to “Scald”, me taking it to the Plucker – which took all of 15-20 seconds– and then handing it to my husband to clean out and toss in a cooler of ice. To be honest, it took us longer to wrap the birds for the freezer than it did to do the rest.

Our experience with the first two batches were absolutely great! That set us off in a whole nother direction. We ended up ordering 100 more. At first, we kept the babies in totes or swimming pools with heat lamps until they were too big. We took dog kennels with roof tarps and kept them inside those. We hung a heat lamp in case they still needed it. These birds do not handle heat and cold the way other birds do. They do not feather out as quick and they do not have all the layers of feathers that regular birds have. They were designed this way to make butchering a bit more easy. These birds are also more fragile than others. I had some break their wing over nothing and I mean, bone- right- through- the- skin—broke! I had a couple with hernias out their bottoms– the other chickens pecked them nearly to death, so I had to Cull them. And, they ended up getting worms – which could have been a freak thing or the fact that my husband messed up and didn’t get medicated Starter. This affected the growth of many birds as well as the competition for food. The lesson learned there, next Spring, we are going to divide them up into groups of 20. Seriously, no matter how many Feeders we had, the big ones still ate faster and over-ate compared to the littler ones that just couldn’t get a foothold. With all the problems, we still ended up with some good sized birds. There weren’t as many 10 pounders as we had in the first two batches but the others did reach 6 pounds or for some great sized meals. And I am still only cooking one Roaster at a time.


Cleaning the pin of the 100 was also a chore. If we got busy with work, or the kid’s after school activities, we played hell catching up. Because of this reason, I’ve got a better system designed and in mind for next Spring. We are definitely doing it again next Spring and not only that, I have more family members who are wanting to do it now, too. That’s something else to consider, the more you order, the cheaper the bird. We ended up, with shipping, paying about 1.50 or so per bird. Without shipping, they were around 1.24 a piece.


Other differences between what I raised and store bought?

Call me crazy, but not only is the taste cleaner, but the texture is different– for the better– and it cooks, way faster. Yes, cooks faster. I’m not sure why that is? Maybe because they don’t have all that stuff stores or commercial farms inject into them?

The skin is different. It doesn’t have all those fat clumps of gel-like fat clustered up underneath it. The skin seems a bit thicker to me, in general, but this is wonderful when it comes to roasting. It turns out crispier– if that’s your intention– and seals in the juices of the meat more.

And this little tidbit is not just in my head– yesterday I made chicken and dumplings. I pulled an entire roaster from the Freezer and stuck it in a pot full of water. I boiled until it was all falling off the bone. The ONLY thing I added to the water was a bit of celery salt. When I tasted the broth, it was absolutely amazing. I didn’t have to add any chicken bouillon !!! NONE !!!! I repeat, NONE! When I cooked a store-bought chicken this way, I would always have to add a ton of stuff including chicken bouillon. The broth was never flavorful enough on it’s own. I couldn’t believe the difference between what I had raised and what I had purchased before.


So I am absolutely sold. I have a different system in mind for next year…. we will separate our birds into groups of 20 and I am most certainly, worming and giving medicated food early on. I also have an idea in mind of how to keep their areas clean for the days we can’t get out there to do it. I’m still plotting that one, though.

But for those who are considering meat birds, I highly recommend it. And buy or make a chicken plucker. While their feathers are not hard to deal with, it does make the whole process easier and faster.

And coming soon, Meat Turkeys. At some point, I will be writing about the different breeds I have tried since last year, how those cooked up and if they were easy to pluck and so on. I’ll also give my evaluation on the taste difference between the quick growing two meat varieties–Broad-Breasted– and the Heritage Breeds. I’ll also be posting recipes and pictures of my delicious Meat Birds soon, too. So look for that!

Until then, I hope you found this useful. Any questions, just shout.


 

Feeding chart I found at this link:

Feeding program for meat chickens

The following table provides an estimate of peak rates of feed consumption and weight gain. The data were obtained from White Cornish Crosses under conventional management (without additional forage).

Age (weeks)

Type of feed

Feed consumption (weekly per bird)

Live body weight

kg

lb.

kg

lb.

