pasture raised poultry

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You CAN do it!

We made a video of how we process chickens today, just for fun.  July 25th is the date you can come and learn how to do this at home.  It really isn’t hard!  Raising chickens is an easy place to start in raising your own meats–and you CAN do it all yourself.  Check it out:

A vision

Sam shows Matt the intricacies of processing a chicken.

Sam shows Matt the intricacies of processing a chicken.

Matt is a young man with a vision.  He sees himself revitalizing the dormant family farm using regenerative agriculture practices.  He wants to, ultimately, offer pork, beef, and chicken to local customers.  Where to start, he asked himself.  “Chickens,” was his decision.  So, he attended our recent Pastured Poultry class to get a jump on the learning curve.

Not only did he get an intensive weekend on everything chicken so that his first 150 broiler chicks would go well, he got to see how the whole farm works together and gathered ideas for his own farm of the future.  We walked the fields, watched the pigs tilling up the gardens,

A pig breaks up a clump of "quack grass" to get at the juicy roots.  They did a great job of rooting out this persistent weed!

A pig breaks up a clump of “quack grass” to get at the juicy roots. They did a great job of rooting out this persistent weed!

milked the cows, and talked politics while learning about chickens.  We also talked about marketing and the importance of sound (rather than haphazard) business practices.

Chickens are a great place to start in raising livestock.  You can have a few hens in your backyard, or let the kids have a small start-up business supplying eggs to friends, or raise broiler chickens to build a market base  and learn farming (like Matt is doing) before jumping in with both feet.

The next class is May 23-25.  We hope to see you there!

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Piggin’

In the last week we’ve had an explosion of our pig population.  Through the recent yucky, springish wintery snowy rain weather the sows decided it was time for piggin’, or farrowing.  Here are a couple videos Mark made talking about this process in a pasture system:

 

 

Yesterday the little ones were following their mothers around, napping in the sun, and just enjoying being alive.  You’ll be able to see them, plus everything else we do, when you come for a class.  You get a whole farm experience with a focused learning topic.  They’ll still be little and cute for the April Pastured Poultry class!

Coming soon!

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The farm is in it’s restful winter mode, but we haven’t been.  We just realized that it’s the middle of February!  We are making the schedule for this coming year and are looking forward to seeing you.  The Pastured Poultry weekend classes, Hog Harvest classes, and Permaculture and Soils class are up on the course schedule.  We are still working on a couple of new classes and some one day classes.  Those should make an appearance very soon.

Last summer proved too busy with our legal wranglings to get the online videos done.  We hope that this summer won’t be so busy and we can complete one or two of those.

Check out the new class dates!  Check back for more information soon!

Tips on chickens

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Multi-modal learning means leaning with all your senses.  That’s what an on-farm class is all about.  Here are a few snapshots from our last class and the tips being the students learned with their eyes, ears, nose, hands, etc.:

Joe showing Remi how to pluck a chicken.  The scalding water (to loosen the feathers) is about 140 degrees.  The bird is completely dunked for about 20 seconds, then checked.  Ideally the feathers pull out easily and leave the skin intact.

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Jadwiga picked up quickly on cutting the back side of the bird open prior to gutting.  We start about halfway between the vent and the breast cartilage, cut a slit down and around the bottom of the vent.  You should have an opening big enough to stretch and allow your hand in to pull out guts, but not so large that the rear end looks skinned.  The vent should come out with the guts.  The tricky part is in not nicking the intestines.  If you do, rinse with clear water quickly.

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How to brood a brand new chick is not too hard, but requires a bit of know-how.  They need 90 degrees and dry bedding for the first several days, and the temperature can back down from there.  Brooding in July and August is, of course, much easier that in early spring or winter, but proper equipment and a well set up brooder can make all the difference.  People can brood chicks in almost anything (and do!), but the key is to be able to expand it as the small day old chicks grow exponentially.  Another trick is to shape the brooder, or add wedges, to make it have rounded corners.  Chicks “pile” in sharp corners and simply rounding those corners discourages that tendency.

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Assessing the health of your birds is important.  Examining the manure for rusty or red spots is an easy way to catch coccidia before it overwhelms the bird.  Coccidia is a protozoa that burrows into the intestinal lining, causing bleeding and scarring.  It impairs the intestines ability to function and, therefore, the bird’s ability to gIMG_1432-001ain nutrients from its food.  When you process your birds, the quality of the carcass and the conditioIMG_1613n of the internal organs can also tell you about the health of your birds.  Here the class looks at a not-so-healthy liver and a vibrant liver.  This was the only poor liver we saw, so likely the bird was just not as constitutionally strong as the other birds and its liver had to work harder.  Because it was the only one in the bunch, the birds were a healthy bunch overall.

Everyone’s favorite part of a class is dinner!  You are invited to eat with our family for the weekend, enjoying lots of chicken and learning how you can utilize the whole bird at home.

