As a farmer, my main goal is humanely raised meat, and animal products. I want to know my animals. I want to know what they ate, what antibiotics (if any) they were given. I want to know they had the privilege of living the life God intended for them. As contrary as it may seem, a huge reason I raise my own meat, is for the animal. Although I may end up slaughtering them, they have the right, as every creature does, to live. To feel grass underfoot, and the sun warming their backs. The photos that go along with this post are graphic. If you can’t handle seeing where your food comes from, or how it looked before it was wrapped in plastic, beware. When you look at these photos, you should feel something. I will always embrace butchering day as a sorrowful time. I love to fill my freezer, but doing so comes at a cost.
Most people withhold feed before butchering. It makes it a much cleaner process. We usually do feed, mainly because it makes me feel better. Going forwards we will probably always feed, but probably significantly less. That way they get some, but aren’t stuffed full.
Before grabbing a bird, it’s important to have all your supplies ready. I have my cutting board laid out, along with all my (sharpened) knives, and a hose fitting with a sprayer attachment. Also nearby is a trashcan for entrails. On the patio next to my station, we have a heat source heating water, and next to that is our homemade plucker. Behind the shed we have two traffic cones set up to be kill cones. We wait until our water is almost hot enough for scalding before we go and get a chicken.
The walk down to get the chickens is somber. If ever there is a moment that makes you feel stoic it’s picking out the first chicken to slaughter. I’d like to take a moment here, to mention something I thought was profound when I looked back through these photos.
My husband grabbed up this chicken, and cradled it as he took it to the kill cone. To be honest, there are usually whispered condolences on both our parts. Trying to keep them as calm as possible is important to us. I see no reason for there to be undue stress on this animal. Even if it’s “just” a chicken. To compare this to a factory farm is impossible. They often suffer broken wings and legs as they are being loaded on the truck to go to the slaughter house. They are then again handled roughly as they are stuck in machines that hold them upside down.
Once to the kill cones the chicken gets slid into the cone, often with help to make sure the head goes into the hole, and doesn’t get caught sideways. We usually pull the head out gently, just to make sure there is one, swift cut. The knife gets drawn across the neck, under the jaw bone. When done correctly the blood starts flowing quickly and strongly. Although this may seem a horrible way to die, it’s very peaceful. As peaceful as death can be. Cutting them across the neck renders them unconscious in a few seconds. We then just let the chicken bleed out, and let the body stop flailing.
Once the chicken is dead, it’s moved to the hot water. It’s dunked a few times in the water, until a wing feather pulls out easily. At this point it’s laid out so the feet can be removed, and then transported to the plucker. The plucker is turned on, and water is sprayed into it as we drop the chicken in. Within minutes we have a nice, clean, feather free carcass!
From there it head over to the cutting board. Its head is removed, along with all the organs and entrails. I usually cut the tail off, and make a little slit for the legs to go through. The liver, gizzard, and feet are saved.
Everything else gets tossed. We end up dumping all those extra bits way out in the field. Within a day or two everything is gone. The chicken is given a final rinsing, any extra feather parts removed, and gets to rest in ice cold water. Once we have quite a few chickens done we place them in shrink wrap bags to seal them, and they are labeled and placed in the freezer.
Butchering day is long, messy, smelly and exhausting. However, opening your freezer to beautiful, local, humanely raised meat is worth it all.
Mornings around here are hectic but far better than they have been. It seems like with every new goat kid, new project, or new adventure it puts a bit of a wrench in how chores are done. Right now, we have a nice rhythm and technique down, so I figured you should come along and do chores with us!
Our morning doesn't start as early as some, and this particular day I was late getting to the farm. I woke up at 6, but spent my time working on blog posts and got distracted! We probably got to the farm about 8:45, and left about 10:10.
To spare you a thousand photos each, I made each section into a slideshow. Just hover over the photo, and it will bring up a play button! Enjoy!
May really has been a blur, because although I'm writing this on the 29th, it feels like May has only just begun. We are almost 6 months into this year, yet I feel as though it couldn't have gone by any faster! May has been a great month, albeit busier (which I am unsure how that is even possible). The garden is doing great, the meat birds are doing great, the goats are fat, the chickens laying, and it is just flashing by.
