Four months have passed since I wrote Part 1 of this story — in which I recounted details about the farming lessons and ventures I’d embarked upon with the help of my friend Tiffany. This second post finds me just a little more seasoned, but still with much to learn.
I’ve now milked both of Tiffany’s Nubian goats (Cookie and Jammer), giving Tiffany an occasional break from — or at least some company during — this twice-daily chore. My speed (slow!) still leaves much to be desired, but I’m getting the hang of it.
And in mid-November, we harvested the Splash Orpington meat chickens we’d started in the spring, processing not only the birds, but also our thoughts about the results and what we might do differently next time.
On November 17, we gathered at Tiffany’s neighbors’ farm to harvest our birds. The neighbors had kindly invited us to use their amazing set-up, complete with a motorized plucker and stainless-steel butchering table.
We were down a few Splash Orpingtons from the 11 I mentioned in my previous post. The sweltering summer heat had taken out two (including the female of Tiffany’s breeding pair), and a hawk had snatched another two. But Tiffany added a few other birds from her flock — including some Copper Marans and a couple of roosters — to boost our production during the harvest.
The harvesters included Tiffany and her husband, Aric; Tiffany’s brother Chris; my husband, Shawn; and me. Shawn and I were newbies, but the others were a precision team who brought us right along. It took about three hours to move 11 birds (one at a time) from the killing cone/drainage pail to a quick dunk in a pot of hot water to the plucking stage (both motorized and manual) to the butchering table and, finally, into plastic zipper bags and a cooler packed with ice.
Return on Investment
We were a little surprised by the small size of several of the birds. Three weighed in at less than 3 pounds; their prolific plumage was disappointingly deceptive!. But the others ranged from 3 to 5 pounds each, which helped make up some ground when it came to the cost per pound, which we determined to be about $6.90.
Not great, but not a disaster, either — especially considering we were pleased with the non-GMO feed they’d eaten and the free-range conditions in which they’d been raised.
Tiffany is pondering a higher-protein feed for the next batch of birds to possibly plump them up a bit more, and she’s considering other breeds that are known for more bulk.
For now, we each have a freezer full of chicken to feed our families for at least a little while. To save freezer space, I roasted four of my chickens right away, deboning the carcasses and saving them for stock while storing the meat more efficiently.
The largest bird takes the place of a turkey on our Thanksgiving table this year — a symbol of gratitude for the farming experience we’ve gleaned with a little (OK, a lot of) help from our friends.
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