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There’s a Pastured Poultry class coming up July 19-21.  We hope to see you there!

 

Pastured Poultry

Frequently Asked Question: What kind of chicken should I raise for meat?

There are a few options now:

1)

Broiler chickens (Cornish cross) in a chicken tractor.

Broiler chickens (Cornish cross) in a chicken tractor.

Broilers.  These are a Cornish chicken crossed with another breed (Vantress, White Mountain Rock, etc.).  They grow quickly, 6-9 weeks depending on how big you want them and how you raise them.  They are not as hardy and need more careful brooding than the other types of birds.  They are messier and smellier.  They are not as efficient on pasture and do require grain feeding.  That’s the downside.  The up side is that they grow quickly so they are come and gone in just a couple of months.  They do produce a nice, meaty carcass.  They can be pastured (we have ours out), and do best in the contained “chicken tractor” because they are babies their whole lives.

2)

This is a Buff Orpington rooster;  Known to be dociile, good egg layers, and tasty eating.

This is a Buff Orpington rooster; Known to be dociile, good egg layers, and tasty eating.

Layer chickens/heritage birds.  Roosters make great eating.  There are “heavy” breeds and “light” breeds.  You want a “heavy” breed like a Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Black Sex Link, Black Australorp, or Rhode Island Red.  Down side: roosters take about 24 or more weeks to reach a nice butchering weight and are not usually as fat or meaty as a Cornish cross.  They don’t make the boneless, skinless breast type of cuts.  They can be chewier or tougher than the Cornish cross birds and need a little different cooking technique.  Up side: They have more flavor in the meat.  The meat can be fairly tender if cooked correctly.   They are better foragers and can grow well on alternative feeds and grasses/bugs/etc.  The rooster chicks are often cheaper than the broiler chicks.  These fellows

like to “free range” and can be contained in a tractor but prefer an open house situation.

3) Freedom Rangers.  This is a new hybrid.  They look like a layer rooster but grow quicker like the Cornish cross.  Most people we know who have raised them have done so in about 12 weeks.  They forage well and can grow on forage and also need some grain.  They don’t get as heavy as the Cornish cross, but still have a nice double breast.  They are a little more difficult to find as chicks but are becoming more available.

That’s the quick answer.  We do have a Pastured Poultry class coming up soon: June 28 – 30.  Some scholarships are available, so let us know if that would help you be able to come.  Here’s Mark’s intro to the class:

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w.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AaiYGjqmMNs

Nature

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Here is anDSC03160other example of how the first permaculture principle can play out with animals:

Anyone who’s raised animals very long can tell you that sometimes things go wrong.  They aren’t really “Acts of God.”  Things were designed to work a certain way and when it goes wrong it usually involves nature, as in “the nature of the beast” (literally).  Animals have a way of looking at the world, and when they become difficult it’s usually because we aren’t understanding their viewpoint and meeting their needs. (Temple Grandin is a proponent of this if you want to read about it elsewhere.)

Last night was a case in point.  Our youngest group of chicks is about 3 weeks old now.  They needed to transition out of the brooder, but Joe didn’t have space until Monday and needed to let the next pen dry off before he moved them.  They had sustained a couple of losses, but were generally doing well.  Then, Tuesday morning, Keith came rushing in: “I have a BIG problem!”  Apparently the thunderstorm the night before, or the humidity of the storm, or something caused these easily stressed birds to panic and they “piled.”  They climbed on top of each other seeking comfort, suffocating the ones on the bottom.  It can be ugly, but it’s their nature.

This started out as a group of 600 chicks.  By the time Joe and Keith got it sorted out and various ones had revived once rescued from the pile, Keith counted 169 dead.  Ugly doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.

They cleaned up and Joe moved the chicks into the next pen.  The chicks had been very stressed by now—big storm, moving, new and unfamiliar surroundings.  Then dark descended.  By their nature, they wanted the comfort of their big, solid walls and low ceiling.  This big, open pen scared them.  So they started to do what they do when looking for comfort.  They started to pile again.  The “Act of God” was that Joe, contrary to his nature, decided to check on them again after he was nearly in bed for the night, and came back over at 11:30.  We lost about 10 or so birds, but that’s all.  We gave them walls and a ceiling and rigged a heater.  That was all they wanted, after all.  We put more wood shavings over top of them once they settled in, shut the lights off, spread the last few who were determined to pile out to the edges, and said goodnight.  By their nature, they don’t move much during the night.  We’d provided the security they desired, with a little extra warmth to boot.  That was all we could do.

I’m happy to report that we lost zero chicks during the night.  At 6:30 this morning they were running around, chirping happily, drinking and eating and dust bathing.  They were in and out of their security area and generally looked very happy with life.  It doesn’t take much to be happy when your brainstem is bigger than your brain.  Those of us with the cognitive capacity just need to slow down sometimes and consider the nature of things, and go with it.

