What an crazy week! 4-H stuff, birthday celebrations, new chicks, and trying to freeze the insane amount of zucchini and green beans coming from the garden are the things that took up most of my time. We ordered homeschool curriculum for the girls as well, and that got me very excited to start school in a few weeks!
We ended the week with Jo’s 11th birthday party, and she is over the top excited about her present. We told her she could find and adopt a puppy. She has been wanting one of her own for YEARS, and being the responsible young lady that she is we figure it’s a good time for a potentially life changing new addition. Now, the task of finding the RIGHT puppy!
Here is our week in photos….
Jo made a poster for the Cornish Cross chicken she is taking to the fair. She took it to the 4-H meeting and did a demonstration about these chickens. This was all her idea!
Mary did her 4-H demonstration on chocolate covered fruit. The strawberries were the most popular!
More beautiful sunsets this week!
4 Golden Buff, 4 White Leghorn, and 4 Golden Laced Wyandotte arrived on Wednesday morning. All healthy and happy and cute, cute, cute! I always forget how ever so tiny they are.
I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of baking all our bread again.
I’m going to start grating zucchini in my sleep….
I became very impatient and HAD to pick one of my watermelon. It has got to be ripe by now, right?
NOPE……darn it! (the chickens enjoyed it very much though)
So excited to see hundreds of busy honey bees in my corn rows!
Two summers ago we raised several Cornish Cross Meat Chickens. Meat chickens were a brand new adventure for us and even though we lost a couple and taking them to the fair was a disaster, we had fun, and they tasted GREAT! I blogged about the whole experience and you can read each weeks post starting here.
This year my girls wanted to take meat chickens to the fair again but didn’t want to take Cornish Cross. I did some research and Ranger Broilers seemed to be the next obvious choice. They are bred to be a fast growing meat chicken just like the Cornish Cross, but they are good foragers; unlike the Cornish Cross that like to sit in front of the feeder and stuff themselves. I am excited about comparing these two breeds.
We ordered 15 chicks from Meyer Hatchery and they arrived June 11th. When we got them home we realized that they had sent us an extra chick. A few days later, I began to suspect that the extra chick was a Cornish Cross. A few days after that I was sure of it, now I can compare the two breeds while they grow!!
All 16 chicks were active, cute, and very entertaining. All of us agree these are the quietest chicks we’ve ever had.
At 2 weeks they are still pretty cute but that doesn’t last for long.
As you can see the Cornish Cross sticks out like a green bean in a fruit salad…..ok, that was bad, but I was trying to come up with something other than “he sticks out like a sore thumb” and well, that’s the only “appropriate” one I could think of.
We weighed them at 4 weeks.
The Ranger broilers weighed in at an average of 2 pounds 6 ounces, and the Cornish Cross weighed 2 pounds 10 ounces. At 4 weeks they have eaten about 60 lbs. of feed. As soon as I think they are big enough we will let them out for at least a couple hours every day so they can forage for grass and bugs. So far, other than growing just a bit slower than the Cornish Cross the only difference between the two breeds is that the Rangers seem to be more curious and friendly.
I’ll post an update in a few weeks and then a final post after we butcher them at the end of August. Thanks for following along!
Here’s another post from Digger! I think I’ve got him hooked on this blogging stuff. 😉
According to Wikipedia “a gumption trap is an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm and become discouraged from starting or continuing a project.” I could go on at length in this subject as I’m painfully familiar with it, but I’m afraid the length and breadth of it as a whole would soon intimidate my intentions of sharing insight gleaned from experience, thus leading to boredom and disinterest on my part and ultimately leaving this draft saved but unfinished for years before finally being deleted. So why bring it up? Well…
I’m always fiddlin’ around with some new interest, and always have every intention of finishing whatever that particular interest might be. Far off in the back of my mind (where I don’t dare contemplate too deeply) there is a fond fantasy that someday I’ll start a project and work at it until it’s done without some distraction pulling me away. I really don’t mind being distracted for the most part given that it’s typically caused by friends or family either with a need, or simply seeking fellowship; but what it means in the end is that I generally have half a dozen projects laying around the place cluttering things up. Right now there’s a big hunk of aluminum on the lathe I’m trying to turn into a sanding disc for the shopsmith. (It’s made out of beer cans, but that’s another story) Yea,… It’s been there for about five weeks.
