Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Plan

A surprising amount of interesting comments were generated in discussion to my last post and made for great reading and pondering. Thanks for adding your thoughts! Top marks go to Farmer Liz though, who hit the nail on the head with what we are up to!

*Once again, vegetarians proceed with caution*

Indeed, I have had enough of buying chicken with two many questions attached and am keen to try raising our own meat. It just seems like the natural progression, we have the space, we grow veggies and fruit, so why not meat?

Traditional breeds are what I have been looking into..Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex and Faverolles that can be kept (real!) free range until around 16-20 weeks and then taken to a localish poultry processing establishment. My plan is to keep a couple of silkies for hatching eggs and raising the chicks. The eggs, I can purchase to start off with already fertilized from a local supplier. I am hoping to try this crazy scheme in the most natural way possible. Perhaps one day we will have a rooster of our own but for now, I would like to try a couple of breeds out first to gain an idea as to what suits us (and our tastes and appetites..and if we can indeed stomach it!).

This is a HUGE leap!

But one I believe I am SO ready for. Hubby is supportive and so are the kids.

First though had to come some appropriate broody housing..

...and a substantial dip into my tip scrounged pile of materials had to take place..(*gulp* it's nearly diminished!)


I built the hutch over a week or so.The lower half was already lurking around, having been used in the past to house some ducks and guinea pigs.  I confess to getting very excited with the prospect of an 'upstairs' though. Hinges also managed to tempt me beyond recognition..and a new appreciation for Hubby's cordless drill..


(The shutters close for night time, the lid lifts up and there are hatches and latches aplenty)
It's far from perfect and completely out of square, but if it holds up to the elements I'll be a happy woman.

After the completion of the broody housing, much to the relief of my chapped and scratched hands, there had to come: Stage Two of The Plan..

The arrival of some Hatchy Mamas:


Two, twelve week old silkies purchased from Little Hen (who also happen to stock the fertilized eggs I am interested in). Apparently they make great mothers..and love to sit.

I'm hoping they will settle in over winter and start showing signs of broodiness in the spring..


'Snowflake' and 'Schwarzy' ('Blacky' in German). These  pom-pom divas are purposeful pets, so it's ok to name them!


I'm so excited about this next stage in our lives. It fills me with joy that we are on our way to having another sustainable achievement under our belts.

And in the meantime we can have loads of fun with our new feathered friends. I am looking forward to making them a little tractor to move around the fruit trees in, so they can still indulge in natural chooky behaviour whilst not in the broody cycle.

Do you think I've gone completely and utterly mad? 

(Hints, tips and advice from meat growers gratefully appreciated)

33 comments:

  1. NO! You are absolutely inspiring!!! I am SO impressed at your build :) We are going to get into meat birds next year. I have been buying whole chicken from local producers that actually DO free range the birds over REAL pasture. They are costly, but are worth every penny. Watching your venture with keen interest... Good job, Christine :)

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  2. Well done Christine. I have often thought of it but in town we wouldn't be able to do this. I have however decided in a corner of my mind that if I needed food I have 10 chickens running around in my back yard. We have named them however!

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    1. Ahh, next year - really Sherri? How exciting, I look forward to your journey.

      Yes, the naming is an issue, isn't it, Wendy!

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  3. Very interesting that you're posting this as we are having our own debate about whether to get chickens now or not.

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  4. That's impressive! It takes me forever to move from "planning" to "building," and I often end up building something in a single day after spending (I'm embarrassed to say) many weeks thinking about it! I'm either lazy or an over-planner. Or maybe I'm a lazy over-planner...uh-oh.

    These days I don't eat enough meat to make it cost-effective or sensible to grow my own, so I stick with eggs and fiber (cashmere goats), and buy locally-raised and -butchered meat. And since my local "meat shop" started carrying fantastic local ice cream as well, my consumption of meat has actually risen a bit. Brilliant marketing strategy!

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    1. Kathryn, have you popped over to ngo family farm lately? They are just starting down this path too..although they purchased their chicks instead of hatching them. Very interesting.