May has been a pretty good month for the goats. We had our last kidding for the season! Lola, who I was scared would not be a good mother birthed twin DOELINGS (one of which has SPOTS!) and is the best mother of the bunch. Very tentative, and alert, always calling to her kids. We've been getting good amounts of milk, and everyone has been on their best behavior, except Juniper where she suddenly forgot that it is right and polite to get straight on the stanchion for grain, and Lucy who has been slightly difficult and also tried to wean me. Patience. That is what I learn from goats, patience. Milking and goat knocks over bucket? Patience...just keep milking and stay calm. Thankfully everyone seems to be back to normal. One night I thought Juniper was bloating, but then seemed fine. We've had some udder cuts, and are having a bit of a bug issue. Flies and ticks are driving them a bit crazy...any suggestions on what I can safely use on dairy animals?
May 7th, Lolas ligaments were gone and I knew kids were coming! I sat around all day with nothing exciting happening. The later it got though, the more things progressed. I don't know how much Lola appreciated me being there, but I am glad I was. There was a bit of a struggle with the first kid coming out, but the second came out a little easier. I couldn't believe they were both DOELINGS. Adorable, cute, precious doelings, one with long ears, one without, one totally black, one with spots! Lola's milk was quite slow coming in, which I was concerned about. Everyone else's milk came in very fast, and almost all of them had over full udders. Not Lola! She was slow to fill and hasn't ever really been too full. I am milking a little in the mornings. Lola has been one of the best mothers out of everyone. She is highly protective, even going after one of our dogs, and calls to them always. After a week or two the other goats calmed down, but not Lola! It's one of the reasons I haven't started keeping her babies locked overnight. I know I should, but I think it will be very traumatic for her! I do not think I will lock Miri away from Berta overnight. Berta is nearly impossible to milk, I don't think a super full udder would make things any better. I am unsure at this point if Berta will be bred again. Though I have put it off, I also really need to sell both of our bucks. I hate too but because they are Nigerian Dwarfs they are constantly in rut. I.E. they are constantly bothering the girls, and have started showing interest in the doelings (well, the bucklings as well to be fair!). I hate selling them for some reason, but it is definitely time!
The chickens, chicks, and meat birds have all done wonderfully. They are all in love with the nicer weather! The geese, ducks, turkeys and chicks are doing great! I was worried about their different nutritional needs but they seem to be doing great. They have been moved to the big coop in a removable pen and have access to a small outdoor pen and a little pool. With all the rain it's a soggy, muddy mess, but I pick grass for them every day and toss it in. I'm going to have to put a thick layer of hay down soon though. The layers need their coop cleaned as well! I meant to keep track of eggs this year, but I haven't done a great job. I'd estimate we get about 3 eggs a day. Doesn't sound like a lot but adds up quickly. A week or so ago I noticed our old barred rock hen acting a bit strange. Then I realized she was going broody! She picked a spot out of the coop, out in the hoop house. I removed any eggs she was on, and put in a fresh clutch and let her have at it. She broke three, the last one did show some development. If all goes as planned we would have chicks by June 7th. That just seems hard to believe! We will see I suppose. May 4th we had a meat chicken get run over while we moved their pen. My husband didn't know if he was not feeling well and so was slow and got run over, or if he just wasn't being very smart. Regardless we dispatched him and put him in the freezer. May 18th we did our first round of butchering and slaughtered 8 chickens. We made a DIY chicken plucker and had some technical difficulties. However, we got it straightened out and it's excellent!! May 26th we had our second round of butchering, slaughtering a total of 20 chickens. My 10 year old nephew was at the farm that day and ended up being a great help! He is not necessarily farm-y but was full of great questions, and ended up being the one to help eviscerate and pull out lungs!! We have 41 left and hope to finish those the first week of June.
