Newbie questions,

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Sarahsdawn, Oct 30, 2014.

  1. Sarahsdawn

    Sarahsdawn Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi everyone!

    I'm new to the BYC, and still researching before we take the big plunge into chicken life. I stumbled across this forum while looking up mealworm care, fell into the thread with 7k posts, got and got even more interested. We've talked about having chickens for years (I grew up around them, and a lot of our friends have them) but we've never made the leap. But it makes sense, so once we purchase a house, we're going to jump into it! We're getting our mealworm colony numbers up first too, so that we'll have those as a feed source...also looking into red wigglers and roaches as a feed source.

    So I have some questions, and the answers probably aren't easy, but I'm guessing that you guys could point me in the direction of a thread that maybe discusses it in greater detail.

    So my first question is basically how do you decide to use meat birds? Logically, I get it. It makes sense to use the whole bird, the roosters don't lay eggs, so they are useful for meat. I also know that it's a million times more humane to raise a bird than it is to eat one that is factory raised. (Our current chicken meat comes from Costco...I don't like it, but it's affordable.)
    Hubs says that he has no issue doing the, umm, butchering. (Is that the proper word for this task?!) What I can't figure out is how we can raise them by hand and not get attached. I guess it would be easier if we could be guaranteed that the roosters would be big, mean birds....but if we are raising them by hand they'll probably be sweet and lovable. Ethically better, but emotionally harder, I guess?

    Anyways, hopefully this question isn't offensive or naive, I'm sure it must have been discussed before. I know there is a kind of disconnect from our food in these modern days of grocery purchased everything, and I hope we can be successful in getting closer to the root of it all.

    Thanks for any help or advice or links!!! [​IMG]
     
  2. KCMOLisa

    KCMOLisa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Sarahsdawn! Welcome to BYC! It's not a stupid question at all. On this forum, meat birds can mean a couple of different things. Some people get dual-purpose chickens. Those are breeds that are known to lay eggs and also be good for meat. Then they usually keep the hens for eggs and butcher the roosters for eating.

    A lot of us on this forum raise a breed of chicken that is used exclusively for meat called the Cornish Cross. This is the same breed of chicken that the big factories raise, so you will end up with a chicken that looks more like the ones you get from the store. These chickens grow much, much faster than a normal chicken and can go from day old chick to ready to butcher in about 7 or 8 weeks. While it is possible to keep them longer and even get a few eggs out of them, that isn't really what they were bred for. They can develop heart and leg problems if they live much longer than 8 weeks because of how fast they gain weight.

    As far as how you can raise them from babies and not get attached, well, I think most of us are still trying to figure that one out. I just butchered my first batch of 24 Cornish Cross to put in the freezer last week. I loved them. It wasn't easy. I just had to tell myself from Day 1 that they were for food. I eat chicken. I would rather eat chicken that I raised and that I know had a great life and a quick and humane death. If you watch any videos about factory farmed chicken, you will know that those chickens basically don't have a moment of happiness in their whole short life. My chickens ran around like crazy, chased bugs, got petted and loved on, breathed the fresh air, took dust baths, everything a happy chicken would want to do. People like to say that when you raise your own meat birds, they only have one bad day in their whole life (the last day).

    In my opinion, it's fine to get attached. It's completely normal. I do think it will be easier for me next batch, but I don't think I will ever get to the point where taking the life of an animal so I can eat is something that doesn't affect me.

    I say go for it, especially if your husband is on board. My brother and I did the butchering for my 24 Cornish Cross last week by ourselves. We had no experience at all, and we did fine. I also had never had any kind of chickens before, so I was a complete rookie in all senses of the word. I don't think I would have had the confidence to take on meat birds if it weren't for this forum, so feel free to ask any questions you have!
     
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  3. Sabz

    Sabz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Sarahsdawn! No stupid questions here :)

    My idea is: Love them as much as possible, give them the best life ever, but keep in mind they will be processed and eaten at the end.
    A way I can detach myself from the sadness is to think that my birds were happy all their lives. I kill them, but each one I kill prevents a "store bought chicken" from suffering in a tiny little cage all its life.

