Friday, January 25, 2013

Hurry! Hurry, Murray McMurray!

(had a bad case of insomnia last night which brought on an anxiety attack this morning, so I decided to stay home from work since I am pretty much worthless at work today. Gives me a chance to work on the blog!)

My chicks are on order from Murray McMurrays Hatchery and should be here the first week of February!

I've ordered the Meat-N-Egg Combo. This is a combination of 15 meat birds and 10 egg-layers. It was the best deal, in my opinion, for what I wanted; enough meat birds to last me several months and then the egg-layers to last a couple of years!  Yes, yes, I know that that is over the amount allowed in the city, but since the meat birds will be culled at 7 to 10 weeks. I am justifying this decision.

I have been slowly culling the birds I currently have, a couple every week in order to make room for the chicks on order. The boyfriend is more attached to the birds and I don't make him help me. Once the chicks come, I get the feeling he will be out in the coop cuddling baby birds every chance he gets.

There was an online discussion recently concerning culling (killing and butchering) versus giving the birds away. I am personally of the culling ilk and I have been called a chicken murderer on a regular basis. I feel that all you are doing by giving the birds to someone else is shuffling the responsibility to another person, potentially a kind-hearted person who does not necessarily realize that the birds will not lay regularly. They will then either have to decide to cull the birds themselves, give them to another kind-hearted person who will then have to make those decisions or let them loose, which is illegal.

I tend to believe that if you are going to go into keeping chickens you need to consider what you are going to do with them once their egg production slows to the point that it is not economically feasible to keep feeding them. If you want pet chickens, then you need to know that birds can live upwards of 7 to 8 years and only lay eggs regularly during the first couple of years. Like most female animals, chickens have a finite number of eggs they can produce.

Chickens are also extremely territorial and adding chicks and hens to a flock can be a traumatic experience, full of maimings and fights to establish pecking order. Chicks might be killed outright be older hens if introduced directly to a flock and will be constantly beat up if introduce when older, which may subside or it may not.

If you are fine with this and just want a pet chicken, then go with them. Chickens do make wonderful pets. They can be sweet if properly socialized, just like any pet. They are smart and can be trained. They are funny and can provide hours of entertainment. They have personalities. But they do have relatively long lives.

But if you just want them specifically for their eggs, you need to consider your plans for them when they are no longer laying as often as they once had. You get approximately two good years of regular laying, after that it tapers off significantly each year. If you plan on giving them away, ask the person taking them what their future plans are for the birds. Or if you are interested in learning how to cull the birds, there are classes available on how to dispatch your birds humanely and quickly, and to butcher them for your meal.

There is a class coming up in February through the Seattle Farm Co-op. Contact them for information on this.