Who Gives A Cluck? - Home on the Range Blog at Allrecipes.com - 248835

Home on the Range

Who Gives A Cluck? 
Sep. 1, 2011 3:21 pm 
Updated: Sep. 8, 2011 8:12 pm

This was our first year to raise meat chickens. I have had chickens for years, enough to be too spoiled to eat commercial eggs. Fresh eggs from home raised chickens have a dark orange yolk that stands up and doesn’t break easily, the whites are not runny or watery, and the flavor is outstanding. The only downside is they are very hard to peel when hardboiled unless you let them get old, like store bought eggs. No problem. Fresh eggs keep for a very long time. In fact, ours is the only country that refrigerates them from what I understand.

We used to have to keep the chickens cooped up all the time, because owls and hawks would try to snag them. We had a bobcat trying to break into their coop and there is a rash of raccoons, coyotes, cougars and bull snakes that would love to dine on fresh chicken or at least the eggs. The boss had 30 chickens delivered once and said they were gone within hours, because of the owls…and the hens were hiding in a brush pile!

Enter Cletus and Bruno, our two year old Maremma Livestock Guardian Dogs. Cletus, especially, has always had a great fondness for chickens. Unfortunately it used to manifest itself by running down any loose bird, pinning it between his paws and gleefully undressing it. This resulted in the loss of a couple birds and a dressing down of Cletus himself. He actually couldn't wait to show me his surprise once, as he led me around the corner and through the weeds where he happily presented me with a naked rooster. He was sorely disappointed in my response to his gift. It was just more than he could contain, this fascination and love for chickens. Once he understood the chickens were MINE and not to be molested, he has become our main and most faithful chicken guardian. He makes sure to flop down somewhere he will have a good view of the chickens as they free range. 

He has set up a ‘no fly zone’ around the yard where hawks and owls are not allowed to pass. He and Bruno have run nearly all the way to the horse corral in pursuit of a wayward owl. The hawks, owls and eagles just don’t bother anymore, there must be easier game out there on the ranch. The chickens often nap with him during the day then get locked into their coop at night so he is free to go patrol with Bruno and protect the rest of the critters here. Come morning, Cletus is asleep outside the coop, faithfully keeping watch over his charges.

So we bought some Cornish X chicks. These are a hybrid chicken developed for meat purposes only. They grow incredibly fast, have very meaty breasts and thighs and rarely survive longer than 8-12 weeks due to their massive size. A lot of people don’t like raising them because they are sort of lazy…have leg problems and poop a lot. They also eat a lot. In fact, they will eat themselves to death if you don't ration their food. The first 3 weeks I was not a fan of the breed, but then we put them outside where they could move around and forage a bit. They LOVED it! They started roaming farther and farther across the yard, catching bugs and picking grass. They remained healthy and happy. Knowing they would not survive beyond several weeks of age made it easier to reconcile ourselves to butchering them for the freezer.

As I pondered this, I realized all things will die. We can either give them a good life, a purpose and a quick and humane death, or let them suffer from starvation, disease, the pain of old age, or be eaten alive by predators. It is a service to our  animals to choose the former and by doing so, insuring the quality and safety of the food on our family table.

Unsure if there was going to be any difference in the flavor of the chicken we raised, compared to what we bought, we decided to purchase one and cook them together. There was a definite difference. The home raised meat was flavorful and almost sweet, whereby the store bought chicken was bland and mushy by comparison.

The next chicken-y meal was fried chicken from 2 roosters that were always fighting and crowing and generally driving us crazy. As there were only 2 hens of laying age 3 roosters is WAY too many, so our choice to was put two in the frying pan. It was, by far, the BEST fried chicken I have EVER had. Add buttermilk biscuits made with fresh buttermilk and dripping with homemade butter, some corn on the cob and lemonade and you have a meal fit for a king. The fringe benefit is that we now only have 1 "alarm clock" to deal with, which makes the hens happier too.

The leftovers made great stock too!

I found one of the little 'eggers' practicing today. She was trying on the nesting box for size. Too cute.

