The Farm Report: Construction and Destruction

      96 Comments on The Farm Report: Construction and Destruction

Our seven hens are only producing about three eggs per day now, so I guess they’re getting long in the tooth … er, beak.  At some point it will be time to start converting them into chicken dinners.  That means we’ll have to learn how to de-feather and process chickens.  Too bad my great-grandparents are all gone.  That’s what they did in those days; go out back and choose a chicken for dinner.

Our 18 chicks are growing rapidly, but aren’t yet ready for prime time.  The picture below is of them all huddling together as far away from the camera as they could get.  Apparently they believe a camera is some kind of chicken-killing contraption.

Once we sacrifice our current egg-layers, some of these chicks will probably live in the barn.  But the plan is to raise most of them in portable chicken houses and move them around the land.  Chareva has made quite a bit of progress on her first chicken house.  Man, there’s something about a good-looking woman using a power drill …

While she’s been constructing, I’ve been destructing.  The once-frightening pile of logs is considerably less intimidating now that I’ve had a couple of weekends to perform in my own version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Okay, to be honest, I don’t remember the bad guy in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre driving to a Stihl dealer to find out how he managed to mess up his chainsaw.  I’ve done that twice over the course of this project.

The first time, the chain locked up on me and wouldn’t turn even when the engine was running.  Turns out I was using the wrong oil to lubricate the bar.  I saw these nice little bottles of oil that were (I swear) labeled as chainsaw lubricant, so that’s what I poured into the oil tank.  Heh-heh-heh.  That’s what happens when longtime city-dwellers move to the sticks and starting playing with power tools.  I managed to miss the big orange container of chainsaw bar oil sitting right there next to the chainsaw in our garage.  So I was using the oil that’s supposed to be mixed with the gas.  Fortunately, I didn’t cause any actual damage.

I saved the actual damage for the screw that tightens the chain.  I didn’t realize that before turning that screw, I’m supposed to loosen the nuts on either side of it.  I thought those nuts were there just to attach the faceplate.  So while trying to tighten a loose chain that wasn’t ready to be tightened, I snapped the screw.  Oops.

Both repairs prompted a lesson in the proper care and feeding of chainsaws by a nice older gentlemen at the Ace Hardware/Stihl dealer.  After the second repair job I asked him, “So when people like me leave the shop, do you just shake your head and wonder why there are so many idiots in the world?”

“Naaaah,” he answered in his New England accent.  “I wasn’t born knowing everything, and I don’t expect you were either.”

In my defense, what I mostly wanted to know when we bought the chainsaw was how to use it without cutting off my own foot.  I got that part down right away and forgot the other bothersome details, such as which oil goes in which tank.

Now I at least know enough to get through a weekend of cutting without having to go visit my buddy from New England and ask what I did wrong this time.  I’ve also gotten pretty good at recognizing when the chain needs sharpening.  (Hint: if there’s no sawdust coming from the log and little puffs of smoke are rising from the cut, the chain isn’t really sawing anymore.)

It was a gorgeous weekend, around 70 degrees and sunny, perfect for outdoor labors.  I wasn’t the only one with that opinion.  As I was working on Sunday, our nearest neighbor came over, chainsaw in hand.  He explained that on days like this, he feels an urge to work outdoors.  He heard me sawing away and thought maybe I could use some help.  Would I mind?

Mind?  Are you kidding me?

I was delighted to have an extra pair of hands and extra saw working on the pile, since I’m feeling a bit of deadline pressure.  Two weekends from now, my work buddy Jim Taylor and I are sharing the cost of renting a log-splitter.  We’ll split his wood on Saturday and mine on Sunday.  I don’t know how quickly those things work, and for all I know, I’ve already cut more logs than we can split in a day.  But if it turns out to be quick work, I’d like to have as many of the logs cut up and ready to go as I can.

As I called it a day on Sunday, I thought about the Health.com advice featured in last week’s post … you know, eat your waffles or cereal in the morning and then have a high-carb snack every two hours or so to keep your energy up.  Processing that log pile is hard physical work.  The chainsaw is heavy, and it takes some pushing and pulling and rocking up and down at my end to get through the thick trunks.  After cutting chunks of logs, I have to pick them up and toss them aside to avoid stepping on them while working my way through the pile.  Both days qualified as long workouts.

