chicken molting

Chicken Keeping: Molting

Chicken Keeping: Molting

What is Molting? 

Each year, chickens go through molting. This is when chickens will drop many of their feathers and regrow new fresh feathers for winter. This happens to hens and roosters and is triggered by shorter daylight, so you can expect your birds to molt in the fall.

Your chickens will look ragged. Don't worry! Molting doesn't hurt your chickens, this is a natural process. You should not make attempts to stop molting. This molting and regrowth is a sign of a healthy bird that is going through a resting stage after the laying season.  

How Long Does it Last? 

Typically, a chicken will typically molt for 7-8 weeks. Don't be concerned if the molt lasts 12-14 weeks. 

What To Expect

When your chickens are molting, they will drop the majority of their feathers and regrow new shoots that will turn into feathers. You'll start to notice feathers dropping around the head and neck first.

As they regrow their feathers you will see the shoots of their feathers coming through as blue or black, depending on the feather of your birds. Don't mess with these. If you notice a bird is picking at their feathers or other birds are picking at a chicken's feathers, remove the affected bird to isolation and treat the wound with Wonder Dust.

Your chicken coop will look like someone had a pillow fight. 

What to Do to Help

Adding Protein

Help your chickens regrow their new fresh feathers and get back to laying eggs by bumping up the protein in their diet. Chicken keepers can add protein to their bird's diet by buying a layer feed with a higher protein content, adding mealworms, seeds, eggs (yup, you read that right), worms, fodder. I've heard some folks have luck with cat food, too. Chickens are omnivores, so feel free to get creative! More protein is the goal. 

Still Keep an Eye Out for Illness

When birds are molting hard, it's a little shocking and it can be easy to miss more subtle cues of illness. Be sure to keep an eye out for any of your chickens that isolate themselves from the rest of the flock, are hunched over and puffed up, eye closed, look generally lame, have a sneeze, are gaping, or have runny poops. 

Let them Recover

Let your chicken's molting process continue uninterrupted and support them through plenty of food, water, and clean shelter. Your chickens just worked very hard throughout the laying season and this is nature's way of giving them a break from laying eggs. Allow them to have that rest. 

Learn More

To learn more about your flock, check out our guide "What No One Tells You About Keeping Chickens". 


freezer space half pig

How Much Freezer Space for a Half Pig?

How Much Freezer Space Do I Need For a Half Pig? 

When determining how much freezer space you'll need for your half pig, please note that the amount of pork you will get from a half or whole cow or pig varies from farm to farm. Please do not use these calculations for other farm's pork unless you know the hanging weight/finish weight will be similar.

If you select to receive all of the bones, fat, and organs in your half or whole pig, you should anticipate needing more than the recommended amount of space below. 

Half Pig Freezer and Cooler Space

The pork from a half pig from Hayfield Farm fills approximately 100 quarts of cooler space 3.5 cubic feet of freezer space, minimum. 

Whole Pig Freezer and Cooler Space

The pork from a whole pig from Hayfield Farm fills approximately 225 quarts of cooler space or 7.5 cubic feet of freezer space, minimum

A Few More Tips

  1. It is much better to have more space and not need it, than to need it and not have it. 
  2. Life is much easier if you have your freezer space cleared out before you pick up your pork.
  3. Keep your inventory sheet on the door and mark off items as you go. That way, you'll know which cuts you have left and you can make notes to know what you liked and didn't like for your next half beef. 
  4. Keep in mind that the recommended space above are round numbers to make determining how much cooler and freezer space you need easy!

Snag your half or whole pig or check out articles for everything you need to know about purchasing bulk pork on our Pork Page!

 


hanging weight

Beef Hanging Weight: Explained

What is a Hanging Weight? 

The hanging weight of livestock is when the butcher has the carcass hanging in the cold room and takes a record of the the weight. 

Once the animal is dispatched, the hide, head, hooves/feet, and innards are removed. The carcass is then lifted onto a hook, the weight it recorded, and it will hang in a cold room until processing. 

Why the Hanging Weight? 

The hanging weight is the fairest weight for the producer (farmer) and customer (you). 

Fair for the Farmer // Why Not Meat Weight?

Many folks wonder why half or whole beef isn't priced by the meat weight.

The customer has the option to choose bone-in or boneless cuts or can choose to leave cuts as roasts, steaks, or grind the meat. Depending on the customer's selections, the meat weight (or finished weight) can vary greatly. 

Farmers raise their beef steers with a goal of sending them to processing when they reach a certain target live weight. Based on breed, live weight, feed program, and body composition, farmers can anticipate that their beef steers will hang at a particular weight. This helps the farmer plan for consistent income.

If the beef was priced by the meat weight, the income from steer to steer would be unpredictable and would vary greatly depending on the customer's personal selections. 

Fair for the Customer // Why Not Live Weight?

Live weight is the weight of the steer at the farm or when it arrives at the butcher shop.  

Pricing half or whole beef by the live weight would mean that regardless of the yield of the steer, the customer would be responsible for paying the price of the entire weight of the beef steer. Why does that matter? 

Picture this. One 1,400lb steer has a hanging weight that is 60% it's live weight. Another 1,400lb steer has a hanging weight that is 50% it's live weight. On the second steer, this means that the butcher has 10% less weight to work. Meat yield would be less, but the customer would have paid the same amount for both steers. 

Other questions to consider with live weight pricing:

Do you weigh them when they are full with feed?

Do you weight them when they are empty?

Cattle can eat up to 30lbs in one sitting. 

Are they weighed on the farm or at the processor? If they are weighed at the farm, they will drop weight on the trailer ride to the processor. 

Long-legged steer is going to have more "waste" (non-meat weight) than a short stocky steer. This is why beef breeds are bred to be short and compact. 

Hanging Weight and the Beef Farmer

Beef farmers have a goal of live weight, hanging weight, and meat weight. This means that if a farmer raises their steers to a certain live weight and body composition, they can expect the beef to hang at a certain weight and yield a certain weight of meat. This consistency is good for projecting income.

If a farmer can raise a beef steer as quickly as possible, on the least amount of feed, that means that the steer was happy and healthy enough to grow rapidly, was fed enough to fill out it's frame at a relatively young age and produce top grade beef. It means that it spend a good amount of time on pasture eating grass for free.

