Homemade Chicken Stock

What is the difference between stock and broth? Stock tends to be made more from bones versus broth that is made from just meat. Therefore stock has a richer taste from the gelatin in the bones.

If you read our post about butchering chickens, then you know we had some leftover carcasses that didn’t really have any usable meat left on them but we didn’t want to just throw them away because that would be wasteful. So we stuck them in the refrigerator for a few days until we could get around to making some stock. Here is our little home brewed recipe that makes 6-8 quarts of delicious, healthy stock.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Carcasses. We had five plus three necks.
  • Celery bunch
  • One onion (yellow or white)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 or 4 Carrots
  • 20-30 Parsley sprigs
  • 2 Bay Leaves

To start, get a very large pot (20+ quart) and add your chicken bits. Brown them a little bit over medium heat, just make sure not to burn them. After about 5 minutes, add enough water to fill the pot up to halfway and start it simmering.

Next, quarter the onions and chop the carrots and add them to the pot. Cut the root end off of the celery and add the rest including the leaves. Add the parsley and bay leaves. Then add more water until the pot is a little over 3/4 full. Simmer for 4-6 hours.

Once the mixture has a nice strong yellow appearance, usually after 3-4 hours of simmering, taste it and add salt and pepper to suit your taste. Continue to simmer until the meat and cartilage has broken down. The bones will be easy to break apart with a spoon.

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Once you are satisfied with the taste, place a mesh colander or cheese cloth over another large pot or bowl. Strain the stock and return to heat.

Prepare your canning supplies. Alternately you can freeze your stock and it should last for a couple of months. If desired, you can thin your stock with more water in order to make more but I wouldn’t add more than 1/3 of what is already there. If you do add water at this point, bring the whole mixture back to a boil before proceeding.

Now just add your stock into your jars, seal, and put in the pressure canner. Click here for canning times from the NCHFP. Now you have some fresh homemade chicken stock that is healthier and has less sodium than store bought stuff. Enjoy.

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-Dale

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Chickens – Week 30

It finally happened! We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for Lucy to lay, and finally, a few days ago, LUCY LAID! I’ve been waiting since the day we ordered these babies online for her wonderful blue or green eggs, hoping that they would be colorful, and that we didn’t get the one Easter Egger that laid brown eggs.

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Odd thing is, they are HUGE! Typically when hens first start laying, their eggs are small and progressively get bigger and harder as they get use to the laying process, but Lucy’s eggs started out double the size of others firsts.

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Starting at Lucy’s egg working clockwise: Blue Andalusian egg, Speckled Sussex egg, another Blue And. egg, and a Chochin egg.

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I found these in the coop this morning

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Currently, we have 7 out of 10 hens laying. We’ve decided to start marking the bottom of the eggs each week so we can keep track of how old each egg is. This week it’s purple, so you can see some eggs have purple dots on their bottom.

Lately, we have been having issue with our Blue And. rooster. He’s been a big ole’ meany. Anytime we go down to the chicken yard, he thinks we are a threat. He’s already gotten me once, giving me bruises and cutting my hand. Luckily I was wearing jeans and boots or else he would have gotten me worse. We talked about things we could do to correct this behavior, but seeing that he is a chicken and lacks whatever it is that makes animals trainable, we are unsure if this behavior can ever be modified. We shall see.

Chickens – Week 26

It’s getting hard to keep track of how long we’ve had these chickens! I’ll tell you what, the time definitely flies by.

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They’re literally figuring out how to jump the fence

The flock is adjusting to it’s new hierarchy. Our Blue And. is still the top (and has gotten pretty feisty lately, attempting to attack me multiple times, which is a completely different story for another day). The other rooster that we have, the Partridge Cochin, found his voice soon after the flock shrank in size. It’s funny to hear them crowing at the same time, because their crows are completely opposite. Unfortunately though, we’re guessing because of the sudden transition, this Cochin (whom we’ve aptly named Bigfoot) has been wandering around our property alone. We aren’t sure if he’s being kicked out of the group by Blue, or if he’s just looking for his other friends (sorry dude).

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The days following the harvesting, we updated and cleaned our coop and opened up the nesting boxes. In the photos below, the nesting boxes are currently closed (to keep them out at night) and I hadn’t put any curtains up yet (for privacy). We also removed the top roost and lowered it for two reasons: 1. so we wouldn’t have anyone pooping into the boxes at night and 2. so no one would have poop on their backs. The egg that you see in the photo below is a ceramic egg. Also excuse my “demonic” Brahma. She wasn’t ready for her picture to be taken!

