YESTERDAY I took a few hours off from the farm to go and have lunch with a friend. I don’t do this often as you know and I never know what I am going to be dealing with on my return. I left the Poppy’s big door open to the weather so she did not get stir crazy, put on clean clothes and left the farm.
But all was well. On my return, the worst Poppy had done was upend her water all over her courtyard. But it was warmer, the babies did not mind getting wet feet. Inside the barn was still dry and their creep was still warm and cosy.
To my relief, they were just as shiny and fat and funny when I got home as when i left. Even fatter probably – they grow very fast.
The wind has started to blow which is a good sign. We have three days of warm weather ahead of us before we drop back down into the cold. And I am going to make the most of it. Once the chicks come it will be busy again for a while.
I called to discuss the ducklings and the cold weather with Murray McMurray the hatchery and the woman seemed unperturbed about them travelling in next weeks cold. (As long as the Post Office does as it should, she said, deftly passing the buck). She did ask me if I wanted to reschedule but that would result in a hatch of ducklings that they may not be able to resell. And we all know what happens to chicks that do not sell. I know we don’t want to think about it but what do you think happens to all those rooster chicks from a hatch when we only order the females as layers. Unless we are vegans we are all part of that cycle. They do their best to place the extra chicks – the other hatchery I buy from is Ideal Poultry and I have had them call me on occasion trying to place a cancelled hatch. They try not to have to euthanise but the truth is not everything they hatch sells, the males in the laying world do not have the same demand, and my cancelling would add to that problem. My chicks are already started and I don’t think it is ethical for me to simply change my mind because of the weather. I have decided to let the chicks and ducklings be sent out in the post and we will hope for the best.
For the record both my orders are for female birds.
At the very least by next week we will be back above freezing (I hope) when they are travelling. And I will set up nice warm areas for the chicks to grow in when they make it through.
I hope I have not ruined your morning – but there is one thing you know from reading this blog and that is that we do not flinch from the truth here. And in the Lounge of Comments everyone has a space to discuss these issues without raised voices or recriminations. So do feel free to join the discussion.
There are times in life when the knowledge of something sad or unfair is enough. We face it and know it and let that knowledge be. Some things are unchangeable. Some things are sad. Some things stink. But there you are. Own it. We need to use the pragmatic sides of our brains and deal with it. Roosters do not lay eggs, for instance. So they are less valuable. That is just how it is. Some things we must accept if we are to keep eating omelettes.
I do hope you find some loveliness in your day.
Thursday 04/12 0% / 0 in
A mix of clouds and sun. Gusty winds diminishing during the afternoon. High 74F. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph.
Thursday Night 04/12 10% / 0 in
Partly cloudy early followed by cloudy skies overnight. Low 58F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph.
6:18 am 7:29 pm
Waning Crescent, 14% visible 4:50 am 4:01 pm
As you say, unless we are strict vegans then we have no right to criticize. Life just goes on.
Yes – and even if we chose to be vegan it does not give us the right to judge either – there is so many choices if you can afford it. We do the best we can and life goes on! Absolutely right. c
Not many people can afford to feed and raise male chicks whose only possible function long term would be eating bugs and scratching out weeds. It’s a harsh reality of raising all animal food, not just poultry, and I think you have the balance right between economics and ethics. We can love your baby piggies, and wish we could cuddle them, but it’s important for us to remember your animals are not pets, they are dollars on the hoof. Entitled to respect, care and mindfulness, but their well fed and cared for lives have one aim.
Yes – and aren’t they cute at this age!! c
I am amazed by the image of the baby next to Poppy’s snout. They are really tiny wee things, aren’t they? And their mamma is really yuuuuuge as our Pres. would say. Goodness. I shouldn’t let him influence my lounge comments in any way. Take that bag. She’s enormous.
Enormous yes – She does look rather long next to those babies – who are growing fast!