Healthy livestock grow well and fast, they produce beef that is tender, marbled, and a lot of it. It is in everyone's interest that cattle are raised well. 

Learn More

Learn more about buying in bulk for beef and pork so that you can be fully informed when making your investment. 


Beef Cuts in a Half Cow

Beef Cuts in a Half Cow

Purchasing half of a cow (also known as half beef, side of beef, half a steer) can be so daunting. Do you actually get the entire half of the cow? Who has a freezer that large? Will you have to cut it all down yourself? No way! Buying half a cow means that you get all of the cuts of beef that are made from half of the animal. Each section of the cow is custom cut to your specifications.

But! That's a lot of options. Most folks don't know all of the possible cuts of beef. Where do you even start? Right here with your favorite beef farmers. 

We will break down (pun intended) each section of beef, the characteristics of each section, and your options for beef cuts. At the end, you can check out our Beef E-Cookbook to get delicious recipes for every beef cut in your half cow. How easy is that?

The More You Know

People like to learn when they are making an investment and purchasing from a local farm is definitely an investment. Will it save you hundreds of dollars in the long run? Absolutely. Is it a lot of money up front? Definitely. If you know the proper verbiage and understand how the process works, you can talk the talk and walk the walk with your friends and family while you are slinging your locally-raised and deliciously marbled steaks on the grill. Knowing all of the beef cuts in your half cow makes it even better. 

Technically, it's not a cow. At least, not always. 

This just might be a thorn in the side of your beef farmers, but! it's a good thing to know. Technically, most beef (especially locally-sourced beef) comes from steers, not cows. Cows are female cattle who have had a calf. Steers are castrated males, typically raised for beef. Heifers are females who have not yet had a calf. Bulls are intact males, typically used for breeding. If you purchase your beef cuts from the grocery store, your beef is from all four of these categories. It can also be from beef breeds or dairy breeds. But, that's a story for another day.

For the purposes of this lesson, when you purchase from a small farm, nine times out of ten, your beef will be coming from a steer. For the purposes of this article reaching the most people based on what they Google to find this article, we're going to continue to call it a half cow

Beef Cuts in a Half Cow

Turning a half cow into delicious beef cuts is no small task. Understanding how beef is processed gives you insight into what you're going to stock your freezer with and sheer appreciation for the dying craft of butchering. 

Primal Sections

The cow is broken down into eight primal sections, which are large sections of each part of the cow. If you are purchasing a half cow, you will make cut selections for each of the eight primal sections from one side of the cow. If you were purchasing a whole cow, you would make cut selections for each of the eight primal sections from both sides of the cow. It'll make a lot more sense once we move along. 

Once your half cow has dry aged and is broken down into the eight primal sections, the butcher takes your cut sheet and cuts each primal section into cuts according to your specifications. For a detailed walk-through of the entire process at the butcher, check out our article The Process, Pricing, and Timeline of Buying a Whole or Half Cow

Ground Beef

Unfortunately, the entire half cow can't be made into steaks. When most folks inquire about half a cow beef cut options, they often ask for ways they can get the least ground beef and the most steaks.

Picture it like this, the butcher has a giant bowl set to the side for ground beef. All of the trimmings as their working and anything you select to "grind" on your cut sheet goes into that bowl. When the butcher is done, all of the beef in that bowl is ground together into ground beef and packed together. Even if you don't choose to grind any sections of your half cow, you will still get a good amount of ground beef, typically 30-40lbs. The "grind" selection is available for each section of the cow. 

If you choose ground chuck, ground brisket, ground round, etc. that means the butcher will take that specific section, grind it separately, and pack and label it separately. More on that later! 

Chuck

The chuck, which is the shoulder of the steer, is known for its delicious fatty goodness. Fat equals flavor, y'all. The chuck section is a very large section of the steer that can be made into a variety of different cuts. Since the shoulder tends to bear a significant amount of weight, the beef needs some cook time to break down the tissues to make the meat tender. All of the fat means that you won't need too much help in the flavor department and your risk of the beef becoming dry is very low. The chuck section yields approximately 40 pounds of meat per half cow. 

Ground Chuck 

Ground chuck is made when the butcher takes the shoulder section, trims it from the bones, grinds the trimmings, and packs it separately from the rest of the ground beef. Typically, you will see ground chuck have a 80/20 lean to fat ratio. This is great for meatballs and making your own burgers, as the fat helps it stick together. 

Chuck Roast

By far, the superior roast, in my opinion. With all of the fat, the flavor is awesome! It doesn't need a whole lot of extra TLC like many other roasts do due to their lack of fat. The bone will give it extra flavor. If you select boneless, the roast will come trussed with either twine or a net wrap. 

Chuck Steaks

Bone-in and boneless options here. Typically, for a subcategory of chuck steaks that we call "boneless chuck steaks", which are more tender than the main chuck steaks. These are: Denver, Ranch, Flat Iron, or Chuck Eye. Our butcher cuts Denver and Ranch steaks small, under 6 ounches. Flat Irons and Chuck Eye are a lesser known but delicious cut. For your straight up bone-in or boneless chuck steaks under the main category, they will have good flavor. Just remember, since the shoulder gets a lot of work, they aren't going to be as tender as a filet. 

Stew Meat

Stew meat in a half cow means that the butcher takes the chuck section, cubes it, and packs it into one-pound packs. This is a great option if you like to just crack open a pack, dump it into the crock pot, and forget it. 

Brisket

The brisket is the lower chest area. The brisket it responsible for supporting approximately 60% of the steer's weight. Due to all of that work and connective tissues, cooking the brisket requires a little finesse and a lot of time. 

Typically, you'll see the brisket kept whole or cut in half. Our butcher gives the option to make ground brisket, similar to ground chuck, but only on a whole cow. 

When leaving your brisket whole or cutting it in half, choosing to get your brisket untrimmed is smart. Meaning the butcher is going to leave most of the fat on. If the butcher trims the brisket, depending on the butcher, they may trim all of the fat off. This is how our butcher does it. Check with your butcher or farmer to know exactly how they will cut the brisket. 

