The Great Chicken Rescue

Saturday a friend called to tell me he was getting a bunch of chickens from a flooded commercial chicken house.  The birds that the chicken catchers weren’t able to get had been sealed up in the house without food or water, left to die from dehydration and ammonia.  He and his brother ended up with over 70 chickens, some of which had to be killed due to illness or injury.  The 60 remaining birds literally covered the floor of his small coop so he offered half to me.

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I drove to his house yesterday to loaded up 30 birds that are now living fairly happily in one of my chicken tractors.  It’s a tough transition for birds that spent all 4 weeks of their lives in a climate controlled house with food and water right in front of them, especially when their eyes and lungs are burned from the ammonia and they’ve gone three days without water.  So far all 30 are still alive.  I’m feeding them laying mash while I start some fodder in the basement.  If I can keep them alive long enough I plan to feed them wheat fodder with the layer feed and give them some old canned pears to help fatten them up for processing in 2 weeks.  This is the second time in the past few months that I’ve come across free commercial birds that I’ve been able to detox for a couple weeks then process.  The result is a nice fat chicken that is close to the quality of my pasture raised birds for almost no cost.

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The birds have two dog houses with hay in the bottom so they can stay warm at night.  The feed pan is right in front of the dog houses and the hanging water bucket is also close by.  Hopefully they stay alive for a couple weeks.

Eggs!

For the past year or so, we’ve been getting eggs from my parents, who have chickens. But now… let the fun begin! Danny found two eggs today.

They’re rather small, as far as eggs go, but the chickens will give us larger and larger eggs. I am dreaming of the days when I have enough eggs to make Quiche, angel food cake, sponge cake, massive family size omelets…

The chickens are no longer in their tractors. Instead, they all live in one of our back goat pens. The poor Freedom Ranger rooster gets picked on by everyone, including the Freedom Ranger hen. But now I only have to feed and water them, not move them. And they’re worth the time since they give us eggs!

Such good little chickens we have!

Finally, a Storage Solution

I don’t remember if we posted pictures before of our mud room closet/pantry/feed room.  When we still had the Freedom Rangers we usually had several hundred pounds of feed on hand, with the Rangers eating about 25 pounds a day.  The closet was always packed full of feed bags.  That also caused our mouse problem.

Today at Wal-Mart we found these awesome storage containers.  We bought 4 on impulse, and as soon as we got home with them, we wished we’d bought more.

They’re the perfect size to hold 100 pounds of feed.  On the bottom we have crumbles for the chickens next to scratch feed.  On top is cat food and sweet feed for the goats.  There’s just enough room under the shelf to keep an extra mineral block on top of the bins.

I’m not usually a big fan of storage bins.  They’re great for storage but impractical for daily use.  And if we don’t use it frequently, we probably don’t really need it.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  I have boxes of stuff I never use.  I’m working on it, alright?

In spite of my usual dislike for plastic bins, I love these things.  At $10 they’re a durable solution to an ongoing problem.  And certainly a lot easier to access than trying to reach the bottom of a 55 gallon drum.

Now I’m going outside to build a vapor carburetor for my mower.  Then I’ll give the dogs baths, and try to finish my chicken butchering post.  I know it’s way overdue, but cut me some slack.  I’ve been busy and sick – not a good combo.

Breaded Chicken Breasts/Chicken Parmigiana

With all of this delicious chicken we now have, I HAD to make Chicken Parmigiana. I love, love, love, love, love Chicken Parmigiana. Almost as much as I love Fettuccine Alfredo with Cajun Chicken. And that’s a lot. 

Breading chicken at home is simple.  It took me about five minutes to prepare the chicken for the oven. After the chicken is baked, it can be frozen for a fast, easy future meal. Continue reading Breaded Chicken Breasts/Chicken Parmigiana

Arghhh!

No, it’s not Talk Like a Pirate Day. That was last week. It’s an Arghhh of frustration.

Last night I replaced the gearbox on the chicken plucker. I put casters under the feather plate to keep it from rocking under the weight of the chickens. This morning, shortly before 6:00, I dropped the first chicken in. The plucker stopped. Not good. Apparently the plastic internals shattered again. So much for that plan. Another $55 down the drain.

Worse, I had 60 chickens to kill and after 10:00 would be working by myself. No way were we going to pluck that many by hand. Fortunately we had a bunch of extra plucker fingers, a few tools, and a little creativity.

For the people who requested plans of the washer plucker, sorry.  Looks like it’s not a practical design because the gearboxes aren’t strong enough.

It's not nearly as fast or easy as the tub style pluckers, but it is way better than plucking by hand. And it was built with scraps I had laying around so the price was right.

We built a drill powered table mounted plucker, then found that the drill chuck was worn enough that the plucker would work loose as it oscillated out of balance, and the nuts holding the rig together worked loose. We should have either used a left handed bolt or run the drill in reverse. The biggest problem was the lack of support to control the oscillation.

We ended up putting a support on the outside end of the plucker.  It’s not something that will hold up for a long time, but we just need to get through these chickens.  Then we’ll have all winter to come up with something better.  Hopefully by then I’ll have the washer plucker sorted out.

Twenty two chickens worth of feathers. We had to add the shield because it was throwing feather all over the garage. It's a messy operation for the person running the plucker. Then again, every part of butchering is messy.

Even with the time we spent building the plucker, we were able to butcher more chickens than we could have plucking by hand.  It’s you have limited engineering and building skills, or just do a few birds a year, I definitely recommend a plucker of this type.

Tomorrow we’ll have more help so we should be able to get more pictures.  We’ll try to get pictures showing the entire process and write up a bit of a how-to.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

…You aren’t Chuck Norris.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

I wish I could say that the new and improved washing machine chicken plucker is like a washing machine on steroids.  More accurately, it’s like a washing machine on crutches.  And roller skates.  I’ll explain that in a later post.

I spent $55 on a gearbox on eBay.  Sure, I could have scrounged one somewhere.  But with the chickens eating almost $10 worth of feed every day, it was worth the money to get as quickly as possible.  I thought about using ball transfers (Google it if you don’t know) to support the feather plate, but opted for the cheaper and more readily available rubber swivel casters.

With Bethany being under the weather (For our Australian readers, that means something totally different on this continent.) I’ve been helping out inside the house and didn’t get much done outside until the kids went to bed.  Tomorrow will probably be the same deal so I’ll start butchering around 5 and hopefully get a good start on it by the time the kids get up.

Homemade Chicken Stock

There’s something so homey to me about the smell of a roasting or boiling chicken. Growing up, my mom always made her own stock; I can only remember a time or two when she bought it. Now, I see why: chicken stock is easy and there’s very little hands-on time involved.The first step to a good soup, stew, casserole, or gravy is quality stock. And it’s so simple, even Bella (who will be three in October) knows the ingredients.

Continue reading Homemade Chicken Stock