Warm Apples and Oatmeal, Not For You, For the Chickens.

Our almost 3 week old Red Rock Chick. Her feathers are coming in and you can start to see colour,, a change from the all black she was when we got her at less than 24 hours old..

When the weather is nice, I put most of my attention on outdoor tasks. There is always a small voice whispering to me; “When will you get to the dishes piling up, the closet that needs cleaned out, the planning that needs to be done?”.

With our Alberta weather, it’s usually not long before I am back indoors and can hush my anxieties with getting back to work inside.

Today I woke up to cooler weather and wind, a day that is fine to work outside but not as enjoyable.

Still fine clothes hanging weather.

I went out to take care of our 6 Red Rock chicks that are almost three weeks old. In our five years of being here, these are our fourth group of babies to join the homestead.

It’s been quite a journey.

This is our first time having Red Rock Cross Chickens. They are a combination of Barred Rock hens with Rhode Island Red cockerels. They are considered good layers. I have also read they can be aggressive with other breeds so this could be interesting.

I was 23 when I decided I wanted chickens. I was working as a Massage Therapist in London, Ontario and one of my clients would chat to me about her chickens. She lived just outside of London and had a few chickens that she adored.

Every morning she brought them out their breakfast, oatmeal and apples.

Holding onto that vision, 16 years in the making, I would bring home our first chickens. With in one month of us moving in, the girls and I picked up 6 baby chicks.

We brought them home to surprise everyone.

Our first animals added to the homestead.

I hadn’t thought it all through but knew we could handle 6 baby chicks, surely. So, they stayed in our on suite bath tub until we had a proper coop set up.

It sounds crazy and it was!! We were not even close to being fully moved in yet and here were these little “chirpers” in our bathroom.

We purchased a cute little chicken coop, put it together, mostly in the house, and then had it ready for the baby chicks once they were four weeks old. We still needed a heat lamp in their with them for 2 more weeks but they did great.

When we moved here, I was looking for adventure, something different and I definitely got it.

It turned out, out of the six cute, little, baby chicks, four of them were ROOSTERS. Let me repeat that, four of the six chicks were roosters. This was not how I had it planned. We wanted eggs.

Collecting eggs!!! Fresh eggs are delicious. We also sell our eggs, it has mostly been the kids business but this year we are hoping to sell more eggs and so I will be more involved.

As the chicks got older we had to decide what to do. We couldn’t keep four roosters.

The plan was to kill and butcher three of them. I told myself, this would be a great experience for all of us. Dave hunts but the only animal I had killed to eat was fish. I thought this would be good for the kids and I to connect with where are food comes from and understand that for us to eat meat an animal dies.

You are probably thinking…..how can I go from the dream of caring for chickens and hand feeding them oatmeal and apples to chopping off their heads and freezing them for food?!

Exactly!!

Anyway, the day we had planned to do away with our three extra roosters was cold and windy. Dave had everything set up and we encouraged the kids to be involved.

Before we got out of the house I broke down in tears. This was going to be much tougher than I had imagined.

We were able to experience the death of the roosters. It is true, chickens do run around with their heads cut off for some time.

We all helped out with plucking the feathers. Dave, who is used to gutting and cleaning up animals, took us through it and we all learned the anatomy of a rooster. In the freezer they went.

It was quite the experience.

Honestly, it took a while for me to cook one of the roosters, and no one seemed to mind.

I learned a lot that day. I felt proud that, as uncomfortable as it was, I experienced the reality of what it means to be a meat eater. I have never felt so grateful and yet so sad.

It left we with a lot of questions and some of those questions I have answered and some stay unanswered for now.

The one understanding that I did have that was very clear to me was that I cannot care for animals and then kill them.

From that day on, we have only taken animals home that we know we can care for as long as we need to. Our chickens are for laying only and we enjoy them so much.

The one rooster we did keep turned out to be the meanest rooster EVER. That is an entire blog post of it’s own.

He is over five years old. We have given him the simplest of names, Rooster. Just the other day as I was giving him water he pecked me hard on the finger. Part of the adventure, I guess.

He still gets the oatmeal and apples.

We have six more baby chicks coming at the end of June which will give us twelve laying hens. A dozen eggs a day for our egg selling business.

Lots more chicken stories to come.

Here is Rooster before he became really mean. Now he has an outdoor pen. The hens free range part time and stay in their outdoor pen part time.