Free-Ranging Broilers

I just returned from dropping off our first batch of 25 broilers at the butcher shop. It feels so nice to drive back into the farm and see less birds hanging around by the coop and water. Less birds means less work, feed, and manure!

We released our broiler chicks, gosling and ducklings from the brooder at 3 weeks of age to have free-range access to our farm.4When we raised our broilers last year, we kept them in a pen and moved it twice daily to new grass. We also allowed them access to feed all the time. This time, we decided to allow them to free-range, and only allow them access to purchased feed twice daily for about 30 minutes.

Allowing them to free-range is not only easier for us to manage, but it allows them more opportunity to use their legs and get exercise. Restricting access to feed encourages more foraging, while slowing their growth so they don’t grow too big for their legs and become immobile. Our broiler flock this year was all feathered out and healthy looking, as compared to last year where many birds were missing feathers.12It took about 2 extra weeks for our broilers to reach butcher weight since we restricted access to their feed. Rather than being ready by 8 weeks, our chickens needed 10 weeks to reach their full size.

We witnessed our free-ranging broilers eating grass and even running! Based on our experience last year, I wasn’t sure if either of those things were possible until we saw it for ourselves. Besides the intense desire to eat and eat and eat, our free-ranging broilers behaved much more like a normal chicken should and they were better able to express their chicken nature.36We got all set up to butcher chickens ourselves this year as we did last summer, however we got 2 birds into the job, and the chicken plucker stopped working.

Nobody wanted to hand-pluck so we hauled them over to our butcher and paid for the pros to finish processing our broilers. We really have to admit it is so nice to drop off a flock of chickens and pick them up all nicely wrapped and ready to cook.

That just may be our new method of operation!

We should raise one more batch of 25 broilers this summer in order to be set with chicken for an entire year. Nothing beats a juicy, home-grown broiler on a hot grill in the summertime!5

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Hand-Built Farmhouse Table

For years I have wanted a solid wood, rustic farmhouse table that would comfortably seat my entire family plus space for guests.

A quick internet search would confirm an item like that is pretty pricey.

Thus we began a search for plans so Ryan could build a table for me.  Even better than a purchased farmhouse table is a husband-hewn table, made with love for his family to use and enjoy many a dinner gathered ’round.  Somehow it feels even more authentic.

He found a free farmhouse table and matching bench plans from http://www.anawhite.com.  The dimensions seemed perfect for our size family and the design was simple and straightforward.  He purchased his lumber and got to work.

It took him several weekends to complete, but that’s mostly because he never gets a full weekend to devote to any one project.  There are simply too many other demands on his time.

Once the table (along with the matching benches) were complete, I sanded, stained, and applied three coats of clear coat.  We chose to use a stain called Weathered Oak from Minwax.  It makes the wood have a slightly grayish appearance, and we wanted the table to look like it was made from older wood.WP_20170612_09_59_31_Pro[1] I love my new table.  Our dining room still needs many finishing touches, however having this table as the focal point of the room has gone a long way towards making this space feel more put together and welcoming.WP_20170612_10_02_06_Pro[1] We still need to order two chairs for the ends of the table.  They will be farmhouse-style chairs, but I didn’t want to even try to match the stains.  Instead, they will contrast and be either white or black.  With the chairs, our table can seat 10-12 people.WP_20170604_15_45_13_Pro[1] As someone with little kids, I know how quickly the dining furniture can get pretty sticky and coated with food residues.  The farmhouse table would be hard to clean, especially with the grooves between boards.  A dumped bowl of oatmeal, a spilled serving of tomato soup, or the two-year old smearing a pb&j around the table would quickly find those grooves filled with yucky, sticky muck that would be near impossible to scrape out.  To make this table more kid- (and mom) friendly, we cover it with a $4 vinyl table cloth whenever we serve dinner at our table.  The vinyl tablecloth is easy to wipe clean, then it gets folded and put away so we can enjoy the beauty of our table. WP_20170604_15_45_02_Pro[1] Although Ryan doesn’t have very much experience with woodcraft, he did an amazing job putting this piece together for me.  I am so excited to have this beautiful and charming table and I love that he took this project on to bless our family with something we will all use and make memories around for years to come. WP_20170612_09_58_44_Pro[1]