Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Meat Bird Debacle of 2012

Phyllis finally got herself a man.
Isn't he a beauty?
He's supposed to be a banty, but he's almost mid size - smaller than the big birds, bigger than the banties.  I haven't done any Googling to find out about this guy - I just know I love him - and it makes me happy to see my banty hens in the company of a gentleman.  And he is a gentleman.
I like that in a rooster.
He isn't named yet -
Remember Clarence?  Well - he went to the sale barn y'all - that bird was mean as a snake.
There's so much I haven't told you.
Remember the whole meat bird thing?
Golly - this could take a while to explain.
OK - the Cornish Cross chicken - the one we all grill, fry, roast and eat everyday - well - it's a hybrid bird bred to be market ready in six weeks.  In fact - if they aren't butchered in six weeks - well - they start to drop dead from heart attacks, they can't walk because their legs can't support them - all sorts of awfulness.
I was going to post a picture here on the blog - but many of you read this first thing in the morning, and I just didn't want to ruin your day.  I'm sure you can find a photo online if you are curious.
I didn't want that - I wanted to raise meat the way our grandparents would have raised meat.
I think what they did was just cull out the old birds - well - that's not happenin' here - so I have to raise them from babies for the sole purpose of meat.
That's what I did.
I went to ye olde feed store this Spring and picked up 18 straight run (a straight run is unsexed birds - meaning - they haven't sexed the birds knowing which are hens or which are roosters) mixed breed birds.
I did not name these birds, I did not 'watch' these birds.  I fed and watered them.
They were spectacular birds - gorgeous, proud, cocky, strong -
I found myself calling them "baby" and "honey" when I would go out to feed them -
"Here you go baby...."
Then I'd scold myself - "no, no!  They are not baby and honey!  They are dinner!"
Every time I went to the feed store to get my feed, the guy there asked me how they were doing, and kept telling me how I should have got the Cornish Cross.
Then I would explain to him how I wanted a more natural 'heritage' chicken - and he would say - "you eat seedless watermelons, don't you?  They are hybrid!"

Well played Feed Store Man, well played.
I kept hoping that a few of these would be hens, and I would keep them - but don't ya know that every ding danged one of these were roosters.
To say that my yard was noisy was an understatement.
For those of you that don't know - roosters crow ALL THE TIME.  It's not just a time or two in the morning - oh no, they crow all the live long day, and well up til dark - so imagine 18 of them up in your yard.  I'm surprised the neighbors didn't complain.
Then - the fighting started - for about a week it was madness - all I did was break up cock fights, which was futile - because they started up again as soon as I broke them up.
I would check the birds for weight every week - they were beautiful - feathered out - large - but there was no meat on the danged things! 
I made a decision to take all but two to the sale barn and sell them - I didn't think that they would be worth the money to butcher them - and they were getting really expensive to feed - seriously - I think I had like $20 into each bird at this point!
Glenco cobbled up some cages and off Aaron and I went to the sale barn.
Lord have mercy on my soul did it smell on the way there - we had the window open and we were hanging out of them - 'breathe out of your mouth!' I kept saying...
I got $8 for each rooster, and I learned a lot through the process - so, although I still consider it a failed experiment, it wasn't an epic fail.
The two that were left?  Well, they were the meanest ones...the ones that stirred up all the trouble - the ones that came out of the roost box ready to rumble.
Truthfully, it kind of freaked me out - I wasn't sure I could deal with this - I mean - I saw these birds, I looked into their eyes, I saw their poop.
The way these birds screamed when I caught them to take to the butcher - I shan't forget anytime soon.
Rather haunting.
I knew if I didn't cook them, Glenco would - well, let's say this in a way that doesn't make him sound mean, cause he's not - he'd flip out.
There really wasn't much meat on the bird at all - the legs were pretty meaty, but just a few bites of breast meat.
I made chicken noodle soup and pulled mine out before the noodles were added.
I manned up and put a bite of the bird in my mouth - I couldn't swallow it - I massaged my throat and finally it went down.
It was utterly delicious.  Moist, tender - very flavorful.  It made the nicest stock I'd ever seen.
Will I do this again?
I think so - I will raise Freedom Rangers next year - they are a hybrid - but they aren't as 'Frankenchicken' as the Cornish Cross.
Of course I then had the bright idea of fencing off the entire back two acres, getting two hundred Freedom Rangers and going into the free range, organic chicken farming business.
: -)
Wonder if the neighbors would mind 200 crowing roosters?
I just love my all or nothing personality.


