Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Raising Backyard Chickens: Eggs!

Posted on September 23rd, 2012 by Tonia No Comments

Our layers laid their first eggs! They’re so small, they fit side by side in the palm of my hand. We’re going to need about 8 more before we can make an omelet….But we’re so proud of our girls!! Nice work, ladies.

Raising Backyard Chickens: Butchering

Posted on August 5th, 2012 by Tonia 7 Comments

Jen and Trevor bravely offered to help us butcher our 10 remaining meat chickens. They have some experience with this from their time working on a farm in Washington, and we were really grateful to have their skills on hand that day.

Mike did the honors of cutting off the heads, J&T helped pluck, gut and quarter, and I rinsed and packaged them for the freezer. We averaged 15 minutes per bird from beheading to freezer.

Things went smoothly thanks to all the helping hands and our friends’ knowledge. But right around the 8th bird, Mike started feeling depressed. Watching that many little lights go out in rapid succession gets to a person.

I was secretly relieved to see him feeling that way. If he had been totally cheerful and fine about the whole experience, I would have been a little creeped out!

Yes, they were “just gross meat chickens” as most farmers refer to them. They sit all day long in their own poo. Even if you give them the space to roam around, which we did, they prefer to just squat by the feeder and shovel grain down their gullets. They have one purpose in life: to eat as much as possible. They were at their full-grown size in six weeks flat {by comparison, our egg chickens are only about 3/4 grown, and they were born at the same time as the meat birds.}

But all things considered, it was still hard to kill them all in one go like that. It felt a little like a factory assembly line, and I didn’t like that. I much prefer the one-off approach where we could take the time to thank the bird for its life and really process what was happening.

We have a freezer full of breasts, drummies, wings, livers and thighs. We have jars upon jars of chicken stock. We’ll be enjoying this bounty all winter long in the form of stews, soups, enchiladas, pasties and more.

The whole process of raising our own meat so far has been both easier and harder than I expected. At times, I’ve been surprised at my own ability to shut off my emotions towards the animals. I’m sure this is an automatic response in my brain designed to protect me from identifying too much with the very animals I’ll be eating shortly. I’m both ashamed by it and grateful for it. Being such an intense animal lover, I would surely crumple into a sobbing pile of self-hatred and empathetic suffering if not for my brain’s protective mechanism.

Other times, I can’t help but picture what it feels like to be that animal- confused, scared, and most likely in pain even though we take the most humane route when we kill them and they die very fast. The understanding of it clenches my heart. We’re the reason for that pain and for its life ending. They trusted us, looked forward to seeing us every day when we fed and watered them, and now we’re killing them.

I feel all of this deeply, and still I do think that raising your own meat is a good way to go about eating meat. I feel so much more grateful for meat. I appreciate it in a completely new way, on a whole other level, in a deeper part of me, than before. And I rest easy at night knowing that our animals lived great lives up until their very last moments. You can’t say that for most of the meat in the grocery store.

The Perry Portable Poultry System

Posted on June 30th, 2012 by Tonia 3 Comments

Michael Perry is a local celebrity. He’s an author and farmer and he can sometimes be found hanging out at the same bar that we hang out at, which we think is awesome because he’s famous and so normal at the same time.

But, like most celebrities, he has the highest quality things in life. Even when it comes to his chickens. Check out this short video about his sexy chicken rig and be very, very jealous:

Watch Michael Perry: Chicken Shack on PBS. See more from In Wisconsin.

It’s Saturday and the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Mike and I just finished feeding and watering all our animals and are headed into town for the farmer’s market, hoping to catch a delicious breakfast burrito at Sean and Britton’s stand {they make the best homemade tortillas!} before they run out {they’re very popular, obvs.}

Happy weekend!

Sunday Dinner

Posted on June 24th, 2012 by Tonia 14 Comments

{Alternate Title: One Chicken Down}

Dear Vegetarian and vegan readers, please proceed with caution…

The meat chickens are big enough to eat, and Sunday seemed like as good a time as any. We invited Jen and Trevor over to taste our first home-raised bird.

Mike did the honors.

He strung the bird up by the feet and waited for it to relax {the blood rushing to its head causes it to stop flapping around}, and cut its head off with one clean stroke. The heart pumped the blood out of the body through the neck, leaving a clean carcass. He then dipped the bird in a pot of boiling water and rinsed it in cold, to loosen the feathers before plucking. Once plucked, the bird looks just like a store-bought chicken. Except, this one had been walking around ten mins prior…

Mike gutted the bird and cut the feet off, and threw the discards to Jack. He had a smile on his face for days {chicken feet are a delicacy for dogs.}

Ready for cookin’! We brought it inside, rinsed and dried it off and seasoned it with salt and pepper. We don’t have a scale, but we estimated it was 6 lbs.

This chicken made three meals, plus three mason jars of chicken stock! We made French Potted Chicken {Cook’s Illustrated} the first night, BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches the second night, and chicken chili the third night. I used the bones and leftover scraps to make the stock.

It’s very simple: You place the chicken bones in a crock pot and add enough water to cover the bones. Cook on “low” overnight or for at least 6 hours. Skim any fat that rises to the surface if you wish. The next morning, add any chopped vegetables that you want {I had carrots, celery and onion in the house so that’s what I used} and salt/pepper to taste {I kept mine fairly bland, because I prefer to be able to season whatever it is I am cooking with the stock rather than have the stock already seasoned.} Cook for another few hours to infuse the flavors of the vegetables and then strain out the chunks and pour the liquid into jars. Freeze or can with a pressure canner {I froze these}.

Here’s the thing….it wasn’t easy for me to watch Mike kill the chicken. And it wasn’t easy for Mike to do it. But after I saw how every part of that animal went to use {nothing was wasted…unless you consider feeding your dog the intestines and feet a waste}, I felt better. That animal’s energy became our energy, and we’re using that energy to contribute to the world. We fed our friends and ourselves three meals. And- what makes me feel good about the whole thing above all else- that chicken had a very nice life right up until the moment she was hung upside down.

I forced myself to watch the whole thing because I wanted to feel and internalize what it really means to be a meat-eater. It’s so easy to just buy a frozen piece of meat at the grocery store and never have to think about what that animal’s life was like, or what is really involved from when that animal was born to when it sits on our table at dinner. And then it’s so easy to push our plates away and say “I’m full” and scrape our leftovers into the garbage without a second thought to the animal that gave up its life in order to provide us with the energy that we’re so frivolously throwing away.

There was no way I was going to let any part of that chicken be wasted because I had fed, watered and cleaned its home every day since it was two days old, and I had watched it die so that I could eat.

Phew. What an experience! I’m so grateful that we can go through this and try living this way. It feels right.  It feels like the way things should be. But I can’t even begin to think about killing my sweet turkeys. :(