I haven't been as diligent as I should be at milking. I have plenty of good excuses! I started really dreading milking as my hands were hurting so much. My hands started falling asleep, my thumb hurt, it was just an unpleasant situation. When I put all my milk totals on paper for May, I realized I hadn't milked nearly as much as I should. About the same time Lucy tried to wean me and it freaked me out! I thought I may be prematurely out of milk and I had nothing to show for it. So, I started milking daily, but may take Sunday's off so I can get to church on time. We fixed a hand milker we had been working on. Using it the first time was a huge pain and frustration. However it looks like it is fixed and usable now! It does one side at a time now, but we plan to get it so I can do both sides at once. I need it mostly for Juniper who is such a big producer AND has shorter teats. It's been great, and as of May 25th, I am getting about a gallon of milk a day! I ordered some more cheese cultures, a cheese mold, and my husband is building me a cheese press. I hope to start making and storing cheese! On the list to try is cheddar, farmstead cheese, colby, gouda, feta, monterrey jack, and queso fresco.
The garden has done great!! The only issue is the weeds, especially in the lower garden. We have spent a lot of free time tending to other, more pressing things (butchering/making chicken plucker), that the gardens haven't been tended to as well as they should. It doesn't help that the few times we've been available to work in the garden it has rained! May 2nd I started harvesting radishes. May 5th we got some grass clippings spread. May 12th we had to get cattle panels up for the tomatoes. They've grown like crazy and had to have support. May 13th I pulled a lot of radishes, half the row. The easter egg radishes were ready and delicious. I turned some into pickles, the rest were devoured quickly. My radish row had two types of radishes. The latter half was watermelon radishes. They produced great foliage but not so much for the radish part. I kept waiting hoping they would form better radishes, but they have all gone to flower now. I also realized I accidently left some easter egg radishes thinking they were the watermelon type. I think I am going to try to collect seeds from them! We will see how that goes. May 20th we had our first ever broccoli harvest!
Anyone else out there that breathes a sigh of relief when the grass starts coming back the first of spring? This winter wasn't extremely snowy, but it was cold. I was waiting with baited breath and just about squealed with delight at the slow greening outside. April was very busy, there is so much to do come spring time around the farm!
During morning chores on April 23rd, the day before Berta's due date, I realized she had lost her ligaments! Meaning babies should/could arrive anytime within the next 12 hours. Of course, this was also the day we decided to scrape out old bedding and really switch out the goat pens. We scraped hay out and built a kidding stall, but had to leave a dirt floor because Berta was freaking out. By late afternoon, there wasn't much exciting happening, so I went to check on something else. Within minutes, I heard Berta screaming and ran back to the goat barn. Berta ended up having 3 healthy kids! Two flashy bucks, and a cute little doeling. I took pictures of the bucklings, and decided to list them for sale as bottle babies. Not my favorite thing to do, but I had attempted selling LeRoy weaned with little to no interest. These guys sold quickly and went to their new homes at a week old. Berta has done great and has been a wonderful mom. The biggest downside is she looks to be a great producer...with very small orifices. The hole milk comes out of is small, and so hand milking is going to be nearly impossible. I'm hoping to try a homemade milker to see if that helps. If her daughter also freshens with small orifices, Berta will either not be bred or her daughters will be sold.
The regular chickens are laying up a storm! I also bought the Homestead Delight package from Murray McMurray. It was indeed a delight!! I received 10 chicks, 2 goslings, 2 ducklings, and 2 turkeys. They have all thrived and done absolutely wonderfully. Having goslings and ducklings has proved to be...messy. I'm very interested to see how they grow, and I'm hoping the geese with keep everyone a bit safer. The meat chickens have done so great. We lost a few chicks, but nothing compared to what we did last time. Mid-April we moved them to a huge moveable chicken tractor. They did amazing! Our first batch of cornish cross we did were super lazy, messy, and just laid around getting fat. This new batch have been extremely active, and vigorous. In fact I wish we had a safe way to free range them because they would have done great that way! We will maybe try out electric poultry netting in the future, but we're scared of my mom's dog, Toby being able to get through. He's a 10 pound chihuahua. Anybody have any experience?! Let me know!