1

Chicken starter

0.13

0.29

0.15

0.33

2

Chicken starter

0.28

0.62

0.36

0.79

3

 Chicken starter

0.47

1.02

0.65

1.43

4

Chicken grower

0.67

1.48

1.03

2.26

5

Chicken grower

0.85

1.87

1.46

3.21

6

Chicken grower

1.07

2.36

1.91

4.21

7

Chicken finisher

1.18

2.60

2.36

5.20

8

Chicken finisher

1.30

2.86

2.79

6.14

9

Chicken finisher

1.41

3.11

3.20

7.03

Total

7.36

16.20

Based on data from Nutrient Requirements of Poultry. 9th Ed. USA National Academy of Sciences. 1994. Note that free-ranging organically fed birds will have both lower rates of feed consumption and slower rates of growth


Please Note: I am not affiliated with Tractor Supply, Yardbird, or any other I have mentioned. That’s just where I shop for my Farm needs, along at the Augusta Coop.

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Posted in Hen Pecked, Hogs, Misc. Nature, Uncategorized

And this Little Piggy Went….

 

16388378_10154099731321993_1950383878762689848_nWe’ve been preparing for hogs for some time now. My husband has experience with hogs, not me. We were doing them with a Family Member but because of the distances between where we live– an entire mtn dividing us– we felt it wasn’t fair to him, who was doing everything, and well, we were missing out ourselves by not being involved. I enjoy interacting with my animals on a daily bases and so does my husband. In a world that is crazy and often spins out of control, being around our little barnyard releases the stress and pressure. Sometimes the work comes at inconvenient times but overall, I can’t complain. We don’t have a lot of land here, though, so I have to be careful what we bring in. That’s why we decided on something that is old and nearly forgotten…

The American Guinea Hog 16388422_10154099731336993_6942342104205795957_n

These hogs are called many things. Just to name a few, Acorn Eaters, Forest Hogs, and Yard Pigs. Over 200 years old, they range in sizes from 150- 300 pounds. Around 6 months of age, they should be around 75 pounds– which makes them a great butcher size if that’s your goal. Meat is perfectly marbled and the lard peels easily.

In general, they are a smaller hog and easier to handle. While they don’t do a lot of the damage the larger hogs are known for, Guinea Hogs, were very helpful back in the day when gettin’ Gardens ready for planting season wasn’t as easy as turnin’ on a tiller.

I have mine in the Garden now – wanting to test them out. They dig just enough, the way a tiller would. Since they are slower growing, I got mine now so they would be ready to butcher come next Fall or Winter. Another reason I got them, I want them fertilizing, churnin’ up the soil, and eating up all the roots (to help me avoid weeds come summer) in my Garden during colder months.

There is a benefit to the cost of keepin’ them too. See, the greatest thing about these hogs is the fact that they are resourceful scavengers. I worry that if something were to happen, if I was unable to get Feed, could these animals make it without store-bought help. When choosing chickens or anything for my small farm, I take that into consideration. These pigs win the prize for that trait.

Guineas can, if given enough space to free-range, fend for themselves. In fact, if you have a Guinea and you aren’t letting them live off grass, grubs and whatever else they can find, you are missing out and putting a dent in your wallet unnecessarily. Let them work and find the majority of their food on their own. This is what makes them perfect for the small homesteader.

And since they are a smaller hog, if no one if here to help come Butcher time, we can handle it on our own. That’s something else people should consider. Are you butchering yourself? If you are, are you capable of handling huge hogs? Do you have a tractor or hoist to hang them? Do you have a space big enough to clean and work up the meat?

Guineas, by being smaller, are easier to handle and work with. They have a red meat, a good marble, and to some, are considered more lean. Lard, of course, will depend on the space they have, if they are being fed and fattened or allowed to free-range some and how long you keep them.

For our piggies, since they were born November, putting them around 4 months old, we are starting them out on a Show-pig Starter. After that, we will move to regular feed for pigs, also allowing them to hunt their own food out the older they get. My property has woods, so this will be a perfect area for them especially once I move them out of my garden area.

