Category Archives: Chickens – Chooks

Time Management Lesson

Too many times I engage in projects which end up as time wasted. Case in point this 12×12 chicken tractor. After spending time and money on it, I’m now faced with more time wasted disassembling it. I have no intention of raising layers on pasture again and it’s too awkward to move very far and a waste of space to store it. The high quality tarp from Troyer Tarp will be stored, however, since it is a $100 item. I’m learning, albeit slowly and with the wisdom my children bestow upon me, to utilize my time more wisely.

Cheers!

tauna

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Spatchcock a Chicken?!

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Start with a fresh or frozen pastured (preferably) broiler.  Using scissors, cut out out the backbone.

 

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Cut backbone out completely – this is easier than it looks.  The WSJ recipe says to use the backbone to make broth or discard – DISCARD!  what?!  no way.  Make broth. Using it to make egg drop soup.
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Turn the bird over and smash down breaking breast bone so that the carcass lays fairly flat.

 

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Smashed and ready for rub.
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Rubbed in seasoning of 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt (i used Hebridean Sea Salt Flakes harvested from the shores of the remote Scottish Hebridean Isle of Lewis), and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
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Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet then place chicken breast side down.  The recipe i used said on medium high heat for 20 minutes, but thankfully i checked this at 12 minutes and it was a bit too brown.  Perhaps using a cast iron skillet made the difference since they hold heat so well.  Next time, i plan to use medium heat for 12 minutes.
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Place aluminum covered bricks on top of chicken to press it down.  I didn’t have any bricks covered, so my improvisation was to lay the cast iron lid upside down, then stack a couple smaller skillets on top for added weight.  Do this for both sides of the chicken.
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Using tongs, flip the chicken over and weight down again, reduce heat to medium low and cook another 15 minutes or so.  This shows needing a bit more time.
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Crispy and done all the way through, including the thick breast meats.  My family really liked it.  So easy, too!

 

Spatchcock a Chicken Recipe
Here are the original instructions as found in Wall Street Journal some years ago.

Cheers!

tauna

Grass Eating Chooks – Replication 3 – 3 days

Final three days of testing for chooks verifies eating/trampling about 3/4s of a pound of grass per chicken per day.  We’ve had about 7 inches of rain, however, on the last 6 days of testing and they really had scratched out some mud holes.  In weather like this, they really need moving more often to avoid bare spots.  Open soil not protected by forage will invariably be eroded by weather.

Mud holes scratched out by only 14 chooks in three days.
Mud holes scratched out by only 14 chooks in three days.

Egg production has stayed at 7 eggs per day.  After this trial, their grain offering will increase up to whatever they’ll clean up in a day – probably close to 3-4 lbs per day for the lot of 14 hens.

They are over two years old, so that may have something to do with decreased production as well as the constant rain and no sunshine will also cause stress.  That has certainly caused stress to all of our livestock and people as well.  However, our hearts go out to those who are flooded beyond imagination.

Next project is to build a 7 ft by 16 foot low profile chicken tractor with little wheels light enough to be pulled by hand.  Hopefully, this will take out the chore of moving all that electric netting!

Cheers!

tauna

Chooks Eating Grass – Replication 2 – 3 days

Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile.  Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs.  Day 2 egg collections:  7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs.  We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more.  However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.

More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they'll still hammer it pretty good.
More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they’ll still hammer it pretty good.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .39 of an acre.  Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 6 inches available for 1800 lbs times .39 for 702 lbs in the paddock.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .039 of an acre. Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 8 inches available for 2400 lbs/acre times .039 for 93.6 lbs in the paddock.

We  have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating.  Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing.  A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day.  In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality.  This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.

We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day.  However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes.  Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling.  Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.

How Much Grass do Chickens Eat? Replication 1 – 3days

The opportunity cost of owning land is next to nil since the government insists on stealing our savings by keeping interest rates near 0% and printing money (inflation), so the easiest way to determine the cost of the grass consumed is by using current pasture rental rates, which in north Missouri is about $60/acre.

Too many times I read (even from producers, sometimes!) that grass is free.  Whoa, Nelly!  It is not free and, in fact, the cost of grass has sharply increased due to so much of it being ploughed up to raise more corn and soybeans.  Folks, that is not sweet corn nor edible soybeans.  This is commodity, GMO crops raised to be fed to animals like cattle, chickens, pigs, fish, horses, buffalo, and even lambs and deer!

