Tag Archive for chicken

Decisions

I’ve written previously that Amp would be going to slaughter, but now I’m hesitating.

Amp’s been much better around us, as of late. We’ve gone out of our way to handle him, making sure that he understands that we’re the ones in charge. He even let me pick him up while he was eating, bring him in to put bag balm on his comb, and then bring him back to the coop with no ruffling, grumping, and attempted pecking. Amp’s still a bit rough with the ladies, one in particular that I may need to put a saddle on today with how cold it is. The battles between he and Gucy have lessened and he hasn’t swatted at us once.

I’m nervous to see what Spring will bring, once the hormones hit and such, but for the most part, I think he may be receiving a stay of execution.

Tough Days Make Us Tough Birds

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It’s difficult to live on a homestead. While we don’t slaughter out own birds – yet – the emotions that you go through packing them into the kennels and loading them into the car, driving to the butcher’s and handing them over, picking them up an hour later, and bringing them home to the freezer, it’s a roller coaster ride.

You’ve held these birds in your hands since they were a day old. You fed them, cuddled them, loved them.  You give them your attention, your time, and your devotion. In return they give you education, experience, and sustenance. It’s never easy to see anything come to an end, much less the life of an animal, even one that has been born and raised with the sole purpose of giving your family food.

We’re asked often why we raise our own birds if it is so hard to see them go off to “freezer camp.” There are so many ways to answer this, but it all boils down to the fact that it is by far healthier for us and for them. They have room to grow, are not debeaked, and are not kept in an area the size of an iPad. These birds have been tended to for every wound and illness, from pasty butt to bumble foot, to torn combs. Each rooster has been held, named, and identified as a living being, not a “production unit.”

We eat meat because we are carnivores. But that does not mean we need to become heartless about it. Our current industrialization of animal husbandy that has formed concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) have let the US become such a heartless, unaware society as to where our meat comes from that many no longer realize their food as once having been a living animals. We, like all homesteaders, fight to close this gap. We long to be connected back into our food chain, giving each animal we consume the best life possible until it’s time for their ultimate destiny as one of our “farm hands.” As a family we’ve decided to raise our own meat birds, buy local beef, and purchase additional meat from the local farmers’ market. Is there more that we could do to strengthen our connection? Yes, but raising our own chickens for slaughter is the first step.

I could wax political and spiritual for hours on this topic. It’s a job we don’t take lightly, raising our own food, but it’s one that we readily take upon ourselves instead of taking it for granted. It is rough. It leads to tears, sleepless nights, early mornings, and deep meditation, but Gods above is it worth it. We know where our food comes from. We know each bird was happy and healthy. We know we are making a difference and raising our children to know where their food – their life source – comes from. I will never give up that opportunity.

 

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Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

First Snow of November

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November 2nd saw our first snow storm of the New Year (following many Pagan calendars, that is). While some areas of the state saw up to 16 inches of snow, severe winds, and power outages, we received about 2 inches and wind gusts. Most of the snow is already melted off already.

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Since we hadn’t originally planned on having the meat birds around this long, the tractors aren’t very winter-proof. We had to improvise, but everyone came out dry and happy. The only bird that had to crash in the basement with the two White Ladies was Jovi. He got a bit bloodied up from a pulled crest feather and needed a washing. I wasn’t about to let him back out into the tractor with freezing temperatures and a wet head. Not a good combination.

 

Never ending changes…

Sweet little one

Sweet little oneThis is our life now: the constant changes that the cycle of life brings.

This is the third chick we’ve lost this year; all three were white rocks. On came in DAO, one passed only two days later, and then this little one at roughly two weeks old. It’s hard to see their little bodies so lifeless. Even knowing that they will be meat birds, we still love them with all our hearts until judgement day comes for them.

It’s not just animals, either. Even the gardens have a cycle. Seeding, tending, weeding, watching, and enjoying the growth of the plants makes you grounded, connected to each little sprout. Losing them to heat, water, predators of the herbivore variety, and then the eventful harvest tugs at your heart strings.

Isn’t that life, though? The happiness, sadness, pain, and loss all intertwined. I would rather we live with this mixture of emotions while tending our own gardens, flocks, and land than walking through the automaton world of grocery stores any day.

The New Pecking Order and Running

Pecking Order 2014

Pecking Order 2014For anyone who has a flock of layers, this is the most nail biting time of the year: integration. The mixing of the young and the old. Normally we would have let them all run lose around the property, pecking at things and each other as they established their new chain of command. Things are a bit different this year and a lot of the integration will happen in the run. The four Young Ones (three Rhode Island Reds and a Barred Rock) are still sleeping in their chicken tractors at night, but they are all mingling during the day. The crazy thing is that the Young Ones are only 14 weeks old. The other five are much older. It’s amazing the size difference between medium and heavy birds.

Edith has made herself the “Big Momma” and is keeping everyone in check. Raptor – the nickname we’re giving the Barred Rock – is challenging everything that moves. She was a runt and seems to have the need to prove herself. All the rest seem indifferent. Well, except for Snowbird, the white and black Easter Egger: she took the chance to jump from the chicken tractor inside the run to the top of the fencing, a good 6 feet above her. Needless to say, we finished the roof last night. Unfortunately she hopped down before I could snap a photo.

I have to admit, it’s been nerve wracking having the flock stuck in a run. Almost as nerve wracking as having them run around with the fox out there. I’m not used to seeing the different attitudes during heat and humidity, the changes in poop, the squabbles to be “hen of the hill.” All this was normally done in thickets and behind fence posts, buildings, and around the corner. It’s been a bit stressful, for everyone I think, as I am constantly second guessing and wondering about…well, everything. I’m not saying the change won’t be good, but it will be a hard one to work through. Now that the run’s done we can let them out while we’re gone and not have to worry about them. The hawks (who came by to visit last night) can’t get in and the only true worry would be a fox digging under. We tried to dig down as far as we could, but the run is on top of a leech field that’s pretty shallow. I could only drop the fence four inches in some areas due to the gravel bed, so here’s hoping the cribbing placed along the outside will hope to deter him/her. There’s been no sign on the buggah since the other day: he came by and watched them from the tracks, but wandered off when he decided there was no way to get in. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of the critter, but I’m trying to stay hopeful.