Farm to table means many things to many people. This is our farm to our table. These birds arrived on June 7 and were butchered on September 1. They were 85 days old at butchering day. The days in between were spent, in a brooder in our garage, while we watched them carefully for developing problems that we could lose chicks to, if we were not watchful. The first week, there is a lot of rear end cleaning, this is to be sure they do not suffer from “pasty butt” when their poop can dry and stick to their bottoms because of the heat lamps they need to regulate their temperature. This can result in death if not carefully monitered. After the first week, this hurdle is generally behind us.
While the garage was busy with the brooder chicks, we planned their move up to their new home in the big coop. After about 4 weeks in the garage they start getting rambunctious and this creates lots of dust in the garage, so out they went to the big coop which had a carefully regulated temperature in it, as they didn’t have their full feathers yet. After about 2-3 weeks they were big enough and it was warm enough to let them out, first into their protected run so they were on grass, but then we opened them up to the big world in the latest part of the day so they didn’t range too far and forget where home was for them. We lit up their run that leads to the coop so they would see the light and come home to it. Within a few days they were full on free ranging, and exploring. We have lots of fir trees for cover for them, and they were pretty savvy to danger or hawk shadows up above. Finally butchering day came almost exactly 12 weeks later. We could not be more pleased to have birds going into the freezer at 4-5 pounds this year. We will stick with this breed, a heritage breed bird, comprised of a mix of 2 other heritage breeds. They grew much faster than our Delaware birds did, are much bigger, and we butchered 4 weeks earlier. I’ve never been a fan of Cornish Cross chickens that grow way faster and bigger, we always prefer to raise a heritage breed here on our farm. We will be sticking with these Red Rangers!
The effort that went into these birds is well rewarded. This bird was delicious, juicy, and flavorful, beyond anything I have ever purchased in a store. This is what “our farm to our table” means to us. It means giving up the garage to the brooder and checking on them every couple of hours the first week, and it means hot days feeding and watering chickens, and early mornings letting them out before it was too hot in their coop, and even hotter days butchering the birds, which is an all day event. None of this is complaining, I enjoy the process, but it is a process, it is work, and it sure is rewarding.
Sitting down to the table to eat this bird, after the effort that went into raising it, becomes more than just dinner. This dinner started, actually on June 7, and to me, nothing tastes better or has more meaning, at a meal, than the food, that we spent months, bringing to the table.