It’s Chick Time!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new batch of meat chicks. My friend and fellow 4-H mom Angie was kind enough to let me tack on a dozen Cornish Rock crosses to the meat chick and turkey order she places each year for her kids’ county fair exhibit. Just in time too. I only have a few half chickens left in my freezer from last year. But, by August Sandy and I will back at it—butchering, cleaning and packing a years worth of chicken for this soon to be one person household.

There is a lot of controversy over what breed makes the best meat chickens—Freedom Rangers or Cornish Rocks, but, when you are trying to make your suburban homestead as efficient as possible growing times matter. From vegetables to trees and berries to flowers and meat animals I choose varieties based not only on their taste and appeal, but those with the shortest growing times as well. It’s what allows me grow a wider variety of food for the house.

Yes—the Cornish Rock is probably the ugliest farm animal you will ever raise compared to the Rhode Island Red style cuteness of a Freedom Ranger. And who wouldn’t like to see a flock of little red birds roaming around pecking through a bright green pasture, but honestly I don’t have a 12 to 14 week span of time to wait for the Freedom Rangers to reach a butcherable weight, and I don’t mean a heavy weight, just an average weight. At that age, a Freedom Ranger will weigh 4 to 6 pounds. In that same amount of time though my Cornish Rocks would be pushing 9 pounds, with some topping 10. I jokingly tell people I have the three bag poultry project because it will take about three bags of feed to get my birds from chick to freezer. Not a bad use of time, energy, resources and money, don’t you think?

Don’t get me wrong folks; I’m not bashing the Freedom Ranger in favor of the Cornish Rock. I think they both have merit and their place in the world. But, given my circumstances (and I’m sure I’m not alone) the shorter start-to-finish growing time of the Cornish fits well into my little homestead. The question shouldn’t be so much what you raise as it is how you raise them and the quality of product you have at the end. I can tell you this for sure…no matter which breed you raise a homegrown chicken is far superior to any store bought. The meat is denser, juicier, more flavorful and strangely enough take longer to cook than any store bought chicken.

Perhaps some day, when a larger farm comes my way and I have the space to let a flock of meat birds roam the pastures I will take the time to raise a batch of Freedom Rangers and do a side-by-side taste test to see which I prefer. But for now, time and space factor in heavily to what I grow. And for that I make no apologies.

Raise what works for you and enjoy your chicken dinner.

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