September 5, 2011

First run; almost done

After munching on grass and bugs all
day, it's time for some extra dinner.
Only July 28th, we plunged head-first into a new adventure. We decided to try something neither of us had ever done; neither of us had any experience.  We had an idea. We had a goal. We had a vision.  And as mentioned in previous posts, we had a little bit of crazy.

Our first batch of Cornish Cross broiler chickens arrived on July 28 as cute, fluffy puffs that chirped, ate and pooped endlessly.  They started out weighing ounces, now they weigh several pounds each.  The one constant has been their appetite -- these birds can eat! We are winding down on their life cycle and it's hard to image morning and evening chores without them as part of the routine.  These are not pet chickens, but they have been part of the farm and we will definitely feel their absence.  Our goal were to get this batch from peep to processing as healthy chickens, raised on grass and sunshine without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. 

On Friday, they will be processed and available for dinner tables.

Friday is quickly approaching and we're trying to prepare for the big event.  The only poultry processor even remotely near us is several hours away.  We aren't set up to process the birds on our own, nor are we prepared to deal with the governmental red-tape that accompanies on-farm processing when you will sell the broilers.  Outsourcing the processing definitely cuts into the profits, but it's the right choice for us at this time.  If we find that this venture can support us enough that we can take the time off to butcher on premises, if we can afford the equipment and if we're able to make it legal and workable, we will definitely consider butchering on-site. 

As far as affordability goes, we're not cutting corners and buying feed with artificial junk in it.  We've stuck to the all natural feed.  But we are frugal wherever possible. I love that we have been able to recycle so many materials for the brooder house, the pasture pen and now for the transport crates.

We can fit 8 - 10 chickens in each crate and we'll need about 10 crates for each run of 100 chickens.   Purchasing plastic, yet durable, crates would cost us almost $800.  That is definitely not in our budget! We can't throw the chickens in the back of the truck and call it done, so we had to find a solution.  Greg found instructions online for building wood crates.  He used discarded wood from other projects and was able to build four crates today.  Greg did most of the work, but I was able to let out some frustration with the hammer and staple gun.  Most of the cuts are done for the remaining crates and we'll work on that all day tomorrow.

Tuesday afternoon, we'll receive a visit from the state to test the birds for avian flu.  The test results must be received by the processor before we arrive Friday morning.  Speaking of arriving... we need to be there at 5:20 am.  All the kids will be coming with us. It's going to be a very interesting morning!

Even though we're in the final week of the chickens' life cycle, there's still much work to be done.  Now we need to find homes for all these yummy birds!

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