April milking went really well. Getting into a schedule is crucial, as well as really building up hand strength! The husband had surgery the 8th to cut out a torn meniscus so he was off for most of the month. There were probably more days that I took off from milking than I should have! It's very nice to be able to let the kids stay with the moms if needed/wanted. As of April 13th, I had milked a total of 102 pounds of milk!! Roughly 12.75 gallons! I've done quite a bit of cheese making, though tentatively! I've only done chevre and mozzarella. Chevre I like for its versatility and ease. I made a chocolate goat cheese cheesecake that was amazing!
April was a super busy garden month! April 1st we planted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and 4 tomato plants (which got hit by frost but recovered well) April 7th all the previously planted seeds were sprouting. April 11 and 17th we got the rest of the garden planted. April 28th we had corn sprouts, bean sprouts, potato sprouts, melon/pumpkin/squash sprouts! April 29th I noticed blooms on the tomato plants! I think that is the earliest we've seen blooms on our tomato plants. My grandpa once got his first tomato in June. I'm hoping to get one that early this year as well...we will just have to wait and see!
Just a few days ago I got a Timehop notification. When I pulled it up I was pleasantly surprised. It was an April 2013 garden/farm recap. I talked about how the chickens, goats, and garden were doing. It was so interested to read about what had been happening. Needless to say, that is what has inspired this blog post! Thankfully I've taken notes, and shared updates on Facebook so I can go back and get everything in a somewhat cohesive timeline! I plan to do these updates the first of every month (yea right, I'm already late with May!)
(Note: February 21 Lucy kidded a single buckling; Buckwheat <3 )
March 3rd, at 6:40 AM, Juniper kidded triplets. One didn't make it. She had a very slow labor, starting about 4 PM the following day. I'm glad I ended up being with her because she was so exhausted she wouldn't get up. I pulled her babies up to her, and she started cleaning them almost immediately. It was really cold, but the kids did great!
On March 10th we ordered a batch of 75 meat birds. They arrived March 20th, and we ended up with 78. We were using a large reptile enclosure we found on the side of the road (so classy). The humidity was too much however, so we built another large brooder. It turned out EXCELLENT. Big enough to accommodate everyone, and low enough I can reach in easily.
I started milking Lucy fairly soon after she kidded. Buckwheat wasn't nursing things evenly, or enough. I didn't have any problem milking, though I could not do it two hands at a time at first! Lucy took to being milk really well, and we only had an incident or two. Juniper was an absolute nightmare on the stanchion. She kicked/stomped, knocked the milk over, and just general huffed and puffed and threw a big fit. I had to tie one of her back legs up for a bit. I tried to keep as patient as possible, but really did consider selling her! Then one morning, she was absolutely perfect...and has been ever since! March 23rd, I started making cheese. I made a batch of mozzarella and chevre. The chevre turned out great! I ended up making it into a log and rolling it in basil and tomato I dehydrated from last years garden. Yum! The mozzarella didn't turn out right, however it was quite tasty! By March 27th I could milk two handed!
(The first week of February I started all my seeds indoors.)
March 27th I planted collards, swiss chard, spinach, kale, lettuce, beets and radishes. Everything but the beets and radishes were done in our Back to Eden style garden bed. My wood chips were a little thick in areas, but it worked well regardless!
Back before the cold weather hit, I noticed our almost 3 year old leghorn acting off. She wasn’t foraging like normal, was puffed up, and lethargic. She had some yucky poo, and I figured worms were probably the culprit. She hadn’t laid eggs in a while, but I chalked that up shorter days and molting. I decided to worm all the chickens, hoping that would help, and then it was just a waiting game. Not long after she seemed more spunky and alert. She still wasn’t laying, but she was foraging well, and seemed to be headed back to normal.
This winter has been harsh, somewhat warm days followed by brutal single digits. In the past week or so I noticed she was started to look a bit off again. Puffed up, and more inactive. She seemed to still be eating alright, I assumed this cold weather probably wasn’t helping her feel well. I had the thought that maybe she should be culled. I hated the thought of culling her. I was really hoping the weather would warm, and she would bounce back.
