You big chicken

I just wanted to update everyone on my chickens.

A little over a week ago, my husband got the main structure of my coop built.  The “frills” aren’t put on it yet, but it functions and my chickens can sleep in it at night and be safe.

My 19 week old chickens had been sleeping in a “mini coop” on our porch for quite a while, so they were used to the concept of walking up a ramp into a coop for the night.  I was just worried they wouldn’t go into the new coop, that it would take them a while to realize that was their new “bed”.  The reason I was worried was b/c we had turned their mini coop 90 degrees one day, and it took them over a week to go into it again.  In the mean time, we had to pick them up and put them in by hand.

With the new coop, we put them in by hand the first night.  Boy, was I surprised when at bedtime the next night, I went to take them out of their old coop and into the new one…they were already in the new coop!!  OMG I was SO proud!  I told them “You’re so smart!!”  lol  I was so happy!!  They go into it on their own every night now, and when it is too hot out they even go in it to cool down.  I’m impressed!

I’m really irritated, though.  After my post about butchering our chicken named Goose, I got a lot of flack over it.  A lot of people felt bad for the chicken or were upset that I killed him, especially since he had a name and a personality.  Here’s a little reality check for you.  Most of you buy chicken from the store that comes in that cute little package all wrapped up in plastic film, and usually has a cute cartoon character or a snazzy slogan and printed with pretty colors on the front, and so do I.

Where do you think that comes from?  Most people completely disassociate what they eat with where it comes from.  That chicken started out as a breathing, living creature the same as our chickens.  Just like the beef you eat started out as a breathing, living cow, and the pork you eat started out as a pig.  The difference is, our chickens aren’t pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and who knows what else, and aren’t crammed together with barely any breathing room like mass production birds are.  Just b/c some of our animals have names doesn’t mean that they are any different from the animals that produced the food you eat.

I am a HUGE lover of animals.  Almost anyone who knows me will tell you that.  I will even catch bugs and put them outside instead of kill them.  I am not as heartless as some people seem to imply that I am.  But.  We moved here to become more self-sufficient and to grow our own food.  That includes meat.  The easiest meat for us to grow on our own at this point is chicken.

Our chickens are not pets, they are livestock.  I know a lot of people may have a hard time differentiating between a pet and a food source, but just b/c these animals were purposed raised to be food, doesn’t mean that we need to ignore or neglect them.  When they are alive we treat them with respect, we care for them, and when it comes time to butcher them for their intended purpose (meat) we do it as quickly, as painlessly, and as humanely as we can.

God blessed us with these animals to provide nutrients for our bodies, and we thank him and the animals before every kill.  We show these animals as much respect as we can and we use every part of the chicken, minus the feathers and the parts of the intestines that could be toxic to our pets.  If we don’t eat it, the other animals do.  A lot of the parts from our chickens are helping to keep the stray cats that we take of strong and healthy.

I am a city girl who has been transplanted to the country.  This is a learning experience for myself, as well as for my entire family, but this is something we are re-learning as humans.  What we do when it comes to raising and butchering our own meat is what everyone did 100 years ago and no one thought twice about it.

Now…my 13 week old chickens.  *sigh*  Well, up until the coop was finished they had been free ranging during the day but we had been putting them in a brooder in my husband’s shop at night.  In the evening, they would hunker down on top of our chicken tractor (which is where our youngest chickens hang out during the day) and once it got dark we would carry them to the shop.

We moved them into the coop the first night after dark when the older chickens were asleep to reduce any possible bickering since they have never slept in the same area before.  We weren’t as lucky with them the next night, though.  Every night, no matter that they came out of the coop in the morning, they still sat on the tractor at night.

Finally, my brilliant husband came up with the idea of moving the tractor closer and closer to the coop each day.  Normally the tractor is on the opposite side of the house, so we can see it and keep an eye on the babies.  I was anticipating it taking almost a week.  The first night we moved it, they moved with it.  The next night, we tried moving it further to cut down the transition time.

Then instead…we decided to move the tractor with the chickens ON it over to the coop.  I thought they would fly off, but they actually stayed on it.  They were all scared of the ramp and wouldn’t walk up it, so we still had to put them into the coop by hand.

The next evening, we were outside doing something, and we looked over and they were standing on the ramp!  Then they started going into the coop by themselves!!  I started chanting “Go chickens, go chickens!”  They all went in on their own, and every night since have done the same.  That went faster than I thought it would.  It only took them a week, and a little help and from us, to figure it out.

The “babies” are doing great.  They are 11 weeks old, but getting so big.  They are still much smaller than our oldest chickens, so it isn’t safe for them to free range with them.  Every time they are out together, one of the big ones (set for slaughter soon) attacks them.  The medium chickens could care less about them.  I can only let them out to free range safely if they are closely supervised (as in, we have to stand RIGHT next to them to fight off the big aggressive chicken).  Tonight, though, the big chickens decided to go to bed early so I let the babies out and they had a good hour and a half to free range safely.

Cricket is one of them.  She is really the only one of the chickens that is actually a pet.  She is a Silver Laced Polish Crested, and is the one that had to live in our house with us as a tiny chick.  The other two chicks we got with her died so she would cuddle in my hair and sleep on my shoulder behind my ear until we could get her some company.  We found three chicks that happened to hatch on the exact same day.  They all got along immediately and have been great friends since.

Tonight Cricket came over and started chirping really loud at my feet.  I picked her up and she immediately nuzzled up in my arms, tucking her head into my chest.  She is such a sweet bird, and I love her.  She follows me around the yard, stands on my feet, and sits in my lap.  I hope that since our next batch of birds will be tiny chicks like she was, that they will be friendly and approachable like she is.

I’ll take and add some pictures tomorrow.  They are all getting so big!!

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