If you are interested in raising Hogs but are unaure if you can handle one, then I suggest the American Guinea Hog. Something that maybe easier for you to handle and get adapted to. They are also scarce in numbers, which is a crying shame. Another reason I chose them. I think there are only 200 registered in the US, and 2000 worldwide? I like dealing with breeds that were prized once upon a time but are now seeing critical lists. Makes me feel better doing what I do. As if I am preserving a piece of the past.

Posted in Ducks & Other Birds, Hen Pecked

Turkey Wars & Transgenders

Keeping animals can be, in my opinion, a live and learn process. Its good to have books and to talk to people who have owned the type of animal for a good many years. Its good to have those things around for help when you need it. But at the end of the day, it’s still gonna be a live and learn kind of a deal. You won’t know it, won’t foresee it, won’t even hear about it, until it’s knocked you upside the head and put you flat on your arse. Such is the case, but not limited to, my crazy bunch of Turkeys.

In case you missed the post, last July, a few days after the fourth, I brought home two Royal Palm and four Bourbon Turkey Poults. They were all straight run. My plan was to keep one Tom, if I had one, and keep all Hens – if I had them. Straight Run, for those who don’t know, is a guessing game of what you might have. Its hard to Sex Poultry of any kind and even harder, when it comes to Turkeys—until they get a certain age. So when buying, its usually Straight Run. 

A month or so later, I bought five Broad Breasted Bronze, that were destined for the freezer—one day.

As for the July 4th Poults, though I kept them separated for a few weeks, eventually, a Polish Hen we had named, Elvis, decided she was the mother – along with about twenty-something other Black Australorp chics.

The July 4th mix, lived with the chickens and even thought of themselves as chickens until they started sorting out a pecking order. That’s when things got hairy. I had turkeys ganging up on other chickens, to the point, it nearly meant death. Have you seen Turkeys pick a fight? They don’t let up. And when one instigates it, all of them join in. The problem is, once a chicken is pinned down, they don’t let up. They go right for the head and start pecking until blood is drawn and then death. And if you manage to break it up, two seconds later, they are back at it again. This goes on for days, weeks, or until they have taken out the one they don’t like.

Now, this is strange, if you’ve ever encountered the ADD a Turkey is known to have. Meaning, they seem absolutely intelligent until they flipped the switch and become dumber than a box of rocks. Example, they can escape a fence by flying over it a thousand times, but then spend hours and hours and hours pacing back and forth–creating a DITCH—unable to figure out how to get back in.  Even though they have done this, as I’ve said, a thousand times. So for them to carry a grudge for this long with another bird, well, it’s mind boggling.

Regardless, after they pinned my Black Australorp Roo and damn near killed him and then started going after my lap-Roo, Scrappy, I knew, without a doubt, the Turkeys had to be separated. And that’s what we did.

Since my Bronze were fenced in the Garden-area (my master plan to fertilize the garden for next Spring—and the July 4th trouble-makers flew in and out of there with no problems, then that’s where I stuck em. That’s where they have been for months. Living with the Bronze. Side by side. I did have a problem with them flying the fence from time to time, so I clipped one wing. That stopped that for awhile, but not for long. Don’t let anyone tell you that clipping a wing will keep them out of trouble. I have one Hen who can climb a fence. She can fly, too, but she just likes climbing. Usually, I let her escape and stay with the chickens. By herself, she doesn’t cause any problems. But now if any of the others get out there, like my two Royal Palm Hens – Sally & Mae—then all hell will break lose. But that’s just because Sally and Mae act like they’ve spent their life in prison and just wanna instigate and be gnarly whenever they get the chance. Not with humans, mind you, but with all the other animals. However, if they fly over, I just run them back and usually once I run them back once, they stay for the rest of the day. The climber, well, I let her be. They seem to like picking fights with her and she only climbs to escape when it gets bad. By the end of the day, she climbs back unless Sally and Mae hold the grudge. If that’s the case, the Climber sleeps with the chickens for the night.

