Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Tag: poultry (page 1 of 2)

Imprinting on Adult Ducks

Ducks! We tried to have ducks before but when the massacre hit,read about that here, they were too expensive to get again right away. Thankfully we had friends a few months later who were switching duck breeds and needed to re-home their Muscovy full grown ducks. Four females and one papa male were going to be coming to live with us.

Dog crates can be used for more than just dogs :)

Dog crates can be used for more than just dogs 🙂

Now when dealing with Muscovy ducks remember that they can fly! So before we loaded them up from our friends farm, I was taught how to clip their wings so they wouldn’t fly away the second they got released from the crate. While the ducks were in the van the Littles and I fashioned together a temporary home from dog fencing.

The turkeys were not fans of having to share their half of the coop

The turkeys were not fans of having to share their half of the coop

Nailed together a chunk of 2×4 with three pieces that were cut out of the chicken coop wall when we originally made windows.

2x4 used as a corner brace

2×4 used as a corner brace

It wasn’t super sturdy but we added a brick on top and it seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere.

IMG_3657

Also know that full grown ducks need time to imprint on their new house and of course you, the poop picker upper and feed dispenser. Chickens can get put on the roost at night, be released the next day and come home that night no questions asked.  Ducks on the other hand need two weeks. That’s right TWO WEEKS! This was the longest two weeks ever.

IMG_3659

This is where they lived for two weeks until the perfect day and time that I would open the door and they would spread their wings and run around so happy to be free from their pen. Or so I imagined….

IMG_3713Instead that moment was a complete let down! It took almost five minutes for these ducks to even consider leaving their pen. I guess the imprinting worked haha Eventually they did leave and learned that they had a whole seven acres to roam.

finally able to stretch their wings

finally able to stretch their wings

Over all I am very happy that we followed instructions and kept them locked up to complete the imprinting process, but don’t expect a huge wonderful joyful migration once released. Currently the ducks still always come home, sleep in the same place and are not super big fans of the kiddie pool pond we set up for them.

Have you ever gotten an animal and had to imprint on it?

PS I always think of the Twilight Saga when I hear the word imprinting. What do you think of?

Butchering A Chicken

Taking a class for butchering a chicken and having the instructor walk you through the whole process makes you feel invincible.  Give me a hundred chickens, no problem! Processing a chicken at home with three Littles under five years old…well that feeling has no words.

I decided that today was going to be the day no matter what. Three Littles, an ax and a stump were all we needed.

****Disclaimer: This does get a little graphic, the chicken was treated with respect, killed humanely, and no kids were harmed or handled sharp objects during the whole process****

Step 1: Watch YouTube videos on how people do it to refresh your memory on the exact science of it all. Personally I loved this video and found it very helpful since we were butchering a two-year old chicken.  jnull0’s awesome descriptions and how to

Good Bye BIg Mama

Good Bye BIg Mama

Step 2: Have everyone say Thank you and Good Bye. This step is mainly if you are doing it with little kids, spiritual or connected with the animal.

Step 3: End the life of the chicken in a humane way. We chose to chop its head off. Other ways are snapping the neck and slicing the throat. Quick and to the point.

sharp ax and a stump

sharp ax and a stump (don’t mind the grungy clothes and flip-flops)

Having the eldest Little help hold while stringing up the twine

Having the eldest Little help hold while stringing up the twine

helping clean up and totally grossed out

middle Little helping clean up and totally grossed out

Step 4: Drain the blood. Hang the chicken upside down and get out as much blood into a bucket for the compost pile or cooking. I did not cook with it, but I know it can be done. If you don’t want to use it in the compost then there is not much blood, just let it go into the ground and put some dirt on it.

make a noose with twine to hang the feet

make a knot with twine to hang the feet

2015.09.04 butchering the first chicken 15

Step 5: Skin or pluck the feathers. With young chickens, the boiling method is great. Boil some water in a big pan and dip the bird in for about  15 seconds getting the water between all the feathers. Then sit and pluck the feathers out, pretty simple. With an old hen the feathers are SUPER hard to pull out. the boiling method can work but pliers will still be needed to pull out most of them. If you don’t mind not having any skin on the bird just start at  the feet, make a slit all the way down to the neck and then pull the skin down. Be careful near the vent because you do not want to break what I call the poop pipe. This is where are the waste/poop comes out and is attached at the vent.

start with the feet and move down

start with the feet and move down

Step 6: Cut off the feet and neck and proceed to pulling out the insides without cutting the poop pipe! Just reach in and start grabbing all the organs. Pull gently to not break any of them. The intestine is long so make sure you pull slowly and get all the organs that come out with it. Then when the poop pipe is being pulled on (part of the intestine that connects to the vent) just cut off the vent and throw it away. Sorry but anatomy is not my strong suit.

Gorss! A farmer's gotta do what a farmer's gotta do!

Gross! A farmer’s gotta do what a farmer’s gotta do!

Step 7: Cover and let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge.

I love the press n seal wrap! Saran wrap and I are not friends.

I love the press n seal wrap! Saran wrap and I are not friends.

Step 8: Cook and Enjoy! An old hen should be boiled and slow cooked ALL DAY, the meat will be very tough. A young chicken can be used just like normal.

Step 9: Remember a bit of bleach and warm water goes a long way in cleaning up raw meat. Just don’t do what I did…drop the iPhone in the cleaner.