Last Thursday morning I found her stretched out on the ground, alive but fading. It was only 5 degrees, so I’m sure it was just too much for her to handle. When I first saw her I (selfishly) hoped she was already dead, but she wasn’t. I knew that it was my duty to put her out of her suffering. I think that is the last gift we can give a suffering animal. I was ill prepared and didn’t have a knife handy. (Lesson learned, I will be buying a very sharp knife to carry from now on) I ended up finding a box cutter in the shop. I thanked her, cradled her, slit her throat, and held her as she died. Although I am not particularly close to the chickens, she was one of my first, and although she was flighty, she was such a good chicken. I will miss her, even as silly as that sounds.
I was grateful I was able to handle this situation with little panic or stress. Having already butchered chickens came in handy as I knew what to do and what to expect. I believe it makes it much easier on the animal if you are calm. I also wondered if I could have done anything else to lessen her suffering. I am a firm believer in having livestock live happy, healthy, humane lives. I would hate to have an animal suffer under my care. With that being said, I do wonder if I should have culled her when I saw her under the weather again. It would have been harder on me to cull her while there was still a chance of her recovering. On the other hand, as a farmer perhaps it would have been the most humane thing for me to do. At the end of the day, it seems there are always tough choices to be made. I can only hope and pray to learn from my mistakes, and make better decisions tomorrow.
When we started getting livestock, I was quite worried about how our dogs would take it. Duke, our oldest, is most likely a lab/chow mix. He does not like other dogs, strange people, busses, bicycles, or motorcycles. He had an incident as a puppy that really changed how he handled certain situations. Dutchess is also a lab mix and an impressive hunter. She has killed groundhogs that were almost as big as she was. I have read horror stories of dogs being around both chickens and goats, so to say I was hesitant would be an understatement. We brought 10 chicks home to a brooder situated in our living room. The dogs were highly amused, and watched it almost constantly for the first few days. I would take the chicks out and hold them safely in my hands and show the dogs. Duke always smelled them and was highly interested but didn’t seem dangerous, Dutchess tried to eat them. I wasn’t terribly surprised, they were dogs after all. It was partially because of the dogs that we created and kept the chickens in a hoop coop. They could free range fresh grass, but the dogs wouldn’t hurt them. As of today my dogs can be around the chickens with almost no worries. The same goes for being around the goats. I thought I would share a few tips and ideas today on how I keep the peace between our dogs and livestock.
I would say these are my top 6 tips for keeping dogs and livestock together. I am a firm believer that when you get an animal you are bonded and committed to it for the duration of its life. That means if it is being difficult, or causing problems on the farm, it is your responsibility to set boundaries and train your dog. There are always exceptions, and I understand that. Often times people are too lazy to put the work required into the dog, and label the dog difficult. If you truly have a high-energy dog, who is proving to be difficult to train, I do have one last suggestion. A shock collar. Now, before you enlist PETA, I do not mean for you to electrocute your dog! If a dog gets a small shock every time it goes after chickens, it’s going to start thinking those chickens are what is causing the shock. I do believe this to be a last ditch effort, however, and would always suggest trying positive reinforcement and other methods before trying a shock collar.
Now that I have said all of this, let me tell you a story. My dogs are excellent with our livestock. We do chores every day, the dogs wander through the chicken flock, and try to eat grain with the goats. About a year and a half ago we had a very difficult rooster. He was a large barred rock, and although we were working on keeping him from attacking people, he still would on occasion. Not long after we started free ranging, I opened up their coop to let them out. I turned around to go back to the house, when all of a sudden something sharp hit the back of my legs. It was the rooster. As I turned and realized it was him, Dutchess grabbed him and killed him. She has never bothered hens, only that rooster. Generally all is calm. Sunday morning the ground was covered with slushy snow. Although I figured the chickens would not go out, I left their coop open so they could go out if they wanted. When I went to lock them up, two chickens were missing. They were down with the goats. It had started snowing, and there was snow blowing everywhere and it was getting colder by the minute. We did the goat chores quickly, and tried to wrangle up the two chickens to take back to the coop. My husband caught one chicken, and I almost had the other. Once I got my hands on her, she started squawking and flapping. She wriggled out of my grasp. Dutchess, thinking there was danger, her instincts took over and she grabbed that hen and ran. Black feathers were fluttering everywhere, and my husband took off after her. He was yelling, and I was yelling. We looked like idiots. Dutchess wouldn’t let go because it was “hers” she had caught it, and she thought we were playing. By the time she let go, a very confused, dazed chicken wandered off. We looked in earnest for her, but with the cold and blowing snow, couldn’t find her. The low temperature was going to be 5 degrees, so I assumed we would lose her. Imagine my surprise when I saw her the next morning, fit as a fiddle.
