Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reduced Flock

As you may have heard, Jim and I butchered chickens last night after our steak dinner. I was desperate to get it done while I'm on vacation, and since the boys were at Jim's mom's house it was the perfect night to do it. The weather was cool and not windy at all. I had separated the birds to be butchered and kept them locked in the coop so we wouldn't have to chase them down. It's really not as traumatic as you'd think. It does help to have a partner assist, preferably a non-wuss type person. Jim is the non-wuss who got the job of cutting the carotid arteries in their necks to bleed them out. My job was to help pluck, remove feet and hand them back to Jim to clean out the innards. I kept the carcasses in a cooler full of ice until it was time to rinse and bag them. Jim and I are good at working on projects together like this if we each have our assigned tasks.

So now I've got 9 chickens (3 big roosters) in the fridge letting them age for about 36 hours before I put them into the freezer. I won't have to buy chicken for a while at least and that's fine by me. Our chickens are really healthy with just the right amount of yellow fat. Grocery store chickens have white fat. Farm-raised chickens have a bright yellow fat.

My flock is now reduced to 15 birds, a much more manageable number for me. I've got 6 Black Australorp pullets, 5 Buff Orpington pullets, 2 Barred Rock pullets, 1 Buff Rock pullet (Cheese Doodle at left) and 1 Silver-Spangled Hamburg rooster. Silver thinks he's died and gone to heaven cause when he woke up this morning he had 14 girls in his care and not a single rooster to challenge him. It went straight to his head and I actually saw him mate one of the Orp girls out of the corner of my eye. So now Silver realizes he's head honcho, top dog, Mr. Big Stuff and Mr. Hot Pants! Oh boy, a Hamburg with a big ego! Look out!

The flock is quiet and peaceful now that the big 3 roosters are gone. I was watching them today and it immediately hit me just how quiet and calm they all were. There was no screaming, chasing or terrifying sounds in the chicken run. There was plenty of food to go around. That's what I want to see! And it was very nice to finally have it the way I'd had it pictured in my head.

The Red Tailed Hawks are back and this time they're training at least one youngster how to hunt. They are ignoring the chooks which are covered by a bunch of Austrian Pines in their run. If a big raptor like a Red Tail tried to fly through the thick branches it would likely get knocked to the ground or injured. What I am looking for diligently is the return of the Cooper's hawks. They won't be around until it gets colder though. They seem to arrive right around the time I put out my bird feeders.

In the late afternoon the chooks all slowly got up from their naps and wandered over to the far end of the pen and cooed and cackled lightly to each other. I kept looking up in the sky thinking they were watching a young hawk. Then I realized they were looking down on the ground. Then I saw a curly, swishy tail and little ear nubs and realized it was Rocky! I shouted the sighting to Jim who was busy herding ducks to the pond. Jim tried to catch Rocky but he got away. So he returned his attention to the ducks and took them for a nice long swim in the pond followed by a free for all algae snack at the edge of the pond. Those duckies were in duckie heaven! We'll do it again tomorrow I'm sure so I'll try to get a video.


  1. On flock reduction - oh, you make it sound so easy! :-)
    Why do grocery store chickens vs. farm raised chickens have different colored fat?
    That Rocky, he likes teasing you guys, doesn't he? Or maybe, he just wanted to let you know he was ok, but wasn't ready to come home yet. :-)

  2. Loved your post, Amy. I'm glad your flock is more manageable and calm now. I keep thinking about reducing the size of our flock, but so far they are foraging contently... so I put it off.

    When you bled the chickens, did you use a cone? I've been tentatively thinking about using a plastic bottle as a cone and collecting the blood for the compost pile...

    Have a great day!

  3. It is a great feeling to have a freezer full of chickens! We are thinking about getting 1 more batch of meat birds before winter. We only have 1 rooster and he has been a good boy so far. We need to keep him around so that we can try and incubate some eggs this winter.
    Have a great weekend Amy! ~Kim

  4. Danni, it's easier to do when you're pulling your hair out because you've got too many chickens. I figure with 14 girls, I can probably expect a dozen eggs a day during their highest production period. That's a lotta eggs! I wish Rocky had stayed to visit. I sure do like to see him. He looked pretty fat and sassy from what I could see.

    Ron, I've seen the cone method and I think it's really smart. We don't have any cones so we used slip knots around their ankles and suspended them from the pine tree branches behind the barn. The blood went directly into the soil. Now all we need is a good rain to wash it in. Using it in a compost pile sounds good too.

    Kim, I'm going to order some of those red broilers next spring. The Cornish X's have too many problems. Have you ever tried the red or black ones and compared them to the Cornish X's? They're supposed to be ready for butcher at 7 weeks. I want to order a pair of Welsummers or Barnevelders and a pair of Sussex next spring just to try. I'll use the meat birds to finish out the minimum order of 25 birds. You have a great weekend too!

  5. Yay for you, Amy!! I'm sure everything is MUCH calmer now, and your little "Hamburger" (I can't help but call him that- he looks just like mine) will be Mr. Big Stuff from now on. Your hens will all be much happier too without the stress of all the extra roosters. Which are now "roasters"!
    (Ugh, I'm sorry... I couldn't resist that one!)


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