chickens

Backyard Chickens Part 2- The Inevitable Outcome

Vegetarians, read no further.

It’s a fact of life.  Whenever there’s a new hatch of chickens, about 50% of them will be roosters.  And, for the most part, no one wants them.  They don’t lay eggs.  They are extremely loud and tend to start waking the neighborhood around 4AM.  Worst of all, they can be aggressive.  So, for better or worse, most roosters meet an early demise.

In the egg industry, roosters are usually euthanized within a day of hatching.  In the meat industry, both roosters and hens are butchered around 6 weeks of age.  Let’s not talk about the conditions they are kept in- for more information, you can read this.

When you raise backyard chickens, you can order either a straight run from a hatchery (a mix of hens and roosters) or a sexed run (all hens).  Many backyard chicken owners get a sexed run so that they don’t have to deal with the roosters.  However, what do you think happens to all those unwanted roosters?  One guess.

We got a straight run of chickens and ended up with 14 roosters and 12 hens.  We obviously want to keep all the hens for their eggs.  We also want to keep 2 roosters, one for each coop, so that we can hatch fertile eggs in the spring.  However, that left us with a surplus of 12 roosters.  They are now 15 weeks old.  They are getting big, loud, and aggressive.  They’re starting to fight among themselves and aggravate the hens, and that means that it’s time to cull the flock.

So, that’s what my husband and I did today.  Our freezer now has six fresh chickens in it- organically raised, free-range, antibiotic free chickens.  Six more will join them next week, and peace and quiet will return to the coops.

People have asked how can I do it?  How can take a chicken that I raised, kill it, pluck it, and butcher it?  I’ll be honest- it’s hard the first time.  It then becomes a lot easier.  The truth of the matter is, my roosters have had a wonderful life for the time they were with us- a veritable life of luxury compared to what most roosters face.  For those reading this who might be making a face or rolling their eyes- think about the last time you ate chicken breast from the supermarket.  Do you think that the chicken was sent down to Stop-n-Shop like manna from the heavens- complete with neat Saran-wrapping?  Nope.  It arrived onto your plate the same way all meat does.

So, I thank my roosters for their sacrifice.  I’ve honored them in life by treating them well, and I’ll honor them in death by making sure that their life did not go to waste.

And with that, I’ll say goodnight.

3 thoughts on “Backyard Chickens Part 2- The Inevitable Outcome”

  1. How meaty were the breasts on these 15 weekers? I ask because I am going to have to do some roosters before winter. They are 10 weeks old now, they seem so scawny. 15 weeks would be a good time for me to cull them so I hope they get some meat by then.

    Also, can you post an update when you prepare the first one?

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  2. The ones that I culled yesterday were Easter Eggers, so since they are a laying breed they were not that meaty. The highest weight was about 3 lbs (that's after butchering). The next group will be NH Reds, which are dual purpose birds, so I expect those will be a bit meatier.

    You can fatten your birds up a bit about 2 weeks before culling them by feeding lots of grain and corn. Remember, though- a home-grown chicken is always going to have MUCH less breast meat than a supermarket chicken. Those are Cornish Crosses- they are specifically bred to be almost all breast (so much so that by 6 weeks of age they are unable to walk and by 8 weeks their legs can break under their own weight).

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  3. I was a bit surprised to read that you raise chickens. This reminds me of a terrible joke from a Woody Allen movie.

    A man confides in his friend “My brother-inlaw thinks he's a chicken.”

    “Have you suggested that he see a psychiatrist about this?” asked the friend
    “We would, but we need the eggs.”

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