It wasn’t my dogs fault that she got the chicken, it was mine. I shouldn’t have put her in the situation where her instincts could be too much for her. Lesson learned. Chickens are hardy, and dogs will always be hunters.
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I have been anxiously awaiting eggs since I bought new chicks in July. We only had three hens, and we desperately needed new layers. In fact, this March will make our three older hens, three years old. They lay occasionally, but not like they should. I know many farmers would cull out those who are not laying, but I don’t plan to. These three ladies have been with me since the beginning, they’ve provided fresh eggs for the last three years, and now they can look forwards to a safe retirement. I hope to always be able to let my older hens retire versus going into the stock pot. (It may be different if I have a whole bunch of non layers, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.) So, as you can imagine, I’ve been excitedly checking nest boxes for weeks hoping for someone's first egg. I knew, without a doubt, it should be any day. In fact, I was thinking that last month, as they were officially over 20 weeks old. I also noticed redder combs and wattles. So every day, I’ve waited, and watched. And then it happened! January 7th, I found our very first, totally tiny, adorable white pullet egg!
I was so excited. I thanked the little ladies, unsure of who exactly it was. So, each day I quickly checked the next boxes, I got an egg the next day, and the next, and then no egg. The next day there was an egg, and then nothing. I wasn’t too alarmed, I mean, I can imagine it could take some time to get regulated. But I wasn’t seeing any new little white eggs in the nest box. I decided to just wait, the days are darker, the weather cold, I understood. A week went by, then two, and then three! I was starting to get concerned.
On the 24th, almost three weeks since the first egg was found, I did chores as normally. I put the chickens up, no eggs, and walked the goats down to their pen. When we got Ethel (New Goat), we drug the chickens old hoop house down and put it in the goat shed. Ethel had spring feet, and we could NOT keep her in a pen. We thought the totally enclosed hoop house would be the perfect solution. Lucy and Ethel have loved it, I give them hay in the old nest boxes each evening, and Ethel jumps on top of the nest boxes and eats. By the time I put the goats in the hoop house it’s usually dark. I’ve gone in there so many times I don’t need light. The night before as I put hay in I thought I saw something, but quickly pushed the thought aside. The next night I saw it again, just a glint of white. At about that time, I thought, eggs!!! I bet the chicken is laying her cute little white eggs in here! Well, I was half right, apparently she was enjoying it, and so was someone else! There were also rich, dark brown eggs along with the white ones. It confirmed my hopes, that black chicken with the golden neck was indeed a Black Copper Marans!!!!
I felt so much better after finding their hidden nest. I thought it was perfect, if they wanted to lay eggs there that was fine by me. As long as I know the place that is all that matters. The next day I didn’t find eggs in the nest box in the coop, but I knew I’d find them in the hoop house. Alas! No eggs! I thought it was a fluke, they took a break that day. But the next day no eggs, and the next. I was starting to wonder what in the world was going on! I did chores the next morning, knowing full well there would be no eggs in the nest box and I was right. As I was leaving our older white chicken jumped off the roost and the roosters attacked her. She scuttled under the nest box. I felt so bad for the old gal, I moved the nest box to grab her. I moved it, and grabbed her, and lo! Another secret laying spot!
Another nine eggs! They were only white, which I thought kind of odd. That evening there was another white egg, and then a dark brown one. Naively, I thought that I had found all the nests. But then I cleaned the goat pens, and I found another nest on the ground!! I didn’t get a picture of that one, but I think there were about 5 eggs. This weekend it’s supposed to snow, and our chickens hate the snow. I’m thinking of locking them up while the snow is on the ground so they will maybe realize the coop is where they should lay. Until then, every day I get to have an easter egg hunt!!