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Within a couple days, we had a (tiny) egg show up! I assumed automatically that it was a Speckled Sussex because she was rooting around in the hay in the nesting boxes once when I opened up the coop during the middle of the day. She hadn’t laid that day, but the next day was when we found her egg. A couple days later, I hung out in the chicken yard and watched her climb into a box, scratch around, and then sit.

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I waited outside in the cold for 30 minutes before she came out again. BUT, there was an egg! So our suspicions were confirmed. These tiny eggs were coming from a Speckled Sussex.

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The egg laying adventure had begun! Now we’re just waiting for the rest of our girls to start laying. Below is an image showing the size and variety of the eggs we are currently getting on our property. The top egg is our Speckled’s egg. The middle one is one of our renter’s Rhode Island Red’s egg. And the bottom is a Georgia egg.

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Pretty neat huh?

Butchering Chickens

*** WARNING! Graphic pictures of chickens being killed and processed for human consumption follows. If you are weak stomached or would rather think your chicken dinner comes from a pretty plastic container at the grocery store, then don’t scroll any further. If you realize that all meat came from an animal and you believe God created those animals for us to manage as He specified in Genesis (which includes eating them) and thus would like to learn more about humanely butchering a chicken, then do scroll further. Enjoy***

 

So as I mentioned in the prologue that I posted a few days ago, we are butchering and processing some of our chickens for meat. Now our chickens have been raised with much love and comfort. They are allowed to roam free over our entire homestead, because fences simply don’t stop them, and they have been given plenty of food, water, and of course fresh grass. Our chickens are without a doubt healthier and happier than any chicken from a grocery store was. So butchering some of our chickens has been the plan from day one, even though before today neither of us had ever done such a thing before. Boy oh boy, let me tell you it is a lot of work for a newcomer. For me the work wasn’t gross as I am an occasional hunter and have skinned and cleaned other animals before. I was nervous at first because unlike hunting where you don’t have a connection to the animal you are taking, we raised these chickens from only a few days old. Kallie on the other hand took just a little bit longer to get warmed up to the process but by the end of the day I had her quartering up the chickens. I am very proud of my wife and how much she was able to help even though she didn’t want to at the beginning of the day.

Well lets get started. First, collect some knowledge. We read about the process in books but what was the most helpful was YouTube videos.

Next you have to select the right age to butcher your chickens. We waited until now which makes them 24 weeks old. According to most peoples opinion this is a bit late and we can expect for the meat to be tougher than preferred. Now we have yet to try any of the meat but it definitely didn’t seem tough during the processing. Of course the meat was tougher than store bought meat and had better color too, but this is because the birds are allowed to free range and actually get exercise, unlike those poor commercial birds stuck in crowded cages. The reason we waited so late was because our birds got sick when they were only a few months old and we believe this stunted their growth. We were also hoping they would fatten up some more so we would have plenty of meat. In order to help facilitate this fattening processes, we have been feeding them a mix of layer feed at 16% protein and chick starter at 24% protein. Just like when a person eats a lot of protein to bulk up, the same can be done to chickens.

Supplies

Collect the right tools for the job. The good news here is that very few tools are actually needed. This is what we found was helpful: a sharp knife or two, a killing cone (ours is made of an old milk jug), a sturdy table, a pot with hot water, a meat or water thermometer, gloves if desired, some garden clippers/shears, and plenty of paper towels along with a sink or hose close by. It is also a good idea to have some diluted bleach nearby to sanitize your work surface before and after. Lastly you will need some plastic bags and a cooler with ice or a free shelf in the fridge to store your meat for a few days, but more on that later.

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So the first thing we did was get all of our supplies set up in the shop so we could be out of the cold winter wind when we did this. Next we selected which chickens to cull. From our little flock we grabbed all the roosters with the exception of two, and then we had to make a few hard choices as we selected two more hens to cull. In all we desperately needed to reduce our flock numbers as winter has left them with little natural food. Kallie and I decided that 12 chickens was the right number to have, which meant we had eight to kill.

That morning we grabbed the chickens we wanted to cull from the coop and put them in a large dog carrier crate and took it to the shop. We had previously setup a table to act as a work surface and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized it. I made a killing cone out of a one gallon milk jug by cutting off the bottom and widening the mouth and then screwing it to a post in the shop. The point of the killing cone is to safely restrain the bird upside down, which is a naturally calming position for a chicken, and to prevent the bird from running around as you kill it, creating a huge mess and potentially bruising the meat.

