WARNING TO VEGETARIANS AND OTHERWISE SENSITIVE PEOPLE.
We had our first chicken harvest this week. 5 months back we added a few Rhode Island Reds to our flock with the intention of making little baby chicks for meat but they never laid eggs. As well, our nickname for them was “the lazy ones” as theydid not eat many bugs and they were not favored by the others. However, Paco the rooster liked them. Sorry Paco….you just need to make due with the rest as we needed chicken for Super Bowl Sunday.
Monica, Ana’s neice, made the kill while we assisted. I was not as freaked out as I thought I would be but Ana took it a little hard. I will not go into details but rather inform you on how to deal with older chickens when cooking. The French tend to favor older ones for the better flavor and recommend cutting them up and soaking in a brine mixture for at least 24 hours in the fridge before cooking for several hours in order to soften the meat. We chose a brine mixture of 1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water. If I had a bottle of red wine I would have used it but unfortunately wine is tough to come by in these parts.
Friday soak over night in brine
Saturday, rinse well and cook for 3 to 4 hours
Sunday morning cook again for a few hours and flavor, then serve
Remember our chicken that we saved from a scorpion sting? If not, see the post here. Her name is Catarina and she has been one of the best egg laying and bug eating chickens in the bunch. A few weeks back, Ana told me that her changed behavior indicated that she was going to hatch some chicks.
The first indicator was that she stayed in her nesting box most of the day; only coming out for a few minutes each day to eat, drink water and terrorize the other chickens. Apparently terrorizing anything close to her is another indicator. We have been entertained and a bit freaked out by her rapid mood change and altered appearance. When she finally gets put of the box, she puffs out her feathers and runs rapidly about the yard gobbling up food along the way and attacking the other chickens if they get too close. If we approach her nesting box, she puffs up and growls a warning signal.
I have been staying clear until today when Ana announced that she heard peeping from her box. We both approached slowly and sure enough, we see at least one little chick. Catarina is sitting on more eggs so we will keep posted if more hatch. To assist, we placed a new plank that should be easy for the chicks to walk up and Ana cut an access hole in the nesting box for easier entrance and exits.
Update: We now have 6 baby chicks and its been quite a large amount of work as I must admit to not being prepared to host the little buggers. The mama is a great caretaker and patiently shows them how to eat and clean. One poor little chick has a leg problem which I researched and tried everything recommended to help it to no avail. I fear for the worse for it. Time will tell as its a tough little thing and tries its best to keep up with the pack but rests to the side when the others are too aggressive. We mainly have chickens called “rancheros” and they are fairly hearty. I may be too sensitive for raising animals. Sigh.
Here is todays’ pic when we let them out in the run for a bit this morning, mama is taking a much needed dirt bath while they try and follow her.
Ana and I both completed a Permaculture class years back hosted by permie guru Toby Hemenway, author of “Gaia’s Garden”, one of our favorite resource books. The class was held at South Seattle Community College over 6 weekends, each conducted on a monthly basis so it took 6 months to complete. Our weekends with Toby were extra special as he always invited at least one guest instructor to join in the learning fun. We met Bullock brother, Douglas; we later traveled to Orcas and camped overnight for a tour of their incredible farm. Highly recommended!
We also were able to meet and learn from chicken expert (among other topics) Paul Wheaton. About a week ago, Ana and I decided to implement his concept of paddocks, which are movable fenced areas for the chickens. We were tired of the chicken poo everywhere…sidewalks, driveway….ick. With all experiments, we will see if this works in Mexico.
No connection to the paddock method….we think anyway: A few days back one of the chickens, Katarina, starting acting odd just before bedtime; she could not stand straight up and was stumbling about trying to move. We moved in and picked her up and Ana thought a scorpion may have stung her. Since there is not any real way to tell (unless of course if you see one on or about the chicken) she relied on her past knowledge and also asked our neighbor, who was out feeding his donkey. He agreed with Ana and said to give it garlic and keep her separate from the others and wait. Hmm….
Right after Ana fed the chicken some garlic and water, her nephew Adrian came to visit. He asked if we had searched the internet for answers. Great idea! I searched and found a site where others had discussed the same topic and they recommended benadryl. Ana ground some up and we force fed her some of the pink liquid, then placed her in one of the cat cages we used for the journey south and put her on our large porch for the night.
Over the next day we watched and force fed her water and a few little bites of food. I wondered if she would recover…but after a day and half she stood up. Wow! We put her in the front yard for another half day on her own to be separate from the other chickens and she slowly began to forage and eat. Happy ending! She is now back with the others in the paddock.