Cindy Skillman

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since Sep 12, 2018
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cattle dog hunting books chicken food preservation cooking bike building sheep homestead
Grew up during the “back-to-the-land” movement in the 60’s/70’s, but I was too young. Then like magic I was too old. Now it turns out at last that I’m just right (as Goldilocks famously said.) Having the time of my life.
Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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Recent posts by Cindy Skillman

Thanks! I've got lots of (highly visible) equine rope, but my e-fence posts are maybe 4' to the highest bracket. I bought 7' plastic deer fence & T-posts (q 10') for my proposed garden, so maybe if I stretch the rope super tight I could run the top strand on t-post brackets fixed to the top (which would be maybe 6.5 ft). I've got both deer & elk, so maybe three strands... I'll give it a go and see what happens. I wanted steel field fence, but it's not available. Kind of frustrating. 🙄🙄🙄 I guess... this is a lot cheaper and easier to uninstall & alter if it doesn't work well for me.
Anne, what height did you run the e-tape?
I would cover the poison ivy with black plastic. Plywood also works but is more expensive and slower. I would cover, put weights on the edges and trample it all down under the plastic (recruit some help if possible). It's easier to cut down the vegetation, but poison ivy is definitely a special case. I would not allow anyone else who is not sensitized to cut it either, however carefully. People do not react to poison ivy... until they do. Then it is NASTY.

This will take some time, unfortunately. The hotter your weather, the quicker.
You are right--I'm thinking weeks and saying months. Thanks for pointing that out.
2 years ago
For some reason I can't see your pics, Ryan.

If you'd like to free range those Rangers, just open the coop door (once they're 2-3 months old) They don't generally get too far away for me. Feed them in the evening, in their tractor. They'll probably already be in there or nearby if you're close to sunset. We (strangely) don't get a lot of predator pressure here despite the many coyote songs all round, sometimes all day. 🤷‍♀️ Even if all you do is let them out when you're outside, that's a help. OTOH, the less exercise they get, the tenderer they'll be. The birds kept penned don't seem to be suffering as long as they get moved regularly. I don't like moving them only once a day though--not once they get much bigger. Too much pooping going on. I feel bad for them, walking and lounging on that. 🤢
2 years ago
Wow! They’re really going at it. My birds (even most of the males) thus far generally get their hackles up and stare at one another for a few seconds, then one backs down. The end. 🤣 Yours are much more enthusiastic about the whole thing.
2 years ago
I’ve been looking at Tyler’s Livestock Conservancy link and it led me to Cackle Hatchery to look at Delawares. That got me (somehow) to a mixed breed called Indian River, which comes out of a DE over New Hampshire cross. They were apparently very popular back in the 40s. I’m interested in the Delawares anyway and apparently the NHs are great egg layers, so I think I’ll order a dozen Indian Rivers to grow out and see how we like them. I’ll also get some male DEs (and a couple-three pullets in case I want to make more DEs), some of the males to grow out and process, while saving the best two for breeders, Ditto the NHs.

Of course there are only another dozen more breeds I also really, really can’t imagine not trying. I already have 40 hens & pullets, 7 cockerels, 30 heritage turkeys, 4 drakes that I hatched to try out my new incubator and (hopefully) 3 geese and a gander (American Buff), plus three Scottish Highland cows and a bull. So three calves soon to join the menagerie, hopefully. I might be letting this get a little out of hand...
2 years ago

Jen Fan wrote:A meat bird is a meat bird, and all chickens are edible.  

Very true. And all breeds lay eggs. That said, I wonder whether it’s not worthwhile to keep primary layers AND breed(s) intended (by me at least) primarily for meat use. Multi tools are great in an emergency or as an expedient for minor repairs but I wouldn’t want to use a multi tool for all my needs, tool-wise. Not that I wouldn’t eat the meaties’ eggs, if I didn’t need to hatch any more meaties any time soon, and not that I wouldn’t make soup of a layer, esp extra roosters. I like your management style. 👍🏼 It sure suits my temperament. 😋

OTOH, I also like my chickens roasted or smoked as well as other more tenderizing means of preparation. (Not that I have anything against soup, but that’s where the leftovers go.) CX and other hybrid meaties are just oversized chicks so they’re nice and tender. I like tender meat. I’m old and my teeth are tired—they’ve never been my best feature and age has not been their friend. I don’t like being dependent on hatcheries however, and I’d like not having to process all my birds in a couple of days. That’s frankly exhausting and takes a heckuva lot of freezer space. So, I want to make capons.

Andrew, I grew out a batch of Color Yield this spring. I think they’re pretty close to the FRs. Really nice birds. I just want to have birds that breed reasonably true, or if hybrid, that it was me making the mix and me who could repeat it. I gather that JGs are kind of like the giant rabbits—mostly bone—so I haven’t really considered them although I think they’d be way cool. 💕

You bring up a good point about sourcing... There aren’t a lot of serious breeders around here that I know of, and I sort of worry about bio security even if there were. I visited the local poultry club and got the impression they were mostly pretty casual regarding that sort of thing. So, if I wanted to get good bloodlines, is there some hatchery I maybe should consider? I’d bite the bullet and order from Greenfire if only they’d at least try to give me a girl and a boy. I’m not big on gambling. I don’t want to order half a dozen super-expensive chicks only to find I have all boys or all girls, and it could definitely happen. (That said, I’ve been real lucky on turkeys, twice having gotten a very even mix, but they’re less than half what Greenfire wants.)

