The babies are 3 weeks old now and are tired of being cooped up!
"Ma, I can't see! Move your wing!"
So Emmy took her babies outside for their first trip out of the trashcan and into the woods:
They didn't go too far from the coop at first:
But it's hard to herd 14 baby chicks, so she had to keep them moving:
They played on a tree stump:
One of the babeis got left behind - it's much easier to hop up than to jump down:
But Emmy went back for her - she's such a good momma! The babies ended their outing by having some cracked corn with Daddy:
Being that adorable sure is hard work!
Sometimes, when a rooster and hen love each other very much, this happens:
Mama hen, Emmy, hatched some babies in a trash can yesterday! She was sitting on 18 eggs, and I think most of those have turned into chicks through some sort of magic.
About half of them are chipmunk patterns, the other half are blue like their daddy. I'm resisting the urge to smoosh them all with love. Emmy is surprisingly tolerant of me sticking my head in her trash can to play with her babies. Look - the one on the right is still wet from the egg:
Anyhoo... if anyone needs more chickens, I have some extras now...
We slaughtered our first batch of meat birds on July 8, 2011. We had 21 Cornish Cross hybrid meat birds, the same ones you're used to buying in any grocery store, and 13 dual-purpose heritage roosters, birds that have been bred for centuries to provide both eggs and meat for the homestead. And we also had 1 ornamental Polish rooster that I couldn't find a
home for. Poor Poof-Ball Head.
It was our first time doing a slaughter day – Dave had helped with a few birds before and has dressed out plenty of ducks and partridge he's hunted, and my first experience with anything like this was with the little Cornish Cross with a leg problem. So this was very new and very nerve-wrecking! But I'm happy to say the day went incredibly well and smoothly – everyone died quickly and with respect, and processing went very quickly. We did all 35 birds in about 8 hours, from set-up to putting them in the fridge. We had help – his parents came down for half the day – and that definitely helped move things along.The longest and most tedious part was the vaccuum sealing actually – it kept overheating and shutting off. I guess regular old Food Savers aren't meant to seal up 14 whole birds and 42 breasts, thighs, and wings all at once :)
The dual-purpose roos were about 15 weeks old, and we kept them whole because they were smaller – they averaged about 3lbs dressed. The Cornish were only 6 weeks old, and we pieced all of them out to “usable” cuts (someday I might use all of the bird, putting the necks and feet and innards into a pot to make stock, but I haven't reached that point yet). Their boneless breasts alone weighed about 1lb... each! Their pieces are bigger than what you'd buy in a store but otherwise look exactly like them. The dual-purpose roos are much smaller and have way more dark meat. But they're both way more flavorful and tender and delicious than anything I've purchased at a store! Plus we know they're healthy and lived happy lives outside on the grass like nature intended. And we've got more than enough chicken to last us a whole year... so much, in fact, that we're selling it at $3/lb if you're interested :)
The bad news: I forgot to take any pictures! I wanted to document everything for the blog, but I ended up being too focused on what I was doing, which I guess is a good thing. But I do have pictures of the birds before and after:
Cornish Cross - fat, lazy, and ready to become food:
Their heads look like nromal chickens, but their bodies look like basketballs!
Our first meal of our own chicken (along with our own salad):
We'll definitely do this again next year. We're always going to have to process any excess roosters that we hatch or buy, but we'd like to get at least one batch of meat birds as well and a batch of turkeys. We'll do a heritage breed of turkeys and hopefully keep a couple hens
and a tom to breed our own in the future. As for the meat chickens – if we get Cornish Cross for free again from the school, we'll take them, but I haven't decided yet if we'll buy them or a more sustainable and hardy breed like “Freedom Rangers”. There are too many pros and cons for each – perhaps we'll save that for another post? :)
It's hot out. Time for a dust bath:
Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Even the pond is too warm!
At least the peas are loving the heat:
One of my hens has gone broody in the woods! (for you non-chicken dorks, that means she's hiding out somewhere sitting on eggs til they hatch) She came back to the coop for food and water, and I followed her back to her nest... here it is:
What, you can't see it? How about from this angle:
No? Ok, here she is: (I walked Dave right up to her and was pointing about 6 inches from her nest, and he still couldn't see her - nice job, Emmy-lou)
She's been missing for about a week and a half, so later this month, hopefully we'll see baby chicks with fluffy legs walking out of the woods behind her :)
My old elementary school is hatching creatures this spring! The kindergarteners are hatching chicks (both meat birds and layers), and the first graders are hatching ducklings. So of course, who could pass up free baby creatures...
32 meat birds (Cornish X) are happily hanging out in my basement now. They're adorable... but they're food. So I'm calling them "The Nuggets" instead of "the babies" like I usually refer to new chicks.
Good job, lil Nugget! Grow me some delicious wings!
Um... I mean... NOTHING SORRY MOVE ALONG NOW!
Here are the old babies - they're kind of ginormous now:
And Poofball Head has a delightful beard to go with his poof:
We added a disproportionately tiny sign to the layer coop:
We found more food in the garden too! Lemon rosemary smells AMAZING! You should really invest in a scratch-n-sniff screen so you could experience this:
And we found chives too:
I have 9 adult hens right now, but they're not "laying breeds" so I only get about 6 eggs a day. But lately, I've only been getting around 4 eggs a day, so I was pretty upset at the slackers. Don't they know I'm providing room & board in exchange for these eggs?! I thought maybe Jack was getting in the coop and stealing them too, cause he's been seen in the past exiting the people door with eggs in his mouth. Bad dog. Anyhoo, I found the real reason for the drop in production:
That'd be Edie on the right with an egg on the left. Under the screened porch.
And that would be a pile of 16 more eggs even further to her left. *unimpressed*
I used some sort of hoe to get the eggs out, then I piled rocks under the lattice to keep out the naughty birds. Not surprisingly, I've seen a rise in production since then...
Dave built a chicken tractor the babies (aka a pen that's put on pasture and moved every couple of days so they always have fresh grass to eat but they're also mostly safe from predators). But we put them in the tractor before it was completely finished because we wanted them to get outside in fresh air, so they escaped:
Notice Jackson is licking his chops while he watches the delicious chicken dinners frolick in the sunshine. Luckily he's a good boy, and we got the babies safely put away in their pen, then we finished it:
We had to put a chair out there for this crazy chicken lady that likes to watch the chickens. She's crazy.
She looks suspiciously like me... moving on now... Take a look at Poofball Head's adorable poof! It's growing to poofy proportions:
Jen & Dave Paul, owners & operators of Old Post Farm