KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: chickens (page 1 of 7)

Homestead Hounds: Herding Birds & Hunting Mice

Our two dogs, Bolt and Coona, make a really great mouse hunting team. Bolt, the quicker of the two, has lightning fast reflexes and can snatch a mouse straight out of the air. Coona, who is the hound, usually flushes mice out to Bolt by rushing in between feed bins and spooking them out in his direction. It’s fantastic to watch their cooperation!

While Coona is the second-in-command mouse hunter, she is the leader when it comes to duck and chicken herding. We recently noticed that her legacy as a hound/shepherd mix, makes her an excellent and very focused duck and chicken caretaker. Because our birds are pasture raised and free ranging, they are often ending up in places where they shouldn’t be! One of these places is the backyard. The backyard fencing is cattle paneling, which means that birds can easily slip in and out of the yard. Until recently, Jason or I would herd the ducks out of the yard ourselves before letting the dogs outside, but ultimately some would sneak right back in. It took us only a few days of watching Coona interact with these daring ducks to realize how gentle she could be when herding them back through the fence towards the woods. Bolt, on the other hand, has always needed a bit more coaxing in order to be gentle  with the birds. He just gets so excited!

Coona impresses us every day with how much she loves her job. She will quietly and  contentedly lay near the back fence waiting for a chick to pop through and then slowly, and with complete focus, usher the chick back through to his side of the fence. Bolt is often watching this… He usually keeps a check on himself so that he doesn’t chase the birds too intensely or grab one with his mouth. It’s amazing to watch Coona be so delicate with ducks and chickens. She interacts with them very lovingly, with great tenderness, and with great concern for the rules. We would love to be able to say that we taught her to be such a great herding dog, but it’s just not true. It’s in her blood!

Considering the great working team that Bolt and Coona are, it’s no wonder that they have a fantastic time outside together securing the homestead and caring for the animals!

 

Guard Geese to the Rescue!

Our trio of geese stand guard over our free range, pasture raised flock of Red Ranger broilers. Their presence protects from aerial predators and they deter four-footed creatures with their ridiculously loud honking! Check out this video to hear them sound the alarm, even though it’s only us approaching. Good job, geese!

Farm Food Friday: Pulled Chicken Tacos with Tomatillos and Cilantro

We are a pretty hungry family, and making food in bulk is a great idea for us. Usually every Saturday we cook 2 of our Red Ranger Chickens, and this week was no different. This time we decided to make pulled chicken for eating tacos with the large pile of ripe and yummy avocados that we always seem to have in the house these days!

Here’s the details… Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole Red Ranger chickens
  • 3 pints of pureed tomatillos
  • 1 or 2 bunches of cilantro (this depends on how much you love cilantro)
  • 2 onions
  • salt, pepper, & garlic
  • cayenne pepper, paprika, & oregano

Materials:

  • 1 large pot
  • 1 large bowl
  • knife for slicing onions and cilantro
  • stirring spoon
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This finished, pulled chicken was a version that we made with some pureed tomatoes added as well.

Recipe:

  1. First part up your chickens, but leave the skin on, folks! So many of the great nutrients are in the skin, and you can always shred the skin into small pieces that will be undetectable once you start eating your tacos.
  2. Place all the parts in your large pot with a little bit of water. We use a large cast iron pot and place the whole thing in the oven on 400, but you could always use your pot on the stove top and simmer the meat until it’s cooked and ready to fall off the bone.
  3. Let your meat cool and then shred it off of the bone (into the large bowl), making sure to remove any cartilage if you don’t want that kind of thing in your tacos!
  4. Add the shredded chicken back to your pot. If there’s a small amount of broth in the bottom of your pot from cooking the chicken, feel free to leave it in there to mix in with the shredded chicken. If there’s a lot of broth, remove some first (but save it and drink it… Yum!).
  5. Slice the onions and cilantro.
  6. Add the onions, cilantro, and tomatillos to the chicken.
  7. Add a small amount of salt, garlic, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and oregano, to taste. Keep in mind that the cilantro and tomatillos really carry the dish, and so the spices are just for a little bit of added flavor… You don’t need to get heavy-handed with the spice. Mix everything together well with your spoon!
  8. Place this back in the oven or on the stove top, checking periodically until the onions are soft. Then it’s ready!

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What’s Up at KW Homestead? Animal Picture Edition

We are running full steam here at the homestead this Spring season! Between selling our free range Pekin duck and duck eggs at the Corner Farmer’s Market, kickstarting and expanding our garden, and getting ready to offer the most nutritious, delicious, truly free range chicken in Greensboro, time is flying by!

But so much is happening here, that we wanted to share some of it. This brief post will focus on the animals here at the homestead, a quick check-in with some of the stars of the show.

