Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why I Wait Until Autumn To Butcher Chickens

When I ordered my Cornish Rock meat chickens in August, I hoped to get them within a few days.  However, the company I order from, Ideal Poultry, wasn't able to ship them until September 11th.  I was o.k. with that.  On September 12, the post office called to let me know that my 25 chicks had arrived.  

Its always fun to get a box of peeping yellow cuties.  Fortunately, I lost only one chick in the shipping process, and the 24 chicks quickly grow into gangly, quite homely, little birds.

My chick set up is pretty simple.  I have two plastic kiddy pools that just fit into the garden shed side of my chicken coop.  I've used these same pools for many years.  I just clean them out, nest them, and stick them in the rafters when I'm not using them (this year, when I pulled them out of the rafters, I had a big mouse nest, with its stored seeds and lots of mouse poop, fall right on my head - I told the family to have me checked for hantavirus if I got sick!).  I start with one pool when yellow puffball chicks are tiny and can't jump well.  I like to use straw or hay in the bottom because it seems to give the chicks a more secure footing and prevents splayed legs.  

As the chicks grow, I put a chicken wire fence tightly around the outside of the pool to keep them from hopping out.  The fencing is just stiff enough that it doesn't need support.  Cornish Rock chicks grow fast.  I quickly find myself putting two pools side by side with the chicken wire wrapped around both and an opening between them.  I put in a rock or block as a step so that they can jump from pool to pool.  The heat lamp goes over one pool and their feeding/watering area is in the other.     

The chicks, when large enough, go out into the general chicken population.  I've read about Cornish Rocks who eat so much that they can't walk.  I've never had a problem with this because my chicks run around outside and in the coop, climb up ramps, peck at grass, chase after bugs, and, boy oh boy, do they eat and grow!  

The drizzly weather has everything muddy and bedraggled looking!

In six to eight weeks, around the end of October/beginning of Nov the chickens are large enough to butcher and this is when my reason for ordering chicks late in the year comes into play.  Its cool outside and my number one reason for ordering and butchering chickens late in the year.


I've ordered chickens earlier in the summer and then tried to butcher them in late summer.  I found that there's something about the smell of freshly butchered chicken that draws every fly from miles around.  Having a flies land on the meat as I butcher it, is simply disgusting.  By waiting until later in the year, after a few nice cold, insect-killing frosts, we can butcher our chickens without these vermin.    

This probably partially explains why, in the old days, autumn was "hog butchering time."  Now its chicken butchering time for me!  

1 comment:

  1. We tend to butcher chickens in the fall also, for the same reasons you stated. Although there's occasionally the year when I get a good deal on meat chicks and buy a few earlier in the season.