Don't forget to have the bag of rice ready for when the phone goes plunging into a bowl of bleach water for cleaning up.

Don’t forget to have the bag of rice ready for when the phone goes plunging into a bowl of bleach water.

Did this help you know how to butcher a chicken? Any questions please let me know.

Deciding on Free Ranging or Building a Run

To cage or not to cage? That is the question. We chose to not cage but everyone’s answer is going to be different. When asking this question one needs to consider the land, neighbors, money, predators and time.

  1. Land – If you live in a cul-de-sac my guess is that you will be building a run. Although if you train them to come when called and have supervised free-ranging time, there could be the best of both worlds. The more land you have the more options there are. We live on seven acres so we chose a stand alone coop and the birds have free reign over the whole property.
  2. Neighbors – When in close proximity you MUST make friends if you decide to free range. Go around to the neighbors and let them know what you are thinking on doing, then hear them out and go from there. If they are being difficult try an egg offering deal such as every couple of weeks bringing them a dozen eggs. If they are happy about having chickens running around then still bring them an egg offering to keep them happy. When building a run make sure that you keep it clean and not too smelly or else know an egg offering is needed to keep the neighbors OK with smelling poop.
  3. Money – This was our biggest challenge. In order to safely enclose the amount of chickens we wanted we would have had needed a couple hundred dollars in fencing to keep them safe. There was no way that was going to happen. So free ranging them became even more of a reality. Survival of the fittest right? If you have the money and are only doing a few, then a run would not be nearly as expensive.
  4. Predators – Ask around! Again with the neighbors. People who have lived in your area for more than a year will know what to watch out for. If your predator is bears, get livestock guardian dogs; coyotes, trees for the birds to jump in; hawks, bushes for the poultry to hide under; snakes, set a trap. Building a run will over course help deter all of these predators except the bears. All in all a livestock guardian dog will help with all predators but…that is only for the people who have major flocks. Some regular dogs are easy to train and will help with the predator problem as well, just be careful because dogs are also a type of predator to the poultry. Bottom line, make sure there is a place that the flock can escape to if a predator decides to come traipsing into camp.
  5. Time – If you are impatient like me, not to cage (free ranging) will definitely be your answer. How much time do you want to spend cleaning the run? How much time do you want to spend building it? Planning? Your time is valuable, always remember that. Opportunity Cost! Economics class coming into play. What you choose to spend doing for thirty minutes is time you could be doing something else. Choose what matters and is important.
  6. Eggs – Do you want to go on an Easter egg hunt everyday, train chickens to only use the laying box, or not worry about it all? Luckily we have not had a problem laying outside the nesting box but we are only dealing with one laying hen at the moment.

So now you know the factors to consider free ranging or building a run. I do realize this is all written in a free ranging voice, but there is no right or wrong way to raise birds. Keep them safe, love on them (to a point), do what is best for your family, and if you do something and it doesn’t work out just dust yourself off and try again. Good luck on making your choice.

If you have chickens what choice did you make? If you don’t which one would you lean closer to? and why?

Stages of the Duck Pond

If your husband is anything like mine than all you need to do is get ducklings and he will jump on the farming band wagon. We started with two Muscovy ducks. This breed was chosen because they do not need a pond, it would be great but they wouldn’t suffer if there was not a permanent pond in place. So plans were never made for one, but since the Hubby was smitten he declared they must have water since they really did love playing in it. That brought us to the 1st stage of the duck pond. A Pie Tin!!!

 

Two little ducklings sitting in a tin, S-P-L-A-S-H-!

Yep, this was a throw away pie tin in my cupboards from a certain restaurant that sold Calendar’s (haha I crack myself up, Marie Calendar’s). It was the right size for them to sit together, splash around, and still left plenty of room for them to walk around the cage.

Once the ducklings moved to the pen with the chickens on the deck we quickly learned the pie tin was now too small and the chickens would try to sit on the edge and dump it over immediately. This is where the 2nd stage came in. It was brought on by the Hubby’s love for the ducks and not knowing which dishes were the expensive ones.

a Pyrex Baking Dish

That’s right, one of my glass Pyrex baking dishes. in his defense there really wasn’t anything better to choose from in the cupboards and this worked out really really well. Heavy enough to not flip, deep enough to dunk their heads in, and really easy to clean. So props went to the Hubby after I had a couple of breaths and thought it through. Also I happened to have a weird size and he thankfully used that one, which is one I do not use regularly.  So I definitely recommend this to others as one of the stages to use for growing ducklings.

our lovely ladies

After the ducks were in the coop we realized they were getting way to big for the baking dish and needed something bigger that would not break the bank, easy to clean, store, and move around. Thus moving us into the 3rd stage of the duck pond. We went to Walmart and found the $4.88 kiddie pools! The Littles got a blue one and the lady ducks got pink. It took some coaxing but the ducks eventually learned that this bright pink thing was something fun and they would only go in when we weren’t watching. By the time we could get the camera they would have jumped out and ran back into the coop.

can you even imagine what this animal conversation was?

Word of caution! Baby chicks and duck ponds do not mix very well. Our dog was acting weird so we went out to see what was wrong and there she was with this hen staring at one of our Leghorn chicks who had fallen into the pool…I mean pond and couldn’t get out.

Eventually we would love to make a real pond but seeing as we are penny-pinching, our kiddie pool will suffice for now. Have you ever had a duck pond? What was it like? Pictures are always great too!!

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