Friday, February 26, 2010

Meat Birds, continued

OK, what else would be helpful information if you were going to raise meat birds...

Our birds were much healthier this past year.  We had a few that succumbed to odd ailments.  One chick had a heart problem and was very small when it died.  One got lame and the others would not leave it alone.  This is one of the problems with chickens, they are not tolerant of deformity.  I suppose that is a good thing in the animal world.  If they don't do away with the weak and deformed then the genes will be passed one to another.  They don't differentiate between injury and genetics.  This poor chicken had fallen off the ramp and gotten kicked around a bit.  I think it may have recovered but it would have taken lots of time and effort on our part, and it is doubtful we would have ever been able to reintroduce that chicken to the general population, so we butchered him a little early.

I say all this so you will expect to have some birds that just won't thrive.  It's usually 2 or 3 and don't get all upset when it happens.  It happens in nature as well, there are usually one or two from a clutch that just don't thrive for one reason or other.

We raise all the birds together.  When they get bigger there is a "self imposed segregation takes place.  The larger white birds go one direction and the little brown layers go another.  They don't really care for one another very much.

(The above pictures were taken around Sept. 15th 2009.  The birds are all the same age, so you can tell who is growing faster.  The hens at this age loved it inside, especially on rainy days.  This was a rainy day and they were looking at me like I was crazy to stand outside in the rain and take their picture.)

When it comes time for butchering you will need to have prepared for the day(s).  Get some help if you can, it makes the process go much faster.   Make sure that you have at least one full day set aside for this.  It takes time to clean and set up your area and I find it frustrating to set up and take down all the necessary items for just a couple hours of slaughter.
A plucker is nice, but not necessary we went for years without one, but it does take more time to butcher.  You can easily build one for yourself from a drill, PVC cap threaded rod and rubber bungie cord.  See here:
and here:
on the tutorial link below are directions for building and using a "whizbang chicken plucker".  My sister-in-law built one of these and likes it very much.  We didn't want to make that investment quite yet.  I'm sure she'd loan us hers if we asked, but it would be lots of trouble getting it here and our plucker does a great job.

We use bleach for sanitizing, lots of it.  It's a cheap product that is very effective.  As you will see in the tutorial lots of water needs to be used and you can set that up rather easily.  

One thing I got last year that really helped was a long rubber apron.  Mr. D came home with some large sheets of rubber from the dump one day and we used mine as a pattern and made one for him too.  They helped keep us dry.

We built a "killing cone" which seems to be the best way for killing and bleeding.  Very easy to build see here:
You can remove the bird for bleeding, but we leave ours in the cone until all that is done and then take them to scald.  

Water for scalding should be about 150 degrees.  We use a large pot with a lid over a wood fire.  And dip the bird for a few seconds.  Check a large feather or two and if it is not loose dip again.  You don't want to dip too long or the skin will come right off.  After the bird is bled, dipped and defeathered, you can do the rest inside, but we find it is quite convenient to do all the gutting and cutting outside.  Just need a nonporous surface and clean it often.  I keep a bucket with rags and bleach handy at all times.  Don't get bleach all over the bird, rinse well after each time you clean your surface and remember to wear clothes you don't mind getting a few bleached spots on.  

I guess I'll leave the rest for the expert to explain.  He has been very helpful to us.  I purchased two of his books.  I wanted to build a 'Whizbang Garden Cart" but Mr. D found one at the dump and we just replaced the wood using the same hardware.

our "rustic" looking cone,  but has worked all these years with no problems

 fireplace with pot ready for scalding

 our "new" plucker.  Notice the rubber flap to protect the electric drill from getting all wet.  This plucker worked great

 Mr. D using the plucker... notice the feathers in the bushes... looks like snow, but it was feathers.

 coolers all ready with ice water for the dressed birds.... this lowers the temperature of the meat quickly and discourages bacterial growth

 table set up for gutting and dressing... notice the glass top... this was an old shower door.... non porous and easy to sanitize... though a little hard on knives...