  1. go with it, chicken lady!! just go with it! <3

  2. My son raised free range chickens, and sold them at the farmers market!! You think you took a hit at the sales barn... wait. If you still want to He would be more than happy to tell you how he did it, and what not to do!! e-mail me. I can give you his info!!

  3. Why is it that you ALWAYS make me laugh?!?!

  4. The idea of raising one's own meat is a noble one ... not sure I could do it. Wait, check that ... no can do here. I admire your attitude, your ability to deal with 18 crowing roosters without breaking out the .22, and now I'm hungry for chicken soup.

  5. After we got our chickens, I had a difficult time eating chicken for a while. I could not raise an animal for food. I need to see it in pieces that make me think it was never alive.

  6. Hi Jayme,

    I read your blog faithfully but am usually too shy/lazy to comment. We are raising our second batch of meat birds (we use the cornish cross breed). I have 40 roosters that are 1 week old. We plan to harvest them when they are about 12 weeks. We have found it's better to get them in the fall and raise them until late Nov/early December. That way you're not dealing with the heat in summer which is really hard on them.
    Coworkers wonder how/why we do it. But I'm not ready to quit eating chicken and this way I know the chickens lead a healthy and happy life. We let them out to roam in a fenced in area for half the day when they are feathered out.
    I like to remember something Joel Salatin said. Something to the effect that "our animals have a wonderful life and one bad day". I try to keep that in mind.

    Cathy from Maryland (to jog your memory I bought your first bottle of spring chicken face serum)

  7. Oh my lol , it must have been noisy round there. I heard if you hang a chick upside down...if it raises it's head's ah rooster! Jist sayin. Good luck on not getting attached to the baby's ;-)

  8. And that's been one of the nicest things about going veggie/vegan. I refuse to buy factory-farm raised chickens and I hate to eat mine. I can do the butchering and it's pretty awful - so, it was with some relief that I recently got the word from my cardiologist that it was vegan for me from now on.

    Plant-based eating means that I can be much more food self-sufficient and really focuses me on that seasonal garden!

    Yep, I occasionally find myself really jonesing for some Southern Fried Chicken.... but I fight through it...... better for me, the world and my beloved chooks!

  9. We love your all or nothing attitude also!!! Gary and I are raising Freedom Rangers and they are very nice birds...they have a chicken tractor which we move around but they are totally free in the yard. Getting big now and their is nothing like home grown birds...yum!!

  10. I love you even if you are a cluster cluck. :)

  11. I love your meat bird story! Ours is a funny one. Lat year we bought 14 broiler chickens, red and black. We were told they have fewer leg problems than their Cornish buddies. Ours grew lovely, and at 16 weeks we offed the 6 roosters. They were yummy and made scrumptious stock. We thought we'd let the hens fatten up for a couple weeks before they joined the boys in the freezer. Well, they got the message because 2 days later they started laying eggs. You can't very well eat something that's producing food, can you? We couldn't. So, now we have 8 more layers that are all named Meatie. :)
    I highly reccomend pigs. They are cute at first, then turn obnoxious about the time you butcher them. And man are they yummy!
    Happy farming!

  12. I've been waitin' for the rest of this tale! Thanks for sharing your first adventure into raising meat birds- and I can fully imagine the noise after the last fair I worked (10 hr days)- seems everyone brought their roosters because they "show better"...NOISY!!!

  13. We raise gold & white laced wyandottes, which are a dual purpose hertiage breed. They are dressed out at 28 weeks and hens weight about 8-9 lbs roosters 10-12. They are gentle,beautiful birds we love them. They lay a large brown eggs and are pretty reliable layers.I hate to butcher them but my daughter & I do. Just food for thought, Ha-Ha!! Love your blog !!!!

  14. nope, raised chickens and butchered them once in my life, NEVER would do it again. I couldn't eat even ONE of them.
    Now I don't eat meat at all, and I am happier than happy with it.
    The feel of chicken in my mouth, the last time I tried it, a few years ago, was more than FOUL/FOWL.

    I applaud you for your efforts, but it's all yours.

  15. Jayme - Ye Olde Feed Store :) Cute. I've not had any experience with raising Freedom Rangers so I'm not discouraging that route, but I would like to add some "food" for thought. There are many "heavy" breeds of chickens that are made to do what you are looking for. Someone above me suggest Wyandotte's. I raise Austrolorps & this year got my first hatch from my hens and two Roosters. I'm looking forward to "culling" two of the Roosters when they reach about 20 weeks. I take great pride in raising the meat that my family eats (Chicken, Rabbit, Pork, Beef, Goat) I go to alot of effort to give my animals great & loving care. I commend you for efforts, and I hope that as some time goes by the decision to do this again will be easy.

