Help! My aggressive rooster wants to kill me

Hi, my name is Amanda and I am terrified of my chickens. Well, maybe not the whole flock, maybe it’s just one in particular. One terrifyingly big and strong, aggressive chicken.

That chicken is in fact, my rooster. My suddenly aggressive rooster.

How to deal with an aggressive rooster | www.pickytoplenty.com

An aggressive rooster will usually give a warning before charging.

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The satisfaction of homemade chicken soup

You may recall from my recent post on raising chickens for meat that it was an expensive venture. This is the one time I am glad I am so terrible at keeping records. The chickens themselves were not expensive but the cost of raising them made them worth more per pound than I have ever paid. So why bother? What’s the point? I could call it quits and settle for grocery store meat. I could give up on my dream of one day being totally food self-sufficient. But where would the satisfaction be in that?

There is nothing more satisfying than putting food on the table. Check out my recipe for basic chicken stock and a bonus homemade chicken soup recipe at www.pickytoplenty.com

There is nothing more satisfying than putting food on the table. Check out my recipe for basic chicken stock and a bonus soup recipe at www.pickytoplenty.com

There is nothing more satisfying than growing and raising your own food. It is a small act of rebellion that can have a large ripple effect if more people started doing it. If we grow and raise our own food, we lessen the demand for the lab-created foodstuffs that destroy our health (for a great source on why you should stop consuming these GMOs check out my friend Richard’s e-book Why Shouldn’t I Eat Genetically Modified Foods). Growing and raising your own food also gives you full control over the food that goes onto your plate. How does it taste? Pretty darn satisfying — like a big bowl of steamy homemade chicken soup. It’s kind of like giving the finger to the crooked food industry while at the same time filling your tummy with a delicious meal truly made from scratch.

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Cutting down on chicken costs

 

Get twice as much out of your feed bag by fermenting it | www.pickytoplenty.com

Get twice as much out of your feed bag by fermenting it | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have five frozen roosters (we ate two and they were delicious) in my freezer that came from my backyard. It’s a satisfying feeling to have been able to put food on the table. While I may feel proud of myself for carrying through with the plan to raise meat chickens, I don’t feel satisfied financially.

As I stated in my previous post (A Reflection on Raising Chickens for Meat), I made a few mistakes with my first flock. Many, many mistakes. I am kind of glad for my poor record-keeping abilities right now because I would hate to learn how much it actually cost to put those seven roosters in the freezer.

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Some thoughts on homestead chickens (and a recipe for apple butter roasted chicken)

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Chicken slathered in homemade apple butter and slow roasted in the oven until crispy and juicy | www.pickytoplenty.com

 

Back in June we added 17 Plymouth Barred Rocks to our homestead, a gift from a friend who  has been keeping chickens for years. It has been neat to watch them grow from fluffy, little grey chicks into majestic creatures. They really are beautiful birds, much prettier than the white rocks we originally considered raising. Yep, I admit it. We considered raising Franken-chickens because they are the most cost efficient. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t contribute to the problem that has led this breed to become what it is today.

Half a century ago these chickens weighed a little more than 2 pounds at seven weeks of age. In 2009, the average bird weighed in at 6.8 pounds (statistics taken from Frey’s Hatchery). Do the math, that’s a big difference in just 50 years. This breed is highly efficient at turning feed into weight. They typically take 8-10 weeks from start to finish, though I have heard they can die on their own from heart failure or they will break their legs from too much weight. I don’t judge those who raise these birds — I know that even the organic chicken that I buy is likely white rock meat — I just won’t raise them myself.

So we got Plymouth Barred Rocks, mostly because of our friend Caitlyn who donated a batch of hatched eggs to our little venture. They are a dual-purposed breed which means they are good for both egg production and meat. In the beginning I was more interested in meat and wanted to raise strictly meat birds but changed my mind after reading more into chickens.

We have lost two roosters to natural causes and are left with eight roosters and seven hens. We have likely missed the ideal time to slaughter the roosters (with the exception of one so we can have a sustainable flock). Because they free range the meat will likely be pretty tough. It would have been done sooner, but life gets in the way sometime. I was in a car accident a few months ago and it has put a lot of things on hold — like the chicken butchering. So this batch might be for the dogs. Do I consider it a failure? No. I consider it a learning experience and part of the journey to self sufficiency.