Now, Kimi the bull-who-climbs-through-small-holes-in-the-wall is a story for another day.

Intro to Permaculture and Soils, this Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.  Come learn a new way to look at your “farm.”

Chickens (and more)

Wondering what the Pastured Poultry Course is all about?  Mark tells you here:

 

Sign up today! Share the word with your friends and food conscious groups.  Classes are coming up soon and we want to make sure we get everyone in.

Growing farmers

More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.~Spanish proverb

Picture 081 Picking produceOur children like to help us in the garden.  Really.  When they are about 2-4 years old.  That’s the age when they plant corn seeds in the green bean bed, hoe up the fledgling lettuce, and weed out the carrots by the handful.  They aren’t exactly helpful, but as they tend my garden I am planting seeds that I plan to cultivate over the seasons.  These little starts will bear fruit eventually.

I know this because I see it when I look at their healthy little bodies.  I know it when they proudly serve their Dad the carrots or zucchini they helped pick for supper.  I know it when they distinguish between cucumbers and pickles.  I know it when the older children team up to make sure the green beans get picked and ready to can so we can eat them in the winter.

Mark helping 3 year old Jim pet a baby pig.  Yes, kids do love the little piglets.We’ve found that some of our most enthusiastic visiting helpers are kids.  They are curious about life.  They are able to really do things and understand that what they are handling–plant or animal–is life, is food, is a part of things.  Kids love life.  They like to help with the baby animals.  They enjoy learning where the food on their plate comes from.  They even often like the processing, seeing how an animal is put together, how it works, why it does what it does.

Picking beans Some of the lessons in Nature’s garden aren’t so enjoyable.  Perseverance when you face of a row of weeds.  Gentleness when you’re in a hurry to move the chicks.  Patience when the calf won’t suck off the bottle right and butts you in the stomach and slobbers all over your back.  Courage when the chickens you tended twice a day for two months have to be slaughtered.  Compassion when the family dog is old and sick and suffering and needs to be let go.  Self-control when the pigs get out for the third time and won’t go back in.  These are the hard lessons.

030Our children are our future and the investments we make in them by connecting them to their food is beyond measure.  Even if it’s just a planter or two, or only for a season, the experience of growing and eating real food plants seeds beyond lettuce and tomatoes.  We feel strongly about this and invite kids who are capable to attend Anyone Can Farm classes.  We want to grow farmers!

Contact us if you are interested in bringing your children along with you.  Help make this available to the next generation by sponsoring someone on this website or through our Indiegogo Challenge.  Thank-you in advance for investing in the next generation of food producers!

Energy

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Even zuchinni looks good in March!

Even zuchinni looks good in March!

I was walking the other day: the sun was shining but the wind was blowing cold.  I could feel everything starting to move like a sleeping person about to wake up.  What was sleeping is ready to spring up and get going!  But now, on the 21st of March, it’s still under snow.  So it waits, building energy, getting more restless, until we get some warmer weather and it can explode.  Spring is coming, no matter what it looks like outside yet!

That makes me think of dirt, garden seeds, compost, cleaning animal areas (to start composting), and seeing familiar faces come up the driveway again to buy chicks or deliver chickens for processing or purchase some rich, biochar laced compost.  I’m ready to see the farm bustling.  In the last year we’ve met so many more people who are raising their own food for the first time.  Folks looking for compost for a garden.  Young moms and dads bringing 10 chickens for processing because they wanted to try thhelpereir hand at healthy meat for their under-5 aged children.  It’s exciting.  They have “spring energy” about them.  They are ready and willing to get up and do something, and often all they need to really run with it is a little help.

If help is what you need: ideas, where to start, how to build something, we are here!  In May we have two pastured poultry classes, a biochar class (you get to make a retort), and a soils and permaculture course (you can grow vegetables anywhere).  The Courses tab contains descriptions of the classes.  The Calendar tab tells you when the class will be and has a button to help you sign up for the class you want.  There are “free” classes available as perks on our Indiegogo challenge. Check it out, donate, share it so your friends can come with you, and let us know which class you want.

Spring is coming.  Let’s go!

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Anyone Can Farm – Why Anyone Can Farm Video

ACF Video on IGG

Welcome to Anyone Can Farm.  Listen as we discuss why and how you can learn to farm and grow your own food.

Anyone can farm…

Farmer Stuart Kunkle learning an essential skill in hog rearing.

This entry will be a bit long–just an upfront warning.  A long time ago I read Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (Scribner, 2005), in which  Mr. McCourt describes his experiences as an English teacher in inner New York city in the 50′s and 60′s.   One character in particular jumped out at me and I’ve waited all this time to be able to tell this story here.  I’m going to quote a couple pages of the book, but it applies to the concept of “anyone can farm.”  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy:

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