Last Saturday while I was working on it Grace came out and asked if I could make her a tool that would cut the core out of apple slices… It really only took a few minutes to grab one of those cheap (and dead) l.e.d. flashlights, chuck it up in the lathe to cut the ends off, and sharpen one end. No problem. The gumption trap came when I took the tool inside for her to use. She was drying the apple slices in the dehydrator and making applesauce, which of course I needed to taste test. (Oh man did it smell good!)
Now look,… What I’m about to say isn’t derogatory in the least; Grace and I are best friends and I’m honored to be spending my life with her,… BUT! When we are both at home it can be hard for either of us to stay focused on whatever task may be at hand. I have no idea what we talked about for an hour and a half that day, but we did. We can talk about anything! It could be the stupidist (is that a word?) subject in the world and we just chuckle and keep going. Typically this is great, but it has drawbacks. I remember one Saturday morning she came to me and sternly said; “You have to go to work today!”. There was a long pause while I just stared at her. I didn’t need to go to work that day. So then she said “I have too much to do; YOU have to leave.” And pointed at the door. I don’t exactly know what she meant to do with that day in particular, but I got the message and made myself scarce. (probably a bunch of cookin’ for some church function, a birthday barbeque, or some other thing such as the like. Frankly I can never keep up.) I get it, and so does she, and now you might begin to appreciate how easy it is to spring the gumption trap around here.
For most folks there’s a line between the things that need done, and the things we want done. When my wife gets involved that line gets kinda blurry. Take her chickens for example. We discussed raising chickens for a long time. She did all the research and decided on the breed she wanted, and I was good with all that. I kept telling her “when we have the facilities for chickens you can order them.” What does she do? Yea,… she goes right on ahead and orders them! It’s summer time; I’m busy trying to get as many jobs done as I can before another winter sets in, and we have no place for a bunch of chicks! (I don’t care how cute they are!) When she told me she’d gone ahead and done it, all I could do was laugh. I really didn’t want to hear that the only way we were ever going to get prepared for the little buggers was to have them on their way. I didn’t want to hear it because she was right. I hate that! This crafty little maneuver goes to show how familiar the Queen is with gumption traps as well.
To clarify her perspective: She’s been waiting for a mud room I’d promised to build on the end of our home since it was set up. “Before the snow flies,” I’d promised. That was seven years ago. (Thank you Lord for patient women!) We only have lawn because she said it was time we had a lawn. When she said it I looked at her and immediately realized that it really WAS time. Never mind the fact that it’s the first week in August. It’ll be fine. And it was; because I babysat that seedling grass for a week and a half! (BIG gumption trap!) But hey,… If you want to see grass seed germinate and grow in three days, just plant it when it’s over one hundred degrees outside. Oh, and keep it wet. Really, I mean that part.
This summer it was Cornish Cross meat chickens. Grace wanted them to be the right size for the girls to take to the fair, and this meant ordering them on the right date. I didn’t argue this time. I just resigned myself to the inevitable and waited for a want to become a need… Now don’t get me wrong,… I like the idea of raising our own meat chickens. It’s nice to know what they’ve been fed and that they haven’t been shot full of antibiotics, or worse. By the way, she did her homework (to the extent that she knew more than the vet at the fair) and has several posts on the subject if your curious.
Sure enough, after three weeks having been confined in an old playpen IN MY SHOP, the “need” came. I’d begun to wonder if the heat lamp weren’t in fact a grow light given their phenomenal rate of growth. I’m tellin’ ya, these things grow FAST, and had already begun to outgrow the playpen. They couldn’t be turned loose with the laying hens, so new accommodations were needed. This wasn’t a surprise; we’d talked about clearing out one side of the barn for them, but that never happened. (Several gumption traps there.) Now that it was time, the chore seemed daunting, and beings Grace really liked the idea of keeping them on the grass, I began to consider potential alternatives. (I’m thinking quick, cheap, and easy.) There’s an old canopy off a pickup I don’t own anymore that would work, but it was in the same side of the barn we’d considered clearing out before. By the time I’d have managed to get the thing dug out, the chore I was trying to avoid would have been half done. Besides, it’s made of fiberglass which means it’s heavy, making it hard to move around for my ladies; and given I was the one rationalizing the most logical course of action to take I decided that the barn is an awful long ways from any lawn we’d want these chickens on… I chewed on it awhile longer trying not to think about all the other things on my plate, and finally decided to build a “chicken tractor“. I don’t think chicken tractor accurately describes what I built, but it met the needed requirements, and way better still; the Queen was happy! I ripped some old lumber on the table saw, grabbed the screw gun, and by the end of the day had a 3’x3’x8′ frame. This is about the time the girls insisted it needed some paint. (Another gumption trap!)
