Friday, July 1, 2011

Chickens: From Coup to Freezer Also, More Homemade Wine Exploits & Romaine Seeds

Our free range tractor. These guys were voracious grass eaters.
We harvested 25 birds for around 100 -110 pounds of meat.

That's it -from coup to freezer. We took the birds to Eli Reiff at Reiff's poultry dressing in Mifflinburg, PA. I highly recommend him to anyone who's interested. He's been in business for 20 years. He cares about the birds, and he's doing the work of harvesting them humanely. We travel 2 hours to use him. Not to mention, the conversations and connections we make there are priceless.

Here's a sample of a conversation I had with Eli last Tuesday. He said, Try this experiment:

Take a regular chicken breast, the kind you buy in the grocery store, and boil it. Add nothing to the water, just boil it. As the steam rises, take a good whiff. What do you smell? It smells like... you know what. Now take one of your birds and do the same thing.  What will it smell like? It will smell like chicken. 

I'm not going to test the store bought chicken, We're just (Lord willing) going to keep raising our own birds. They are as identifiably other than food industry birds as homegrown heritage black tomatoes are from the store bought version of (something-someone-says-is-a-tomato-but-really-is-not) a tomato. They are completely worth it.

When all is said and done, we raised 25 "spring" birds for 10 weeks. They ate 5 80 pound bags of feed, (thanks to Jason and Heather for the feed). It is whole grain, locally grown,  and made with Fertrell organic minerals. All told, water, gas, butchering and feed. The total cost per bird was $7.00 or $8.00. That's only two bucks a pound. Not bad for the privilege of knowing where our food comes from!

Now for a few other goings on around spring garden acre...

Apple and strawberry wine waiting to be bottled and racked respectively.

The apple wine on the right is ready to be bottled and the strawberry wine on the left is just about ready to be racked again.

I met Chris the wine maker at Reiffs Poultry Dressing in Mifflinburg. Chris is a school teacher by day and 5th generation farmer, with his brother and their families, by the rest of the time. He is growing an amazing vineyard, right here in Hershey, PA. He helped me understand several things about wine making that I did not know in a very short time. Thanks Chris! I won't share these details now. Please just let me keep saying thank you, thank you Chris, especially for directing us to a vineyard in Shermansdale, (just up the road) where we can buy wine making grapes -a Noir variety and at a reasonable price! Yes, we're thrilled about this! We've talked about it. We've wanted to try it, but never known how to get grapes. Now we know!

Finally, we planted our first seeds for fall today -Vivian romaine. Our spring harvest of romaine was almost 12 pounds. We're hoping for 20 pounds this fall. We planted 60 starts. They're scheduled to be put outside on August 11. 

True Confessions: this is just a small part of the carnage of our spring seedling endeavors.
Vivian romaine seeds:our hopeful fall harvest under lights.


  1. Boy time flies! It seems like you just got those chickens! I am so jealous of your chicken harvest. Nothing better then properly raised chicken!

  2. Your wines look amazing! They sure will look pretty when they are all done. Empty bottles always do :o}

    Nice that you have a wonderful place to help harvest your birds. Cost wise, seems like you are on track with what others pay for organic chicken in the store. Except they don't get to see the antics, enjoy their song...

    I know, most people are put off by that. Sorry, no harm intended. Just love the birdies!

  3. Hi Jody, thank you for posting this information about chicken! Aside from all the priceless benefits of knowing where your food came from, that's amazing that you can get all that chicken for just a couple of bucks a pound. I see that the Apple Pie Gal said that's on track with what others pay for organic chicken in the store, but I thought store-bought organic chicken was WAY more expensive than that?

    Anyway, I think it's great that you can raise your own chicken. I'm pretty sure our homeowner's association will not let us have chickens, but we would love to be able to raise some at our next house.

    I also loved seeing a picture of your "carnage," I think we all have piles like that somewhere around the house. :-)

  4. We can't have chickens at the moment since we are renting. Although the whole family wants too but it is in the contract. Hopefully when we get our own house we will be able too. You guys are so lucky meat and vegetables are both fresh!

  5. Hi Robin, I completely agree. These ten weeks flew by. The birds were much easier to raise than our last bunch.

    Hi Apple Pie Gal, thanks the comment. We love the birdies too! The post about wine was my way of personally reminding myself to get it bottled! It's time.

    Hi thyme2garden, You're right about the price of organic chicken. It's $3 and up per pound around here. Apple Pie Gal must have have the inside track.

    Malay-Kadazan girl, sorry you can't have birds. Hopefully someday.

  6. Hi Jody, I wanted to return the blog visit and thank you for your kind comment on mine. Congratulations on that supply of winter meat! Good idea to take them somewhere for processing. We did our own excess roosters last year and it was a slow job (but then we're beginners at that sort of thing.) Have yet to try homemade wine. That's on my some day list. Good for you for getting some fall seedlings started! That's what I need to do.

  7. Hi Leigh, thanks for returning the visit. And thanks for the kind comment yourself. I'll keep an eye out for that some day list fulfillment in a blog about homemade wine. Happy days are ahead at Ceder Ridge Homestead! I'm sure of it.

  8. Oh my goodness I am so impressed with all that you all are doing!! I think it is so wonderful to have your own chickens to eat and how great is it to have made your very own wine! It is always such a joy to read your posts.