Thursday, 7 April 2016

Chicken Family Planning Part 2

The rooster has settled in well and is much loved by both the older girls. The young Cream Legbar (CLB) girls have suddenly started to mature at a more rapid pace, it may just be the time that they would do this anyway, but I also think that their hormones may have kicked in with the presence of the CLB rooster. They follow him around at a safe distance making funny little noises, so I don't imagine that it will be too long before they are mature enough to enjoy his attention too.

Mr J and I have been talking about how our smallholding might provide us with more eggs and meat. As we now have the rooster and a pair of ducks, we should be able to have chicks and ducklings. Everything we do here seems to be a new learning experience, I read constantly, watch videos, soak up information and put into practice the ideas that I'm learning about. And the point of all of this is to help feed us, reduce our outgoings and earn a little bit of money to pay the bills that we have to pay. So yesterday, I started to think carefully about how the chickens might help in this grand plan. Obviously we are already enjoying both chicken and duck eggs, but to have meat we will need to have other chickens and ducks. There is no point in eating the birds that we already have as we would just have to go out and buy some more to meet our egg requirements. And so, to that end, today we are buying a second-hand incubator in which to hatch out some next generation birds.

As time goes on, we should be able to raise CLB chicks as the rooster is of a different bloodline to the young girls and we will be able to enjoy tasty blue-shelled eggs. I will also approach our local farm shop to stock some of our blue eggs, sell some as farm gate sales and can offer hatching eggs for sale too.

By raising hybrid chicks from the rooster and our older girls, we will have some birds for meat and some layers that are likely to lay olive green eggs. I also think that before too long I might buy a few hatching eggs of other heavy breeds to grow for meat.  I have been saving duck eggs for the last few days and now have five ready to go into the incubator to start the next generation of Aylesbury ducks.

I certainly never imagined that I would consider raising birds for meat. It's one thing to say 'oh and we can have chickens for eggs and meat' and another to feel ready to dispatch something that you've cared for. But that's it, that's the reason that I feel I can dispatch a bird to put on our table, because we will have raised the birds and cared for them and know that they have had a good life free ranging in the paddock, eating organic food and things that they've scratched up amongst the grass.

I've become very conscious that when I buy a chicken at the supermarket that it's likely to have been raised in cramped conditions without having had fresh air in it's lungs, grass under it's feet and blue sky above it's head. Last week in a supermarket, I spotted whole chickens  for roasting on sale for £3.30 and it got me thinking about how on earth that is possible. I understand the economics of scale, that mass production can bring down the unit cost, but really, £3.30? Those birds will have been mass produced, are likely to have been pumped full of substances that I don't think I want to eat and lived not so much a life, but an existence (and probably not much of one at that!). I am not going to get on a high-horse and try to tell people what they should or shouldn't eat; we all make decisions for ourselves and I respect that others will welcome a cheap, reliable source of chicken meat for their families,. Indeed I have always been the first in the queue for cheaper food for my family, but my health has forced me to examine everything that I eat, including what is in or on the food that I'm eating. This is why we are now growing as much of our own food as possible and where we have to buy food, I usually look for organic, unprocessed produce. It is also the reason that I am growing our fruit and vegetables and planning to raise our own chicken and duck meat.

So, today we head off to collect that small incubator and after yet more reading and learning, I will put the first few eggs into it to try to raise the first of the next generation.

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