    A good thing with Cornish X is that they are white and all the same. I had a flock of 20, couldn't recognize a single one. So if I played with chicken #1 on monday, I didn't remember which one it was on tuesday! So there is less attachment like that.

    Currently I have rosso breeds. They are all different and some have names and I really love them. This is going to be much harder.

    Also, at processing time I pet their heads, I talk to them.. knowing that the birds like me, I know they are reassured by my voice and I think it makes the butchering part easier for them. Less stressful.

    My first batch, I raised them from Day 1. They did like me at first, but as time past they grew very big. They jumped on me when I entered the coop with food (NEVER aggressive, but quite heavy and not fun). They smelled, they were a lot of work for me at the end. So the cute baby part where you love them and pet them passes over time. They get old - they still like to be pet and stuff - but they get to be a lot of work and you will eventually look forward to processing day.

    At the moment I am towards the end of my Rosso batch. The coop is getting too small, they eat a lot, I am always carrying big heavy feed bags. They are just a whole lot of work, so even though I love them, processing day will not be too hard.
     
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  4. Sabz

    Sabz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the way - I LOVE having chickens.

    My meaties and layers live together. Watching them - the flock leader, etc - is super fun.
    I would never go back. You have to try once at least :)
    At night sometimes I go in the coop and read with the chickens lol. They are cute, not noisy at all, the meat taste incredible.. I love my life since I have chickens. I never snooze in the morning either, I get up, feed them.. it is gratifying :)
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes these have been discussed a lot. Don’t let that ever stop you from asking a question. If the only questions ever asked on here were things never before asked this site would dry up and die.

    The answers to these are going to be opinion, not hard and fast scientific fact. Some of us might have different opinions. Be ready for that.

    I’m not sure I totally understand your first question. You can eat any chicken of any age. You just have to match the cooking method to the age and sex of the chicken. I hatch and raise chickens mainly for meat with the eggs just a nice side benefit. I eat pullets, cockerels, old hens, and old roosters. Others may only eat the cockerels. If you are just raising meat, the broilers are as efficient as you can get. There are many different ways to go about this.

    Some people just can’t butcher the birds. They can’t bring themselves to do it. They get emotionally attached or even if they are not attached just can’t do it. I never enjoy the killing part but it’s something I have to do to so I can meet my goals for having chickens. I don’t name my chickens and I don’t cuddle with my chickens. Those are not my goals.

    One way for you to try it is to raise broilers. You know from the start their only purpose is for meat. It only takes 6 to 8 weeks to get them to butcher age so you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to get attached.
     
  6. Sarahsdawn

    Sarahsdawn Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks so much everyone!

    Many years ago we saw a documentary on factory farm conditions and it was so horrifying that we immediately went from bacon every morning to stone solid vegan. That lasted all of a few months before we went vegetarian, which only lasted another couple of years before we were back on the bacon. Then we tried to only buy ethically raised meat, but it's just not affordable. So eventually we came full circle, back to purchasing meat from a big-box store. Ethically, it's awful. Emotionally, it's easier.

    I guess there's really no question. If you are going to eat meat, it's better to insure that it's raised in a happy way. Seems like it's harder on the human than the chicken!

    I didn't know about Cornish Cross breed! So much of this information is new!

    Hubs is 100% on board. We also have 2 kids (age 9 and 6) and I know that they will probably be a wreck knowing that we will eat them, but overall I think the experience of raising chickens will be a positive for them.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Everyone raises their kids differently but they will take their cue from you. If you are up front with them about why you have chickens and don’t have issues with eating them, it is unlikely they will either. But if you surprise them or get all weepy they will probably have issues.
     