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Note: This is an account of our first chicken butchering. There are NO photos of the chickens butchered or of the process! There are, however, photos of other lovely farm things.
The day has finally come and gone. It’s a day I've been both waiting for, and dreading ever since I started this entire journey. Butchering day happened the weekend before Thanksgiving. I had wanted to butcher the chickens earlier, but due to weather and unforeseen circumstances it got delayed. It started out as a pretty good day for butchering, but about half way through winds bringing cold air and sporadic downpours made us move into the garage for shelter (and a little warmth!) The day before “the day” I was quite nervous and apprehensive. This was a really big step in farming for us. To be honest, even after purchasing meat birds, and getting them raised, a part of me thought it wouldn't work out. That I couldn’t raise my own meat. If you know me, you know I am an animal lover through and through. So although I didn’t pet the meat chickens, nor did I name them, I did see them twice a day. I spoke kindly to them, fed them, watered them, and called them all my “little butterballs.” When they saw me, they would run excitedly to the door. Not because they were attached I imagine, just because I may have food. Still, knowing that soon they would run to me, only to be killed, was hard. It is still hard. It hurts my heart, but I eat meat. And I’ve made the decision if I’m to eat it, I will have given it a life worth living.
I woke up Sunday morning ready. I don’t know exactly why I felt like I could handle it, but I did. I watched some last minute videos, got supplies ready, and headed to the farm. We did chores like normal, and I spoke to my little meaties, letting them know today was the day they died. It made me feel better somehow, and although most suggest withholding feed, I gave them a last meal. We got a table set out, got water heating on a camp stove, and my husband sharpened the axe. We had decided previously that chopping off their heads would be best, especially as we were new to the entire deal. Once our water was at approximately the right temperature, my husband and I went to the chicken coop, and I picked up a pullet. I tried to keep her as calm as possible, talking gently to her, and thanking her. We put her in a feed sack, sticking her head through a hole in a corner, and laid her out on a stump. I held her, my husband asked if I was ready, and I said yes. With one thwack, it was done. At first I thought he missed, or her head was still attached, but it wasn’t. It just happened much quicker than I had anticipated. We hung her upside down to bleed out, and waiting for the drips of blood to stop. It was at this moment, that I felt some relief. It was hard doing it, but it wasn’t as hard as I had expected. I dunked her in hot water, swished her around, pulled her out, and repeated until wing feathers came off easily. My husband and I plucked her together, and then took her to the table to eviscerate and clean her. Of course I cut my finger, but other than that it went well. I was so scared I was going to cut the intestines and get poop everywhere that I started at the butt and worked up. This was the easiest part, pulling out intestines and organs is much easier for me than the killing. Next time however I will start at the top and work my way down!
We chopped heads off a few more times, but weren’t extremely happy with the results. We talked about just cutting the jugular, but were tentative to try. One chicken died quickly, but didn’t seem to bleed out as well. So we thought, why not try cutting the jugular on one and seeing how it goes. Cutting the jugular is kosher, and the old testament way of killing an animal. Basically, you secure the chicken upside down, cut one side of the neck, severing the jugular, and the chicken bleeds out. The chicken is unconscious within seconds, and the heart pumps blood out giving you cleaner meat. My husband and I had talked about doing this while using the ax, and I tried to explain to him what to do. We grabbed a chicken and put it in a cone, and I showed him where to make the cut. He seemed tentative, and I felt brave. I told him to hand me the knife and I would show him. I cut it behind its ear, and blood started flowing. It seemed, in some strange way, much calmer than cutting the head off. We liked it much better, and used that to kill the remaining chickens.
Although we only had 11 chickens, it took us the entire day to finish processing everyone. We were slow enough because this was our first time, but the weather sure didn’t help. We ended up with 64.4 pounds of chicken, which made it 1.89 a pound!!! I was pretty excited as chicken in the store that is commercially raised, organic, antibiotic free is commonly 7 or 8 dollars a pound around here. I have to say all together this was a positive experience. I feel the weight of taking a life for food, but I am also happy to have given these chickens the best life possible.