Since brisket requires a long cook time to tenderize the tissues, the fat around it keeps the meat from drying out. Fear not, you don't need a fancy smoker or a ton of experience to make brisket taste delicious. Our Beef E-Cookbook has a delicious recipe for tender oven-roasted brisket. 

Shank

The shank section is truly between the shoulder and the knee of the steer. It is the leg. The cuts are very distinct, as they have a bone in the center with the meat around it in a disc shape. 

Customers do have the option to get the shank whole; however, we rarely see this. The legs carry a lot of weight, obviously. So these cuts are tough and best braised and cooked low and slow to break down the tissues for a tender and flavorful dish. Don't shy away from the marrow - it's delicious and is loaded with nutrients.

Osso Buco

Larger discs with a thickness over two inches are considered Osso Buco.

Soup Bones

When the discs are cut smaller, they are considered soup bones.

Rib

Cue the singing Angels. The Rib section. Tender and flavorful. The rib section is a great indicator of the quality and grade of the entire steer. If the steer was raised and finished properly, the rib section will be heavily marbled with streaks of fat throughout.

Bone-In Rib Steak

Technically, a steak is an -eye (like ribeye) if it is boneless. If it is bone-in, it is simply called a steak. When the bone-in rib steak is left with a few inches of bone on it, it's called a cowboy steak. If it is left with the entire rib bone intact, that is called your Tomahawk steak. Our butcher does not cut Cowboys or Tomahawks, but at least you can get it bone-in and know you're getting all of that delicious beef. 

Boneless Ribeye

Otherwise known as a delmonico. Pretty straight forward that it is a boneless steak cut. 

Prime Rib Roast

The centerpiece of many Christmas dinner tables. The prime rib roast can be left whole (otherwise known as a seven-bone roast), cut according to your roast weight specifications, or it can be cut into one four-bone and one three-bone roast. 

Loin

Don't you dare grind this, y'all. The loin section holds the most well-known cuts. A fun fact that most people may not know is that a t-bone and porterhouse are the same exact cut. When looking at a t-bone or porterhouse, it is actually the NY strip on one side and filet on the other. When the filet is over 1.25 inches wide, it is a porterhouse. Whenthe filet is under 1.25 inches wide, it is a t-bone. 

If you choose boneless steaks, you'd get filets and NY strips. If you choose to keep the steaks large and bone-in, you'll get t-bones and porterhouses. It doesn't get more simple than that. Either way you cut it, you'll get a variety of sizes since cattle aren't perfectly square. 

Plate

This rib plate section is the section most folks think of when they think of the ribs. Fatty and flavorful! The rib plate needs either a cook marinade or a long cook to break down the tissues. You can get the plate cut as a whole plate, otherwise known as Dino-bones. We don't typically recommend this unless you have experience with the whole plate, as they can be upwards of 16 pounds. 

Short Ribs

If you can picture the ribs coming down vertically, the butcher cuts horizontally every two inches and sections out two bones for each piece. Typically, these come in 3-4 pound packs with several rib pieces inside. 

Korean Style Ribs

Otherwise known as franken ribs, korean style ribs are cut very thin, approximately 1/2-inch. Typically, they are 4-5 bones across. 

Round

The round is split up into several sections - the eye round, the top round, and the bottom round. The round is a lean tough section as it bears a lot of weight and gets a lot of exercise. Tougher cuts require time to break down those fibers, either through a marinade or cook time, or both. Lean means no fat, so it will need a little help in the flavor department.

Roasts

As mentioned, round roasts are lean and on the tough side. They'll need some extra love and time. 

Steaks

While the round can be cut into steaks, it typically isn't recommended for a slap on the grill with some salt and pepper. If anything, folks have the option to get cube steaks. Cube steak is where the butcher cuts the round into steaks and runs the steaks through a tenderizer. Then, you'd take your grandma's favorite recipe and dredge, fry, and pour gravy over top for country-fried steak. 

Shaved beef

Just like cheesesteak meat. This is a fan favorite. Sliced very thin, shaved beef is great for cheesesteaks, stir-fry, pho, and more. A great option for making good use of the round section. 

Fajita meat

Cut into fajita strips. Dump in the pan and season. Talk about easy. 

Kabob meat

Cubed round packed in one-pound packs. This is great for a last minute weeknight dump-and-go meal, although they could use a marinade if you have the time. 

Flank

It's a little odd that this is a section all on it's own, since the flank is pretty small. From our butcher, there is only one flank steak per half cow. It's a thin cut, approximately 12-inches in length.  

Beef E-Cookbook and More Half Cow Resources

BEEF E-COOKBOOK for a walk through of each section, the cuts that can be made from each section, and delicious recipes for each cut option available. Plus! A guide to cooking the perfect steak and a bunch of our favorite recipes for ground beef to mix up your mundane menu. 

If you're wondering how the entire process works from drop off at the processor to pick up, how everything is priced, timeline and more, check out our article The Process, Pricing, and Timeline of Buying a Whole or Half Cow from field to freezer. 

For how much meat to expect, as far as the number of beef cuts with half cow inventory sheet examples, our How Much Meat to Expect in a Whole or Half Cow article will get you what you need. 

Lastly, if you're wondering how much freezer or cooler space you'll need for your half cow, our article on on How Much Freezer Space Do I Need for Whole or Half Cow or Pig will give you estimates so you can make all of the necessary preparations.

 

Please note that the information in these articles are based on what our steers yield at Hayfield Farm and what our local butcher shop's practices are.
If you are purchasing from a different farm, your hanging weight, meat (finished) weight, cut options, pricing, and packaging may be different. 


keeping chickens

What No One Tells You About Keeping Chickens

You've got the coop, the nest boxes, the birds, the feed, all the essentials. You've bought the "Keeping Chickens" books, scoured countless articles for the right breed, learned about eggs, their anatomy, and how to treat some basic ailments. You've got the basics down pat. 

In the last year, keeping chickens has become so popular, even those who have no family background in livestock are getting a flock of their own. With so many people getting chickens, without family or friends to seek guidance from, they go to the vast world of the interwebs to find their answers. It's almost like googling your own ailments. We all know how that goes.

keeping chickens

Generational Knowledge

What first generation chicken keepers don't have access to is generational knowledge. The stuff that you'd learn from your parents and grandparents. The stuff you can't Google. Generational knowledge is those little tips and tricks that can make life a whole lot easier. That's what I'm going to share with you. I've been keeping chickens for almost 10 years and Dylan's grandparents, MeeMee and PopPop, who live right next door, have been raising and showing all types of poultry, on the national level, for decades. They are a goldmine of information. 

