Sunday, March 29, 2009
We were pretty overwhelmed with the goats, but we knew chickens, ducks, horses, any farm animal with the exception of pigs (John had had to drive by a pig farm as a kid), would be in our future.
One solution was to start with some broilers, and just raise them in the good old garage, the garage that had already housed goats. Then we could put them in the freezer and be done with them, without having to have a hen house.
So I poured over chicken catalogs. I didn't know there were such things, but a goat friend shared one with me...
Of course cost was a big issue, and it was tempting to buy LOTS of chicks so the cost each would be less.
I tried to interest friends in sharing the load. But in the end we were on our own. So we ordered 30 chicks.
I couldn't imagine how they'd come mail order, but the day arrived and a mailman drove up the driveway with a single low box of peeps, tiny beaks sticking out of the airholes.
I had made a small pen in the garage, coverd the floor under it with shavings, and set up a heat lamp in a box, plus a watering bucket and a feed dish. I had bought the right kind of feed for baby chicks and it was waiting in their dish.
So all I had to do was pour in the chicks and watch.
They were yellow fluff, and the tips of their wings were beginning at this age of one day, to turn white and stiff - real feathers.
They went right to work drinking water. Every one was healthy. They pecked at food, ran in to the box, out again, plunked down and slept, and repeated it all. I was caught up in watching them and could hardly draw myself away. The kids loved them when they got off the bus...
So they grew. Every day they were whiter and less fluffy. They began to look like adolescents, gawky and squawky instead of peepy.
I could see how they would be ready to eat in 6 or 8 weeks. They were bred to be eating machines. They ate enormous amounts of feed, going from one sack of grain in the first week to several sacks a week toward the end...
We 'harvested' them in late June, when they were fat, by catching them by the necks and tossing them into the burlap feed sacks our goat feed came in. We cut slots in the bags and placed them in the back of the station wagon. By the time we got all 30 handfuls into the bags, most of the holes had heads sticking out.
Then I drove them down to the packing house and returned that night to pick up 30 naked broilers in plastic bags. I don't know where those little yellow balls of fluff went...
And the plastic bags went into the freezer and we cooked them two at a time all Summer and early Fall.