Pasty Butts on the Homestead

I have a number of reasons for writing this blog and one thats reasonably high on the list is to give the folks who don’t have the opportunity to learn about and experience the things associated with country life a chance to learn. I sometimes find it down right amazing what folks dont know about what it takes to produce the food that crosses our tables each and every day.

To be clear, I don’t live on a farm, but from the age of 12 until I was 22, I spent every summer away from home on one farm or the other and today we have enough land about us to practice many of the arts associated with food production, at least on a small scale. My wife has a similiar background and together we each relish the opportunity to produce wholesome healthy food for our own table.

Each spring brings with it new challenges and exciting opportunities and we always find ourselves looking forward to the rewarding experience of producing food for ourselves. There’s always something new to plant or try right beside the old tried and true methods and we always enjoy sharing with folks who stop by to learn about the various things we are growing.

What I like to have a little fun with are the folks who have this grocery store image of food. It’s unfortunate, but some really have no concept of how dirty food production is and even the courage that is sometimes required to complete the task that is facing you. Imagine my wifes feelings when she must take the butcher knife to the spinach and slaughter those tender young plants well before they ever had a chance to develope a deep voice. Or the screams I myself endure when pulling carrots from the ground and beheading the carrot tops. Hideous! Or worse, dropping live grapes into the steamer to extract their juices. (I always wear earplugs for that one.)

Bottom line, food production is dirty work. There are nasty little chores few people ever think about because all they see is that shiny, well dressed food sitting there on the grocery store shelf. (Full of chemicals and other by products mind you, but thats a story for another day.) I mean, really, sometimes I can barely contain myself when it becomes apparent people think (or at least seem to think) those grocery store shelves just poop out that loaf of bread each and every day so they can stop by at their convenience to pick it up.

So today I would like to bring a little reality to your world of food production. A week ago we went to the feed store and acquired 20 tiny, day old, baby chicks. Our older girls are reaching the point where they don’t produce eggs like they used to and its time to plan for their replacements. Like any newborn these little feathered cuties are about as adorable as you can imagine. We brought them home, set up the heat lamp, feed, and water in a small water trough with the bottom covered in paper and wood shavings and let them get about the business of growing up.

As is the case with all newborns you invariably lose a few and this time was no different. Along about day three my son was leaving for work when he checked in on the new birds and found one that was dead. It happens. Loses like this are sad, and no one likes to see it, but no matter what kind of animal your dealing with, it’s a tough reality. Not only have you lost a cute little youngster but you have lost your investment as well. We had a moment of silence and said good bye to one baby chick we barely had a chance to know.

The other thing that goes hand in hand with baby chicks is pasty butts. Thus the title to this blog post. As their young systems are still developing and trying to get up and running, the little birds pooh can often hang up on their butts and plug quite literally plug them up. If not fixed they will die of constipation. Wow. I’ve been told I was full of it before but that would be a tough way to go. (It is not the reason the bird mentioned above died.)

So for the first week or two we daily inspect the birds and bring the ones with pasty butts into the kitchen sink to be cleaned. Usually we wet a paper towel in warm water and hold it against the posterior of the little turd/bird to soften the pooh. Then with a little work you are able to pick the old stuck pooh off. Olive oil, vaseline and other similiar products can be used to help with an area that can get red and sore while at the same time aiding in the prevention of it happening again.

Its all part of raising animals and every animal has its own peculiar issues that you, as the care taker, must be aware of and resonsible for. Even if it means picking pooh from the pasty butts of your baby birds. The reward comes later. We feed our birds all natural starter food which contains no hormones or anti-biotics. Later on, about six months from now, those little birds will be grown and begin paying us back with fresh, healthy, tasty eggs. Did you know the average egg in the grocery store is about a month old? It’s the reason they’re so tasteless. Like anything else, eggs that are only a day or two old have all the flavor in the world when compared to store bought, and the birds werent caged up in a tiny space like the store bought either. Did you know the cholesterol in an egg from a chicken that free ranges is about one third less than that of a store bought egg? It’s true.

So the next time you drive by a sign that says eggs for sale you might want to check it out. Will the eggs cost a little more than store bought? Very likely. Will they be better for you and full of flavor? Most certainly. Will you have to deal with the pasty butts? Not a chance, but you can reward the owners who have already done all the nasty work for you, with your business and a better understanding of what it takes to put a quality product on your table.

Cheers!

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