Our very first batch of meat chickens arrived last week. We ordered 30 Cornish Cross that will be ready to butcher mid-July. I know it’s hard to think of these balls of adorableness as “dinner,” but in 8 weeks they’ll be full grown and, due to their breeding, will have essentially reached their life expectancy. In the meantime, we plan to give them good lives with plenty of green grass, fresh air, and sunshine. We are excited to be to taking on this new enterprise and to be able to provide our family the healthiest food possible.
We’ve been very upfront with kids that we’re raising these chickens for meat. It’s important to us that our children understand where their food comes from, and that they grow up learning skills for self-sufficiency. We want them to view this process as both normal and sacred. It’s easy to see that food that has been lovingly cared for should not be wasted or taken for granted.
Already we’ve observed many differences between our “broiler babies” and their “layer baby” counterparts. The Cornish Cross seem to be less active and more fragile. They have fewer self-preservation instincts and we have instructed our kids to be especially calm and gentle with them. We are glad to have limited ourselves to just one new farming venture a year as it is taking both of us some time to adjust to their specific needs. In preparation for their arrival, we pored over many books and websites and downloaded as many relevant podcasts as we could find. Our favorites have been Joel Salatin’s (our favorite farmer-innovator-world changer-genius) Pastured Poultry Profits and the coop-casts (downloadable on iTunes) of Andy and Kelli of Chicken Thistle Farm.
Clyde built two of these hoop-style chicken tractors for our meat birds and to accomodate the fluctuating needs of our laying flock. He has promised to provide a lot more details about their construction in the near future. This particular tractor has some temporary modifications (a wooden floor and wall partition) so that it can double as a brooder house. Once the birds have their feathers (about 3 weeks) they’ll be ready to go on the grass and will be moved daily for fresh grazing. We’re already using the other tractor for this purpose with our “layer babies” who are about 6 weeks old–more to come on that as well!