Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brewers Grain

Free Lunch for Chickens
A few weeks back a friend offered me the barley that was left over from his beer making. I know brewers grains have a good amount of protein but less carbohydrates than before the process. I had done a bit of research about the amount that can be fed to chickens, but I thought I would just try free feeding it alongside their layer pellet and see what happened. I received a 5 gallon pail of the leftover barley. My friend said he had started with about 11 lbs. of barley. Of course it was much heavier than that because what is left over is wet.

My plan was to see how much they ate, whether it affected their egg laying and how long the wet brewers grains would keep to see how practical and useful this free source of feed would be.

I free fed layer pellets and I added a 2nd feeder and free fed the barley. 18 chickens consumed the entire pail of barley in 7 days. I saw no change in the amount of eggs. They really liked the barley and ate more of it than their layer pellets. I often found the barley feeder empty. I know animals often eat more of a feed that is novel, but they did seem to like it quite a bit.

When I first got the barley it smelled really good. I was sorry I carried all into the chicken coop before saving some to try cooking with myself. After 7 days the barley did not smell as good as initially but it did not smell bad yet. It seems that it would not have kept too much longer without spoiling though. Temperatures were cool but above freezing. I would have liked to tried drying some for longer storage, but they ate too quickly and the weather was not good for drying anyway.

I really need to do a lot more experimenting and I eventually want to determine if it would be worth getting in larger quantities from commercial brewers. if I can not dry it easily then it may not be worth searching for larger quantities for a small flock of 18, but in home brew quantities of 5 gallon pails from a nearby neighbor it is definitely valuable and cost effective and the chickens really loved it and ate it before it spoiled.

I do wonder if it may be a bit short of carbs in winter, but I did think of providing some extra corn with it if I start feeding it for longer periods.

I'm also thinking about how I can add it into my meat birds feed. I won't be raising more meat birds until warmer weather so those experiments will have to wait.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Novella Carpenter is Coming to Boston

I really had fun reading Novella Carpenter's new book Farm City. It is probably not a big surprise that I enjoyed it and found it so interesting. After all, someone who writes a blog called Urban Agrarian is kind of already sold on the idea of urban farming and has probably already slaughtered a chickens or two. In addition to my love of her subject matter, I think that Carpenter is also a talented writer.

Novella Carpenter is coming to Boston MA. That's my neck of the woods (er um pavement) and I'm really looking forward to meeting her. I think she makes those of us who have raised and slaughtered our own chickens feel a little less strange, or perhaps it just lets us know there are more kindred spirits in the world than we imagined.

Here is the link for the Slow Food Boston event where you can meet her and here is a link to her farm in Oakland. Hope to see you all at Slow Food Boston. I'll be the one with the live chickens for show and tell!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grilled Chicken Hearts

This fall I raised some broiler chickens again with my community garden cooperative broiler group and I also raised some at home in my backyard. Not only does this mean lots of chicken for my freezer for the winter, but it means I have ALL the parts of the chickens including giblets and feet. After raising and caring for an animal, I don't want any parts of my chickens go to waste. That just wouldn't seem like the right thing to do. That means finding tasty ways to prepare parts I don't often eat, such as the hearts and gizzards.

Recently, I thought about ways to use the hearts. I've seen them used in a giblet gravy. I've also had giblets in stuffing and in rice. However, I was thinking of having them be a little more front and center so I decided to try grilling them.

I started with some store-bought Thai Peanut Sauce. Just buy your favorite brand or make your own.

The chicken hearts were from my garden raised chickens

I cut them each heart lengthwise in two the long way. There were two reasons for this. First, to have more area for the sauce and second so they didn't look so much like hearts and scare people off from trying them.

I then added some of the peanut sauce to the bag , put the hearts back in the fridge and left it to marinate for a good hour. After that, it was simple, just skewer and grill. Add a bit more peanut sauce for the table if you want.

They were really fantastic. Much better than I would have had guessed. I've been really craving them since I made them and may have to actually go buy some more chicken hearts becausee mine are all gone now. I am starting to eye the package of frozen gizzards in the freezer. I'm not sure if want to go with the sure thing with the peanut sauce or try some thing new for the gizzards.

If you don't raise your own chickens and want to try this and you happen live in the Boston area then try Pete and Jens Backyard Birds. They raise fantastic tasting chickens the right way. Hopefully they will still have a supply of chicken hearts left.

If you live outside of the Boston area try to find a farmer that raises their chickens on pasture.

My Backyard Meat Chickens 2009

Community Garden Meat Chickens 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Community Garden Broilers

For the last two years I've raised broiler chickens in my community garden plot. This year I'm doing it as a cooperative project with 3 other people. We're growing 20 Cornish Cross together in the community garden. They are 7 weeks old and when I weighed one today. It weighed 7.25 lbs. We won't be processing them for 2 more weeks. Too bad because they are plenty big enough right now. We may have to change the slaughter date.

Bees Building Comb

I got 2 hives last year and 3 this year for a total of five. In one of my new hives the bees are building their comb in the wrong place. It's all my fault. I was short an inner cover and they built up up up. This is going to take a while to clean up and probably neither the bees or I will be totally happy with the process.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back to blogging

Well... After a year an a half of no blogging, I'm hopefully starting again. There are many reasons blog posts can dwindle, but for me it was a good reason. After the birth of my new grandson, I was helping my daughter and son-in-law out with day-care for Nicholas about 20 hours a week while they were both at work. It was lots of fun, very fulfilling and exhausting! He is quite attached to me from all our time together and is now a fun-loving toddler of almost 18 months and the apple of my eye. Hopefully he will soon start to "help" me in the garden and tend the chickens.