These Are the Days


It has been busy around here lately as I wrap up a lot of projects!

I chipped my tooth recently, so we spent Thursday heading to the Dentist in Sherwood.  It was a filling they had done, so they fixed it at no charge, which was nice, but by the time I got home the only thing left to do for the day was sew.

Friday was butchering day, so I headed out to the butcher with my 15 birds.  It really was nice to wrap up the project.  I am glad to have meat in the freezer and to have 15 less mouths to feed.  My chore time is being cut down considerably lately.  After dropping the birds off at the butcher, I took Daphne to the park to play while they did the processing.  As we were driving away, Daphne burst into tears asking me where here chickens were demanding that we go get them back.  I heartlessly told her that we would go pick them up  but that they would no longer be alive.  I didn’t know what else to tell a 2 year old.  When we went to pick up the birds to take home, she was perfectly happy to help load the car.  She carried each chicken and put it in the box happily stating that it was a chicken.  And I though she was going to be traumatized.  I guess I need to do a better job making sure she knows what is going on.

When I got home and got Daphne down for a nap I headed out to the chicken coop to rearrange some things.  The laying hens get better treatment now that I have more time for them.  We got them a new shelter a few weeks ago to solve many of the problems I was having keeping them in such an awkward space.  I took it back out and cleaned it and bedded it down with shavings for them.  I also made a door for it so that I could keep them out during the day for a while.  That side of the house is always in shade, and they don’t need the shelter during the winter.  They were trying to lay eggs in there, and they were not super easy to get out, so I decided to lock them out during the day and let them in at night.  This is all working really well.  I made the door for them out of some lovely, scrap, pink fabric.

They also got a feed and water upgrade.  They were having to eat and drink out of smaller containers, but with the meat birds gone and not needing the big feeder and waterer, the hens got it.  It is nice for them to have free choice food and water again, and I think that they are much, much happier.  Of course, being neurotic and pregnant, I spent about an hour sterilizing it for them after the meat birds had used it.

I worked on setting up the run for them more as well.  At this point, I probably won’t do much more for the summer.  The chicken coop used to block off half the run in the back, and since the birds spent the most time there, it had a lot of bedding and poop and stuff in it.  It is built up about a foot higher than the rest of the ground.  I aim to slowly have that compost down and spread it along the side of the house.  The chickens now have a lot more room to run around in, which is better for everyone.  I also need to put a top on the nesting boxes so that they are more willing to use them.  Chickens don’t like to lay unless they have privacy.

I went out on Friday night with a friend and her daughter.  I ended up getting my first pedicure.  It was a very lovely experience, especially being pregnant with such swollen feet.  It is not something I plan to do often, but it was nice and relaxing.  While the rest of me is covered in dirt, my feet don’t look right being all pretty!

Today, Jared and Daphne helped clean the back of the car out a little more.  I hope to complete the rest of it.  We then took an adventure to Portland.  I got my hair cut by a student at the Aveda Salon.  It is nice because the services are very inexpensive, but you get great service.  I got the best hair cut of my life from a girl who spent a lot of time working and learning.  It only cost me $10.  You can’t get a cheaper haircut, that is for sure.  I definitely recommend going there for anything if you live in the area.

Jared, Daphne and I then headed to a photo shoot.  My friend Christy from Studio Christy did some maternity photos and some family photos for us.  I think that she did a fabulous job, and I can’t wait to see them.  I will definitely share them when I do.

We have been having very hot weather here.  It has been record setting.  I was just complaining about the wet, but now it is very hot.  It got to be over 90 degree here today.  The garden needed  a good watering.  My peas are growing nicely.

As are my artichokes!

The rest of the garden is catching up.  It looks barren, but the plants are growing already.

This is Daphne sleeping in her own bed tonight.  She has been going to sleep in her own room as long as she gets to sleep with a baby and read any books that she wants.

Aren’t they cute when they sleep?

Ok.  My feet are swollen to great sizes, and everyone around here is tired, so Goonight!

Butchering Day


I took the chickens to the butcher on Friday, and what a RELIEF it was.  Though I am happy to put food on the table for the family, I am not happy with the project in general.  It takes an awful lot of grain to raise a chicken from hatching to finishing.  Most of it is soy and corn that has been genetically modified.  Rabbits do not require those grains to finish (in fact they are not great for them).  People say to eat less meat to be more environmentally friendly.  Though I understand where that viewpoint comes from, I do not totally agree.  I do, however, have respect for the amount of feed that is necessary to make the flesh on the chickens.  I started with 10 birds in March, and I am surprised that I didn’t lose any of them.  The Cornish Cross birds are not at ALL a hardy breed, so I am happy that they made it through the rain and the heat and the other stresses we have had around here lately.

