Saturday, April 5, 2008

An Order of Chicks with a Side of Conviction, Please

So. You may or may not be aware that you can order day old chicks by mail. But you can. And what an experience it is! At Murray Macmurray Hatcheries, the on-line order form is quite menu-like. You can choose from this variety or that, each with a lovely picture and breed description. You then add and switch and substitute according to availability. If you order 24 chicks, there's a surprise in store: an exotic variety of mystery rooster. (Last time we did this, we ended up with Archie the Golden Laced Wyandotte demon rooster.)

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to justify buying meat at the supermarket. We don't eat a lot of it, but even the once a week chicken breast or ground beef is feeling very wrong to me. I don't like supporting factory agriculture and cruel practices and I can't afford to buy all our meat from the local co-op. The ground ram in our freezer only goes so far. So this year, we are trying something new; we are raising some meat variety chicks and also some turkeys. With any luck, the 16 meat chickens (all hopefully identical and unnamed) and 15 turkeys will keep us in dinners for most of the year. We also plan to buy our beef from Wheel View Farm, a local and more humane option, and eat one or two of our own lambs this year. It is another big step on the farming and self-sustaining continuum.

I know it won't be easy to, um, "process" all this poultry and there will be more than a little soul-searching and foot-dragging along the way. But it seems right anyhow. Store-bought poultry, is "processed" too, and treated much less humanely, injected with who knows what and just plain all-around miserable.

You may recall we'd considered buying a couple of feeder pigs this year, but this step will have to wait. We don't feel quite ready to plunge into pigs. At least not this year. (And anyway, you can't order them online!)

Anyway, it is great fun to go through the Murray Macmurray online catalogue and choose a little of this variety and a little of that. The frustration comes when you get to the "check out" and find that this breed is out until May while that breed is not available until May and so on. You switch the order around and suddenly, THIS variety is no longer available, etc. etc. Before you know it, ordering the dang chicks has taken up a whole morning. And you've ended up with a whole different assortment.

So here it is, the Maggie's Farm 2008 Chicken order:

16 cornish and cornishX rock meat chickens

Plus a variety of interesting egg and dual purpose females: red leghorns, anconas, buff minorcas, speckled sussex, golden campines, salmon faveroles, buttercups, partridge rocks, and black austrolops.
The names alone are wonderful, aren't they?

The chicks will arrive in mid May. And to be sure, we'll put some pictures up.


Anonymous said...

Perri --

You're right, killing day takes some mind work, to bend yourself to accept the necessity of doing something yourself in order to keep it humane and healthy. If you can come to balance the matter in your heart, you can have the best of fresh food, the best lives for the animals who will become your food, and the best understanding of how we feed ourselves as a society. When my niece asks how we can do this (raise our animals, and then slaughter them ("harvest" can be a kinder word if you need one)), I tell her the animals on our place have good lives, and then one day, it's over, but they do not have the concept of mortality that we do. They live in the moment, and the moment they suffer, as commercially grown animals do, is a lifetime for them. Also, if these wonderful breeds are to survive, they must have a place in economy. Without killing day, there can be no future for them. You can manage this. Bringing the farm to the table is not a single act, it's a way of life.


P said...


Thanks so much for your encouragement. You've responded so eloquently and with such honesty and truth. It SHOULD be difficult to "harvest" one's livestock and a challenge to do it without all the misgivings, hemming, hawing and procrastination we are sometimes prone to when faced with such a difficult task.

Your niece's comments are a lot like those of my students, who are sometimes appalled by the thought of my taking part in the slaughter and eating of farm animals, and I have spent a lot of time thinking through this issue and readying myself for this next step. Your comments are really helpful.

Thank you,

Christy said...

I can't wait to order chicks! And yeah, I'm not looking forward to processing them, but I will do what I need to do.