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Chicken culling

Posted by --- on Tuesday 27 October, 2009

Let me start by saying that in this text I will describe the killing of a chicken. If you are likely to find it upsetting, please don’t read it.

I killed a chicken today.

I know I’ve said since we started keeping these chickens that the idea was to raise them in a nice environment and cull the roosters we raised for meat. I also know that we have kept them to the best of our ability and that they’ve had a far better life than most chickens that end up in the shops but when it came to killing one, I found it very hard. I’ve never deliberately killed anything in my life – except slugs. This chicken wasn’t for the table but I think it had a neurological problem.  Not long after we bought these  2 week old chicks we noticed this one had a twisted beak but left it as it seemed to be doing ok. At 5 months old it isn’t doing so well.  DDJ had named him beaky (yes it was  a rooster too) and it’s the only one she said she liked which  made it harder as I had to face her. I watched him today when he fell over yet again and struggled to get up out of the mud. The only thing holding him up most of the time was the netting around the run. He fell over a lot, he got knocked over a lot, he got trampled a lot and he  found it hard to get back up. He also found it difficult to drink as his beak was so twisted and the water kept pouring back out of the sides.

After watching him today, I set my mind to dispatch him later this evening and to light a garden fire and cremate him; DFS said that he wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t showing 100% health and even though I was convinced it wouldn’t be transferable to humans, I wouldn’t risk it with my kids either.

I waited until it was dusk to light the fire and only DFS knew what I was doing. I fetched the chicken from out of the coop while he was asleep and tried to use the broomstick method. I found it awkward. When I held him and put his neck under the pole and tried to get my feet on each end of the pole, I kept losing my balance as I was frightened of squashing his neck and hurting him so was leaning my weight back. I know I was about to kill him but I wanted it to be quick and painless, I didn’t want to hurt it by crushing it’s neck. I was almost in position when someone came through the back gate and I had to move as I didn’t want anyone else to see and be distressed by what I was doing. I then realised how dark it had got. After being outside all evening I didn’t realise until I noticed all the lights on in the house and realised that everyone would be able to see what I was doing as I’d lit myself up by the fire to see what I was doing! I could imagine all the neighbour complaints!

I managed to get in position again away from the fire and pulled his body up until I felt the dislocation. I didn’t jerk or yank or pull fast in case I decapitated him as I’d read can happen.  Although expected, it was quite disconcerting when the nervous flapping and movement started. It seemed to go on forever and I was getting convinced I hadn’t done it right. As I’d tried to stop any overlookers seeing, I’d moved into the dark. My eyes had adjusted and I could see quite well but not in detail. In some ways was a relief but in other ways I wish I’d been floodlit to see exactly what was going on! I felt his neck and it felt longer than normal but I had no idea what else I was feeling for and still the twitching and flapping continued. I fetched a torch from the garage to test the corneal reflex. I saw that there was blood on  my hand and when I checked, I saw that the skin on his neck had torn! I lay him on one side and he stared up at me, I turned him over and was sure that he blinked! It was probably my nervous state but just in case, I did the broomstick method again. I did the corneal reflex straight away and found that he didn’t have one so I was now convinced he was dead despite the twitching that was still occurring. I found the whole experience distressing as I wasn’t sure if I’d done it right. I waited and built wood around the outside of the fire and placed him in the centre and covered him with more wood.

I was shaking and felt sick. I still had to tell the kids. I went in the house and told the boys first as they were in the kitchen. Surprisingly, their reaction was to ask if I was ok! I told them I was fine – I didn’t want them to know any different. I then went to Asda for a bottle of wine! DSL wanted to come and when we were alone in the car asked me “really, how are you!? You don’t look fine” I asked if he really wanted to know and wanted to know details and he said yes (he’s 21 so is old enough). I told him and he listened but said I was probably over imagining things and was convinced I’d done it right. He offered to do the next one as we still have 4 roosters for the table. Where does he get his courage?! I said I had to face it and do it if I was going to be responsible. Later I had to tell DDJ who again asked how I was first. I told her I was ok but that it wasn’t easy. She didn’t get upset as I thought she would and seemed unaffected.

