A Foray Further into Self-sufficiency

October 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here we are, mid October, and no-one is broody. Or looking like even thinking about it! Very frustrating. Even Poppy, who used to go broody every 33-38 eggs as regularly as clockwork, is laying and clucking and showing no inclination to turn into the Fluff Monster. I bok-bok at her, and say ‘Broody? Broody Poppy?’, but she just goes and has a scritch somewhere else.

So we’ve taken the slightly unusual step of organising to get some day-old meat chicks from Heslip’s Hatcheries in a little over a month. In the past we’ve just relied on hatching cockerels to bop for meat, but this time, we’ll raise some Cobb hybrid birds ourselves, and see what they’re like under our conditions. Yes, Cobb are the Frankenchicken hybrids, but this is a strain that Heslips raise specifically for free ranging, so they take eight to ten weeks to grow to slaughter weight. (Which still seems awfully fast, but there you go. Better than the four to five weeks of modern intensively-reared birds.)

It will be interesting to see. We’ll start them in a brooder inside (yet to be built – we’ve ordered a lamp kit from Fionna) and then shift them out to the Combine when they’re feathered up enough, and tractor them around the back paddock. They won’t be completely free ranging, any more than our girls are, but they’ll be outside, with room to run and grass to eat and dirt to scritch in. The plan is to monitor them as closely as possible – track things like how much food they eat, how fast they grow, how fast they fledge and so on. Maybe work out for ourselves the economics of raising them for meat. We’ll try and take photos every day or couple of days too, so you guys can watch as well.

The hatch date is November 22nd, so if one of our girls did go broody in time (before November 1st), we could, in theory, have a direct comparison of meat hybrids raised (initially) indoors versus heritage breeds raised outdoors.

Either way, it shall be an interesting experience.

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