My head is spinning!

TMI (too much information)!  So many things to think about and to analyze.

The more and more I watch those Cornish X chickens the more I realize I don’t want to contribute to their popularity.  As a woman I wrote to yesterday said, “the best way to preserve a heritage breed is to eat it.”  She’s 100 percent right and in order to eat it, you need to raise it so raise it I will!  Somebody has to.

I lined up a junior Silver Fox buck whom I’ll pick up on Tuesday.  Hopefully the single Silver Fox kit that is now with a Californian/New Zealand X doe (who is on the cull list) survives and is a doe.  I went through the Creme kits that I had left and brought the three does into the rabbit barn.  There’s two purebred Cremes and one Creme/New Zealand X.  I’ll breed them all back to a Creme buck.  Yes, the Cremes grow slower than the commercial rabbits, but they are heritage breed rabbits and I’ll wait for them to grow out.  My feed bill is not too bad for the rabbits, especially when I supplement their feed with what I forage on the farm.  I can’t wait for the Kudzu to come in.

Today, between raindrops I’m going to move the Cornish X chicks up to the duck pen and install them in there.  They herd pretty well, especially if I offer them food.  If I let them, they’d eat 24/7.  I’ve called growing rabbits Piranhas, but these creatures bring new definition to the term.  A couple of them have exploding butt syndrome, so-called Ascites, common in broiler chickens which usually ends in death from heart failure.  It’s basically hypertension.  Do I want to eat birds prone to hypertension?  Wake up people, the chicken you buy in the grocery stores and yes, at the farmers market are these same birds.  Maybe starting them differently would make a difference, but quite frankly, I don’t want to put any more money in the pockets of the companies that developed the genetics behind these birds.  They’ve become very friendly and I’m giving them the best life that I can; they are really lucky birds that they ended up here, but I can’t turn away from what they are.

Decision made: I’m going to get some Delaware chickens and raise them up.  Next year, I’ll get a batch of New Hampshire Reds.  The two breeds cross well.  I’ll keep the hens as layers, culling them when they are close to two years old as stew birds. Both Delaware and New Hampshire Reds will sit so I can start to raise my own birds: birds that survive here, on this farm.  That’s the ultimate goal with all of the animals.

Great ideals, huh?  I’ve got three rabbits well past the fryer stage that I haven’t processed yet.  Why?  Because by the time Wally gets home from work, the last thing I want to do is process rabbits.  He’s going to stop at Wal-Mart on the way home and get an air pistol so I can dispatch the rabbits (hopefully!).  He hits in them in the head, which is probably effective, but I think it would be a lot more humane to use the air pistol.  If I can do the deed, I can process them when it works for me, i.e. when I’m finished milking.  We talked about his doing them early this morning, but they’d be hanging too long waiting for me to finish milking.

Milking: I decided to sell two does: two that I have great difficulty milking.  There is nothing wrong with them, it’s that their udders are difficult for me to milk with my sore hand.  Going forward, I’m only keeping does that I can milk out easily.  No sense in putting more wear and tear on my hands than I need to.

We decided last night to not raise pigs this year.  We simply are not set up to raise them.  I can buy pork from Rock House Farm.  Soon, I’ll get another calf to raise up.  I may see if Gwen will adopt it and stop milking her.  I’ll miss her milk, but she’s to the point where she’s not giving enough milk to justify milking her.  She’ll probably pick up when the grass comes in.  I didn’t milk her last night.

It’s hard to think about it because I just do it, but the process of milking ten goats (I really only milk eight, but I run ten through the milk parlor) and a cow, caring for the chicks, chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc. is a tremendous amount of work.  I often think that I am not doing much during the day, but hell, that’s a shitload of work.

It’s time to go and milk.

Until later …

2 Replies to “My head is spinning!”

  1. The other thing to consider when it comes to heritage breeds, is the importance of breeding up. Any birds you get from a hatchery will be “adequate” specimen. However, to raise a heritage breed for meat, it’s important to understand you are embarking on a process. The first year, they may not dress out the size you’d like, but if you select a breed that has a meat based standard, you can breed those birds to increase their size over time. It may take 3-4 years to get them to the size they are meant to be. That is okay, because each year they are meat in the freezer, but there is more to raising heritage breeds that just the breed. To do well by them, it’s important to learn how to breed/select well, so you can improve them over time.

    Another suggestion is to find good stock and pay the most for it that you can afford to pay. By this I mean find a good breeder, who has good quality birds. Spending more per chick from a good breeder, in the long run, will save you years of breeding. If you order from a standard hatchery, you get the base bird, sometimes a bird that is just a shadow of what it can be. This isn’t because hatcheries are bad. It’s probably safe to say that without them, we probably would have already lost important genetic diversity for many wonderful breeds, that would have rendered them extinct, however, a large hatchery does not have the ability to focus on breed improvement like a breeder with only 1 or 2 breeds can. Connect with the APA (American Poultry Association) and find a breeder that is doing the breed you want, well. They probably started with stock from other breeders and hatcheries, but the years they already put into the breed makes their chicks further along in their development towards being a strong bird again.

    If you need to go through a hatchery, Sand Hill Preservation is a better than average outfit. They have a focus on preservation and seem to have, in general, higher quality stock than some of the other hatcheries.

    Wherever you procure your stock, it will be important to look at the birds as a starting place, and know that you may not be super impressed with size and meat growth for your first year to two, but if you breed well, you will see an improvement each year!

    The ALBC has a great set of documents available on their site that explain how to select heritage birds for meat production. It’s very helpful.

  2. Hi Amy,

    WOW! Thanks for your thoughts. I did not think of that; my head has stopped spinning! I just got off the phone with a man in SC who has 70 Delawares that he got from McMurray and he said he wasn’t happy with the genetics. He’s sourcing out better breeding stock and will share this information with me. I’m going through a similar issue with my heritage rabbits and what you just said makes me realize I need to keep the rabbits that grow off the fastest on what I feed them and put those back in my program.

Comments are closed.