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A Speckled Sussex in the killing cone above a bucket to catch the blood.

The Harvesting Process

First we washed the chickens feet in the sink because well, if you have ever had chickens you know they can be quite nasty and I had to hold them by their feet during the next few steps. Next I held the chicken close to me as I transitioned my hold so the chicken was on its back in my arms. It is important during these next few steps to keep the chicken as calm as possible because as we found out, a bird that dies stressed out is difficult to pluck. Holding tightly on the chickens feet, I slowly let the bird hang so that it would not freak out. Then I put the chicken into my killing cone and pulled it’s head and neck through.

This is where I usually let the bird just hang out in the killing cone for a few minutes to ensure that it would calm down. After a few minutes I would separate some of the chickens neck feathers while holding onto its head with one hand so that I could see the skin, and with the other hand I would drag the back (dull) side of the knife across its skin so that the chicken would get use to the feeling. After several passes I could feel the chicken relax in the hand that I was holding its head in. That is when I would turn the knife over and in one smooth motion I would pull the knife across one side of the chickens neck all the way from the spine to the throat with a strong pressure. It is important that you see a steady stream of blood pouring out from the neck. If all you see is a few drops IMMEDIATELY make another cut until the steady stream of blood appears. Please don’t let the chicken suffer. If done correctly the chicken will bleed out and be dead within 20 seconds. I would recommend moving aside, while still holding the head as this is when the chicken’s reflexes will start happening and the chicken will begin kicking and flapping its wings violently. This is why constraining them in the killing cone is so important. Don’t worry about all the commotion as it is just nerves, the chicken is already dead.

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After a few minutes the chicken will go still and it is time to grab them by the feet and get ready to scald them in preparation for plucking. This is where the very large pot with hot water comes in. The water should be between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit which means you will need to heat it on a stove. Keep testing the water with the thermometer until it is in the right range. We found that closer to 160 degrees made the plucking process much easier, but it tended to scald the skin a little much. The results weren’t bad but it did look like a bad sunburn on the chickens skin with a thin layer wanting to peel off. Trial and error is the name of the game I guess.

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Add a drop or two of dish soap to the hot water. This allows the water to better penetrate the oils on the feathers and thus allows the water to get all the way down to the skin. Dunk the bird in the hot water for about 30 seconds. Pull the bird out, placing it on your work surface, and start pulling on the feathers. Start with the big feathers on the wings and tail as these are the hardest to remove. If the water was the right temperature, the soft feathers on the chest and back should easily be pulled off in bunches. At this point you will notice a certain smell. It is not necessarily a bad smell but definitely distinct. It smells sort of like a wet dog but more bird like. I guess it is fair to say that wet bird is a type of smell. Once the bird has been fully plucked, which took us about 10 minutes a bird by hand, rinse the skin under some water.

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Next, cut all the way around the neck about two inches down from its head and finish cutting the head off with the garden shears. Then cut off the feet at the knee by working the knife around the skin. (This is where watching YouTube videos help the most, as they show you exactly where to cut so you won’t destroy the meat)

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Now to take out the guts. First slit the neck skin all the way down to the chest bone being extremely careful not to cut open the crop. Remove the crop with you hands. Then slit the stomach just below the ribs and cut all the way down and around where the vent and tail feathers are. Don’t cut too deep or you will cut into the guts. Now reach all the way up into the chest and pull out all the guts. Some things like the lungs will stick to the rib cage and will require extra work to get out. We saved the heart and liver to use later in some dog food and discarded the rest. If you really wanted to, you could save the gizzard (stomach), clean it out and save that too, but it is a lot of smelly work. Now just rinse.

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At this point you have a chicken that has been plucked and gutted. We kept three birds in this state to use as roasting birds, except we removed their necks. The rest of the birds we quartered up by cutting off the thighs and wings. Then we removed the skin from the breasts and cut off the breast meat and tenderloins below, leaving us with just a carcass which we also kept to make chicken stock out of.

Now we put the meat in a cooler on a bed of ice. This is an important and interesting step. Freshly butchered meat has to age for several days in the fridge. I always knew that but never knew why. The reason is that within a few hours of death, rigor mortis sets in as the tissue in the muscles tighten but after two days in the fridge the tissue relaxes. After that you can freeze the meat or use it. That’s not to say you couldn’t use the meat before that but it might be tougher than expected because of the rigor mortis.

