Meat Birds…so gross!

We have only been raising meat birds for 4 weeks now and I already wish we were done. There is only 1 way to describe meat birds, GROSS!!!! I guess you can also say they are unnatural and an abomination but thats too heartless for me. We got 10 Red Rangers 4 weeks ago and at first we thought they were so cute! For the first couple days they were like any other chicks, cute and cuddly but a little bigger than normal chicks. After the first couple days, thats when the poop and constant eating started. The poop had the smell of adult chicken poo, so out to the garage they went. They really started growing fast, by 1 week old they were 8oz each. At 1 week we also had our first loss, the smallest of the rangers we believe got suffocated at the bottom of the pile while they were sleeping. Lesson 1, make sure they have enough heat to spread out otherwise they will sleep in a big pile and possibly kill the ones on the bottom. We had been using 1 Brinsea brooder heater but that wasn’t big enough, so we added a second so they could all spread out.

The next week went smoothly so we purchased 6 Cornish Cross that were 4 weeks old. This was were we made the mistake. Cornish Cross are much different than Red Rangers, the Rangers move around more, scratch around and look for food more. Cornish sit around the food and eat all day long. After researching we decided to take food away at night because they would do nothing but eat. So they get 12 hours with food and 12 hours without. We weighed the Cornish when they arrived at 4 weeks old and they were 3.5lbs. Each week they have gained at least a pound. Those 6 birds started with eating about 2lbs of food a day and have increased to over 4lbs everyday. Cornish Cross grow unnaturally fast, you have these 6 week old chickens that look almost full grown, but peep like chicks. They eat so much and poop so much but don’t move around much so they are always dirty. At just 6 weeks, some of the Cornish are already struggling to walk because their legs can barely hold up their weight. Its really sad to watch to be honest. Lastly, they don’t grow feathers like you would expect, at 6 weeks old they are still half naked. I was hoping to have them outside but with our cold temps thats just not possible, basically Cornish Cross really should only be raised in the summer around Washington state. So my thoughts on raising Cornish Cross again is that I would rather raise more Rangers for a longer period of time than go through this bizarre experience of these odd human created breed of chicken thats just wrong.

Back to the little Rangers, they are 4 weeks now and growing about twice as fast as egg laying chickens. They are pretty heavy for 4 weeks and eat a lot of food, but they are still pretty active and will look around for food and eat fodder when provided. So far they seem like a little more natural for raising for meat, they still behave like chickens despite being larger. The only thing with all meat birds is that brooder cleaning is much more frequent with these giant birds, so stock up on shavings.

This weekend we will be processing the Cornish Cross and I will update the blog after its finished with how the whole experience went. We have processed plenty of roosters before, but they have been so small that Ive just breasted them out and removed the legs, so we will hopefully have plenty of roasters for the freezer.

UPDATE!!

Ok so now I can officially say this, I am never going to raise Cornish Cross chickens again. Its not just that it was gross for the 2.5 weeks but it was actually really sad in the end. The Nuggets as well called them could barely walk by 6.5 weeks old, even with all the space and attempts at getting them moving.

First lets talk about the stats because they are exciting. Ok so these Nuggets were 6.5 weeks old, we got them at 4 weeks and during the 2.5 weeks they were here they ate 30lbs of meat bird feed. Live weight totaled 30lb 1oz and post processing weight was 20lb 4oz so with the cost to purchase and the cost of feed we only paid $2.25 per pound of chicken meat! Yay that part is exciting!

Now for the sad reasons I won’t raise Cornish again. As stated before, most of them could hardly walk by the time we were ready to butcher them. Of the 6, 2 of them had a large amount of fluid around the heart which is an indication of Ascites or Congestive Heart Failure, these 2 didn’t have fluid in their bellies yet but it would have happened very soon. One of the hens had a very bad case of Ascites, the belly was filled with fluid, the heart also had a fluid sack. So basically at only 6.5 weeks old half of the Cornish were suffering from congestive heart failure. These 3 were also the smallest of the chickens but based on my experience with Ascites, they wouldn’t have lived much longer so it was best we butchered them now. The biggest Cornish was the top rooster and he weighed 5lbs 11oz, dressed out at 4lbs 11oz. The smallest hen weighed 4lbs 4oz, breasted out and removed just the legs and wings at 2lbs 2oz. So a pretty big difference between the healthiest and the hen suffering from congestive heart failure. Another really upsetting thing we experienced that was all new to us during the actually butchering process was the dislocating of the wings. Typically after Micah chops the head off the chicken, we hang them to bleed out, however the Cornish flap and thrash around so severely that the wings dislocated on 5 of the 6 Cornish. If we had known about this we would have used the cone method. Now the plucking process was very fast but their skin is very thin so it ripped much easier. So be careful!

