Saturday, February 17, 2007

And then there were 18....

Those 25 fuzzy cute chicks we received the first week of December, as you can see, didn't stay fuzzy and cute for very long. By four weeks old, they were clearly little chickens as opposed to cute little chicks. They stayed in luxury quarters in our sun room for about 6 weeks, until they got a bit too messy...we then moved them to equally luxurious quarters in our guest cottage. The dust they generated covered the whole cottage...when we finally moved them outside at about 8 weeks, we had to scrub down the entire cottage. The mortality rate of our chicks was excellent. Only one died a few days after arrival. So then there were 24. We eagerly awaited the tell-tale signs of roosterdom, in order that we might start culling the flock and eating delicious chicken dinners. Except that it was impossible to tell which were roosters and which were hens. They looked exactly alike. We started reading up on sexing chickens...the books say that you can tell by their behavior...more aggressive; roosters, less aggressive hens....they say you can tell by size; roosters are bigger. But hens develop faster....larger combs, roosters...but hens develop the combs first.... We were totally confused. And hungry.

Finally, the two biggest chickens, the Americanas, we decided were definitely roosters. And they looked tasty. We were not the only ones with this opinion because some Brazilian construction workers (we are remodeling our house) asked us if they could buy some chickens for their Saturday night dinner. They offered us $15 each! At this price, we could start to recoup some chicken costs! So then there were 22. Further, we decided that three of our Buff Orphingtons were surely roosters. Their combs were large with wattles and they were developing curly tail feathers. Plus one of them had a defective beak, and another was very aggressive. One of our Barred Rocks was also aggressive and we thought he was probably a rooster. So, we decided that dinner awaits.

This morning, we had our first chicken slaughter. And then there were 18! It went smoothly. I was a worried that the children might be traumatized and wanted to prepare them. They had, after all, been petting them and feeding them for the last 12 weeks. But before I could give them my little "nature" speech, they were already asking Peter if they could pick the chickens to be killed and were quite happy about the whole event. I guess our frequent reminders that the chickens were not pets and that we would eat them worked, along with the natural blood thirstiness of our children... Peter did the slaughtering and then we both dipped them in boiling water and plucked them. A bit messy but quite easy. They are pretty small. A bit larger than a Cornish hen, but definitely smaller than a grocery store hen. We are roasting them for dinner tonight. I will let you know if their flavor meets our expectations.

If they are good, then we are considering buying more in the early summer, just for eating. If we do that, we have decided that we will buy a meat breed to get a fatter eating bird. And this time, we will buy them pre-sexed, so that we don't have to guess!

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