Monday, April 9, 2012

The Meat Factory

OK, I got really enthused.  I can raise my own chicken to eat that isn't preserved in funky chemicals or washed in its own filth.  SWEEEET.  I read so many books about it that my brain just about ruptured.  Better flavor, healthier meat . . .what's not to love?  I even tracked down a guy from one of the books (Thanks, Russell!) who was willing to teach me to butcher a chicken, since I've never done it before.

Imagine my delight when I went into my nearest Tractor Supply thinking that the slightly older Cornish Rock meat birds were on sale for half price.  I thought I'd pick up 5 or 6 (since Russell's payment for teaching me is a few of them!).  The lady gave me a thoughtful look and asked if I'd take all 18 of them for 50 cents each.  (They were $1.99 to start with!)  Of course I did.

I brought these relatively innocuous (and relatively unfeathered) birds home and installed them in a refrigerator box in the screen porch, since we didn't have a tractor built yet.  Was I ever in for a rude awakening.

I'm used to dual-purpose birds.  You know, the ones that move around, scratch, peck, grow feathers, the whole chicken thing.  Instead, I got freaks.  These things eat, poop, sleep, and drink . . .oh wait.  I got that wrong.  They poop, eat, sleep, and drink and that's about it.  They walk about 6 inches and just plop down. 

You know what an advocate I am of deep litter.  Well, in this case, even with ventilation, it's NASTY.  I put down litter twice a day and within hours, they have it packed down, pooped on, and covered with wasted food.  Heck, they're too dumb to even eat the fresh greens I pick for them.  Even Beautiful Sweet has her foster babies trained to eat greens already.  These things can't be bothered to move for them, unless they're on the way to the waterer.  Even then, they trample them.  They don't even scratch in the litter.

So I was worried that I wouldn't be able to kill them.  I think now that it'll be a pleasure.  Luckily Scott almost has their outdoor pen ready--maybe some airflow will help.  I can only imagine what a commercial chicken house is like--mine still have room to move, as if they wanted to.  ICK.  At least they're not on hormones or medications.  Next time, I'll get something better suited to foraging that might actually have some personality.

Here are some pics to give you an idea:

When we first brought them home a month ago.  Granted, I have big hands, but . . .

And here they are tonight, a little over a month since we got them at 1-2 weeks old. 

Vanity rears its ugly head.  I don't care that I'm not wearing makeup, but I don't have a double chin.

These goobers are 5x as big as my layer chicks that I got the same week as day old babies (they're about 2 weeks apart in growth)  So, keeping meat birds isn't for the faint of heart (or nose).  At least my family will have home-raised chicken to eat.  I might even have the ovaries to try again.

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