So we learned a lot so far but we still have more to learn,

Nicole

Healing your animals at home

Many times I’ve been messaged about sick or hurt chickens and ducks, I’m always willing to do anything I can to help with saving animals. When I began keeping chickens, I set up a first aid kit and its ready to go at a moments notice. Since we have so many animals we have had to deal with a wide range of illnesses and a couple injuries. If you are going to keep animals then having a kit ready to go before hand is critical, it can be the difference between life or death.

Here’s my list of must haves:

Electrolytes, Probiotics, Nutri-drench, VetRx, Neosporin, No Pick (Blue Kote), Bandages, Scissors, Tweezers, Vetricyn, Coconut Oil, Vaseline

From Moonlight Mile Herb Farm: First Step Tonic, Worm Balancer, Bumblefoot remedy, Bug eraser spray, Ultimate Garlic Fusion

So those are the things I always have on hand for any emergency. Over the last year we have gotten away from using antibiotics and commercial dewormers in favor for more organic and natural ways of healing. When I began asking questions and doing the research I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm and their line of poultry products. Since I began using the products I haven’t had to use the commercial products once…knock on wood. Many of the products I used previously now require a vet prescription, so finding a natural alternative wasn’t just something I wanted but it was necessary.

When brining home baby chicks, electrolytes, No pick and Vetricyn are your most critical items. We brought home our first set of chicks, were so excited with these little fluffy butts that we never thought they could hurt a fly. We were so wrong!  The reason I say Vetricyn and No pick is because the chicks will clean and peck at each other and sometimes it causes mini ouchies. Within a day of having our chicks home, one had a boo boo under her eye. But Vetricyn is great because it can be sprayed in the eyes, it can be used on any wounds for any animal and it speeds healing. No pick is smelly and tastes terrible so when a chick tries to pick at a wound it will taste bad so they won’t try to do that again. Its really great for big chickens too because they are really attracted to red, so blood turns them into little sharks when blood is in the water, but a mouth full of No pick will send them running. Electrolytes are needed because the hatching process is so taxing on their little bodies, then depending on where you get them from they could have gone through shipping, then moving into a big pen, then being taken out of pen and going to their new home. Basically the first few days of life is hard, so electrolytes help them get back up to strength faster.

Probiotics are great for gut health, a healthy gut also means hens are able to make eggs more effectively and fight off other problems better too. Nutri-drench has saved many birds over the years, I have found that the high dose vitamins will help to prolong the life of an ailing bird giving me the time needed to diagnose and treat a sick bird. VetRx is a natural remedy for respiratory issues, it can be used in a diffuser or dropped right above the nostrils.

Where I live we have a lot of crows. In some ways crows are beneficial, they are great for chasing away hawks and eagles, but often times they are just menaces to the farm. I suspect the crows have brought scaly leg mites onto my farm so we have had to do many scaly leg treatments. Luckily its very easy to take care of. When I see that a hen needs scaly leg treatment I begin with a nice foot soak in the sink with a little dawn soap, if there are scales that can be easily removed without causing bleeding then I will rub on them till they fall off. After a soak then I dry the legs, cover them in coconut oil to smother the mites and after that I cover the entire leg and toes in vaseline to aid in the healing of the scales. Like I said, its pretty easy to take care the issue but sadly it spreads through the whole flock so you have to treat everyone to fully eliminate them.

I always pray that nothing will happen physically to my birds, but there are always risks when free ranging. I’ve been lucky to not have any major physical injures however I have treated many local friends chickens and ducks. Chickens and ducks are incredibly resilient to injuries, I have seen some miraculous recoveries but the number one rule for me when I see injuries or really bad prolapses is what would be best for the animal. Do they have a real shot at recovery or will they be in too much pain to recover. If i think they will be able to recover and return to a normal life I will do everything in my power to help them. First thing when there is a wound is to clean the wound, usually I wash the wound area and cut away feathers that obstruct the view to ensure that all the dirt is cleaned. Most cases aren’t in need of stitches because chickens and ducks regrow their meat and skin very fast. As long as the wound is only a flesh wound then I will spray with Vetricyn allow to dry and then coat with Neosporin, not only because it aids in fast healing but the Neosporin makes bandages not stick to the wound. Depending on the severity I do always try to cover the wounds because getting sand, dirt and potentially flies laying eggs in the wound which leads to fly strike, so keeping hurt hens clean, covered, indoors and quiet are very important to healing. I repeat the wound treatment daily until new skin has grown, once they have enough feathers to cover the area and no open wounds, they can return to the flock.