At the end of the day, it’s important to realize meat has a price, and it doesn’t come from a price tag. A living, breathing creature was sacrificed so that you could be fed and nourished. I see great importance not only having quality meat that is free of chemicals, but also meat from animals raised as close to how God intended.
Although I've written a little about who I am in my about section, I didn't really talk about the animals on the farm. I think it's only fair you have the opportunity to put a name to the cute little furry face. Right now we have a herd of 6 goats, and a small flock of chickens.. The goats are dairy breeds, although maybe someday surplus kids for meat. The chickens are layers, although we have raised meat chickens (and will again this spring).
As I mentioned earlier, we have 6 goats. 4 does, and 2 bucks. Right now they are for dairy only, but may consider raising some for meat eventually. All the does are bred to kid early 2015!! I'm pretty confident in the due dates I have for 3 does, but there is one who I am completely unsure of when she was bred.
We have 8 chickens at the moment, 2 roosters, and 6 hens. Three of the hens are almost 3 years old, and the remaining 5 chickens are 5 months old. I'm waiting (impatiently) for their first eggs! SCRATCH THAT! Just a few days after writing this and saving it to drafts I started getting little pullet eggs from one of our new gals. Then I found a hidden nest...more on that later! Over the summer I had ordered 15 new female chicks. Sadly, we lost a lot due to a dog attack. The chicks were in an assortment, so I'm not totally sure of their breeds yet. I'm pretty sure we have a white Cochin, an exchequer hen (and the black and white rooster), and the black one with golden neck feathers? I think she is a black copper Marans! I am extremely excited to see the type of eggs she lays. I hope to add a few easter Eggers, this spring, along with some other poultry. These guys are layers, so I don't plan on eating any of them. That being said, they also don't have names, but they do come when they hear me call, "Chick, chick, chickies!"
Juniper (aka: Juni)
Juniper is a toggenburg, she is the herd queen, and very bossy. She is bred to kid February 25th (right around my birthday!). She gets to decide who eats what, where everyone grazes, and generally makes life misreble for the younger gals. She relishes her herd status!
Roberta (aka: Berta or Birdie)
Berta is Juniper's "sister" they were born at the same farm, and raised together. Berta is a Saanen, second in command and a real sweetheart to people. As sweet as she is to people, she is quite mean to the two young does. I think it's because she doesn't want to risk losing her place as second in command! As you can tell from the pictures she loves to eat. She should be bred to kid about April 24th.
Lucy (aka: Luc Luc)
Lucy is a lamancha, hence the tiny ears! She is towards the bottom of the totem pole. She is extremely sweet, but is kind of ditzy. She should be bred, but I have no idea when she will kid. She was the only one who didn't go into a noticeable heat. I made note of a maybe could be heat or a pregnancy related thing in October. I even started doubting she was pregnant at all! But then just a few days ago, I felt her stomach and got kicked! She is making me wait and driving me crazy! If she was bred when I took my note she would kid late March.
Ethel? (aka: New Goat)
Ethel is our newest addition, we bought her at the end of November. About two weeks before Thanksgiving I saw an ad for her and fell in love. But she was a little too expensive and I figured I didn't need another goat. She was posted again at the end of November at a lower price and I just had to have her! She is a nubian lamancha cross, and I love her coloring. She is the bottom of the pack, but is a wonderful gal. She is much more skittish than everyone else, and really dislikes dogs. She should be bred to kid early May.
Roy and Roger (Roy is brown, Roger is white)
Roy and Roger were unexpected additions we got about mid-April. We bought Lucy and her sister together. Unfortunately her sister got caught in their pen and strangled. We were left with a very unhappy Lucy. We found these boys and added them as companions as well as being future sires for kids. Roy is the top buck, inquisitive and sweet. Roger is naturally polled and very shy. We couldn't touch him at first he was so skiddish. He likes people a little more now, and we can sometimes get a pat or two in!
These are it...for now! I am eagerly awaiting babies this spring, along with some new chickens. I love seeing other peoples livestock and pets, do you have a post to share about your furry or feathered friends? Please leave a link in the comments so I can stop by and take a look!
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My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.