Our days of intensive chicken-care chores are over. Every morning and every evening we've been spending about 45 minutes feeding, watering, replacing bedding, and letting the chickens out/putting them in/adjusting their windows.
First, we would get their feeders out - no easy task when they flock around your every step and bite you when you reach for their feeders. Then we would clean out the feeders, then fill them.
Then we had to get them back in, which was the craziest time of all. I've told you that we had to fake them out, pretending to set them in one place, then quickly setting them somewhere else so that chickens weren't underneath.
Once they were fed, it was time to clean and fill the waterers. They like to roost on them.
Then, if necessary and if we had enough time, we'd put down fresh hay for bedding.
Boy, I sound like I'm complaining! Really, it was a good experience. We've wanted to have animals, and it was good for the kids. But this was new for us, and I am feeling glad that now there are just a dozen future layers here - they'll be a breeze to take care of.
Today was butchering day. And a friend of mine said not to post pics, but...
I'll just show you our good set-up, nothing gory.
A plucker is an awesome thing. I wouldn't want to butcher chickens without one. Ours, so luckily, is borrowed from a relative. If you get your water to dip the dead chickens into to just the right temperature, most of the feathers come off with the plucker. It also pays to have a heater going outside for the water. We had a turkey fryer base (again borrowed) powered by a 30-pound propane tank, topped with a stock pot of water. We also had a hand-held propane torch for singeing off the pin feathers. These optional things make butchering much easier.
But it was still an all-day job for 4 adults and 3 children, with an additional adult later in the day. We're so tired. But I'm proud of my kids toughing it out; I was so squeamish as a kid that I'd hide in the house and just heat the water. Mine were a little troubled ahead of time, but they were fine with it when it was happening. And they did their parts of the labor, for the most part.
And now we have a freezer full of chickens.
They aren't all ours - we're just storing some of them for right now. But we've almost 2 dozen chickens for ourselves to eat throughout the coming year.
Will it be worth it in the end? I don't yet know how the costs came out. But it is nice to know how your meat was raised.