Monday Story: Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

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It was a hard winter for my chickens, and I had three girls in quarantine in my bathroom basement due to faulty vents (The place where eggs come out was swollen and bleeding). I had two hens in cardboard boxes and one in the stand-up shower. I was doing everything in my power to nurse these hens to health: Sitz baths, rubbing peroxide and vaseline on their bottoms, wheat diet, keeping them warm, and limiting the light in the room so they wouldn’t lay as many eggs. This continued for over a week, and my bathroom was stinky. The girls seemed to have improved, but the moment I returned them to the chicken coop, their condition declined again. Moreover, chickens are crazy, if a hen shows signs of sickness, the others will attack it. So now my three ill hens were in worse shape than before.

In the end, my husband and I had to make a tough call. We had to put the sick hens down. Trouble was, we still lived in the city, so we were going have to do the deed in the garage. My husband set up a chopping block and sharpened the ax.

I picked up Lola and gave her a hug goodbye. I held her still on the block, and my heart raced inside my chest. My husband swung the ax and missed. He swung again, but the blade must not have been sharp enough. A couple more whacks, and her head still wasn’t off but she seemed dead. He put her upside down in a 5 gallon bucket to drain out but then she started flapping around. I screamed, “She’s not dead! You didn’t do it right!” Tears streamed down my face. “Do something!”

He pulled her out of the bucket and set her back on the block. This time he actually got the head off, but Lola jolted and slipped out of his grasp. She fell onto the floor and sprang off the pavement, nearly as high as my shoulder.

I screamed, cried, and ran around the garage to avoid the jumping chicken.

After several hops, she finally fell down still.

My heart was pounding so hard, and my eyes were bulging in horror. I couldn’t believe that had just happened.

I turned to my husband. “You need to sharpen that ax.”

 

Chicken Butcher Day

Today, my husband and I joined forces with our neighbors and butchered 25 of their meat hens and 25 of our own! We raised Cornish Rock meat chickens for eight weeks. I love raising my own chickens and knowing what I’m feeding my children.

Butchering isn’t pretty, but my chickens live a very good life in my backyard for eight weeks and when it is time to do the hard task, I make it quick.

Most of us eat chicken. Perhaps, you’d like to raise meat hens. This post will help you. Perhaps, you never want to raise chickens. This post will give you an appreciation for those who prepare them for you.

Today, I’ll take you through what our day looked like. And yes, there is some blood in the pictures.

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Butcher Stations

Above is a picture of the the butchering camp: evisceration station, boiling pot, plucking machine, final plucking table, and gutting table.

Step One: Evisceration- This was one of my stations, along with my neighbor’s husband. The bird’s head goes down into a cone and the artery’s are sliced.

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Loading up the cone

 

Step Two: Dip bird into boiling water for thirty seconds to loosen feathers

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Step Three: Pluck feathers by hand or if you have a machine, run it until the birds’ skin is clean.

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Step Four: Final plucking table- Check the bird for any little feathers that you missed. Blow torch off the little hairs on the birds’ skin. At this stage, I also cut off the legs and pulled off the heads.

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Step Five: The Gutting Table- A lot happens at this station. The oil sack above the tail must be cut off. The craw located by the neck must be pulled out. An incision is made under the breast and the lungs, heart, and organs are scraped and pulled out of the bird. The inner cavity must be completely clean and rinsed with a hose.

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My husband with a new hand puppet.
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“Ew, what is that?”

Step Six: Bag the finished bird in freezer bags. I double bag them. You can also use vacuum seal bags. Put them on ice until you can get them into a freezer.

Step Seven: Bake that beautiful bird!

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My Baked Rosemary Chicken Recipe

The New Cordero Family Flock

Over the last year and a half, our flock has changed due to old age, sickness, and the addition of new chicks. So today, I’d like to introduce you to our current flock of chickens.