      Oh, not in a single day, quinn?? Sheesh, it took me over a week to fashion four piddly walls into place! Don't tempt me with talk of cashmere goats..ahh! And I do like this tactic put in place by your butcher shop. ;)

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  5. No you haven't gone mad , christine. That is I want to do too ....though I feel my one mistake was to get a rooster because he crows alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll night and keeps me awake.
    I have been trying to find some rhode island reds locally to have as meat chickens...I like that they are both meat and egg chickens. I love silkies too - they are so affectionate!

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  6. Not mad, very inspiring. And brave! I admire you enormously for being willing to kill your own meat. I watched a most wonderful clip about a woman who raises turkeys, and the way she handled her animals was just wonderful. You might enjoy it (but be warned, it's quite graphic):

    http://www.theperennialplate.com/episodes/2010/11/episode-36-giving-thanks-to-turkeys/

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    1. Haha, Kim..I hear you on the rooster. Our previous rooster, Mr Green used to crow at all hours too..although he was most kind and seemed to do it at a lower volume than the daylight hours..we (I!) ended up sleeping through him after a few weeks. I would be more worried about the neighbours though because they did make an off-hand comment about his crowing one day. The cornish x meat birds frighten me..I didn't feel comfortable at all considering them, and the bonus with keeping dual purpose breeds is like you said - that you can keep the hens for your egg-laying flock!

      Oh, wow, thanks Celia, I will be sure to take a look. I remember hearing about the perennial plate somewhere. :)

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  7. We have a silky pair, and believe me, that lady chicken likes to sit..and sit...and sit.
    We have raised meat birds from time to time, and also raise lamb. The chicken you raise is completely different to that which you buy. The meat is much darker and therefore tastier, and there is less of it. The bones also are much stronger than what you find with bought chicken, which gives you a heads up that something is amiss with bought chickens to start with.

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  8. Your building skills are pretty impressive! Hope it all works out for you, Rhode Island Red's are lovely chooks

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    1. Thanks for the inside info, Paola..I'm finding it all very fascinating at the moment. :)

      They are such a classic breed, aren't they, Chez? (and thankyou, although I was glad to see the last screw put in place). :)

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  9. so you are going to use those lovely fluffy things to raise big meaty birds? You are so resourceful, and my! I am very impressed with your building skills.

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  10. I love seeing women get on the tools. I'm lazy and get my chippy husband to build everything. As to eating your own chickens, I think it is a good thing to know where your meat comes from. I think it gives us a deeper appreciation of life and will help in eating balanced. If you had to kill a chicken to eat everyday, would you eat chicken everyday? I know I wouldn't. I grew up eating only what the local shop provided. I love that people like you are embracing self sustaining methods. A few years ago the thought of eating an egg from a back yard chook horrified me as I liked the being 'removed' from where it came and only could eat eggs from a jolly carton! What you are doing for your children, with educating them about food is really awesome. I always love dropping by here. xx Fi

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    1. Hopefully those fluffy things will oblige, africanaussie! I can't wait to see them in action..

      Yuh..women on the tools, Fi. Nice for you to have a chippy hubby to do your building. My hubby would've built this in a third of the time it took me but alas, he keeps office hours so his time is really, really limited, especially when kids' netball and family visits take up most of our weekends! It just had to be done. I also relate to the homegrown egg hurdle, it took me a little bit of time to cross this but now the situation is reversed completely, I feel sick to the stomach if I have to use a bought egg! Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  11. If your mad then so are we..we have mostly Wyandottes and a few xbreeds..have you ever eaten a homegrown chicken before? it taste a little different,its more chicken-y..and not as much meat as a commercially purchased chicken,make a wonderful soup..cheers and all the best on your new path

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    1. No - but I'm looking forward to trying. Thanks for sharing your experiences..I keep hearing that people can't go back to bought after eating homegrown chicken. :)

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  12. I am so envious, I could almost cry. Of the plan, and of the way you made something so cleverly. Meat chickens are something we ponder and have on the list, but way down the list that it's just in the dream phase at the moment. I didn't reply yesterday because I was too green with envy! ;)

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    1. Oh, you didn't, Bec, seriously? I wish we were closer, think of all the crazy backyard projects we could get up to!! :)

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  13. Good on you! We once had lots of poultry for this very reason. I figured if I was going to eat chook, I had to be prepared to deal with their life and death first hand. I struggled terribly and to be honest the third and final one that we butchered was harder than the first. In the end, I gave away the rest of the roosters for someone else to eat.

