Saturday, July 18, 2015

"I could never..."

When people find out that we raise some of our own meat they look troubled. "I could never eat something I raised," they tell me.
And I understand, because I once felt exactly the same way.

Every year we raise 25 or so broiler chickens. These birds are bred specifically to grow fast and produce a large amount of meat in ratio to bone. When they arrive in the mail they are 2 days old, and the cutest little balls of fluff imaginable. After a few days they lose their cute appearance as the baby fluff falls away and they begin to grow sparse, white feathers. They gain body mass at an astonishing rate, and are ready to process in just 8 weeks. The dressed birds will weigh 5 pounds or more.

They are eating and drinking machines, spending much of their day hovering around the food dispenser and water fount. The flock of 23 broilers and 15 or so new layer chicks drink in excess of two gallons of water a day, along with 2 quarts of fresh goat milk. And they handily go through 50 pounds of food in a week once they are 5 or 6 weeks old.

These birds are like Sumo chickens. When they see me coming with more food, they rush me,waddling as fast as they can and trampling my shoes with their over-sized yellow feet.

Look at the size difference of the white meat birds and the darker layer chicks. They are the exact same age.

Because the broilers all look alike, and have very little obvious personality, and because they are rather uninteresting blob creatures that produce copious quantities of bad smelling manure, it is easy not to become attached to them. The pullets that will become my new laying flock are far more fascinating. They are animated in their actions, curious and clever, chasing bugs, exploring their surroundings and roaming about. The broilers mostly sit and grow. However, they are out on grass and in the fresh air and sunshine, and I believe they have a much better life than most chickens that are raised for the table. And I am here to tell you, home raised chicken tastes much better than store bought. I have to believe it is better for us, too.

These are the things I'd like to tell the folks who say, "I could never..." to me. But I just smile and nod and say, "I understand."

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