Love your contributions to this thread -- great, practical, trenches advice, as usual. A quick question: what did your dad use for grinding bones? Chicken bones are relatively brittle. Bone meal is such a great addition to the garden . . . is there any practical home-grown way to grind more substantial bones for the garden?
Hi c1oudifre - since the chicken bones were used for stock first, they were pretty easy to grind in a regular meat grinder once they were dry. His meat grinder was a one of those hefty manual crank types, so any small cooked bones like pork & beef ribs would go through if they were cooked long enough and you put your back into it. He always gave the big long bones raw to the dogs, so I don't know if those would go through the grinder or not.
I would think that any big long bones, if you cooked/dried them and then split them into shards with a hammer, could probably go through a heavy duty meat grindergrinder. Bone actually composts pretty well in a hot pile, especially if you bust them up first and then bury them in the center of the pile so critters don't get them. You can also crack the bones, scoop out the marrow to supplement the blood meal, and then leave the hard white parts for the compost bin. I'm pretty sure if you had a decent lawn chipper/shredder you could really break up the bones into small enough pieces to go through a meat grinder... but I haven't tried it ;)
My "Yes to Chickens" letter evidently got bumped by something more pressing. It has not appeared. However, this morning's editorial cartoon makes me think the cartoonist read the lyrics.
The cartoon is an aerial view showing a hen looking down from a rooftop. Looking up at the hen is a man with a bump on his head ,an angry expression and hands on his hips. In front of him, on the sidewalk, is a split open egg. The chicken has obviously just dropped an egg on him.
A woman is standing behind the angry man, arms and hands extended in a pleading posture, and saying "OK, but apart from that, chicken farming in the city is a great idea, right?"
"Eggs are dropping down, sweet pie, sweet pie.
Eggs are dropping down from the sky.
All o'er this Red Rose town eggs are dropping down." (I quote the song, music by DIAP).
So, which came first? The chicken or the cartoon?
PS We're having a strategy planning meeting tomorrow morning to plan how to change the law. Power to the chickens!
You are just a treasure trove of info, friend. I'm going to give the meat grinder a try. We already have so many problems with raccoons in the compost, that I don't think bones would stay there for long. Maybe if we get a bigger pile going, and bury them really deep.
Here's a few of quotes I just pulled off of an organic gardening blog:
I make my bone meal out of chicken bones. After a chicken dinner I will boil the bones to remove any leftover fat or meat, which goes to my dog. Then I put the bones on my gas grill and basically turn them into charcoal. Once they are done I use an old coffee bean grinder and turn them into powder. The powder is of course black instead of the white stuff you buy in a bag. My tomatoes and potatoes love it and produce muchos fruitos!!!
After we have made stock with our meat bones (which you all do, I assume) we put the bones on our log fire. When we empty the grate we crush any bones that have held their shape by hand. Then the bones and wood-ash go on the compost heap.
I don't know if burning the bones, or baking them at high heat will change the available nurtient content or not, you will be hard pressed to make enough to do a lot of good for your garden. If you don't want to waste them, I would suggest letting them dry in the son for a few week, break them up as best you can and throw them into the garden. Let nature take it's course.
I'm off to a meeting this morning of concerned citizens. We will be planning how we can overturn Lancaster's "No Chickens" law!
BTW ... my letter (see above)
made the paper this morning!
I suppose chucking large bones into the woodstove would make them easier to bust and grind. I don't think I'd "waste" fuel simply to incinerate bones, but if I already needed to have a fire going for heat it would be worth it. I'd only be concerned that the fire would carbonize them or chemically alter the available calcium and phosphorus. Hmmm... might have to contact some of my bio-chem buddies to answer that one! But I haven't really run into any chicken bones that won't go through the grinder, not even the spines, so we're only worried about big bones.
The most successful compost bin design I've ever used is a 4 foot cube of removable wood slats, lined or encased with chicken wire, with a chicken wire "lid". The bin still got plenty of moisture and air, but the critters (like raccoons and coyotes) couldn't get in to dig around. This design doesn't work the best if you're OCD about turning your pile, but works darn good if you're using the 2 or 3 pile "sit and cure" system. I've put whole culled animals into a pile of this design and never had problems with attracting varmints. For larger critters, you could probably use a 12v battery on a solar charger to electrify the wire casing for double deterrence.
From my chem background, I think the calcium and phosphorus would be preserved through fire. Maybe a professional chemist could weigh in on this.
I concur on the composter design you described. I like a 3-pile system myself, and I don't do much turning . . . lazy, I guess.
C1oud -- not turning your compost isn't lazy... it's just a time management solution :) If you're on a 3 pile system with more than a year's cure time, you can even put "sick" dead critters in your compost bin if you trust biodepathogenization (ok - I just made up that word!!). We used to do this with stillborn lambs and chicks that didn't make it. Our abatoir was also conveniently located a short wheelbarrow's ride from the compost bin which made things much easier cleaning up after dressing out an animal.
LOL! Great word, though . . . I think it could catch on, seriously. I tend to agree. Natural systems have their own ways of dealing with imbalances, and well, that's what diseases really are. Thanks for the insights, Plickety.
