Last year’s trial of six hens plus a donated rooster has turned out well; all the chickens are friendly, interesting, healthy, easy to care for, and they provide us with delicious eggs, so this year we decided to expand. We now have six more chicks who will hopefully grow up to be layers. They’re actually a dual-purpose bird, but we use them only for eggs. They are cute and docile and growing well.
We also decided to try raising meat chickens. These are the birds that have the body conformation that consumers have come to expect in the supermarket – big and with an abnormally large breast. I ordered them because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to choke down something that looked different. Silly me. If we expand again next year, I’m going to order straight run (mixed males and females) and see what dual-purpose chicken tastes like.
These meat chickens (Cornish Cross) gain too much weight for their frames. You can’t even breed them naturally – they don’t usually live long enough and apparently even when they do the mechanics just don’t come together correctly. They’re lazy little eating machines.
All birds are messy, but these meat birds are just the worst. They eat a lot, poop a lot, they are dirty and yucky and weirdly shaped and apparently very delicate. Two out of the ten I brought home have died in less than ten days. Knowing that the conditions I’m providing are clean and warm and spacious enough compared to battery farming, together with the fact that these birds are just so ugly to look at is off-putting enough that I don’t think I’ll be eating chicken for awhile.
In contrast to these frankenbirds, the chicks we incubated ourselves are thriving little chickens now. They are outside in the Ark of the Poultry, eating weeds and bugs and being useful. I’m pretty sure we lucked out and got one cockerel and three little pullets.