Six, ten, twelve?

Right now as I ponder this spring’s chick selection I am also debating how many to get.    I know that six is the best number to over winter, no questions on that number.   So the debate is how many do I want for the freezer?  How many do I want to butcher?  What chicken breeds do I want to work with?    The answers are still rolling around in my head, but they are all over the spectrum and the decision is not clear yet, but I need to have a single answer soon.

I would definitely like some chicken for the freezer.   Using my Mom’s old rule of thumb when we put up veggies from the garden, a chicken a week would be nice.   Reality sets in and there are just two of us with a half a steer and half a lamb already in our little freezer.  So I guess I will take what I can get, but the number in my freezer is not a big deal.

I really hate butchering.  It always sucks for me because I hate it for that moment when  I kill them.   After that deed is done, I really don’t mind the rest of preparing them for the freezer because I don’t pluck them.   None of the scalding.   None of the feathers. I have a system down where we strip the skin off and clean them out that is pretty quick.  It also works well when you only butcher one or two at a time because all you need is a method to kill the bird and a boning knife.    Occasionally I wish for a roaster, but the thought of plucking them stops me in my tracks. We do run into a problem if we do too many at a time, because we have a small refrigerator.   Chickens like beef need to be aged a few days before you cut them up and put them in the freezer.

The breed choice is somewhat hard for me.   If I get the breed considered the best meatie, Cornish Rock X, the bird will be in the freezer in 6 weeks.  It is the result of selective breeding to have big breasts and grow fast.  Sounds like an easy choice, but the CRX is plagued with health problems, legs that can not support its weight and high mortality due to congestive heart failure, because its heart can’t keep up with its size. Another issue for me is that the CRX has lost its native chicken survival skills.   They don’t forage; they are the couch potato of chickens.  They eat and poop over and over, and the idea of moving to even so they don’t sit in their own waste is too much effort. So what is the point of eating chicken to be healthy if they aren’t.    As I write all this down I come to realize that decision is really already made for me, I am going with old-fashioned dual purpose birds.  These birds that Grandma used to keep.  My chickens can lay eggs for breakfast and be dinner at night.  The downside of the dual-purpose birds are: they are not as meatie, the muscle tissue is firmer because the chicks have had exercise, and most significant they grow slower, much slower than CRX. The upside is that I can save what I think are the best egg layers for the winter and the following spring.

This review has cleared up lots for me I am thinking ten dual purpose birds will work well for me.    Of course 12 would make one a month.    I guess the day I get chicks will be when I determine the final number.

One comment on “Six, ten, twelve?

  1. It has been interesting reading all of your posts relating to this big decision. I do not live in a neighborhood that encourages backyard chickens; but the idea has always intrigued me. At least the egg part. I can totally understand how you feel about slaughtering them. I guess it has always been done, though. My own grandmother plucked chickens that ran around her yard and my father tells tales of being chased by a mean old tom turkey. I hope you don’t plan on getting one of those.

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