Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Birds and The Bees
We butchered the chickens this past weekend. It was time. Actually, well past time. Saturday morning Grace had her last two soccer games on the same day, one at 9 and another at 11 am. We got up, got ready and started to head out the door with Grace and Nana, and as I stopped to check on the chickens I saw that ANOTHER ONE was just sitting there with it's head drooping. Great.
We still had a half hour before the game and it takes 15 minutes to get there so I told Bryon that I didn't think the thing would be alive by the time we got home. He grabbed a knife and we we took the chicken out to do the deed before it was too late. He got her all skinned and started to gut her when we saw her cavity was FULL of yellow fluid. Bryon said it looked like some sort of crazy fluid that builds up in cancer patients.
We decided not to eat the chicken and dumped it. I was bummed out. Not that I WANTED to eat some funky chicken but because that meant we had lost another one. Bryon said that is the difference between raising your own and choosing whether or not to eat a questionable bird and a factory farm just rinsing the cavity out and sending it on down the line. You'd never know, unless you got sick and maybe not even then.
Nana was spending the weekend with us so I told Bryon, Sunday was going to be the day to get them butchered. I was going to wait and do it over Memorial Day weekend but I was afraid I would lose more by then.
Sunday morning we skipped church and got all our equipment ready and setup out in the front lawn. It was a GREAT day outside and I didn't even break a sweat! We got started about 10 am and didn't get finished until 1 pm. It took Mom and I another good long, back breaking hour to get the things cleaned up, cut up and frozen.
After a few trials and errors, we finally got a good system down and things started to go smoothly. Bryon wanted to skin them and I wanted to pluck them. I could have borrowed my friend Lindsey's plucker but since I decided on the spur of the moment to get the job done, I didn't call her to borrow it. We used the turkey fryer out front and put an enamel pot full of water on it and got the water up to 150 degrees to scald the birds. We plucked a couple and then Bryon just wanted to skin them. It turned out it took just as long to skin them as it did to pluck them so we only skinned one and plucked all the rest. Mom and I plucked until Grandpa Gary got there and then Mom went into the house to clean the birds up and Gary and I plucked. Bryon killed them and gutted them, then we plunged them into a cooler of ice water until we were ready to move on. Bryon rigged up a line for us to hang the birds on and pluck them because holding them and trying to do it was just back breaking. Those birds were HEAVY!
Lindsey butchers hers around 3 pounds because no one wants to pay $15 for a chicken. She sells hers for $2.80 a pound. The first three birds we killed weighed 5 pounds each dressed! They were HUGE! Mom said they were the biggest chickens she'd ever killed. Big is not always better. Take note Men.
As a matter of fact, now I'm wondering if I just didn't feed those three to death. I kept a LOT of feed out there for them and they just gorged themselves constantly. Most of them just lay around the feeder on their big fat breasts eating about 90 percent of the day I think. I read in one of the chicken books at Borders that they can die from Flip Over Disease. Really, it's a real thing http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/202500.htm This is EXACTLY what the second bird did. It was on it's back with it's feet in the air. Now I'm wondering too if that yellow fluid in it's abdomen wasn't caused by overfeeding them as well.
The rest of them were more around 4 pounds and a couple were just over three. We ended up putting a total of around 40 pounds of chicken into the fridge after they were all dressed. The biggest one Mom cut up and fried for my birthday dinner. We had salad from our garden, fried chicken we had raised and deviled eggs from the hens. It was a pretty dang good farm dinner!
After we were finally done I decided to go out and check on the bees. I had moved the hive out just behind the barn because I was tired of schlepping out to the field to check on them all the time. I'd ordered my bees in the middle of March to be shipped April 25. It took them FOREVER to get to the post office. I called every day for three days to see if they had come yet. Nope, no bees. Finally the third moring I called and they were there. The Postmistress said they didn't look too good though and when I picked them up, sure enough there was about an inch of dead bees along the bottom of the cage. They were insured and she said she'd vouch for me that they were in poor shape and about a third dead if I wanted to turn in a claim.
I took the rest of them home and hived them before I had to go to work in Rolla. I went out a few days later to see if the queen had gotten out and she was still trapped in the queen cage. I had accidentally popped the cork INTO the cage but I thought she could still get out. Not so much. I finally popped out both ends and left it in the hive so she could finally be released. That was a couple of weeks ago. Sunday, I went out to check to see if they were doing anything and I put on another super for them. They had been drawing out the new comb pretty well. I fixed up 10 more frames with new comb for them then had an after thought that I should check to see if there were any eggs. I took the whole dang thing apart looking for eggs or queen activity of any kind. Nothing. There were still lots of bees but I think that queen is dead.
I had already turned in my insurance claim and got the whole price of the bees, $72 refunded so today I called and ordered a queen from another apiary. She'll come next weekend. Hopefully it won't be too late to save the floundering hive.
Dang. It's been a busy on the farm.
The Small Animal Swap Meet is the last Saturday of the month...quack!