To market, to market, to buy a…chicken?

I love going to our local feed store. I never thought I’d say that about a feed store, but I also never thought I’d be blogging about farming either, and here I am.

When we moved to the area we didn’t know anyone until Little Miss started school and we got to know the other families in her class.  Thank God for birthday parties that year or I’d still be wondering what parents went along with what kid.  After soccer or the beach or something like that one day, one of those parents that we met through school introduced us to this little corner store where he said you could get ice cream cones for a really good price.  Bonus!  I don’t do well in the heat so any time we can get in the air conditioned car and go get ice cream that won’t break the bank I’m game for that.  And so this became our go to ice cream place.  After a while I started to look around more and more and I realized that this “little corner store” was anything but.  They had something for everyone and that’s exactly who you’d see there…everyone.  They had coffee and snacks, groceries, clothing, jewellery, farm and hardware supplies, souvenirs, books, ammunition, bulletin boards with community events, etc.  I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of stuff but I’d be here all day listing it all.

Of course they have their feed section too. Not being a country girl I equated the Purina sign out front with dog food and thought that was all they carried until another school friend told me about their animal feed section.  What??? Animal feed???  From the corner store???  Yup, from the corner store.   They carry all sorts of different feeds for lots of different farmers around and the owners have been farmers themselves so they can talk about most every animal on the go.   When it’s not busy in the store it’s not unusual, like this morning, to stand around the cash register chatting about how well the new feed is selling and what others are saying about it, or discussing different bedding materials that we’ve used, or where to get piglets this year.

Something else I learned about getting from the feed store in the spring was chicks. Again, who would have known?  Not a girl from a small mining town, that’s for sure.   For now our meat chickens will come from our feed store.  They have a supplier that gives them an estimate of hatch dates and number of chickens they expect.  After the orders are placed we just have to wait for the call.  *Hatching birds isn’t an exact science, but like having a human baby, you have a window of expectation.  Chickens are normally a 21 day hatch so we know an approximate date that they should be hatching and are ready a few days before or after that.*  When we do get the call it’s so exciting and we can hear the chicks peeping in the background…hundreds of them.

After all that, my trip in there this morning was to order our chicks for the season.  I have a plan to raise dual purpose birds, meat and eggs, but that plan got weigh laid when we had to dispatch one of our aggressive roosters (I’ll post about roosters another time and give the rest of that story).

We’ve decided to do three batches of 12 meat birds this summer. Other summer we’ve tried to doing larger batches and have come across two main problems:

  • The first is that it’s a lot more work. They need more food, more water, more attention, more cleaning, more time.  More birds also means more processing time at the end.  An entire day spent processing chickens is exhausting!
  • The second reason I’d like to do smaller batches is so that they have more space in the bird house.  We’ve done several batches of different sizes and the smaller bird house (where the meat birds will live) is more suited to 12 or less birds.  We want them to have good lives and part of that means having room to be comfortable inside, and space outside to do what chickens love to do.

In the past we’ve always lost some of our meat birds.  Some of them as chicks, and some of them as full grown or almost full grown birds.  We’ve been pretty lucky actually and have come through each season with most of the birds we started out with.  That being said, I’m hoping that by the end of October we will have processed and packaged at least 30 chickens for the freezer.

So now I’ve got about 6 weeks to make sure all of our waterers and feeders are clean and ready and that the heat lamp is working well.  There is some controversy with using heat lamps and that will be another blog post later on as well.  For now we still use ours and are using every precaution with it.

It’s raining here and blowing a gale but I hope wherever you are it’s better weather and that you’re having a beautiful day.


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