Lots of cities now allow backyard chickens, so lots of people can partake of all the good things chickens have to offer. They are great entertainment too, not to mention eating all the bugs that would attack your garden, fly larvae and kitchen scraps. Another "must have" for me. Move over Colonel. Ain't nuthin like the real thing!
Sep. 1, 2011 3:39 pm
It is nice to get another perspective on chickens. My mother grew up on a farm and truly hated the birds. I think feeding and gathering eggs were one of her many chores from an early age. She talked of how mean they were. Thank you for another enjoyable blog.
Sep. 1, 2011 4:39 pm
aww that's too bad. Roosters can darn sure be mean sometimes, but I know all of my grandkids LOVE the chickens.They want to spend all their time with them. I guess it is all in your perspective. If they feel like a chore, instead of a blessing, they won't be so easy to appreciate.
Sep. 1, 2011 5:06 pm
In the past my kids raised the Cornish X for fairs and of course they were later butchered, they are extremely yummy! We have quite a mix of chickens in general and they are so entertaining to watch, fresh eggs are the best! Great blog!
Sep. 1, 2011 6:25 pm
I had a big mean leghorn rooster that would attack me evry time I entered his domain. He kept his charges in order and wasn't afraid of raccoons, fox or possum so I kept him. He made it seven years and was on his third batch of hens when he was just too old for a fight with (I think) a raccoon. The hens went lazy immediately. His replacement, a Barred Rock, couldn't grasp his job very well.
Sep. 1, 2011 6:41 pm
LOL! My rooster only has 1 job and we shall see next spring if he is up to the task!
Sep. 1, 2011 7:01 pm
Such a great blog, petey! I love reading your wonderful stories of your life on the ranch.
Sep. 1, 2011 7:21 pm
You've got the colonel beat - total thumbs up! Great looking chicken - alive and fried. lol.
Sep. 1, 2011 7:33 pm
I can only wish to have chickens. Our yard and neighbors just don't work for them. I'd get hate mail. Our backyard is mostly cement, pool, and a few plants around the sides. I'm envious. I would love them.
Sep. 1, 2011 7:34 pm
May I say what a class act you are petey? Loved the comment to another poster on your last blog. I was lucky enough to have Soup Loving Nicole bring fresh eggs from her house as a gift for me this summer. There is NO comparison in taste or color to store bought. Several years ago I was lucky enough to know a lady that raised almost everything. Those were the days, fresh goat's milk and cheese, fresh chicken and even soap. She was such a delight but then she and her husband decided to retire to the town life back where they grew up. Darn! I really miss the stuff I don't grow. Nice blog!
Sep. 1, 2011 7:48 pm
thanks you guys. Marianne, I will enjoy them FOR you, and Cathill...thanks. LOL
Sep. 1, 2011 8:06 pm
Thanks so much for this Petey. I am blessed to get fresh eggs from a friend - I also buy farm fresh commercial eggs for baking & save the 'real' eggs for eating. Someday I will have chickens again - I do so love them.
Sep. 1, 2011 9:44 pm
As always Petey, I could not wait to read your blog! You are living the life I want! I grew up on a farm and there is nothing as good a fresh eggs, milk, cream, veggie, just anything home grown. Once after we married we were living in town and brought back fresh eggs to my brother's wife. She called me a day or two later and asked if there could be something wrong with the eggs. They were so orange they did not look right to her!!
Sep. 1, 2011 10:27 pm
Oh Petey you are too Cute for words and the way you write them out is like I am sitting in your living room having and nice chat and you are describing your pups to me. That Cletus is a Riot! I can actually see him giving you his present and you giving him Holey He!! for it. BBBAAAAHHHAAA.You are blessed!
Sep. 2, 2011 12:21 am
Will you please just adopt me, please????
Sep. 2, 2011 5:43 am
Thanks, again, for an awesome story! Chickens are interesting, and excellent food producers. I currently do not have any, but buy fresh eggs. I can't stand store eggs. (Wish I'd had your dogs when the neighbor's pitbulls wiped our flock out. (The sheriff said to shoot them when they kept killing chickens and intimidating cattle, after the renting owners had been warned a lot! It only took one buckshot to the "hip area" to end their trespassing, but it was to late for the chickens.) BTW, my GD is voting for your gal on FB.
Sep. 2, 2011 5:57 am
Always a delight and a sense of wonder when I read your stories, Petey. Your life continues to fascinate me. This morning I turned off the news and laid the newspaper aside because of all the bad news - to come across your latest blog was so refreshing. Thanks so much.
Sep. 2, 2011 6:35 am
Welcome back Rocketwoman, you seem to have recovered your elan. No less than I expected. I suspect there is no one else on the planet who could induce in me a desire to own chickens simply by writing about them.
Sep. 2, 2011 9:14 am
You guys are great. Your comments always make me laugh. It makes me more grateful for the internet. Mamaw, tell your GD thanks! I am still crossing my fingers Mandy wins!
Sep. 2, 2011 11:46 am
