A lot has happened since September, since I wrote about the chickens. All the roosters went into the freezer by October 10th. Four of them I cut into pieces and froze the parts individually. Now I wish I had done most of them that way. At first I didn't know what to do with feet and necks so I left the neck on and the feet I threw away. Then I read an article "Homestead Poultry Butchering" in Backyard Poultry magazine by Harvey Ussery of http://www.themodernhomestead.us/ . This article was so incredibly useful. Step by step. Most of it I was already doing but there were those moments with each bird that were so awkward for me and this article cleared all of that up. Harvey also explained about the feet and the neck. It helped so much especially using the feet to determine if the bird had been in the hot water long enough and if the water was hot enough although I do use a thermometer for that.
That was 16 roosters. We didn't process any pullets this year. We felt that 16 roosters was plenty of food for our tiny family.
I made the most wonderful chicken stock and froze it in 2 cup containers. After making a couple of batches I think that chicken stock gets better the more you make. The first batch was so good. The second batch was so so good etc. When you are cooking you should replace water with stock in almost every recipe for a much more superior flavor.
Winter has been challenging to say the least.
November we had 7 casualties. Down to 15 pullet's and an average of 10 - 11 eggs a day I was feeling pretty good. I was able to share several dozen eggs a week. Seemed like the birds were getting along alright, though they wouldn't stay on our property.
Egg production went down from 11.71 eggs/day to 9.5.
Exactly 10 days later, I was writing on one of my blogs and turned my head towards strange movement through the window. DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I could not believe it. I raced out the back door grabbing jacket as I flew. Piles of feathers everywhere. Dogs pouncing and dashing about. I grabbed my little broom and started helling as I chased them. After they left there was just silence. Not a chicken to be seen. I went to the coop and looked in there. On top of the nesting boxes were both my buckeyes huddling together. Whew! A closer look revealed a WPR in a nesting box. I was relieved I still had at least 3. I wondered around in the yard amazed at the wreckage. It looked like a battle field. Tears were running down my cheeks. I stepped in the house for a minute to grab my phone and my smokes, (I had quit but had saved a secret stash out of fear). Behind the barn I called Mark at work and chain smoked. I told him that my chickens were all dead and that (so and so's) dogs were here earlier because I knew who's dogs they were. I told him about the 3 in the coop and while I was talking I saw a couple of chickens slowly emerging from the blackberry shrubs. I told him I would look for more while I waited for him. I found two more up by the front of the house and one I finally found stuffed up under some shrubbery by the neighbors house. Total of eight left alive. I grabbed the wheelbarrow. Together Mark and I picked up the five dead.
I was an emotional wreck after this. But that was the last time I have smoked.
We put up a fence and mended fences and will work more on that this summer. So now the chickens are neatly behind their fence and not all over the place, getting themselves into trouble and trespassing and being killed by horrible dogs.
December was snowy and dark. I had lights on in the coop and was averaging 4.2 eggs per day.
January was cold. I was concerned, moral was low. They averaged 3.8 eggs per day. One day towards the end of January I was reading a friendly blog. http://homejoys.blogspot.com/ She was asking a question to her readers about lights in the coop. I read through the answers. Some readers pointed out that turning lights on mimics the new-fangled chicken rearing methods and that many of us are endeavoring to go back in time even further than electricity in our chicken farming ways. And that for centuries chickens did very well without added light. This would also be a saving on electricity. One reader pointed out that chickens were designed to need a recoup time, such as the darkness of winter, to rebuild and conserve their energies for the strenuous task of egg laying.
So on January 24th I unplugged the light. There was only a slight drop in egg production. But that's all right. As long as my girls are getting the rest they need.
February started off with an ice storm. Anyone reading this will know about this ice storm since it pretty much covered the whole country except the very south. The girls weren't happy and haven't fully recovered from that. I did open the door for them but they stayed indoors voluntarily for several days, pulling at each others feather and pecking each others combs. Very frustrating. I started making grits for them and growing sprouts. Couldn't get enough of it. Wow, they absolutely love it. Just before the middle of the month the weather began warming up. They are the happiest chickens. Let me tell you. I put some alfalfa hay outside for them and they pull it apart and play in it and pick out seeds and grass. They are still loving the grits in their daily food. By the way I put an egg into the grits after I take it off the stove, and stir it in until it is cooked. Then I put it in a bread pan lined with wax paper and put it in the fridge. I slice and cube it when it is cold. Then I put it in a bowl and put fresh chopped garlic over it, a dollop of molasses and a little olive oil in there and about one cup of water. Stir it together. When I get to the coop, I have to hide this from them while I put two or three scoops (a scoop is a 1lb margarine container) of scratch grains in it. Stir it all up and spread it out on the outdoor ground. In the bad weather I had to spread it in the coop. But it had to be really really cold or nasty outside for that luxury. I love watching them go for that stuff. In the coop I sprinkle Black Oil sunflower seeds around and scratch. This way when they are cooped up they have something useful to do. I also started putting vitamins in the water for them like I did in the really hot summer.
This pretty much brings me up to date on the blog.