Meeting New Chicks

Peter, "Hey Mom! Dad's out meeting new chicks at the bar(n)!"

I was reminded of my middle son's attempt at humor as my mother-in-law took this picture (above) yesterday. I must admit an affinity for hanging out with my chicks.

All kidding aside, this picture is instructive. The chicken on my shoulder is one we kept back from our last trip to our processor. She is still rather small, and she was really too small for processing two weeks ago. Even with two more weeks of growth, she is still very small. So small that the larger hens in our barn scare her. If I sit down, she hops in my lap, runs up my arm, and perches on my shoulder. No kidding!

I am not sure if she is an anomaly, or whether she is indicative of our last set of red broiler chickens. For whatever reason, we have a lot of smaller meat birds from our last set. As such, you will notice that I have added a category of smaller sized birds on our order form.

When we raised our first set of meat birds last summer, we had to rush our first set to processing before their intended grow-out period. We expected to see some smaller birds in that set, but this last set had the most time on the farm. I was surprised at the number of finished chickens that we have in stock that are under 3 pounds.

I was originally hesitant to sell these smaller birds, but since I held a bunch back for my own family use, I have grown to enjoy them - especially for making bone broth. I can take two small ( 2 to 2.5 pound) whole chickens, and produce a broth that will feed me, my wife, and three grown sons four meals of delicious and filling broth-based soups.

For recipes on making bone broth, click HERE for the Broth is Beautiful blog post that includes several broth recipes at the end of the article. Click HERE for an update to the blog information about bone broth, which includes a simple recipe for slow cooker broth.

A couple of additional comments regarding the basic stock recipe. First, I do not cut up my chickens. I use whole birds in a large stainless steel stock pot. If you cook it long enough, the bird falls apart on its own. Second, the same recipe as listed in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook calls for cooking the stock for 6 to 24 hours. I like going the full 24 hours because the bones become soft enough to feed to our dogs or the pigs. However, (CAUTION) the last time I made stock with our chicken, 24 hours of simmering did not render all of the bones soft enough for our animals to eat. Therefore, I am probably adding another 12 hours to the cook time next time.

The result? My two small birds rendered about 16 pints of delicious bone broth and about 1 pound of residual meat. That may not seem like much meat, but when you are making dinner soups, about 1/4 pound is enough meat when combined with vegetables, rice, or noodles.

If you have not tried our meat birds, now is a great time to start making bone broth. The cool weather, a bowl of hearty soup, and some cornbread makes a great meal.

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