Wednesday, April 16, 2014
We've told the boys not to get too attached to the meat birds as they will be food in about 12 weeks. Even though that's the case, it's tough when they are so stinkin' (and that's in every sense of the word!) cute. We lost two of them, which was a bummer for Little Red as he discovered one of them, but he actually handled it okay, he told me that it's hard not to get attached, but that it would have been food in 12 weeks anyways. He gets it.
We decided not to go with the breed of chicken that most grocery stores sell. This is a white bird, which has been bred that way so that the feathers shafts, when left, don't color the skin. They also have been bred to have large breasts, which provides the most popular meat in abundance. However, the downfall to that is that by about 8 weeks, many of them can't walk, or they break legs because they are too heavy to be supported by their legs. They also often have weaker hearts and so will die of heart related causes due to their huge size. They eat like machines and gain enough weight to go from a chick the size of the one in the picture above to 5-6 or more pounds in only 8 weeks. None of this is humane in our book, but this is how the factory farmed chickens that have been developed by man for food have come to look. In factory farms, they are also not allowed sunshine and fresh air and usually are kept in cages so small they can't turn around. All they do is eat, sleep, poop and get bigger. Nope, just can't do it.
So, we've chosen a more heritage type breed, which is a dual purpose bird. They can be raised as egg layers or meat birds. They will be red feathered, take 12 weeks to reach a harvestable size and will weigh in about 4 pounds per bird. The slower growth rate is more expensive in feed as we have to feed them longer, but they are healthier because they are growing at a normal weight rather then being forced into an unnaturally large overfed body. They don't have the leg or heart problems that the traditional grocery store birds have and so we hope they will live a happier life while they are with us. One of the considerations that is very important to us is that their lives are honored. They are food for us, it is the reason we are raising them, yes. However the life they live before they are food is one of fresh air, sunshine and rain, grass, bugs, walking around freely, companionship of other chickens. Honoring the life they have by allowing them to be chickens as nature intended the best way we are able. This is very important to us. As are the prayers and blessings we will bestow on them the day they are slaughtered, the genuine thanks for the nourishment they are providing us, the true and deep understanding we have of the gravity of the sacrifice being made for us. We will allow them the dignity of living like chickens, not factory chicken nuggets. This we will surely do.
I'll do some updates on them as time goes on. Along with lots of other things we have in process around here. It's going to be a busy year, and now we're into baseball season for Maestro, starting soccer for Little Red and Scouts for both. Never a dull or slow moment around here!
High on spring, cantcha tell? ~Peacemom