Our First Attempt at Raising Chickens for Meat

meat chicken harvest day

 

I have a 10 Year Plan. It’s nothing fancy, but it is a big one. In 10 years I want to be able to provide all the food our family needs from home. Last year was my first garden, and this year is my first “big” garden. Yet while the herbivore side is being taken care of, what about the carnivore portion of our diet? Previously we relied on venison my husband shot during hunting season, along with some wild hog here and there, and then shopped for chicken and pork. But that just isn’t enough anymore. In order to cover *all* our previous grocery store bases, we needed to try our hand at chickens. I didn’t want to replicate the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), I wanted to grow happy, healthy chickens that were free for their brief lives. Here is a quick rundown of what the past three months were like:

delaware-meat-chickens

 

We started with 10 Buff Orpington chicks, 10 Delaware chicks, and 8 Cornish Rocks (it’s half of what the Cornish Cross breed is, designed to grow well for meat but not so quickly their legs break and their organs/quality of life suffer). ┬áRight away we suffered losses. Over the first 3 weeks, we lost 8 of the Buffs. So, that in and of itself meant we wouldn’t raise that breed for meat again. Losses were just astronomical. Five were due to mystery reasons, two were crushed by the larger breed birds, and one poor soul met its end at the jaws of our Red Heeler. We decided to just save the last two and let them live out their lives as eggers. They are now close friends with the Heeler, who seems to enjoy large birds but feels the need to chomp the little tiny ones.

The Cornish Rocks grew like wildfire. They were happy birds, and had about 90+ square feet for free ranging in the side yard we partitioned for them. Everything I read said that the meat would be tough if you allowed them too much movement, but we haven’t found that to be true. When the Cornish were 10 weeks old, we had a harvest day. It was tough for me. We watched a few YouTube videos on how to process the birds, and decided to try de-feathering them. It took two of us four hours to do eight birds. That’s about one hour per bird. Once we got started it got a bit quicker, but our backs sure were aching by the end of the day! The birds averaged about 4 pounds each. Once they were “grocery store ready” we vacuum sealed the whole birds and placed them in the freezer.

cornish-rock-meat

 

The Delawares were still much smaller, so we decided to give them 3 more weeks to grow. Last week they were 13 weeks old, and I was the only one around to get the harvest started. I know it sounds silly to some, but it was a very hard thing to take a life. I did it, because we still are a meat-eating family, and I wanted to be much more conscientious of where our food came from. I knew these birds didn’t suffer in life, and I wanted to do all I could to make sure they didn’t suffer in death either. I held their heads under their wings to put them to sleep, then hung them upside down to keep them calm as I did the deed.

For this round, I decided to forgo the tedious process of de-feathering the birds, and skinned them instead. It was much, much faster. I processed them in half the time. I did two birds on my own, with two more hung up to bleed out when my dad saw me at work and offered to help. Before, I was being very very careful and precise with the knife, only cutting the membranes to separate the skin from the flesh, careful not to pierce any organs or innards. My dad, however, showed me the “old school” way to do things, which didn’t involve a knife at all! Hands were all you needed. Once he showed me the method, we knocked out three birds in 20 minutes. Then my husband came home and we finished up the last of them. We decided to let the last one live and join the buffs as a layer. The Delaware chickens averaged about 2 pounds each. They’re small, but the flavor is a bit more intricate. I don’t know, I’m not a foodie by any means, but it does taste a bit more flavorful than the Cornish. Those tasted pretty much just like store-bought birds. But it was worth knowing that these were free of antibiotics, had happy lives running around, were fed non-GMO soy-free organic food, as well as kitchen scraps and treats. They didn’t suffer and they knew the sunshine.

 

So, now that all the gab is done, how to they stack up on costs? Well, here’s the break down:

Buff Orpington Chicks: 38.50 for 10 (I ended up leaving this out of the breakdown since most died and the other 2 are layers)
Delaware Chicks: 35.50 for 10
Cornish Rocks: 32 for 8
One bag of medicated starter (to prevent diseases that attack chicks): 10
5 bags of H&H feed: 120

Total Expenses: $197.50
Pounds of Meat: 33.5
Price per pound: $5.89

Not the worst, but it’s still Whole Foods pricing. Our mistakes were buying expensive chicks from the feed store. Next time, we’ll order chicks at half the price. I’m also planning to buy only Cornish birds, so we can harvest them sooner and feed them a bit less overall (10 weeks of feed instead of 13). This isn’t exactly a money-saving enterprise, but it’s no more expensive than what I would buy at the store, and it’s much healthier meat. If all works out the next time around we should be looking at somewhere along the lines of $3/lb. It’s not the worst outcome for our first shot at chickens, it actually ended up quite well. I’m looking forward to doing another round in the fall, so that someday soon this whole “feed the family off the land” thing can be a reality!

