We processed our chickens a few days ago--Friday actually. We took pictures and video, but they aren't going to be added to this post. When Roger gets a chance he'll edit it and try to get it put together and uploaded so that you can see how we do it. We'll load it as a video so that you have to play it if you want to see it. That way if you aren't interested in seeing the pictures, you won't accidentally see them. And it will all be posted as a separate post from this one anyway so it's safe to keep reading.
The chickens were almost 7 weeks old. As soon as they hit 6 weeks, they started dieing one by one. They'd just be dead in the morning as if their little hearts just couldn't handle beating anymore. "Autopsies" of the ones that we processed showed them to not be terribly healthy. If we didn't process them when we did I'm sure we'd have had many more die on us. The trouble is, they only dressed out at 2 lbs each. It was hardly worth all the time I put into raising the little pigs and certainly not worth all the grain they ate. I could have bought chicken at the store for less.
Ok, but home grown chicken should be healthier because of all the grass and bugs they eat. And tastier, too, right? Not this breed (Cornish Rocks). We've raised several different breeds now and they all ate the grass and the bugs. They scratched at the ground. These things just sort of sat around all the time. They walked around some, but never really scratched like chickens are supposed to do. As a matter of fact, if their food fell out of the feeder, they didn't eat it. It's not that they like things clean though because they would sit in the feeder and poop in it and then eat their feed anyway. It's just that they had none of the normal chicken instincts to forage for their food. I was very disgusted by these birds that don't deserve the name bird. I called them our pigs. But I imagine that's somehow insulting to pigs, too. I don't know since I haven't ever raised pigs. And taste? They didn't taste any different than what we bought at the store. Kind of blah tasting chicken. Well, call them pasture fed all you want. Just because they live in the pasture doesn't change the fact that all they eat is feed. I don't see how these are really any different than what we buy at the store. I believe it is this breed that is used on the factory farms. They've been bred to have lots of white meat. Well, they do have that.
We've raised other breeds as meat birds before and if we ever do this again it will be one of those breeds. Right now I'm thinking we'll just wait until our layers are too old to lay anymore, then we can put them in our soup.
We still have a bunch of chickens out there that are the same age as the ones we just butchered. They are delightful to watch. They seem to run around and play. They scratch the ground and forage for their food. I put their feed in the feeder and they ignore it while they try to catch whatever insect is nearby. They act like chickens. These are Buff Orpingtons which are my favorite breed. Hopefully we'll have lots of eggs in the Spring.