Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Ameraucanas and Black Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection, as well as some Olive Eggers just for fun.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Meaties Go Out to Play, and Even More New Chicks

It's been beautiful lately, if a bit windy. The plants in the cold frame are fully hardened off, so they spend the 40 degree nights snug in the cold frame, and the 75 degree days basking in the sun with the cold frame fully opened.

We have a new Mama Hen sitting on chicks, with her babies due to hatch from brown eggs in a week or so. She's the same breed as Mama Hen #1 that hatched chicks earlier this spring, and they look identical. If I didn't have numbered leg bands on them, there would be no way for me to tell them apart.

This is a new photo, I swear!

Mama Hen #1's babies are five weeks old this week, with most of their feathers. One day, she decided she'd had enough, and slept on a roost in the hen house that night instead of in the straw in the goat barn. Her chicks didn't follow her, and now they're running around outside and we can't catch them!

We also had 10 babies hatch in our incubator, most from white eggs and a few from green eggs. Every chick that hatched from a white egg is bright yellow, some with black spots, regardless of which rooster fertilized the egg. The color white in chickens is extremely dominant, so it doesn't matter what other color genetics the bird has, if one parent is white, the chick will probably be white as well. We do have a few cues as to parentage--if Blue was the father, the chicks have little feathers on their legs. If Billy is the father, they have pea combs and fluffy cheeks. And if Bruce was the father, they will have yellow legs. I'm very interested to see what color eggs they lay as they get older. I'm hoping that any with Billy the Ameraucana as a father will lay large sky-blue eggs.

Here's a photo of some of the new chicks (hatched May 1) with the Marans chicks I brought back from Meyer Hatchery on April 24th. The babies are about 10 days apart in age--what a difference 10 days makes! The older babies have wings and tails, while the new chicks are still balls of fluff.

The yellow peeps were hatched here, and the gray ones purchased from Meyer Hatchery.

The most excitement we had this week was letting the meat birds out to play. They don't go far, and they don't go fast, but they really like basking in the sun. We feel a lot better eating animals that had a chance to be animals before they are processed, and I hope these birds would also feel like they are having a nice life before they go.

Happy birds.

I'm not sure if you can see the difference between a laying hen (background) and these meat birds. One big difference is size--the meaties are six weeks old and weigh the same as a year-old hen. They'll probably outweigh most of the layers when they are processed at eight weeks old. The meat from these commercial broilers, also known as Cornish X, will be almost as tender as supermarket chicken because of the young age at which the birds are processed, but it will also be richer and more... chicken-y somehow. That's due the the fact that the birds have the opportunity to eat grass and bugs and stretch their legs more than they could in a modern poultry production facility.

Of course, they have lots of room to stretch their legs, but what they most want to do is eat! We have to remove their food dishes overnight or they will eat so much and grow so fast that they will outgrow their legs and hurt themselves. Believe it or not, there is a food dish in the following photo:

There really is a feed pan in this photo.
The photo also gives you another good size comparison--the Cornish X are the white birds, and the red birds are Easter Egger cockerels that will be processed at around 14 weeks of age. The white birds in this picture are three weeks YOUNGER than the colored birds. Although there are a lot of good things to be said for heritage dual-purpose birds, the Cornish X will be ready for processing sooner, will be far more tender, and will taste better than the dual-purpose cockerels raised in the same pen.

That's it for this week! I think I hear the weeds in the flower beds calling my name...