Friday, April 08, 2011

It Begins...

Photo from 2007

On Tuesday this week we finally picked up our first batch of broiler chicks. They were ordered for the previous Tuesday, but the hatchery messed up and didn't send them.

We are doing things a little differently this year; instead of 50 at once, we're doing 35 twice - this way we will have two processing days, but they won't be as utterly time-consuming and exhausting. I think we put up 42 last year and that was a. lot. of. work. We're nowhere near Joel Salatin's 200 birds/hour obviously, and I don't know that we'll ever get anywhere near there, but this will be - hopefully - easier and more productive.

We had to push back the second batch by a week; I wanted them four weeks apart and the hatchery overruled my order and made them 3 weeks apart. That is bare minimum, and they'd have been 2 weeks apart with making our first order late. This way I can use the same brooder facilities, in succession.

We ordered about 20 pullets as well, to replace many hens we lost last fall, and five turkeys. I was hoping to brood them in succession too; pullets first, then turkeys later in the season, but they're coming together in May. :] I'm guessing this hatchery isn't terribly user-friendly. :)

In any case, we brought our 35 home in wild winds and cold weather. NOT my ideal, but with 2 heat lamps and only 35 chicks, they can all huddle right into the warmth and no one gets left to freeze. They've survived one night so far, and that's good since temps aren't even going to hit 60 within the next week, according to the weather folks.

I ordered some organic starter from Azure, which will hopefully come this time (I ordered it last month and it never arrived). In the meantime I'm giving them a non-medicated starter. I'll use regular grower (or gamebird feed, if I can't find a non-med, high-protein feed) for most of their growing days, and then try to finish them up with a final bag or two of organic feed. I don't know if this is ultimately a huge difference, using it only for a portion of their feed, but at $30/50lb, there's no way I'm using it as their main feed. :]

To keep track of costs, I'm going to keep a list in the sidebar.


Rachel Le said...

I was about to ask if it was worth it cost-wise to raise your own chickens, but I remembered that you posted your numbers last year and looked it up. That seems good for "semi-organic" chicken! Someday in the distant future I want my own chickens so I'm glad I can learn from your experiences ;)

EllaJac said...

Rachel, yes, we think it's worth it. :) Fairly comparable to regular grocer prices, and raised & processed MUCH, MUCH cleaner..

That said, what's NOT worth it is having to kill and process your own. :) Many places have a processor where you can take your chickens and for a small fee have them done. We don't have one of those, and in fact rather not do the transport, so we've learned to do it. It's not so bad for us, but whenever anyone asks if I'll do *their* birds, I tell them there's no way they could pay me enough. :D

Sheri said...

Looks like you are doing a great job! Keep up the good work. Breaking the processing days into smaller groups is a great idea, especially until you can get the hang of it.

Do you have a feather picker or are you doing it by hand?

EllaJac said...

Hi Sheri!

2 years ago I begged Hubby to make me a homemade tub-style chicken plucker for Mother's Day (every Mama's wish, isn't it?). It only has a 1/4 hp motor, but it does the job and is very nearly my "favorite kitchen appliance." I love that thing.

Thank you for your visit and comment!!