But I digress – how much grass do pastured hens eat and how does that relate to a dozen eggs?  Hopefully, these questions can be answered at least for our management style.

By measuring the amount of forage in a small paddock before the chooks are moved in and then again after they are moved out in 3 days (during the growing season, it is imperative to move stock at least every 3 days to prevent removing too much forage, however, if you need to improve the diversity, overgrazing is a good tool to use for establishment, but it must be part of the plan).  As with any research, there are variables that are hard to control.  While we will measure the amount of feed we give them and report that, there is no way of knowing how many bugs they will eat.  We plan three replications.

Trial 1 – Replication 1 – Day 1  cool, partly sunny weather (65-70F)

Trial 1; Day 1, grass is pretty mature with only about 40% red clover.
Trial 1; Day 1, grass is pretty mature with only about 40% red clover.

Day 1 – Fourteeen mature egg laying Barred Rock hens – .039 acres with mature fescue and about 40% red clover.  Estimated forage available is 4 inches times 200 lbs of grazeable feed is 800 lbs per acre or 31.2 lbs (800 x .039).  I’ll measure what is left when we move them in 3 days to obtain what they actually consume.  Chooks will mash down a fair bit, but that is okay since that will feed the soil microbes and organisms.  We are offering 1 lb of seed cleanout consisting of wheat screenings – unsprouted.  Sprouted would be better, but for this trial, we want to know how much forage they are eating out of the pasture.

Trial 1: Day 1,  Paddock size about 1680 square feet or .39 acre. There are 14 mature hens.
Trial 1: Day 1, Paddock size about 1680 square feet or .39 acre. There are 14 mature hens. Since the mature fescue stems are too lignified for anything to eat, I do not count that as part of the forage available. So, estimating 200 lbs per inch per acre.
After 3 days, the chooks are moved to fresh paddock.  Here's the residual.  About  2 inches overall or
After 3 days, the chooks are moved to fresh paddock. Here’s the residual. About 3 inches overall which is about  1/4 of what was available.  One inch then was eaten or trampled resulting in about 31 lbs utilized by 14 chooks in 3 days.

Results:  Eggs laid: Day 1: 12 eggs, Day 2: 11 eggs Day 3: 7 eggs.  Indications are that without more grain – production decreases markedly, this may not be a bad thing – pencil out the costs and needs.

Grazing equivalent:  The 14 chooks grazed in 3 days what 1 cows would grazing in one day

Bear in mind, however, the trampling/mob effect would be entirely different since cows would likely trample more and certainly put more poop in large piles which will then cover up more grass.  With so much rain, even more grass would be destroyed.  There would also be a considerable difference in mob effect with 500 or 1000 chooks vs 14 as well.  Chickens range only up to 250 feet (extreme outer limits) from their nesting boxes, so more trampling would occur due to concentration.  I would think with that many – chooks would need moving everyday vs 3 days.

Chooks will eat far more bugs than cows.

There are several differences in the grazing impact, so just comparing the potential grazing is just for fun.

Neverthess, this experiment demonstrates that no matter the species – pastures MUST BE ALLOWED ADEQUATE REST PERIODS TO IMPROVE AND ALLOW FUTURE GRAZING!  Animal movement must be controlled and their keepers must balance animal performance and pasture production effectively.

Eat ALL of Your Vegetables!

The Off Duty Wall Street article is subtitled, ”

Vegetable Scraps Go Haute: How to Cook Root to Stalk

My comment:

Interesting article – Neat how survival/frugal living/done-for-centuries lifestyles are now becoming ‘haute‘! Doesn’t everyone already do this?! Well, maybe not the fancy recipes, but food should never be wasted. Egg shells and coffee grounds make awesome soil amendments. Whatever parts of plants you simply cannot stomach can be turned into compost or fed to the chooks. Or feed all those scraps to worms which you can use to go fishing. But don’t ever let food go to waste!

and my comment posted to the article on the Wall Street Journal site:

“All the comments to the article are spot on and i can add nothing to them.  I thought most people already knew this stuff, but apparently not if the article is accurate in stating the 40% of our food produced goes to waste.  Then again, I have personally seen family members throw out a bowl of perfectly good fruit simply because one item had a soft spot on it!  I had to choke back my admonition!”

Now go cook or compost those stems!
tauna