Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Free Range Chickens
When I was 12 years old I visited the farm of an aunt and cousins with my mom and step Father for Thanksgiving. We were anticipating a great chicken dinner with all the trimmings when my aunt announced that she needed someone to go out and collect the eggs and I volunteered. After lots of instructions I took off for the barn to complete my mission. Little did I realize that there were 3 barns and missed the description about the barn the chickens were in that are laying the eggs. The first barn had a couple of hogs and sheep in it but no chickens. The second had chickens in it opening out into the barnyard. The 3rd barn had several shelves in it with compartments on them. Most of them had chickens in them. Several were empty with 1 – 3 eggs on the straw nest.
This was the first time I ever saw a chicken coup with real live chickens and eggs under most everyone there. I had 4 pockets in my jeans, 2 in my shirt and two in my jacket. I started loading eggs into each pocket. I tried yelling at the chickens but they did not run away daring me to take their eggs. I got pecked and flapped by their wings as they tried to back me off. I had 28 eggs in my pockets and 3 in each hand when I ran out of places to stick them. I started back to the house to unload my bounty.
About half way back to the house I felt something wet against my leg and then the other one. Something was wrong! By the time I reached the door – my shoes seemed to be getting water-logged. I gave the eggs in my hands to my aunt and then went for the eggs in my jacket pockets – all but one in each pocket had broken and everything was very gooey! Needless to say that this event followed me all through my life through several generations of family until today.
Next came the final preparation for the dinner – harvesting the chickens. I had no idea what was to follow. My aunt grabbed a rooster by the neck and chopped its head off so fast I didn’t realize it had happened. As soon as she released the chicken’s neck it began running around the yard spewing blood all around until it collapsed. This was followed by another headless chicken running around. Nothing like anything else I had ever seen. Very traumatic for sure!
During out 3rd year in our country home my wife suggested we try raising our own chickens. Immediately the vision of those chickens running around the yard with their heads off came to mind. Not for me! My wife talked me into it and we ordered chicks from McMurray Hatcheries to arrive in a month and began constructing the free range cage for them. It was amazing! The chicks came into our post office very tiny chicks and within 7 short weeks they grew to over 6 pounds. We could see them get larger and larger day by day. All they did was eat drink and poop. In the last couple of weeks they had a very difficult time walking more than 3 or 4 steps and had to sit down to rest.
We took them to a processor who killed, defeathered, and slaughtered them and put them in vacuum packs ready for the freezer. Not at all like I saw at the farm. No chickens running around with their heads off. Those chickens tasted great!
We have produced 50 chickens every year since. We also now have layers in laying cages that produce fresh eggs daily. Nothing like this farm life! Who would have ever dreamed those words would ever come out of my mouth?
Ralph Taylor - Guest Blogger