Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chicken Guilt

I ordered thirty cockerel Cornish Cross chickens from Estes Hatchery at the end of August.  They ere nice enough to send thirty-two of them.  Six of the thirty-two ended up being hens, but I suppose that isn't too bad of a mistake, especially since the two free-bies could have been counted as two of the females.  The females grow slower and generally don't get as large as the cockerels and that's why the females cost less.

The birds spent all but the last two weeks of their lives in the barn.  And I admit, I suffered from Chicken Guilt.  I didn't plan on keeping them indoors for so long and it's not something I feel particularly good about either.  It's not like I was running a huge CAFO, but I sure felt as if they were missing out on something.  When I went to clean out their bedding (twice a day, mind you), they seemed grateful for the clean, fluffy straw....even happy.  After they finished their zombie mob attack on the crumbles, they would waddle around and look for a place to settle down (near the feed dish) and some of them would even preen what feathers they were able to reach on their rotund little bodies.  A hand full of them even tried "flying" (to try and tackle me when I brought feed in, but still).

I'd become oblivious to the fact that these Creepy Meats are actually living, feeling creatures.  Yes, I know they are livestock and that they are destined for freezer camp after only a few months of life.  Yes they stink, poop everywhere and act like food crazed fat chickens on meth, but I had forgotten that they were alive.  So I got my butt in gear and put them outside in the garden area.
Happier chickens.  Well, that's what I'm telling myself.
I figured that it was the most secure place and since I had already ripped out the peppers and strawberries and the tomatoes were just about finished for the year that the birds would do just fine.  I was hoping that they would actually eat the tomatoes (and save me a little bit on the feed bill), but they had no idea what to do with them.  The tomatoes and their greenery were totally destroyed, however not by the chickens eating it, but by being trampled and smooshed into the ground.  I knew I should have picked all those green tomatoes and made sweet tomato/onion relish (slaps head).  Ugh.  And since I wasn't putting down and taking up bedding, they were fertilizing the garden.  And doing so extra heavily around the feed and water dishes.  There is now a chicken-crap-hard-pan layer in those areas.  I doubt even the undead could bust their way through the earth under that sheet of shit.

Anyways, the chickens were out in the garden for two weeks.  They sunned themselves, they pecked at stuff (and at each other), some "ran" around (usually when being picked on), some even took dust baths.  It wasn't all fun and games though.  There was one jerk of a rooster that constantly harassed the other birds.  I knew I should have wrung his neck earlier because within a week, "some" chicken had pecked two other chickens to death.  When I first saw the dead chicken, I immediately though "raccoon" or "opossum", but the only trauma evident on the carcass was the bloodied head and neck.  Nothing ripped or shredded, nothing eaten.  So we missed out on two chicken suppers because I didn't butcher him.

Well, technically I did butcher him along with the rest of his chicken compadres.  We had a weekend with cool temps so Paul and I got them in the freezer, and none too soon because were down to just three chickens in the freezer from last year.

So, was it worth it?  That's the million dollar question all homesteaders and farmers are constantly asking themselves.  I'll have the monetary answer in the next post.  In the mean time, I'm going to heat up a cup of homemade chicken broth for Rhiannon and I.


  1. We take ours to a butcher and pay $2.00/ea whole ($.50 extra for cuts). I'll be interested in seeing your numbers. Overall, I feel health reasons top the cost. Eating food you raise has to help keep you out of the doctor's office, so I count that cost too.

  2. It isn't always about the cost. We like knowing what we are eating and what they have been eating....the taste was so much better too.

    I do hate to pay a lot more for DIY and home raised but sometimes it is worth it.

  3. I agree with the other commenters. Knowing where and how your food is raised is the bottom line for us, and I know it's the same for you, too. That you were able to get them outside in the sun and fresh air those last two weeks was great and I'm sure gave them a happy send off to Freezer Camp. Now if you could just get over your guilt . . . that's unfounded, by the way. Anybody who would go to the time and trouble of cleaning out their inside pen (I know it had to be done) every day deserves the Good Keeper of Poultry Award.

  4. Every year, I vow not to raise them again. Then I eat one and vow to raise more. I don't process myself, but it's worth it to me to pay a local(ish) small business to do it. As nice as it is to let the CMs 'free range', I don't know that they care all that much. Plus, they don't/can't range far. Mine have a fenced in area around their coop, but I have to put most of them in manually every night, as the coop entrance is elevated and they can't get their lardbutts up the ramp. It's a pain, but it assuages the guilt...

  5. I have to agree that the peace of mind of knowing how it was raised, what it was fed and that it isn't full of extra chemicals is pretty high.

  6. Thought about getting some creepy meats myself. Maybe next spring.