Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raising Poultry for meat on an Urban Homestead.

Warning!  This is a homesteading post about raising poultry to eat and there are some unpleasant details. 

Hi Friends,  Sorry it has been so long.  I "need" to do a blog makeover and tackling such a task stresses me out so instead of diving in and accepting the challenge I stopped blogging all together.  Thank you to those who have given me the push to start writing and sharing again.  As for the blog makeover, well that will just have to wait.


Over the past few months I have been busy trying to do what I set out to do when we first purchased this home, find ways to stop relying on others for the things we need and start producing those things ourselves.  We hatched Black Copper Maran birds to raise for meat and layer hens and purchased Heritage broiler chicks.  Overall it was a success although as I type this the many challenges are flooding my mind.  Our first challenge was it was HOT!  Caring for a large flock of birds in the dead heat of the summer was not my brightest homestead idea.  I'm grateful now as I pull dinner from the freezer with ease but at the time it was wearying.  We ended up with 17 birds after processing but I believe we started with 24.  After surviving the untidiness of so many younglings in the early stage of raising the birds, I was excited to get them into the front coop where the mess would be unnoticeable and they would have room to roam.  It is smooth sailing when they can free roam......right?  It turns out there is this period of adolescence that I failed to acknowledge.  The first day I had them in the front coop the hawks were swarming.  Let me just add that hawks do not need speed and space to swoop down and catch their prey!  I was taught that in Prague a few years back at a live bird show and that person was exceptionally wrong.  The hawks around these to land on the coop and take their time devouring their pray right there in the run.  We lost a few to the hawks and 1 or 2 were smothered in the commotion so I had to keep them locked up in the coop for a few more weeks which meant more mess.  I put them in our coop on stilts that has 1 inch rabbit wire and I thought that we would be predator free for awhile. It turns out I was very wrong.  Something was ripping the toes off the birds through that tiny wire at night......sigh. 

I solved the issue of unprotected toes and as the birds grew things got easier.  My plan was to set up an electric netting fence at the far end of our property so they would be out of the way and have plenty of room to forage but they ended up having more than enough space in our front yard run that is about 20'X30' and they played nicely with the silkie hens that share that space so I never did get the netting.  It was overall a great learning experience and it made me realize that you can produce a lot of free range meat in a small space.  We butchered them at a friends farm with another family who had raised birds and shared the work load.  We are blessed to have a friend willing to help us on this journey so we can be a little more self reliant and know exactly where our food comes from.  This is a video of the defeathering machine.  The birds are bled out in a cone first then dipped in hot water until feathers can be plucked by hand easily.  I don't love this part of the chicken raising story and could easily live on an all vegan diet but my family wants to eat meat so I'm doing what needs to be done to provide them with the healthiest most humane option. 

We have also been incubating silkie eggs and have mamas sitting and hatching out silkies to sell to cover the cost of feed for our newest flock of Freedom Ranger Broilers that are arriving this month.  We love our silkies!  They are the best "pet birds", fertilize the garden without destroying it, and make great mamas so we can keep life multiplying on our little homestead without an incubator if we choose.  If you want a backyard hen for a small urban yard, this is the bird.  You won't be swimming eggs but they are quiet and much cleaner than your average layer. 

My favorite girl with my favorite hen Francine.

I'm glad to be back sharing our adventures.  I would love to hear of your successes and failures of raising poultry on a small urban farm! 

Genesis 2:15
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.


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