Sunday, April 24, 2016

Butchered 4 roosters; unexpected adventures

So, had some pretty interesting although catastrophic adventures yesterday.

It was a nice day, I thought "OK this one reader person has asked for photos of the butcher process, I'm feeling OK, & I need to stop putting this off... let's get this done."  Got all the stuff around for it, started boiling the water, and headed for the barn to catch the intended "victims".  I think they must have sensed that their time had come because although I was able to catch 2 of the 4, the other 2 evaded me to the very end, even after using my pistol to try to take them out.  Finally, I thought "Fine, I'll just do these two, maybe I can catch the other two later after I've gotten these done...", however in the meantime I handed my dad my pistol (because I got frustrated and fed up chasing birds..) and even my dad got fed up. 

While Dad was chasing down the other two, I got my gloves and went for the kill cage (an old dog crate used to isolate them until they are ready for death) to catch a roo.  There were two in there, both were larger than I normally like to butcher, both with long long spurs, but I thought this would be to my advantage for an easier time cleaning them.  It was not.  These two big roosters ganged up on me and rushed me at the door as I went for them, both flapping their wings, attacking my head and face.  I got spurred in the arms, chest and back as I ducked from their barrage attack.

After that, I was 100% done with messing around on a humane kill business.  And of course by not doing a humane kill it wouldn't be clean either, so I knew I wouldn't be able to get photos.  But regardless, I needed these birds gone, so I turned my husband, dad & brother loose on them.  Told them to take them out however they wanted as long as they were dead.  The three men thought this was an awesome idea, since they all hate my chickens, but specifically my roosters with a passion.

After locating them all, they were successful, but there was one rooster in particular that was very good at evading us, even though we shot at him he would keep running.  Once we finally did take him out and I took all his feathers off I realized that we had all hit him when we were shooting him, he just had like... 9 lives. lol  The other three roosters went down a lot easier.

However, interesting facts (to me anyway) was that when I tried to shoot the escape artist rooster several months ago, I thought I missed him, I did not.  I did indeed hit him, and not only that but I hit him exactly where I was supposed to to take him out.  I had just missed his internal organs by mere millimeters. When I finally opened him up, he had 5 bullet holes, (4, 9mm & 1, .22) plus the healed hole from my original 9mm several months back.  Tough old bird was way too good at staying alive!! 

After all of that, I ended up only getting one bird that was usable out of the 4, mainly because I was just so tired I couldn't finish.  My hands were shaking and I was close to collapsing, ended up nicking the gall bladder on the last one I attempted which means I had to throw it away.  Asked my brother to take care of all of the guts, feathers, carcasses etc. which he did, while I showered, then colapsed.  Mom even texted me that she needed me to help her, with my kids, and I didn't even hear my phone.  THAT showed me this morning just how utterly exhausted I was.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

As The Egg Turns

Good morning blogger world!

My husband says I need to share a story with you about the personalities my hens have developed. There are a few details necessary to describe the comical behaviors that have transpired.

Sometime during the winter months, I got sick of feeding the birds.  I had just had a baby in April of 2015, & felt like I was running around with my hair on fire trying to get everything done for my children, let alone the birds.  I asked for some help from my sister, who did help for a time but got bored of it, stopped feeding them & didn't tell me.  The chickens went for about a week without food, and as most animals will do when they are being starved, they will try to escape their confinement.  Mine succeeded.

They succeeded so well in fact, that they ripped the chicken wire up from the floor boards in specific areas & created new nesting areas for themselves between the wire & the exterior walls. So even though they escaped, they would return to these areas and lay their eggs behind the wire where humans and most animals couldn't get to them.  I was actually quite impressed, after I got over the irritation of realizing they had ruined the coop and that I couldn't reach their eggs.

Over the last several months I have slowly re-trained them where I want them to lay.  The birds & I have come to a compromise after several go rounds of them vandalizing the chicken coops.  I won't lock them up, as long as they lay their eggs where I want them to.  This compromise works well for us, the birds are able to go forage for themselves & I don't have to feed them on such a concrete schedule.  In exchange for their freedoms, I have trained them to lay their eggs in 1 of 2 places, and of course there is always that 1 bird that must be contrary and still tries to lay her eggs where she wants and not where I would like. 1 out of 14 is not too bad though so I let her slide.

