Culling and Conscience

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by altair, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. altair

    altair Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 16, 2010
    I started breeding several rare breeds this year and had a wonderful experience. The not so wonderful part was winding up with so many surplus males. Many I sold as chicks at swaps, but I still had a few more than needed. Part of what makes it so difficult is I raise them very closely, and spend a lot of time with them. Not just because I enjoy them, but because I favor birds with good temperaments who are able to be picked up and handled and who take stresses well.

    I had a few young ones this year, one of which was born with several crooked toes. He was the sweetest thing, would limp up to me, but he had a hard time dusting (and so had lice) and was getting picked on by the rest. Obviously he was not fit for breeding and even to rehome him would have been hard because of his immobility. So he was culled with a heavy heart.

    The other two were perfect good cockerels, beautiful feathering, were good boys. We just didn't have breeding plans for them and I tried for months to advertise them for sale to no avail. Tonight my husband and I dispatched two and, as I don't eat chicken, we buried them in our garden. My husband said they will come back as pumpkins, and I admit I shed some tears over their fate.

    The whole experience, killing perfectly good animals, made me think of my desires. Do I still want to continue raising chickens to breed? Part of me truly does, that they should be preserved as a whole, which often means the sacrifice of some individuals. My husband said he could have done it on a day I was at work, but I felt I owed it to them in some way to deal with my decisions 100%, even if they weren't happy ones. I feel a bit sappy about it, but felt responsible for the chicks I'd hatched and helped grow, held, and showed the world to. In some ways, it felt like a betrayal of the trust they obviously had in me.

    So to all those thinking of breeding, please remember the consequences of roosters, and to treat them kindly. Next year if I have several, I've identified someone who would process them for meat and they could keep them if they wish.

    To all those who also do this with a heavy heart, I understand and salute you.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
    2 people like this.
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Sorry, I don't like culling good roosters either, I try to only breed if I know I have a place for them. For those that I don't, I at least know they had a nicer longer life than those raised for the grocery store and a kinder end.
  3. altair

    altair Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 16, 2010
    That makes perfect sense. It's so hard when the ratios seem to, for me and lots I know, favor males. Seems like my rates this year were like 70% males. In order to get enough hens to make it worthwhile, there was the rooster surplus.
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Some years are like that, I think I read something about incubation temperatures can alter which sex survives and hatches. I had a really great run for a few years and had mostly hens, now I get roosters, I only hatch a couple a year.

    There's also the little fact of hatchery birds and how most of those male chicks get culled right away because no one wants them. And then I think about all the meat birds and how they are just babies when butchered.

    Ugh, I'm a vegetarian, so I feel your pain, but I love keeping chickens, I try to balance it all out, I'm not comfortable taking life either, or asking my husband to do it, but it's a part of life and I try at least to have respect and a humane plan in my head if it's needed.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Maybe think about why you are breeding what you are breeding?

    I hatch out from my flock for food, to produce more layers of eggs and I harvest the extra cockerels and non productive hens for meat.
    My conscience is clean, very little goes to waste.... tho taking those lives does give me pause for respect and thankfulness.

    My Two Cents(sense?)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
    4 people like this.
  6. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    When I became interested in seramas, that is the very reason I could not become a breeder - why I opted to just keep them as just pets. Its only logical that 1) a breeder is going to end up with appx. half males (I keep one male per 3-4 serama hens) and 2) to continue moving toward the SOP (assuming that is one major goal for a breeder), culling of birds that aren't on the right track is necessary at times, because you can't always find pet homes for them.

    It's pretty easy to put an animal down who is in pain, or who is mean and nasty toward others. But nice animals that simply aren't "perfect enough"? Or who were dealt the fate of being the wrong sex?? I just couldn't do it and be okay with myself.

    I think it would help if you could find someone locally who feeds their dogs raw meat? Maybe (before its needed) run a few posts on your local craigslist to find someone. I see them here, looking for old/burnt freezer meat people are wanting to get rid of. I do hate to see an animal put down for nothing - but being used for meat is certainly not nothing. And dogs have to eat too. Also, knowing you gave them a good, caring home for even a short amount of time has to help a little...
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I think it is Donrae that say, one good life, one bad moment.

    Even those of us, that do cull, I think most of us give pause. It does get easier. I do think it is the responsible thing to do. Many people do get into this hobby without fully addressing this aspect, and are rather horrified when they need to do so.

    If you like raising chicks, perhaps it would be better if you just raised sex link birds? But even if you only get hen chicks, usually space is limited. Something has to be culled for new birds to fit in the flock.

    It is a tougher aspect, one that mankind has been dealing with forever.

    Mrs K
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    When chickens become pets, this does raise a dilemma. They are not long lived animals, and it seems that they often succumb to some issue related to the reproductive system. This has got to be a painful way to go. IMO, when a hen has reached that point where she is not moving well, or appears to have "issues", the kind thing to do is to cull her. If the owner is not emotionally able to do that himself, then he must find someone to do it for him, whether it be sending the bird to grace someone's table, burying it under a rose bush, or paying a vet to euthanize the bird. If one is hatching, before the eggs are ever set, the decision should be made about how to deal with any extra roos, any chicks born with defect that will negatively impact their lives, and, of course being sure that one has the space and resources to take care of them. Baby chicks are cute. Hatching is fun. I admit that I love to hatch, and love to candle eggs to see that little life dancing in there. But with that comes the responsibility of culling to ensure a strong and optimum sized flock. Hard to do? Yes. But, in the end, a bird processed for table use is still a better outcome than going to the local grocer for one of those little styrofoam/plastic packages of factory farm raised baby chick.
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    IMHO the most cruel thing is to keep and or breed from defective parent stock. How good a life will a coop full of crooked toed or breast bone chicks enjoy and think about what deformed chicks may mean to the future of the breed that you are trying to save.
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I'm glad you found someone that will take your extra roosters and use them for food. The biggest mistake I see in our local ads are people who raise these spare roosters as pets but cannot keep them so they advertise "free to good home only", which is pretty silly because most people can't keep a bunch of roosters around as pets no more than you presents problems.

    Then, in an attempt to insure they won't go to a home that will eat them, they try to sell them. the same time of year that EVERYONE is trying to get rid of extra, now mature cockerels, selling a rooster just isn't going to work.

    The best way to get rid of extra roosters so you won't have to kill them and waste the meat is to put in an ad for free roosters. Those who are killing them for food will gladly come round and take them off your hands, especially if you have a group of roosters instead of just one or two. In years I don't hatch enough males for extra meat, I've looked for free roosters to use for winter meat. I can tell you that the free roosters are treated just as humanely as my own birds and killed quickly.

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