The plan was, keep the Bronze till Spring or even next Fall, then Butcher. The experts told me that they are ready at 22 weeks but others said they let them grow a year to get a whopper sized Turkey—40- something or more pounds. If they seemed stable—on their legs, since they are prone to have difficulty supporting their weight by a certain time – or so I am told—then I was going to take them as far as I could. Regardless, they clearly outweigh the July 4th Crew. The Bronze are not aggressive, though. They kind of stick together and do their own thing. They sleep together and don’t really muck around the July 4th Crew at all. The July 4th Crew escape the fence but the Bronze don’t. They crossed paths and rub elbows but that’s about the extent of it. All seemed well in Turkey Land except for the mischief the July 4th Crew seemed to cause, which I had learned to nip in the butt and how to bring an end to—at least until the next day.

I even discovered what genders I had. The July 4th Crew, I had two Toms and four Hens. I was happy about the fourth Hen because she actually had us confused for awhile. I thought maybe she was going to be a transgendered — working out a Gender. That may seem funny to the rest of you but I swear, some days she would puff up and strut like a Tom and others, she’d peep and streak like a Hen. I think she chose, Hen, or figured out that’s what she was born as. She is actually my Climber.

As for my Bronze, I knew what I had there because I was able to order specific genders. Four Males and One female. My husband stuck the female in there, not sure why. He had a reason at the time, but God knows the mtn man can’t  remember to save his own life now. Anyway, that’s what we have and all was good to go with the plan I had – knock out one Tom in the July bunch since I only needed one—butcher my Bronze come Spring or Fall. As for my Royal Palms, I ended up with no Toms. I planned on either selling or trading for two Bourbon Hens. Sally and Mae need a man to keep them straight—someone to play warden unless I stumble upon a Royal Tom—then I may keep them because God knows there isn’t a dull moment with those two around.

All seemed well and good – as I said, before—except for the few problems I’d deal with every day or every other day, except for a few days ago. Then all hell broke lose. They decided to pick a fight with one of the Bronze, who did all he could do to get away from them. Since temps were freezing here, and I didn’t get outside for long periods of time, I didn’t catch it and they killed that poor Jake dead. Once they were done with him, they started on another. Needless to say, I lost two of my Bronze. Frantic, I ran to Backyard Chickens and hunted down a Turkey post. Luckily I found some Turkey people who told me the actual truth.

Now, when I say truth, I mean, they didn’t sugarcoat anything like people did BEFORE I got Turkeys. They didn’t tell me nothing but the joys of turkey keeping. They didn’t fill my head with butterflies and cotton candy.  While they specifically said how much they loved keeping turkeys, they also told me the cold hard truth—they are an aggressive, curious and trouble-making bird – which is what made them as much fun as it did a nightmare. Their suggestions – separate the Bronze and the July 4th Crew and keep them separated, even from the Chickens. As far as my Climber, leave her be unless she starts making trouble too. They said sometimes, they’d have one that just seemed better off with the other chickens and livestock. Maybe since my Climber worked out her Gender issues, she is now struggling with what she is. She might not know she’s a turkey, or may not know if she wants to be one. So, we will just let her work those lifestyle matters out.

But as far as turkeys, themselves, picture the Raptors on Jurassic Park. There is one HEAD B-WORD IN CHARGE. In my case, that’s Sally. Mae is her second in command and the Toms and other Hens just fall in line with whatever murder and mayhem they seem to be carrying out. The thing to remember, its all fun and games until someone actually dies. And with Turkeys, as I just learned, that will eventually happen. Dog. Cat. Chicken. Doesn’t matter. If they want to pick a fight, they will. And while they cant remember how the hell to get back over a fence, they always remember who they’ve singled out to bully. You can bet your bottom dollar on that.

Will I continue to keep turkeys? Yup. As the turkey people said, you gotta love them for the good and bad. Their bad, is what keeps them interesting. But they are prison-bound, though, at least at my place. They’ll get their own run and Coop. No more socializin, especially for the July 4th Crew who is hell bent on actin’ out the movie, The Warriors, or, The Gangs of New York, each and every day.

Posted in All about them Chickens

A Sick Roo – What to Do?

(Please see the Update at the Bottom)

This is my first year raising Black Australorps. They are a dual-purpose bird, though, I doubt I will butcher any for meat. Never know, though.  I got them because their known for being excellent layers. Also important, their Roosters aren’t known for being aggressive. Now, I can handle a bucky-Roo but I have a daughter who can’t. I think she gets nervous from the get go and they sense it. Therefore, she is an easy target. So far, my Black Australorp Roo could care less about how uptight my daughter is. He just kind of does his own thing—non-aggressively.

