Five Spot, my older dog, plopped down heavily, watching while we worked with the poultry.
Farm Dog sat attentively by.
Cuteness! Baby chicks, turkeys, and goslings all yellow and fuzzy. “Peep, peep”.
You know its springtime.
Our family has taken to raising a flock of meat chickens each year. It’s about a four or five-month process (depending on how long we procrastinate with the butchering). We start out with 100 chicks expecting to lose some and to give away more. After it is all said and done, we end up with a chicken in the pot at least once a week for the entire year.
Right now, our freezer is getting low as the new babies are getting bigger.
I feel we have to do this. Animals raised in the commercial systems live absolutely horrible lives and I refuse to participate in that kind of torture. The misery of their relentless day to day horror must be in the cells of the meat and I don’t want to eat sadness incarnate.
Why not just buy good quality meat you might ask?
Sometimes cleanly raised chickens are available in our area…
But you lose so much when you buy other peoples chickens.
What do you lose? You lose a lot. By producing your own food – you get so much more out of it than quality food.
Let me explain.
First of all, our system for growing our own chicken meat is not truly sustainable. We buy what seems like an amazing amount of feed and the freezer uses electricity.
We do grow some of the grain for the chickens and I’ll write about that soon.
But with the schedule of a modern life, this is something we can do. And the feed we buy is not just used once, as you’ll see.
In the beginning, we get the baby chicks and some of the chicks just die – they are fragile little creatures and the journey from the hatchery, through the mail system, and then to our farm is a long one. Losing some is just a part of the process.
Five Spot and Farm Dog never bother the live chicks, but they do watch alertly and are always close – ready to see if any of the babies need to be discarded. The dogs will swallow one of these little casualties whole and stare at you like nothing just happened.
For the first few weeks the chicks live in a protected stock tank and each day I add fresh bedding on top of yesterdays soiled material and by the time they are moved out to bigger moveable pens I’ve got a very nice, rich, compost heap.
For the next few weeks we put the chicks into a movable pen that we move each day around the lawn area near the barn The grass there grows thick and lush with the fertilizer provided by the chicks. And the chicks love catching tiny insects we didn’t even know where there – I am wondering if they are fleas?
There will certainly be no ticks that survive the passage of the chickens.
But regardless, each time the pen is moved there is left behind a layer of mess. Some of it is feed the chickens were sloppy with, and of course a lot of it is poop.
Five Spot and Farm Dog sit patiently by.
After we have moved the pens the dogs come by the recently vacated area and eat the biggest chunks of glop left on the ground.
Yuck! Serious yuck.
Long ago we trained our dogs not to lick us and seeing this affirms that decision.
We also don’t get all kissy-kissy with the dogs for obvious reasons.
The dogs are quite sure this is their right and it tastes delicious to them.
This is not something we could stop if we wanted to.
I was pretty grossed out by this initially, buy my husband pointed out that this is simply the next level of the reduce, reuse, and recycle process; re-eating.
The dogs will end up getting much more out of this. In the butchering process, they will get the heads and intestines.
And after cooking the birds, the bones will be simmered down to broth, and the dogs get those remains too.
We also save the prettiest feathers and compost the rest.
So do you see all the things you are missing when you buy an organic chicken you didn’t grow yourself? The compost, the fertility, the bug clean up, the beautiful lawn, the delicious meat, the feathers, the clean nutritious organ meats, the bone broths, and two fat dogs.
The dogs know they are vital to the whole operation. They protect the chickens through the entire process. Yes, we may lose a few when the birds are ‘teenagers’ and range in the bigger areas defined by the movable fences. But it is pretty rare.
It is also rare that I buy dog food.
If you want to see more about how I feed the dogs, how I use them to protect both crops and animals, and how I grow food with my family – get a copy of the video set “Grow Your Own Groceries” available here http://www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com
Plus you’ll get to meet Farm Dog and Five Spot – who have gained weight since the filming.
PS: Oh I forgot to mention, in the “Grow Your Own Groceries” video set is also a bit about how I trained my dogs. I never had dogs before these two, so I am not a “professional”. But what I’ve done works, and that is a testimonial enough. Pick up a copy of the video set here http://www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com
Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.