Here we go

SofĂ­a and I went to meet a very nice farmer lady the other day, and when we came back home guess what we had in our trunk?

Ten 2-week-old broiler chicks and a carton full of just-laid eggs (more on those later). Their pen is much bigger than it looks; in this pic they’re crowding the feeder.

These are the “colored broilers” available from Ideal Hatchery. While not exactly a heritage breed, they are a good alternative to commercial meat birds. They can forage for themselves and know how to put free-range to good use. They gain weight slowly (though still much more quickly than a layer) and thus are more nutrient-dense at harvest. You can read here and here about why I wanted to avoid the typical commercial breed, the Cornish Cross. I mean, I don’t feel as strongly about the Crosses as some people do but I’d prefer to raise less of a Frankenbird – at least one whose legs won’t break under its own weight at 8 weeks of age. Colored broilers are often difficult to find for sale, so I’m happy to be supporting their production.

Even though they don’t grow quite as quickly as Crosses do, the difference between these chicks and the dual-purpose heritage chicks I raised before is notable. They are already about 25% bigger than chicks of laying breeds their same age! My previous chicks (now my laying hens) were always hopping about, cheeping and playing with each other, jumping off things and trying to fly out of their pen. These guys sit, stand quietly, watch me, and sleep all the time. Their bodies are strange too – kind of hard under a layer of thin fluff. I feel no inclination to hold them or rub them against my cheek, as I did with my layers. They also smell worse than the layers did, and go through feed quicker.

In short, they’re not nearly as adorable. That’s a good thing. I don’t think I’m going to have too much of a problem not getting attached to these guys.

Growing your own makes you much more conscious of how much of each particular thing you consume. I can tell you now how much meat we eat per year: 20 whole chickens, 1 small turkey, 12 pounds of bacon and 10-15 pounds of seafood (and a 5-pound pork butt or two, which I don’t get to taste, boo hoo). If that sounds like a lot, consider that actually, many of our meals are vegetarian or nearly so (not especially on purpose) and each whole chicken becomes at least three meals.

So if I get another 10-15 broilers around Easter time, we shouldn’t have to buy any chicken this year. The thought that I could perhaps be done supporting commercial chicken factories for good is such a positive thought that it almost offsets the bit of sadness I feel for these particular guys.

I’ll make sure they lead the happiest life a meat chicken ever did.

8 Responses to “Here we go”

  1. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    you will LOVE these guys, baby! they are really good at free ranging and we STILL have 2 hens from 2 summers ago. they even lay! however we did not get any hatched eggs from them (low that we tried). they are 100% different than the CornishX’s but nope not as adorable as the laying flock. and they are really meaty. we didnt get the same huge breasts as the creepy meat but it was a small trade off for all the free ranging they did.

    great work! and hey – come and check out my cheese! it worked! this is gonna be the summer we cheese makers are gonna rule! whooot!

  2. diana Says:

    I’m thinking about making a smaller version of your chicken tractor for them – so I can keep them on meat feed. Then at least our lawn can serve some sort of purpose! Pastured meats w00t!

  3. marlowe Says:

    We do the “frankenbirds” — which I’ve loved your name for them. My husband always calls them white zombies. Unfortunately they are the breed required for the county fair judging so we stick with them. And they make it easy not to fall in love. There’s been nothing greater than to have the freezer in our barn full of our own chicken. Couldn’t “process” them myself, though — $1.25 per is worth every penny at the mom and pop packing plant down the road. Good luck and enjoy!

  4. diana Says:

    Wish I knew where I could get them processed, but the farm store says the only small-batch processor around here closed down a couple years ago. Looks like I’m going to have to do it myself. Can’t be *that* hard, can it? Hopefully? If it turns out to be fine, I’m going to get 10 more at the farm store in late April. If not… well, it was only 10.

  5. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    baby you can do it yourself no problem. honest. check out by harvey ussery, then march out there boldly. or drive around until you find an Amish farm and they can probably help you out (ask at a local feedstore where to find them).

    hee hee hee white zombies.. hee hee hee

  6. diana Says:

    I’m pretty sure I can do it myself! Maybe not all ten at once, but a few a week (freezing the extras) should be ok. I mean, I’m familiar with chicken anatomy already. I think the hardest part is going to be the actual killing.

  7. Erin Says:

    Diana, it’s really not hard. I would suggest doing more then one at a time and freezing. Your meat consumption is very light compared to us, but then I can’t eat wheat, which I’m sure is the basis for a lot of your meals;) If you ever can eat red meat again (or want good steak for hubby) I get some yummy side of beef from a small farm in Pa:)

  8. diana Says:

    We eat a lot of beans, and corn tortillas and potatoes, though pasta’s in there sometimes too. I will keep you in mind if I ever can eat beef again – I had half a hot dog (pork, I know, but still) the other day and it was fairly ok!

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