Ten months went by so I thought I’d drop back in.
Last post I mentioned nuisance birds as a food source. Believe it or not, Grackles and Starlings are actually pretty decent. There’s very little meat so don’t expect anything like a Thanksgiving turkey. In terms of practicality they’re not great. Shooting them with a .22 isn’t as cheap as it used to be. I guess a pellet gun would be a better option. Cleaning them is simple. Snip off the legs, wings, and head with kitchen shears, peel off the skin, make a careful cut in the abdomen and pull out the guts. With a little practice you’ll spend more time cleaning up the feathers than processing the bird. Bait them with cracked corn or dog food. Leaving one or two dead lying near the bait seems to draw others in.
I finished one of my new chicken tractor designs and have been very happy with it. It’s heavy and hard to move but has headroom, provides good shelter, and is plenty spacious for the birds. It’s actually big enough for the Muscovies to fly in circles inside it. I’ll do a full post on it sometime in the future.
This week I built a 10×10 A frame chicken coop on the frame of a chicken tractor. I still need to add some roosts and a bungee to automatically close the door. That will also be another post in the future.
The big news is that we bought a house in January. We have an acre with a smallish house, two decent sized detached garages, and a couple other small outbuildings. It’s a great location, close to a creek, and surrounded by woods. It’s a perfect place for the kids and dogs and has space for the birds and a couple goats when we decide to get more.
We’re heating with wood and playing catch up so we’re mostly burning fairly green wood. It adds a lot of labor and requires a little creativity but we’re staying warm without building up too much creosote. Next year should be a lot easier since we’ll have time for the wood to season.
Our Buff Orpingtons are turning out to be great chickens. They’re very cold tolerant, doing well with temperatures below zero and little shelter, and seem to be pretty decent layers. They’re laid back birds, easy to work with, and seem smarter than some of the chickens we’ve had in the past. The big advantage, for us, anyway, is the broodiness of the hens. We should be able to stop buying chicks every couple years and not have to fiddle with an incubator.
The Muscovies grew like crazy and turned out to be pretty decent sized birds. They’re finally starting to lay jumbo+ size whitish eggs. Dog-like is the best way to describe them. They don’t quack, but make a little whisper/hissing sound instead, wagging their tails excitedly when they see people. We had heard horror stories of aggressive drakes but ours have been as mild mannered as could be. The full grown birds are huge. Think of a big turkey but with a longer body and not as round. We killed a young Muscovy and put it in the rotisserie with some BBQ sauce and WOW! it was incredible!
We haven’t eaten any Pekin ducks yet since we only have 6 and want all of those for breeding purposes. Without having a direct side by side comparison, I think the Pekins grew faster than the Cornish X or Freedom Ranger meat chickens. They also seemed to have better feed conversion but I can’t say for sure since we didn’t really keep track. I do know that the full grown Pekins eat a lot of feed. They’re very comical to watch since they’re too heavy to fly and they’ve can’t jump. Any small obstacle they come across is met with very dramatic wing flapping and furious quacking. Speaking of the wings, watch out for them. They’ll leave bruises.
We have more plans and ideas than we have time or money so I don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing next. Rabbits, Coturnix quail, tilapia, aquaponics, fruit trees, and an indoor fodder system are all on the list, along with dozens of other things. We’ll have to prioritize and come up with some sort of plan moving forward.