Early this morning, I received a call from our local post office informing me that my chicks had arrived. I rode home with the stinky box above and opened it to find the cute balls of fluff below.
I’ve been getting McMurray Hatchery catalogs since I was a little girl but have never ordered from the company. I was pleasantly surprised to find my entire order alive and quite alert, if a little disoriented from their overnight trip from Michigan to Alabama.
A day old White Leghorn
I ordered twenty-five male White Leghorns, a breed that is supposedly ideal for butchering because of their white feathers, light skin, and early maturity. We decided not to order hybrid breeds like Cornish Rocks this year because they tend not to reproduce very well. We’ll keep a couple of males to breed with our hens (we will be getting a few more soon from a neighbor). Hopefully, we won’t have to invest in more birds unless we are super impressed with the Leghorns and decide to get a few more next year.
I also ordered an assortment of fifteen male heavy breeds. Looks like we got two turkens, two with feathers on their feet, and at least three other breeds. These should also be ideal for butchering and one or two will be lucky enough to hang around as the king of the coop for a few years.
This sickly looking fellow is actually just fine. He’s a turken, otherwise known as a “naked neck.”
The Leghorns were $1.11 each and the heavies were $1.27. Including shipping, we invested $62.00 in this project. We’ll see how much these guys (I figured males would be easier to kill when they all begin to crow simultaneously) eat, but I’m estimating that we’ll spend around $100.00 on feed between now and the time they’ll be ready to process. No only will our homegrown chicken be healthier, it will also be a little cheaper than even the sketchy-looking Tyson birds at the grocery store. We’re also building a new, larger pen but are using almost exclusively scrap materials, so it’s only going to cost us around $40.00.
So, why are we going through all this trouble, stench, and nastiness for something we can buy at the Winn Dixie two miles down the road? First, these chickens will be fed quality grain scratch from the local co-op, scraps from my kitchen, garden odds and ends, and whatever bugs and acorns they find. Secondly, they’ll receive no antibiotics, steroids, or other medications. They’ll have happy lives, probably be semi-smothered by my niece and nephew, and enjoy plenty of sunshine this spring. Sometime around June, they’ll be killed humanely and processed by my husband, me, and some friends then frozen whole in ICE bags. I’ll be grateful for healthy food for myself as I nurse our new baby and homemade nuggets when our little babe is old enough.