The honest truth: This information is going to be true farm life. I wouldn't give y'all anything less. You won't find any fluff here. It may be seen as harsh, but if you're going to be responsible for the livelihoods of animals, you ought to be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. There's poop, animals die, but it's also one of the most rewarding experiences. So, here we go! 

You Will Thank Yourself for Investing in a Good Set Up

All you need is a coop right? Well, sure. But, what if a bird gets sick? What if you want to hatch out chicks with a broody hen? What if you hatch out chicks from an incubator and now they are too big for the brooder, but too small to be with everyone else?

We have four separate areas for our chickens: Juvie, Lock up, Halfway House, and Gen Pop. We have a little fun around here sometimes! Juvie is the brooder. We've done the whole tub/stock tank brooder, but it's a mess. Finally, we invested in a double stacked brooder. Worth every penny. Keep in mind, we also hatch out over 100 chicks a year, so this type of set up is necessary for us and may not be for you. The tub/stock tank brooder will work just fine if you get a few chicks every year. We will do another article where we talk about the generational knowledge with hatching eggs and raising chicks. 

Lock up is our broody hen/sick pen. Big dog crates work perfect. This is so you can separate a bird and keep them comfortable while they are on the mend or setting on eggs. Just make sure you have everything you need in there, food, water, bedding, and a roost for a sick bird - not being able to roost causes stress, which will prolong sickness. 

The halfway house is our outdoor hoop coop, or chicken tractor. This is a 7'x4' homemade moveable "coop". There are a million building plans online. This is so our birds can be outside, with cover, roosts, and access to the grass. We move it every couple of days. This is perfect for any young birds, or new birds, that just aren't quite ready to go to Gen Pop. Best part is, our entire flock can see these birds. So, when it comes time for them to be introduced, it's not a shock to everyone. This is also a great place to keep mamas and chicks if you are worried about them being in Gen Pop. 

Gen Pop, if you haven't gathered, is our entire regular flock. They go in and out of the big coop, they free range all day, they are happy chickens. 

I know it's a pain to think about building, or buying, multiple structures for your chickens, but if you are going to do this for the long haul, you'll be glad you made designated spaces. We aren't saying these need to be the Taj Mahal of chicken buildings, it can be a makeshift space when needed, whatever will work for you, works. Having the knowledge of how these things typically go will help you make the best decisions for your flock. 

We will talk about introducing new birds into the flock later! 

raising chickens

Cock-a-doodle-doo

To rooster, or not to rooster? If your local area restrictions keep you from having a rooster, feel free to keep on scrolling. If you can have roosters, I would ask you to consider it. I'll give you the bad news first. One negative about roosters is that *some* can be aggressive. Currently, we have three roosters in a flock of about 60 hens. Never have I ever had a rooster buck up to me, a customer, a customer's kid, a dog, a cat, nobody. One rooster we raised from a chick, while the two others we got as adults. Whether you get a cockerel out of an egg or an adult from someone else, follow these guidelines from day one. 

The rooster is not your friend. He is not your pet. It would be wise to treat him accordingly.

Walk up on him fast and make him move out of your way, push him to the side with your foot, get a broom and push him around a little bit and, whatever you do, do not feed him from your hand. Have your kids do the same. If he is going to take a chance on anyone, it's going to be them. You need to show him that you're the boss, otherwise, guess who's next in line? He is. And if he thinks he can outrank you or any tiny humans, he will try to establish his dominance with his spurs and beak. And then he'll make a very good soup stock. Our roosters start with two strikes. They get no chances and neither should yours. 

Spread the love with a good ratio. 

Keeping a good ratio is also very important. I would say one rooster for every 15-20 hens. Roosters do their duty, if you know what I mean, all day, every day. And if he has his favorites and your ratio is off, you'll see it in the form of stressed hens, featherless backs, and bloody combs. You want enough roosters to get strong fertilization in your eggs (we'll hit on that in another article), but not so many that your hens are getting worn out. If you have under 15 hens, one rooster will do just fine.

Free Predator Watch

To me, a good rooster is worth his weight in gold. We free range, meaning there is nothing but thin air between our sweet chunky hens out in the field and the predators who also have occupancy in the woods. There are opossums, raccoons, hawks, eagles, fox, coyotes, snakes, and even stray dogs. The rooster is on constant watch and he will call if danger is near and warn his ladies to hide. I've even seen roosters team up and tango with a hawk. Running toward the threat, spurs flying, while the hens head for cover. He may not be able to keep away a determined predator, but better than leaving your flock out to be a bunch of sitting ducks. He will also call hens over if he finds a particularly tasty treat, picking it up and dropping it down for them. So sweet. 

Chicks 

All that loving the rooster is giving can be turned into sweet little chicks in just 21 days. If you'd like to hatch out your own chicks - a super fun project with kids - you can do that with a rooster. There is nothing different about a fertilized egg when it comes to eating. Only when the egg is incubated at about 100 degrees for a couple days does it start to develop into a chick. Keep this in mind when you are collecting eggs in the summertime. 

Rooster's Place in the Pecking Order

You'll learn after just a few weeks of keeping chickens that hens can be brutal to each other. Without a rooster, one hen will establish her dominance as the "boss hen". I've even seen some boss hens develop spurs and crow like roosters. Nature is wild. The rooster automatically assumes the role as top dog. He will break up any fights among hens.

If you have multiple roosters, introduce them properly (we'll talk about that next!), and be ready for some tussles. Typically, roosters figure it out pretty quickly. They fight, one backs down, and the rooster sub-pecking order is established. If your roosters fight to the point of serious blood, pecked eyes, and violence well beyond regular scuffles. You may want to consider removing one of them. My choice would be to remove the dominant rooster, if he's going to get that violent. Even when established, roosters will continue to harass each other over who is loving up on certain hens. Non-dominant roosters will sneak around the corner and find a hen to get a little quiet action, while the dominant rooster is distracted. 

