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Chicken finale

I travelled to Abrams Village two days ago to help finish processing the last ten chickens for the summer. It was another hot afternoon of work, and I’m glad that it’s over for the year. I finally took some time this afternoon and go through all the receipts so I could post my conclusions on raising chickens. In short, I’m happy to announce that it most definitely is :)

Chicken Info

Average Dressed Weight: 4.8 lbs
Price/lb at Farmer’s Market: $4
Average Chicken Value: $19.20
Total Chicken Value: $691.20

Non-Capital Costs

This is the list of things you would have to buy every year to raise the chickens. I’ve rounded all the costs to the nearest $5 just to keep things simple.

Chickens: $50
Food: $125
Brooder Lights: $20
Wood Shavings: $25
Total Non-Capital Costs: $220

Non-Capital Profit: $480
Per Chicken: $13.33

My initial hand-wavy calculations were around $10/chicken.. we’ll see how this compares to the next set of numbers

Total Costs

In the case where you only raise chickens for one summer and then sell / give away / lose the equipment, is it still worth it? I believe so

Non-Capital Costs: $220
Pen*: $175
Equipment: $130
Total Costs: $525

Profit: $175
Per Chicken: $4.86

*Almost half of the price of the pen came from the roof. There are definitely ways to reduce costs here by visiting a scrapyard (as long as you have a truck). Also, getting scrap lumber would save another 25-30%.

Conclusions

Even if you only do this for one summer, it is still worth it to raise your own food. With a bit of time and effort, you can scrounge materials and equipment throughout the winter or previous fall and really cut down on the expenses.

In terms of doing this for profit, things get a bit trickier here. Certainly it can provide some added income for the summer on a slightly larger scale: raising 300 chickens could net around $2700 and you can easily fit three batches in one summer.

The tough part comes at the end for slaughtering; it is definitely time-consuming to learn and until you and a few other people become skilled, it will kill your hourly rate. I think it would be an ideal thing for several families to get together each year to help raise and process food for the winter; it would certainly be cheaper than buying a similarly grown product, and the satisfaction of knowing exactly where your food comes from is priceless.

Chicken project complete!

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This is now a chicken-free zone. Except for the freezer :) I was hoping to write a long post today detailing the adventure and how the last couple days went but there is just too much to do right now before heading over to Halifax for the wedding. It was definitely a good (and tasty) experience.

And then there were thirty-four

I had been wondering about this for a little while, and then recently it became quite obvious – one of these is definitely not like the other.

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He was up to 8 lbs, far beyond the 6 lbs I was hoping for and his legs were reaching the limits of what they could support. I think he could take about ten to fifteen steps before needing to rest.

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We experimented with heating the water for the “scalder” (stock pot) outside, but after twenty-something minutes there was no noticeable difference so we just used the stove to heat it.

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He was not nearly as complacent as the small hen we did a while ago – and the neck was much tougher to cut through. I am really looking forward to receiving the cones; will make life easier.

Turned in at a respectable 4 lbs 14 oz, with the breasts an even 1 lb in the end. I’m wondering why people don’t just raise roosters instead? The meat tastes the same to me….

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First chicken slaughtered

Well, I thought there was hope, but the chicken I’ve been keeping in the shed

In the end, for this one, I went with a sharp knife to the throat, a pot of hot water at around 70° C (160° F), and hand-picking the feathers. I will only put links to the video and some pictures here; if you are squeamish I suggest avoiding them.

Video of bird before, during, and after slaughter.

(Apparently YouTube examines the soundtrack and since I’ve used copyrighted music in it, refuses to play the audio

In case anyone is curious, the first two pieces of music are Zero Seven’s Waiting to Die and Un Bel Di from Madame Butterfly. The third is fairly recognizable :) I had debated using Only Happy When It Rains (it was downpouring), Up N Down (just to throw in some dance music) and I Would Die For You. At the end of the day, taking four-ish hours to cut together a video is too long as it is :)

Pictures

Was it difficult? A little bit, although most of my concern came from trying to find the right place on the throat to cut. I definitely should have cut higher and will remember that for next time (plus they will be in a cone then). The rest of it went well; the plucking was quite straightforward, but needs to be done as soon as the dunking is complete – we decided to take it inside to finish off and it had cooled down by then. Eviscerating was a bit tougher (I was following these directions

In the end, she only weighed 1.25lbs after picking, and there may have been .5 lbs of meat there. Certainly not worth keeping alive for another two weeks in terms of comfort or food.

Anyway; I’m glad I have some experience now. Looking forward to getting slightly better equipment setup for the remaining thirty-something of them in a couple weeks time. It looks like I may be giving away a few live to people who want to grow them even larger :)

Rollercoaster

I am probably wasting time/food/energy on this one bird, and I can’t help it - still want to have thirty-six slaughtered chickens come the end of July :) I put the “sick” chick back in the shed with her own water and food. Tried feeding her a bit myself and that seemed to perk her up, but I doubt it’s anything more than temporary.

If it’s a leg problem, then I doubt she’s been getting enough to eat. If it’s coccidiosis then this should hopefully quarantine it. I am now continually worried about the birds that don’t move when I bring out new food; will have to keep an eye on all of them.

In the worst case, if she dies, here are some pics

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Sigh.

Update (June 25): She made it through the night, and it is seeming more like a leg problem. She's able to hobble enough to turn around from time to time, and will still eat and drink a bit.

Possible problems in paradise

I’m getting concerned about one of the chickens; she’s been refusing to move every day with the pen and I continually have to go around to the back, lift it up, and push her forward. She can walk, but doesn’t appear to want to. I took her out this morning and she wasn’t even interested in eating.

Sick chicken?

Some comments on the forum

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The next step is to separate her; catching will be difficult given the roof of the pen, but I guess there is no other choice. I don’t want to give them antibiotics either if I can help it.