Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Update

First we weren't going to do chickens last spring. And then we did. And then we got more. There was the chicken palace, the multi-media chicken tractor, and a winter coop.

And now yours truly is absolutely enamored and addicted to chickens. I can't help it. Their antics are fantastic, they're useful as a food source, and they make great pets. You may think that coming home to a dog is the epitome of pure joy at your arrival. Well, having a whole flock of chickens come running up to the car when you arrive home AT TOP CHICKEN WADDLING SPEED is an absolute sight to behold (never mind that they mostly expect treats out of you). I love it. Can't get enough of it. And I was planning on getting a few more chickens next year.

And then I read this book.

And now I have an excuse to triple my flock next year - so we can use some chicken labor in the garden, get more eggs next year (I would like to be able to sell some), and have enough meat to limp through the year with fewer shopping trips for other meat.

We will be doing straight-run purchase. Unless I'm buying a grown bird from someone face-to-face, I will be sticking to straight-runs.

'Straight-run' (in case you don't know, and if you do please disregard the upcoming rant) means that the chickens haven't been sexed. Ie, you get a mix of male and female. In theory it should be around 50/50, but I do think you end up with more roosters than hens, a fact that doesn't bother me particularly as that means meat for my table.

So, if I am able to purchase female day-old chicks, why don't I? Have you ever wondered (most likely not, unless you're as chicken obsessed as I am) what happens to the less-desirable male day-old chicks? They more often than not don't make it much further than that in life. Unless someone wants to buy a batch of male chicks (which you would really only do for the meat, and if you were raising chickens for meat you most likely wouldn't be buying a breed that is dual-purpose or egg-laying. Which are the males we're really talking about here, let's be honest), they mostly get culled. As in put to death for being roosters.

And cost-wise, it really doesn't cost much more to buy twice as many straight-run chicks as female chicks. So. With cost and morality on my mind, I stick to straight-run. I guess the main downside is you don't know *exactly* how many hens you will end up with. But with predators and heat, you don't really know anyway, so lay down your control issues and let's move on.

Long story short - I am having a really good time fantasizing about what kinds I want to get next year. I will be sticking to heritage breeds (even though my feed store mass-produced chickens have worked out wonderfully) next year. Wyandottes? More Dominiques? Easter eggers (not really heritage, but fun!)? Only time will tell...

Class of 2011

Henrietta. Posing.

Red. Guarding the canoe.

Free. And Ranging.

Dexter. Look at those Sickles!

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