My goodness...are Bruno and Cletus really two years old already??? It seems like yesterday that you brought them home as gangly, tumbly balls of fluff! I had the best giggle picturing that naked rooster and the look on Cletus' face when he presented you with his "surprise" :) Thank goodness he got over his desire to undress the chickens and now guards them so well.
Sep. 2, 2011 12:01 pm
I wouldn't eat eggs or chicken for many years because the old lady who lived behind us kept chickens and I saw her kill them. I hated her and actually got ill at the thought of eating her or anyone elses chicken. I was about 7 at the time. I have been fortunate enough to find farm fresh eggs at the Farmers Market and also fresh chickens. I will never go back to buying either from the supermarket. There has been enough interest that the farmer has agreed to find a way to keep the supply up over the winter. Bruno and Cletus have surely proven their worth.
Sep. 2, 2011 12:21 pm
1)oops - "too, not to late! 2)I'll tell her you said thanks. Mandy is a doll. BTW, you should write her entry info. I found the FB entry, and your description was more magical!!
Sep. 2, 2011 12:46 pm
Love your blog Petey! I too have chickens; 9 total and 7 are laying. I had 10, but one turned out to be a rooster. Since I am a huge "sissy" I couldn't kill it for a wonderful chicken-y (as you put it) dinner. We gave it to our backyard neighbors who are Hispanic and they made a very delicious Pollo Asado. We could smell it for days! I love my girls and am so very thankful to them for giving me their best every day!
Sep. 2, 2011 12:55 pm
Keri, no, my poor proofreading job overlooked necessary punctuation. That was my 2, year-old Maremmas. They turned 1 in March. I am doubly blessed because most LGD's are not to be trusted with stock until they are over 2 years old! My 'boys' are irreplaceable. :)
Sep. 2, 2011 3:18 pm
Petey,great blot. you have such a way with words and your life in so interesting. When I was 4 years old, I went to live with my grandparents, who had a small chicken farm. We also had a few turkeys (who were very mean). We had the chickens for the eggs which we sold, but we always had a delicious chicken dinner every Sunday. After a few years my grandparents became too old to run the farm and sold it, but I still miss that kind of life. Feeding chickens is fun.
Sep. 3, 2011 7:09 am
Awe petey, this one hits close to home for me and is one of my favorite blogs yet. I love my girls and I love my rooster too. He has no clue what he is doing in the breeding department but he keeps the girls rounded up and on their toes. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body when it comes to me and hubby and he is our gentle giant. I've tossed around the idea of meat chickens for the health benefits but I have to be 100% confident that I could deal with the disposing of them and I am not there yet but still working on it :) Great blog!
Sep. 3, 2011 7:59 am
Once again Petey....a great blog. Can we have an AR get together in you barn? I think you would REALLY have a barn full of hens then LOL!
Sep. 3, 2011 8:11 am
Julie, what a fabulous idea. Let's have a get together at Petey's! I love it on that side of the mountain.
Sep. 3, 2011 8:35 am
What say Petey? You would have a some very green farm help, but we can learn :) Kinda tacky inviting myself huh?
Sep. 3, 2011 8:50 am
haha! that would be a kick! I wonder what the boss would think? LOL
Sep. 3, 2011 12:11 pm
Clucking good blog! lol My granny had a rooster that would chase us. It actually got my sister one time! I don't think I could eat something that I raised. I guess if I was hungry enough I could!
Sep. 3, 2011 12:30 pm
After tasting home raised chicken, I will never have another problem with that! LOL
Sep. 3, 2011 2:02 pm
My dad used to go stay with his grandparents every summer and they had a farm. Once a rooster attacked him and he ran and told his grandma. She came out and killed it and they ate it. Must have been good because after that he was always telling her that one pecked him so that they could have chicken for dinner! Loved the blog Petey!
Sep. 3, 2011 2:13 pm
I enjoyed reading your article very much! It was entertaining and informative, and perhaps a bit inspiring. Thanks so much for your contribution!
Sep. 3, 2011 3:19 pm
My poor mother. Here I go, trotting out her story, yet again (= When she was young, they were not allowed to have pets. SO, she kept a box of chicken feet - from the butchered chicken - under her bed. She would take them out for "walks", pulling the tendons to retract the claws. (Just how pitiful a picture does that paint?) . . . She never should have told me that story when I was little, because now it will never die! I ran across a package of chicken feet at the grocery store many years ago, and nearly bought it for her (=
Sep. 3, 2011 3:51 pm
OMGosh barb!! I just blew coffee all over my keyboard!!!!
Sep. 3, 2011 7:42 pm
lol! -sorry (= [I LOVE that story! That and the one about when Auntie Barb would throw rice in boiling water and tell Mom and and Auntie Sue it was maggots (=]
Sep. 4, 2011 5:25 am
Barb, now THAT story is priceless. Good grief! What an imagination!
Sep. 4, 2011 4:54 pm