Purchasing New Chickens

From commercial hatcheries, to local poultry auctions, to Facebook groups, to Tractor Supply, to poultry shows, to your friend down the road, there are many ways to get new birds. A few things to keep in mind. Number one, you are going to get what you pay for. Number two, no one is selling their best bird.

Auction birds are notorious for bringing a variety of diseases to flocks and you never have enough time to really look at them. Local feed stores often misidentify birds or buy pullets from commercial hen houses where the birds can develop illnesses. We've done this before and ended up culling about half the birds we got in that batch, due to a chronic respiratory disease that we couldn't get them to kick. 

Selecting a healthy bird

If you are going to buy a bird from someone off Facebook or a friend, take a very close look at it and ask yourself some questions - does it look sick? Is it sneezing or wheezing? A healthy bird has bright eyes, looks alert, and has good color in it's face. It's feathers are smooth and shiny (take molting into consideration). Look under it's feathers, does it have mites or eggs on it's skin or feather shafts? Does it have fluffy butt feathers or are they matted and poopy? A healthy bird has a fluffly butt. What color is it's poop? Is it foamy and yellow? An indicator of an illness, or is it brown and solid? 

It's not worth bringing a sick bird into your flock. Trust me.

If you aren't going to hatch your own, my suggestion would be to buy from a reputable breeder or a poultry show. It's more money up front, but you'll be so glad you did. You can also find a local farm, like us!, who sells their laying hens, raises started pullets, or hatches chicks. Ask to go by and check them out first. At Hayfield Farm, we point out who is for sale and let customers choose. We sell our hens after their first full year of laying, usually around 18 months old. We need hens to lay a lot of eggs for our business. Once they get older, they don't lay as often, so we sell them to make room.

My third suggestion would be to buy directly from a commercial hatchery - like Hoover's or Murray McMurray. We've never bought started pullets from a commercial hatchery, but we have had chicks shipped in, and you can get the chicks vaccinated against diseases for next to nothing. Definitely a perk. 

raising hens

Introducing New Chickens

It never fails. You get started, you get a couple birds, then next Spring rolls around and someone has a gorgeous hen for sale or you see your favorite hatchery has started pullets, or you just can't resist the Tractor Supply cuteness. You get them home and you're ready. But wait! There's a technique to making sure your new ones don't get picked on too bad. Any new birds should be kept separate for a few days to ensure there are no chronic illnesses or infections that they could spread to your flock. 

Proper Introductions

If you are introducing new chickens, whether the same age or younger, keep them in your Halfway House for at least a week. This will give you plenty of time to monitor their health and give Gen Pop enough time to get used to them. We've also let younger chickens free range from our outdoor Halfway House and roost there at night until we feel like they are fully integrated and can go with Gen Pop full time. Or they just start to roost with Gen Pop on their own. Whatever works for you based on what you need for your flock. 

Either way, when you are ready to fully integrate them and close the Halfway House doors, do not skip this step. If you do nothing else when you introduce new chickens to your flock, be sure that you do this. At night, when everyone is asleep on the roost, grab your new tenants and quietly sneak them onto the roosts of your Gen Pop coop at night. Your chickens will wake up and be like, "Wait a minute...were you here before?...." and go about their day. 

Any new birds will require a reorganization of the pecking order. 

No matter how well you execute integration, there still may be a little bullying at first, but it won't be as severe as just throwing them into the flames in the middle of the day. If someone is getting picked on too bad, I'm talking like hens are relentlessly pinning your new chickens down and pecking them, pull the new ones out for a few days and try to reintegrate them again. You could also try this with the bully. Worst case, get rid of the bully. Roosters help with bully hens! 

The Chicken Coop

You have your coop ready to go. You have roosts, you have nesting boxes, you have bedding in the bottom. Boom, done. What else could you need? You have all the basics. Here's some things to keep in mind. 

Drafts versus Ventilation

Your coop will need somewhere to exhaust the hot moisture from all that chicken breath and dust. Even in winter and especially in the summer. Drafty coops can cause chickens to get sick. A tip is to keep any open areas for ventilation, whether that be a window or an open peak on your coop, above where the chickens roost. This will allow the humidity to rise and escape without chilling the chickens. Unwanted drafts come from open areas below or at the same level that the chickens roost. 

Going Broody

If you notice a hen is sunk down into a nest box 24/7 and resembles a velociraptor when you get near, she's broody. If you remove her from the nest box and she walks around way more puffed up than normal and makes a weird, pissed off clucking you've never heard before, she's broody.

You can do a few things. If you want chicks, you can put some eggs under her and let her do her thing, and in 21 days, you will have some chicks! If you want chicks, but your nest box area isn't the best for chicks, you can move her to Lock Up. But be warned, moving her may break her broodiness. So, if you move her and in a few hours, she's up and walking around, her broodiness has been broken and you can let her out.

We've had some break and some continue to be broody when we've moved them. Use this Lock Up trick if you want her to break her broodiness. Another option is to go in the coop multiple times a day and take her out of the nest box. Look out! She'll be going for blood! 

Run versus Free Range

A run attached to the coop is very helpful if you are going away on vacation or need to keep everyone contained for a few days, but keep in mind that chickens will take any grass in the run down to dirt in just a few weeks. Free ranging is 100% worth it for the health of your birds and the nutrition of you eggs. Just know that you can lose a few birds predators and that chickens will destroy your landscape and/or garden, if you don't fence them off. There will also be poop. Everywhere. You'll get used to it.  

Cleanliness and Preventing the Spread of Disease 

Take care of your chicks first, then your flock, then any sick birds. 

Chicks are extremely vulnerable. Even if you don't recognize any illnesses in your flock, it's wise to take care of your chicks first, always.  Do this before you take care of your main flock and especially before any sick birds. If you have to go back, wash your hands very well. Always deal with sick birds last, to prevent any spread. 

Bleach feeders and waterers when changing occupants. 

Whether you are introducing a new round of chicks or you are putting a broody hen into Lock Up, where you just had a sick bird, take the time to disinfect. Rinse out all your feeders and waterers, take a bucket, put all your feeders and waterers in it, fill it with water, and dump in a few bloops of bleach. Yes, bloops. Give it a few hours, scrub everything with a brush, give it a few more hours. Be sure to remove all the bedding from your Lock Up area, spray it down with bleach and wipe it until it's clean. It's also a good idea to scrub out your feeders and waterers for Gen Pop a few times a season. 

