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!

Herdsire

We first chose our three Nigerian Dwarf female goats, called does, from a local woman selling hers. Sushi, the mother goat, and her two doelings came to us all together. I knew we wanted milk so would need to breed the females in order to begin that process. The hunt for a male was similar to our earlier search in that we looked at online Facebook goat groups, livestock ads in the paper and Craigslist ads also. We found our Herdsire on a Craigslist ad from Narrow Way Farm which is about an hour away from us.

After doing research on how to disbud, or remove the horns, on a young goat, I knew that vet care to do that would get expensive quickly. We want to use the goats for show which means that they may not have horns. It is also safer for me when handling the goats for their care and milking to not have the horns to contend with. Thankfully the O’Keefe family had begun the process of creating a herd with the genetics that carry goats that are polled, naturally born without horns.

We visited one time when the baby goats were 4 weeks old and chose our m20150425_171601ale from the few that they had available. Jim quickly became the obvious favorite as the babies climbed all over him. The buckling that we chose was a polled, blue-eyed, almost entirely white ball of goat energy. He had characteristics that we wanted. The ability to have his offspring not have horns, blue eyes and he carries black and brown on his predominantly white self. The herd was tested clean for diseases common in goats, the goats were fully registerable and the family selling him had similar goals like us. It felt like a really great match.

Some of the information that I learned was gathered from books and websites, A few of my favorites are specific to Nigerian Dwarf goat colors and other are about Dairy goats, which Nigerian Dwarf are.

Now that Mattis is almost 2 years old, I can look back and say that he is really doing an excellent job being our Herdsire. He is a stinky buck but that’s his job. He knows how to put on the stink to impress his ladies. Is that a bit much? Mattis earned his name from a living legend, USMC General James Mattis. My husband Jim is a USMC veteran and proudly names all our males by either Marine or Army leaders. In our pasture we have 2 wethers, castrated males, named after Army Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur.

He was such a cute boy when we first brought 20150513_155648him home. The girls beat up on him a bit, but we fed him separately and made sure that he was ok during that transition time. Mattis quickly outgrew that collar!

 

 

If we look at how are the genetics doing, then I think I would admit to needing to do a better job of keeping record of who is polled and who is not. Lessons for me to employ for 2017. Just looking at the chart I quickly did, I would say that it has been worth it to find a polled buck.

2 polled boys
2 polled girls
2 polled girls
3 female -1 polled, 1 horned, 1 still

I look forward to seeing the many colors and combinations that happen for each kidding season!

Below is Dalai, Mattis and his two sons, Dwight and Doug wondering why Tommy is keeping the gate closed.

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Jowl Bacon and Sauteed Spinach

I do love Jowl Bacon – when ordering a pig, I highly recommend you specify some Jowl Bacon for yourself. I think the pairing of the bacon and spinach is about perfect and for this recipe, I added a bit of garlic and onion for the saute and then a bit of chicken broth to give it a little bit of soup to make a nice finish.

What you need on hand:

  1. Pan to cook in – I like a stir fry pan and lid but most any medium / large pan will do.
  2. Bag of spinach – cooking spinach is the most economical, but you can use most any type.
  3. Jowl bacon or your favorite type of bacon. Smoked gives it more depth if you are into that. 🙂
  4. Salt – kosher, coarse if you have it.
  5. A few cloves of garlic or crushed garlic, whatever you have on hand
  6. An onion or so, depending on taste. A large sweet, or a regular cooking onion. Really it is about what you like.
  7. Some soup stock (1/4 cup or so) you can substitute bullion, powdered soup base with water, etc…
  8. Fire & Water + Patience and a sharp knife and cutting board.

 

Start with a stir fry pan if you have one, and if not, a large sauce pan that you can cover. Slice up a generous portion of the bacon into small pieces.

Throw the bacon into the preheated pan and fry it up on medium heat while you dice up some onion and fresh garlic to taste.  Once the bacon has reduced and is almost done, drain the grease into a jar for use later. Throw in the garlic and onion and stir it a bit while the onions caramelize a bit – this is also a good time to toss in a few pinches (or to taste) of coarse salt. I like Kosher or sea salt.

Once the onions are caramelized and looking ready to eat, toss in as much spinach as you can fit into the pan. You can see from the photo I pile it high as it wilts down when you cook it. Cover and let it steam for a few on low heat. Toss in about 1/4 or so cup of water or chicken stock when you do this to help steam the spinach. Most of the liquid will cook off but it will also help flavor the spinach. I like to use a spoon or two of the dry chicken soup base here.

As the spinach starts to cook down, start tossing it a bit to keep it cooking evenly. Once it is reduced as you see in the photos, plate (or bowl) it and enjoy!

 

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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Trimming hooves

Part of goat care includes trimming their hooves. It doesn’t sound like a big to do until you add in the fact that most goats see this as a type of torture to be avoided at all cost. I have attempted trimming hooves in a variety of manners. They include coaxing them gently to their shed and then tackling them in a corner while they scream for mercy while I chop away at their dirty little feet. Or you can also try to get them across your lap and use your legs to scissor them to avoid their wriggling so you can do the job without cutting you or them. No really.

The most effective way has been restraining them in the milking stand while I use my body to help steady them and pull one hoof up at a time with good lighting to see the little crevices and areas needing trimmed.


