Boulevard Farm

Live on our urban homestead

Making Dinner July 30, 2012

Filed under: Rabbits — sarahtar @ 5:04 pm

Been a while, hasn’t it? We’ve been a little busy. Since my last post, I had a premature baby who was born with kidney failure, spent 3 weeks in the NICU, watched him undergo 7 or 8 surgeries, and spent a total of nearly 5 months in the hospital. Our black doe had babies – 5, but one died – and then our white doe had 8 babies, but they all died in the heat wave we’ve been experiencing (it’s been hotter here than, you know, the mideast. Not kidding.).

So… this past weekend, I harvested the four bunnies from the black doe. With help. Turns out, harvesting bunnies isn’t that hard. Even the killing them part wasn’t as hard as I was afraid it would be. Most people recommend breaking the bunny’s neck, but I was afraid I wouldn’t have the physical strength to do it. But, it worked out.

Making dinner, step 1

Beau Ebersole from Ebersole Cattle Co came out to show me how to skin and eviscerate the rabbits. I’m super glad I had his expert guidance – I could have probably stumbled through on my own, but learning from someone who’s done it before makes it so much easier.

So, now I have a bunny in the fridge for dinner this week (watch for another post) and three in the freezer.

I’m going to work on improving my technique with the next harvest, and then should be able to offer rabbit meat for sale. :-)

 

Chicken Harvest August 29, 2011

Filed under: Chickens — sarahtar @ 10:43 am

Chickens

22 chickens bleeding out. This was easily our best chicken harvest yet. We had a good rhythm going, and we ROCKED that plucker. Randy and Wally got the chickens off the fence, Abby and Randy switched off dunking them in the hot water and running the plucker, and I handled pulling off any errant feathers after the plucker was done. Inside, we fell into a nice routine of Randy cutting off tails, heads, necks, and feet, and me handling the removal of the guts and washing of the birds. Since he finished before I did, he also took care of getting them into zip close bags. Even with an hour or so break due to rain, it only took 6 hours, including the time involved in getting the turkey fryer set up and boiling, getting the plucker in place, and cleaning up afterwards. Pretty good.

chicken dissection
chicken dissection

Um, the 7 year olds dissecting the chicken heads. They got a closeup look at eyeballs, brains, and various other parts of a chicken head. This was a cool educational moment, but it also kept them happily occupied for an hour or more. And, well, there were voices involved, too. The chicken heads apparently were talking to them. I don’t know.

 

Rabbit Area Re-Do August 21, 2011

Filed under: Rabbits — sarahtar @ 8:41 pm

 

 

In early July, I decided to redo the rabbit setup just a little. We were having this problem with the buck. He likes to be crazy and run around his cage really fast. I am pretty sure he’s communicating something to me, but haven’t been able to nail down what it is, other than, “I smell does and I want at them.” But while he’s showing off his great manliness, he had also been managing to knock his cage partially or completely off the stack. So sometimes I’d go out to check on them, and his cage would be dangling by one corner, and the water tank would be completely empty because the swinging cage had torn one of the connections loose. And putting the cages back is not really easy – there’s just not any space on the sides.

I was also beginning to have problems with the poop trays. Since they were part wood, and very thin wood at that, they were starting to get soggy and misshapen in the humidity (and with pee). The top part, that was being peed on, was formica, but the underneath part was wood. And as it got soggy, the hooks started tearing out. And I was afraid they’d start to grow things.

Redo of Rabbit Setup

So I switched things up a little bit. Before, I had the cages and poop trays all hanging from each other. The top cage hung from the ceiling, the middle cage hung from that cage, etc. You can see pictures here. Now, I have one long chain that is pulled pretty tightly between the ceiling beams and the poop tray on the ground. The individual cages have smaller chains hooking them to the main chains. This way, no cage is directly attached to any other cage, giving them all some degree of independence from the mood swings of the others.

 

Redo of Rabbit Setup

The cages are attached both top and bottom. At least, the buck’s is. This minimizes the amount of swing his cage has and really holds it pretty stable. You can see that it’s just cheap chain from the hardware store connected with S-hooks that I then squished shut with the pliers. They’re still open a smidge – just enough to slip them off if needed – but not enough to pull out on accident.

Redo of Rabbit Setup

And then the poop trays are different. They sell this stuff for posters and whatnot, it’s like plastic corrugated cardboard. Might be called corrugated plastic, lol. It’s very lightweight, but not as bendy as thin wood in humidity, and there’s obviously nothing there to absorb moisture, either from the rabbits or from the air. I poked small holes in them with some scissors, then attached the FRONT edge only to the front edge of the cage with a pair of round clips – the type you might use on paper.

I then actually spaced the cages a little further apart vertically to give the poop tray a better angle. And last, I did not worry about attaching the back end to anything. It just rests on the back of the cage below.

Redo of Rabbit Setup  Redo of Rabbit Setup

On the left here is where the chain hooks to the bottom poop tray. And on the right is where the chain hooks to the top beams. The beams are actually held in place via some L-brackets that just brace them into place. They are not actually attached to anything themselves, making them easy to remove if needed.

Redo of Rabbit Setup Redo of Rabbit Setup

And a few more pictures of how the whole thing works. You can also see the zip ties on Black Doe’s feeder. Yeah. She has a habit of knocking her feeder onto the floor, the little booger. Now she just sits there and tries and tries and tries to get it knocked down, but she can’t. <insert evil laugh>

 

Chicken Dinner August 18, 2011

Filed under: Chickens — sarahtar @ 8:36 pm

 

Looks like chicken dinner to me! I’ve tentatively scheduled Chicken Dinner Day for August 28. That’s only 2 more weeks of listening to the new head rooster show off his manliness to the whole neighborhood.