Finally lets talk about natural treatments! I found Moonlight Mile Herb Farm about a year ago and have loved every product I’ve ordered. I use the Worm Balancer once a month for a couple days as a preventative treatment and since I began doing this I haven’t had a worm overload, prior to using the preventative I would have to deworm in the spring and fall and throw away eggs for 2 weeks every time and there were always evidence of worm overload in the poo. When I adopted my new silkies a year ago they all were infested with lice, chicken lice is so disgusting but never fear its not the same as human lice so we can’t catch it from them. I gave all 5 of them a bath with dawn, dried them and sprayed them down with the bug eraser every few days for a couple weeks, and guess what, all the lice were gone! I also can spray the coops with the spray and it doesn’t hurt anyone. In our 3 years we have only had 1 hen come down with a bumble foot infection, prior to finding the moonlight bumble foot remedy, I would have had to do surgery on the hens foot and remove the infection, however with the bumble foot remedy all I had to do was put a drop on the infection and then a drop in her mouth everyday, 2 weeks later the infection was gone! Surgery can be very stressful on a hen, plus she will need to be separated from the flock and her foot wrapped and then you have to treat the foot like a wound and it can take several days of wound treatment to make sure that she is healed before going outside again, I don’t know about you but if there is something I can do thats easier and less stressful for the hen then I’m going to do it. The Ultimate Garlic Fusion and the First Step Tonic are immune boosters. I use the Ultimate Garlic Fusion once every couple weeks for an immune boost for the hens and the First Step Tonic I’m using for the first time in all my brooders, its an immune boost, helps keep cocci and other parasites away, assists with healthy nutritional supplement. So far my babies are doing great, healthy and no signs of cocci.

I’ve been working hard at transferring everything over to natural remedies, prevention and healing. I am loving all my new products and believe in them 100%.

All for now, but if you have any specific questions about treatments and healing birds please let me know!

Nicole

Its a new year on the Old McDavis Farm!

Its been a year that I have been away from our blog and a lot has happened, we have changed a lot and been through a lot. My goal moving forward will be to post weekly what we are doing, changing and learning. The 2016 year was a hard year on my family, we didn’t do much growing of our farm, only maintaining because I was going through several medical issues and as a family we were dealing with several difficult losses. But it is a new year and we have started fresh. I will be writing lots of new blogs with some new ideas and how we have changed the way we are doing things. But first I want to thank you for reading my farm blog and update you on all the new things happening.

Up until summer of 2016 we had a dozen or so large fowl chickens, a small flock of ducks, 2 baby goats and a small flock of silkies, along with some cats and dogs. Well, we have grown quite a bit. Our large fowl flock has grown to 19 with more eggs in the incubator now, primarily focusing on Swedish Flower Hens and colorful egg breeds. Our duck flock grew to 12 mostly Ancona as we found a beautiful genetic line to add 2 drakes from and we hatched out 6 new females from our own lines. We still have our 2 domestic mallards for slug control in the front yard, however they may be hatching some more Anconas for us this year. Our goats Sage and Clover are now 14 months old and we are patiently waiting to find out if their mating session last week was successful, and we have a beautiful little girl we are adopting next month after she kids her first babies. Our Silkie flock grew to 10 last summer along with our Swedish Flower hen special needs gal, our colors now include white, buff, porcelain, cuckoo, black and splash. Chloe’s Serama flock recently grew to 5, 3 are frizzled Seramas. Stu the Angora rabbit got the snuffles last summer and we assisted him over the rainbow bridge in September after a long and painful fight to heal his body. We have been without a farm rabbit since then however we are welcoming a new baby girl Angora next month which we are so excited about because she looks so much like Stu, we are accepting name ideas on our Facebook page so check that out.  www.facebook.com/theoldmcdavisfarm  We have entered the world of Quail raising, we thought we would just start with a couple adults however when a friend hatched out a bunch of babies we jumped at the chance to raise some from hatching so instead of the 2 , we actually ended up with 8. Our first order of Red Ranger meat birds arrived a week ago and its already been an all new monster of chicken raising. Indoors we have grown a bit too. We started a Saltwater fish tank in order to adopt my dads 8 and 6 year old Clown fish. We began to rescue unwanted Cockatiels and ended up with 2 girls and 2 boys who keep trying to hatch babies, possibly something for us to consider allowing them to try in the future.

As you can see, things are changing and growing around here. I’m planning to discuss many things on our blog, some of the things you can look forward to me writing about include: our first trial of raising meat birds, raising quail, preparing for our goats kidding and what happens after, building new coops, a more natural way of raising birds, our whole truth about starting a saltwater fish tank, angora rabbits and why they are the most awesome breed ever, building a new glass greenhouse, how we build things out of repurposed materials, growing barley to feed animals, growing our vegetable garden organically, the good bad and ugly of beginning to homeschool and of course all the baby animals we hatch and raise. So thank you for returning after such a long break.

-Nicole