Great blog as usual petey! About a year ago, I was at a party at which someone mentioned having chickens. My buddy jokingly said he would be interested in having a chicken or two. His wife, thinking he was being serious, totally freaked out and put her foot down- NO CHICKENS. So naturally, by the next weekend, he had built a coop and bought some chickens! He wasn't going to be told what to do lol! I was surprised though, that he is allowed to have them, they live right in the city. But he checked into, and sure enough, it is legal!
Sep. 4, 2011 9:25 pm
I think its great that more cities are allowing them. They don't take up much room, aren't noisy (as long as there are no roosters) and they provide a lot. I heard of a guy who had some, but his CC&R's said "no livestock" so he says he has 6 who are 'pets', who happen to make him breakfast. LOL
Sep. 5, 2011 8:38 am
This is taking on a life of it's own! Chickens everywhere, in various "parts"!! LOL!! Thanks for the laughs, everyone! (Yeah, ask your boss, even tho he'll say no!!)
Sep. 5, 2011 3:55 pm
Awww, great blog Petey! I enjoyed this so much that for a second I felt like I was there sitting next to Bruno looking at the chickens running around - Really!!! I'm already looking forward to reading the next blog :)
Sep. 5, 2011 9:27 pm
We have 36 hens and 3 roosters, just picked up 6 meat birds who are a week old. I am wondering why I didn;t get chickens long ago.....Good story, so did the naked bird re-feather ?
Sep. 5, 2011 9:53 pm
no, motoclown. Unfortunately, he died of embarrassment. :(
Sep. 6, 2011 4:42 am
awesome.....just awesome petey! I miss farm fresh, just picked up and covered with poop eggs :) and you are right, don't even bother trying to hard boil a fresh egg, you will nothing but yolk left after attempting to peel them! :)
Sep. 6, 2011 12:37 pm
OMG petey, your comment just above..."he died of embarrassment", LOL!!!! When I first got chickens, my dog Wyatt did just what Cletus did, "undressing" 5 of the chickens. We were able to save 2, one being a lovely Hamburg rooster. He was so buck-naked that I made him a little sweater vest out of an old sweatshirt sleeve because of course this happened when it was cold out. What a sight!
Sep. 6, 2011 2:35 pm
LOL, LOL!! Please, more chicken stories, everyone! This is better than a stand-up comic scenario.
Sep. 6, 2011 4:51 pm
Oh wow, this brings back memories... We've kept backyard chickens for 18 years, and I have WAY too many stories. Duffy, our labrador retriever got along great with our first bunch--he would frequently play "tag" by chasing a hen around, but never hurt one feather on her (instead he would help himself to an egg every now and then). And the chickens must have known it was a game, because they never ran from him at top speed. BUT one year we tried "meat birds"... Duffy must have known what they were for... we only had 4 left by the time they were ready. . . . But we have a nicer story for this year: Our only 2 laying hens each decided to sit on some eggs. Between the two of them, they hatched 23 chicks! Neither hen was a broody type, so I'm thinking they were just sick of the 5:2 rooster ratio. (oops) But it's so adorable to watch them all run around!
Sep. 6, 2011 5:52 pm
Oh Petey!! I just loved this one! Thank you for the laugh I very much needed.I loved the pictures you put in my head. Especially that silly grin on Cletus for undressing the rooster! I would love to be a ranch hand helper for a couple days. Could room and board be included? :D
Sep. 6, 2011 5:56 pm
You can keep chickens in Buffalo,NY.
Sep. 7, 2011 10:26 am
I rarely get a chance to read blogs, but I stopped at this one today and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love your perspective on raising animals for food. Thank you for the entertaining read!
Sep. 7, 2011 2:52 pm
Thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment! :)
Sep. 8, 2011 8:12 pm
I just remembered a friend's chicken story. They moved to the country, had a hen hatch little chicks. They watched proud mama and her 3 little chicks walk into a patch of tall grass. Out the other side came mama and 2 chicks! Dinner, anyone named snake?
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About Me
Kids are raised, we are ranchhands on a 250,000 acre working cattle ranch 110 miles from the nearest small town, so we raise a lot of our own food, vegetables, fruits, milk,eggs and meat. Love riding and working cattle, but find myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and the garden. forpeteysake.blogspot.com http://throughthedarkestvalleys.blogspot.com/
My favorite things to cook
Having 2 Jersey cows as well as milk goats, playing with fresh milk is a hobby, making our own butter, yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, soap and all the other great stuff you can do with fresh raw milk.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Homemade from scratch...anything! All traditions are sort of gone by the wayside, as we live so far from family now
My cooking triumphs
Most things from this site, this has been the best thing the internet has had to offer!
My cooking tragedies
A layered Jello dessert...the middle layer never set, so it did the 'ooze-wiggle'...and...well..I liquified a couple of chickens on 2 different occasions, turning them into a black gel. Moral of that story is, don't start cooking then go clean barns!...and there was the time that my kids were helping me make Thanksgiving dinner and SOMEbody (who resembled my youngest son) forgot to put the sugar in the pie!!!
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