 OK we can't get through all of this without a little blood... another view of the table in use...

 result of one day's work...  just the two of us.  We have done lots more when there are more hands to help, but we didn't have too many to do this year.  Only 20 meat birds, three geriatric chickens and one old rooster, plus 3 ducks.  It was a good two days work.

 day two, finishing up in the dark.

I hope this encourages you to raise some meat birds and eat healthier.  You'll be glad you did!

Have a blessed day in the Lord,
Mrs. D

Winter Car Syndrome

fess up friday final button
Kendra's story of the van reminded me of my own dark secret.

One of the reasons I'm looking forward to spring is the annual car cleanouts.  My husband who's car generally is lots messier than mine, due to the stuff he hauls around... chicken feed, garbage to the dump, car parts old and new, tools... that type of stuff, got busy and cleaned out his car a couple weeks ago... in the middle of the winter.

He put me to shame. I don't have kids... so can't blame them.  I do have a dog who sheds all over everything, but mostly the grit is off my own feet and anyone who rides with me.  I usually have a small munchie on my way home from work and you know what happens when you try to eat and drive... especially if it's crackers or anything crumbly.  Then there's the junk mail that I refuse to take into the camper... we got enough stuff already.  I just put that on the floor on the passenger side and the next time I'm near a dumpster it'll go in, but right now it is just covering the floor.  At least it's keeping the carpet clean underneath :)

I really have no excuse except that I hate cleaning the car out in the winter.  You'd think I'd be more concerned since I spend 2 hour/day in my car, but it really doesn't get to me till spring, when the clean out must happen.
I love spring.  I can turn the heat off and air out the place.  Last Saturday was almost springlike, but it only lasted about 2 hours in the middle of the day.  As soon as the shadows started to lengthen it cooled right down.  I finally had to close the door because the dough would not rise and I like to have the house warm when Mr. D comes in from working outside in the cold.

Hope you all have a wonderful day and head over to to hear other true stories.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Raising Meat Chickens

This is not a Cornish Rock, but they all start out small.

I thought it would be to some and advantage if I shared our experiences raising meat birds.  Mr. D and I have had many experiences together and I think it would be helpful to some to share these experiences.

We have raised meat birds for quite a few years now with the exception of two years when we were moving and thought it not a good thing to try and take on the responsibility with all the other stuff we were involved in.

Our first year we started out quite ambitious with 50 chicks.  We had a couple leghorns that a fellow teacher had given me, so we had space set aside for birds.  I don't think we realized how much space we would actually need nor how dirty and smelly 50 meat birds could be.  We got a straight run (males and females) of Cornish Rock Giants.  They came in May and we had to keep them indoors where it was warm for a while.  I  didn't know at the time how much dust 50 chicks could produce... let's just say it's a good thing the computer still works.  They were cute little things and it was OK for a while to keep them inside.  When they were old enough we took them out to the coop and introduced them to life outdoors.  The current resident didn't think much of them, but there was safety in numbers.  At this time a friend gave us a bunch of random breed birds that he had purchased and didn't want so many.  Among those birds were some "Turkins", the craziest looking creatures with bald necks and tufts of feathers on their heads.  So we had quite a mix.  We had plenty of eggs and the meat birds were growing like weeds... literally.  In September we thought it time to start butchering.  Our chicken bible was "Living with Chickens" by Jay Rossier  --- purchase here:
This is a very informative book that we picked up at our feed store.  We followed it word for word that first year.
When we started butchering in September, some of our chickens were dressing out at 10 + lbs. and we were very excited.  They looked like turkeys. They barely fit into the roasting pan.  When they froze, they expanded so that the top of the freezer popped up, and we had to purchase another freezer... used, but good one.

The meat was really good.  We had fed them from the very beginning so we knew what foods they had eaten.  Lots of veggies and non-medicated feed.  Lots of tomato hornworms which they eyed all over before picking up to eat.

So what have we learned?

Things to know when raising Cornish Rock Giants:
* raise roosters not hens
* have plenty of space 'cause they grow fast and they get big
* make sure they have plenty of fresh water and lots of veggies/weeds to supplement the grain or they eat you out of house and home (funny is giving them a watermelon)
* order in April for May delivery so the slaughtering can be done while it is still warm
* start with not so many -  better to start small and see how you do, especially if you're doing all the work yourself.
* don't bring the chicks into the house.  Keep them warm with heat lamps in the coop if at all possible.  They are incredibly dusty.
* if you get your chicks in May you will be slaughtering in September.