One of the things I live about reading your blog every morning is that it keeps me connected to the food cycle. When you don’t live on the farm, it is so easy to get into the mindset that food comes from the grocery store in neatly wrapped packages. If more people were more connected to the reality of the whole thing I think we would have less waste.
The pictures of the piglets are adorable! And tell your peacock that he is mighty impressive. He seems like he might be looking for some attention. 🙂
I agree about the waste – facing your food puts a whole new perspective on left overs.
One way to deal with the males is to surgically caponize them. Many years ago my husband and I caponized 300 birds and sold them. Once you get the hang of it, it goes quite fast! Not many people know what a capon is anymore. Big fat juicy bird.
Yes. And you must have had a good market for them too – well done
I was thinking of mentioning that too …and of course they could be raised for coq au vin – it doesn’t need to be made with a stringy old rooster.
I just can’t see the hatcheries raising roosters for a market – I think they rather hope someone else will buy the chicks and do that. As it iss there are just too many leftover chicks each week for them to hold onto. And they hatch to order! Once the chicks get to a farm it is another discussion altogether.c
They ought to give them to good customers – providing they want them of course.
I was just thinking about that myself, I recall my mother saying their wedding meal was capons (some 70 yrs ago!)
I do hope that you had an enjoyable lunch date..its good to see friends now and then for a good conflab… Yes it has to be accepted that busines is business and as you say..sometimes we may not like the way things are done or the reason for doing them but when its your business then logic gives way to softie hearts…. Its a fact of life… Have a great day…the sun is out and the sky is blue here in BG…lots of love. Me
A softie heart could never work at a hatchery I think.. c
In my townie ignorance I thought the male chicks would likely be fattened for meat. Is that not the case?
If they are a meat bird breed they will be fed out if someone buys them of course. but many of these breeds are layers – these are very different birds to meat breeds. – some are dual purpose but once again this depends entirely on the market. Many chicks are not sold so will be euthanized and used in dog food etc. It is an unfortunate result of commercial hatcheries
I believe some of our chicken production plants deliver unwanted chicks to our zoo for feed for the smaller Cats and snakes. By the way we have a new farmer at our market on Wednesdays and yesterday he had huge (organic farm) chickens. Most of the people asked why he was selling turkey so early. They were all over 2kgs and had plump yellow skin. Some of the chickens that were under 2kgs had been deboned and rolled with interesting fillings. He had cooked one and was offering free samples, the meat was delicious and tender. I still remember the day you went to the post office to collect bees and cleared the place 🙂 Laura
Hi Laura! Do you know if his chickens were Cornish Crosses? They get quite big, with really large breasts. We have raised them, but it’s hard to watch them try to move their large bodies about. They seem mutant like, but the meat was quite good.
I will ask next week.
The rolled roasts sound tasty – i think i would have to bring one of those home.
Tane is looking a bit thin. I hope he is well. Those little piglets are learning to dump the water at an early age.
Hi Kim! I was thinking that Tane was looking a little thin too, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m thinking that as with people, the thinner you are, the more lithe and limber and easier to move around it is. Hope that’s the case with Tane!
I was thinking much the same, especially when we see Tima in comparison.
Agreed, he’s looking very thin – and the other day I was wondering if WaiWai might have been trying to help keep him warm…
Tane has always been this way – since his back went out – he has been a lot worse this winter but is doing better lately. Keeping him moving in the biggest problem so he has no muscle tone. I feed him twice what the others get and he is keeping his weight on at least. c
We order cockerels only for meat, layers we order pullets.
Yes – we can only do our best- it would be better if the meat birds were the layers then it would work out so much better. There are some like that. I tried it last year but by the time I got the roosters to any size they are as tough as oldboots
We order cockerels only for meat birds, pullets only for layers. When the layers are done with laying, we breast them out like grouse – waste not want not. I can or freeze the meat. Sometimes I get a yen for a layer variety that they don’t sex and we roll the dice on how many will be roosters. We keep a few aside for ‘yard candy’ and process the others like we do the old layers. Even dual purpose breeds don’t produce a lot of meat.