I also got a Roo because come Spring, I wanted to incubate and sell some chicks—make back some money to spend on feed AND keep myself supplied with birds. I get so tired having to buy fresh stock every year. So why not try to produce my own? All that being said, my plan was going great, until last week, I noticed my Roo sitting down a lot.

After two days of watching him sit in various places in the yard, I took to Google. I also searched every chicken site I could find. Am I the only one who has a Roo that sits? Apparently so. I found only one person so far that had the same problem. The moral of her story—she ended up killing the Roo so he no longer suffered. Like the beginning of her story, though, my Roo doesn’t seem to be suffering. He sits for long periods of time, changes where he sits, eats where he sits and eats along the way to the next place he sits. No funny breathing. No weird noises. Doesn’t seem to be walking funny although one day he did have a bit of a limp but now that’s gone. I did catch my turkeys ganging up on him one day and honestly, I thought maybe he was sitting because of that. But that’s been some time ago and he doesn’t have any marks from the gang-fight. Just where they plucked some feathers from his neck. Checked him for lice and mites, can’t find a lick. Eyes look normal, no runny nose. Nothing out of the ordinary except that he sits.

Because Chickens aren’t rushed to the vet like dogs and cats – and I’m not flipping a 500.00 bill to be one of very few—online information is rather limited. I checked the symptoms of every single chicken disease out there and he isn’t showing signs. To be on the safe side, though, I took some precautions. Yesterday, I started him on an antibiotic, called, Terramycin, in case whatever is wrong with him is bacterial. It kind of looks like Neosporin and goes along his eye. I’m giving him this twice a day. I also added some food grade diatomaceous earth to their feed yesterday. Bleached water pans out and when I refilled them, I added some Raw, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. I also tossed some Pepper Flakes on the ground for all the Chickens.

Today, I went out to give him more antibiotic. He is still sitting around BUT he doesn’t act any worse. I’ll keep this updated in case anyone else comes across this. Today is December 8, 2016.

January 16th, 2016 — This update is rather late but I finally remembered to do it. My Roo is fine. It seems he was going through Growing Pains — something Meat Birds or Dual, in this case, go through because they are about to hit a growth spurt? He is healthy and doing his job– non-aggressively, which is what I like in my Roo.

 

Posted in Ducks & Other Birds, Hen Pecked

Some Common Problems with Raising Turkeys

This past year, I got turkeys. I bought five Bronze, to raise up for Meat and five Bourbon and two Royal Palms—just to raise for eggs, maybe to butcher, and perhaps, incubate and sell poults to put towards the “feed Fund” of the small farmette I have going on here. . If you have bought Turkeys or are about to buy them, then no doubt you have researched and learned all about “Blackhead disease”, the “fragile stages of Turkey Poults”, Feed types and whether or not they can be or if you will “Raise them with Chickens.” No doubt, you will have had decided most of this if you haven’t been doing it all along. I wanted to talk about some things—other problems—that might come up with Raising Turkeys. Things that are funny and things that will drive you bonkers.

First off, one thing I have learned about my Bourbons and Royal Palms – especially, those Palms—they are Houdini’s, without a doubt. I don’t care if you built a structure like Alcatraz. Get ready, because those Turkeys will find a way around it. Now, that being said, I free range my turkeys some.  I have a pretty big garden that I fenced in and I put a dog kennel inside it that I can move around. The reason behind this madness – One, when I got the turkeys, I didn’t have a permanent structure built yet. Two, I didn’t know if I wanted one. And Three, I thought, “Why not let the turkeys help fertilize the Garden for next Spring?” This is the structure we built up. You can see it in the Background sitting inside the fenced in Garden.

15267851_10153923118776993_8516626220089561640_n

It’s not beautiful, but it does the job AND we can move it around the garden. I also dump my soiled rabbit bedding in there. I can’t wait to see what happens come Spring. BUT, this does present a problem or did. My Turkeys found out they can hop on the roosting sticks and then fly through a slit in the tarp above. We would seal and tighten the Tarps, but sure enough, the Turkeys found another one. Except my Bronze. They can’t fly that well. The feathers on their wings haven’t come in that great – even at 17 weeks—and they are rather heavy. But those Bourbans and Royal Palms? Gone like the wind every chance they get.

