Way back in March, I promised to tell you more about our chicken experiences. I just didn't get around to it, and then so much happened that it felt overwhelming to write it all. I have shared about our chickens a few times (on Facebook, on Menu Plan Monday posts, and a freezer cooking overview), so I guess I haven't completely left you hanging. Nonetheless, it's past time for a full update.
I'll be doing this in a few parts, by topic: Raising Meat Chickens, Raising Chicks, and An Egg Hen Update. We'll start with meat chickens.
Why raise meat chickens?Believe it or not, it was my idea to raise meat chickens. I'm an animal lover, so the idea of eating these babies was a bit hard for me, but after doing some reading, I became convinced that I would feel much more comfortable knowing exactly how our food is being raised and fed. It was an interesting experience, not without its difficulties, but obviously the benefits outweighed the negatives.
With modern grocery stores, we are often so far removed from how our food reaches our table. Raising meat chickens, and facing the reality of their life and death, gives us a greater appreciation for the food that we put on our table.
What kind of chickens did we raise?We chose to go with Red Broilers from a hatchery in the area. The typical chicken that you buy in the grocery store is bred to grow fat, and fast - fully grown in as little as 6 weeks! After witnessing a friend's fast-growing broiler/roasters just laying around and not doing anything, and after reading stories of these chickens breaking their legs because they couldn't support their own weight, we chose a slower-growing breed. These Red Broilers are fully grown in about 8-9 weeks, and according to the hatchery website, "are hearty birds that have been bred from heritage-type breeds to provide good textured, flavorful meat" and are "perfect for the pastured poultry producer." These red broilers are supposed to be all males (we did end up with one female, though), and just about the time they were butchered they were starting to crow.
Did we send the chickens to a butcher?No, we did it ourselves. Because Hubby has been hunting since he was young and has always processed his own meat (taught by his father and grandfather), he felt he could do this himself. He spent some time watching videos on YouTube (yes, there are "How to Butcher A Chicken" videos on there) to get some background knowledge and did it all by himself. I wrapped the chickens once they looked like store-bought chicken because I'm just not comfortable with watching the chickens die. :(
We kept four chickens whole for roasting and pieced out the rest while Kiddo was napping. This gave us 10 each of breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings, plus the carcasses with plenty of meat still attached to use for soup and stock. It was a bit sad, but I feel really good about the way our "boys" were raised, fed, and cared for, which makes it easier to see them meet their purpose.
How much did it cost?The total cost ended up at $2.59 per pound. We were hoping for lower, but those boys could EAT!
This included the cost of the chicks (including the two that died prematurely), their bedding, and food. We didn't include their housing in the cost because it will be re-used for additional flocks. Considering the quality of the meat and the way in which the chickens were raised (given free run of the yard, sun-up to sun-down) $2.59/lb is still a pretty good price. Looking at what's available at our grocery store and local farms, a broiler raised in a similar fashion runs anywhere from $3.50 to $5.00 a pound. Plus, we have the satisfaction of knowing we raised them ourselves.
So what do you think - are we crazy? Would you ever raise meat chickens?
If you have any questions about our experiences, I'm glad to answer them to the best of my ability. Just drop me a line by commenting, emailing, or through social media.