Finding Our Way in the Lost Pines of Texas

Roosters Do What Roosters Do

LydiaHave you ever been faced with too much of a good thing? Last year we purchased two Buff Orpington roosters for our 45 hens (or maybe it was the other way around). Anyway, these two brothers whom we named Howard-the-Coward (because he always ran away and gave up the hen to his brother) and HOCO’s Brother did an outstanding job protecting the hens and fertilizing eggs for incubation.

HOWARD 

The first hatch resulted in five more roosters and 10 hens. Within six months, we had five feuding siblings and everyone’s feathers were ruffled. The poor hens were running for their lives trying to get away from them, even taking refuge in my lap when we sat out to watch them in the evening. If they weren’t chasing hens, they were fighting each other.

We initially thought some of them would be as gentle as HOCO and his brother, but that was not the case. After separating them into two different coops, we soon noticed the roosters would even mount the 2-month-old chicks, eventually killing one of them in the process. We soon found one of roosters injured and near death after one of their duels, so we had to take immediate action.

HOCOS

HOCO

BOYSORGIRLS

We harvested all the young roos and HOCO, leaving only HOCO’s Brother since he was the most calm and the largest of them. We had read that rooster meat would probably be tough since they were so muscular and brawny, and that turned out to be correct. We slow cooked the first one and the meat was stringy and not so tender. We decided to grind up the meat and turn some of it into sausage. SUCCESS! We included some smoked bacon in the grinder for added juiciness and created some great recipes. We used the sausage in gravies, nachos, pizzas, and chili.

SAUSAGE33

SAUSAGE1

SAUSAGE2

We served the sausage when our family came to visit, and it was devoured as quickly as the fluffy scrambled eggs and cream gravy. Here is the recipe we used:

ROOSTER SAUSAGE

5 pounds ground rooster meat (no skin)
1 pound bacon, ground with meat
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 large cloves fresh garlic. smashed to a paste
1 teaspoon fresh chopped fennel

We also added sharp cheddar cheese to one of the batches and grilled it outdoors. DELICIOUS!

Our experience has relieved our worries about getting too many roosters in the hatch. This solution puts meat in the freezer and calm back in the coop. Roosters will do what they instinctively do, but we couldn’t stand the thought of watching one more battle at the Waterhorn Ranch.

Bunny Therapy Day at the Office

LydiaLast spring, we decided to find some meat rabbits to add to our menu and did some online research to find out which breeds would offer us the best meat. We also thought we might want to use some for hides and expand our chicken/egg homestead.

babybunnies

bunny1

There is so much information out there that we went round and round trying to figure out which breed we would choose. My handy-husband designed a four-room hutch behind the chicken coop, and we opted for California breed. Our first purchase was four cute California rabbits but we didn’t know how to sex them, so back to the computer we go.

siblings

When we finally figured out we had two males and two females, we separated them at maturity and waited until they could safely breed. Although our first attempt was a disaster due to a surprise birth on a cold December day, we soon opted for putting the pregnant females in the barn to avoid losing babies to the weather.

Baby bunnies are so cute and the thought of harvesting them for meat did not set well at first. We sold the first healthy batch on Craigslist and waited for our bravery to set in. We had several calls the first day, and I was secretly relieved that they wouldn’t end up on our dinner table. I brought a few in to work with me for delivery in the city and kept the pet porter under my desk. I thought I could keep my secret until a co-worker came in and saw them and asked if she could hold it. Soon after, I had people from various departments coming for some bunny therapy.

Mama_Bunny

We sold the first batch to photographers, teachers, to parents with small children, and to a 4-H youth who wanted to raise them for competition. What a relief it was not to have to butcher them! It went against our goal as homesteaders, but it took some time to get over the brutality of it.

This spring, we raised the first batch of six and made rabbit stew, rabbit sausage, and ground rabbit meat to store in our freezer. I decided to try our first batch of rabbit sausage in our favorite homemade dish … Pizza.

notrealpizza

It just so happened that my 5-year-old grandson wasn’t a fan of my pizza because it wasn’t round. He said it wasn’t real pizza and refused it until he realized that was all we had for dinner, so he forced down one square slice. He quickly got over it once I announced that he could go collect eggs – he really loved visiting the coop and collecting and counting the eggs. Later, he told me he wanted to be a farmer when he got big and “have everything” like we did. Kids are funny.

We did decide that we would have to keep one rabbit as a pet (for my grandson, of course). He was the only one born without spots like his mom or dad – just a velvety gray color.

collecteggs

We are on our fifth batch of baby bunnies and they are still very, very cute, but also very delicious. We will continue to expand our 5-acre homestead to include other varieties of chickens, bunnies, and maybe some cute calves soon.