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VELVET

Velvet – She is a sixth-month-old Black Australorp hen. Her name is derived from the look and texture of her feathers. She is a total beauty. Currently, she has an itch to become a mother, and hoards eggs below her in the nest box hoping that they will hatch. Trouble is that we butchered the rooster three months ago so none of the eggs are fertilized and won’t ever become baby chicks. I’ve tried to reason with her and have pushed her out of the nest box several times, but the truth isn’t sinking through her thick feathers. Nevertheless, I admire her determination even if it’s a complete misguided nonproductive unfruitful attempt at success.

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COCO CHANEL

Coco Chanel- She is another gorgeous Black Australorp hen who is best buddies with Velvet. Her feathers show nicely like a little black dress. She enjoys strolling around the pasture looking for bugs.

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HELGA

Helga – She is one fiery dame. She’s got enough attitude for the entire house of hens. And she’s a finger pecker. It’s painful. I’ve given up on showing her attention.

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ROSALINA

Rosalina “Rosa” – Rosa is a Rhode Island Red and best friends with Helga. She is a skittish girl but lays eggs like a champ!

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BLONDIE

Blondie – Named after the female rock singer and for her blonde feathered butt. She’s a year and a half old Buff Orpington who lays light brown eggs.

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GRETCHEN

Gretchen – She is my favorite girl. She is sweet as a sugar cookie and likes to be petted and held! When we go into the pen, she’s the first to greet us. I love you, Gret!

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JOSEPHINA

Josephina “Josie” – Josie is a special girl, and she’s a walking miracle. About five months ago, she developed a limp. Chickens don’t usually recover from a limp. The hen’s health will decline, and the other hens will gang up on it. We monitored Josie daily, and I prayed for her. Slowly, the limp healed and now she’s perfect. God does care about the small things! And He loves his creation.

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GINGER

Ginger – She is the number two in the henhouse line-up. She has just as much strut as Ginger on Gilligan’s Island.

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ARETHA

Aretha – She is Queen of the Chicken Castle. She leads the flock of girls, and they all know it. Her breed says it all: She’s a Black Star. And that’s the truth, she’s the star of the show.

 

#EggLayingHens #Chickens #FamilyFarm

Taking Care of the Garden and Gimpy

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My two kids and I had a diverse night. It started with thinning rows in the garden and ended with giving a hen a sitz bath.

We planted a variety of veggies and fruits in our 16 x 60 garden. We have modeled our garden after Paul Gautschi’s “Back to Eden Organic Gardening.” You can check it out via http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/how-to-grow-an-organic-garden.html.

Below is a picture detailing the layers we did to prepare our garden. First, we laid newspaper to kill the grass and prevent weeds. Second, we spread a 2 inch layer of compost onto of the newspaper, followed by 3 inches of wood chips and a sprinkling of manure. My neighbor who owns a huge cow farm across the road was so kind as to bring a scoop of manure over with his John Deere. Bless his heart! Nothing like free manure for the garden.

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It has been a real learning process doing our garden this year and its far from perfect. We chose the absolute worst spot on our land to put it. We didn’t know that until the first bad rainstorm and half the garden was washed out in places. The water likes to run through the middle of the garden. So we dug trenches around the outskirts and through the center of the lower half. Its looks completely redneck, but its working. We planted sweet corn, cucumber, carrots, spinach, lettuce, green onions, sweet onions, bell peppers, summer squash, dark zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, golden zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon. I got real fancy and marked the rows with rocks that I labeled with a black sharpie.

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In the meantime, we are doing maintenance. Tonight, Bella helped thin out the row of cucumbers. She continued to ask, “What can I pull next?” Gabriel didn’t bother to ask, he was proactive and started to pull on his own. Cute little bugger.

Afterwards, we had to deal with Josefina, my gimpy hen.

