In past posts Adventure Farming and Building a New Tractor, I wrote about our little adventure and experiment raising some hybrid meat chickens, the same type as we buy at the grocery store, from day old to 9 weeks.
The funny farm
I felt a bit silly taking a day off work yesterday to get 100 chickens processed. We've spent about $2,000 to purchase, feed, transport, and process them, and untold hours caring for them. This doesn't include the cost and hours we invested in the required infrastructure (chicken tractors, feeders, waterers, brooder lights, electricity, etc.), and a few used freezers. So no, this made no sense or cents in this one-off adventure, but it can for those who are skilled and keep at it, and that was the point.
We didn't do this hoping for income, but the adventure for me is about learning how to make a small farm viable. I'm so impressed with those who do it successfully. I can say from a bit of experience that there is a great range of skills and knowledge required, a lot of hard work, a 7-day-per-week non-negotiable dedication, perseverance, and an appreciation for the lifestyle that forms part of your reward.
It was soon time for the one bad day on the farm for the chickens and for me, honestly. Louisette is taking important time away with her parents, so I was solo. As I'm fond of saying, "This will just be another funny story someday." So here it is.
We had bought one used freezer but I estimated we needed three, and things were coming down to the wire. I finally found a couple of old but tough freezers from an interesting gentleman (more on him below) early in the morning before work, on the day before processing. My son helped me unload them with hours to spare. No sweat.
Our local farm supply store's owner lent us some chicken transport crates, so that evening, after my day job, I picked up the crates, and placed them out by the tractors, ready for morning.
Putting 100 chickens into these purpose-built crates is a two-person job. No one told me that :-). I figured out how to use two hands to catch a chicken, open the crate lid, keep chickens from escaping, get the chicken in, and close the lid again, and did that 100 times.
Lifting 10 grown meat birds in a 3' x 2' crate, stacked 3-high atop the bed of a truck is also best a two-person job. It reminded me of stacking wooden, water-logged lobster traps when I was a teenager and about 110-lbs soaking wet. I don't weigh 110-lbs anymore, but I'm also not a teenager. With a grunt or two, I got the crates secured and drove off.
Nearing the highway, my old, black truck with a broken exhaust joint rumbled up to a red light. I wondered what the young lady in the Tesla next to me was thinking, on her slightly different commute, with a bunch of chickens looking at her from the top crates. I wanted to roll down the window and ask, "Where's the closest Starbucks? I'm dying for a skinny, half-soy, hazelnut macchiato."
Arriving at the processor's, the province's health inspector, who inspects every delivery for any sick or mistreated birds, said all looked good. I off-loaded and was told to pickup in 4 hours.
Keeping your cool
It was hot. My next challenge was to keep about 500-lbs of chicken cool on the 50-minute drive after pickup. I drove back home, hooked up the utility trailer to carry the empty crates, washed and sanitized the truck bed, washed a tarp and used it to line the bed, drove across town to a bulk ice supplier, and turned the truck bed into a 1,300-litre cooler!
Arriving back at the processor's, I mixed the mountain of meat in the mega-cooler with ice, wrapped the tarp neatly around it all, closed the tonneau cover, secured the crates in the trailer, and rumbled off once more.
All worked great. I backed into the garage and loaded the ice-cold chicken into an unplugged chest freezer to age a few days before freezing (I'm told this is an important step for quality meat, like hanging pork or beef in a cooler).
I mentioned above that I picked up a couple of freezers from an interesting gentleman minding his son's appliance resale shop.
Taking a rest after helping me load the first, he said, "Time flies and our bodies are fragile. Look at me (breathing a bit hard)... can you believe I was once a champion wrestler?"
Before moving to Canada and raising his family here, Mohamed Bassuny was favoured to medal in the 1972 Olympic Games, representing Egypt, in Munich, West Germany. On September 5, 1972, Mohamed would have been packing for the experience of a lifetime.
That morning, eight members of a Palestinian militant group killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team, and took nine more hostage, demanding the release of hundreds of imprisoned Palestinians. A failed rescue attempt left all hostages dead, and others. Muhamed's trip was cancelled and his dream lost to what would become known as the Munich Massacre.
It will be an honour to host Muhamed and his grandchildren when he comes to see our little hobby farm, and to send him home with a couple of our white chantecler heritage chickens. "I want them live," he said, proudly remembering helping his father process chickens at home when he was a boy.