Thursday, April 9, 2015

And so it begins again (Day 1)

Mob 5, a flock of 64 Freedom Ranger chicks, arrived this morning.  They are a healthy, spunky bunch who are currently inspecting their new digs and drinking their fill of water. 

As I've taken quite (an unplanned) hiatus from blogging, I will try and do a better job of chronicling this group's sojourn with us.  Our plan is to raise them to 10 weeks before butchering.  This is our first time with the Freedom Ranger breed which is advertised as a healthy, hearty bird that forages well and has good feed conversion, often achieving a dressed weight of 5 pounds or more at 9 - 11 weeks old. 

First peak at the new chicks

Introducing the babies to the nursery

Freedom Ranger, 2 days old

Monday, June 16, 2014

The mystery of the not Red Rangers

Dixie Rainbow chickens at about 7 weeks

Our mystery is solved.  The not-so-red Red Ranger chickens we ordered ended up being Dixie Rainbows instead.  Whew, what a relief.  Thankfully, Rainbows are a hearty dual purpose bird with good feed conversion and the ability to forage well - all characteristics we noticed in this flock.  They average dressed weight for males is about 5 pounds at 12 weeks.

I would like to give props to Mt Healthy Hatcheries for helping us identify what we actually had and making the mistake right for us.  I recommend doing business with them - they give excellent customer service and go the extra mile to make their customers happy.

Tomorrow is the big day.  We've already picked up the equipment from our local county conservation district and are all set up for dispatching the birds. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting ready to bid adieu

WARNING:  philosophical, introspective post ahead
Red Ranger-ish Hen
We're down to the last week with our Red Rangers (or not) chickens.  It's this time of the process when I start feeling a little glum about the final outcome, the actual doing of the deed.  Neither the husband nor I relish the killing of the birds, and since we've experienced the act of butchering several times now, I almost dread it.  But that said, it serves a purpose more than just filling our freezer with healthy, home raised food.  Getting to know our food on a more personal, intimate, day-to-day basis gives us a chance to face our humanity, to look our dinner in the eye and say I respect you and the life you are giving to my family and myself.  I've chronicled several of the reasons why we raise backyard meat birds before, but one I didn't think about at the time was how raising and butchering these animals changes me.  Since we're not large scale poultry farmers and I've fully admitted to having a soft heart, this is a process to which I've not become immune.  And as a result, I think I'm still able to treat it with the reverence it deserves and to be thankful for our food in a deeper way.

Here's to our chickens, the satisfaction of raising them and the humanity we gain from them.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

South Sound's G.F. Joe's is Closing

Sad news for the South Puget Sound gluten-free community - G.F. Joe's Gluten Free Market is closing both it's Olympia and Tacoma locations.  Last day is Saturday, June 14 including a "garage sale" of store fixtures from 10-6.

Hurry in to stock up on those hard to find and specialty gluten-free products.

Thanks, Joe & crew, for offering the gf community a safe haven and for being such a phenomenal resource over the years.  You all will be missed!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Red Ranger Update

Not-so-red Red Ranger

Big doings in the world of chickens here.

Feeding Station
After about 3 weeks in the chicken tractor, we fenced a portion of our yard and put the flock "out to pasture."  This has had the benefit of giving them more room (it was getting a little cozy in the tractor), allowing more foraging and cutting down on the poo concentrating in one area of the yard.  With 63 chickens, it's doesn't take many hours before the accumulation of au naturale fertilizer is pretty, uh, strong.  By spreading the wealth around, so to speak, we're contributing to overall land and bird health.  The chickens have been enthusiastically in favor of the move and after some initial loitering around the feeding stations, they've now spread out and are making full use of their space.  I think to begin with they were scared of straying too far from the feed in case they couldn't find their way back.

As you may have noticed, our Red Rangers are not looking so red, which has me questioning the purity (or accuracy) of what we received.  In a quick google of "red rangers" the images we find show beautiful red birds with darker tail feathers.  Now we definitely have a few that look like that, but overall, we have many, many more that look like the sample at the top of the page.  In fact, a few are mostly white with a few dark speckles, more like a Cornish Cross.  Even so, the birds we have demonstrate decent growth and excellent health.  It will be interesting to see what average weight and feed conversion looks like at the end.

Since the chicken tractor is a a very heavy yet movable structure with the only entrance being a trap door through the top, the husband had to construct a new place for the flock to roost at night.  We were going for light and movable as well as offering good protection from possible predators (though, knock on wood, that's never been an issue).  We went with a simple A-frame design, covered with field fencing and then when it rains, covered with plastic sheeting.  He included 2 long roosting poles inside.  It took them a couple of nights to get used to the new set-up which necessitated us going out just after dark to hand-move 63 chickens into their new sleep abode (highly recommend this as a repetitive squat workout - feel the burn!).  Most (notice I didn't saw "all") have since gotten the hang of putting themselves to bed, though a few still stubbornly try to tuck themselves in along the outside.

Happy Spring!