On Saturday, I had ham and eggs for breakfast around 10:00 AM.  My next meal was at around 7:00 PM — after I played 18 holes of disc golf to unwind from the day’s chainsaw labors.  On Sunday, I had coffee with cream to wake up, then started on the logs.  It never occurred to me to stop for lunch.  I wasn’t consciously fasting all day; I was just busy and determined to get a lot done and didn’t think about food.  So my first meal of the day was dinner (Chareva’s chili).  That was around 6:00 PM.

According to the carb-pushers at Health.com, I should have run out of gas by noon.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t run out of gas until I literally ran out of gas – for the chainsaw, that is.  That’s when I called it a day.  So I’m pretty sure we ignore the advice from Health.com.

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96 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Construction and Destruction

  1. Allen W. McDonnell

    Tom, when we cleaned the birds we kept only three parts of the viscera for eating, the Gizzard, the Heart and the Liver. When removing the liver you must carefully slice off the bile ducts, one slip of the knife and the liver is ruined. Better to loose a little of the liver instead of the whole thing. Hearts and Gizzards were usually boiled and then diced for use in stuffing or in scrambled egg omelets, Livers we would slice up and pan fry just like beef liver. Thanks now I went and made myself hungry just thinking about it lol. We would typically raise 50 chickens, and a dozen each of Turkeys and Ducks each year, some years we raised half a dozen Geese as well. I still love roast goose for Christmas Diner but those birds are a very mean bunch. We didn’t keep our flocks at 50 chickens that large for long, at three to four months 22 of the roosters would end up in the deep freeze because we didn’t need more than a couple in case Dad wanted to breed. Also in a flock that large the pecking order can be very viscous, the bottom hen would end up with a bare back and sunburn if we kept too many birds in the coop and yard. We used the pot of boiling water to blanch the feathers loose method other have described on this thread, very effective but smells like a wet dog that has been rolling in the creek mud.

    An online friend of mine built a chicken tractor like the one you are doing, he recommends against it in southern Missouri but your soil conditions could be much more favorable for it than his are so let us know how it turns out.

    For eggs to eat I always loved Goose eggs, they are so nice and big, and I like the subtle flavor difference of Turkey eggs, though that might just be a childhood imagination. We had a hen one time that frequently laid double yolk eggs, I always wanted to breed her to get Siamese chicks but was consistently voted down 😀 As a school boy I thought having a flock of double headed chickens would be neat.

    I appreciate the tips.

    Reply
    1. Allen W. McDonnell

      You are quite welcome.

      One thing I neglected to mention, if you keep the Gizzard it is at the base of the throat between the esophagus and the stomach about the size of a golf ball. You need to split it in half and wash it right away, it will be full of sand and tiny rocks chickens use to grind up their feed. Our chickens were in an open top pen, if you want a large fenced area for them a net roof becomes difficult. As tree fowl they would naturally be able to fly away but if you clip off the flight feathers on one wing but leave the feathers on the other wing alone they can not fly because they are unbalanced when they try. We did the same thing with the Ducks and Geese, no balance means no flying. If you clip both wings they can still fly short distances by beating their wings really hard.

      Reply
  2. Bruce

    Whoo boy. Using a power splitter about 10 years ago to split about 3 oaks worth of wood. Could not straighten up my back by the end of it. I sat on a chair and my wife rolled the logs to me to put in the machine.

    Maybe you could rent this type.

    Wow! I could process the whole pile in a day with that thing.

    Reply
  3. Vic

    We have 5, three year old hens that are only giving 1-3 eggs a day. I am fond of the girls and I know they will lay at least one more season. We did go on Craigslist and buy 12 “pullets.” Right. I am observing these girls and told my husband I thought he had a few roosters. He was in denial. They started to crow. “Err, honey, I am sure you have some boy “pullets” out there.” “No” he says, “I googled ‘crowing hens’ and sometimes they crow when there is no rooster.” Okay. About 2 weeks later he is incensed because his little hens are being gang raped. The Barred Rock ‘pullets’ are very aggressive. He watches a few you tube videos and sharpens the knives. I now have 4 young roosters in the freezer. We put one cute rooster in with the old hens, a real shock to their systems, and one stayed in with the five(real) pullets. So all is now well in chicken world. Very funny advice on a website he found when researching ‘crowing hens’—“First see what your farm store’s return policy on boy pullets is.”

