Further Adventures of the Taj Mahal

Our Taj Mahal chicken coop was parked behind the barn over the winter. This gave us easy access to the chickens and provided a way to give them a protected area outside of the coop for eating and exercising.

In late March it was time to move the coop away from the barn so that the chickens could begin their free-range activities.

The chicken Taj Mahal in its winter location behind the barn.

We used a chain to pull the Taj Mahal back through the cows’ muddy winter access path.

Then we had to navigate out of the barn yard itself.

Continue reading “Further Adventures of the Taj Mahal”

Creamed Chicken – A Comfort Food

This month the local cooking challenge focus is chicken.  As we sell our chickens as whole frozen birds, a lot of my chicken meals begin that way – chicken over rice or chicken over potatoes.  But usually I have leftovers, especially if I have cooked 2 chickens at the same time.  These can be made into chicken soups, chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, or chicken casseroles.

Recently I made Creamed Chicken, a recipe that I grew up with that came from the Mennonite Cookbook.  It is one of those comfort foods, warm and nourishing, good for a winter evening.

Continue reading “Creamed Chicken – A Comfort Food”

March Challenge – Chicken

The March 2018 Local Food challenge is chicken.  As with other months, find chicken local to you, use it for a meal, and then comment here or email me about what you did and how it tasted.  For additional rules see the original post.

Whole chickens can be boiled, roasted, cut into parts and fried, or cooked in a crockpot or instant pot.  They can be served over rice or potatoes.   Leftovers can be used in soup or casseroles or sandwiches.

If you are local to us, chickens can be purchased from us for $5.00 / lb through March 31, 2018.  They were raised outdoors on our farm in fresh air and sunshine, were fed non-gmo grains, were processed by us and frozen, and are 4-6 lb.  I have been using them regularly as a main dish and for chicken broth and stock.  They taste good!

Chicken Taj Mahal – Part 2

A while ago we posted about work we were doing on a new mobile chicken coop. That new coop is now in service.

It took several days for the chickens to learn that they had to walk up the ramp to get back inside the coop. The first few nights they would walk around  the coop knowing they had to get up in there, but unsure how. It  would have been comical except that we had to try and herd them to the ramp. Now they all routinely go in as the sky starts to darken at night.

We designed the coop to hold 60 chickens comfortably, and we have about 45 at present. By moving the coop regularly, the chickens don’t find alternate places to lay their eggs, which means we are not spending time searching for clutches behind trees or under weeds.

Sometime in November we will give the coop a good cleaning while the chickens are out. Then we will park the coop near the barn so that the chickens can have some artificial light. (This helps keep them producing eggs.) When snow arrives, they will be limited to this coop and a covered outdoor eating area.

When the weather warms, the coop will get another good cleaning, and the chickens will be off to the pastures again.

Both the chickens and the humans are enjoying the benefits of our chicken Taj Mahal.  Our thanks to the Farmer’s father for the idea and to the father and the Farmer’s sons for building it.  Excellent job!

Chicks! From the Post Office?

Lots of things come from the Post Office: bills, refund checks, Amazon packages, catalogs, magazines. But did you know that we get baby chicks in the mail? That’s right!

Box chicks come in

We get day old chicks from a hatchery in Pennsylvania. They are hatched at the beginning of the week, shipped overnight or 2 day air, and we get them when they are a day or two old. We get a phone call from the Post Office that they have arrived and then we go pick them up. Here is a picture of a box with baby chicks. This box holds 100 chicks – 25 in each quarter. So yes, our baby chicks really do come from the Post Office.

About 25 chicks in 1 quarter of the box

How can the chicks survive the trip? They have each other to stay warm as they travel. As for food, my understanding is that part of the egg stays inside the chick and feeds the chick for the first week of its life. So the chick doesn’t need a lot of food and water right away, which allows hatcheries to ship birds.

Brooder – notice heat lamps above chicks

Once the chicks arrive here, we put them in a brooder in the barn. This is a protected area that keeps predators – weasels, rats, cats, hawks – out and keeps the chicks in. It also has heat lamps that the chicks can live under so they can stay warm until they have the necessary feathering to go outdoors. We dip their beaks in water so they can find the water in the future. Sometimes we also dip their beaks in the (non-gmo) feed, so that they can find that again as well. The birds will live in the brooder for 3-4 weeks depending on how they grow and feather out and depending on what the weather is like.

At 3-4 weeks we move them outdoors to a larger protected pen. They sleep in an old truck cap or in this moveable hut, eating grain, drinking water and eating grass and vegetation and insects. They are protected by fencing from our guard dog, Gaia, and she in turns protects them from other predators – weasels, rats, hawks, foxes and coyotes. We move them regularly to fresh grass.

Movable hut
Truck cap model with Gaia, the guard dog, in front

At 10-11 weeks we process them and sell them as fresh or frozen chicken. Our chickens will probably weigh between 3 and 6 lb.

So how can you get some chicken this year?

1. Join our meat CSA and get 1-2 chickens each month as part of the monthly share. Reply to this email to let us know you would like to be part of our monthly Meat CSA.
2. Pre-order chicken by putting $5.00 down on each chicken you would like. Any chickens that are pre-ordered will be $4.75 / lb. We can take the $5.00 in cash, in check or at our website by using a credit card or Paypal.
3. Purchase chicken as you want or need it for $5.50 / lb.

I hope you will purchase some chicken from us this year. Reply to this email if you have questions. And once you have done that I hope you can enjoy some fresh air and sunshine! We wish you strength and joy in your day!

One other note: Westcott Farmers Market is on Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m. If you would like regular emails about currently available items, subscribe here! See you soon!