More on the subject in the next blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My mom had a system for everything.  She did everything according to schedule.  Washing and ironing on specific days and letter writing/visiting on another.  She even ironed T-shirts.  When we were little she was a SAHM, but after we were in school she began to work outside the home.  She was an RN and loved her job.  The rest of us were old enough by that time to pitch in and help around the house, though I'm afraid it wasn't something I liked to do... I'd rather be outside doing anything even if it was work.  I loved gardening, helping my dad fix the car, or do some construction project.  Just about anything was more interesting to me than housework.

When I got married and had my own family it was the same.  I would so much rather be outside doing stuff, gardening, riding, raking the yard, mowing, I just didn't like being indoors and at that time we lived in Colorado, so it was beautiful outside.

Now I am older and wiser.  I still love being outdoors.  Not so much when it is really cold, but on nice winter days and all summer long.  I like to garden and work with the animals and just about anything other than indoor tasks.  Now if I'm indoors doing some sewing project, that's OK.  I like "remodeling" and small construction projects and we'll be doing lots of those this summer I hope. 

I am not much at housekeeping.  Oh, the place is clean and the kitchen and bathroom are always disinfected a few times per week with bleach and elbow grease, but don't look at the floor. The dust is basically undesturbed and my spider friends have been busy all winter getting ready for the spring blackfly season. 

I have a sick duck living in my bathtub... only for another couple days though... and my bed does not get made everyday 'cause I usually leave my husband in it when I go to work in the morning and who wants to bother with it when you get home after work... you're going to get into it in another couple hours anyway.

I don't mind if people visit... I love visitors, but they must remember that this is just the way we are and if it doesn't look like something from a magazine that is not what I strive for.  In the spring we'll have a muddy yard (I mean deep mud), and the floor will never be clean.  I'll have to sweep it twice a day just so we can tolerate it. 

So now you know all my dirt... head over to  for more secrets.

Hope you don't think I'm too awful.

Mrs. D

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lots of Eggs

This is 2 days worth.  Our little hens are working overtime.  The white ones are duck eggs.  The first picture is while they are soaking a little in the sink.  We use a mild wash on them to get all the stuff off the outside and you can see how pretty they are after that in the second picture.

Yummy eggs.  
I wasn't feeling well on Wednesday so I washed these last night.  The birds have been giving us about 22/23 large eggs per day.  We have been selling about 8 dozen each week.  No one has shown much interest in duck eggs, so those are the ones I am blowing out for dyed eggs.  I am investigating about the process for doing this.  I know it can be done with one hole, but I need to figure out how.  Does anyone out there know how to do this?  

Have a great Friday.

Mrs. D

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook (sorry not posted till Thursday)

I think in order to really participate in this the posting is supposed to be done on Mondays, but I'm sorry it didn't get done till today.

For Today
February 11, 2010

Outside my window... it's trying to decide whether it will be sunny or snowy or a little of both.  So glad the bad storms have passed us by since our plow is not running right now.  Mr. D said the blade was falling off and he bought a used plow for $200.  Now he must do some welding on it before it can be used. The welding rod was damp so he put it into my oven for a while to dry it out.  When I started dinner I went to turn the oven on and realized there was welding rod in my oven... yuk!  So it goes at our house.

I am thinking... I should get some things done at the house this weekend.  I am trying to plan ahead.  I wasn't able to go to church last night because I have a cold and it had just started... you know the achy, yucky, sore throat stage where your ribs ache and all you want to do is crawl into someplace warm and toast a while.  Today is somewhat better, but probably due to the fact that I took some cold remedy and am sipping on tea.  I am at work but trying to stay in my cubicle as much as possible.

I am thankful for...  there are too many things than I could possible list here, but today I am thankful for a warm environment, "new" clothes to wear, my sweet husband who tells me I'm beautiful even though I've been sick all night.  I am thankful there isn't 24" of new snow outside and more to come.  I am thankful for a church family who prays for me... which I'm sure is the reason I'm feeling better today.  I am thankful God gives us tough times because we grow to appreciate Him even more.  I am thankful for His Word, the Bible, that guides us on our journey.

From the kitchen...  Thinking of what to have for supper tonight.  I want to make some chicken soup with barley, carrots, and onion, but that's not Mr D's favorite, so I may just cook him some pork chops and stew a chicken for me to eat the rest of the week/weekend.  Sunday I made some slaw with those big white radishes and added some dried cranberries.  Mmmm it was pretty good after it got to sit a few days.  Just finished it up last night for supper before I crawled into bed. I'd like to make some more, but I used up the cranberries last time and there's no more money in the budget for more of them... oh well... I wonder how prunes would taste?  I've got some of those.

I am wearing... a warm denim shirt and blue chino pants along with my work boots.  The shirt I just got out of a box from storage.  It's so nice to have some of my clothes back.

I am creating... lately I have started working on a valentine card for my sweetie.  It will have little doors to open with verses about love.  I got the idea from another blogger here... Great Valentine Card Idea from Lady Farmer   but mine won't be quite so fancy... more "manly".  I'll try to remember to take a picture and post it here.  I am also working on getting things together in my sewing room.  Joanna and I talked again about getting together and doing some sewing which would sure be fun. 

I am going... nowhere... fast :) it seems, but progress is being made.

I am reading... lots of stuff off the internet.  Recently came across an interesting site here...Proslogion .  Some of the comments are interesting to follow.  I enjoy reading about science topics anyway.  I have also been reading my Bible regularly which is really good for me.

I am hoping... to be back in our mobile home this summer and get to do some redecorating in there.

I am hearing... papers shuffling,  phone ringing,  quiet conversation,  microwave dinging,  heater running

One of my favorite things... chocolate.  I'd like to be eating a bit right now... suppose I'll have to go see what's in the candy jar.
A few plans... on Saturday I usually do the cleaning and laundry and get a few loaves of bread made.  Tomorrow I will be picking up vegetables for the chickens.  I think I will also get a bale of wood shavings for the chickens so their eggs will be cleaner.  They kick it all out of the nesting boxes over time and the eggs get covered with ... well, you know what.  I always wash them off before selling them, but it would be so much better just to brush them off if possible.  The eggs will keep fresh longer that way.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing... what I feel like right now.

Check out what other's have written here:The Simple Woman's Daybook

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Finally a Little Unpacking

As many of you know from my previous blog, Mr. D and I have been living a rather nomadic life for some time now.  Well, we have started to bring our belongings home and into our mobile home... though it makes me a little nervous knowing that it will all need to be taken out  again and then put into appropriate places when we actually move in.  We have unpacked the storage unit we were paying for and then the last couple of weeks have taken a couple loads out of our friends barn.  Last night I ran across a box of photos that must have been packed up by my Mom.  I don't remember packing them and haven't seen many of them in a long time.  Some of the pictures I do not remember ever seeing.  My mother in law did lots of the packing for us when we moved things out of the mobile home and perhaps she was the one who packed this box... anyway, there were photos of my brother and I when we were little and of my Mom and Dad on their wedding day.

The top picture is of a friend and me outside her home.  The second is of my Dad, My brother and myself ourside our home.  The bottom picture is of my brother and I playing.  I think in these pictures I must have been 3 and my brother 7.  We are 4 years apart in age and a date on the upper picture is 1958.  It looks as though these might have been taken in the spring and my birthday is in December.

Here's another bunch of pics...

The top left is my Mom and Dad together.  The bottom left is the family starting with my Dad, Mom, Aunt Alberta, Nanna, Aunt Micky, Aunt Jean, Aunt Elenore, and Uncle Bill.  Uncle Dan was not there, the youngest.  I think he was overseas in the service at that time.  There were 7 siblings in my Mom's family. All are gone now except the youngest, Uncle Dan.  My Grampa died when the kids were quite young and left Nanna to raise them all during very difficult times.   The older ones helped out financially when they were able to.  My Aunt Jean helped to support all the family and then after her husband died suddenly, she stayed with and cared for Nanna too.  For the most part they were very close and I remember lots of family get-togethers in that little tiny house in Ocean Grove.  The house is still there, but is not in the family anymore.  I so wish we could have kept it in the family, but it was just not possible for Aunt Jean to take care of the place anymore and she went into an assisted living arrangement nearby. 

