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Smoking a Chicken (or 2)

On our farm we raise both chickens for meat, and chickens for eggs. This means we often have to deal with roosters from the egg laying breeds and they are definitely not in the same  class as the meat birds. As a result, I most often simply keep them whole and use them for chicken stew and such.

Today I decided to try smoking a couple with different rubs to see how they turned out – here are the results.

I filled the water pan on the smoker, loaded up apple wood chips and warmed it up to about 200. While it was warming up, I rinsed the birds and coated them liberally with dry rub. I then stuck them in the smoker at 200 for 6 hrs, which was probably a bit too long, but they are so moist and juicy it all worked out great. I think the water pan is what kept this viable and helped avoid dry meat (which no one likes.)

One of the challenges with these birds is that they are generally tough and do not have a great deal of meat. The smoker made a nice difference, cooking them low and slow and breaking the meat down to a much more tender consistency. I will likely brine next time to see how that affects them, and maybe try opening them up but that is for another day. For now, it is dinner time!

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Smoking Eggs

Today I had the smoker running and decided to make some apple wood smoked eggs. They turned out well and I do love the flavor of the apple wood in the background.

I got the smoker warmed up to around 200, then added the eggs. I had a pan of water in the smoker to keep the shells from drying out too much and set the temp for 225. I let the eggs cook for about 2 hours and then opened up the smoker to cool. I would have pulled the eggs at this point, but I had my grandson in my arm, so I did not want to mess with the smoker!

Worth noting here, there are a lot of ways to smoke eggs, and many people hard boil first, or even peel them. This gives you different outcomes and require a bit more work in some cases. I simply put the eggs in raw, and let the hot smoking cook them.

The finished flavor is like a regular boiled egg, with a smoky note that is not over powering.  These pair well with a little Gentleman Jack if you are so inclined…

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Preparing for poultry shows

As a member of 4-H, my daughter is heading into fair season with great excitement to show her poultry at the local 4-H Fairs. I am also excited for her but the reality as the parent is a little more daunting. There are several things that need accomplished in order for your child to show at the fair. We at least have the basics covered, she is a 4-H member and we own chickens. woo hoo. Ok, the next part is that you need to register for the fairs in advance, have bloodwork drawn on your birds and receive the results in enough time to take those results with you as you go to the fair with your birds. The 4-H member will be judged on Showmanship and then the birds are judged on how they stand up to the Standard of Perfection.

For Pennsylvania, along with many other states, 2015 was a year when poultry shows simply did not happen. Due to the Avian Influenza, the fairs did not have poultry at the fairs so that makes this year even more fun to see the birds all return. We registered for the Northampton County 4-H Round-Up Fair. The Poultry Club leader coordinated bloodwork for all of the families to make the process simpler but also to keep track of it all. For folks with a dozen chickens, the task wasn’t big, simply do a blood draw on each bird. However on our farm, we have over 100 birds, between Bourbon Red turkeys, chickens and our 2 lone ducks. So the day came, the poultry techs arrived, put on their white suits, protective foot coverings and got to work. There was a cost for them to come out of $20, then there was the lab fees which were about that also.

Sherry and Sarah It was a hot, sweaty, sometimes bloody and often poopy job. I caught birds from various pens for a random sampling. Not all birds wanted to cooperate and Adrienne held them afterwards to soothe them, sometimes hold a paper towel to the draw area to wipe excess blood off. We didn’t want to send fresh blood into pens so some birds needed held longer than others. The Bourbon Reds definitely took longer to heal than the chickens and we did 12 of them.

Afterwards, my little 4-H member helped to clean up, sort through her birds and make final decisions about which birds would go to fair. The ones she chose were an Easter Egger (Ameraucauna crossed with a Wheaten Marans) and then her Buff Orpington hens that she received for her 9th birthday. The normal day to day routine continued up until 2 days prior to fair.

That’s when it gets hilarious. You gather your chickens in order to bathe them! Adrienne  and I got chickens for fair up to the house and used the bathtub to wash them. Outside a pen was set up in the sun for the birds to dry off and preen.

We transported the birds to fair the following day using small dog crates in the back of our pick up truck. Signing in was easy but we needed a few things also:20160806_132011

  • Pine shavings for bedding
  • Containers for food and water for each pen
  • Vaseline to shine their combs and feet
  • Baby wipes to clean up messes
  • Kitty litter scoop to take care of droppings in each pen
  • Q-tips to clean out dirt from various places
  • Fresh water was suggested to us also

I was so impressed with how Adrienne held up under pressure. This photo to the right was taken immediately following the second time she has ever shown a goat! We learned from the poultry judge that Adrienne’s Buff Orpingtons were too small in stature. They simply did not compare to the other birds in their class. Class is where each breed originally derives from. So for the Buff Orpington, they are in the English class. Another 4-H member had beautiful, large Australorps in that class as well so it was pretty easy to see why her Buffs were considered too juvenile. Lesson learned, bulk up the hens! ha!

After the show ended and we could take our birds home, we quarantined them in a pen away from the rest of ours. I did a a DE dust bath to each bird, added probiotics to their water and lots of fresh water and feed. All that travel, public commotion and  being in a confined area with other birds puts them at risk of getting sick. Just doing a little precaution is what was suggested to us and I am thankful for that.

In case you’re interested in knowing more about The American Poultry Association’s list for the Standards of Perfection for Poultry, here is a link.

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Roasting a Whole Chicken

We enjoy roasted chicken done many different ways, especially since it is so simple to prepare and yet very satisfying. Below, you will find links to a variety of sites and options to roast your bird, most of which can also be applied to cut birds as well if you do not want to roast an entire bird.

  1. A great approach and very simple one that has some great humor as well is from the Ree Drummond, AKA Pioneer Woman. She has a fantastic blog and I recommend it as a general resource as well. Her approach is a lemon and rosemary butter baste and could not be much more simple.
  2. Over at Epicurious, there is another very simple approach that is really not much more than salt and pepper – this is not a difficult process!
  3. If you are looking for a little more challenge (really just more work) then a good base to build on might be the food network example. She goes for a veggie and herb foundation to add a little depth to the roast, and it is a worthwhile approach if you have time and the ingredients.

The main thing to keep in mind is that roasting your chicken is nothing to be afraid of and there are many ways to go about it, but it can be as simple as throwing the bird in a pan in the oven with a little salt and pepper and still yield delicious results.

I have to add that once you roast your bird, I like to throw the whole carcass in the soup pot to make chicken soup by boiling off any remaining meat and goodness at a slow simmer for a day. You can build on the soup base to your liking, but it is always a hit in our home.