The Results

It took us two days to butcher all eight chickens because we were new to the process and we could only spend a few hours each day working on it. In all we had 24 pounds of meat after it was all bagged up. We also had some parts to be made into dog food and some carcasses to be used in making chicken stock. It was a long and memorable process for sure, but one that I am glad we did. We learned a new skill.

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The bounty, 24 pounds of chicken.

Prologue: The Butchering of a Chicken

Well the long awaited day is finally here for about half of our chickens. We bought and raised these birds from chicks with the intent that one day some of them would provide us with eggs while others would meet their fate and end up in the freezer.

Kallie and I have been discussing when the right time to butcher the chickens are for months now. We have decided that they are pretty well full grown and they have started to fill out nicely. Exactly which birds and how many we are going to butcher today is unknown, but we have been watching them for weeks trying to pick out the birds with the most unpleasant traits (pecking, lame, aggressive, etc). Since we would like to continue our little flock we only want the most cooperative birds that are good foragers, and since you need a rooster to fertilize the eggs, we have decide that our Blue Andalusian and one other rooster can stay.

I am hoping the butchering part doesn’t bother Kallie too much. We have talked about this kind of stuff since the very beginning of buying our little homestead. We want to become more self-reliant, learn new skills, and eat better which means getting more in-touch with where our food comes from. One of the reasons for raising our own chickens is we know that our meat and eggs come from healthy and happy chickens.

So we have collected our internet and book research, sharpened our knifes, and collected just about everything we can think we are going to need. Now we just have to catch the chickens and get to it. Be looking for our post on our first chicken butchering experience within the next few days.

-Dale

Chickens – Week 23

Preface: this is an angry vent / sad post about stupid, mean hawks.

I’m sitting on my couch, scheduling appointments for the day because I’m not feeling well when all the sudden I hear chickens screaming and running toward a corner of the chicken yard. I put everything down, run for the bedroom and grab the shotgun, then run outside to the chicken yard. As soon as I get half way through the chicken yard, I see a hawk fly off into the thick of the trees. I shoot at him, only to miss (of course). But typically this is all I have to do, then they go away and find an easier, quieter, not-as-difficult-to-get meal. So I look down and see one of my friend’s RIR and my Blue taking cover under some brush, but only five feet from them, I see one of my female Brahma’s laying on the ground. I walk over to her, and she moves her head.

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She’s alive! I saved a bird! ME, Kallie, without Dale, was able to intervene and save a bird from dying! I felt like such a hero. So, shaking, I pick her up, and start talking to her with a calming voice. I knew she’d be in shock. There were feathers everywhere, but she wasn’t bleeding upon first glance. I looked her over, pulled her wings out, and found a little bit of blood, thinking the hawk had just started pulling her feathers out. So I brought her in, put her in my sink (which, now that I’m writing this, remember I need to clean it. Luckily it just happened 30 min ago), and started cleaning her up. Turns out I was right that the hawk had just started ripping her feathers out, as she had a huge clot of blood above her right wing, and a little bit of blood under her left ear. I called my husband and until now I’ve been strong. I started telling him what happened and of course I start crying, freaking out, as I see the Brahma’s not holding her wing against her body. Her right wing is broken. Dale calms me down and says she will live but she will have to be harvested when the time comes. I was afraid he was going to tell me that I would have to kill her right there in the kitchen sink. I got off the phone with him and looked out the kitchen window, only to hear and see more commotion. I run back down to the chicken yard, Brahma in one arm, shotgun in the other. I place her inside the coop so she’d be safe and could roost up (although, she can’t jump – duh, Kallie). I run around the back of the chicken yard where the trees are dense and finally see the hawks broad white chest in the sun. I shoot at him, it’s all I can do. He wasn’t scared away from the first time I shot at him, and my babies were under attack. I, of course, didn’t get him but he did fly off. My husband is good with the .22, but I unfortunately, would not be able to aim under that kind of stress, whether the bird was moving or not. So that’s why I use the shotgun. I back away and go to count all the birds, checking the coops and whatnot. One of my friend’s RIR decided to hide under some VERY thorny vines, which was very smart of her, but also not smart because she was NO WHERE NEAR the rest of the flock. (not the best picture as I was still shaking)