Other Tips

If you are going to treat birds or pull them to separate, it's much easier to do it at night.

To store hatching eggs or eating eggs before use, store them pointed side down. Unwashed eggs can be stored on the counter and washed eggs are to be stored in the fridge. 

Wrapping the bottom of your feeder in chicken wire will keep the chickens from flicking the feed out on the floor. Be sure to get crumble feed, though. 

Keep your feeders and waterers outside the coop. Chickens tend to congregate around the feeder and waterer throughout the day. This will do wonders for keeping your coop clean. 

 VetRx will help out with any congestion or colds. Put a few drops on a paper towel and rub it around their beak and eyes. It's like Vic's Vapor Rub for chickens. 

 


meat in a half cow

How Much Meat in a Half Cow?

How Much Meat in a Half Cow?

If you're not a farmer or a butcher, how are you supposed to know how much meat is in a half cow?

How much meat is in a half cow? How many steak cuts should you expect? Are you going to be drowning in ground beef?

First things first. While farmers have target weights, cattle are not perfect clones of each other. The amount of meat you will receive in a half cow (or whole cow) depends on what that specific animal yields. Additionally, when buying a whole or half cow, each section is custom cut by the customer's specifications. All examples provided here are just that, examples of what past customers have chosen.

Hanging Weight

At Hayfield Farm, our pricing for half/whole beef is based on the hanging weight. Most farms price their bulk meat this way. Our post, Hanging Weight: Explained, goes into detail about what the hanging weight is and why bulk meat is often priced by the hanging weight.

Total Pounds of Meat to Expect

Our whole beef hang at approximately 800 pounds and our half beef hang at approximately 400 pounds. You can expect approximately 600-650 pounds of meat from a whole cow and 250-300 pounds of meat from a half cow.

Sample Inventory Sheets

Below are a few inventory sheets from previous whole and half beef orders. These examples will give you an idea for how much meat you can expect from a half cow or whole cow. Since customers get to choose their own cuts, you'll see some variances.

See our Beef Resources page for everything you need to know about buying beef in bulk. 

Whole Beef 

13 packs of stew meat
2 packs of marrow bones
129 pounds of ground beef, 1lb packs
4 half untrimmed briskets
8 packs of korean style ribs
3 packs of 2" short ribs
11 packs of osso bucco
31 bone-in ribeye, 1"
51 pounds of ground chuck, 1lb packs
5 boneless chuck roast, 3-4lbs
12 flat irons
10 chuck eye
2 whole flanks
7 porterhouses, 1"
7 T-bones, 1"
22 boneless filet, 1"
14 NY strip, 1"
32 boneless petite sirloin strips, 1"
4 half eye round roasts
4 top round roasts, 3-4lbs
8 london broil
3 bottom round roasts, 3-4lbs
8 packs of cube steaks
7 sirloin tip roasts, 3-4lbs
2 whole tri tip
1 tongue
2 skirt steaks
3 packs of ox tail
1 hanging tender
14 packs of liver
4 packs of heart
2 packs of kidney

Half Beef

9 packs of stew meat
17 packs of 1/3 burger patties
29 pounds of ground beef, 1lb packs
1 whole trimmed brisket
4 packs of 2" short ribs
4 packs of osso bucco
16 3/4" boneless delmonico
50 pounds of ground chuck, 1lb packs
10 ranch steaks
6 flat irons
11 boneless filet, 3/4"
20 NY strip, 3/4"
7 bone-in sirloin steaks, 3/4"
3 packs of kabob meat
7 london broil
4 bottom round roast, 2-3lbs
1 whole tri tip
1 tongue
1 skirt steak
1 hanging tender
10 packs of liver
2 packs of kidney

Half Beef

10 packs of stew meat
3 packs of marrow bones
8 packs of beef fat
32 pounds of ground beef, 1lb packs
2 untrimmed half briskets
6 packs of soup bones
12 bone-in ribeye, 1"
44 pounds of ground chuck, 1lb packs
6 flat irons
4 chuck eye steaks
1 whole flank
12 boneless filet, 1"
9 NY strip, 1"
12 boneless petite sirloin strips, 1"
2 half eye round roasts
3 top round roasts, 3-4lbs
2 bottom round roasts, 3-4lbs
3 sirloin tip roasts, 3-4lbs
1 whole tri tip


cut sheet whole cow

Filling Out a Cut Sheet for a Whole Cow

Whole Cow Cut Sheet

Here, we break down the cut sheet for a whole cow in simple terms so you can get it filled out quickly and reserve that Butcher Date.
When you're ready to get started - fill out the Whole Beef Cut Sheet. Helpful tip - pull this page and the cut sheet up at the same time.

Want information about the butcher date, pricing, and timeline? Visit our full guide on the process.
Want info on how much meat to expect, how much freezer space you'll need, and more? Visit the Resources section on our Beef Page.

Prefer a half cow? The cut sheets are different. Head on over to our Filling Out a Cut Sheet for a Half Cow.  

Ok, here we go!

First, fill out the boxes with your contact information.

Steak Thickness: Totally your preference. If you've had our steaks before, we do 1 inch. The thicker your steaks are, the less steaks you will have. The thinner your steaks are, the more steaks you will have. The butcher will cut all steaks to your selected thickness.

Roast Weight: A good rule of thumb is 3/4lb-1lb of meat per adult.

Ground Beef: Your preference on how large you would like your ground beef packs.
Your ground beef consists of any trimmings and any section you choose to "Grind". The "Grind" selection in each section of your cut sheet means that the meat from that section goes into your bulk ground beef pile and is ground together. Ground Chuck, Ground Sirloin, and Ground Round mean that the butcher takes that section, grinds the meat, and packages/labels it separately from your Ground Beef. Our cattle typically yield a 90/10 ground beef lean to fat ratio. If you choose to grind fatty sections, like the chuck or ribs, your fat percentage will increase. If you choose to grind lean sections, like the round, your fat percentage will decrease.