I found my first two eggs today. Even though they were frozen solid and inedible, it made me smile to look down and see two brown ovals poking up from the snow.

first egg

The first eggs to come from our backyard chickens. They were frozen solid but a sign of future breakfasts | www.pickytoplenty.com

 

 

Next time, I plan to pen the roosters after four months of free ranging so that they will not be as tough. I have read that this is one way to keep the roosters tender.

While I don’t have a home-raised chicken to roast, I did splurge on a whole, organic chicken. I roasted it in my beer can roaster which I filled with Tippsy Toppers Apple Cider Syrup and brushed it with Tippsy Toppers Apple Butter.

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Apple Butter Roasted Chicken

  • whole, organic chicken
  • Tippsy Toppers Apple Butter
  • Organic barbecue sauce
  • Tippsy Toppers Apple Cider Syrup
  • 2 organic yellow onions, small
  • 4 cloves organic garlic
  • salt and pepper

Heat chicken to 375.

Prepare chicken. Cut one of the onions in half and put it in the cavity of the chicken with some slices of garlic. Fill cup on beer roaster with cider syrup, place chicken over cup. Place the rest of the onion and garlic in the bottom of the roasting pan, cover with water.

Brush chicken liberally with apple butter mixed with the organic barbecue sauce of your choice. Salt and pepper the chicken.

Roast 1.5-2 hours until done.

I served this with some basmati rice and a baby romaine salad.

This recipe fits in with my mission to cut down on food costs as I have made stromboli, chicken broth and am in the process of making buffalo chicken soup with the leftovers.

 

The homesteading dilemma

The homesteading life dilemma | www.pickytoplenty.com

The homesteading life dilemma | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have more time on my hands in the morning lately. The hubs leaves early for his new job and I have a few hours to kill before I have to hustle out the door and head to the newsroom. It’s a nice time to reflect and a time I should be using to blog more. More than a year ago a switch went off — well, actually it was the television. That one small act triggered a chain reaction that led to free-ranging chickens, six baby bunnies, hundreds of square feet of homegrown vegetables and a burning desire to reach a higher level of self sufficiency.

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now | www.pickytoplenty.com

These days I find myself dreaming about the day when we no longer rely on a grocery store to provide a majority of our food. As much as I try and shop local there isn’t always enough money in the bank to purchase the locally-farmed, organic meat so I choose the grocery store alternative. We are having to buy greens again since the aforementioned free-rangers ate all of my kale and lettuce greens. Baby greens are emerging in another garden which I need to get covered this weekend along with two others so we can (hopefully) have a fresh supply of greens and other cold-faring veggies throughout the fall and winter. I have been baking fresh loaves of sourdough bread weekly and have cut commercial bread from our diets (however I do still purchase buns and other bread product like wraps and Naan that I can also make at home). In another month or two we should start seeing some eggs and the roosters should be ready to butcher. The collection of jars in the basement is growing each week due to my new addiction to canning. Things are slowly coming together but I have a burning desire to do more.

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? | www.pickytoplenty.com

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? | www.pickytoplenty.com

Enough with the baby steps. I want to leap, bound and jump towards a homesteading lifestyle. But life has that way of putting up road blocks. Time for one is lacking when you work a day job that keeps you on your toes and constantly busy — oftentimes beyond the 9-5 constrains of the working world. Money is another one. But mostly, it’s me. I could find the time but instead I read up different skills and projects online instead of picking up the tools and getting to work myself. As much as I dream about this lifestyle it seems I am my own biggest roadblock. Anyone else find this the case? I want to be self-sufficient yet I am afraid to take that leap.

No more grocery store bread for this household | www.pickytoplenty.com

No more grocery store bread for this household | www.pickytoplenty.com

It’s too easy to live a modern life. We have every convenience available to us at the swipe of a finger or the click of a button. Why would I take the time to make a fresh loaf of bread when the commercial option is available for less than $2? Why wash the dishes by hand when the dishwasher is there? Why hang things to dry when I can toss them in the dryer? I score one out of three there. I do make my own bread but I rely on the conveniences of appliances to do a lot of jobs that I can do myself which will ultimately save us money (eliminating another roadblock).