  16. We ended up not needing to do our own meat birds this year because of the 16 I still had in the freezer from last year! They are so much better flavored, that's for sure. We'll do some next year as well. Hopefully they won't all be roosters! ~Vonnie

  17. have i ever told you ... i love you so much. thanks for the laughs. always a pleasure. ha. ha!! how long have you been raising chickens... do you enjoy the name "chicken lady" ... i was "bird leg" when was a kid. made me smile. enjoy the day. (:

  18. My hen are starting to slow down with the egg laying and hubs will mention we need to take them to the Amish for butchering.....Umm no they all have names and I keep telling him they will have to live their lives out here. I think the problem here is, he does not want to be the one to bury them for me.

  19. I just love your all or none personality, too. Good job. On the farm I learned not to make friends with the one lone black angus that we kept every year...and the turkeys and I were not on a first name basis either. It is one of the hard parts of that life for me- xo Diana

  20. Ju5t found your 5ite! Love it! Your banty gentleman you got look5 ju5t like our Old Engli5h Game Bantam 5ilver Duckwing. Fei5ty bird ;)


  21. You are somethin' else! You would still do this again? After all that stress?! It sounds like it might counter act your meditation time! Lol! Good luck with whatever you decide.

  22. Oh, I just thought of this! Aren't you feeding the chickens your scraps from your veggies? You shouldn't have to buy all that seed. They can be your little compost machines! That's what my Grandma did, she just kept a bucket in the kitchen for her food scraps and fed them to the chickens. She only needed a little seed to supplement.

  23. oh my sweet neighbor- i wouldnt mind. if you dont mind an extra 50 or so over here....... lol!!!

    emmett has kindly informed me that that roosters name was billy and it would be okay if you kept the name! hahaha! hes so kind.

  24. our animals have a wonderful life and one bad day". I try to keep that in mind.

    If you are going to do it again that is the perfect thought. I couldn't do it. Not a judgement on anyone that does. I'm hoping to eventually be a vegetarian so I don't have to think about all the bad stuff.

  25. Jayme, you are a stitch! Thanks for being YOU! ~Patysue

  26. We raised some birds that fell off a Tyson truck once, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around my parents were visiting and my Dad had one cleaned and dressed before I even knew it. It wasn't like they were going to be pets, my chickens were chickens. But it just was too fresh! You know what, that was one great bird. It's breast was huge and it made the best dressing. Now I'm hungry...

  27. Great story too bad you sold them your freezer would be full. Probably the fat chickens we get are fat because they never exercise. I'd rather have a very healthy bird with less meat.
    I like what anonymous said about very happy healthy animals with one bad day.

  28. We cooked up our turkey and our rooster this year. The turkey was a hand me down and just so tough! She made lots of stock and soup meat, though! The rooster. Oh the rooster. He was so noisy and we are not allowed to keep roosters out here. We thought we had purchased 6 hens, but he grew up into a beautiful rooster, so we ate him. He made great soup, too! I think you should sell organic free range chicken! Or at least raise enough to feed you indefinitely.
    : )

  29. Mr. Phillipe is one handsome fowl. Please email me a copy of this in pdf (unless of course you plan to sell copies of this magnificent beast). I would love to print him out and mount him in my kitchen.

    And my husband will thank you to quit telling me about your chicken exploits so I will quit begging for chickens! I love them!

  30. Oh, I enjoyed this one, too!!

    We bought ten pullet chicks a year ago. One developed cross-beak and I had to drown her. It was hard, as I'd named her and she was already my favorite. Then, after we put them out in the pen, a chickenhawk got through our barricade and took one. Broke my heart. Then we discovered one was a roo. They say that happens. He was ok for awhile and then he started getting brutish and rough on the hens. When he started attacking me, Hubs killed him, cleaned him. I took him inside and put him in the pressure cooker. The meat's still in the freezer -- I haven't the heart to try to eat it. He, too, made beautiful yellow broth. I think we've used that, mixed with some other that I had made. Betty Lou, the one he was roughest with, just recently died and we buried her. So, down to six now. Not sure I'll have more chickens when these have lived out their lives. Ties us down. Makes me feel bad when we lose one. Like you, I get attached.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment!