Pete's random thoughts

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Got a hundred pounds of chicken in the shop fridge

It is getting to be fall, if not winter, so it is time to start preparing for the long months of snow, ice and frozen hoses. One of the things to do in preparation for that is to kill off all of the chickens that were raised for meat (as opposed to the egg layers and a couple of "pet" birds).

We had 11 big white meat birds left. We had raised a couple of batches of them and these were the last of the chicks that we got towards the end of summer. The better ones were upwards of 12 pounds liveweight. These silly chickens are as big as small turkeys! Only two at a time comfortably fit in the drum-plucker, which is designed to hold 5 "normal" sized birds.

Plucked and dressed, the biggest bird weighed just over 10 pounds. Imagine 11 of those things, plus a bag of dog treats (heads, necks and feet) crammed into the shop fridge along with 16 dozen eggs that are stored there right now. A few of them have been cut up into quarters, but most of them are whole roaster chickens. One of these things feeds my small family for half a week!

Next step is to dismantle the pen they had been living in and scrape off the chicken poop that has accumulated there. The pen panels will then be used to contain the dozen and a half ducks that are roaming around out there. They will be kept in the garden area over the winter so I won't have to haul water too far.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Took a day off to go to the auction

Looking at this damned computer screen all day gets old. After enough hours, it really causes some eye fatigue. Today I did the smart thing and just walked away from it for the day.

Instead of working, I went to the livestock auction in Whately, MA. It is the weekly auction where the local farmers sell off stuff they have raised or stuff they are looking to cull. Other farmers buy them, as well as representatives from a couple of meat packing places and custom butchers.

I came home with 5 weened rabbits that cost me $1.75 each, 43 bales of hay at $2.30 each, and a 98 pound lamb that sold for $85 per hundredweight (AKA $.85 per pound). The lamb should yield about 60% of it's liveweight in usable food, so it should work out to roughly 58 pounds of lamb meat that cost me about $1.40 per pound. That price doesn't include my time in fetching it or butchering it, but going to the auction and cutting meat I count as entertainment.

The bunnies are probably 3-4 weeks old. it will take less than half a $10 bag of rabbit chow to grow them out to full sized meals. I'll check them out tomorrow in the daylight and figure out who are males and who are females. For a small family like ours, the simplest breeding setup is to have one buck rabbit and two or three does. Managed well, each doe can produce a litter of four to eight babies every two months. Baby rabbits are called "kits"...the act of giving birth is called "kindling", hence the rabbit logo for those silly electronic book reading devices that are all the rage right now.

By comparison, full grown meat rabbits were selling for $8-$12 each at the auction. For a homesteader, rabbits are an efficient meat animal. You can even grow them in urban areas, either in your backyard or in your basement.