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And I think one other chicken was hiding somewhere because I only counted 22, when we have 23. That’s when I see the crows attacking the hawks. Yes, I said hawks. Plural. I look up to see 3 or 4 crows trying to tackle three hawks. THREE! I knew in that moment that we were losing a bird tonight. We haven’t yet, but I have those dang doctor appointments. The hawks were persistent. The crows couldn’t fight them off this time. The hawks circled around and flew to some nearby trees where I couldn’t see them. They proceeded to call to me, telling me to go away so they could eat. Even now, over an hour since the incident, our poor birds are still in hiding. I wish they knew to go into the coop. I wish I could gather them up and place them in the coop so they would be safe. But they are just birds. And hawks are just a part of the process of owning chickens. It’s the unfair circle of life. It sucks to raise chickens, just to see something else slaughter and eat them up and leave the remains for me to clean up. I’m grateful that I was able to save that Brahma, although her life is significantly shorter still, but I prayed so hard that God would just watch over the chickens – and Georgia. I won’t be able to protect them today, because of my appointments. I’m just hoping that the four times I shot the shotgun was enough to scare them away for at least a little while – and that it didn’t ruin my hearing! What sucks the most about this is that I’m home alone. I’m only one person, with bad aim, and even worse at dealing with death.

My message to the dang hawks: go after the stupid rat in the shed on the other side of our property!

Chickens – Week 21

Hello everyone! It’s been a crazy Christmas season! We’ve been so busy making Christmas gifts and preparing for the cold and for traveling that we haven’t had much time to post about our chickens. But do not fear! They are still growing and still eating a ton, although the chicken yard is getting pretty skimpy – both greenery wise and bug wise! Anytime we walk anywhere in sight of the chickens, our Blue crows at us, and we swear he’s demanding we bring him food. But I’ll tell you what, our chickens are spoiled! They get all our scrap food and veggies that are too ripe for us to eat. They also got our pumpkins that we never carved (they were decorations). Surprisingly, they weren’t rotten yet, so we had fun throwing the pumpkins up in the air and watching them land and smash everywhere (not gonna lie, we also got to practice our zombie-head kicking).

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In this picture above, you can see all the chickens thoroughly enjoying the pumpkins. Also, you can see our Blue chasing our friend’s Black Sexlink away from our coop. He’s such a meanie.

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Georgia the turkey contemplating what this huge orange thing is.

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We are unsure if grass will ever grow in this chicken yard again.

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They have successfully cleaned the pumpkin halves. They love love LOVE these pumpkins. In fact, we had only two left, and they were waaay on the other side of our property (but still in view of the chickens). A few of our chickens went up and around our fence and waaay down to where the pumpkins were just to eat them. That had to of been a trek. Good thing there was food at the end!

Lately we’ve been in and out of the shop working on projects and Christmas gifts. Some of the chickens – we’ll call them the Fab Flock – figured out where their food comes from.

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I think I was sanding, when all the sudden Rusty and Chester came to attention, looking toward the entry door. I look over to see a few hens wandering into the shop. These guys weren’t scared at all. They just wandered on in, picking at the ground, as if this wasn’t a whole new scenery. I walked over to them and they looked at me and decided that I was right, they didn’t need to be in the shop where there was who knows what that they could get into, so they ran out.

Currently, we are experiencing a ton of rain, and I’m sure we will be getting snow here within the next day or two, but other than that, I probably won’t be posting about chickens for another couple weeks. Until next time!

Chickens – Week 18

Hello everyone. Long time no post! Sorry about that guys. We’ve been super busy with projects and family visits and holidays! But fortunately, nothing much as changed since we last posted. The babies keep growing and growing. We didn’t lose a single chicken to the disease that spread through the flock. We figured out it was avain flu mixed with maybe a hint of Coryza. We kept waiting and waiting for it to get better, doing a ton of research and feeding them lots of probiotics and electrolytes. We consistently cleaned their eyes and applied Neosporin to their wounds and one day they started to look better. Not once did any of them express signs of respiratory issues (which can be a killer), nor did any of them lose their appetite. The only issue we have seen since this has passed is that it has stunted their growth (or at least we believe it has). Our assumption of this is based on how several chicken owners cull their flocks back when they reach 18 weeks of age. Well, looking at all our roosters, only one looks like he’s reached maturity (our Blue Andalusian). None of the other roosters have filled out. Our Brahmas are (on average) suppose to weigh around 12 lbs. Ours are maybe 8 lbs. When we pick them up, they just feel like bones. We narrowed it down to either the flu caused them to delay their maturity, or we weren’t feeding them the right amount of protein rich food, or even both. Because this is our first flock and we are completely inexperienced and practically alone on this whole raising chickens thing, we just went down to the local Lumber 2 and bought what seemed right. Once one of our chickens got crop problems from that food, we immediately switched over to high quality food (Dumor). I highly doubt we will ever switch from Dumor or Purena brand food.