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm | www.pickytoplenty.com

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm | www.pickytoplenty.com

How do you stay motivated? What homesteading skills have you mastered? What is your advice to keeping on task?

 

Pasty what? Lessons in chick rearing from a wannabe farmer

Sure, chicks are cute, but they are also disgusting little poop balls.

Sure, chicks are cute, but they are also disgusting little poop balls.

I have a confession: chickens freak me out. Scratch that, birds freak me out. I’m not sure what it is about birds, maybe it’s the feathers, maybe it’s the bony structure or maybe it’s the beaks. Regardless, I have had a lifelong aversion for feathered friends.

Raising chicks is a bit of a courage test for me. Oh right, I haven’t blogged about the 17 peepers keeping warm in my basement as we speak. So, now you know, now where was I?

One week old Plymouth barred rocks being raised dual purpose for meat and eggs.

One week old Plymouth barred rocks being raised dual purpose for meat and eggs.

The other night, I had to reach my hand into the brooder box and pull out a chick with a little dried poop on his butt. This condition is called pasty butt and it can be fatal. And it’s gross. Chicks are gross. Luckily, I had read all about pasty butt, though I had hoped I would never have to put that knowledge into use.

This little chick looked weaker than the rest as he plucked at his chick food and slowly moved around. When it bent over I had a look and my fear was confirmed: there was poop and it was stuck.

In nature, mother hen takes care of this but with her not around, it was up to me to save this little guy.

Although I’d had the chicks for almost a week at this point, I hadn’t done much handling (though I need to get on that or we will have problems when they grow up). Chickens freak me out, even teeny weeny baby ones. I mustered up my courage, reached my hand into the brooder and picked up the pasty-bummed bird. Instantly it began squeaking and squirming. I was terrified I was going to crush the little fella.

Now, there are a few ways you can treat pasty butt. The way that popped into my head first was to soak the little birdie bum in some warm water and then gently wipe away the fecal matter. Gross.

Still fearing I was going to crush my baby bird, I called the husband down for wiping duty (he was not impressed). It didn’t take long. A little soak in the water and a couple swipes and the vent was cleared up.

Success. Not only did I handle a baby chick, I saved its life. Think about a cork in a wine bottle, the pasty poop does the same job. So yes, I can say I did save the little guy’s life (or maybe Dave did, since he did the said wiping). Let’s go with we saved it.

Another way you can treat pasty butt is with a moistened Q-tip or by running their rears under warm water. I think next time I will try the Q-tip method as the chick won’t be so wet in the end. I feared for his life as I laid my head on the pillow that night. Would the chick be OK? Will it freeze?

When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t tell which chick was the past butt. They were all happily chirping around the brooder box waiting for fresh feed.

These chicks will eventually provide for us. We are raising them for meat and eggs. The hens we will keep for laying and we will keep one rooster but the rest will be dinner. I know this offends some, but hey, I’m a meat lover and that’s not going to change. The great thing about raising chickens ourselves is knowing exactly what goes into the bird. In a world where labelling is only required on foods grown without pesticides or genetically modified ingredients, raising and growing your own food is one way to eat without worry. Even if it means having to pick up a few chickens here and there.

A few more gross details about baby chicks.

They poop in their water dish. All the time. I have to change it several times a day because these little peepers like to potty where they drink. They also like to potty everywhere and can carry e. coli so make sure to clean their brooder box frequently and always wash your hands after coming into contact with the little guys.

They are also pretty damn cute.

We are raising Plymouth barred rocks and they are mostly black unlike the traditional yellow chick. I do enjoy checking on them each day and seeing how much they have grown even if they are gross little poop balls. Another thing I’ve learned about chicks is they grow fast. Really fast.

The lucky thing about having an aversion to chickens… they won’t become pets and it might be easier come dinner time.

Wanted to thank my good friend Caitlyn Van Leeuwen again for the babies!

And one more picture of the peepers

And one more picture of the peepers