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Our young weaner pigs getting moved to fresh pasture.

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Ruby, our new Dexter momma checking things out.

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Little Johnny is doing great! He loves running around and exploring.

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The Red Rangers are out of the brooder and out on pasture!

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Our 2 African geese stand guard inside the electric fence and sound the alarm if anything goes awry. Or if they get bored.

Stay tuned for a plant update, and more details in the future!
And don’t forget to reserve your Free Range Chicken or Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey today!

Kids and Farm Animals: A Great Time!

Nothing makes our day more than having kids come visit us at the homestead. Beginning some time next month, we will be hosting a homestead tour so all interested kids and adults can come see the animals for themselves. But in the meantime, let these videos of our friend Meredith and her lovely kids, Emi and Teddy, make you smile.





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Free Ranging Chickens (Going Everywhere From the Pig Pen to the Woods!)

We recently have set our chickens free!

And I mean REALLY free!

They are free to go anywhere on our land that they want to, except the garden (which is why we’ve electric fenced the garden out) and the carport (just because it gets on my nerves)!

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Electric fencing around the garden.

The reason we made this choice is because we were tired of having to move their house and pen every week or so, and our flock is growing and we don’t want to expand the size of their space.

So, we decided to set them free and move their house way across our front yard to the edge of the woods.

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You can see the chicken house in the distance behind the duck fence!

They still get locked up in their house at night, since ground predators are a threat, but so far the aerial predators have not taken any standard sized chickens. A bantam has gone missing, but we expected that we might loose more chickens when we gave them free range of the whole property. We think it’s a risk that chickens would like to take, considering how much happier they are! We’ve kept 3 of our hybrid roosters, in addition to Rex, so that they can help protect the flock in the case of an attack. We’ve started calling these roosters the Musketeers, since they often stick together.

We are really happy with our choice to allow them to be completely free range, except for one thing… The eggs! Only a few of them are still laying their eggs in their house, and we have had a really hard time finding their other rouge nests. Even when we find one and replace some of the eggs with golf balls (so they don’t know that we found it) they still abandon that location and look for new places to lay eggs.

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An old nest spot was in the monkey grass under this oak tree.

At this point, we’re only finding about 5 eggs a day, and even though this isn’t enough to sell any, we still feel like it’s all worth it. Because they are free ranging we feed them so much less food, so they are almost free to keep around!

The funniest thing about having them free ranging everywhere, is seeing the places they choose to go. One hen always sleeps in a tree in the backyard, and many of the younger hens like to hang out with the pigs all day! The Musketeers high-tail it over to the backyard in the morning to get some of the leftover turkey food that the cleanup ducks missed! I just have to watch out for Rex when I’m outside, since he’s started attacking me again lately!

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Two of the Musketeers are hanging out in the backyard with the turkeys!

Three cheers for free chickens!

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A Fantastic Farm to Your School Day!

KW Homestead’s first Farm to Your School experience was a great one, with another school visit coming up on July 9th!

I just wrapped up the 2014-2015 school year as a Teacher’s Assistant at a school in High Point, and Jason and I decided to offer a free Farm to Your School adventure to the kindergarten, first, and second grade kids that I worked with everyday. A few days before the last day of school, we packed up our chickens, ducks, and a really friendly piglet named Half Nose and carted them over to Johnson Street Global Studies K-8 Magnet School.

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Each of the 6 classes had 30 minutes to enjoy the animals… A perfect amount of time for the kids to get quality time with each set of animals. I ran the Pig Station, where students got to pet and scratch our piglet. They were lucky enough to get to her some of her piggy noises, and some of our favorite questions were:

“Is she wagging her tail because she is happy?”

“Why her her hair so scratchy but her skin so soft?”

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Jason ran the Duck Station and the kids were able to feed the ducks and watch Jason employ some of his ninja skills while catching a duck for them to pet. Some of our favorite questions from the Duck Station were:

“Why do they sit in the water and then drink it?”

“Why do they always walk together?”

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Each classroom teacher supervised the kids while they looked at the rooster and hen, and they loved hearing the rooster crow and (their favorite) watching both chickens poop!

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We had a fantastic day, and the time we spent sharing our animals with the kids really flew by… I think we found one of our passions!

If you are interested in booking Farm to Your School at your school, church or family get-together, send us an email at ourochreway@gmail.com and check out our Farm to Your School pricing page!

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Angry, Broody, Bantam Hens: Look Out!

‘Tis the season for hens to start getting broody, and since we have noticed that our bantam hens are naturally more interested in sitting on eggs, we weren’t surprised to find one of our favorites, Cleo, sitting on eggs. She is the most dedicated of the “sitters” and never gives up! The other hens often wait until you reach for them ,and then explode out of the nest box with murder on their mind! Not Cleo, who sits patiently and fusses at you, pecking at your hand.

