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small scale livestock raising

Egg-sactly What We Were Looking For

Well, this had to happen too, though we did not expect it for at least another couple of weeks. We’ve got hens now – pullets to be sure (the technical term for what might pass as a chicken in the 8th grade, hanging around the lockers in the hallways, flirting with the boys), but definitely coming into her own. She can lay eggs, but they are really quite small. And if you read Joel Salatin’s book on raising pastured poultry, Pastured Poultry
you don’t want to hatch those eggs or buy chicks that have been hatched from them – any chick hatched out from a pullet egg is going to be, by definition, much smaller than an egg laid by a mature hen and prone to physical problems, weakness and disease.

Small? On the scale of “Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Jumbo and OOOOO, That Hurts”, this particular egg did not even register as a Pee Wee. Pee Wee Eggs need to be 1.25 ounces. This one weighed 1 ounce. Flat. (more…)

Goodbye to chickens…Hello to chicken

Parental Warning: The following contains intimations of violence and meat eating.

Sigh. We knew it was going to come to this, right? We all knew that when Aunt Toby and the DH got chicks earlier this year, that some of them were ‘born for the freezer’, right? We got ‘straight run’ (that is, no one took a startlingly intimate look at their rear ends and decided which ones would grow up to lay eggs…and which ones would grow up meant for other things). “Sexed chicks’ cost more – a lot more – because it does take some skill to look deeply, passionately, into the rear end of a chick and be able to make that sort of decision. With ‘straight run’, you don’t know how much of which you will get, but you will get some of each.

We got about 50% roosters, which is pretty good. We weighed all of them earlier this summer and the biggest and with the most development (combs, wattles, condos with sports cars out front), got to take the lottery as to who got courting rights with the hens…and which ones would eventually make the trip to Pepperoni-ville. (more…)

Getting the Best Out of Grass Fed Meats

Well, I lied. Or, I think I did. I think I said, or at least intimated that I’d delved into farmers markets and wouldn’t darken that door again.

Well, Aunt Toby realized that she missed out on an entire section of stuff that gets sold at farmers markets (and increasingly gets sold, I might add), which is meat.

Honest to gosh, shrink wrapped (though usually not on a slab of Styrofoam, in my experience), frozen, labeled with weights on ‘em, meat. And many times, they are labeled with words such as ‘free range’, ‘pasture raised’, ‘grass fed’ and so on. This is to differentiate them from what’s in your butcher or supermarché, which generally is ‘conventionally raised meat’ which means “grain raised”.

And when you see ‘grain raised’, the little voice of reason in your head should be saying, “and that means, ‘corn fed’.” (more…)

Chicks on Grass!!

Well, it had to happen because..that was all part of the plan, which was that we would be pasture-raising the chickens. And now, as you can tell (go back to When we first got the chicks to get an idea of how much they have grown in 8 weeks), they are NOT chicks anymore and they are out in their “outdoor coop”. They are moving toward that state of ‘Pullet-hood” where the hens will start laying eggs by the end of the summer. This coop is NOT like the moveable broiler pens a la Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms. I have to admit that the DH is his own guy, wanted something he could put nesting boxes in, put perches in to get the birds off the ground and what the heck, he wanted to do his own design anyway. This is really sort of a prototype.

Which didn’t look so hot when the thing fell over and he came down to the house to ask me about how to figure out how long the bottom had to be, (more…)

Is cheap, confinement raised meat lighting the fuse on the next flu pandemic?

Lest we start to play ‘Healthy Days are Here Again”, Aunt Toby would like to remind readers that the so-called Swine Flu (H1N1) is still with us.
“Just as many New Yorkers were beginning to forget the threat of swine flu, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a hastily called news conference Thursday evening that swine flu had been confirmed in the sick man, whom colleagues identified as Mitchell Wiener, the assistant principal of Intermediate School 238 in Hollis. He was being treated at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, where he was on a ventilator.” Latest on Swine Flu in NYC Schools

Update: Mr. Weiner, the gentleman mentioned above, succumbed to H1N1 and died Sunday evening.first swine flu death in New York City

For current updates on H1N1, see US CDC: Swine Flu Update

What Aunt Toby wants to talk about is this: Where the hell did this thing come from? (more…)

How Some Hot Little Chicks are Going to Heal the Land at Chez Siberia

So. To review.
When chicks arrive, they are hopelessly cute. As you can see from the video, pieces of which were taken on 4/1, 4/13, and today, 5/10, they grow up fast; they grow up aggressive; they grow up and out and all over the place. They fight for their places at the feeders. These guys are now out in their own little room in our barn (which is the former brooder house; our property was once what passed for a ‘big egg farm’ in the 1930s, with two, three story buildings on the property, with 7,000 birds each. 14,000 birds would not qualify as a ‘small timer’ now with the huge battery farms in places like Delaware and Maryland). And the job of the moment for them is to…eat, drink, grow and do their chicken-y thing. Our job of the moment for them is to … create the moveable ‘living units’ that we will transfer them to in June when we move them onto pasture. (more…)

Win two, lose two: 4-18 ‘fahm’ report

Well, although this week we’ve had some truly astonishing and wonderful spring weather at Chez Siberia, all has not been ‘sunshine and daffs’ here.

On the plus side, the chicks are doing great. We had to add a second feeder to their box just to accommodate all the ‘boarding house reach’ going on. On the minus side, it was that realization that we are going to have to move these guys out of the basement sooner than I thought; that brought up a whole lot of moving things around in what we refer to here as ‘the barn’ (but was really the original brooder house for the chicken farm that was once here). We’ll be moving more things to make room in one of the indoor ‘rooms’ (south view, lovely neighborhood) for us to set them up in a larger place of their very own. We’ll have to do an ‘audit’ of the premises, though and make sure that we put up something so that if anything actually gets IN, they have a place to escape TO. (more…)

Fowl Deeds

I just found a terrific site:
The City Chicken – Chicken Laws

They might be listing your municipality right now. For example, in Washington, DC proper – no chickens. Fairfax County – yepper. They also collect information from commenters, so if your municipality is not listed and you call on your city clerk and get the low-down on chicken ownership, please pass it along to make the site even more complete. Great stuff!!

The Urban Chicken Sets Up Light Housekeeping

It’s time to return to the sounds of yesteryear….when…chickens ruled the roost, eggs were fresh, and housewives had their own sources of income, called ‘egg money’. It’s springtime and so it’s also time to return to the discussion of raising chickens in your own backyard. For some beginning thoughts, especially in terms of “is this ‘street legal’?”, go here:
The Return of the Urban Chicken

If you’ve ascertained that a)it’s legal for you to have chickens in your backyard and b) it’s not going to bother the neighbors, here are some next steps. (more…)

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