    If we start hearing a cockle-doodle-do from then “hens,” we’ll know what happened.

    Reply
  4. Daci

    I do hope your girls will be able to handle this part of raising chickens since they have nurtured them since they were little puffs of joy.
    Time will tell I suppose.

    We’ll find out. They were warned from the beginning that the chickens will become food someday, but they are kids.

    Reply
  5. Allen W. McDonnell

    Tom, when we cleaned the birds we kept only three parts of the viscera for eating, the Gizzard, the Heart and the Liver. When removing the liver you must carefully slice off the bile ducts, one slip of the knife and the liver is ruined. Better to loose a little of the liver instead of the whole thing. Hearts and Gizzards were usually boiled and then diced for use in stuffing or in scrambled egg omelets, Livers we would slice up and pan fry just like beef liver. Thanks now I went and made myself hungry just thinking about it lol. We would typically raise 50 chickens, and a dozen each of Turkeys and Ducks each year, some years we raised half a dozen Geese as well. I still love roast goose for Christmas Diner but those birds are a very mean bunch. We didn’t keep our flocks at 50 chickens that large for long, at three to four months 22 of the roosters would end up in the deep freeze because we didn’t need more than a couple in case Dad wanted to breed. Also in a flock that large the pecking order can be very viscous, the bottom hen would end up with a bare back and sunburn if we kept too many birds in the coop and yard. We used the pot of boiling water to blanch the feathers loose method other have described on this thread, very effective but smells like a wet dog that has been rolling in the creek mud.

    An online friend of mine built a chicken tractor like the one you are doing, he recommends against it in southern Missouri but your soil conditions could be much more favorable for it than his are so let us know how it turns out.

    For eggs to eat I always loved Goose eggs, they are so nice and big, and I like the subtle flavor difference of Turkey eggs, though that might just be a childhood imagination. We had a hen one time that frequently laid double yolk eggs, I always wanted to breed her to get Siamese chicks but was consistently voted down 😀 As a school boy I thought having a flock of double headed chickens would be neat.

    I appreciate the tips.

    Reply
    1. Allen W. McDonnell

      You are quite welcome.

      One thing I neglected to mention, if you keep the Gizzard it is at the base of the throat between the esophagus and the stomach about the size of a golf ball. You need to split it in half and wash it right away, it will be full of sand and tiny rocks chickens use to grind up their feed. Our chickens were in an open top pen, if you want a large fenced area for them a net roof becomes difficult. As tree fowl they would naturally be able to fly away but if you clip off the flight feathers on one wing but leave the feathers on the other wing alone they can not fly because they are unbalanced when they try. We did the same thing with the Ducks and Geese, no balance means no flying. If you clip both wings they can still fly short distances by beating their wings really hard.

      Reply
  6. Bruce

    Whoo boy. Using a power splitter about 10 years ago to split about 3 oaks worth of wood. Could not straighten up my back by the end of it. I sat on a chair and my wife rolled the logs to me to put in the machine.

    Maybe you could rent this type.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeanPDO-D6M

    Wow! I could process the whole pile in a day with that thing.

    Reply
  7. Vic

    We have 5, three year old hens that are only giving 1-3 eggs a day. I am fond of the girls and I know they will lay at least one more season. We did go on Craigslist and buy 12 “pullets.” Right. I am observing these girls and told my husband I thought he had a few roosters. He was in denial. They started to crow. “Err, honey, I am sure you have some boy “pullets” out there.” “No” he says, “I googled ‘crowing hens’ and sometimes they crow when there is no rooster.” Okay. About 2 weeks later he is incensed because his little hens are being gang raped. The Barred Rock ‘pullets’ are very aggressive. He watches a few you tube videos and sharpens the knives. I now have 4 young roosters in the freezer. We put one cute rooster in with the old hens, a real shock to their systems, and one stayed in with the five(real) pullets. So all is now well in chicken world. Very funny advice on a website he found when researching ‘crowing hens’—“First see what your farm store’s return policy on boy pullets is.”