Sounds like you jhave a very good system – I have a freezer full of birds waiting to be eaten – so i am not growing any meat birds this year. c
So curious to see how the duck operation goes! We have always had ducks, at first to provide food, but we became so attached to them that it never happened. We are getting ten Muscovies in June, as predators took all but one this past winter. They have always been free range, but we are now building a safe enclosure where they will go at night, and then can free range during the day.
I’ve heard that Muscovys are great bug hunters: )
I am hoping to also put them to bed at night – it will be interesting to see how my plans evolve when they hit reality!!
I had three ducks to start and was surprised that they put themselves to bed every night. They are also much easier to ‘herd’ than chickens!
If we end up with some roosters, we try to fatten them and harvest by six-months of age. After that time, they’re not great eating. Another story, I once stopped at the farm store and a woman was yelling at the female manager about a chick that some kid had rendered lame due to mishandling. After assuring the woman that she’d remove it to their “injured” area in the back and care for it. The woman left and the manager turned to me (I’m a regular there so we see each other often) and said, “Are people that dumb to think we have a hospital area back there? Doesn’t she realize we can’t keep those chicks? I can’t do the deed myself but I have guys that can. I almost feel like I should have told her the truth.” There are, unfortunately, a lot of folks who don’t want to hear the reality of a lot of things.
An escape for a bit of lunch with a friend is often difficult to manage, but often is just the diversion we need in the day or week. I’m glad you didn’t return to some kind of catastrophe! Of course you would have dealt with that too… it’s life.
I have a whole bunch of “not great eating” in the freezer. We have some wonderful soups though and broth. c
If you are a farmer of animals or reading about them, you must take pragmatism along as a companion. That’s life. In and out. I’m happy you enjoyed your lunch with a friend. Those things are as important as everything else. Piglets are just beautiful.
Yes – I feel nourished after a day in the city – just stretching out and walking from the station to the restaurant is a treat let alone the wonderful company.. c
My mother and grandmother really liked a nice big capon for dinner. Pity they don’t really bother with them anymore. I know a lot of people may not even know what a capon is. It would nice to have them available again.
I saw plenty when I was in Italy last! c
We should have them here.
Those little pigs are quite brave (nosey) already.
I took care of some male birds for a friends a few years ago, who kept chicken in their back garden and they were becoming noisy. They were about 6 months old, so not huge, but they’d had a diet of organic food and whatever they could peck from the soil – they were the best tasting chicken I’ve ever eaten!
I think I remember that – yes younger the better i think – did you make a stew? c
I roasted the first one and it was amazing – extremely tender. I did a coq au vin with one of the others.
Cute little piglets 🙂
They are a very cute litter. c
I just read an interesting book- The Ethical Carnivore: My Year of Killing to Eat, by Louise Gray. She decides to eat only meat she kills herself for one year, and then she goes through the process of everything from cattle to crickets. Some hunting, some visiting of abattoirs, etc. She is British so it’s slightly different than here, but she was good about mentioning US practices. Anyway – worth a read – and even though I am very conscious of our meat-eating decisions, and buy only ethically-raised-and-butchered meat, it still made me think more deeply about how much we should be eating. It also made me wonder what I would eat if I had to actually kill it and dress it.
Anyway. Food for thought.
Not the same, but CA is having a longish winter too – cold this morning. By cold I mean low 40’s. 🙂 Tomatoes and peppers are waiting patiently in the greenhouse.
I agree that we all eat TOO MUCH of everything – we have such plenty.. c
We raised straight run Cornish Rock chickens for years~ butchered the males first as they reached size first, then the females. That way we weren’t overwhelmed with sooo many chickens to butcher all at once. They were free ranged and were very lively. And delicious!