Although I didn’t enjoy what I did, I will do the roosters when the time comes. I’m dreading plucking and cleaning them as  I don’t know if I can do it or how to do it or if I can eat it if I do but I wanted a “guilt free” way of providing meat for our table. I completely disagree with how battery hens are raised and feel that raising our own to free ranging standards gives them a good life but it is far from guilt free. In fact I feel more guilt this way but that is only because the killing and cleaning process is too far removed from me on the supermarket packs on the shelf. Even though I know it’s a chicken sitting in the plastic wrapper, it’s a similar feeling buying one as it is buying a loaf of bread! Common sense tells me it was once alive and was killed and that someone has taken the innards out for me but I didn’t see it and it takes away the  personal guilt. Culling my own gives meaning to the meat on the table.

In other news, DFS went to the Dr’s today. I was half certain he had an Inguinal hernia. I wasn’t far wrong. In fact he has an inguinal tear and is being refered for keyhole surgery.

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Posted in Poultry, Self sufficient | 2 Comments »

One chick died

Posted by --- on Tuesday 1 September, 2009

Over the past few days I’ve been trying to keep one of the chicks that hatched a few days ago alive. It wasn’t attempting to eat or drink so I’ve been feeding it by hand. Really I shouldn’t have bothered because it would probably never feed itself. I should have researched how to dispatch it and done that as soon as I knew it wouldn’t survive but DFS thought that it wasn’t trying to feed itself because it was week. I didn’t think so as it was managing to get itself back to the heat lamp if I left it out of the way.
It means that there are only two of the pekins now and I suspect them to be one cockerel and a hen – at least I hope one is a hen. We’ve got enough cockerels and I’ll have to dispatch those soon along with the cock quails. I’m not looking forward to it but I said when I started that we would be raising them for meat and eggs.

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Fluffy feet

Posted by --- on Wednesday 26 August, 2009

The lavender pekin chicks have started hatching. One is out and it has fluffy feet. I don’t know why but I’m mesmerised by them. They are so cute! I love chicks when they hatch and wobble around for the first day or two.  There are another two pipped in the incubator.

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Yet another battery chicken petition – update

Posted by --- on Friday 14 August, 2009

As promised here is Cadbury’s response to my enquiry. I’d like to thank them for answering promptly and honestly:

My question:

Can you confirm whether the information posted on this website (http://www.bhwt.org.uk/creme-eggs.php) is correct? Do you use battery hen eggs and if so, what products contain eggs and have you any plans to change to eggs obtained from more humane sources?

Response:

Thanks for your recent enquiry regarding our confectionery.

I can confirm that we do not use free range eggs in our products.

Please be assured your comments will be passed onto our Technical Department for their information.

CB

Consumer Relations Department

I would have like to have been informed as to which products contain eggs but that information wasn’t included.

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eggs are in!

Posted by --- on Wednesday 19 November, 2008

Eggs arrived yesterday and were put in to incubate tonight. Not sure about incubator. Temp varies a lot. At bottom of egg level temp is 93 and at the top of egg level (they are on their side with a max/min thermometer lyiing on the top) the temp is 96

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Garden clearing for the chickens.

Posted by --- on Tuesday 11 November, 2008

Today I’ve spent most of the day clearing the garden and planning how to adapt the playhouse into a chicken coop. The area the chickens will be in is about 6m x 2m (17′ x 6′); 2m x 1.2m (6’x4′) of this will be the coop. It has taken a while to come up with a plan for the coop. I want to be able to access all areas easily for cleaning but I want to make it more difficult for the rats to have access too. The shed we used before was lifted off the ground by about 15cm. The rats chewed through the floor and when we dismantled the rotten shed we found extensive tunneling covering about 7 meters long, this doesn’t include where they go off under the slabs.

My idea for inside the new coop is something along the lines of this:

coop_floor1 My apologies. The picture is very small. Basically the house already has a door which will be at the back. The right side will be against the neighbours fence, the left side, which has a window, against the existing path facing north-east. I will make a communal nestbox as seen in this week’s country smallholding magazine on the back below and existing window. This will have one opening for the birds to access from inside. There will be a perch running across the 2m front with plastic trays for catching droppings. I want to make a side sliding opening for the birds on the front which is also another idea taken from the magazine.

The whole house will be on legs about 50cm off the ground. I will mesh the sides and the back with chicken wire so that the birds will have access to underneath the coop for dustbaths etc. My problem is how to make it easy to clean out. As it the door is only around 1m high, it will be difficult to go into the coop. I want to somehow make a panel open but with appropriate perch space and nest box, that only leaves one feasable side which is the front. I think I will need to cut out a large panel so that I can make the front drop down for easy cleaning. I am open for suggestions as, to be honest, I am struggling a bit here.