    If we start hearing a cockle-doodle-do from then “hens,” we’ll know what happened.

    Reply
  8. Sabine

    I just thought of another chicken recipe: Shred the chicken meat and combine with other ingredients/leftovers and some cauliflower rice or some shiratake rice and make a Spanish paella.

    Reply
  9. Sabine

    I just thought of another chicken recipe: Shred the chicken meat and combine with other ingredients/leftovers and some cauliflower rice or some shiratake rice and make a Spanish paella.

    Reply
  10. John Totten

    Build a chicken Plucker
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH6TSu0OvA8
    http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/3-3/affordable-homemade-poultry-plucker/
    http://achornfarm.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-build-chicken-plucker_30.html

    Many ways to go about it. Cheapest options run around $20. Spinning models around $100. Commercial models (Ez Plucker) Start at around $500.

    If you plan on eating a good bit a chicken its a worthy investment. If you’re handy then it’s a fun weekend project(being a programmer you should be able to put something like this together)

    I once made one out of a bucket and some Rubber Fingers($20) and a Drill.

    Sounds like the kind of project Chareva would enjoy. She’s the arts-and-crafts person in this marriage.

    Reply
  11. Marilyn

    Off topic, but I’m sure many will relate to this.

    “Non Sequitur” from the Sunday funnies.

    Drawing: A limousine has obviously turned off the main street, and into a dark, blind alley.

    Caption: “G.P.S. for Pundits and Politicians: Keep going straight. Changing directions is a sign of weakness. Ignore actual results, and keep heading straight.”

    Then explain that the lousy results prove you need to go even farther in the same direction.

    Reply
  12. Chareva

    Tom, I love your blog readers. They are a wealth of information! Thank you, poultry-raising Fat Heads.

    I love ’em too.

    Reply
  13. John Totten

    Build a chicken Plucker
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH6TSu0OvA8
    http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/3-3/affordable-homemade-poultry-plucker/
    http://achornfarm.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-build-chicken-plucker_30.html

    Many ways to go about it. Cheapest options run around $20. Spinning models around $100. Commercial models (Ez Plucker) Start at around $500.

    If you plan on eating a good bit a chicken its a worthy investment. If you’re handy then it’s a fun weekend project(being a programmer you should be able to put something like this together)

    I once made one out of a bucket and some Rubber Fingers($20) and a Drill.

    Sounds like the kind of project Chareva would enjoy. She’s the arts-and-crafts person in this marriage.

    Reply
  14. Marilyn

    Off topic, but I’m sure many will relate to this.

    “Non Sequitur” from the Sunday funnies.

    Drawing: A limousine has obviously turned off the main street, and into a dark, blind alley.

    Caption: “G.P.S. for Pundits and Politicians: Keep going straight. Changing directions is a sign of weakness. Ignore actual results, and keep heading straight.”

    Then explain that the lousy results prove you need to go even farther in the same direction.

    Reply
  15. Chareva

    Tom, I love your blog readers. They are a wealth of information! Thank you, poultry-raising Fat Heads.

    I love ’em too.

    Reply
  16. Becca

    Thanks for the post!

    I’m planning to make a hoop coop too! I have a friend who thinks I would need something to bend the cattle panels over something round to make a round hoop shape…. Every DIY blog about cattle panel hoop coops that’ I’ve read does not mention anything about the difficulty of bending the fencing…. Did you guys have any trouble getting the panel to bend/flex into a hoop shape?

    Reply
  17. Becca

    Thanks for the post!

    I’m planning to make a hoop coop too! I have a friend who thinks I would need something to bend the cattle panels over something round to make a round hoop shape…. Every DIY blog about cattle panel hoop coops that’ I’ve read does not mention anything about the difficulty of bending the fencing…. Did you guys have any trouble getting the panel to bend/flex into a hoop shape?

    Reply

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