Thursday, January 30, 2014

We said goodbye to what started our homestead - "Henny" and "Penny"

Warning: We cull our old unproductive chickens (cull – kill), and this is a post about those chickens. They were loved and had a nice life – and a pretty awesome one this last summer. We eat meat, and we are happy to eat meat that also had a pretty darn good life. This is our style of homesteading and I know not everyone would do the same. That's okay.

Happy chickens.
Henny and Penny a.k.a. Ruby Red and Yarona
Two of our original laying hens were culled by Joel on Saturday. We got our first three laying hens in 2012 and they were already nearly 2 years old. Two of them were wonderful layers, the unproductive one (we guess Red) stayed to keep them company. We could feed three, and get two eggs a day, and that worked out okay with the organic feed we were getting. This summer they had a really awesome and relaxed life as we allowed them to free range entirely. They had stopped laying eggs (or hid what eggs they did lay), but as free range chickens, they didn’t eat any grain anymore and were generally a fun addition for everyone. They were allowed to roam free, get treats from Grammie and do whatever they wanted. They were the sweetest things and let Noah carry them all over the place. They were how Noah learned to be a chicken farmer.

Noah at his birthday party
The third chicken that we started with, Pheobe, died late in last summer. She had been having a hard time for a little while and was becoming very lazy. It wasn’t long after that behavior started, that she passed.

The decision to cull these two really came because our two old birds weren’t having a lovely life anymore; they weren’t laying eggs, and were making a mess. They wouldn’t roost anymore and preferred to sleep in the nesting boxes and hardly ever moved except for food and water, and then to return to maybe a new nesting box. This meant they pooped in all the boxes. Reaching into a dark nesting box never went well anymore. We also knew they were eating eggs every once in a while. Our style of homesteading is to think about the viability cost wise. And keeping unproductive chickens could work – if they were beneficial in some way and not nuisances. These two were great at pulling apart cow patties this year (which is very beneficial), and they ate hardly any grain, but they started hunkering down in undesirable places, and then this winter have been causing trouble. We wouldn’t be able to put them back out free range because of their bad habits of living in bad places.

It is sort of sad, I’ll admit. But it’s the way it is here. They were very much appreciated and loved. And I don’t feel bad that the chicken I’m going to eat with my family was a chicken that had a good life. I’d say Pheobe was quite miserable at the end of her life, and I’d much prefer the way these two had their life and went “to sleep” and then served our family one more time. You can bet that we will be grateful for those meals and won't take them for granted.

The way that we butcher our chickens, supposedly, is like the chicken just going to sleep. It’s a way to slaughter the animal which aims to make is as swift and painless as possible. I think I’ll just give you a link to a youtube if you want to know more:

This was only our second time butchering our own chickens. We learned with our friends’ broilers, then had our friends help us with our flock of heritage chickens that we raised for meat, and this time did the two on our own without any rented equipment or special tools. It went really smoothly.

Scalding water on the stove, cold water in the 5 gallon pail, and knives and cutting board on counter.

After plucking

Removing feet
So, we said goodbye to the animals that started our homesteading. But this inaugurated another part of our homesteading that we knew would come some day. We purchased the three chickens, already past their prime, knowing that they would probably stop laying in a year or two and would be our first culls on the homestead. It was “good” to know that we could both care for and actively enjoy our animals and also make the harder decisions that were in line with our personal homesteading views.

Thank you chickens. You really were the beginning of it all.

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  1. Stopping by from the farm link party and my non blogger blog. My mother lived on a farm so dealing with culling chickens is something shes used to. I get my fhomestead and cooking from scratch ways from her, but I still can't come to terms with chickens. When I first moved in with my husband he had about 15 chickens from his ex father-in-law. We raised those chickens and happily ate those eggs. Only once did we have to take a chicken to the butcher. It made me sad, but it made me even sadder when the ex FIL took those chickens away over a year later and sold them all. I had gotten pretty attached to them!

    1. That would be hard! Plus, it's also never easy for animals to be taken away when we weren't ready or prepared. :-( I enjoyed our chickens company, but somehow in a different farm animal way. Maybe it's because we prepared ourselves from the beginning? I went in with the mentality that I wanted to enjoy the chickens even if they would eventually be our meat.

  2. We have butchered one of ours but dogs took the rest. At least we know we can do it and plan to start again this spring.

    1. Oh wow. Yes, good to know you can, but so sad when they get taken at unexpected times like that!




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