Ok- this farming thing is hard sometimes. Having been raised in a farm family where we had a few head of cattle every year which we butchered and often venison and elk that my dad would bag, I had become accustomed to the notion of raising animals for food. I remember how difficult it was on slaughtering day as a kid. But, I also remember my folks putting this in context and coming to terms with the notion that we could not keep "Spirit the one-eyed steer" forever. Naming the animals helped some- like the pigs "Oscar and Meyer" ....again, this helped keep things in context.
Last year we researched pasture raised poultry. I'm a big researcher actually. I ask a lot of questions and prefer to have a well thought out plan before I spend a dime towards a venture. This is a business after all. I suppose that's what makes this so hard.
This last week was processing week for our naturally grown, pasture-raised red broilers. This was our first run at doing pasture poultry. As I've shared in previous blog posts, it was not easy work. Next year will be better. According to my research, the RBs should have been a dressing weight of 4-6lbs anywhere between 9-12 weeks of age. To contrast that with your typical Cornish Cross- you're looking at the same dressing weight at 6 weeks of age. Plus, you pull feed at night with those guys or they're eat themselves to death! Yikes. The red broilers are a mix of heritage breeds- slow growing, hearty poultry that would have been on your grandmother's table.
We processed our RBs at 13 weeks and found that they dressed out at around 3-3.5 pounds. Smaller than we wanted, but I will say, that they are a nice size for 3 people. They'll be ideal for grilling a half chicken on the BBQ. Since they dressed out a little lighter, we've dropped the price per pound to $4.25/lb. Contact me for availability.
I mentioned in the beginning that this farming thing is tough sometimes. One red broiler did not share the same fate as his brethren......meet House Chicken. "Housey" was a lively RB like the rest and doing quite well in the brooder until about two weeks of age when he became the subject of a vicious pecking attack. Who knows why the crowd turned on him. There was nothing discernably wrong, but chickens do that sometimes. Nevertheless, overnight he completely lost his rump. It was horrible and bloody. I feared that we'd loose him. Actually, we couldn't tell if it was a pullet or cockerel- so we assumed (hoped) that House Chicken was a pullet.
For a week we tended his wounds- the kids cuddled him on the couch and watched tv with him. He hung out in the bathroom in a special bin and would make cute little chicken sounds each time someone passed by. After a week, he seemed to be on the mend- so since we were moving out to the pasture anyway, I thought it the perfect time to reintroduce House Chicken to the flock. Bad idea.
Again, he became rumpless overnight. Back in the house for another round of chicken nursing. At this point, it was clear that House Chicken was not a pullet, but a cockerel. "He's destined for the freezer kids. Don't get attached." Isaac put him in with this little flock of New Hampshire Reds.....and he's thrived.
When we loaded up the RB's for processing, there was absolute bedlam from the Seedpod Kids at the notion that House Chicken would be meeting the same fate. I shared my rationale....."We can't keep another rooster. He would not produce consistent stock- which is ultimately Isaac's plan for his New Hampshires. We don't need anymore squabbles between two roosters with very few hens. This is a bad idea. He'd dress out at 5lbs at least- making a nice supper for company. This is what he was brought onto the farm for kids!" This farming thing is hard sometimes.
So- 47 broilers made their way to the butcher this week........and House Chicken got a reprieve. My kids are not crying and House Chicken will live to see another day. Welcome to Seedpod Farm House Chicken....enjoy your life (while it lasts).