We're Expecting!

Well it’s official.  We’re expecting.  In fact 25 new additions to our family.

Around the first of September we’ll be waiting by the mailbox, not pacing the delivery room, for twenty five peeping fluff balls.  We’ve finally decided to jump in and begin raising our meat birds.  Needless to say Tori Grace is aghast and Gabby is ecstatically proclaiming her great love of chicken legs.   

Dennis has been researching for the past year and he’s finally settled on Rainbow Rangers, similar to Freedom Rangers, which are a French breed of bird.  These birds will naturally be fast growers but unlike a Cornish Cross they have a much healthier rate of growth and better life in general. 

While I have to admit that I’m by no means a gung ho animal rights advocate I would truly be unable to raise the chickens that we normally consume on a day to day basis.  To be honest I, like I’m sure many others, tend to consume my food a bit blindly.  Up until a few years ago chicken came from a plastic wrapped package and I sat with my fingers in my ears singing “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” when the subject of where they really came from was mentioned. 

Then Dennis and I decided to go on a diet, thus kick starting our fruit, veggie and lean protein consumption.  Amazingly when you’re trying to eat less, it costs more.  So the notion of raising, canning and freezing more produce seemed logical.  Beyond just the cost the taste is definitely better and it’s healthier too.  Learning about all the health factors of the produce of course lead to research on the health factors of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.  We were already foodies, Dennis was already a horticultural nut and then we became “educated”.  Knowledge is a mighty powerful thing.  It can even get four semi-city slickers (with a few country roots) to search endlessly for a little land and eventually move and try to grow most of their own food.  This brings me back to the great chicken decision of 2011.

In all that research here’s what we learned.  Cornish Cross chickens, sometimes called Franken Chickens, are a cross between two natural breeds.  When the cross was made it produced a bird with a veracious appetite that grows at an unheard of rate but that truly can’t fend for itself nor does it even want to move from the spot it’s sitting in.  From the standpoint of trying to produce a large bird in a small amount of time so that you can feed a huge amount of the population at a cheaper rate this is good.  From the standpoint that these animals grow so fast that their legs break under their own weight, that many die suddenly from heart failure, that most have to be pumped full of antibiotics just to survive and their feathers aren’t even able to keep up with the growth, it’s horrible.

Obviously we aren’t vegetarians but in my opinion it just seems wrong to put an animal through that, it also seems that such an unhealthy life can only lead to an unhealthy animal and thus food source.  So when the subject came up about raising meat birds and I learned a little about the breeds, I made one stipulation, no Franken Chickens.

This process is going to be interesting, educational and it’s going to really force me to pull the fingers out of my ears and blinders from my eyes.  I think it’s good that we started with the laying hens.  Eating the eggs that they have produced has been eye opening.  I’m still amazed at the taste difference and even more amazed that I have no qualms about picking up a chicken when it needs to get back in the hen house.  I’m not sure how I’m going to feel when we start them from chicks and culminate with them in the oven though.

In one aspect at least we are taking the easy way out.  When the time comes we’ll be taking the chickens to be processed, I realize this is “chickening” out but for all my big talk I don’t think I could do the killing and plucking.  I still can’t eat wild turkey after finding buckshot in it when I was getting ready to cook it.  It’s a mental thing I guess. 

I don’t know what that says about me ethically.  I know I believe the animals that we interact with need to be treated with care and humanity but I know as well that I do eat meat and don’t truly want to give that up.  I guess everything needs to be kept in balance when it comes down to it.  

So, in the next months I’ll hopefully have some interesting stories for you.  Maybe a few good recipes as well, if Tori stays true to her word I may be researching vegetarian meals along with chicken casseroles.  Either way, ready or not, here we go.  

Amy Morgeson

Undercover Chickens