First up i thought i would introduce all the farm animals as they will be playing a crucial role in our blog. Today i decided to start with the chickens as they were the first animals on the scene. As there are three groups of chickens to introduce, it will only be a brief introduction for all three and at a later date i will write a separate post about each group because after all, each of them have starring roles and one post about them will just not do! 😉
Soon after we were married Kel and i decided that we wanted to acquire some chickens so we could harvest our own eggs. This was to reduce costs as we only work part time and are on a tight budget as well as the fact that we wanted to give two chickens a very happy life and also to know what was going into our eggs. Also take note here, Kel is a BIG animal lover. He wanted (no, needed) to have some animals so we thought we’d start with some hens that would not only be pets but be paying their way as well so to speak.
December 2011, enter Betty and Martha:
We bought Betty and Martha from a local breeder at the Candelo Markets (near where we live). They were about 16 weeks old when we got them and so they weren’t laying yet. They got a roomy coop all to themselves and from morning to night were let out to wander and scratch around our garden. Kel hand fed them to tame them and sure enough every morning when we would let them out they would squat for us to pick them up for a cuddle.
Unfortunately it has been almost two years now and Betty still hasn’t laid an egg (and no, she isn’t a rooster). We love her as a pet (although sometimes she can be naughty and fly over the fence into the vegetable gardens) so we wouldn’t get rid of her. She does have some health problems – she is a messy pooer and so is susceptible to mite attacks which we have to keep an eye on.
Since we were only getting one egg a day out of our hens and i like to bake…
April 2013, enter Pearl, Dot and Bertha:
Wanting more eggs meant we needed more hens however this time we’d been made aware of the NSW Hen Rescue. They rescue hens from battery cage egg production who are about to be slaughtered because they are “too old” and their egg production has decreased (they were less than eighteen months old when we rescued ours) and re-home them. Not only do you save a poor hen’s life, you are rewarded with watching them experience things like sunlight and grass for the first time in their short lives. And what do you know? They are so happy in their new homes, having so much room and ground to scratch that their egg production increases. I could go on and on about rescue hens however i think that i will leave that for another post.
Now at this point we aren’t eating chicken at home at all. We don’t feel comfortable buying chicken from the local butcher and definitely not from the supermarket. It’s not just about the horrendous treatment of the chickens, it’s also what is going into them. Even with free-range chickens, their feed can be being supplemented with medicated pellets. Organic chicken is alright, however that doesn’t guarantee they aren’t being brought up ethically. I guess free range organic would be the way to go however i don’t think anything beats rearing your own chickens for meat if you have the opportunity to.
May 2103, enter 50 Cent, Norma and Wanda:
We’ve mentioned it in our Sustainable Living page about how most chicken whether it’s organic, free range, both or neither are mostly all commercial meat broilers. They are bred specifically to be full grown by 8 weeks and their breast meat is so enlarged they can’t survive much past that. The meat is quite bland, however consistent, which is what the industry seems to want.
We didn’t want to support the commercial meat broiler industry as that isn’t a very nice life for the chickens. Instead we decided to go for a multipurpose heritage breed (they are good for meat and eggs, for example Martha is NOT a meat bird, you wouldn’t even get much of a soup out of her). We decided on Australorps. Now, to get the size of them into proportion for you, here is a picture of our Australorp Rooster, 50 Cent (who is still a very young rooster – he’s not even full grown yet) and our smallest bird, Martha the Isa Brown:
I can easily tuck Martha under my arm whether big, ole’ 50 Cent requires both my arms holding him like a baby. We are currently collecting the eggs from Norma and Wanda and incubating them – it’s been almost three weeks now so stay posted for the hatching of the baby chicks!
Having fresh, free range and chemical free eggs are great. They taste amazing, and you know you’re not being pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals. You also know that the hen who produced that egg is living a great life.
I am very much looking forward to tasting our home grown chicken that we have bred, raised and culled ourselves. I think that if you choose to eat meat, what we are doing is the best possible way you can.
NSW Hen Rescue Website: http://www.henrescue.org/
NSW Hen Rescue Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NSWHenRescue