Even the best laid plans can take a sudden detour as with our plan for raising dual purpose chickens. Dual purpose birds provide the best of both worlds. They won't win prizes for the number of eggs laid, but they will provide a more than adequate amount and while they'll never tip the scales like some broilers, their meat is nothing to scoff at. Dual purpose birds, a good choice for a small homestead such as ours, tend to be healthier and better foragers. A fact, well seen in our Chanteclers.
Our plan, after raising our second generation this summer, was to keep the hens for additional layers and to cull the roosters as a meat source this winter. It had become quite evident over the last few weeks that the Rooster Posse was running amok and causing all sorts of havoc. Eli, used to being the only ladies man on the scene was stressed. He tried his best to keep his virile sons away from the rest of the hens, even Callie tried to help him on occasion but it was a task no rooster could manage and we often found him hunkered down at night alone in Callie's doghouse while the rest of the flock was nestled in the Rural Roost and last weekend, an overzealous rooster trying, most likely, to mate with one of the banty Barred Rocks, ended up breaking her neck. The remaining two banties were quickly sequestered to a brooder box for safekeeping. So with testosterone levels at an all time high, something had to be done...quick.
Here's where our plans, took a bit of a change. We knew of an abattoir that processed small flocks for small homesteads, but the Artist is the ultimate comparison shopper. You can bet anything he's purchased, whether it be twenty or twenty thousand dollars, has been well researched, reviews combed through and prices compared from coast to coast. After doing just that, he positioned it like this to me..."We can cram them into a crate, drive them for an hour to a processing facility where they will sit around for a few hours, more than likely scared out of their wits and extremely stressed, before being killed or we can do it ourselves at home"
As much as I wanted to shake my head no, I knew he was right. I haven't raised these birds, giving them the coveted chicken fantasy life of free ranging to only let them down in the end with a kill in an abattoir, far, far away. And let's face it, if I'm really going to continue this life of self-sufficiency, this return to the way things used to be done before our culture got so out of whack with reality, and if I am going to continue to eat meat, then I need to be a part of the process from beginning to end, not skipping out of the more difficult parts.
And that is how, we ended up processing a few meat birds this weekend. Did I feel like a red-neck as I de-feathered birds hanging from my clothesline. You bet I did. Did I learn the hard way that poultry evisceration requires a sharper knife than can be found anywhere in this old farmhouse? You bet I did. Did I learn the complete, and I do mean complete, anatomy of a chicken? You bet I did. Will I ever look at a chicken the same way, sitting all packaged up on the cooler shelf at the grocery store? You better believe I won't.
And this morning, it is eerily quiet. There is no chorus of crows coming from the coop. Just now a single crow, barely reaches the office window. A crow of a bird, much happier, I think, this morning. And yes, his name is Eli.
~Be well friends!