Sunday, March 10, 2013


Our chickens arrive via the US Postal Service. Starting this week, and for the next 6 months, we will get regular shipments of cartons with day old chicks inside them. We place our orders once a year, and then have automatic shipments.

The chicks will spend a few weeks in the brooder, inside the hoophouse. Depending on the time of year and the weather they will be in the brooder for a little longer if need be. If cold, rain and windy conditions are predicted they stay inside longer.

And because we grow heritage breed turkeys, we start them pretty soon too. Seems amazing that a Thanksgiving turkey will be here for about 8 months (about twice the amount of time needed for conventional breeds and feed) but we have learned that has the best outcome.

Conventional chicken growers are contracted by the chicken brands you recognize to grow out the birds. Bell & Evans, Perdue, Tyson, Eberly (there are many more) now grow what they call free range birds. It means the birds are not in stacked cages. It means the birds are in long, low houses with access to the same square footage of grass as every flock that contractor grows. The contractor must buy birds, feed and supplements from the company they grow for, and are paid based on the weight of their flock in comparison to their neighbors flock. Chickens grown this way teach maturity in about 6 weeks time, while ours take closer to 10 weeks. Outdoor conditions change outcomes: if the fox gets into a pen the entire group disappears, and that delays delivery.

But the chicken itself?! Tasty. We roast it whole, cut out the backbone and butterfly it for cooking on the weber, put it into a Dutch oven on the stove with our garlic and tomatoes, take it apart and fry it, put into the cast iron pot w carrots, peas and onions for real chicken and dumplings: the dumplings that sit up huge, light and fluffy.

When our chicken is roasted in the pan, the juice from the bird stays liquid. Even if we put that pan in the fridge, it does not congeal into that hard white stuff we used to see. Not certain why that is: we think the grass consumption has something to do with it. :) When the leftovers from a roasted chicken go into a tall pot to make stock, the same thing happens. The top of the pot, even when chilled, does not hold a ton of hardened white stuff. And the flavor of that chicken stock is nothing like you are used to: it makes eating a pleasure. Picky eaters become unpicky. Sauces become simple to make, because the stock behaves the way it is supposed to. Cooking simply is achievable because each ingredient tastes good and combined is just lovely.

So our brooders are ready. For both chicken and turkeys. Cleaned out, fresh bedding. Next the watering systems get scrubbed and cleared of dust, some tiny sized grit is made available, and the post office delivers. And in May (or early June if things go crazy) we get fresh chicken again. And each week so do a bunch of other people! Yum.

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