Tips on chickens
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.
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.
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.
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 gain nutrients from its food. When you process your birds, the quality of the carcass and the condition 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.
There’s a Pastured Poultry class coming up July 19-21. We hope to see you there!