Dinner

 

And this is Black Hen. The one who has been sitting on the next for the last 18 months. Not laying eggs. Just eating, being a B to the other chickens, and actually eating some of the eggs she acts like she is hatching. I have come to believe it’s all a ploy. She’s not really broody. She’s lazy. This broody gag lets her sit on her butt all day, not produce eggs, and gets her free yummy egg meals whenever she “accidentally” breaks one. mmmm hmmm. I’m on to you and your ways, Black Hen. Our family is having chicken stew on the 29th… guess who’s going to be in it?

I will particularly enjoy eating Black Hen

I’m sorry, does that sound cruel? Animals are food around here. Farm animals are not pets. Dogs and cats, they’re pets. Chickens are food. I’m not mean to her in person, but she does drive me insane. And while I’ll be a little sad to be butchering my oldest chicken, I’ll be glad to be rid of her at the same time.

 

Mating August 16, 2011

Filed under: Rabbits — sarahtar @ 8:36 pm

 

 

So, Sunday was mating day at Boulevard Farm. I’ve never really, um, forced two animals to have sex before, so I was a little uncertain, but as it turns out, the buck needed no encouragement. At all.

From what I had read in books, I had expected some period of mutual sniffing, and of the doe familiarizing herself with the buck’s cage. Even though, you know, it’s the same as hers.

In reality, I put her in with the buck and while she seemed to want to sniff  around a little, he really just wanted to get down to business. Like, immediately. Oh, good heavens, the poor guy was humping furiously, but never seemed to be able to actually get it in the right place, because Sabrina (the white doe) simply wanted nothing to do with him.

Eventually, she resorted to sitting on her haunches wedged into the corner.

And the poor buck seemed to be trying to woo her. He was sniffing her and cuddling her and licking her face and whatnot, but she was having NO PART in this. So after about 10 minutes, I took her out. I think she was tired of having her back humped. I know I would be.

Proud of Himself

 

 

So, we tried the other doe, the Black doe (sans a name). She is my favorite of the two does. She played this game of Run Away, which resulted in a merry game of chase for the buck. Round and round and round the cage, and eventually, he just stood in the center and watched her. Reasonably assured that they wouldn’t hurt each other, I went inside for a minute and came back out to find her sitting along the back side of the cage with the buck spread out in front of her, as relaxed as can be. He could have been smoking a cigarette.

She was calmer, too, though of course, two calm rabbits don’t necessarily mean that he actually impregnated her. I reached in for her and kind of wagged her backside at the buck a little, but he had absolutely no interest at all, which I took as a good sign. I put her back in her cage, but checked out her girly parts first, and they seemed to be, um… well, it seemed like he found the right spot. So, I’m considering it a job well done by Mr Buck, but we’ll find out in a month, I guess. I’m going to try palpitating her in a few weeks, to see if I can feel anything, but I have no experience and no confidence.

So the picture above is the buck, pleased with himself. The picture below is the knocked up rabbit.

Knocked up

 

Mid-summer Update July 28, 2011

Filed under: Chickens,Food,Rabbits — sarahtar @ 5:02 pm

 

My goodness, I’ve neglected this blog. Here’s a quick update.

People: We’re expecting another baby at the end of December. Yay us.

Rabbits: The rabbits are doing really good! They’re all grown up now, and could have been bred in June, but since we were planning a vacation for mid-July, I decided it would be best to wait until we returned. I will be breeding them in early August, so hopefully it won’t be quite as hot when they kindle in early September. That should still give the babies time enough to grow up sufficiently to allow me to butcher them in early December, before the new baby comes. If I can do a reasonable job of sexing the babies, I’ll probably keep one doe and one buck from this batch to bring the flock up to five breeding adults. Depending on how warm I’m able to keep the rabbit shed, I might breed the does again in the winter, or I might wait until it warms up a bit in March.

Hens: The hens are doing OK. The second-year hens are pissing me off, though. Black Hen still thinks she’s raising young. She isn’t. What she is doing is terrorizing the rest of the flock. White Hen isn’t laying any more. Of the other four one also isn’t laying. I’d like to say that their personalities make up for this, but they don’t. And for the first time, flies are becoming a problem around their coop. A quick search of various backyard poultry message boards shows that many people around the country are having a bad year for flies. We’re getting so darn much rain, I suspect that’s 90% of the problem. I believe I’m going to dispatch the second-year hens as soon as it’s cool enough to want to consider standing over a pot of boiling water.

Meat birds: Due to the excessive amounts of rain, the meat bird pen is STINKY. I’ve tried lime. I’ve tried wood shavings. I’ve tried Sweet PDZ, which is what I used last year. Nothing’s helping. I have a few roosters crowing their hearts out, not just in the morning, but whenever they feel the need to establish their manliness, which is often. I’m going to take care of a few of the roosters – at least the two noisy ones – when I do the hens, and then I’m planning to butcher the rest of the flock in early October before it gets cold. I’m thinking that I’m going to take a break from meat birds next year. Give the pen a chance to air out, toss some seeds back there and let them grow a bit, maybe till some DE, sand, and peat into the ground back there. Give the neighbors a break, lol.

Garden: At our place, the herbs are doing well, the garlic’s growing, and the horseradish is doing great. We lost all three fruit trees last year, as well as the grapes, but we replaced the apple and the grapes this spring and they’re looking good.

 

Cornish Game Hen May 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahtar @ 2:02 pm

Are you wondering exactly what a cornish game hen is? It is not a game bird. It’s not a hen. It’s just a Cornish bird that you kill pretty young. Wikipedia says 30 days, I’ve read 4-6 weeks. We’ve let ours go too long, I think, but their day is coming on Sunday.

And this may be my last time raising them, unless we do kill them at 30 days. Cornish are really really annoying.

 

 
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