Ground Beef Patties

25 pounds maximum. Select your preferred patty size and how many pounds total you would like in patties. If you have had our ground beef patties before, we do 1/4lb patties and they come four to a pack. The patties have butcher paper in between.

Stew Meat

Stew Meat in this section (it will appear again in another section later) is the trimmings of the beef that are just a little too good to go with your bulk ground beef. Stew Meat is small hunks of meat packaged in ~1lb packs.

Beef Fat

3-4lb packages. Mix in with venison or render it down for tallow.

Bones

2-4 bones per package. Select "Yes" if you would like all bones. If you would like just marrow bones, select "Yes" and make a note at the bottom of the cut sheet that says "marrow bones only".

Front Quarter - Brisket

From the chest section. There is only one brisket per half cow. If it is trimmed, the butcher will take all of the fat off, leaving you with a whole trimmed brisket at 5-6 pounds. If it is untrimmed, the butcher will take off the large hump of fat connected to this cut, but leave the rest of the fat intact. A whole untrimmed brisket weighs about 12-14 pounds. Our briskets in the Farm Shop are cut in half, untrimmed. If you plan to smoke your briskets, leave it untrimmed. Two selections allowed.

Front Quarter - Rib Plate

The rib cage. 2-inch short ribs are standard beef ribs and come four ribs to a package. Korean style ribs are thin cross-cut short ribs. A whole rib plate is about 10-12lbs. Grinding this section will make the fat percentage on your ground beef go up. Two selections allowed.

Front Quarter - Rib

A bone-in rib roast is prime rib. On a half beef, there will be one four-bone rib roast and one three-bone rib roast or you can c. You can also choose bone-in rib steaks (bone-in ribeye) or boneless ribeyes, aka Delmonicos. Two selections allowed.

Front Quarter - Shank

This section is from the knee to the ankle; the shin. Osso Bucco is the shank cut horizontal in 1.5" discs, with the bone in the middle and the meat around it. Soup bones are cut the same way, but in 1" discs. A whole shank is approximately 7-8 pounds. Two selections allowed.

Front Quarter - Chuck

The shoulder; fatty and flavorful. Ground Chuck is where the butcher grinds the chuck section and packages it separately. Ground Chuck has more fat in the lean to fat ratio, closer to 80/20, and is perfect for forming meatballs, meatloaf, or your own patties. Two selections allowed.

Front Quarter - Boneless Chuck Steaks

Choose as many of these as you'd like. This is a separate section from the chuck. Ranch and Denver steaks are heavily marbled, very small steaks. Flat irons are thin and tender. Chuck eyes are about the size of a NY strip but have the fat distribution similar to a ribeye - one of the most underrated cuts. Our recommendation is to get all of them!

Hind Quarter - Flank

There is only one flank per half a cow. Great to marinate and throw on the grill. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Short Loin

Everyone's favorite. The only wrong choice is to grind it. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Sirloin

Ground Sirloin is where the butcher grinds the sirloin section and packages it separately. Ground Sirloin is lean and has a lean to fat ratio closer to 95/5. Bone-in sirloin steaks can weigh over a pound. If you've ever had our sirloin strips, they are the petite top strip. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Eye Round

A lean, tougher section. Great for low and slow recipes. There is only one eye round roast per half beef. Kabob meat is hunks of meat packaged in roughly one pound packages, similar to stew meat. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Top Round

Customers choose round round for a leaner ground beef option. Shaved beef is thinly sliced, perfect for cheesesteaks or stir fry. Fajita meat is thinly sliced strips for, you guessed it, fajitas! Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Bottom Round

Similar options to the top round, but you can choose kabob meat or cube steak. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Sirloin Tip

Small section, which is closest section of the hind quarter to the center. Usually two or so roasts per half. Sirloin tip steaks are larger, leaner steaks. Two selections allowed.

Hind Quarter - Tri Tip

Only one tri tip per half cow. Very marbled, great for the grill. Two selections allowed.

Organs

You may choose as many of these as you'd like. We always recommend keeping the skirt and hanging tender, as they are great steak cuts. Keep the rest if you are an adventurous cook, have neighbors that will take it, or for your favorite pooch!

YOU'RE DONE FILLING OUT YOUR WHOLE COW CUT SHEET!
Prove you are not a robot, hit submit, and wait a few seconds to be
automatically redirected to the deposit payment page. 


half cow

Filling Out a Cut Sheet for a Half Cow

Filling Out a Cut Sheet for a Half Cow

Filling out a cut sheet is one of the most daunting pieces in the process of buying half a cow. Here, we break it down in simple terms straight from the farmer. 

Open up our Half Beef Cut Sheet Form to follow along with this article as you fill it out. 
Want to learn more? Visit our Beef Page for many articles about purchasing beef in bulk. 

A few things to keep in mind...

Our butcher, Fauquier's Finest, only allows a certain number of selections per section on the half. Most sections will only allow you to select one option. Our butcher will only cut beef according to the cut sheet. Requests beyond what is listed on the cut sheet will not be honored.

Secondly, the amount of beef you get depends on what your specific steer yields. Visit our How Much Meat is in Half a Cow? page to read more about what to expect and to see some examples of what half beef customers have received in the past.

Lastly, these decisions are up to you! Keep in mind what your family eats throughout the week and what you may want for any events. To see how cuts are packaged and how things look, visit our Farm Shop - we carry most of the cuts available here. 

Ok, here we go!

First, fill out the boxes with your contact info.

Steak Thickness: Totally your preference. If you've had our steaks before, we do 1 inch. The thicker your steaks are, the less steaks you will have. The thinner your steaks are, the more steaks you will have. The butcher will cut all steaks to your selected thickness.

Roast Weight: A good rule of thumb is 3/4lb-1lb of meat per adult.

Ground Beef: Your preference on the weight of your ground beef packs.
Your ground beef consists of any trimmings and any section you choose to "Grind". The "Grind" selection in each section of your cut sheet means that the meat from that section goes into your bulk ground beef pile and is ground together. Ground Chuck, Ground Sirloin, and Ground Round mean that the butcher takes that section, grinds the meat, and packages/labels it separately from your Ground Beef. Our cattle typically yield a 90/10 ground beef lean to fat ratio. If you do not select to "Grind" any section on the cut sheet, you will receive approximately 40lbs of ground beef from the trimmings. 