Tyler, I have BA females... they’re really nice birds and decent layers though not very big. I got them from Cackle Hatchery. I know people do use them for meat birds. Maybe I’ll order some from Meyer or Murray and get some from our feed store, then try breeding them into larger birds. I have some Buckeyes I could throw into the mix to give them less vulnerable combs... I’m also very open to giving the Dark Cornish a go. I’ll look into them. I’ll also have a look at your link.  Thanks, everyone!

2 years ago

Ellendra Nauriel wrote:I raised a mixed flock this summer, and noticed that Columbian Wyandottes were absolutely enormous compared to the others, with Black Australorps and Silver Laced Wyandottes tied for second. The CWs also have tight combs and wattles, which make them less vulnerable to frostbite. I noticed that you're in a cold area where that might be important.

My CWs wound up being saved as laying hens instead of butchered, so I can't tell you how the carcasses compared. But from examining the live birds, and from the difference in weight, I'd say there's a lot more meat there than what the others had.

I have CWs and they’re kind of skinny, though nice girls and so pretty. Isn’t that interesting? Where did you get your CWs? Poultry isn’t a big thing around here, so not a lot of breeders to buy from, but I object to paying $29 for a single straight run chick from Greenfire. I guess it’s just gonna be a total DIY thing. I really do like my CWs. They’re such sweeties. They’ve got something of a tendency to broodiness, though I’m not sure I’d trust them with any eggs I cared about very much.

Yes, I like the rose and pea combs. They’re dominant though, I believe, so in my limited understanding, I think it might be fairly easy to erase single combs from any breed I really wanted to work with. I don’t like my birds having frost bitten combs but it doesn’t seem to bother them. That said, I do want rose or pea combs on all my birds eventually.

KC, I’ll keep a bit of a journal on the caponizing—hopefully at least a little bit successful. What I really want is as self-sustaining system as possible. Feed is pretty expensive here, and we live far enough out that collecting food scraps from restaurants and grocery stores seems a daunting proposition. Next year I’m going to attempt a garden, if we get a spring or summer. 🥶 If it materializes, that should help some. I’m getting old, though, and I seem to get tired more easily. I’m especially tired of never-ending rain/snow & cold. I really want to make this happen. I have considered the frypan specials. I might just do that—it’s a good idea.

Andrew, I had Color Yield broilers this summer, from Cackle. Then I ordered CX from a local feed store. I kept them in the tractors, moving them 2-3 times a day and while I felt like the CYs were livelier, I was pleased with them both. They were really gentle, likable birds. I hated butchering days, but I’m not going to stop eating meat, so I want to be honest about it and in touch with the cost involved. I feel like maybe I just don’t want to be involved with causing these birds to be made. I think I’ll be happier raising more survivable birds that have a bit more enjoyable life. And of course, there’s the whole matter of being dependent on the hatcheries. I don’t like that. So... I do like tender chicken and I’m pretty sure DH would not be happy with tough birds, hence the caponizing idea. I’ll try to keep y’all apprised as to how it’s going. 😊
2 years ago
I ought to have specified... my goal is for personal/family consumption. The only way I’d get into selling would be live birds. As far as I’m aware, there’s no processing facility in the area that accepts poultry, so probably not much future in that for me. I’m married to a retired insurance adjuster. 🤣 He freaked out over me even selling eggs to my friends. I don’t know and haven’t been able to find feed-to-meat conversion rates on any but the modern meat breeds. And I agree about the free ranging adeptness being important. I have some Suskovich tractors that I used last summer, so I would be using those, but I would allow the birds to range outside the tractors as well, and only provide feed in the evening. For the last two weeks I might provide the milk-soaked grains and confine them to the tractors unless they’re really hung ho to get out and forage.

Sex linked would be nice. I’m not sure there are any sex-linked meat birds though. I think they’re mostly first generation crosses also, which don’t breed true in second generations, etc. I don’t really understand the genetics well enough to figure it out myself at this time. What folks do as far as I’ve learned thus far, is first they wait until the chick weighs 1-2 lbs, at which time one can usually venture a pretty good guess based on behavior and possibly some other secondary traits. This is the preferred size for caponizing. The second thing is they start on the left side, from which the active ovary can be seen. At that point, if you see you’ve guessed wrong, you can either attempt to poulardize (remove a section of the oviduct) if you want female meat birds, or abort the procedure and put the chick into the recovery cage. I haven’t done this surgery yet. I’m pretty persistent though, and there’s an excellent thread on the subject at Backyard Chickens forum, so hopefully I’ll figure it out fairly quickly with minimal trauma to defenseless chicks. 😳 Not saying I’m not nervous about it, but other people have learned this, so I should be able to as well. 🤞🤞🤞
2 years ago