Outside, we will be cutting down the silverbirch which is right in the middle of the proposed run. It’s with a little emotion as this tree is the same age as the twins. There is another in the front garden. Leaving the one in the run creates lots of problems related to roofing the run etc so the best solution is to take it out. We will cut it to around 1.2m and attach another peice of wood to form a T shape. This will then have food for the chickens suspended from it.

Today, all I’ve managed to do is:

  • clear the existing site
  • FIll in all the rat excavations
  • level where the coop will go
  • lift the existing path that will overlap the chicken area (easier said than done!)
  • place slabs where the legs will sit
  • follow DFS around clearing stuff he puts in piles (nope, he hasn’t been to work today or yesterday)
  • Make a garden fire and begin burning the old shed (so I stink of fire)
  • make the legs for the base
  • attach the legs and supportwork
  • woodtreat the legs
  • attach some chicken wire to back

It doesn’t seem much when you write a list but it’s taken all of my day and I’m tired now. I would like to be able to regrass the area before I put birds on it. I’ve read somewhere that a mix of ryegrass and clover is good but can’t find it in small amounts. Also, as with getting eggs or chicks, I think it’s the wrong time of year.  I have emailed several people about welsummer eggs but only one person has answered favourably. In fact I emailed a few on ebay that have either recently sold eggs or are selling them now. I want to be able to collect them if I can to reduce any breakages. One person did not seem impressed and replied in capitals that it was postage only. It makes you then wonder why they don’t want anyone to see where the eggs originate, or is that me and my suspicious mind? Anyway, I’ve now got a supplier whom I am eager to use mainly because of the nice email and am on the hunt for grass seed.

Last night I cleared the greenhouse which had turned into a storage area again. I want to use the space underneath my bench as a brooding area/growing area for chicks to grow before going outside.  I managed to find the old brood lamp which needs a bulb and ordered one of these incubators on sunday. I thought the seller may have emailed to say thanks for the order with info about dispatching but as with most people on there now, I suppose I’ll hear nothing and be watching for a parcel for a week.

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Demolishing the hen house

Posted by --- on Saturday 8 November, 2008

Our existing hen house is was a (not by us) shed made from old 3/4″ thick doors. It is was very heavy. It was also old. It had been repaired that many times it was boarded over in hundreds of places and the roofing felt had been overlaid with new felt several times. Our option was to try to repair it or replace it. To repair it would have meant trying to dismantle it but because it had been repaired so many times there were nails, screws and extra pieces of wood everywhere/ Plus the paint was thick in places but the wood was spongy or non-existent in others. We were also concerened that the rats had chewed through the floor in several places too – more boarding. It wasn’t that easy to dismatle but we, well DFS, pretty much did it today. Neither one of us wanted to lift the floor, fearing the hordes of rats that would pile out as soon as we broke a board. As it happened we didn’t see one. We did find plenty of evidence of their activities under there though as there  are holes and tunnels.

We are going to try to adapt the playhouse we were given off my Bro S. I’m not sure whether to have it on “stilts” so it is off the floor away from the rats. I’m can’t think yet how to make it easy to clean. I think I’ll line it with thick but pliable plastic sheets my dad gets from work which steel rolls are wrapped in. It’s another way of recylcling isn’t it?!

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Yet another battery chicken petition

Posted by --- on Thursday 13 March, 2008

Ok Easter is almost here which means that the chocolate companies are rubbing their chocolate fingers together!

creme eggs But, how many of us thought of the battery hens when munching away at a creme egg? I suppose many of us thought of their welfare for our boiled eggs but creme eggs? Well I didn’t until now; it never occured to me that they contained real egg or that those eggs came from battery hens. The UK Battery Hen welfare trust have made me aware of this and started a campaign to ask cadbury’s to use free range eggs instead.

In a silly move (with the way the country is reacting to battery farming at the moment) cadbury’s have said that a creme egg aspires to have it’s gooey centre liberated. It ends it’s little “goo-ology” with “Viva freedom!” Yep, right phrase but wrong eggs…

Please add your signature here.

I don’t know why companies can’t use free range. McDonalds have again recieved an award for their use of free range and the promotion of such and Hellman’s have made the major decision to produce all of it’s UK products using free range eggs from February 2008. It’s just a shame it doesn’t make this an international decision.

battery hens

battery farmWhen you take a look at the condition of the birds and how they are kept, it’s not a hard decision to make.

Edit – just to let you know that I checked again whether battery hens are still used and cadbury’s confirmed that they are:  see this post for the response.

Posted in welfare | 10 Comments »