Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Farm Castoffs

There's a truth to farming that's hard to ignore...boys.  Even on our tiny farm, boys are something that we have to deal with.

When we ordered our first set of chicks, we ordered girls for layers and heavy breed boys for meat.  We could have just ordered Cornish X, which is what most people eat when they eat chicken, but we were trying to do the responsible thing and eat birds that would have likely been thrown away.  I'm not actually sure what the hatchery we ordered from does with their castoffs but most of them put them into a grinder, trash bag or some other awful fate for a living being to experience on their first day of life.  I'm not squeamish about death at all, but I do have a deep respect for living creatures and I don't want them to suffer.  If it's alive it should live until it hopefully finds a quick death.

Now that we have many of our breeding animals in place, we have the reality of male animals.  This year we hatched and/or raised 12 roosters.  For a flock of 20+ hens, we only need 2 roosters for fertile eggs.  So we cull (kill) the extra birds for meat.  Five of those roosters were leghorns.  One of them I culled ahead of the rest of them to try out.  Chicken noodles.  It was awful, the bird was so tough it was pretty much inedible.  Nothing wrong with the taste, just too tough.  So the rest of them I ground; I keep plenty of taco and sausage seasonings on hand for just such meats.

I know a few vegetarians who eat eggs and drink milk, but the reality is that both products require some solution for male animals.  If you drink milk, the cow must birth a calf first.  That calf has a 50% chance of being male.  It used to be that dairy bull calves were the source of veal, but now veal has become unpopular and I've heard stories of bull calves being shot shortly after birth so no expense is wasted on an unwanted animal.  Dairy goats have the same odds of having male kids, also in the US, goat meat is not very popular.  I have yet to try goat meat, so I'm really no exception.  I'm actually looking quite forward to trying it though.  Personally I've not been able eat some of the fattier meats like beef and lamb so the lean goat meat will probably work out great.

Just like you can't have leather or fur without the death of an animal, you can't have eggs or milk without considering the fate of the boys.  To me, it would seem the most responsible thing to do would be to give them a good life and end it quickly when the time is right.  You could keep the boys for pets, but anyone who's heard of cockfighting will quickly make the connection as to why too many boys are a bad idea.

This has been what's been on my mind lately.  We finished up our season by culling the extra boys, girls and one injured girl who we didn't think should hurt another day.  We are down to around 25 chickens, 5 ducks, 3 geese, 3 turkeys and 2 goats.

A few pics.
Blue Slate Turkey hens.  10lbs and 8lbs dressed

PekinX double duck egg, PekinX duck egg, 2 olive chicken eggs

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