Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slow Food.

As recently as five years ago, the thought of raising my own food (other than gardening) would have seemed completely alien to me.  Even when I started raising chickens, about 12 years ago, they were for egg production only.  Everyone had a name and when one succumbed to SCUDS (sudden chicken unexplained death syndrome) I would tearfully dig a hole and bury her in the back yard.  When I moved to this small homestead and decided to become as self-sustaining as I could manage, I began to look at how and what I ate, what resources I had and started raising chickens for meat.  These chicks, pictured above, are slow-growing red and slow-growing white roasters.  (And, yes, that's a washing machine dial in the background.  Don't ask.)  I had to reconcile that these cute, downy chicks were future entrees.  As hard as it was in the beginning, after tasting the difference between store-bought chicken and home-raised chicken, I was a convert.  As long as I continue to eat chicken, I will continue to raise my own.  I do not, however, process my own chickens.  That's a line over which I have not been able to step.  I use a fellow about an hour away who has a family-run, humane poultry processing business and I am entertained by his many children while the processing takes place.  My other forays into raising my own non-plant food has not always been successful.  Last year's quail experiment resulted in weeks of interrupted sleep (male quail are LOUD and LOUD at all hours of the night), this year's turkey experiment was also a bomb (my breeding pair turned out to be two males who were LOUD and LOUD constantly), my Guinea Forest Hogs (Ethel and Kate) were too cute and smart to be food, I lost Ethel to an aneurysm and Kate went off to help repopulate the breed in Virginia, and the ducks - Puff's surprise hatch of 10, mostly male offspring (who were LOUD.  Constantly.)  I'm seeing a pattern here - you, too?  Now, I happen to eat duck, turkey and pork.  Quail?  Not so much.  So my turkeys are in the freezer, I 'raise' a pig cooperatively with friends, and I'm going to try ducks again - this time with a Muscovy hen and a Pekin drake.  I'm hoping the ducklings inherit their mother's Muscovy quiet trait.


  1. I say kudos to you for your attempts! I guess that's the only way any of us learn what works for us. Trial and error . . . and trying again.

    We've never raised birds strictly for meat (although I sure wouldn't mind having a nice, young fryer again someday) so maybe that's something we should think about. We just have lots of flavorful chicken meat in the freezer from our old hens who eventually make their way to the stew pot.

  2. I have stewing chickens, too. I find it fulfilling that nothing is wasted - chickens are marvelous that way. They entertain, sustain and never complain!