We are raising chicks again this year. These Black Giants are destined for the freezer, not the nesting box, in about 5 months. As chickies they are still in the cute phase. Make no mistakes: they quickly grow out of it into miniature dinosaurs devouring everything in sight, me included if I sat still long enough.
Why meat birds? Because grocery store chickens are immorally raised: they are bred to put on weight so fast their bones can break, they probably never see the sunlight and they are fed crap like arsenic. Crap that accumulates in their bodies that we then eat. The typical factory-farmed chicken breeding has so dissociated it from every aspect of chickenness that they will literally die of thirst rather than walk 10′ to find water. Should the bloated beasties make it to slaughter, the factory processing is even more scary, a system where 25% of chicken parts testing positive for salmonella is considered normal. To quote Joel Salatin, “Folks, this ain’t normal.”
It might not be normal for a girl raised in suburban SoCal to grow up slaughtering her own chickens, but that’s what has to be done. I can’t buy the chicken meat that matches my values. Our birds are a sturdier farmstead breed that hasn’t forgotten how to take care of itself. They will take longer to raise to table weight, 20-24 weeks instead of 6-8. They will cost a little more in feed even though they will be soon be out foraging for greens, seeds and bugs. In exchange for being well cared for, they will contribute fertility back to the ranch. Right up until their very last moments, they will live good lives on our pasture. Their dispatch will be swift and merciful and with gratitude. And then they will be delicious.
I should be so lucky to live and die like that.