Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Spring Holiday

I have been a bit absent from here because we are currently enjoying some time with family in NZ.  Most of our time has been spent just spending time with loved ones but we are about to head off to the Hawkes Bay on the east coast for a few days by ourselves.

In the meantime here are some spring photos from NZ.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Meat Chicken Wrap Up

Over the weekend we killed the last 5 of our meat chickens so now that we have finished I thought it would be a good time to share our experience in a bit more detail (don't worry no gory photos).
Just to refresh here are the facts.
We started off with 14, week old, commercial meat chicks ($30) and a 20kg bag of chick starter ($18).
They grew very quickly and right from the start there were some that were much bigger that others. Sadly 2 chicks died early on, we are pretty sure they got too cold which is always a potential issue with chicks.

All they did was eat and poop and they did a lot of both.  They grew very quickly and were fully feathered in 2 weeks. It was becoming obvious why they were used by commercial growers.  We purchased a second bag of chick starter when the chicks were 4 weeks old.   The chicks end up pooping into their food so you loose a bit just trying to keep their food clean.
Check out the size difference.
At 5 weeks they looked weird, with over sized breasts and short legs.  They also did not really behave like chickens.  I was now very clear why these birds were used by commercial farms.  They were huge!!
Although we planned to keep ours a few weeks longer than the standard 7 weeks that commercial farms farms finish at, they really were ready to go.
As they got older they started to act and look more like chickens, albeit very chunky chickens.  They had access to grass and clucker tucker at all times and they loved to just lie in the sun and eat.  
We then purchased a bag of broiler finisher ($19) to get the chickens to the butchering stage.  I investigated a number of different food options because I was really not sure what was different about the broiler finisher compared to the grain or layers mask we buy for our laying hens.  I discovered that the broiler finisher ($19) was 22% protein compared to15% for layers mash ($14) and 11% for mixed grain ($11).  As it got towards the end we decided not to spend the extra money on a second bag of finisher so instead we did a 50/50 mix of grain and finisher for the last week and a half.  The back of the bag advised the broiler finisher should not be fed to laying hens and I was a bit puzzled at the time but now I have a theory.

You see when we butchered the first chicken it was 7 weeks old an weighed in at 1.3 kg and the meat did not have any more fat that a store brought bird.  The next 6 that we butchered a week later were definitely bigger and weighed in at an average of 1.7kg.  They also had a fat deposits on different parts of their bodies (across the breast and back) and a bit of fat under the skin around their rear end/cloaca.  The last 5 that we killed 2 weeks after the first were heavy weights.  They averaged 1.95kg and the 2 heaviest weighed in at 2.2 kg and 2.3 kg dressed weight (plucked, gutted and ready to cook).  Not only were they that much heavier but they were fat.  They had fat in all the same places at the 6 the week before but there was more of it and it was surrounding their organs and thick around their rear ends.  This is why I think there is a warning not too feed the broiler food to layers.  I know that if laying hens get too fat they have trouble laying so the higher protein food could really cause issues.
The heavy weights from the last batch
 All of the chicken has now been portioned out and packed away and we are looking forward to home grown meals ahead.
The conclusion that we have come to is that we will no be purchasing some Light Sussex eggs and repeating the process so that we have a even playing field to compare the two methods.  Using the Light Sussex will take longer but we will not have to buy the chicks or be stuck to a very tight time schedule for when we have to kill the chickens like you have to with the commercial breeds.
But that is another story and for another day.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Afternoon Harvest

Finally the fennel is ready so it went into the basket for dinner last night.   It was roasted along with one of the last Khol Rabi.   I have not grown fennel before and now know that I need to grow a lot more as it seems to have good resistance to pests and when you eat a few bulbs at a time it does not go far.

The lavender came off some pruning's and will be hung to dry behind the fire with a few others I have already picked.
The chickens have picked back up in the laying department so I will back to trading eggs for fish and other goodies in the near future.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Slow Living July

Linking up with Christine again this month and for once I am not running behind.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
There has been more bread making this month with new sour dough recipes to try from my birthday book.  We have been eating eggs and lots of silverbeet the veggie garden.  And the fennel has just plumped up enough so we will be starting to eat that this week mmmmm roast fennel.
I have been given maderins in exchange for eggs and there have been a few cakes baked too.
Prepare - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
This month has been all about the meat chickens.  We did a test run butchering just one bird and have now killed another 6.  This means we have 5 to go.  We roasted the first bird abut have broken the next 6 down into drum sticks, breasts, thighs and the rest for soups and stocks.
Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
We have been participating in Plastic Free July and I will be blogging about that later this week.

Green Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
Well I made up more laundry liquid and liquid soap and I think participating in Plastic Free July counts here too.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
As I mentioned above there has been a lot of silverbeet on the menu this month as well as bok choy and kohl rabi.  We have snow peas and fennel coming on and hopefully we will get something from the brassicas before it gets too warm.
Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
I am still going with my knitting and have made a few birthday cards this month for friends and family.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have been reading like a mad women this month and have gotten through 7 novels, 5 non fiction books and a stack of alternative living magazines.  I am not sure where I found the time but I did.

Enhance Community
The classic car show, that I am the event director for later this year, is taking up a bit of time and will continue to for a while yet.  I am also still involved in the anti sand mining group for my local area.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are  all cause for enjoyment.
July saw us catching up with family and friends and really was a busy month with a number of birthdays.