Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snowbirds and Blue Eggs

These past couple of weeks came as a surprise to the chickens, as this has been their first taste of winter. With daytime highs only in the mid teens and a healthy 6" of snow on the ground the girls turned quickly in to coop potatoes. It wasn't until the weather warmed up some and I shoveled a bare spot in the run that they would venture out. The weather has been a learning process for us too, as the shortened daylight and cold weather meant less eggs and frozen water. We overcame these obstacles by adding a heat lamp to the coop and a heated stand for the water. Now we are back up to 10 or 11 eggs a day, and have recently celebrated the first of our Araucana eggs!

These are the smaller multi colored hens that have been the slowest to develop. They are special because each has a unique coloring and they lay eggs that can vary between blue and green.
Besides trying to keep the chickens from freezing, we have been very busy butchering the two mule deer and one whitetail that we got this year. More on that coming later.
Until then we hope everybody has a happy, warm and safe Thanksgiving!
Kyle and Whit. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hunt 2011

It's been a great hunting season!

 Early on in the season, we enjoyed a really fun camping trip with friends, and I took some rides looking for elk. While these outings didn't turn up any game, they were both very worthwhile hunting trips. Hunting is about a lot more than bagging a trophy. A big part of the experience is spending time with great people in the places that we love. This season we were really excited to have Whitney's Dad here for a couple of weekends.

We've had a great time with Gary revisiting some old favorite hunting places and trying out some new ones. We took long hikes, at times not seeing anything. Other times we saw many deer, and even a herd of cow elk. One day Gary and I saw nothing but some mountain lion and really large wolf tracks.

 Eventually, Whitney and I were both successful filling our buck tags, each taking nice mule deer. We got to share the experience with Gary which made it even more enjoyable.  We've both shot deer with larger racks in years past, but we are meat hunters first and foremost, and these will be good eating. These two deer will keep us well fed for the next year, I'm really looking forward to the tenderloins! We'll let them hang for a week and then the work starts. Until then we still have some time left to look for elk, and I'm looking forward to hunting with  a good buddy next weekend.
No matter what the outcome, when you spend time in the hills with great people it's a great season!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3 Roosters is 2 too many

Today was a sad day for our flock. Two of our "girls" had to move on.
For a while now we've had a couple larger chickens that we were watching, hoping they'd be hens. Because there was supposed to be two breeds of black and white chickens, our hope was that one breed was significantly larger than the other, and that we only had two of that large breed. It seemed reasonable. Also, while the Colonel has been crowing and acting quite rooster like for months, these other big birds were rather docile. But sadly, recently these other two have shown their true rooster natures. They grew combs and spurs and began harassing the hens. This apparently caused Colonel to harass the hens with renewed vigor. All of a sudden the chicken yard was getting pretty out of hand, and some of the hens were getting pecked to the point of bleeding. This can become a real problem because chickens are very attracted to red and blood can cause chickens to peck one another to death.
So as a solution first we thought maybe somebody local would like a 4H rooster. Youngsters often show roosters at the fair and we know a few families that do, but they were not interested. Next we hoped somebody may just like to have a rooster, but that turned out to be a long shot also. Finally it became clear that our two barred rock roosters were enough of a problem, they were leaving one way or another. While this was going on, we had also heard about the recent trend of using chicken feathers for earrings and decorating girl's hair. Chicken feathers are quite valuable it turns out, and one of our local hair stylists has gotten in to feather dyeing. Whitney and her are good friends, and they will use these feathers to try some different earrings and things.
I asked around and found a friend that was interested in having the meat, in exchange for skinning the birds. The usable part of the skin is called the saddle, and extends from the back of the head to the top of the vent (Google it if your not sure what a chicken's vent is).  He has a lot of experience with this because at one time he raised chickens for meat and feathers, although at that time the feathers were for fly fishing flies. This option worked well for us since we weren't prepared to butcher and skin our roosters, but didn't want to see the birds wasted. The meat for a clean saddle was a fair trade.
So, tonight I went and learned how to dispatch a chicken. This didn't turn out to be nearly as traumatic as you may imagine. None of the chopping block and cleaver and headless chickens running around that I was imagining. A simple, quiet slit with a small kitchen knife while holding the rooster upside down was all it took. A few seconds later and they were done.
Sad as it is, that turned out to be the best option. The meat will be used, the feathers will be used, the hens can take a break and we don't have to feed extra mouths. Sometimes it's not fun but as animal owners we had an obligation to do the right thing for the hens. Also if we are going to take these chickens seriously at all, we can't feed extra birds for no reason.
On a lighter note, the hens are producing 6 - 8 eggs a day now. And as it is now honest to gosh winter (19 degrees the other day) we've put a heat light in the coop to keep the water from freezing. This should help with our egg production to, as we should be closer to a dozen a day and right now demand is exceeding supply!
Thanks for reading. KJ