Now, at first I didn’t mind it and at first, I didn’t care. After all, they believed their Mother was a chicken. A Polish Chicken at that…

IMG_5215,

AND they thought their sisters and one brother were a bunch of Black Australorps, who they were raised up with, too.

IMG_6023IMG_6025

And again, I thought it was HALARIOUS, the older they got, the more they loved to socialize with ME. If I was washing dishes, here they came, up on the Porch, just pestering me to come out and muck around with them.

15109489_10153913291861993_2659841294690609177_n

At night, my husband and my kids would laugh as it sounded like a stampede on top of our Roof. Yes, no matter how high the house, Turkeys love to Roost. Mine never even bothered with the Apple Trees or Hickory. They love the porch and the roof.

And, like I said, they were raised up with the chickens, so all of them got along as well. Except when they didn’t…

It started with a chicken, here or there, of those who weren’t the Australorps. Like a band of wolves, my Turkeys would go after that poor little chicken and without distraction, would bully them till they had them pinned in a fence or who knows where else. After pinning them, they wouldn’t let up. They would hold the chicken down—ALL OF THEM—and pluck the thing till it was bald. They’d grab the skin from the neck, and I feared, they would have ripped it’s head clean off. The chicken wouldn’t have been doing a thing, either. Could have been on the other side of the yard, but sure enough, one of the Turkeys would get a chip on it’s shoulder and take off, the others right behind, and pick a fight that seemed like it would never end. I even seen them trap one whose neck went through the fence. Swear, they would have killed that little thing if I didn’t run to save it.

It was only a matter of time, though, before they turned on the Australorps. Yesterday was that day. They had my Roo, who is not aggressive at all, pinned. They wouldn’t let up and even though I broke it up, I barely walked away and they were back at it again. Something had to be done. They were getting too aggressive with the other animals. They had to stay in the Garden.

CLIP the WINGS!!!!! I had been considering this for a few weeks now especially since I had someone come to my house to get their hair done only to find a bunch of turkeys jump the fence to bombard their vehicle. They thought it was funny but I knew not everyone would think so. Also, the amounts of poo on my back porch, on my freezers and who knew how much on my roof – that was getting to be enough right there.

With some online searching, I found some great sites and links with videos and pictures of how to clip wings. Here’s a LINK to a page full. HERE is the LINK I used. This website, a Farm, has pictures and everything. All I used was a pair of kitchen scissors. My husband held the bird and I clipped. They didn’t freak out – except for when we were catching them—so it doesn’t hurt. YOU ONLY WANT TO CLIP ONE WING—or so the experts say. I’m trying their way, first. You only want to clip the one so they can’t get air to take flight. Will let you know if it doesn’t work.

Another thing you want to be warned about Turkeys is that they have some major, MAJOR, Attention Deficit Disorder.  Its either that, or they have multiple personalities. One is as brilliant as Einstein and the other is as dumb as a box of rocks. Which is weird, because when they pick a fight with a chicken, that chicken can run, run, run and that Turkey won’t let us. This can go on forever. And while some of you out there have some pet turkeys and don’t agree, I’m telling you, mine will fascinate me by breaking out of a pin in the most clever of ways but then get stupid when it comes to something as simple as crossing a fence.

Yes, a Turkey will fly a fence just as graceful and as easy as you please, but then it will pace the fence on the other side until it’s left a path of dirt or mud. (Great if you have weeds growing up.) But it will do this for absolute hours. Complete dumb as to how to get back to the other side. And it does the same things three or four times a day—every day. Fly with clever grace but then pace like a brain dead zombie.

