Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Raising Chickens Part 2

Some of our newest flock, roosting ON their new home instead of IN it.
We now have two flocks of egg layers. Our older flock is allowed to explore the entire yard. The second, larger, and younger flock is kept in a fenced pasture that they share with our two pygmy goats, Fern and Petunia. The roaming flock keeps to the yard, rarely venturing beyond our boundaries. The penned flock seems very content to stay in their pen. In addition to our lovely egg layers, this past summer we had a third flock of chickens, which are now tucked into my freezer. Yep, we raised our own meat chickens. 

Along with our layers, we purchased 10 Cornish x Rocks from Murray McMurray Hatchery, to be delivered the 3rd week in May. Within a few weeks they were enormous and in my opinion, ugly. I didn't even take photos they were that ugly. And enormous. Big, slapping feet, stubby little legs, gaping beaks, and supersized chests. I did not like those birds, which made it really easy to take them to the "processor." Whenever I approached their pen, they would chase me down, so desperate were they for their food. They ate a tremendous amount of grain and would just sit all day. No foraging for insects. No exploring. They weren't curious at all. They just got bigger and uglier and smellier by the day. Finally, at 9 weeks, I took them to a local meat processor. 

The night before their demise, Husband and I packed them in a dog crate with some water. Early in the morning I loaded the crate into the back of my SUV and headed off to Lancaster County to the Amish man who would do my dirty work for me...for less than $3 per chicken! So worth it. I have harvested my own chickens once before and three bucks is a very small price to pay. An hour after arriving, Mr. Lapp was loading two coolers full of chicken into my car.

Friends have asked me if it was worth it. Financially? No. I figure each chicken cost me about $18 to buy, raise, and harvest.  That's about $4/lb when dressed out. But, it's not all about the cost. I raised these birds —I know what they ate, what they drank. We tried to give them a happy to roam, clean bedding, food, and water, plenty of sunshine and fresh air.

Would I do it again? Yes, with some changes. Next year I plan on getting a more "natural" breed. Cornish Rocks are bred for super sized breast meat. They can't tolerate heat and after 10 weeks start having leg issues. (Too big to fail does not apply here). I will use a breed that is better on pasture, to reduce the costs of feed. Organic grain is about $30/50lbs in this area, so the less they eat of that the better! I will probably do more than 10, so I can sell a few and recoup some of the cost. One thing I will do the same? Let Mr. Lapp do the processing!

Harvesting chickens

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