What Does a Chicken House Look Like?

Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry

We have three almost identical houses that the laying hens live in and they have a few key features that make them unique. 

First they need a place to lay their eggs everyday. We use community style nesting boxes that are about four feet wide and one foot deep. They have a slanted floor that rolls the eggs to the front of the box where we collect them. The really nice part about these boxes is that the eggs stay really clean and the chickens can’t get to them. Once in a while you can get a hen that likes to eat eggs and not only does that hurt your production numbers but it makes a big mess.

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Another advantage of this style nesting box is that the eggs are easier to collect and much faster. The red flaps on the front give the hens a little privacy and that encourages them to lay in the boxes. 

Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry
Fisher Hill Farm – Local Chicken and Poultry

The house is also where the hens get all their food and water. The water will only freeze when the temperature falls in the low 20’s. All the chickens give off enough body heat that keeps it really cozy even in the dead of winter. The red waterers in a bell shape work off a low pressure system that keeps them full of fresh water all the time. Every morning the chickens get about six five gallon buckets full of fresh non-GMO feed. That works out to about a quarter pound of feed per bird per day. The goal is to give them enough so they don’t waste it and that the hens don’t get over weight. Also the feed formulation changes as the birds get older.

We work directly with a poultry nutritionist that comes up with the best formulation for their age and dietary needs.

Another key feature in the chicken house are the lights. Hens require sixteen hours of daylight every day to keep laying. In the summer that isn’t a problem. But come fall and winter when the daylight is shorter we have to supplement light on either side of the day. It doesn’t take much but just enough to keep them laying strong all year long.

Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry
Fisher Hill Farm – Local Chicken and Poultry

The basic structure itself is a greenhouse frame that a Mennonite in Penn Yan built for us. It is covered with a single layer of white plastic to help keep it cooler in the summertime. Also in the summer we remove the metal skirts on the lower three feet of the house allowing air circulation on all four sides. It can get hot in the summer so we have added a large fan for cooling. 

Lots of pasture is available year round.

We can rotate fencing around the house giving the chickens fresh grass and letting other sections rest and regrow. We have portable fencing that allows us to move them to new areas as needed.

Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry
Fisher Hill Farm – Local Chicken and Poultry

This house has been empty since the end of November and while it was empty we made a few improvements. We installed a new water hydrant because the old one would no longer shut off. No fun having hard well water that wrecks all your plumbing! We rebuilt the door and added metal siding on it so hopefully it will last longer and looks nicer too!

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Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry
Fisher Hill Farm – Local Chicken and Poultry

Last, we made a huge door  (5 foot by 10 foot) on the other end that serves a couple different purposes. First it will allow more air circulation in the summer and a nice shaded patio on the hot days. Second it will allow us to back the manure spreader inside so we don’t have to pitch the manure all the way across the house.

We are refilling this house next week with young hens to meet the early springtime demand of eggs. Once Easter hits and the weather gets nicer that demand just grows and grows.

I hope this was helpful and if anyone ever has a question don’t hesitate to ask.

Phillip

***WONDERING ABOUT OUR CSA? CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!***

Fisher Hill Farm - Local Chicken and Poultry
Fisher Hill Farm – Local Chicken and Poultry

The Best Chicken Stew You’ll Ever Eat

Best Chicken Stew - Fisher Hill Farm

We’re all in on this chicken stew recipe as you can see by the title. But one taste of this dish and you’ll agree with us. It’s easy to make and best of all you can get (almost) everything from us at the markets we attend. This recipe will easily serve 4 with leftovers.

What You’ll Need:

One Stewing Hen

3 Onions

4 Medium Rutabaga

6 Cloves of garlic

4 Medium Carrots

10 Ribs of Celery

2 tablespoons of AP flour

A few cheese rinds

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

What You’ll Do:

Take the stewing hen out of the package. Not sure what a stewing hen is? Check out our last post HERE. Give it a rinse and then put it in an 8 quart stock pot. Cut the three onions in half and put 3 halves in the pot along with 5 ribs of celery, 2 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, the cheese rinds and the thyme. You can get these cheese rinds at the market from some of the vendors, or get them from Wegmans. The rinds will add awesome flavor and help add a little fat to the stock.