None the less, all our chickens survived the flu and none of them are being harvested for another few weeks at least. But when we do decide to harvest them, we will for sure keep our Blue And as well as either a Brahma or a Cochin.

Our Blue is so handsome too.

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Dale decided to put him on the roof of the coop. He enjoyed it quite a bit.

Another interesting thing happened since last time I posted. We didn’t realize that chicken’s beaks chipped away in order to grow. This picture below is a little fuzzy because I had to take it of myself holding him, but this is our male Buckeye. That white part on his beak is it chipping away so it can grow. Weird, right?

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We’ve also decided to start letting them out into the yard, since their yard is mostly dead (see below). They love it!

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This is one of our male Speckled Sussex, taken this past Monday. He still doesn’t have any of his showy tail feathers.

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This is ours and our friend’s flock mixed together. They get along quite nicely, until our Blue decides to pick on Georgia, the turkey. We just stand back and say, “dude, you have too much testosterone to go after that big of a bird.”

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This is one of our male Cochins.

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This is one of our male Brahmas. They are starting to look big and bulky, huh?

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I do love our male Cochins. Their coloring is so brilliant. The females aren’t as blue.

In other news, we did have to kill one of chickens this week. We’ve deemed him with the name “Sickly” because he is the one that’s had crop problems all along. This is him below. Just looking at his feathers and comparing him to the other Speckled next to him, you can just tell he’s not getting enough nutrients to develop correctly. Even his comb is a tell-tale sign. It’s very muddled and dark, in comparison to every other chicken’s comb that is bright red. And I know the picture doesn’t show it but he looks very bloated and big in the chest, mainly because of his crop.

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I sat out in the chicken yard one day and just watched this little guy. He’s significantly smaller than the other Speckled Sussex. But on this particular day, he just stood there, holding himself in and shivering. Yes, shivering! I didn’t know chickens could shiver. Look at that poor baby.

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So Dale built a box for him in our garage with a heater. We figured he hadn’t developed enough meat on his body to keep him warm through all the cold we’ve been getting. We would watch him for the next several days. Below is day one in the box. That little cut out is the heater. There was no poop the first night, but the next morning, there was watery poop everywhere, so we thought he was getting better.

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Unfortunately, he was not getting better. This morning, we discussed putting him back out in the chicken yard because he was starting to chirp and move around a little more. So Dale walked down to the garage to check on him and he said it was probably time to put poor little Sickly out of his misery. He said he walked down and saw Sickly laying on his side and when he poked him, he barely moved. Dale thought he was dead. We decided to just kill him then so he didn’t have to suffer any more. Surprisingly, it was hard on me. I knew I would have a hard time seeing any of my chickens die, but I was briefly really upset about poor Sickly, because we had nursed him back to health several times. He was always the first to the door for food, mainly because he was always so hungry. The cold just got to him and he couldn’t make it through this time. Poor guy. But I’m ok now knowing he’s not hurting any more (and yes! I know it’s just a chicken, but have some compassion!!)

And then there were 20 chickens.

Until next time 🙂

 

Chickens Week 15 (I think)

It has been awhile since we have posted about our 21 chickens. We have been fighting a breakout of some sort of disease that has been traveling through the flock. Hopefully we now have it under control.

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This is how it started. We began to notice bubbles forming in the corners of one chickens eye. Of course we assumed that it was just pecked in the eye and was irritated. After a few days we noticed another one had bubbles in it’s eye. And then another. That is when we figured it out that it was some kind of contagious disease.

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The chickens began to develop swollen eyes.

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We had a full fledged outbreak of something. Initially we thought it was Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG) which is an upper respiratory infection. The disease can cause the bubbles in the eyes, but also coughing, loud breathing, and swelling. However, ours only had bubbly eyes, no other symptoms. MG is spread by various forms of contact. Unfortunately, it can, but not necessarily will be passed on to baby chicks via the egg. Even though we were unsure about what the cause of the infection was, we began to treat them with antibiotics in their water.

