Monday, December 19, 2011

Dual Purpose Breed

I got a dual purpose breed of chicken for one reason: I was planning on eating them.  In hindsight, I really should have gotten a bunch of different breeds like my friend, Paula. She had 5 chickens and each of them lays a different coloured egg. This is a good way to get into raising chickens because you can learn first hand which is the right breed for you and you can tell which hen is laying which egg based on the egg colour which helps you weed out poor layers. Also, it's just fun seeing the different markings and temperaments displayed by chickens. They really do have distinct personalities.

I really enjoy my Speckled Sussex hens. They laid well last winter, they're docile, and they're very attractive birds. The only downside is that they're huge. I mean, they are ginormous birds. Which translates into a very low egg:feed ratio.  I think I'd like to try a couple of different breeds and choose one that I really like before I get a rooster of the selected breed.

Initially, I wanted to get all the same breed for a couple of reasons. The first is that I didn't want to be able to tell my hens apart.  My three rules for killing an animal are that one must never anthropomorphize,  name, or otherwise know said animal on a personal level. Secondly, I was hoping to get a rooster of the same breed as my hens and then get chicks every year. I'd raise the pullets for egg production and eat the cockerels when they were big enough to be processed.

I figured I would have no problems killing my chickens. I'm not a particularly squeamish person.  I step on mice, I kill spiders with my bare hands,  I had a job harvesting organs from lab rats. But for some reason the thought of killing my birds makes me terribly sad. They get so excited to see me ( rule #1: out the window) and they have such distinct personalities that it's hard not to be able to tell them apart. For example: Mean Chicken jumps at me every time I bring treats into the coop for them.  (And there go rules 2 and 3)

So at this point I'm attached to 4 huge chickens who AREN'T LAYING EGGS!

They molted in the late fall and since then, I've gotten maybe 5 eggs from them.  Practically speaking, they need to go.  Now I have 2 options that I can see if I want to switch breeds.

Plan A:  Since it's a bad idea to stick new chickens in the same coop with your established flock, I'd need to build a second coop, get new pullets, and then let my old hens free-range until they die of old age or get eaten by a coyote. The latter will probably come first. I call this the "Let Nature Take It's Course" plan.

Plan B: Find a sharp knife and slaughter my hens.  I call this the "Man Up" plan.

So that is my dilemma. Suggestions are welcome.


  1. Manning up leads to a more delicious end! Why should the Coyotes get the benefit of all your feed.

  2. I know I could never slaughter my own birds if/when we get some. However, I'm told that you can bring them to a butcher and, for a small fee, get back your perfectly packaged, air chilled chickens identical to the ones in the grocery store. Eating your birds might be easier if you're not involved in the slaughtering process.

    In your position I would be tempted to start a new flock rather than building a second coop. You could use what you've learned about the breeds you've kept so far to select breeds that work better for you.

    And you're braver than I! Both Jeff and I run screaming from even the littlest spider, and we'd be more inclined to keep a mouse as a pet than step on it. We were very tempted to keep a wild vole that got itself trapped in our pool, but common sense won out and we let him go in the forest.

  3. That's hilarious. I wonder what your cats would've thought of a pet vole! I like this idea of just hiring someone to process the birds. I'll have to look into how much they charge. Thanks Julia!

  4. hahahahahahaha.....I'll believe it when I see it! I've seen you talk about your "girls". Face it, it's too late....they ARE pets! Now if you built the second much smaller coop, they would only have to be there until they are the same size as the other's, then they could go back to the communal group leaving the smaller coop for the next batch of young 'uns. Oh and you may be getting your er...chicken before the egg....I bet come Spring, they'll be giving you close to 5 eggs a day! Hey and you can only EAT a butchered chicken once! lol Oh and you can always forego the Rooster route and buy an incubator and really have fun hatching your own chicks. The sources for purchasing some very special fertile eggs by mailorder are VERY tempting. BUT BEWARE.....hatching chicks is very addictive. Oh and when you have a willing hen, as in "gone broody", you can always slip a "mail order egg" under her! Boy are the next few months going to be fun here on this blog!!! I can't wait!!!