62 Mail Order Chicks Later…

So, we’re raising 62 meat chickens.

After finishing up evening chores yesterday, I walked into our make-shift greenhouse (the room below our kitchen area where I’ve been nursing various seedlings) to find a whole new set of tender challenges. In a metal incubator set on the seeding table were 62 tiny chicks peeping and scuttling like 1st graders let out for recess after a week of rain. The owner purchased them online and they arrived during the day with only one chick DOA (a good turnout).

The chicks are Cornish crosses, so they’ll quickly lose that adorable yellow-fluff and transform into dirty white little monsters. Their legs will forever be too bulky for their bodies; their breasts will grow heavy and tip the pullets toward the ground. Cornish crosses are the meat industry standard: their modus operandi during their short lives is to eat – constantly and furiously – as they mature to processing weight within six to eight weeks. Past that? They die off by ten weeks.

Totally crazy, right? After working with both Heritage meat birds and some gorgeous layers, I’m a little apprehensive to work with these franken-chicks. Plus, this will be the first time I’m raising something solely for slaughter. I’ve been on most sides of the animal industry equation (distribution, retail, slaughterhouse, dairy), so I guess it’s about time that I take on the system as a whole.

{Beautiful and healthy layers, a far cry from a mature Cornish cross}

My newest venture notwithstanding, I’m definitely not eating meat anytime soon; I’m viewing these next eight weeks as an experiment in sustainable meat production. To begin, I picked up a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Until next time…


English Country Living

{the ladies}

Hiya, from England! The past two weeks have definitely been the more relaxed leg of our European journey; we’re doing much less of the whole-day sightseeing we did in France and instead more long strolls and bike rides through the English countryside. This is our  setting: sprawling fields scattered with sheep and cows; a converted cow barn which my family calls home; thatched roofs; pubs; and chickens. Four chickens, to be exact, who putter around my aunt’s garden squawking every so often to either 1. tell us she’s laid an egg, or 2. cry for help in fear of our family’s two black labs. Really the labs are harmless, and are actually a good line of defense against the ever so sly foxes that roam the area in search of an unsuspecting chicken.

{Meg, always a sweetie, mostly smelly}

Since we’re spending so much time just relaxing around the garden, I’ve made a significant dent in the first book on my “Books I Want to Read When I Actually Have Time to Read After Graduating College” – Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

Deep Economy is not exactly a beach-side page-turner. McKibben begins with the heard-it-all-before doomsday preaching about the imminent demise of man in his abuse of his environment, food system, economics, and fellow man. McKibben’s basic tenant: the developed Western world is based on hyper-individualism, where society promotes the furthering of the individual and the individual alone. Despite having more stuff and more “free-time,” members of the developed world are dissatisfied and unhappy in the deepest way imaginable. But it’s McKibben’s solutions that I find so valuable. He discusses the need for a return to localized economies, and a greater emphasis on community investment as opposed to the current fervor around individual investment and betterment, an idea that we all danced around in school but never really investigated. And the kicker? McKibben centers his argument around food. It’s a good read for anyone interested in another take on local food economies and communities.

On the lighter reading side, I’ve taken to flipping through my aunt’s old UK Country Living magazines. They’re my new guilty pleasure, perfect for a break from the more heavy stuff (because everyone needs to clear their minds once in a while). The magazine includes scenes from British country life, recipes, craft projects, floral guides, and just good ol’ country decorating aesthetics.

We’ll be home in three days time (after an overnight in Iceland on Thursday; they only get one hour of night this time of year!) In the meantime, we’ll keep eating classic English grub: meat pies & fish and chips (for Noah of course), jacket potatoes, cream teas, tea cakes, and room temperature bitter beer.