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Two days ago, I went outside to check on the girls. All the hens and ducks came running up to say hello. (They’re hoping for treats.) Poor little Josie was limping up the back forty, trying to reach me. She had to stop several times to catch her breath. I hoped it wasn’t anything major and gave it a little time. But gimpy isn’t getting better. After a google search, I found that a chicken limp can mean three things: a stroke, a lodged egg, or a pulled muscle. Either way, there’s not much that can be done, except a warm bath, massage to loosen a bound egg, and baby aspirin for a tender muscle. We started with phase one. THE BATH. I poured warm water and salt into a 5 gallon bucket and put Josie in. I think she liked it. I massaged her belly and checked her all over.

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Tomorrow if there’s no improvement, I’ll give the aspirin. I hope she’ll be okay. I like my Josefina. She’s a sweet little girl. My kids think so too!

Clipping Chicken Wings

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Wing clipping is necessary when you don’t want the backyard hens and ducks flying all over, especially into the neighbors’ garden.

I have trimmed the flight feathers on my older chickens about a year ago, but the ducks and new hens have not yet been clipped. It didn’t become a problem until my neighbors planted their veggies, and my naughty ducks decided they wanted to taste test. My neighbor’s have even put up a fence, but my determined ducks are flying over it. So today I put a stop to that. They got clipped. Donald and Quackers put up a protest, but I finally won. My arm did get some battle scars in the process. It is better to tag-team with a partner when clipping, but when I set my mind to something, I get the job done.

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Clipping involves using sharp scissors to cut off the first ten flight feathers of one wing. It causes a bird to lack the balance needed for flight but lasts only until new feathers grow during the next molt, which may be a few months in young birds or up to a year for older ones. A potential problem is that clipped feathers may not readily fall out during the molt, requiring your assistance.

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Wing clipping doesn’t hurt the bird, and isn’t noticeable when they are walking around. The primary flying feathers are hidden underneath when the wings are folded. Also, the flying feathers are easy to pick out — often a different color than the rest. Make sure to use a SHARP scissors.

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Two flight wings I need to clip.
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Completed clipping
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The ducks are all clipped and heading to the pond to decompress.

REFERENCE: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-to-clip-trim-the-wings-of-your-chicken-to-prevent-flight

The Creative Touch

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Am I partial, absolutely, but its for good reason. Changing Thymes, located in Grandville, Michigan, recently welcomed a new booth into their store. It’s called The Creative Touch. It’s a special booth because not only are there sweet knick knacks and collectibles, but there’s a variety of handcrafted and hand painted items. Who is the painter, you ask? Her name is Cindy Overbeek. She is my mother, and I’m proud of that.

My mother has been painting for over thirty years and has traveled both in and out of state doing arts and craft shows. Her paintings cover a wide range: still-lifes, signage, realism, florals, chic, and more. The pieces also vary in size and style. Within my home, I have many of my mother’s painted pictures and furnishings.

Cindy is a gifted artist and has a sharp eye for detail. Below are current pictures from her booth. I encourage you to check out The Creative Touch today! (Located in the left wing of the building)
2900 Wilson, Grandville, Michigan 49418

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THE CRITTER BARN

We went again, and we’ll keep going…to the Critter Barn! It is local animal farm near our house. The Critter Barn is a wonderful place for people of all ages to learn about farming, agriculture, and sustainability through hands on experiences. It always inspires my husband and I with ideas for our hobby farm and the fact is, I just love being with the animals! My kids love it too! Here’s photos from our latest trip.

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Holding the two-week-old twin goats

 

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Gabe met goats for the first time, and they enjoyed tasting his stroller.
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Selfie with the angora bunny.
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Bella bottle feeding the baby goats.
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It took Gabe a little while to warm up to the bunnies.

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Petting Colonel Sanders the Rooster
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Kitty Coral

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The Critter Barn
9275 Adams St.
Zeeland MI 49464

Butcher Day: Meat Chickens

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Attention Readers: Some pictures contain blood.

Yesterday was butcher day for half our flock of meat chickens. They are Cornish Rocks. The key is to have hot water or the rotten chicken feathers will not pull off.

My father, my husband and I processed 13 chickens in 2 hours. And for our first time butchering, I thought we rocked it.

