Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ducks, Meat birds, Teen-chicks and Hatchlings

I know.  I know.  I'm waiting for a quilting post too!  There's never a lot of downtime around here lately.  (and soaping doesn't take much time). ;)   Three weeks into summer vacation, and I've been in the quilting room twice -- maybe three times.  SOON though!  (I hope!)

For the past week -- it's been birds of one sort of variety or another.
Paul has been dutifully working on a quaint lil' movable coop.  Initially, it was being built for our teen-chicks that were hatched out about four weeks ago;  they have outgrown the brooder box!

However, after seeing how big the ducklings have gotten at seven weeks old (!!!), they got first dibs on the new digs!  Even with 'pond' installed :D

Our two older (and only remaining ducks from our seven we had earlier this spring :( have migrated over to the teen-duck area.  They stick fairly close to the teens, but no intermingling will happen for a while yet.  King, the white Pekin, picked on our ducklings and teens last year something awful, so... nope.  No intermingling.  Yet.  Prince, the mutt male, had been one of those teens last year.  He started taking over as dominant 'big meanie' when we still had our female, Angel, this spring.  However, since we lost our last female, both of the boys calmed down and have become good buds.

And Afro-Jack seems happy!!!!  Goofy duck.  If he ends up being female----(?).... I guess Afro-Jackie doesn't sound too bad.

Moving the ducks opened up one of our three ground-brooders.  The other two were housing our cross-breed meat birds.  And it was time to take care of those guys too!

Processing 18 meat birds was a family affair.  I know there are mixed feelings 'out there' regarding posting pictures of the process, but.... really?  I think this is our fourth (fifth?) year now of raising birds for meat;  I wasn't really involved much up until this year.  With a nearly empty chest-freezer (low on chicken, hardly any pork, beef mostly gone, zilcho venison!), I now truly APPRECIATE the fact of having full chest-freezers of meat and other garden goodies!  
These chickens here-- these are NOT EGG-LAYERS!  Good lordy.  I love my chickens that I/we hatch and raise for eggs.  They are more like pets to us than simply birds that provide us eggs.
But these guys.  They are like beefers, but only chicken versions.  They are bred to grow quickly.  Quickly!  At 10 weeks, these guys are a hefty size for processing.  They NEVER receive names from us, but we take care of them; feed them, water them -- raise them to grow :D

We waited until week 12 almost to the day.  This is the second (or third?) year Paul has used his DIY chicken-plucker.  Yup!  It's another one of those things that I rolled my eyes at when he purchased all the supplied to make one, but now I see the awesome purpose of this machine!  It makes such quick work of plucking those chickens.

The final outcome after a LONG day of processing?  Chicken!  We didn't weigh the final poundage we processed, but this was one of the larger chicken breasts we raised!  That's just a single breast, folks.  The average breast -- probably 1 1/4 pounds.  We sealed some half-chickens, but mostly breasts, legs/thighs and wings.
And, of COURSE, I made stock and rendered down chicken fat (schmaltz).  But that's for some other time.

Since all three of the ground brooders were now empty, the next day was spent reorganizing all the new and old pens in a new location.    The brooder box was hauled down to the new location for easy removal of the teen chicks...
The new-found freedom for some was too much to resist!  As they grow, they will eventually be free-range chickens, but we keep them safe from predators until they reach a few months old.

Watered and fed.  And it was only an afterthought--- we STILL never took the time to count how many chicks there are!!!!! **forehead slap!!**  In this picture----we're still sticking with 34 as our best guess.  One of these days when we start spreading the flock out, we'll get a good count.

These ground-brooders are roughly 8x8;  after another few weeks, these chicks will need more space, but for now, the new house for the next few weeks will be just perfect.  We attempted to remove Mama from the picture and return her to her coop/flock that evening.  It only took about 5 minutes for her to run back down to the babies.  *shrug*  It's all good.  Eventually, these babies will get mingled in with the new coop flock (Mama's flock) anyway.   

So, FINALLY!  Teen ducks and chicks are happy in new housing!
And just in time....

Seventeen new hatchlings (so far) from the incubator have now taken up room-n-board in the brooder house.  We're keeping track of how many chicks we get this time!!!

How many more do we expect??  Another two have hatched since moving these guys this morning, and there were 35 total eggs in the incubator.   There are always a few that don't survive the hatching process;  always such a sad time.  Your guess is as good as mine.  


Pat said...

Harvesting chickens was not my favorite job, but it was necessary to feed my family. I like having freezer full of meat, veg and fruit to make meals with. My oldest raised chickens to show for 4-H and he was always told they were too big and we thought that they were just ready to harvest. Oh, well,they were very good eating.

Keep up the great work, life has many teachable moments and you are doing that all the time with your daughters.

scraphappy said...

Busy times indeed. No wonder you have not found time to make it into the sewing room. There is a time for everything. Right now it is time to feed the family.

katie z. said...

Way to go!

We took our chickens to the butcher this time, since we had 100, but fresh, farm raised chicken is the way to go! Good for you.

gayle said...

Aw, you're really making me miss my chickens. Even the meat birds. Even the plucking... 8)

Andee said...

You guys are so self sufficient. I am sure dinner at your place is delicious!

Deb A said...

So glad you posted this! I was wondering how you handled all that. We wish we could have chickens here - it would be great for eggs and chicken but our HOA only allows horses on our land, not chickens. I'll just have to live through your little farm. I loved to garden up north but it is just way too how down here for me to weed.