Monday, 6 June 2016

New Birds - Self Sufficient In ... Eggs and Chicken


This is another in a series of posts about what we are, or are on our way to being, Self Sufficient In  ...

Saturday evening after tea we went to pick up four new birds to add to our now slightly diminished chicken flock.  With this year's natural deaths we were down to just sixteen birds, one cockerel, Jack and his fifteen wives, a couple of which are now barely laying due to their age.  

We don't cull our birds when they have stopped laying at the moment. but we have discussed this long and hard and from now on most of the birds we buy will be dual purpose to give Lovely Hubby a few chickens a year as home reared meat.


With this in mind we set out to purchase four Light Sussex hens which are large dual purpose hens exactly as we need.
(both these photos are from Google Images, I will photograph ours soon)


But then I got tempted by the Calder Rangers ... aren't they just a glorious colour, so we got two of each.

We are just in the process of setting up a schedule of buying four birds, once or twice a year to bring fresh laying capability into the flock and ease out the sparser laying older girls.  I have to grit my teeth and go along with this as it makes much more financial sense and will seem a bit easier to me than rearing a whole flock of birds separately that will all go to meat after a few months.  We also do not currently have the space to keep two flocks on the go at once as they couldn't live together, birds being bred purely for meat are on different food to those that are egg layers.

I sat and worked out our entire chicken keeping journey in financial terms the other day to see for myself how 'self-sufficient' we actually are in eggs, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that including our purchases of the five hen houses we have had over our lifetime of chicken keeping, adding back in the proceeds from the sale of two of them, the cost of the birds, the food, the vet bills for Daisy and all the other paraphernalia involved in hen keeping we come out nicely in the black .... just!!  It helped to balance the figures when we had our large flock of rescued free-rangers, and sold masses of eggs to regular customers at Lovely Hubby's workplace and also at the Farmers Markets we had monthly stalls at and the regular car boot sales in between markets.

Now we sell a lot fewer eggs but there was enough in the chicken kitty to buy the new girls and pay for feed for the next couple of months ... and of course there are eggs here still waiting to be sold.

So I can hand on heart say we are Self sufficient in eggs ... and one day, hopefully we will be self sufficient in chicken meat*.  

Sue xx

* Chicken meat will be supplemented by Lovely Hubby culling the rabbits on our hillside ... it's supposed to taste pretty similar, or so I've been reliably informed by the man himself, so he will use this in lots more of the dishes he currently uses chicken in.



19 comments:

  1. I couldn't do that in a million years (eat my chickens). Must be hard for you being a vegetarian to go down that route - but I know that's what it's all about for you - "self sufficiency". Can't you tell your husband meat's off the menu!!? Regards, Louise S, Cheshire.

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    1. I could try ... but doubt after a few weeks that I would have a husband .... Lol ;-)

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  2. I am a meat eater but I can't eat any that I have seen alive. Went fishing once and couldn't eat the fish after my dh cleaned them. Someone gave me deer meat once, couldn't eat that. I guess I need my food from a store to eat it. I would be a non-meat eater too if I had chickens. My dh wouldn't have any problems though. It will be hard but you are a couple and you seem very happy and I agree we have to sometimes do things for our partner. Cheryl

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  3. We have four layers and sell a box or so a week at work. It subsidises the feed. I'm not sure we'll end up totally covering it though.

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  4. As an ex-vegetarian (of 25 years) who now only eats free range meat, I think you're right with the dual purpose flocks.

    We culled our 2 drakes last week (bought as unsexed ducklings last autumn) because I'd finally had enough of them. There's no gentlemanly behaviour, or managing the flock like a good cockerel does, they just terrorised the girls, to the extent that two ducks spent most of the day hiding in the shed, and ate.
    Discovering one of the girls had a prolapse made me realise it was her or them and a friend came round to show us how to dispatch them. It was ok, not as bad as I expected and I did the rest of the preparation. They're in the oven as I type, to be served with roast potatoes and rhubarb sauce. I've been made to promise to make any leftovers into Chinese pancake rolls :)

    I'd do it again, and I do like knowing how the animal has been kept and what it's been fed.

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  5. I THINK I could eat any meat I had raised because I like the idea that it has had a happy life, but I've never done it so I'm not sure. I might struggle with dispatching though. Mr D swears blind he wouldn't be able to eat anything he'd cared for though so I'm unlikely to put any of it to the test!

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  6. Yes, it can be a bit distressing at first, but the aim is self-sufficiency in table birds as well as eggs. Free-range table chickens will be a big plus on the budget as well.

    Inescapable fact that if you eat meat something has to die, but home slaughter is the best way to ensure a quick and humane end.

    Wild rabbits are also very good, a free and self-perpetuating source of meat. Similar to farmed rabbit, but with a slightly different taste, depending on what they feed on.

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  7. THe chickens being "eased out" will escape in a flying coup, like in "Chicken Run"

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    1. Hehe .... I could help them escape couldn't I ;-)

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  8. As long as dispatch is Quick is our motto here

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  9. I like the idea of eating the wild rabbits - in theory a good renewable resource. How will the rabbits be culled - shooting, trapping, or what?

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    1. Always shooting. A nice clean shot is the only way, I really do not approve of traps in any shape or form.

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  10. My Dad used to go shooting rabbits when I was a child. We had a lot of rabbit, and pigeon, when I was growing up. Shooting the rabbits on the hill sounds a good idea. Lovely free range meat for DH and less predation on your crops for you. Or do the tunnels keep predators out?

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    1. We have ringed the Veggie Patch area, which contains the tunnels, with chicken wire on the bottom third of the stock fence and skirted outwards to stop digging and it seems to be keeping most of them out. However we had one brave bunny this week who came under the gate but he was chased off by the dogs, Mavis would have caught him but she couldn't squeeze herself through the bars of the gate quick enough so he had a head start!!

      I do have a couple of mice in the polytunnel at the moment, damn things have eaten all my pea and bean shoots :-(

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  11. I love the idea of the Sussex hens being dual purpose and I will look into that. For now, we have gotten us fifteen broilers.
    Not much of a fan of broiler 'breeding' as it seems so unethical. Sigh.
    xxx...x

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    1. At least you know the life (and death) that they have had and they will be despatched in a much nicer fashion if you do it at home. Chicken processing plants are terrible places, I think if people saw what went on in them there would be a lot less chicken eaten in this country.

      So you're not in the least unethical in my eyes, you're doing it as it should be done by those that are able to do it for themselves.

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  12. I must admit that my layers are off limits as of now. I think they've done their job by giving me eggs and deserve their retirement. But, considering the usual life length of a laying hen that isn't knocked off at 18moths like commercial ones, is about four years, since they are not bred for longevity, I'm not so sure it would be bad to be dispatched quickly as possible at say, three. I think my Black Australorps are bred to be killed at two. I've had some hens get a lot older than that but sooner or later I still have to make the decision to send them to chook heaven, and by then, since they are sick, their bodies are not safe to eat.

    Also I hate buying laying hens from the laying hen industry which kills the boys at hatching. I would like to go totally heritage and eat my home-raised roosters and stay right out of that industry. I must say, having had roosters come and go, my hens seem to prefer their current man-free lifestyle, so they might not agree!

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