Our birds weighed roughly between 5 – 7 pounds after 8 weeks of raising them. They are not filled with hormones and other growth stimulators. They were raised on a natural blend of grains (from a local feed supply) and for the last two weeks of life, they foraged grass inside our chicken tractor. When you buy a rotisserie chicken at Meijer, it will weigh 2 – 3 pounds, and you will pay $5.00, which would mean that my 6 pound chicken would cost $15.00 at the store. But because we raised our own, when we subtract feed and bedding, they costed us roughly $6.50 a piece! Between the cost of savings and the knowledge of what I’m actually consuming, I’ll keep raising my own chickens.

Now if you’re thinking you’d like to do it too, let me walk you through butcher day, so you will know if you can handle it.

Step One- Take out all food 12 hours before the butcher.

Step Two- Get all your supplies and equipment set up. Needs: Sharp carving knives for slicing the throat and gutting the bird, metal bucket, 6 ft. table, cooking thermometer, salt, 3 totes (depends on amount of chicken), bags of ice, 2 gallon freezer bags, hose with a spray nozzle.

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Step Three- Get the fire started and water close to boiling in the bucket. Water should read 180 degrees.

Step Four- Slit the throat of bird and hang upside down for three minutes to bleed it out.

Step Five- Dip bird in and out of hot water for thirty seconds. Pluck out all feathers. Then blow torch off the small hairs.

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Step Six- Put bird into cold, saltwater. (Helps draw out blood)

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Step Seven- Cut off the legs. Put bird on its back with chest facing up, slice under the top of chest cavity (breast). Pull out all the organs until bird is clean within (the gizzard and heart are good eat’n if you’d like to keep). Cut off the oil sack on the tail. Hose the inside of bird. Stick into bucket of ice.

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Step Eight- Continue procedure for all other birds and then double bag the birds in Ziploc freezer bags.

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Step Nine- Celebrate and eat those good chickens!

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This is a quick version of the process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Also one book you ought to purchase is “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. It has everything you need to know about meat chickens and egg laying hens.

We are on the road of small hobby farming. One small step for the Cordero’s, one giant leapt toward self-sustenance! 

 

Farm Fancy and Ranging Free

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I am such a sucker for poultry.

Just being outside with my family and birds is bliss. And entirely entertaining.

My husband and daughter are digging a small pond for our natural spring to pour into. The ducks, Quackers and Donald, are gonna go nuts when that thing fills up! Four days ago, we integrated the ducks into the pen with the full-grown hens. They sized each other up, made some squawks and quacks, and decided it would work.

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Yesterday evening, my husband found the little hens roosting on his power tools in the garage. He wasn’t feeling that, nor the little presents on the garage floor. So today, we decided it was time those girls joined the meat hens outside in the chicken tractor.

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Before putting them with the meat hens, we let the chicks roam the yard with the big hens and ducks. The big hens didn’t give them an ounce of interest, but the ducks were thrilled! We’ve raised them together since they were babies, and it was a reunion. The ducks were quacking and rubbing their heads all over the chicks. Tonight, when I had to split them up, the ducks protested loud and clear.

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These are the meat hens. We have 23 of them and butcher day is vast approaching. I can’t wait. They are so stupid and stinky, but boy will they be delicious.

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We love country life. Never a dull moment.

 

Chick Days…And Some Ducks

Yesterday, I found out that Chick Days had started at Tractor Supply! My response, “O Happy Day! Let’s get some babies!” And boy, did we come home with some babies. Too bad, 20 of them are strictly MEAT chicks. Poor little fellers. But let’s face the truth, where do you think your chicken in the store comes from?

While we were at it, we decided to try out a couple ducks too. We’ve got a nice creek behind our home and plenty of woods and grass to forage.

I love raising chicks! And I can’t wait to get more animals. Maybe our dairy cow will come next and a friendly goat to keep her company.

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Chicks under the heat lamps.
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Meat Chicks and Two New Hampshire Red Layers.
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Egg Laying Hens and Two Ducks
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Bella and the duck she calls Bella.

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