Local Rutabaga - Fisher Hill Farm
Local Rutabaga – Fisher Hill Farm

Cover the lid and place on medium heat. Forget about this for 3 hours. Occasionally come back to stir because the rinds can rest on the bottom and stick sometimes. After 3 hours, pull the chicken out to cool then strain the remaining liquid and put in another pot. Put this back on the stove with no top on it. Keep it at a simmer continue to reduce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stew Hen Stew - Fisher Hill Farm
Stew Hen Stew – Fisher Hill Farm

Peel and chop the rest of your veggies and put them in a soup pot like a dutch oven or an 8 quart stock pot. Saute them with 4 tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper until they start to sweat. Add the flour and stir to thicken. Add the reserved stock that’s already hot. Reduce the heat down so it’s just barely boiling.

Strip the meat off the chicken. Discard any skin. Rough chop the meat and add it to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste one last time. Keep it warm and serve when you’re ready.

 

 

 

Stewing Hens: Best Kept Culinary Secret

This weekend starts stewing hen season. But what exactly is a stewing hen?

Not all chickens are the same. On our farm we have two different types, one kind is raised for meat and the other is specific to laying eggs. Once a year we have a group of egg laying hens that have to be retired because they no longer lay any eggs. As much as we’d like to send them to Florida to play shuffleboard  and eat dinner at four o’clock, on the farm we make it a habit to use absolutely everything.

This week marks our stewing hen season. They will be fresh for this one market weekend only and then we will bring them to the markets with us the rest of the winter frozen. These hens aren’t meant to be thrown on the grill or sauteed with garlic and tomato. They need to be cooked low and slow.

One of our favorite stewing hen recipes is chicken pot pie. It’s a multi step process, but boy oh boy it will be an absolute favorite for everyone in the house.

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Take the hen out of the bag, give it a rinse and set it in an 8 quart stock pot. Cut an onion into quarters, a carrot in half (don’t bother peeling it), a few cloves of garlic, and rough chop three celery ribs and put them in the pot. If you have a bay leaf throw that in there too. Add cold water to the pot until it covers the chicken and then about three fingers above that. Add a tablespoon of salt. Put that on medium heat with the lid on and forget about it for at least an hour and a half.

Now you can make the topping and put in the fridge for later. Instead of a traditional pot pie topping, use a biscuit recipe. Just roll it thin before placing it over the top. Make sure you cut a small ‘X’ in the center before you bake it or it could rise up and pop! Here’s a good recipe that just uses Bisquick as it’s base and probably a lot of other stuff you already have.

https://www.bunsinmyoven.com/biscuit-making-101/

When the stewing hen is starting to pull apart with a fork you can take it out of the pot and let it cool. Strain and reserved the liquid. That’s the chicken stock you’re going to make the pot pie with. Once the chicken is cool enough, remove the skin and pull the meat off. Chop it up a little and get it into bite sized pieces. Now you’re ready for the pot pie filling!

Dice onion, potato,carrot, celery and garlic and put it in a pan with some butter. Once the onions are translucent you can add the chicken stock you made. In a little sauce pan or a frying pan, make roux. You want a light roux. Here’s a step by step how to:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/articles/how-to-make-a-roux-a-step-by-step-guide

Once the stock is boiling and reduced a bit in your pan, add your roux to thicken, then add the chicken meat, and finally peas. Once this step is complete, make sure to taste it in case you have to add some seasoning. Fresh rosemary and thyme gives it a winter feel and don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste!

dutch oven

Place your pot pie filling directly in a pan that can go into the oven. Our friends grandmother used to put it in a hotel pan, top it with the biscuit dough and put it in the oven. We prefer a dutch oven. Roll out the biscuit topping and press it onto the sides of the dutch oven. Put it in the oven at 375. Since the pot pie filling is already hot all you have to do is watch for that biscuit to cook and you’re ready to eat.

We’ll have lots of other ideas for stewing hen use that we can’t wait to share.