Chickens are easy to process yourself, but you have to have equipment and time, guts and know-how.  I have none of that.  Also, I live in a very residential setting, and my neighbors already have things to say about chickens at times.  I am not sure the reaction I would get if I set up a butcher block and picking station in my garage to process birds.  Instead, I take them to the butcher.  There is a lovely family that runs Mineral Springs Poultry in Willamina.  It is a family operation, but they do a fantastic job.  They have always been very helpful getting my animals processed (they did the goats last year), and they do a great job in every regard.  Even though I may not be the best poultry raiser in the world, they have helped me along without ever making me feel that I was doing something incorrect or wrong.  Additionally, with only a small amount of animals to do, I was happy to pay the less than $2 price tag to have the animals butchered, picked and bagged for me.  I got to play in the park with Daphne while the job as done rather than get blood all over my shirt and anger my neighbors.

I also has my 5 Chukar processed as well.  They are actually quite big, and I am excited to make a nice European meal out of these little birds.

I may, in the future, process my own birds, but in my current situation, I am happy outsourcing.

So, another project has come to a halt.  The freezer is full of lovely meat.

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The Rabbit Plan


The baby rabbits sure are getting big.  I don’t feel like they are making as many changes lately, so photographing them every other day or so seems to be working fine.  However, I do still see the changes when I photograph them.

The Angora bunnies are getting bit.  Their toenails are pretty sharp, so Daphne loves to play with them, but she often ends up with little scratches everywhere.  They go away quickly, but I feel the sharp little claws when I hold them as well.  For whatever reason, when Daphne goes to get a rabbit to play with, she only gets the white bunnies.  I am not sure if she prefers them or if those are the only ones she can see in the dark with the light off.  I much prefer it that way.

It looks like Thing 1 is a wonderful mama.  She is able to keep up with producing for all 12 of the babies.  She hops in the box no matter what time I bring it out to feed them, and she stays long enough to get them all fed.  I have not had a problem in the last few days when I checked with anyone needing more food.  Even the small and runty baby I was talking about before really started to pick up speed and can no longer be distinguished from the other rabbits.  When I brought them in from nursing today, I discovered that someone that its eyes open, so they are really starting to progress a lot.  The baby that was wounded is completely better.  I did have to spend time draining it every day, but the TLC paid off, and it is now running around with just a small scar that is working to heal.  It looks like all 12 are happy and are going to make it with no problem!

The Angora rabbits are also progressing a lot.    They have learned to hop and they can get in and out of the nesting box with no problems.  I noticed that they were trying to much on their mamas food the other day, so I gave them a little bit of pellets to chew on.  They were very happy.  So, they are starting to eat.  I put them outside with mama today during the day so that they could nurse more and so that she could be in charge of them.  If they are old enough to cause trouble, they are out of my disciplinary range.

They sure are getting cute, and they hear about it every time I talk to them.

Looking more and more like Angoras every day.

The chocolate candidate.

This is “Blaze” with the white leg (not a good thing).

I have been doing a lot of evaluation of the rabbitry lately, and I think that I have come to a conclusion of where I want to go.  This may not be the plan that works out in the next week or even in the next year, but I’ve weighed all my options and made all of my decisions.

I currently have 1 100% German Angora doe, 2 100% Californian does (these are meat rabbits), 1 ~80% Black German Angora Doe, 1 ~80% Blue German Angora Doe, a 60% Torte German Angora Buck and a Black 50% German 50% French Angora Buck.  That is a lot of information to take in, but the important thing to consider is the percentages and the breeds.

I LOVE the German Angora breed.  They are large rabbits, have lovely temperaments and they produce a very dense wool.  Since I keep them for their fiber, I like this.  My 100% German doe eats the same as the other does and produces MUCH more wool every 90 days.  Also, the German breed is a white breed, and though I do like the colors that can be gotten by crossing German and French, when all is said in done in spinning, I can dye white any color I want.  I am limited with the other colors.

