Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sad Facts of Self-Sufficiency

Notice the light colored comb on this three and a half month old hen. She is of course not laying.
Those of you who buy your meat wrapped in plastic don't often think of what came before. But, for those of us who try and raise much of what we eat, we have to face some brutal facts. We can't keep all the offspring of our livestock and some of those offspring just don't make the quality cut. Or in other words, some just don't have a better personality, better conformation, or better production than their parents. They just don't have the potential to produce more meat or milk whatever is their purpose and therefore do not move us forward in increasing the quality of our flocks and herds. And I'm using the words flocks and herds loosely since I personally don't have any herds and 12 setting hens is barely a flock but I do try and improve upon what I have. It is due in part because my dad drilled into my head that good stock eat no more than poor stock so why keep the poor ones that produce less and those that are a pain to deal with? He's right. There are good stock with wonderful personalities and you can become just as attached to them as those that would down grade your herd, flock etc.

This rancher's mentality is where the pet owners and the livestock raiser's divide. Just because you have a mare doesn't mean she should have a foal. Just because an animal has a sweet personality, should you keep her. That is what I was faced with this morning. I had a few month old hen that I just loved how she cackled but she was scrawny, stunted in size and was a Buff Orpington.

Now some of you would say what's wrong with having a Buff Orpington and I'd say nothing except they have performed extremely poorly for me. With our weather and our coop situation, they just have not laid during the coldest months of winter nor during the hottest months of summer therefore, I'm feeding a lot of food and getting barely anything in return. If you are a livestock owner, you have to think economics or if you have a budget like ours that doesn't leave you with lots of room to be soft you have to push mooshy feeling aside. So I'm forced to make decisions from my head and not my heart. Oh we keep Mildred who hasn't done a thing but she scrounges around for her supper and I supplement her foraging a little but her drain on our income is minute. And I can't afford many Mildreds so that cute cackling hen lost her head this morning along with all the rest of the Buff Orpingtons. Some were offspring from a Buff Orpington rooster and some were last years hens who proved that we weren't going to be raising any more of their breed.
The hen on the left is a fifteen month old hen who's obviously not laying and the one on the right is this years offspring.
This is a close up of that hen. Her comb is darker than the three month old but not of a deep enough shade that tells me she is laying. Here is Gerties to compare with ..and an Austrolorp hens who shows the deep red color of a good layer.
So what happened yesterday and today is six hens each day lost their heads, literally. I'm cooking them up and canning them for chicken noodle soup this winter. I always have a feeling of remorse when I do the dirty deed but it has to be done so I square my shoulders and "Get er done." as my son would say. And now that they are gone, I've a number of other potential replacement hens that I have to choose which will stay on through the winter and which will also loose their heads. I've narrowed it down partway this morning and I'll start tomorrow with eliminating some more roosters. Then I'll move on to the hens. There is a few hens with coloring that is eye appealing BUT I need to look them over more carefully since they not only have to look pretty, they have to have a straight breast bone, good strong legs and non crooked toes, and a good thick hen look with wide pin bones.
I think chickens have pin bones. Let me know if I'm wrong.
And not only are the hens going but Pedro got out this morning and had to be trailed home. It's a sure sign he's about ready for the cook pot also. It seems that when ever our hogs or our beef start destroying fence and getting out and just becoming destructive, they are of the age and size when they need to be put in the freezer. Maybe it is God's way of making it easier on us or maybe it's just his way with me for I become so annoyed with them as I repair fences and deal with their destructive behaviors that I just want them gone. Pedro has begun to push that button and he is filled out enough to butcher but we of course need some cooler temperatures to do the dirty deed.

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