So, if you are thinking about Turkeys, I can promise you, there wont be a dull moment. *winks*

 

Posted in All about them Chickens, Chicken Scratch, Rabbits, The Scoop from the Coop

Rabbit Manure and Letting Chickens Churn Your Compost Piles

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I read more than a few times that Rabbit waste was what Gardeners called, Liquid Gold. A few sources said there was no reason to treat it like turkey or chicken poo, meaning, no need to let it season for a year. Other sources talk about Compost, creating your own, but having to stir things up every now and again. Well, two things turned me off on that—stirring it up and where the hell was I gonna put a Compost pile? The other day, my chickens and turkeys gave me an idea. So since I have an endless supply of rabbit poo and my chickens and turkeys go potty wherever they stand for whatever amount of time, I’m giving the idea a try. What do I have to lose?

The chickens and the turkeys are always scratching around my Garden. And wherever I toss the rabbit waste—when I clean out their hutches and replace dirty straw—the birds are obsessed with scratch that too. I clean out my rabbit pins once a week. I usually get two wheelbarrows full of straw packed waste. I am taking each and every one and dumping it into the Garden for next year and thanks to my Birds, they are already out there, all day, churning it up. I cant wait to see how this goes for the winter and I cant wait to see how it benefits my garden. Rest assured, I’ll keep everyone updated1

Posted in Ducks & Other Birds, From Scratch, Historical, Other, The Hungry Hen, Wild Game, Guineafowl, Birds, etc.

Braised Guinea Hen Recipe, Information & Cooking Tips

 

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A lady told me awhile back, “Once you cook Guinea, you won’t want chicken anymore.” Now while I still haven’t cooked a Guinea, I do recognize the fact that these birds can be multi-purpose. Eggs (Seasonal Layers), Pest Control and Meat (Compare to Pheasant). While some absolutely hate them—they are noisy and can bully chickens—hey, there’s a pecking order to everything—others love them because they make great alarms. Anything comes around, they are the first to catch wind of and make noise about it. They also work in a pack, might want to tell that to the snakes before they enter the yard. And snakes are just an appetizer. These things wipe out spiders, ticks, locusts, grubs, snails, beetles, WASPS!!!! AND THAT’S just the tip of the iceberg!

So, I am still considering bringing Guineas home. And if I ever get more land and that farm I dream of, then you can bet your best Sunday bloomers, I’ll be gettin’ em sooner rather than later. Until then, here’s the 411 on the bird.

Aside from what I’ve already said, Guineas are native to West Africa. Sometime during the 15th-16th century, the bird was brought to Europe and soon after, became very popular in Colonial America. They are great foragers, so if you get some, you will want several, as they hunt in a group or pack. If you bring them in as keets—babies—then free ranging is a cinch but if you bring them in as adults, you might want to consider locking them up for three or so weeks before setting them free to range on their own.

Guineas are compared to Pheasant as far as taste goes. In fact, I’ve heard them called, “Poor Man’s Pheasant” because it costs a fraction less to raise a Guinea than it does a Pheasant. Don’t let the nickname or cost fool you, though. In many Countries, Guineas are like our Lobsters. They are considered fine-dining without a doubt!

The darker meat, is darker and more rich than, let’s say, chicken. There is less fat, so it’s healthier. They have smaller bones but produce bigger breasts (again, in comparison to chickens). Hens, on the table, may average between 2 to 3 pounds.People prefer the Hens to Males because the Hens have bigger breasts and actually, are said to taste better. The breasts also have a better texture to the meat. 

Roast them like you would a Pheasant, even stuffing them using the giblets. If you are eating Guinea breast, remember that the meat can go dry. Usually, in Colonial times, they would wrap the breast in a fat, like salt pork. One historical way of cooking them would be to place them in an oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes—basting. Remove the pork and then roast for ten minutes allowing them to brown. Now days, one could use a thick sliced bacon, I’m sure.

Below, is a recipe our European and American Ancestors once loved….

Braised Guinea Hen

  • 1 Guinea Hen
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP of Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper (Black)
  • 1/4 tsp. Dry Mustard
  • 1 Garlic Clove, crushed
  • Dash of Cayenne
  • 1/2 cup Chicken Broth

Directions

Cut the Guinea in quarters and sauté in heated butter until all sides are brown. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over bird, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until almost tender. Remove cover, turn up heat and continue cooking until almost all liquid has evaporated. Wild Rice goes well with this. Serves 4.

 

American Heritage Cookbook