Ground Beef Patties

25 pounds maximum. Select your preferred patty size and how many pounds total you would like in patties. If you have had our ground beef patties before, we do 1/4lb patties and they come four to a pack. The patties have butcher paper in between. Our butcher packs four (4) patties per pack.

Stew Meat

Stew Meat in this section (it will appear again in another section later) is the trimmings of the beef that are just a little too good to go with your bulk ground beef and is small hunks of meat packaged in ~1lb packs.

Beef Fat

3-4lb packages. Mix in with venison or render it down for tallow.

Bones

3-4lbs of bones per package. If you choose all, you will get all of the bones. This included knuckles, shank, marrow, and more. You will need more cooler space than what is recommended if you get all of the bones. If you would like marrow bones only, you will get 2-3 packages of marrow bones. 

Brisket

From the chest section. There is only one brisket per half cow. If it is trimmed, the butcher will take all of the fat off. If it is untrimmed, the butcher will take off the large hump of fat connected to this cut, but leave the rest of the fat intact. A whole untrimmed brisket weighs about 12-14 pounds. We typically carry briskets that are cut in half and untrimmed, which can be 5-9lbs. 

Rib Plate

The rib cage. 2inch short ribs are standard beef ribs and come approximately four ribs to a package. Korean style ribs are thin cross-cut short ribs. If you don't want either, grind it. 

Shank

This section is from the knee to the ankle; the shin. Osso Bucco is the shank cut horizontal in 1.5" discs, with the bone in the middle and the meat around it - there will be 2-4 bones per package. Soup bones are cut the same way, but in 1" discs.

Rib

Prime rib is an impressive cut for holiday meals. On a half beef, the prime rib will follow your roast weight selection or you can select the whole roast. You can also choose bone-in rib steaks (bone-in ribeye) or boneless ribeyes, aka Delmonicos.

Chuck

The shoulder; fatty and flavorful. Ground Chuck is where the butcher grinds the chuck section and packages it separately. Ground Chuck has more fat in the lean to fat ratio, closer to 80/20, and is perfect for forming meatballs, meatloaf, or your own patties. You can also choose between chuck steak options, bone-in chuck roast, or stew meat. If you were going to keep any roast, this is the one to keep! 

Boneless Chuck Steaks

Choose as many of these as you'd like. This is a separate section from the chuck. Ranch and Denver steaks are heavily marbled, very small steaks. Flat irons are thin and tender. Chuck eyes are about the size of a NY strip but have the fat distribution similar to a ribeye - one of the most underrated cuts. Our recommendation is to get all of them!

Flank

There is only one flank per half a cow. Great to marinate and throw on the grill. 

Short Loin

Everyone's favorite section. No wrong choices here.

Sirloin

Ground Sirloin is where the butcher grinds the sirloin section and packages it separately. Ground Sirloin is lean and has a lean to fat ratio closer to 95/5. Bone-in sirloin steaks can weigh over a pound. If you've ever had our sirloin strips, they are the petite top strip, a traditional sirloin strip. Top strips are slightly larger than the petite. 

Eye Round

From the lean round section. Great for low and slow recipes. There is only one eye round roast per half beef. Kabob meat is hunks of meat packaged in roughly one pound packages, similar to stew meat.

Top Round

Customers choose ground round for a leaner ground beef option. Shaved beef is thinly sliced, perfect for cheesesteaks or stir fry. Fajita meat is thinly sliced strips for, you guessed it, fajitas! London broils are a smaller roast style. 

Bottom Round

Similar options to the top round, but you can choose kabob meat or cube steak. Cube steak is double tenderized. 

Sirloin Tip

Small section, which is closest section of the hind quarter to the center. Usually two or so roasts per half. Sirloin tip steaks are larger, leaner steaks.

Tri Tip

Only one tri tip per half cow. Very marbled, great for the grill.

Inside Steaks

The skirt and hanger. There is only one of each per half, but they are worth it. Due to restrictions by our processor, inside steaks are only available to one side of the beef. If getting these is very important to you, please make a note in the notebox at checkout when you pay your deposit. This may mean we have to move your reservation to the next butcher date to ensure you get these if there is already a reservation for the "inside steak half" of your prospective butcher date. If you can take them or leave them, make your selection, but don't put a note. 

Organs

You may choose as many of these as you'd like. We do recommend keeping the skirt and hanging tender, as they are great steak cuts. Keep the rest of you are an adventurous cook or for your favorite pooch! Due to restrictions by our processor, organs are only available to one side of the beef. If getting these is very important to you, please make a note in the notebox at checkout when you pay your deposit. This may mean we have to move your reservation to the next butcher date to ensure you get these if there is already a reservation for the "organs half" of your prospective butcher date. If you can take them or leave them, make your selection, but don't put a note. 

Read the terms, prove you are not a robot, hit submit, and wait a few seconds to be
automatically redirected to the deposit payment page. 


freezer space half cow

How Much Freezer Space For A Half Cow?

How Much Freezer Space Do I Need For a Half Cow? 

When determining how much freezer space you'll need for your half cow, please note that the amount of beef you will get from a half or whole cow or pig varies from farm to farm. Please do not use these calculations for other farm's beef unless you know the hanging weight/finish weight will be similar.

If you select to receive all of the bones, fat, and organs in your half beef, you should anticipate needing more than the recommended amount of space below. 

Half Cow Freezer and Cooler Space

The beef from a half cow from Hayfield Farm fills approximately 300 quarts of cooler space 10 cubic feet of freezer space , minimum. 

Whole Cow Freezer and Cooler Space

The beef from a whole cow from Hayfield Farm fills approximately 600 quarts of cooler space or 20 cubic feet of freezer space, minimum

A Few More Tips

  1. It is much better to have more space and not need it, than to need it and not have it. 
  2. Life is much easier if you have your freezer space cleared out before you pick up your beef.
  3. Keep your inventory sheet on the door and mark off items as you go. That way, you'll know which cuts you have left and you can make notes to know what you liked and didn't like for your next half beef. 
  4. Keep in mind that the recommended space above are round numbers to make determining how much cooler and freezer space you need easy!

Snag your half or whole beef or check out articles for everything you need to know about purchasing bulk beef on our Beef Page!