 

 

Buying a Whole Local Chicken

Fisher Hill Farm Poultry

Every week we offer fresh chicken at the farmers markets we attend. If you have never had a locally raised chicken then we highly recommend it. They really taste much different than your factory farmed raised chicken.

One of the things we hear from a lot of our friends at the market is that they would buy a whole chicken but they don’t want to have to cook the whole thing. But you don’t have to roast a whole chicken if you get a whole chicken! It’s very easy to break down a chicken into parts. It also cooks faster that way and you can freeze the parts your not ready to cook!

One of our friends posted this video on Youtube of him cutting up a whole chicken in 10 minutes. He sped it up to double time for “entertainment purposes” and posted it. It shows how easy it can be to simply follow the seams of where the bones are. You won’t see any cleavers or breaking of bones. If you follow the seams properly you don’t have to cut through bones. Check the video out!

This video doesn’t have instruction in it, but leave something in the comments here or on Youtube that you would like to see a video like that and we’ll get that arranged!

One of our regular market buyers told us a story about how he kept buying fresh chickens all summer long. He kept freezing the wings and the legs all summer only eating the breast and thighs. By the fall he had a huge meal of smoked wings and thighs with his friends and it was a huge hit!

You don’t have to be Jacques Pepin to cut up a whole chicken into parts. But it does take some practice. The best part is, you can’t mess up a whole chicken. Even if you don’t cut it into parts the way it’s meant to, you can still cook it and it’s still chicken!

Fresh local chicken tastes amazing and we want our market friends to have the best from our farm We stand by our product and would never feed anything to our own family that we wouldn’t give to our friends. We hope you try it out.

The Dirt is Finally Flying: A Crop and Field Report

Fisher Hill Farm - Tractor at night in field

It has been a super busy stretch here at the farm. We’ve had a few consecutive days without any significant rain and the wheels have been turning.

Since last Thursday we have been going hard and nonstop. Thursday we transplanted broccoli, cabbage, kale, swiss chard, and beets. Also had time to fit in a 15th wedding anniversary dinner with my beautiful bride. Friday we transplanted more beets, pumpkins, planted fall ornamentals, did some discing to smooth out the recently plowed soil. Saturday after market I picked up huge rocks with the loader. Sunday I did more discing. Monday we laid down black and white plastic mulch. Tuesday we transplanted celeriac, scallions, fennel, eggplant, tomatoes.

Fisher Hill Farm - Eat Local
Fisher Hill Farm – Eat Local

We’re finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. The only big items left are peppers, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. It doesn’t sound like much but they are all really big plantings.

The weather this spring has really been a downer. All the rain kept the fields saturated and the cool weather slowed down the drying out. I feel lucky that we have been able to chip away at the early spring crops and they are looking OK.

Fisher Hill Farm - planting in the field
Fisher Hill Farm – planting in the field

The cooler weather crops are doing great (onions, kale, lettuce, radishes, etc). Unfortunately, the warmer weather crops are pretty slow to get going (summer squash, cucumbers, beans, etc). Everyone on the farm has been working hard and the market table should reflect that.

This week’s share is a combination of new spring crops and storage crops from last season. We have really dialed in how to store many different veggies through the winter and you’ll enjoy them.

Veggies:

Asparagus

Lettuce

Radish

Bok choy

Micro greens

Pea & sunflower shoots

Rhubarb

Scallions

Spinach

 

Storage Veggies:

Potatoes

Onions

Carrots

Parsnips

Sweet potatoes

Rutabaga

Turnips

Kohlrabi

Beets

We also will have fresh chicken, eggs, and duck eggs available too.

 

Here’s where to find us from now through October:
Monday, Thompson Hospital (Canandaigua), 2:30pm-5:30pm
Tuesday, Victor Central Schools, 3:30pm-6pm
Wednesday, On-Farm pickup, 4:30pm-6:30pm
Thursday, Rochester Public Market 7am-12noon
Saturday, Rochester Public Market 6am-1pm
Sunday, Brighton Farmers Market, 8:30am-12:30pm

Fisher Hill Farm - Tractor at night in field
Fisher Hill Farm – Tractor at night in field