    However, I am not telling you this to put you off. I think it is fabulous that you are doing this and I know one day we will try again too. I just wasn't really quite ready last time. I believe you are doing the right thing and should be proud when the time comes to eat your first chook. I can't wait to hear about it!

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  14. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this, Linda. It is a touchy topic and I was hesitant to write about it. I think that you have to 'be there' totally in a good mental frame of mind and absolutely ready to embark on such a scheme. Although in saying that..watch this space around 6-8 months from now..

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  15. This is something I would like to do again one day - when I say again, it was something I grew up with. We were on a beef cattle farm, so we would regularly butcher a 'beast'. At various stages we also had a couple of sheep or pigs raised for eating. We also had a rooster with our hens at times, and whenever the subsequent chicks turned into extra roosters - well, there was our home grown chicken (they weren't meat breeds, so the result was mainly chicken casserole). No traumatic childhood scaring happened to me - it was all a natural part of farm life :) ...but then, not many helpful tips for you either, because I was just a kid!
    Have you come across http://www.dogislandfarm.com/ ? They write a lot about this kind of thing. Hope this link helps, and best of luck on this new adventure!

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    1. Great experiences, Jen..thanks for sharing! Your link worked perfectly too..it's very good reading, thankyou. :)

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  16. Broody hens are great fun! Raising meat chickens is currently happening here too - I have a Malay game rooster on loan with two Barnevelder hens so it will be interesting to see what the chicks turn out to be. We previously ate two light Sussex roosters that I raised but they were a bit skinny - I don't think I fed them enough or else they were allowed to run around too much. I was told to eat the roosters before they started to crow or they would get too tough. Good luck with your adventure! I wish there was a local processing facility around here - I'm not good at the chopping bit and plucking is no fun but feel guilty about asking my husband to do it when it's my project!

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    1. Wow, that will be an interesting combination, Jo! I'm amazed you do all the processing yourself, you are my new hero! :)

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  17. I don't think you've gone mad - I'm just mega jealous... Such a big step, and so exciting! I look forward to the adventures...

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  18. Love the hutch, well done!! All the best with your plans...

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    1. Thanks Nickie and Nallerang..it will be an interesting journey to say the least. :)

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  19. Christine. Your hair brained idea is brilliant. I have considered the idea myself but just not in a position at the moment. By the way... pretty impressive building skills there girl! You are so versatile.
    All the best with your new project and I recon those silkies are going to make adorable mothers.

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  20. Well Christine you are about to get a preview about what you are in for as we are picking up our meat chicks the first weekend in June. We are getting them at 5 days old purpose bread for meat. This means there is no backing out now so stay tuned.

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  21. This is a dangerous post for me! I have always thought that I could never kill my own stock...but you have planted a seed Christine and I am thinking that if names aren't involved and someone else does it for me...then maybe yes I could do this. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  22. you know how much this post tickles me pink! Yay!! So damn exciting :-)
    Look forward to seeing your first 'kill' post.... (yeah, that sounds a little weird, but you know what I mean.)

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  23. We tried the producing meat in the backyard thing but my kids just refused flat to eat any animals we breed... even when I went down the quail track (because we live in suburbia and can only keep a maximum of 5 hens - no roosters and there's no limit for quail). We hatched our own layer chickens and I had to 'do the deed' with the boys but we never ate them because the kids just couldn't bring themselves to eat any :( I hope yours fare better on that front.

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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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