Friday, January 27, 2012

Meat chickens - yea!

Last year I wrote about our first venture into raising meat chickens (read about it here). My daughter was grossed out ('70s expression!). Our chicken farmer friend refused to eat any of his flock, disgusted after watching them grow. Nonetheless, we decided to try again, using lessons learned.

This experience was more pleasant, albeit with one disturbing development.

First, we resolved never to raise Cornish Rocks again. They were bred for size, and as their size increased their brain size diminished. At least, that’s our theory. This time we ordered Red broilers, another type of meat chicken. The most important factor in this decision:  they are not white so the poop on their feathers would be camouflaged.

We took delivery of 25 chicks in October, ensuring they would reach maturity in the winter. The last batch suffered terribly in the heat of last May. They finally got so large they couldn’t move – and couldn’t reach water.

Moving Day!
With fewer chicks in the brood pen than last time, there was less fighting, plucking and pooping; we moved them into the chicken yard, a.k.a. Chicken Gitmo, at about two weeks.

This breed is much more appealing. When grown, the chickens were quite pretty. They did not get as large as the white ones, and so were able to move around freely. These were Einsteins compared to the last batch: these chickens knew how to scratch and find the pen at night.

The disgust factor was much lower this time around. Don't discount the importance of this.

Bandy and one of his lay-dies.
However, we had another problem. Our rooster, Bandy Bojangles, matured into a full-grown rooster at about the time the meat roosters did. He and a younger rooster, his son L’il, took to bullying the meat roosters. By processing time, Bandy had killed at least two, injured another, and forced us to send L’il to our neighbor’s chicken farm for his own protection. Bandy, the Godfather of Gitmo.

Due in part to the carnage of the mob wars, we ended up with around 20 birds to dress.

Our middle son helped with the processing of the first batch. I fully intended to help this time, as he was not available. However, once my husband began the unpleasant part (involving the innards – let’s say no more), he gave me a pass. He was afraid I would not be able to eat chicken afterwards. “Well, if you’re sure, honey,” I said, as I edged away from the kitchen. This has damaged my standing as a Pioneer Woman, but I think I can live with that.

So what do we think about home-grown chicken? It is tougher than store-bought meat. We plan to try brining one soon, to see if that tenderizes it.  I cannot tell a taste difference, but Dan says it tastes a little stronger to him, a little wilder than store-bought. (He has a more discerning palate in these matters.) These chickens have much larger drumsticks and smaller breasts – both of which suit our dining style.

Yes, we will continue raising our own meat chickens. Though we may have to bump off the Godfather.  Rub him out. He might end up sleeping with the fishes. But don’t tell him I said so. I’m a little afraid of him.

Favorite spot in the garden:

My favorite spot is right outside my window right now. Part of its charm is the movement of the Lindheimer's muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri), so I've taken a movie to share instead of a static photo.

In case that doesn't work, which is entirely possible, here is that static photo:


  1. Oh, I admire you for raising and processing your chickens. I could never do it no matter how hungry I got. I would just keep thinking about raising them from little chicks. Even a mean old rooster...

    1. We have other pet chickens, but we find we had little affection for these. We joked about giving them food names - "Dumpling" or "Drumstick" - but didn't end up naming them at all.

  2. I'm surprised you couldn't tell a difference in the taste. At least you know they were raised humanely. They are pretty!

    1. Definitely prettier than the white ones, decorated so nicely with poop.

  3. Bandy is pretty. Guess he does want to rule the roost.
    (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
    When I was little (under seven), our neighbor raised chickens...for eggs and meat. She would invite me over to help pluck the feathers. She dipped them in boiling water to loosen the quills. I can still remember that smell.
    I wasn't involved with the innards part.
    I think it's admirable to raise your own food. Good for you...

    1. Dan skins instead of plucks - goes much faster. It is good education for our children - by golly, they will know where their food comes from!

  4. Yep, Mom has not rested since she has decided to be COMPLETELY home grown, and all that junk. It's been hard for me, a 10 year old girl. ;)

  5. Anonymous - You will look back and be very thankful. i wish I had been raised like that, and that I had raised my children like that too. But, I'm glad you read your mom's blog! I always like to read your comments - you sound much older and smarter than 10 years!

    And to Cynthia - I wanted to let you know: I am awarding you the Versatile Blogger award. You can read more about it at my post here: I hope you will accept it and have fun passing it on to others. Congratulations! :)

  6. Thanks so much for the nomination! I'm glad you keep up with my blog, and I enjoy reading about your garden very much.