Who doesn’t love baby chicks?

It’s that year again. The one that is both a happy time and sad. The happy being the part where I order baby chick’s. The sad, knowing some of my girls will have to go to the great pasture in the sky.

Being a homesteader I am practical. People ask me, ” Don’t you get attached to your chickens?” Why they ask is due to the time to cull, or kill, the old hens or young roosters. My reply, ” I don’t have time to become attached to them.” I’m a homesteader , but have a job that takes me away from the house 3 to 4 days a week. When I am home, I have an endless list of things I need to get to. The first time a friend from my work place came to visit she exclaimed, “I thought I had a lot to do at home, how do you ever leave here and come to work?” Let me tell you there are times when I am driving into work that I have to tell myself, to be present in the moment, that I am here now, that the endless list of things at home will still be there waiting. (That’s why I don’t want to leave home in the first place!)
Part of the being practical is knowing that the hens I have for egg production have a time period for most productive egg laying. After that time period, which is about 4 years for the hybrid hens and 5 years for the heritage hens, they will become stew birds.
I must say I do have a few favorites among my heritage girls. I may keep a few of them around. Depends on how I feel after getting the new batches of chicks. I had to order the layers from My Pet Chicken this time because McMurray Hatchery, who I almost always purchase my layers from, is sold out of most of the heritage breeds I wanted. I did order 28 meat birds from McMurray to come the week after my layers arrive. I am going to raise them all together seeing as how they will have nearly the same requirements for several weeks. That is until the meat birds start to “take off” in their growth. At that time I will need to separate the meat birds from the layers because the feed will need to be changed for the meat birds since they will be growing very quickly.
This year I am mixing up the meat birds. I am getting what is called the BBQS straight run. Straight run meaning both male and female chickens, so there will be different sized chickens when they are ready for culling and processing. This is a possible mix between the Cornish X Rock and the Cornish Roaster, which I have not tried yet. My husband loved the Cornish X Rock birds we got for the first time last fall. Myself being the main care taker of the birds was not pleased with them. The reason being they are a man made hybrid bird, the same type you get in the grocery store. Sound nice huh? They were freaks. Yes they look and sound like chickens but they do not act like chickens. Once they became larger, as in 4 lbs, they literally sat, and I do mean sat, around the food container eating. It was quite disgusting to me. They would just sit there eating and pooping. From time to time they would get up, with much effort, to have a drink of water, but that was the extent of their exercise! So needless to say with all that sitting and eating and nearly no exercise they were very “tender”. When we picked them up they felt kinda squishy! Oooooo!
You may be thinking, well why are you going to get them again then? My answer is my family. Because my family, especially my husband, loved the birds particularly when it was on the dining room table. This is why I am willing to put up with this freak of nature chicken.
I did order a variety of meat birds that we raised the first time we raised chickens for meat. They are called Red Ranger Broiler. Now these chickens are much more normal acting. They forage most of the day like the chickens I keep for egg production, but they sit around a whole lot more than the layer chickens.
My husband claims the Red Ranger chickens are “stringy”. I’m sure this is due to the amount of exercise they get. Go figure: exercise equals tougher muscle mass.
Regardless of the end result, the dressed bird on our dining table tender or “stringy”, I know that they had a life where they were raised with the utmost care and compassion. And that is why I choose to raise my own meat birds even though I know I can pick up a chicken from the grocery store for only a few dollars. It’s just not worth contributing to the mass produced chicken industry.

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