Trials And Tribulations Of Suburban Meat Bird Production

Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
Well we got hungry and couldn't wait the full 72 hours. we decided to put'r in the oven after 48 hours of brining and wow, we were not disappointed! this was the tastiest, juiciest chicken we've ever made. the brine mixture really did something special, I used this recipe:
to 4 quarts water, I added
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 carrot, peeled, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled, diced
  • 1/8 cup diced celery
  • 1 large sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • then chilled for 48 hours in the fridge.
For backing, I like using a cast iron pot/dutch oven, leaving the lid open slightly, with the oven in convection mode. for the rub I zest a lemon, add the zest in a bowl to a few teaspoons of salt, simply organic chicken seasoning, minced/pressed garlic and enough olive oil to make it stick to the chicken (aprox a couple tablespoons). I place the lemon that I zested in a pot and boil it for five minutes, then as I place it into the cavity of the bird, I poke holes in it to let the lemon juice out on the way in, I do this right before placing it into a preheated over at 350 f for two hours, basting with the juices a couple of times toward the end and remove the lid the last 10 minutes or so until browned. I have tried a lot of ways to bake chickens over the years and this combination of brining and backing is by far the best for juicy, tender chicken, it only makes it that much better that it is one that we grew ourselves!

 
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Lookin4GoodLife

Songster
6 Years
Oct 20, 2013
292
121
172
Georgia
That's awesome Birdinhand! Glad you came in under your cost expectations. I'm sure it'll only get better as you raise more and more batches. Looks might tasty too. :)
 

Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
I've been doing some research on ways to speed up the composting process now that I have a small mountain of chicken manure to process and I've decided to give the Jora composting tumbler a try. It's insulated and brings the temp up to 165 F, hot enough to compost meat and weed seeds, resulting in a fairly sterile and rich compost. I am not sure how to loud video's, so you'll have to put up with just a picture for now. As you can see, it rotates on an axle, making it very easy to turn. after reading up on composting in the old classic Rodale's composting guide, I balked at the recommendation to turn one's compost daily... for several months. that's a lot of work and I prefer to get my exercise through other means. the jora composter is the best overall design I've seen. most composting tumblers seem pretty gimmicky but this one has gotten excellent reviews from folks who actually garden and have a need to use the compost that they make. the air vents on the side allow the air to mix as it is turned. the handles are quite sturdy and much of it is made of stainless steel. the best deal including shipping that I could find was on hayneedle. Within 12 hours of loading the two compartments, it was already over 100 F. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the compost turns out. it reduces the compost time down to 3-6 weeks instead of several months and it's high enough off the ground to put a container under it for unloading.

 
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Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
Well, the freezer is getting low so I decided to visit Jenks web site and order up some more cob 500 cornish cross. they arrived this morning to the post office. my kids got up early and made me take them to the post office before it even opened and luckily we found a generous employee who went and found our shipment of 37 little peepers. they are so darn cute. We love our chicks while they are with us, give them the best life we can give them and provide the most caring and humane dispatch. I will be posting a progression of pictures over the next 60 days leading up to harvest, if it's anything like last year, it's going to be another wild ride! I made some upgrades to the brooding area in the coop and got it all dialed in the day before they arrived, so far, they have settled in nicely to their new home. I decided to start a little early this year because last year it got hot way early here and we ended up with a fly problem that was a bugger for us and the neighbors, so this year I'm hoping an early start will result in an easier go of it. I am so glad that I read a while back to just start them outside no matter what time of year it is, they really do better with the fresh air and more space than I could provide inside the house, plus I don't have to deal with all that dander! I did close up the sides of the coop where they are so there is no direct draft. so far, so good!! here are a few cutie photos:


 

AkChris

Chirping
5 Years
May 20, 2014
95
47
94
SE Alaska
Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to following along again. I too brood my chicks outside. I have an unheated shed they stay in. Its draft free and close enough to the house to run an extension cord for heat. I start mine a bit later in the spring when outside temps are warmer. Where I am in SE Alaska we don't have to worry about summer heat. I've done Freedom Rangers mostly as I want mine to be able to forage a bit. I actually looked at ordering from Jenks and if their Cornish cross are a bit more able to forage I just might have to give them a go.
 

Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to following along again. I too brood my chicks outside. I have an unheated shed they stay in. Its draft free and close enough to the house to run an extension cord for heat. I start mine a bit later in the spring when outside temps are warmer. Where I am in SE Alaska we don't have to worry about summer heat. I've done Freedom Rangers mostly as I want mine to be able to forage a bit. I actually looked at ordering from Jenks and if their Cornish cross are a bit more able to forage I just might have to give them a go.
I've seen video of people free ranging cornish cross. if any strain can do it, it's would be the cobb 500, they are plucky. they dick around, hop and jump and frolick... and grow, really fast! In one week, they are double the size of the layer chicks I threw in with them for the first couple of weeks. brooding outside works so much better, I'm not exactly sure why, it's counter intuitive but out of 45 birds (including my layer chicks) I have not lost one.
 

Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
so here are some pics at the end of week one. I really feel good about the way I dialed things in this year, everyone is happy, eating and GROWING! I decided to add some layer chicks since I had the brooder going but I'm going to have to separate them in a few days when I switch from the chick formula to the grower and start the cob 500 on their 12 hour on, 12 hour off regime. you can see in the first picture here just how much faster these guys grow than layers. they are all hatched on the same day and already the cornish cross are much larger. I love how sweet these guys are, they are some of the kindest chicks. I know, I'm going to eat them but that doesn't mean I can't give them a great life and enjoy their energy while they are with us! at this point, given that we live in suburbia and housing this many chicks is challenging, I see no advantage to going with freedom rangers other than taste. the speed at which I can get the spring grow out done and into the freezer before the heat and flies start up really is ideal for me in this setting of close neighbors.



I do keep an eye on my layers, always looking for signs of stress since their brooder mates are so much more ravenous but so far they are feathering out and growing and eathing and drinking just fine with no infighting so I'm going to keep them together for a while longer. it's kind of amazing to watch the cornish cross take off compared to the others. I'm feeding scratch and peck organic feed.



the cobb 500 are robust, active and alert and they stay that way right up to about week 7 or so, where their weight finally starts slowing them down. if last year is a good measure, I expect these guys to top out about between 5-7 lbs dressed by week 8. for how much they eat and grow, they are remarkably calm and sweet. they will come right up to us and hang out.

In preparation for the April harvest, I'm starting to re-read my manual on building a Whizbang Chicken plucker, thinking about how to terrace a few work stations out of the hill side going down the side of my house. with this many chicks this year, I don't want to have to rely on the drill bit style plucker I borrowed last year, it was hard on my wrist, took off some of the skin and left some of the quills behind which I had to remove one by one before cooking over the last year. Harbor Freight has a good electric motor for it and I will probably pony up and buy the main mechanical parts directly from the guy who wrote the manual. truth be told, the title "Anyone Can Build a Whizban Chicken Plucker" feels a little misleading, it's involved and sourcing all the parts is not super easy, but compared to the cost of a similar professional chicken plucker, it's a deal! I'll post pictures of the build and feedback on how I like the design. I'm looking forward to quick and thorough plucking this year! http://whizbangplucker.blogspot.com/
 

Lookin4GoodLife

Songster
6 Years
Oct 20, 2013
292
121
172
Georgia
I was planning on buying the book and building my own as well, but after looking at the cost of the parts, I'm not so sure now. There are several pluckers on Amazon in the $500 - $700 range now with pretty good reviews, so I'm wondering if that is the way I should go.
 

ejcrist

Songster
Oct 16, 2015
890
186
121
Desert Hills, AZ
I was planning on buying the book and building my own as well, but after looking at the cost of the parts, I'm not so sure now. There are several pluckers on Amazon in the $500 - $700 range now with pretty good reviews, so I'm wondering if that is the way I should go.
Thanks for sharing all the info. I got the Yardbird plucker and like it a lot. Initially I was thinking to get the Featherman but we just don't do enough birds to justify the cost yet. We probably have a big BBQ/butchering party about once per quarter and will process anywhere from 30-50, and a lot of times me and my wife only process a couple here and there. So far the Yardbird has worked extremely well and is easy to setup and clean/put away.

We also like the Cornish X's for their feed conversion ratio, tenderness, and easy processing qualities. At the suggestion of another person on the forums here we're doing a small run of Naked Necks which were also originally bred as meat birds too, and a lot of people have said they are extremely good. On the plus side they're easy to raise, easy to pluck since they only have about 40% of the feathering of regular birds, and they have no health issues at all. They do take longer to grow out of course but I'm looking forward to our first BBQ of them this coming Sunday. Down the road you might want to try a couple and see how you like 'em. I know so far I've been really impressed with how well they fill out since they convert most protein to muscle instead of feathers like most birds. Just wanted to mention all that in case you hadn't considered them.
 

Birdinhand

Crowing
May 23, 2016
1,100
1,649
267
Pacific Northwest
I was planning on buying the book and building my own as well, but after looking at the cost of the parts, I'm not so sure now. There are several pluckers on Amazon in the $500 - $700 range now with pretty good reviews, so I'm wondering if that is the way I should go.
yeah, it's a sizable investment for sure, which is why I haven't made one yet. my neighbor has a in on dryer/washer motors from junkers, we were tempted to wing it and see what we could do on the cheap. the whizbang can handle turkeys or multiple chickens and is pretty beefy and frankly, it's probably overkill for my one to two time a year operation but from what I can tell it's designed to last a long time and since I'd be making it myself, I's no how to service it. then there is the iffy reality of running lots of water next to a powerful electric motor with kids running around, it seems a little sketchy. then a few hours ago I ran across this video of a guy who made a hand powered one and it got me thinking. with a bit of ballast, like a concrete filled bike tire and an actual handle, maybe my best bet is making one like this one but going through the trouble to improve upon it enough to make it more workable.
 
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