Yes – it is really worth it.. I will only eat my own chicken. c
Reading this post brings back memories of growing up on the farm. My parents always got chicks in the Spring. White chickens, no idea the breed, white leghorns maybe. When the roosters reached a certain size we had meals of the tastiest fried chicken and some would be butchered and canned (we did not have electricity till I was 12 or so). I plucked a lot of chickens and learned to cut them up like a pro. SO much better than what you find on supermarket shelves these days.
The old codger raised and ate Leghorns too – mine are getting to a good age now and are still laying great big while eggs.
Since this is a place where stark reality is accepted: I live in SD and we are about to have a huge winter storm with 5 to 14 inches of snow across the state and howling blizzard winds. Needless to say, the cattle herds are full of the tiniest new calves, and I was wondering last night (storm starts tonight) how many will die. It’s sad, but it is a reality of ranching that the weather can create a cruel environment for the newborns. Even the adults will not be safe since they apparently drift in front of the wind and can end up against the fences and then suffocate.
Oh dear- that is a worry. We try our best to time these things but the weather has other ideas. Good luck
We can only educate ourselves and then do our best (each of us uniquely) to be responsible. Thank you for the many things I learn from this site – the blog & comments. When I read a few days ago about the loss of a piglet it was hard to imagine a head so large or heavy that the baby would get “caught” under it and not be able to wiggle free. I can kind of see that in today’s photos.
Her head is VERY heavy. An aggressive pig with hit you with the side of her head and she can pack a wallop!
YAY! Yesterday must have been ‘National Lunch With A Friend’ day!! We went out for Persian food – kabobs and one of their delicious salads! Hope you had as much fun as we did! Came home to the mountains to a horrendous wind/rain storm! Made berrocks and slaw for dinner in our snuggly house. HA! Mr. Flowers looks to be on the wooing path for the beautiful round peahen! Probably out to woo any one of the girls of the opposite sex in his breed of bird! Have a wonderful day, Miss C.!
He is quite the show off – I am glad you have a lovely lunch – so did I – it is a rare occurrence for me so I am always thankful
Even though I grew up spending a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm there is so much I have learned from reading your blog. I never even thought about what happened to male chicks, so thank you for the reality check. Those darling piglets are just about the size of Poppy’s snout! xx
Ah, roosters. I woke up Too Early this morning, and chickens were one of the things going through my head. I have a hen who goes unstoppably broody each spring, and a friend who might be looking to start a new flock this summer. So it could be a perfect scenario — let my hen hatch out a new flock for her. But even if it’s only 50/50 male/female, that’s a problem. I’d be more than happy to feed a bachelor flock in return for bug-eating, IF they wouldn’t harass my hens. So then I think of our neighbor who dreams of having his own butcher shop and would no doubt put extra roosters to good use on his table. But while I completely respect what you do, there’s a reason *I* haven’t gotten into animal husbandry… It’s a pickle.
There’s a doctor I listen to once in a while who was a vegan for about 23 years. One day she could not get out of bed. She started eating bacon, liver, etc…and her energy returned. She also references the hard core vegans and vegetarians of the 60s and 70s, pointing out how the ones who stuck to their strict diets are dead and the ones who went back to eating animal products once in a while are still alive.
Reality is we need a variety of foods to stay healthy.
When I picked out my ducks myself, before I grabbed them and stuck them in the store box, I said I want two females and one male, and that’s what I got! It has worked out great. I have often wondered what the point in having a drake was because, like you say, they don’t lay eggs. But after a year of watching my backyard ducks it is clear to me the males do serve a purpose. My drake is the protector of his girls. He keeps an eye on them, the sky and everything that’s going on around them so they can eat freely and forage without constantly having to look out for themselves. He warns them with his raspy quack when they need to pay attention and he generally keeps them herded together at all times. When one of them is scared or flips out over something, he comes to their rescue.
All this to say, I realize your goal is egg production, but if you do end up with a wrongly sexed duckling, don’t despair. Your drake will certainly have a purpose and will be in heaven with all those girls to flirt with. And he’ll come in very handy if you ever decide to hatch your own ducklings.