A few words of advice:goat hoof trim diagram

Trimming after they’ve been on a damp or wet pasture for a few days to soften things up is much easier than if they are in dry conditions all the time.

Study what you should be trimming or watch Youtube videos to help you get comfortable with the process.

Use a sharp trimmer to avoid needing to go back over the same places repeatedly.

Leave a flat surface when you’ve finished.

Good lighting is key. Dusk and dawn are bad times for this task unless you have electric in your barn.

Cursing neither improves nor impedes the process. Do what you have to do.

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Give them a bit of grain or a treat to occupy them while you work away at their hooves. In my case I am trimming Nigerian Dwarf, so they have a daintier, but no less difficult hoof.

My girls do not enjoy the process but seem to tolerate it much better with a bit of grain, pressure from me against their nursery wall and the use of a sharp trimmer that accomplishes the task quickly. 

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Keep the hand holding the hoof steady pulled back far enough so that you do not nick your knuckles while trimming.

Other goats may wish to help.

Green Shadow to the Rescue!

So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.

Across the street from us, our neighbor owns Green Shadow tree service, so  I walked over to ask Chuck  about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.

This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.

green shadow chipperIf anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.

 

Goats in a nesting box

Our Nigerian Dwarf buck was locked in the barn, and decided to demonstrate his dominance of the space by taking over the turkey nesting boxes. For some reason, the nice straw on the floor was unacceptable, he had to take over the top of the box, so he could see across the barn while napping. I am surprised at how agile this guy is! He can jump walls, spools, fences and pretty much any other obstacle under six feet high, which considering how small he is, makes quite a sight.

goat on turkey brooder

His agility was on display to full effect when the females went into their first heat after the babies were born, and he and Patton broke into the barn by headbutting the large door relentlessly until thy got an opening. He hit the nursery wall at a full gallop and cleared the wall with room to spare, with one objective (or 3 really I guess, since I am not sure he was feeling picky about which girl, just A girl).  I happened to be standing next to the pen in conversation with my wife at that moment, and caught the poor guy in mid air (thrust).

He was not a happy goat when he realized he was making sweet goaty love to thin air while suspended in my arm over the pen. It took him a few air thrusts to figure out he was foiled, and boy did he complain! His tenacity paid off for him in the end as he did manage to sneak past us eventually and get to his girls. We will have to work out a better confinement plan next cycle.

Chalk that one up to yet another of the many continuous lessons we are learning here.

Goat Kidding

We have had several births this year, our first full year of raising goats. We have a post about preparing for kidding, but we were hoping we were truly prepared. While our first two mommas gave birth during the night, the last one was a mid day affair, and it turned out to be a very good thing!

sashimi in labor

Sashimi, on the left in labor, is being attended to by her mom and her sister. It was very cool to see how they wanted to keep an eye on her and seemed to be encouraging her in the process. At this point in the deliver, I was not too worried, and feeling pretty relaxed about being a labor and delivery nurse for a goat.

sashimi - baby crowning

When the baby started to come out, we (my bride – Mrs. Blue Barnyard) realized there was a problem. She said the head and hoof were not lined up correctly and she needed to “go in” and fix things. Ok – so now I am not feeling so good about the whole goat nurse thing. I was convinced that nature was cool and would handle it, but she said it was time to glove up and help her out! I held the goat and kept saying nice soothing things to her to calm her down, at least that was my intent.

new baby

After the intervention, things went smoothly and a little beauty was born. Momma took care of her and it was pretty amazing to witness. Later, after speaking with our vet and describing the process, he confirmed that if Jess had not intervened, we would have likely lost the mom and both of her twin babies. I was quite proud of all the research and the cool calm and collected way she handled this.

baby-momma-grandma

This photo shows our youngest girl, her new momma and her grandma, all in one picture. It is so neat to see them all care for each other!

baby and roo

Adrienne was the assistant nurse with me, and was helping care for the babies through the process.

Dust bathing and fires

project-dustbath-buffDespite the dramatic headline, this has nothing to do with dust bathing causing fires. The relationship is all in the re-use. We heat our home with wood and collect the fireplace ash to use in the barn for making dust baths for the birds. The enjoy the ash and combined with a little sand, it is a great way for them to clean themselves and keep the biting pests at bay.

Here you can see Gladys, one of our Buffs enjoying one of the pans we set out for them. There is a line waiting for the bath! It is funny to see chickens line up to take turns, and they seem to do it on a regular basis for baths and nesting boxes, though never for food. When it is dinner time, it is all hands (wings?) on deck at the same time.

Chicken Nesting Box with access door

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building the frame and attaching it to the wall
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Filling in a little nesting material
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Whoo hoo – an action shot with the Orpingtons
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Easy access from the barn hall way

In our large common indoor pen, we built an access panel to accommodate access to future nesting boxes and we finally got around to building the nesting boxes this winter.

For those of you who saw our post about the turkey nesting boxes and noted the 2×4 roost, this one is considerably smaller. That is due to the fact that chicken hens way a lot less and also have smaller feet, allowing the more size appropriate roost.

The external access is great, and would make egg collecting chores easier, except we added other nesting boxes in the main pen for breed isolation during the spring egg season. Once we mix the hens again, this will be more helpful!