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Even with the antibiotics, the disease continued to spread. We then began thinking it was Infectious Coryza however they didn’t exhibit any bad smells from their head (with the exception of their normal chicken poop stank).

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Around this same time we began to see some scabs on a few combs, wattles, and eyes. At first we thought it was just more pecking and fighting, until it once again spread. We now believe the scabs are from Avian (fowl) Pox which is a virus that can be picked up from almost anywhere, including wild birds. It is usually not deadly and there is not really anything that can be done about it. So we began to treat all the affected chickens with Neosporin on their scabs and a saline solution in their eyes twice a day.

Initially we didn’t see any improvement. In fact some chickens got much worse. One cochin’s eye swelled up so much that when we tried to part his eyelids we couldn’t see his eyeball. We actually thought it had been pecked or scratched out and that he was going to be a one eyed chicken for life. But, almost three weeks after the first symptoms showed up, they have all improved greatly. The bubbles are all gone, swelling has subsided, and almost all the scabs have healed over. They are much happier.

We have also started cleaning their coop more often and turning the shaving in the coop over every few days to prevent the poop from building up. Improper cleanliness is what probably contributed to the initial outbreak.

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IMG_6508Also during this time of treatment we began letting them out of their coop around mid morning and letting them roost up on their own in the evening. To be honest, I think the fresh air and room to roam did more to heal them than any of our treatments.

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Now not all of the birds figured out the roosting thing right away. For some reason a few thought it was acceptable to roost on the ramp. Still to this day the Bramas are always the last ones in the coop.

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When they are out they like to dust themselves.

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And dig some rather impressive size holes for their size.

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The boys have been wanting to say hello to the chickens too. The black dog we know would never hurt them. The white one we have “trained” but are still cautious around.

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We let them in anyways. Even though he was good, you just know that dog is wondering what that chicken taste like.

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Also, the chickens are using their automatic water-er which is working out great. We might have to do something this winter though to keep it from freezing.

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One last thing, this is one of our Buckeye roosters. He has a straight comb instead of a pea comb, which is a rather rare recessive trait. That makes him sort of unique.

Hope you enjoyed the post and as always send us a comment or email if you have anything to contribute.

Chickens – Week 11

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been so absent from the blog for a while. There really hasn’t been any exciting things going on with our little beasts. They are still growing, and eating, and growing, and pooping, and oh yeah, growing. They are soooo ready to get out of that coop. I will say that the past two or three times that we have let them out in the evenings, they have roosted themselves up, which is nice. Now Dale and I are just waiting for them to be big enough so we can let them out full time. Hopefully that will happen by the end of this month.

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Because the chickens are getting so big, we figured out that they aren’t all roosting on the roost. Instead, a lot of them (ah hem, the Cochins) have been roosting in the nesting boxes. I’m afraid of them keeping this bad habit and not laying eggs in there. So I decided to add an extra roost, as well as board up the nesting boxes. They aren’t using them anyways for their designed purpose, so why not, right? Now they love the roost, or at least I haven’t heard any complain!

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However they did enjoy pecking at the board quite a bit. I can just imagine hearing them saying, “Wait! Let me in! It’s so comfy cosy in there!!”

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All my babies roosted up.

Also, check out these feet feathers! They crack me up! I love my Cochins (and my Brahma’s)!

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Here are a couple pictures of the flock.

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This is one of my very pretty Blue Andalusian females. We have two (three if you include the male). One female is a dark grey, whereas the other one, this one, is all very light grey, with only a few black feathers. Isn’t she gorgeous?

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They love this top roost.

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They are getting so big! It’s crazy how big they are getting.

The only issue we are finding is that because they are getting so big, and of course they are figuring out the pecking order, but the coop is too small for them. They are constantly fighting and unfortunately, there’s no way we can really stop them. We’re pretty sure the male Blue And is the one picking on everyone, but who knows. It always happens when we aren’t around. But my poor babies are getting all beat up. This morning when I went to check on them and feed/water them, I noticed one my Partridge Cochins had a swollen eye and a little scab on his comb:

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I also noticed one of my Brahma’s had a huge scab on his comb:

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It upsets me, but I can’t do much to stop it.

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I’ll end this update with a cute picture of my pups, waiting for me to either let the chickens out or for me to come play with them. Silly pups!

Until next time!