Some scrap chip board cut into triangles for gussets on the corners gave it enough structural integrity to be moved around the yard without falling apart, and hardware cloth I bought at the hardware store (umm… is there a correlation there?) wrapped three sides and covered the door at one end. We learned the hard way that standard chicken wire allows chicks to stick their heads through the mesh making a fine snack for any of the dozen or so barn cats we have running around. (Can’t have that happen again!) The bottom was obviously meant to be open, but what about the top? The chickens couldn’t get out, but the cats and other critters would be able to get in if left open. It needed to be covered but light enough to move around easily, so tin or plywood was out. Cornish Cross also need shade, so wire alone was also out. I had a rare epiphany and asked Grace to go find one of the living room drapes she’d become disenchanted with. These were factory drapes that came with the red double wide, and at least for the living room just didn’t suit. In my mind the dimensions seemed about right, and I was sure they’d be sturdy enough, so why not? We both laughed when we spread it over the top of the chicken tractor; it was a perfect fit!… By the way; the chicken tractor is still sitting exactly where it was when we removed the Cornish Cross to be butchered. That was two months ago!… Oh yea,… That must have been about the time Papa Dave limped his broken combine up to the shop!
I have to admit that after the turmoil during fair week, I was very ready for butchering day. Out of the 15 birds that we bought, we had 13 make it to butchering day. The five my parents raised and eight out of ten that we raised.
The evening before we butchered it POURED down rain while we were packing up at the fair. By the time we got home they were soaking wet out in their little chicken tractor. So we brought them in the shop to dry off. They quickly dried and we kept them in for the night in case of another down pour.
We took the feed out 12 hours before butchering time; this is so the crop and intestinal tract has time to clear.
I weighed a few of them that morning and they were all around 7 pounds.
We put them in a couple of kennels and headed to my parents house. They have raised turkeys in the past and have a better set up for butchering than we do.
We don’t have any killing cones so the guys used a chopping block and an axe. I think next year we will buy or make some cones. Especially if we have more than 13 chickens.
For scalding we kept the temperature between 145°and 150° F. and scalded them for 1 minute. It worked great! I couldn’t believe how easy they were to pluck!
This is me, my mom, and one of my sisters plucking.
Digger skinned a few of them to see if it was faster than plucking. Skinning was definitely faster. Here are a couple pics of a skinned chicken, this was before it was gutted and cleaned. Check out all that meat!!!
This is the gutting, cleaning, and wrapping station. After they were cleaned we wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in zip lock bags. They were all around 5 pounds. 🙂
The whole process only took about 2 hours for 13 chickens despite the fact everyone was exhausted from the fair. I was surprised at how smoothly it went and that it didn’t bother me at all. I was very pleased with the sizes of the dressed out birds. My parents were pleased too and have decided to stick with chickens instead of turkeys from now on. Mom already said she wants 20 more next year! I’m sure we will get more next year too. I’m thinking I’d like to try some freedom rangers, just so I can compare.
All said and done they cost right at $9.00 each. Not to bad for five pound, pastured chickens!
If you’ve been following along on our Cornish Cross raising adventure, brace yourself for an eventful week 7! If you are new to our little adventure you might want to check out the first six weeks: week 1 – week 2 – week 3 – week 4 – week 5 – week 6
My girls ages 9 and 10 chose to take two of our Cornish Cross to the fair this year and sell them at the market livestock sale. Our family has always shown and sold sheep, but with a lack of fencing and the fact that chickens are far less expensive to raise, we encouraged chickens this year…..a mistake?? Maybe….
