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Chickens: 3 Months

The Ladies are getting big. And they’ve had a rough week.

Let’s start with the size issue. That’s nice and straight forward.

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Bigger. They get bigger. The Cherie Chicken, in all her copper-y feathered glory, still not full size, still without her proper adult head gear (combs and waddles haven’t grown in yet). Nonetheless getting to be quite a big chicken. I’ll spare you the full ‘a chicken grows up montage’. If you’re curious, you can compare Cherie to her 2 month progress report on your own time.

I’m being brief with the growth chart, because that’s not the most interesting happening in Chicken-dom around here. The group of ten has diminished in ranks, both in a planned and sorta unplanned fashion.

First, we had the departure of three Ladies to their new home.

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This part, planned. A few girls from the original batch were always designated for a friend of mine. She needed a new flock, and had no interest in chick raising. Raising 10 chicks is not a lot harder than raising 6, so I was happy to help. Although, I don’t know that I would do it again. When push came to shove, it was hard to choose who to send packing.

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Our departed Ladies have a comfy new home, with Chicken experienced peoples. They’ll be just fine, I have no doubt.

That was a conscious plan. I chose what girls would go to live out their existence just a few miles away. Other choices were made for me.

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Suzie. Suzie the Roo. A boy named Sue. Suzie started to crow last week. It wasn’t a full on cock-a-doodle-doo, more the squawk of a a somewhat damaged accordion. Whatever it’s fashion, it was LOUD. And over the course of a few days, increased in frequency. Suzie was making the choice for us. Along with her companion in juvenile Rooster-hood, Not Madge.

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I’ve had some strong suspicions about this identity crisis for quite some time now. Ruminating about chickens as pets, and the necessity of slaughter has been done. That’s why this is ‘sorta’ unplanned. It was not a part of my original chicken getting mission, no. But, I’ve had time to prepare.

All the same, I was a little sad when Suzie crowed.

The day after our ranks diminished by three, a bright sunny day, with lots of time in the yard and some special ‘chicken donut‘ treats, we rounded up Suzie and Not Madge. Off to class we went. That’s right. I took an informal class on chicken butchering, from people with a heck of a lot more experience than I. The Husband and I were reluctant to do this (especially The Husband). Tutelage was required.

I didn’t take any pictures at the class. Somehow that didn’t seem right. Rest assured, the misbegotten Ladies were dispatched quickly. There was minimal fuss. It was all over in an instant.

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Then we began the tedious work of plucking, gutting and preparing the meat for consumption, which is how my boots got so messy. They are messy chicken-yard-garden boots to begin with. This was the mess to top all messes.

We persevered. In the end we had two whole chickens for eating. Emphasis on the ‘For Eating’. As an omnivore, all hung up on the sourcing of my meat, I felt the eating part was important.

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End Result Risotto. Eating food with names, a little weird to be perfectly honest. However, if I can’t eat these chickens, I’ve no business stocking my freezer with their nameless, faceless relatives. It does not get any local-er than chicken from your backyard.

So, thank you Suzie and Not Madge for the sustenance. Your lives were short, but I hope they were good (by chicken standards).

Here’s to not having to deal with that again for a while!

This leaves me with five remaining Ladies. Five rather upset remaining Ladies.

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There they are. Huddled in the far nesting box, giving me the chicken death stare while I clean out the coop. Who can blame them really? Two rounds of unceremonious companion departure in the course of two days. Then some adjustments to operation Chicken House Solar, which involved banging on the roof and strange people in their coop. After that, I had the audacity to pull out a bunch of straw and shavings, only to replace them with new un-chicken smelly piles of straw and shavings. This is how you define traumatic for Ladies.

So, a rough couple days. I did a lot of chicken sweet talking. Sunflower seeds and strawberry tops flowed freely. They are coming around.

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Pictured above are Joanie (Barred Rock), Gaga (Buff Orpington) and you all know Cherie (the Rhode Island Red). Rounding out the quintet is Little Bird (a not so little anymore RIR) and Blondie (a slightly less girthy Buff Orpington). That’s our final cast. We’ve room for a whole lot more Chicken. I may have over engineered our necessary chicken infrastructure. For now though, I’ll leave well enough alone. I’d like to see The Ladies comfortable, and actually ya know, lay some damn eggs already.

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Comments

Kaitlin Jenkins
Reply

Let me just say that:
A. I am so impressed you’re holding your chickens with gloves! My 4 hens are actually quite social, will jump on our laps etc but if we have gloves on (coop cleaning, gardening whatever) they are absolutely terrified of us!
B. Thank you for sharing the ‘chicken dispatch’ story. Any responsible chicken owner/raiser? should be prepared to do such a thing in the instance of a surprise rooster as in your case, or perhaps a very injured hen.

Where did you find details on a class to take?
I feel like my husband and I should be getting a bit of tutelage in that department as well!

dogsordollars
Reply

The things they are terrified of! Hilarious! Mine hate it when I swing open the window to their coop. Every morning, they are OMG! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? Ridiculous Ladies. I started using the gloves when they were chicklets to discourage the pecking of my hands. Its mostly worked… unless you are Gaga. Now its just habit for me to put them on when I head out to visit them. Makes it much easier for me to deal with poop too. ;)

Thanks for the support re: butchering. I know people feel strongly about their pet chickens and can’t imagine doing this. IMO, its the only responsible thing to do. We are very fortunate in Seattle to have an Urban Farm Coop with an awesome email list. Tons of supportive people, and classes such as this offered at somewhat regular intervals. Honestly, I have no idea how unique this is to my area.

laura h
Reply

Only 3-6 months to go for eggs!

dogsordollars
Reply

Only! :) Lets hope for the 3 month-ish side of things.

Trish
Reply

That is a really brave thing to do, and I agree with you completely – if you eat meat you should be prepared to kill it yourself if necessary. I wish I could say I have done this, but I do try to buy meat that is raised humanely. And I feel differently about hunting too – at least those animals had a better life than a hog raised in confinement. Altho I still can’t stand trophy hunting.

dogsordollars
Reply

Thanks for the support. I try to eat humanely harvested meat as well, but there are so many questions about the regulations and the reality of their lives… unless you are buying from a very small producer… or you are raising it yourself.

In this case I can without a doubt say, I ate chickens who had a really good life, and one bad day.

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