The video below shows one such event… and is a great resource to help you tell if you have a broody hen. It is also important to keep in mind that being broody doesn’t necessarily mean they will be committed for the whole 21 days. To be sure, the hen should refuse to give up, even when you reach under her to snatch eggs. If you can also feel that she has no feathers on her chest, and it feels like bare skin down there, then she’s probably in it for the long haul. Hens pull out their own chest feathers to ensure that there is skin-to-egg contact during the incubation period.

Check out the video below to see an example of 2 broody hens… One feeling broody but not yet committed, and one ready for the real deal!

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How To Remedy a Chicken’s Prolapsed Vent

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Bryn in solitary

One of our bantam hens, Bryn, was having some health issues a few weeks ago…

Her vent had prolapsed! For those of you don’t know, a chicken’s vent is where the eggs come from, as well as all the other things expelled from a chicken’s body! So having a prolapsed vent means that all of those things hang outside of the body and the chicken has trouble pooping and laying an egg becomes terrible.

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A prolapsed vent… NOT pretty!

A couple reasons why this can happen…

  • Older hens lose muscle tone in this area
  • A particularly tough egg can do damage on its way out
  • Poor nutrition or lack of proper supplements or diet

A couple things that are important to do if this happens…

  • As soon as possible, separate the hen from the others so other hens don’t pick at the red, raw area.
  • Try to limit her light since the length of the day makes hens want to begin laying or continue laying.
  • Make sure she has access to proper food for healing.

Even if you do the above…

  • She might get an infection and die.
  • The vent might not retract on its own, which means you’ll need to help her out!

After doing some research, I learned that cleaning her vent area, applying witch hazel, and gently pushing her vent back inside is helpful and might work at getting her back in good health. I tried this 4 times and her vent stayed inside for a few minutes, but then popped back out. She wasn’t showing any signs of infection, was acting like herself, and hadn’t layed any eggs since being in solitary, so I didn’t want to give up her even though my tactics weren’t working!

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Bryn getting her butt bathed…

 

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Working on her vent…

I spoke with my dad and he reminded me about the medicinal magic of the plantago plant, which is great at fighting infection but also great at tightening and causing retraction. We thought it would work!

So this time I:

  • Washed her vent area really well with warm water
  • Chewed up a couple large plantain (plantago) leaves and spit the juice and the leaf peices around and onto her vent
  • Used my smallest finger to gently push her vent back inside her body and hold it there for a little while
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Drying her off…

We kept her in the solitary cage for a few more days, and saw that in those days her vent continued to look better and had not popped back out again! She was reintroduced to the flock and has been fine ever since!

So if your chicken has a prolapsed vent, we recommend plantago!

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Waste Not: Respecting the Rooster By Using It All

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Some of the roosters, enjoying their time in the yard.

Recently we made a delicious rooster soup, and used all of the bones for the broth. We came out with a fantastically fatty stew that we will certainly enjoy again!!!

We wanted to be sure to use the entirety of each rooster, since wasting any part of them would feel like a disrespect. I watched each of them come into this world, hovering over the incubator like a ridiculous, nervous mom. I spent time with them and they came to know me as a creature to trust. Witnessing life’s full circle is a meaningful event, one that makes me all the more aware of our responsibility to honor the roosters after they have been dispatched. Here is how we used all of our roosters…

After they were killed, they were scalded in hot water to make plucking their feathers easier. All of these feathers were saved and I will be using them for earrings, a headdress, or even for stuffing fun, homemade pillows.

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Feathers!

 

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So many feathers!

Their heads were removed and we later put them in the compost pile so they can contribute their nutrients to our garden beds.

Their internal organs were removed, and the majority were fed to the pigs, who loved this snack!

We saved the livers for our dog, Bolt, and he got a snack also.

Then we fried the 3 hearts with salt and ate them ourselves. Delicious! This is one of my favorite little snacks… It makes me think of my childhood!

The feet were removed, cleaned, and steamed so that the skin would be easy to peel. These peels were given to the pigs and I saved the toenails for making jewelry.

The peeled feet were added to the soup… There is such great gelatin in chicken feet and it is so good for your body!

Once the broth was complete, the meat was removed from the bones and put back with the broth for our soup base.

I saved some of the more beautiful bones (the wish bones, phalanges, and other foot bones) for jewelry.

The remaining bones were cooked down over the course of a few days to make bone broth, a highly nutritous supplement to any future soup.

The bones that didn’t beak down fully were then mashed into a pulp to give to Bolt as a supplement… One better than money can buy!

So, thank you dear roosters! For all you have given us! We certainly appreciate it.

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