Only a chemical engineer.... but yes calcium and phosphorus are not destroyed in the fire, but I could not guarantee that that the compound that they are part of will be in an assimilable form after the fire ( you need Iron in your diet but you cant get it by eating nails !! )
Re: grinding bones for meal
I highly recommend investing in a pressure cooker stock pot. I use to make stock from roast chicken carcasses the old fashioned way: an all day simmer on the stovetop. But I was concerned about nutrient loss form the oxidation and time. Plus on hot summer days it smells and heats up your kitchen. So I invested in one of these: http://kuhnrikon.com/products/pressure_cookers/pressure.php3?id=16
I see they have doubled in price since I bought it, so shop around I am sure any good pressure cooker will pay for itself in time.
Anyway, I can now make stock in the time it takes to wash up the dinner dishes. And have several quarts of gelatin-rich stock in the freezer by bedtime. If you can use the feet two, that is even better. I use my pressure cooker all the time for grains, beans and bone stock. This article very helpful too:
Long story short: when you strain the final product the bones are so soft you can mash with a fork. I then give it back to the chickens along with the spent onions, celery, bay leaf etc. I know sounds kind of cannabilistic, but chickens love scrambled eggs too! Of course, you can dump in the compost, but I suspect you would need to bury it, as would be pretty tasty to the raccoons.
Great idea, Greendoc. . . I do buy whole poultry, and make stock with the bones, but I hadn't considered how soft the bones would be if I used my pressure cooker. Thanks!
Anyway, I can now make stock in the time it takes to wash up the dinner dishes. And have several quarts of gelatin-rich stock in the freezer by bedtime. If you can use the feet two, that is even better. I use my pressure cooker all the time for grains, beans and bone stock.
How long do you pressure cook the carcass? Could you post step by step directions for making the broth in the pressure cooker?
It's hard to type this with a straight face, but what exactly do the feet add to the stock?
Yeah, that's what I was wondering, if the resulting compound would be bioavailable as a soil nutrient :)
Speaking of bio-availability and iron... did you know that the human digestive system favors absorption of many vitamins and minerals from animal sources rather than plant sources. Iron is one of those... lots in broccoli and green leafies, but it's not in a form that is easily broken down or assimilated by humans so bioavailablity is low. Not knocking vegetarianism here, it was just something I ran into researching my own nutritional deficiencies.
If possible, get a pressure canner. You can use a pressure canner as a pressure cooker, but the reverse is not always true. Pressure canning is necessary for safe canning of any low acid food (meat and most veggies other than tomatoes). Here's a pretty basic recipe to make chicken stock in a pressure cooker. The same method would probably work for larger bones from other animals if they fit in the pot and then they'd definitely go through a grinder even if they weren't soft enough to mash up by hand.
RE: feeding chickens to chickens... this is only advisable if the feed product has been cooked at high temp. Feeding chickens raw chicken products (including unwashed shells) can lead to disease cycles and aggressive/predatory cannibalism. We boiled our egg shells and ground them up before refeeding them in their calcium supplment (oyster shells). When in doubt, probably best to feed chicken bits to the pigs, cats or dogs and then feed the chickens fish bits or worms to interrupt any disease cycles. (if you vermicompost with worms, you can freeze/dry them... chickens go NUTS for worm jerky).
Excellent points Plicketycat about feeding raw chicken to chickens, and i just had a homer simpson doh! moment: a pressure canner! here is a stainless steel one for $100. Why didn't i think of that when I got my fancy-schmancy one? I overspent apparently. http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00897316000P?vName=Appliances&c...
The stock recipe link is pretty similiar to what I do....although I cook beef bones longer more like 60 minutes. I add a few tablespoons vinegar too...something the weston price folk recommend. If you did not read the broth is beautiful article it had recipes for fish, pouttry and beef/lamb stock. I like to vary the seasonings...such as a asian flavored with using star anise, five spice powder, cilantro.
Chicken feet impart a great flavor and are loaded with gelatin. here is an excellen tutorial complete with pictures. http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/007133how_to_make_stock_from_chick...
I opted for the more expensive, but extremely durable All-American pressure canner/cooker from Wisconsin Aluminium Foundry. I got the 30 qt one because it lets me presssure can 14 quarts at once, and you can fit a whole turkey/goose and 2 whole ducks/chickens in it. I prefer the heavy sturdiness of cast aluminum, and WAF doesn't have rubber gaskets and weird dials that need to be replaced or fiddled with. Of course, if you're not doing any serious canning or pressure cooking huge critters at once, one of their smaller sizes would do. Some of the cheap models on the market might be fine for occasional use, but anyone who's ever had a pressure cooker explode will tell you that you're taking your chances with the cheapo's (people can be and have been seriously injured!).
While at the Lowesville Seminar this past weekend, we spent a some time discussing chickens. From my understanding chicken poop is great for compost. After processing their chickens, Becca mentioned they toss chicken parts back to the chickens. Is it still safe to use that chicken poop in the compost?