 

 

 





Otomi Stencil on Chalkboard with Liquid, Paintable, Washable Chalk

cutting edge stencils otomi closet doors

 

Does anyone else have a toddler girl obsessed with Frozen? I’m guessing yes! Charlie is obsessed with all things Anna and Elsa. When I saw this Otomi Cutting Edge Stencil design, I had the absolutely perfect idea in mind for where to put it! It’s been over a year (yikes!) since I’ve drawn anything on Charlie’s chalkboard closet doors, so why not give them a fresh look? Bonus points for a design that’s very Frozen-esque! She told me they looked just like Elsa’s door, while she was hugging them. I’m serious. She was so happy with her new doors that she hugged them.

 

otomi-closet-full

 

So, you might be thinking, how does one use a stencil on chalkboard? Does it involve lots of tedious tracing and coloring, taking hours of work? Nope. No it sure doesn’t. It involves a rather ingenious recipe from Crystelle Boutique.

ef186840b12b7bda48063ce52f181444

 

I was a bit nervous at first, what with the whole latex paint thing. That stuff isn’t exactly known to be very washable. But you know what? It WORKS! Like magic! It’s fantastic. I mixed up the amount in her tutorial (about 2 cups of paint) which was more than enough for this project. I poured it into a paint tray and used the small roller that came with the stencil. The stencil was about 5″ wider than my doors, which made things slightly difficult because of the raised wood framing them. Should I bend it? Cut it? I was hesitant to potentially damage such a quality stencil, I have so many other great projects in mind for this design! In the end, I decided to enlist my husband’s help as an extra holder so I could get a flat seal on the doors. I also didn’t use any adhesive on the back to hold it in place, because I didn’t want to have a residue that might impede chalk usage down the road. I really, really love how it all turned out!

chalkboard-stencil

 

It’s so cute! The edges are clean, without being too sharp. I still wanted things to look like traditional chalk, as if I were a master chalk artist on the sly ;)

chalkboard-stencil-detail

This is actually the closest to the true color of the liquid chalk. I used a color called “butter mint” for the paint, and it works well with her yellow room. the edges are just a touch fuzzy, which I love. If you want a sharper edge, make sure your stencil is flat across the entire surface and steady on the wall.

 

Now let’s talk about that whole washable thing. It says you can wipe it off, but can you really? Will I be standing there with a scrub brush for an hour trying to wipe it all down? Nope!

stencil-drip

See that drip? I got a bit messy on my hand-drawn scroll detail to fill up the gap at the bottom of the door. I waited until it was good and dry to fully test things out (over 24 hours) then wet a rag and gave it a quick scrub.

stencil-clean

The drip is gone! It rubbed right off without damaging the chalkboard paint below. I’m so excited! It’s such a great way to use up leftover paints (and lingering cornstarch) and opens up a whole new world of chalkboard designs. Did you know that Cutting Edge Stencils has a new line of smaller stencils? They say they’re for greeting cards, but they would be so fun on little chalkboards!

cutting edge stencils card stencil line

 

 

And of course there’s still all of their amazing larger wall stencils. So if you have a chalkboard in your life, take a fresh new look at it and consider painting on a chalk stencil!

otomi-stencil-chalkboard

*disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Cutting Edge Stencils provided their stencil in exchange for a review.

 

I Took the Made in USA Challenge, Will You?

masterlist2

Happy “Made in the USA Day” everyone! According to my Facebook feed (where all the hard-hitting news is, donchaknow) it’s Made in the USA Day, celebrating products and brands made in America. In our home, we’ve been striving to be more mindful of our consumption and waste. For my New Year Resolution, I decided to take the Made in USA Challenge. Care to hear the “rules“?

Look for items made in the United States first. If what you’re looking for can’t be found, then research companies who have ethical and sustainable business practices. Another great option is to buy used. The goal of the entire project is to be more mindful of ALL of your purchases.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying everything made overseas is bad or should be avoided. But we as a family have been inundated with so much “stuff” on a daily basis that we needed a good way to step back and readjust. By choosing companies and products that manufacture in our home country, we can support healthy working conditions, environmentally responsible practices, and a lower carbon footprint with less shipping. I try to source as many local items as possible.

Yes, it can be more expensive at times. But this helps us not fall victim to the shopaholic addiction. Do we need 20 different sippy cups? No. We only need 4. It means more washing, but that’s okay. I don’t need to constantly update my wardrobe with all the latest fashions. If I would like a fresh look, I try to find a great graphic tee from a local artist.

This has been such a freeing experience! There are more selections than I originally thought there would be, like Lodge cast iron and Fiestaware dishes. I do have to take more time to research a company, but it helps prevent me from making impulse purchases. Overall, our spending hasn’t increased, I just buy fewer quality items.

I encourage you to take a look at the Master List, and check out the companies who manufacture the products you buy. It’s such a great feeling to know I’m supporting companies I believe in.

 

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