I am also enjoying the idea of raising rabbits for meat animals.  There are so many benefits and so few drawbacks.  With raising meat chickens, it is a fast project, but it is a smelly project and a project that ANYONE ends up hating at the end.  The birds have been engineered over the last 50 years to grow MUCH more quickly than is healthy.  Though I do appreciate the feed conversion, I don’t appreciate how unnatural it is.  The birds are disgusting.  They don’t forage, and they die quickly from various health problems if kept longer than 12 weeks.  Though I do plan to raise a few birds once a year to have a chicken dinner here or there for my family, I do not plan to use Cornish Cross in the future.  That leaves me with the problem of having a much tougher bird that takes 2 times a long (and 2 times as much feed) for a smaller bird.  These are the drawbacks.

Rabbits are a completely different story.  Rabbits can finish to 5-6 pounds in about 8-9 weeks.  They are raised entirely by their mothers at that time.  Though the feed conversion is about half that of the Cornish Cross chickens, it is a pretty good conversion, especially considering that the babies nurse from their mother for the first 3 weeks almost exclusively.  A lot of people think that rabbit tastes a lot like chicken, some people can’t tell the difference.  It is one of the most nutritious meats available in our market.  It has more protein and less fat than any commonly eaten meat.  And yet, it is something that is disregarded by and large by mainstream America (Europe appreciates rabbit).

I bought two Californian meat rabbits last year with the intention to breed.  They are Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Now that I am in the middle of raising them, I am realizing that keeping 2 may not be necessary for my own personal meat.  Rabbits can be bred 4 times a year, and they produce average litters of about 8.  If I kept my one meat rabbit in heavy production, I would have 32 rabbits from this one doe alone.  I don’t need to double that.  As it is, 32 is enough to roast whole rabbit almost every Sunday dinner througout the year!  I have decided that I am going to sell Thing 2, and keep Thing 1 for this purpose.  Thing 1 is turning out to be a great rabbit.  She is a great mother now that she has figured out she is supposed to nurse the babies.  She instinctively had the kits in the nesting box, and they survived.  A lot of first-time moms are air-headed and have the rabbits on the wire, where they eventually die from exposure.  Though she had a very aggressive temperament (I have scars on my belly from one particular episode), she has mellowed out incredibly since having the babies.  She is definitely on my keeper list.  I am selling Thing 2 because she hasn’t produced a live litter for me yet.  She lost her first litter and did not take to being rebred.  That’s not a terrible sign, she can be bred, that just is the decision a breeder has to make.  Who has the best characteristics?

I NEEDED a mature buck very badly so that I could breed the meat rabbits before a year of age (rabbits get harder and harder to breed as they get older).   I spent almost a year looking for a meat specific buck, but I was unahppy at the thought of keeping a meat animal around simply for breeding 4 times a year. I found someone who was selling out of their Angora herd, and she had a 50% French 50% German rabbit for sale.  I bought him.  He is the daddy of both of the litters I currently have on the ground.

Angora rabbits are a dual purpose breed.  They can be used for meat and for fiber.  Though a lot of fiber people will tell you that it is horrible to butcher such a lovely creature, I tend to stand with the other breeder who believe that it is a responsible thing to cull out the rabbits only keeping and/or selling the ones that exhibit the best of the breed.  Don’t pass on characteristics that don’t help set the breed standard.  The most commonly used Angora breed for meat is the French Angora.  I was happy to use my buck (his name is Poe) to breed to the meat rabbits.  Not only will the stock exhibit excellent meat characteristics, I am not being forced to keep a meat-specific buck around who I am only feeding for his breeding ability.  This is a win-win situation.  That said, I am not planning to keep this particular buck forever.  His hair has too much guard hair in it for me, so I hope to retire him at some point and use him for fiber only.

What I would like to do is obtain a 100% German buck OR breed Daisy to a 100% German buck.  I will then be able to keep any kits from the litter that work for my purposes and sell the rest.  That would go a long way to making a start to a German herd to preserve any lines that I want and still have the wool density and the sweetness of the German Angoras.

On the meat line, I plan to find a 100% French buck that I can use to breed to the meat doe/s.  This will give me the best meat body available while still maintaining animals that produce for me as well.  As soon as Thing 1 runs out her life span, I will consider replacing her with a 100% French Angora doe and breeding her for meat purposes.  The French have coloring in them unlike the Germans, so I can also add any color to the herd that I like.

As for the other three colored animals I have, I have no plans for them.  I enjoy very much having the color around, so they will stay in the herd for my own purposes and pleasure, which is just fine with me.