Our 4-H leader, who knows WAY more about chickens than we do, advised that we pick a couple of our roosters to take to the fair because of their size. So on Wednesday afternoon the girls each picked out a rooster and we set to work getting them cleaned up. The girls also took two laying hens to the fair, which made a total of seven baths that afternoon…..four chicken baths then three people baths, getting chickens clean is a dirty job!
I was dreading this part, but other than a few soggy, soapy chicken wings slapping us in the face and one mom and two girls chasing a soaking wet hen around the yard……it went very well. 😀
It was a nice, warm, day so it didn’t take them long to dry off….and we were off to the fair!
Both Cornish Cross weighed in at 6.6 pounds (to sell they have to weigh between 4 and 7 pounds) and after a vet check we settled them into their cages. They were the only Cornish Cross in the barn…we live in a small county! I noticed right away that they didn’t really like walking on the wire cages, it was very different than our lawn. The poultry barn was hot, and this breed doesn’t do well in the heat. They plopped down in their cages, spread their wings out away from their bodies and started panting. (this is normal; this is how they act when they are hot) I was a little worried, but It was starting to cool off by then and I figured in a couple hours they would be fine….and they were. The next morning they looked great and we kept an eye on them throughout the day.
Thursday night I received a phone call that I was to immediately remove my daughters chickens from the fair grounds. The vet said they were sick and not going to make it through the night! As I approached the barn I saw the vet outside and asked him what the problem was. He said that our chickens had bloody wings, sores on their feet, their feathers were falling out, and they couldn’t stand up!?!?!?! My brief attempt at defending this breed and these birds in particular was oddly met with “I know, I know” and some reference to PETA. In short the vet made it very clear that he had made a decision, it was his call, and the birds had to go. Yes, I argued….no, I did not scream, yell, cuss, kick, bite, or hit, like I was tempted to do at that moment. (we’re talking about some major restraint here folks)
I removed the chickens with tears in my eyes and two little girls full of questions I couldn’t answer. 🙁
When we got home I took the kennel into the shop and opened the door. Both chickens walked out and I began checking them over. I had the Vetericyn out to spray any hurt wings or sores…..there was no need for Vetericyn. I was relieved to not find any sores, but at the same time was very frustrated!
After we took some pictures we put the chickens back in the pen with the rest of the meat chickens. The next morning, the chickens “that weren’t going to make it through the night” were just fine. When I opened the gate to give them breakfast they all ran to me. (Well, as well as Cornish Cross can run anyway) In fact, four days later as I write this they are still fine!
By the time we got back to the fair grounds the next morning our 4-H leader had heard about what had happened,… and she was none to happy!! We ended up filing a grievance with the fair board and attending a board meeting on Saturday morning. (This filled me with some measure of anxiety by the way, I am not one for confrontation) The board was very kind to listen to our complaint. I stated that I believed the whole situation was handled poorly and I didn’t want this to happen to more kids in the future. They said that everyone needs more education about this hybrid chicken, and market chickens should have cages on the floor so they don’t have to walk on wire mesh.
I agree with the board that more education is needed,(like how to tell an ugly, hot chicken apart from a sick or injured chicken) and maybe some misconceptions about this bird can get cleared up. (at least at our little county fair) I intend on writing several more posts about Cornish Cross and we will be making several educational posters to hang up at the fair next year….. whether we enter Cornish Cross or not. The fair was not a total bust, the girls had tons of fun showing their hens and hanging out with friends. They are already talking about next year. 😀
Next week I will share about our last week and our very first butchering day.
I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to our wonderful 4-H leader Linda. She was so much help in our meat chicken raising experience and is always available to answer our questions. She helped with 4-H books, the fair entry process, and when things got crazy at the fair, she stood by us, helped with the grievance process, and even went to the board meeting with us. Linda….YOU ROCK!!!! 😀
I think the two words to describe week 5 would be ugly and messy…….I might throw in smelly too!
I’m moving their pen two and three times a day now to keep them on fresh clean grass. Sadly we had our first casualties this week…..yes, not just one but two. 🙁 I went out early Thursday morning and there was a dead chicken?? We don’t know why it died, but this breed is prone to heart attacks so I’m guessing that was it. Saturday morning I went out and a barn cat had some how reached under the pen and snagged one of them and had managed to eat half of it……super grooooss!! I also lost two hens this week….it was NOT a happy chicken week around here…..sigh.
