Things have been busy on the homestead during the last month. We finished fencing paddock #1, got the barn ready and moved the horses over, and have 16 laying hens/pullets and 32 meat chickens in the garage in modified dog kennels that are working as intermediate spaces between the brooder and the coop/chicken tractor.
Our laying hens are growing so well and are each developing thier own little personalities. I am suspicious that we may have one rooster- one of the chicks is a little bit bigger, with more upright feathers, and he/she bullies the other hens a bit. I’m torn because I don’t want a rooster on the farm. If one or more turns out to be a cockerel and not a pullet, I’m not sure if he will become fried chicken, if I’ll rehome him, or if I’ll maybe try to neuter him and make him a pasture pet.
The laying hens are so much fun! The same can’t be said for the meat chickens, though. We have 32 of them and they are two weeks old this week. They are Cornish Cross chickens, which are the fastest growing production breed of chickens and the source of most of the meat that you see in the grocery store. They have been selectively bred so that they have all the desirable characteristics that make them great at eating, getting big quckly, and being easy to butcher.
And that’s about it. They don’t have good personalities, they’re very lazy, they can grow too fast and give themselves leg and organ problems. It is really, honestly, kind of sad- these chickens seem more like zombies than chickens, really.
So this is the last time that we will be raising cornish crosses, but not the last time we will be doing meat chickens. I’ve already ordered some Red Ranger chickens that will be here in late June (a few weeks after the cornish crosses are processed and gone). The red ranger is also a broiler breed, so they are faster than “heritage” or “dual purpose” bred chickens. They are a little bit slower growing than the cornish cross breed, but they are much more “chickeny” acting. They are more active and are better at foraging and grazing in the pasture. I’m excited to try this breed because I feel like they will have a better quality-of-life and will fit more into the overall picture of what we want on our homestead!