Currently, this means that I need to set up an appointment to butcher the young litter I have, since they are meat rabbits.  I need to have room for them in the freezer!  That is a lot of meat produced.  I have also decided that any of the black Angoras that are not suitable for me will also go to the butcher at that time.  One of the black ones has a white foot, another has a white leg and yet another is looking like it will not be black at all.  I will keep the bunny if it is going to be chocolate colored, but anything else is undesirable at this point.  The REW (Ruby-eyed-white) babies will all be for sale, since they are looking very good in many regards right now.  I’m glad Daphne likes playing with the REW rabbits the best because they need the socialization!

Chicken Coop Clean Up


When we were still in the raining season, I would open the window (yes the window) to where the chickens are, and it definitely smelled like a chicken coop.  Because we don’t exactly have acreage here, it has been necessary to try to keep the neighbors happy.  To keep our neighborly air, I decided it was time to get out and clean the coop and the run that the laying hens hang out in.

This is a bigger project than it sounds like.  Not only am I dealing with massive amounts of chicken poop from several batches of chickens, but there is no way to get a wheel barrow into the run to clean it out.  I actually had to deconstruct the back side of the chicken coop to get a wheel barrow out far enough to get the soiled shavings out.

After I pulled out three wheelbarrows full of shavings, I spread the rest of the shavings out.  I have decided to deep litter the run, so I will just throw a new bale of shavings out into the run every month or so.  It is fairly inexpensive, and it keeps the really dirty stuff down deep so that it can decompose.  It also has the nice side effect of not upsetting the neighbors because of the smell.  As an additional bonus, I threw down a bunch of baking soda in the run so that it could work to neutralize any smell I may have dug up.

I then moved to the inside of the chicken coop and I was pulling up 2 inch thick dried chunks of chicken poop.  I think it will work well to up the nitrogen content in my compost pile, that is for sure.  Jared thinks I should find a burlap bag supplier and bag it up as compost.  I could sell a 50 pound bag of it for $10.  The truth is that I have WAY too much chicken compost now, and I sure hope that I have an easy time breaking it all down into garden material because that is what I need now, not chicken poop.

I accomplished my mission.  The neighbors should be happy and the chickens should be happy.  I look forward to the next cleaning in 3 months (please note the sarcasm).

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Sign Up Now:No Corn, No Soy Chickens


This is a fitting first post to the Oregon Natural Foods blog. We have spent the majority of the spring getting our Urban Homestead up and running. We butchered one set of chickens already (4 Cornish Cross and 4 Light Brahma). That went well, and we have a nice personal stash of chickens in the freezer. We also have 4 ducks in the freezer that I raised by hand with that batch of chickens.

Currently in the meat pen, there are 8 New Hampshire chickens that is another project. I wanted to make sure that we had raised enough chicken for the family with a little leftover to sell or to pass on as a gift. Those chickens are scheduled to be butchered August 1.

I was planning to be done with that, but an idea came to my head. I want to do an experiment that would involve raising chickens on a no corn, no soy diet. Most chickens raised these days (including the two batches I mentioned above) have been raised on soy. Chickens need at least 20% protein to thrive, and a natural source for them to get it is soy. My goal is to find no corn and no soy feed that I can feed them that will keep them above the 20% protein mark and get them big and fat enough to put on a table.

I know that it is possible because before there was commercial chicken feed, families raised chickens in the backyard with nothing more than table scraps. I believe that it can be done, and it can be done well.

So, at this time, I am taking reservations for my next batch of chickens that will be no corn, no soy fed chickens. I will be taking a $15 per chicken deposit from anyone wanting a chicken. This is a project that takes a lot of thought and a lot of work, so I want to make sure that the chickens are reserved ahead of time. The price for the chickens is $5 per pound.

Another catch to this is that the chickens will not be the standard Cornish Cross breed of chickens. I personally believe that Cornish Cross have been overly bred to such a degree that their purpose is to sit around and eat and be fat. The Cornish Cross that I butchered made me crazy because they seemed to be nothing but mindless meat drones that had no personality and that were freaks of nature in their regard to eat and be fat and serve no other purpose (not even an aesthetic purpose). I have chosen for the health of the chicken species in general to go another route. I am going to order a dual purpose breed of chickens that I can use to butcher so that I do not have to worry about supporting the Cornish Cross freak breed.

The spots are filling up fast, so get your orders in soon.

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