This is Queen. She is not a meat chicken. She’s the head hen in our flock of layers. She’s about to turn three, but she has not let that slow her down. She remains firmly in charge and the other eleven girls know that if they even think about trying to get first dibs on anything they’ll be put very firmly in their places. Otherwise Queen is a very sweet and biddable chicken. She is still a good layer for her age and we tend to get about 3 eggs a week from her. She’s a Rhode Island Red from our very first batch of chicks which were all production hens, either like her or Barred Plymouth Rock. We didn’t branch out into “purty” chickens until the next year. Although Queen will have you know that she is still quite beautiful, thank you very much. Queen will never be a stewing hen, although that may not be said for some of the others, particularly the two obnoxious leghorns, when they get older.
We have about a month to decide whether or not we are going to actually raise broilers for the first time this year. I had originally planned to buy a beef this year, but for one reason or the other I’m not sure it is going to work out. Most of the organically, pasture-raised chickens around here go for $30. I figure we can at least halve that by raising them ourselves. Feed does cost, but we have a lot of bugs and grubs and slugs and ants and worms and such to supplement the feed with. We could definitely save a good chunk of money. We eat about one chicken a week, so I think raising about 30 or so in two batches would do us very well.
I’ve been looking over chicken tractor designs and I do think we have enough grass left that we could successfully do one. I would just have to figure out what breed to raise. I want something that will get to about 4 to 5 pounds without taking forever, but I’m sort of against the quick growing Cornish cross. There are so many ethical problems with that bird, but at the same time we’d be raising them under the best possible circumstances. Part of me wants to raise heritage chickens, but then again, if I’m not breeding them, is there much point in raising them just for food? Still, the Poulet Nu Red Rangers do very well in this area even if they do take a bit longer (two weeks) to grow out, so they are high on my list right now.
I’ll have to do a bit more reading. Part of me would really rather just jump into rabbits. They seem easier to raise and easier and much faster to process. No killing cones or heating the feathers and pulling them out, then gutting. It’s just snap, bleed, peel, slice, gut, done. But I already know how to raise chicks. I’ve got pretty good confidence I can get them to butchering size. So many first batches of rabbit kits don’t seem to survive. Yes, definitely a lot more reading in my immediate future.