Saturday, June 2, 2012

We are chick crazy

Java Heritage chickens on the threatened list
I swore a few weeks ago when we finally moved our new chicks outside that I would never buy baby chicks again. So much work with heat lamps and a big cardboard box in our already cramped house. 
Then I started reading and doing research on heritage meat birds.  I love the idea of eating less meat, but higher quality.  I have heard that nothing compares to fresh heritage chicken.   And unlike today's meat birds which are bred to mature so fast they frequently can't even hold up their body weight, the Heritage breeds are quite  a bit slower growing so they have time to develop strong skeletal structure and organs.  In order to be Heritage birds they have to be born of natural mating parents and be of hearty stock. Lastly they have to be from stock recognized by the American Poultry Association prior to the mid 20th century.  
Unfortunately with the industrialization of our food, these beautiful birds are dying out.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservatory has placed many of these breeds on the endangered list. 


For the last couple of weeks, I tried to find local breeders on-line but couldn't.  The best I could do was have them shipped cross country,  in groups of 25.  I was leery about shipping that far and the most I can have is 2 more birds to add to our flock. 
I love the idea of raising my own meat animals, giving them a happy life then having them make their way to our dinner table.  Part of me thinks this is so natural and sustainable, but part of me wants to go back to being a vegetarian when I see those little balls of fluff. 

This morning I dragged the kids to the Denver Urban Homesteader's Farmer's Market chicken swap meet to see if any vendors had Heritage meat birds.  The kids were vowing they would not be party to the butchering poor innocent chickens.  They kept calling me mean and insensitive to want to kill and eat a chicken.
I began lecturing them about the conditions of the meat sold in the grocery stores, (with the exception of Whole Foods) and how this was a way to ensure humane treatment of our food, all the while having my own doubts.  I called them hippocrits; they eat meat and don't care that it has died as long as they didn't have anything to do with the butchering. When we saw the chicks I secretly vowed that my husband would have to do the butchering.
We found a woman selling a variety of 3 day old Heritage chicks.  She had older 7 week chicks that would have fit right in with the 4 we have now, but they were not meat nor Heritage breeds.

With the kids begging, I purchased 2 chicks (I wish I had 3, I think 2 chicks feel more insecure) and hope that the time flies by and that soon we can be rid of the heating lamps and cardboard-box-in-the-house and start introducing them to the flock.  Of course they are simply adorable. We have one Java mottled and one Delaware, both on the endangered list.


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