The eight remaining Cornish cross are doing well and gaining weight FAST. We are now taking extra precautions to make sure they are cat proof!!!!
If you would like, you can read about the first four weeks of our meat chicken experience….they were much cuter on week 1 and 2! 😉 Week 1 – Week 2 – Week 3 – Week 4
Our 10 Cornish Cross meat chickens are now a month old…..one more month to go!
You can read why we chose this breed and see pictures of their growth on these posts: Week 1 – Week 2 – Week 3
They are outside full time now and love to munch on the grass!
They are still much more active than I expected. I have read that all they do is stand or lay down at the feeders and eat all day. Ours are not like that at all, maybe it’s because they have room to run and fresh grass to eat, or maybe they just haven’t got to that point yet?
They are ugly little buggers and not very bright! I weighed one a couple days ago and it was almost 2 pounds. They are going through the feed pretty quickly now, I think it’s going to cost more than I originally expected to feed them. But I also expected to loose a couple and so far no casualties. The five that my mom took to her house are also doing very well. Thanks for following along on our meat chicken journey. 🙂
On to week 3! Click here to read about Week 1 and Week 2 of our meat chicken raising experience.
They are still growing fast and their feathers are filling in a bit more. We have moved them outdoors and changed their feed from chick starter to a flock raiser. They are still fun to watch jump and run around, and every once in a while they make a “big chicken” noise. 🙂
Not so cute anymore.
For this picture on day 18 I tried to pick out the biggest one and the littlest one. The one standing in the back weighed 11.4 oz. and the bigger one sitting down weighed 18.4 oz. What a huge difference considering they hatched the same day and arrived at our house all looking identical. From everything I’ve read the small one is a female and the big one a male. That explains why the roosters are more expensive from the hatchery. The male kept plopping down and trying to sleep, the little female was more active and alert.
We built them a bigger pen so they can be moved around on the lawn and always have grass to eat. The girls painted it and I thought it turned out cute!
They love having more room!
Well, so far so good! We still have 10 healthy growing chickens. I’m glad they are outside now and not in the shop, (they were getting a little crowded and allot STINKY!).
If you missed Week 1 on Raising Cornish Cross Chickens click here, to read why we chose this breed and how our first week went, plus lots of cute chick pics!
We have not suffered any casualties as of yet and they are growing remarkably FAST! They are about to outgrow the brooder and will need more space soon. My mom took five of them to finish raising them at her house, so that helped to make some extra room. I’m hoping they will have enough space until they are 3 weeks old and can go in an outside pen during the day. I want them to be able to free range as much as possible once they are big enough. It’s been so warm we haven’t used the heat lamp since they were 11 days old. They are such messy little things we have to check their water every few hours because it gets full of bedding and poop very quickly. I seem to remember the same thing with my egg laying chickens when they were little.
Here are pics of week 2:
Some of them are a little bigger then others, which is what I expected when I ordered a “strait run” (some male some female). I got a strait run so they would vary in weight and we could pick the right chickens at the right weight for my girls 4-H projects.
As you can see they are starting to out grow some of their cuteness! Oh well, I didn’t get them to be cute…..right?
We enjoy watching and laughing at them running at each other and flapping their wings. They are pretty comical!
Here is a little cost break down so far:
Each chick cost: $3.83; so for our 10 chicks it cost – $38.30
The chick starter cost $10.45 for a 25# bag. After 2 weeks there is still some feed left and I subtracted what my moms chicks ate and ended up with $6.10 feed cost for 2 weeks.
We also bought a bale of pine shavings for $7.95 and I figured we have used about a dollars worth so far.
This comes to $45.40 for the first 2 weeks for 10 chicks.
Of course this doesn’t include the cost of a brooder, heat lamp, heat lamp bulbs, waterer, or feeder. We are using all the supplies from last years egg laying chicks. So if you were raising chickens for the first time you would have to add in these expenses. As you can see, the first year is the most expensive!
So far we are still pleased with our decision to raise Cornish Cross!