Ten days ago, these little buggers showed up in the mail. They’ve been in a pen in the barn until tonight when I moved them to the chicken tractor. I didn’t want to move them to the chicken tractor tonight! The weather has cooled and it was rainy part of the day and windy all of it. But they are Frankenbabies and I couldn’t keep the little eating/pooping/growing machines cooped up (pardon the pun) any longer. Even with adding new bedding twice a day, I couldn’t keep their cage clean, they make so much poop.
See, these are Cornish Cross chickens, monsters bred for industrial ag…bred to grow unbelievably fast in a factory farm and provide cheap meat for our grocery stores at a rapid (and cheap) pace. We grew this breed the first two years we had meat chickens and I swore never again. The last time we raised Red Broilers instead and were very happy with their normal growth rate. In fact, we still have three from well over a year because they started laying eggs. Cornish Cross chickens don’t get to age. They can grow so fast that their legs can’t support their weight. It’s awful. And it’s what you typically find in the grocery store. Yuck.
But I wanted to make sure we had chicken in the freezer for winter eating when Bob gets back from his deployment which meant ordering some summer chicks, and when I placed my order, the hatchery was sold out of Red Broilers and sent me the Cornish Cross kind instead.
Well, at least I know I can schedule the mobile slaughter guy ahead of time, because these birds grow like clockwork!
It is sad, how fast they grow. They are bred to simply eat and eat and eat (which means they also poop and poop and poop). This time around, I am only feeding twice a day, not letting them eat whenever like I’ve done in the past. I am hoping to make their growth at least a little more normal. And they will–unlike their factory farmer counterparts–be out on grass and eating bugs for their short lives.
Our goal as we start a farm is to get as self sustaining as possible and hatch our own chicks. That’s why we got our rooster in the first place. But the farmhouse renovation has been so all-encompassing that the only baby chick we’ve had born on the farm so far was a surprise. Still, it’s what we are aiming for, so these Frankenbabies are like the green beans I bought from a local farmer last week: They get us closer to our goal of being in control of much of our food supply, although our end goal is to do it ourselves.
And we won’t be raising Cornish Crosses, no way! No, our handsome rooster is a Speckled Sussex and when the renovation if done, we’ll shop around for some Sussex hens and take it from there.
For now, I’ve got a night of worry ahead of me as I’m sure I moved the Frankenbabies outside too soon, but… I spent quite a while wrapping the chicken tractor in tarps to keep the wind and rain out, and I put in a block of wood as a step to help them get into the box, and if in the morning I no longer have 16 live chicks, well, that’s farming and a lesson learned. 🙂