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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Culling the flock and Coq au Vin

Big Red CockImage by Lenny Montana via Flickr

The day has come,Big Red our Rooster is finally coming to meet his end.It's time to cull our flock of chickens, too many mouths to feed and the desire for more eggs has over come my superstition about eating Big Red,so the deed must be done.A part of keeping chickens is knowing when to sort out the non-laying hens and the pig of a rooster.

Not only are we motivated by the our own need but our friends
Rooster has turned into one mean dude, you know it is time for a Roo to go when you have to take a BIG stick with you out to the coop everyday,to protect yourself from a snapping beak and sharp spurs. So Mr Dave and Ms Rachel asked for our help in taking care of their rooster by teaching them how to butcher.

I know not all of you want to hear me talk about butchering chickens but it is the real side of Homesteading no matter where you live. Maybe I'll take pity and not get into the butchering part tomorrow once we have done the task but maybe I should go ahead and be real about the whole thing and post it anyway.

Since both roosters are no longer young and tender in mind or body,although Big Red is a bit dim witted, some creative cooking will have to happen to make these fellows worth all the feed we have been feeding them.Chance has decided that he wants to try his hand at Coq au Vin (this link was suggested by another friend not sure if this is the one Chance will use.) a dish made famous by that cooking Deva Ms Julia Childs. Neither Chance nor I have ever had it. I am hoping it's not one of those dishes you hear so much about, raving reviews , takes days to make and you end up yucking someone's yum. Never the less we say "Game on" lets do it!

If I remember right Chance said the Coq au Vin calls for some bacon which we currently don't have on hand but Chance recently made that bacon like meat made from Pork Jowls with a name I can never remember because it sounds a bit like someone is gargling not speaking a word, so we will substitute the bacon with that.The recipe also calls for mushrooms and I am wondering about using the Chantrell mushrooms we have in the freezer,giving a list of 3 of the main flavors from our own stock pile of home grown foods.
**** I just clicked over to the recipe and once I took a good look at the ingredients I think we may be able to pull most of what we need from our pantry of things we have put away.Everything else on the list could easily be found locally..hmmm something to think about.

It will be the weekend before I can report back on the Coq au Vin.The culled rooster must chill for a couple of days giving the muscles time to relax and become a bit more tender.Then the Coq au Vin must marinate in its bath of wine but I'll be sure to come back with the review of it.

I must say I am enjoying working at Urban Farm Store.I am learning so much about chickens and gardening that it is exciting. I am also learning about the veterinary side of taking care of chickens. We have been fortunate and have not had any sick chickens ( knock wood.) here so it is not something I have had to learn. So far the only chicken care I have learned that makes me a bit weepy for some strange reason is Pasty Butt in Chicks.That is when a chicks backside gets plug with poo and you have to clean it away and sometimes cut it off.Those poor babies,they don't feel good in their tummy's and then they have to go through that.Never fear,there's drops we put in the water to cure them of their woe's. Taking care of chicks is no different than caring for a baby,it is full time work and not always charming.
Beyond everything I am learning there have been some funny moments that you had to be there to laugh about,some VERY interesting questions both serious and ones that left me wondering "Are you really asking that?" I think the last time I talked so much about butts, poo and feeding was when the boys were babies. I really should do a posting all about chicken butts,you can learn a ton about your chicken and it's health by looking at its butt.Is the hen laying,dose the chicken have mites or worms? Yup,this is a big topic at work and I just have to laugh about it.
I have finally made up my mind about which chicks I want to get this year.I have chosen
Black Australorps and Araucana's (which have multiple names all a variation of Araucana.) Both breeds are good layers and reliable birds in general.I have missed our old flock of Araucana's pretty colored eggs and their great personalities so I want some more.As for the Australorp's I am interested in them because they are a beautiful bird to see,great layers and are used for meat. We won't be raising these chicks for meat this summer but I want to try out an Australorp to see if we would want to raise some later for their meat. First though we must butcher not only Big Red but two of our non-laying hens to make room for the new chicks.

Our house is not ready for company this afternoon,I badly need a haircut ,I need to dig out our biggest kettle and bake a dessert so I really must close now.


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  1. Goodbye Big Red, we hardly knew ya.

  2. We're thinking about making a "Happy" dinner of our accidental roo, too. Not quite there yet, I'm awaiting your reports! I've had the dish you are making before, and it was good, though I don't know how old the bird was. Use good wine, you'll taste the difference.

    As for the Australorps, we love ours. They are friendly, nice and big, and consistent layers. They're also the best escape artists of the flock, however.

  3. Joy, Older birds cook up just fine,you just have to stew them or get them in a marinade to tenderize them.If you need help with the butchering let us know,it will be on the house.
    Thanks for the heads up on the Australorps,wings will be clipped.

  4. Stumbled here and am interested in hearing more of the story of culling your flock. We just ate our first chicken (killed by a neighbors dog). We were not planning on eating her because she was still laying, but I know eating our hens is in our future and although I'm philosophically in favor of eating our flock, emotionally, it's a different story.
    Good luck with Big Red.