I'd say it's ok to compost chicken poop and chicken parts... but I wouldn't feed chicken parts back to the chickens because you can create a disease cycle that way. If you add omnivore poop (yes, chickens are omnivores) or any animal parts to your compost, you have to make sure the pile gets hotter than 140F for 7 days (170F for 1 day), or that you let your compost age for a year just to make sure all the pathogens (including avian flu) have died off/down.
Our layer chicks finally arrived yesterday. My kids really dig them. I'm going to plant way more corn than I can eat and see if the extra can go for the chickens later this year. I'll share extra eggs with neighbors to keep building the local community.
Hey woodman, gratz on the layers! I wanted to plant a chicken feed garden but may not get round to it this year. My kids love the chickens as well.
I'm having flock integration issues, and I'm wondering if others have any advice. We have 4 layers, #3 has in recent months pecked one wing of #4-ranked hen pretty badly, many broken feathers, no blood yet, and now we're trying to integrate 2 more, one who just started laying and another who should lay any day as well. The new birds want nothing more than to be left alone, but they get alot of pecking from #s 3 and 4 in our flock and I noticed, first yesterday, then this morning, that my young non-layer was dozing off on her feet as she tried to follow me around the garden, so I sat with her on my lap this morning and she just sank into an exhausted sleep. I've got her in a box in a dark room right now, in hopes she's just very tired and needs to catch up sleep, but I"m feeling terrible about the stress she's going through.
Our girls have an under-the-deck fenced area and coop house, where they stay at night, a 5x15 fenced moveable run, and, during this flock integration period, I've fenced off the north side yard of our suburban yard so that the girls have more room to be penned together and the younger girls can run away from pecking better. They also roam the yard under supervision. They do pretty well roaming the yard together, there's a bit more fighting in the north side yard, and I've been afraid to pen them in the mobile run together yet. They have been sleeping in the same underdeck area for the last 3 nights, and once everyone settles down, all is well, but there's henpecking before that happens.
Any ideas for helping everyone get through this without illness or bloodshed? (I was toying with the idea of making chicken diapers and turning our youngest two into house chickens, but DH would probably divorce me)
Sue - my best advice is to get a rooster if your zoning allows. If #1 hen isn't policing the in-fighting, a rooster normally will. You might be able to get the same effect with a capon if you don't want fertile eggs, but if that's not a concern then it's certainly better for the animal to keep his 'nads.
Roosters aren't any more legal than chickens. (My neighbors don't seem to realize that chickens are illegal here, probably because the adjacent city just legalized hens, but the county hasn't changed it's ordinance.) I'm wondering though, if I can keep intervening successfully. To a degree, the chickens see me as a rooster -- they squat for me, I lead them to worms, etc.
What do you see the roosters doing to aggressive hens? Charging them, making noise? I may just expand my rooster repetoire a bit (I already tickle them on their butts when they squat for me and pull on the napes of the neck feathers -- they just seem so desperate for attention lol.)
Roosters tend to charge in to break up fights, keep a watchful eye on trouble makers, give some added protection to the lower ranking hens and generally act like a playground cop. They basically strut around showing everyone that this is their turf and nobody better make trouble. I've also noticed that hens just seem to need a rooster around once there are more than 3 or 4 of them... it's a balance and territory thing I guess. The worst flock integration issues I've ever seen were in all-female flocks, like it takes them a long (and nasty) time to re-establish the pecking order... but a rooster seems to sort all that out right quick. I can just picture him saying "Alright, enough of this, you girls just better knock it off already" LOL
It's good that your hens have bonded with you, but the danger of assuming the rooster role is that you can't always be there, and, well, you really aren't a chicken. You may even be unintentionally disrupting their natural order by showing (what they perceive) preferential treatment to the "wrong" hen or in the "wrong" order, etc etc. Critters are funny that way... we can really only grok their instinctual behaviors so much.
okay. that's good to know. i wonder if i could rent a rooster from a friend for a week or so... ah, who knew chickens would get so complicated!
While adult roosters seem to be more effective, you might also check at a farm or hatchery that offers pullet-only orders instead of straight-runs. They're likely to have a cockerel that you could pick up inexpensively (and save from the dinner table) because everyone always snatches up the pullets for layers and leaves the cockerels to become fryers. If he doesn't work to sort out your flock fighting, well, at least you've only spent a few dollars and have a fryer for dinner.
CHICKEN SAFETY ALERT!!
We got our first chicks a while back, built a tractor for about $15 and then the "deluxe" coop, water catchment roof, etc. Now getting about 5-7 cackleberries a day and enjoying the hens. Local wild cocks starting to sniff around but the girls don't seem to notice....However, about a week ago I was looking in the roof of the nesting box and one of the Buff Orpingtons (Angel?) who was in the box jumped up and PECKED ME IN THE EYE! To fast to even blink. Went to the doc the next day and all OK but was scary. Be careful with the little pea-brains. I relish revenge with every omelette.....Frickin' chickens......Aloha, Steve.
....Be careful with the little pea-brains. I relish revenge with every omelette.....Frickin' chickens......
Laughed so hard part of my noodle bowl lunch came out my nose - thanks a lot, it was seasoned with ginger.
Omelette? Amulet sounds more appropriate.
Made out of neck bones with a couple of leg bone tassels.............
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