The places I have coached them into laying in are:
  • An old water tank that no longer does it's intended job correctly.  I have filled this tank approximately 1/2 full with hay and "seeded" the nests with fake eggs to guide the birds towards laying there.  
    • The tank is large enough for all of my hens to fit in side without touching while laying at the same time if they chose 
    • The walls of the tank are tall enough that our German shepherd cannot reach the eggs to hand them down to the yellow mutt.
    • I've placed boards over the top of the tank except in key places to discourage scavengers such as raccoons, opossums, skunks & other chickens from raiding the nests.
  • An old white plastic milk house sink, stuffed with hay about half-way up & fake eggs seeding the nest.  This location has been placed inside of the second hen house with the door closed and the walls re-secured on the first hen house that they all destroyed so they had to find new spots to lay. 
Both locations work really well. Both locations are too tall for the yellow mutt to get at the eggs (she is my egg sucker) and although the shepherd could reach the eggs in the 2nd hen house, he doesn't because he and I have had a few "talks" about such behavior, including some not so veiled threads of life on a rope if he doesn't behave.

What I have actually found interestingly enough, is that I have 7 who prefer the white sink, and will lay all of their eggs at the same time.  4 of them will sit down facing each other so their butts are in the corners, and chitter chat at each other.  It's almost like they are sitting there gossiping and talking about each other.  "Oh my GOSH!!! Did you see how ruffled Stella was after Foghorn got done with her?  Oh!  He's such an animal!  I wish Heidi would butcher him and get it over with!  The way he uses those spurs on us while breeding is just INHUMANE!"  bahaha.

Then you have the other half of the flock, who prefers to do their laying in private.  And I mean as private as it gets.  They all lay their eggs separately, under cover of darkness (under the boards) & no one talks to each other.  They will wait in line to use the water tank, but no one jumps up early to watch, and if I happen to walk in during one of them laying, it offends her so much she will not lay her egg that day, or if she does, it isn't until LONG after I've gone.  If someone starts pinching, they will fall back on the 55-gallon trash barrels I have throughout the barn.  Their preferred ones are those with paper feed sacks in the bottom, but really it just comes down to whether they need the extra over-flow nests or not.

When I chose to purchase chickens, I had no idea there would be so many personalities and temperaments involved!!  It's like a tiny soap opera down there in the barn!  A friend of the family laughed and suggested I call the chicken drama "As the egg turns", and it probably isn't a bad idea, but I'm not sure anyone would actually get as much of a kick out of the chicken drama as I do.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


On the Saturday between Easter & Good Friday, I bought my son's 5 peking ducklings from TSC.  I thought "My sons are 2-years 6-months & 1-year; they're old enough to begin learning about animal husbandry & the responsibilities of owning and caring for animals" knowing full well that M, my youngest, wouldn't do anything of any consequence with them other than possibly petting them or something.  I wasn't certain that A would be able to handle it, so it was a small gamble, but I figured that if he couldn't deal with them, they got to be "old hat" or he stopped caring for them, I just butcher them and we have roast duck for supper or some such.  However, my gamble seems to be paying off. Because A is doing very well with his new adventure.  M, thinks the ducks are toys, so I can't let him touch them without supervision, but A has taken his job very seriously.  I told him he must feed them every day, change their water, clean their brooder etc. and every morning so far except yesterday (because he had outpatient surgery yesterday) he has asked when it's time to feed & water the animals (chickens, ducks & horses), & helps me get the eggs from the chickens (both boys have been doing this for quite awhile now).  Both boys are doing very well with all of this.  I couldn't be prouder of them!

I also was recently informed by A that it is "Time to eat the roosters Mommy".  LOL!!  I didn't realize he understood when I was butchering the chickens last year!  My husband & I had been sure to keep him back & away during the killing stage, but I had let him play in his sand box during all the other phases so apparently it sunk in more than I realized, and as he is completely chill about the whole thing I'd say it doesn't bother him all that much. 

When he told me it was time to butcher the roosters, I told him "OK we'll butcher them once Mommy catches them", not realizing just how serious he was about doing it right then and there in that moment... so he proceeded to chase my roosters all over the barn for the next 10 minutes.  I told him he shouldn't chase them, because they could hurt him, but he listens about as well as any normal, active 2.5-year old, so it took a little bit to corral him and get him to stop chasing the roosters.  I did end up catching 2/4 & stuck them in the kill cage (I pen them up overnight so I don't have to worry about having a full crop to work with), but then the weather changed overnight.  It got cooler than I really wanted to deal with for butchering so I let them go again.  Their days are most definitely numbered though because I have chicks from last year which are potentially being bred with their father...

Also, I've been asked by a reader to post photos of my unorthodox way of butchering, so although my husband is squeamish about the thought, I may have to enlist his help in taking photos, because once I begin butchering, I tend to get rather covered in blood and feathers.  Not the sort of thing that you want to be picking up a camera all the time, and perhaps if my husband or someone else helps me take photos, I can get some better ones than if I were to do it myself.