My Mom was a Godly lady who provided my brother and I with many happy moments.  She was so organized and kept our house clean and welcoming.  I miss her lots, but would not want her back here.  She's in heaven with her Savior and my Dad, though we know what her focus is... worshipping God, just like she did when living on this side of eternity.

My Dad was from a smaller family, two brothers (one who recently passed away).  His family were all from Washington State.  He was in NJ while in the Army when he met my Mom.   It was such a long way, that we did not see his side of the family very often.  I remember visiting my Dad's family twice.  The first time we drove across the United States through the northern states, and then returned home through the southern states.   On our second trip there we drove across Canada on the TransCanada Hwy. 

We lived about as far away from Washington State as you could possibly get.  My Dad and Mom were missionaries working with AMOC (American Mission for Opening Closed Churches) in Alexander, ME,  3000+/- miles from Bellingham, WA.  There's a lot more to that story and I may write it down someday.  I hope this much has been somewhat entertaining for ya. 

I also found a box of my clothes... yeah!!! It's just like Christmas!

Love ya'll
Mrs. D

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Little Blog Post from the Bookstore

I don't seem to have time to blog from work anymore.  I used to work on this during my lunch break, but most recently Mr. D has been giving me things to do during my lunch hour.  Today I had to get propane since it is cheaper in town than where we were getting it on the weekends.  I am glad to be able to help, but this means my "down" time is taken up with tasks.  I called him after work today and he said it would be fine for me to stop at the bookstore and work on the computer.  Yeah!  I don't have access at home yet since we are not in the mobile home yet.  I have a desk top computer that will be set up there and I can use with "dial-up".  It's OK though very slow at least I will be able to work on my blog from home when I have a few minutes here and there.

I have a few progress reports to make.  First, thank the Lord I will be getting my teeth done finally.  It has been years... about 10... that I have been waiting and now it is really going to happen.
Second, Spotty has had her jaw unwired finally so she is able to get back to her old self... hunting rats and generally goofing around.  She is so happy to have that cone off you just can't imagine.
Third, I have by the grace of God been able to keep up with my Bible reading.  It is so good to actually be able to accomplish something you planned to do.  We are busy at home, but thanks to this web site I am able to just click on the scripture any time there is a break at work.  Since I answer the phone for customer service we don't have too many dull moments, but there is usually enough and I'd rather be reading than playing solitaire!!!

OK maybe that wasn't the most important things happening in my life right now, but they are significant to me.  I know that God is doing great things and there will be lots more to come.

Our chickens and ducks.have been producing abundant eggs and we are selling most of the chicken eggs, but there doesn't seem to be much market for duck eggs.  We charge $.05 more for them.  They are quite large.  They remind me of a very large jumbo chicken egg.  I have decided to try and sell the shells.  I know that many people do egg decorating called pysanky  see here   and here -  and here -

Aren't they beautiful?  I have the supplies to do some of these, but not sure if my hands are steady enough for the job.  We took a class on this at the library once and that was many years ago.  My hands were steadier then.  I like the one to the right here.

The muskovy eggs are white and look like porcelain. They would be perfect for this craft.

I think I will try a few and see how I do.  If I can't make it work, then I'll probably just sell the blown shells for a few dollars each.

I have looked around and there are not many local sites that sell these.  The one I did see has egg shells with one hole... well we use the contents, so ours will have 2 holes.  They are small holes and easily covered over with a bit of wax, so I don't think it will be a problem for most crafters.

Well, we'll see how that works out.  I'll post some pictures here of my eggs when I have a few saved up.  I think I have 10 so far.  We do eat lots of eggs.

More later.  I hope this finds all well and happy.

Mrs. D