  8. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Sarahsdawn,

    I'm raising my own egg layers, meat birds and now turkeys for the very reasons you are listing, to provide myself and my family with a chicken/turkey/egg source that was raised with kindness, ample room, sunshine and fresh air, natural forrage and, when the time comes, as quick, stressfree and painless end as I can possibly give them. I've tried the Cornish Crosses, Red Rangers, Freedom Rangers and Dual Purpose Roosters in the past three summers and have decided that Freedom Rangers are my favorite. They don't grow quite as quickly as the CornishX, but still provide a nice 4 pound pullet and 5-6 pound rooster at around 11 or 12 weeks of age. They also seem to do a lot better at 8,000 feet of altitude than the Cornish crosses I've raised (one group from Tractor Supply and another from a hatchers) and a greater percentage of the Freedom Rangers make it to butchering day. Anyway, the hardest part for me is always the taking of the chicken's life. I cried the first time I did it and still have to brace myself for butchering day. I can't say it gets easy, but I'm OK with that. Perhaps taking a life shouldn't be easy. I just try to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    This past summer I had several friends ask me to raise extra chickens for them and the agreement was that they'd help with all the butchering and pay their percentage of the cost. On butchering day, after I demonstrated my technique on the first 3 or 4 chickens, one of my friend's husband volunteered to take over the "dispatching" of the chickens so that I could lead the group in butchering. At first I was extremely relieved to have someone else do that unpleasant part, but after awhile I realized that because my chickens didn't know him, he had to chase them around the pen before he could catch them and they really struggled in his arms. When I go into their pen, they associate me with food and flock around at my feet. While they didn't exactly like being picked up, they were relatively calm being carried by me. I realized that if I really wanted their final moments to be a low stress as possible, I needed to be the one to do the deed.

    So, raising your birds in large, mostly homogeneous batches will help in your not getting attached to individual birds, but in my opinion, it is healthy to feel some regret or empathy with them on butchering day. It will motivate you to be as kind as you can with them every day they are in your care and motivate you to be thoughtful and work to improve your slaughtering method until you are convinced that you are doing the best possible job you can.

    Good luck.
     
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  9. Sabz

    Sabz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree with what Hummingbird said above, very nice post.

    I thought of a few other things that helped me get through processing day.
    1 - I read a lot on the technique and watched a lot of videos. I really liked the following video in a sense that I like the way she handles the chicken and that she is so respectful. She doesn't go right into butchering so you can click on it and listen to her a little before she actually does it. If you don't want to see, you have time to close it:



    2 - I used a killing cone. The first one I tried to tie it up by the legs like I saw in some videos or instructions. BAD IDEA. This really didn't go well. Killing cone kind of "holds" the chicken. I think they are less afraid and it is physically easier than other methods I tried or viewed. I also tried a knife I already had at home for cooking. BAD IDEA. Wasn't sharp enough. Bought a new knife AND a sharpener. Way better / faster for the chicken this way.

    3 - WAIT until all the twiching is past before doing anything else. Once I went too fast and cut the head off before the nerves stopped moving.. so when I cut off the head, the chicken kind of moved.... Oh my God I step about 3 feet in the air. I never do that anymore, I leave them in the cone for 1 minutes after I think they are ready, just to avoid any nasty twitching that I really don't like. Then I immediatly cut off the head.

    4 - As soon as they have no head, I'm all good. I have culled 2 that lived inside my house and that I really loved (leg injuries.. they were in too much pain, had to end it). I cried a lot, but as soon as the head was off it was ok. After that, it looks like a piece of meat..

    5 - See butchering as something really interesting, biology wise, if I can say. I am an assistant veterinarian, maybe I am a little weird, but autopsies and butchering is something I like. I like to learn the body part, where they connect, why.. and when my chickens have injuries, I have an idea of the internal anatomy of the leg as example. I know how their digestive track works now. I try to work on my technique to be faster and more productive eat every chicken. I like the down to earth, science-like part of the butchering (but I am a little abnormal maybe). At least it helps me get through it :)

    I am sorry for the harsh language. English is not my main language and I would like to use better, smoother words to describe this process but it's hard.. I don't mean to be offensive or look like I don't have a heart or like my chickens hehe. I really like them a lot!

    Oh yeah, one more interesting point. Chickens are really good to stay on your property. This is fun for kids and yourself probably ;) My meaties come out of the coop every day and they stay close. They eat lots of greens outside. They eat the bugs in my garden. They are lovable to watch, useful for the garden and the lawn and no trouble - they go inside as soon as it's dark :) I have a guard dog that looks over them, and I stay with them when they are loose - just to be sure no predator can attack them. They love when you garden ;) Removing the bad herbs from the soil creates a little whole and often the bugs and worms are in there, so whenever I play in the garden I have some little friends around me, so I like working outside even more since I have them!

    Ouf, sorry for the long post.
     
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