The last time I raised meat chickens I raised them at home in my garage and let them out to free range in a portable dog cage. It worked out pretty well, but there were a few things I wanted to do different this time around. One of the things that I figured out after the last time I tried this, was that meat chickens smell terrible! In order to remedy this situation, I teamed up with the Remy Homestead to raise chickens this time. (They live in the country so smelly chickens are not as big of a deal….) Once again, raising meat birds has been a learning experience and we have a few things to adjust for the next time. We have been raising the birds in an open sided pen with a roof on it, which has been perfect for the summer because they get a breeze and sunshine but are protected from predators and most storms.
Well, last night we had the storm of all storms! It was raining so hard I could not see 5 feet in front of my face and the wind was so bad it took everything I had just to walk out to the meat chicken pen. When I got out there the meat chickens were soaking wet, and one of the wooden sides we had put up for predator protection had fallen on top of 4 chickens. Of course, I was home by myself and the tarp that we put on the sides was wet so it weighed a ton! I was trying to wrestle the tarp onto the cage because my meat chickens were cold and wet, which is a terrible combination for chickens. The entire time it is lightning, thundering, and raining in sheets. I managed to get the tarp on the cage but the chickens were laying in wet mud, poop, and water and they were shivering. I was so upset. I decided I would just deep bed the chickens in hay so they would be dry and clean. I ran out to the barn where I board Mia and picked up a bale of hay, spread it 3 inches deep and hoped for the best. This morning the chickens were doing well. They were happy and dry. Even though at some farms they would be considered “just meat birds” I still respect them and want them to be well cared for. I appreciate they are the beasts that feed me and my family and their well being is not something I take lightly.
I shared my stress on my Facebook page last night and was privately messaged by someone who asked me how I could eat meat, and how I could raise it myself. Really I don’t think I could do it any other way. I was a vegetarian for many years, and I respect people’s need to be vegetarian or vegan. It just is not for me. My body likes meat, and since that is the case I make it a point to ensure my meat animals are raised in conditions that are humane, and I am constantly learning how to make improvements for the next time. I love to know that my meat chickens are respected and treated well. They are given a great life and a humane death. They are able to feel sunlight on their back and grass under their feet, which is more than I can say for nearly all of the chicken sold in grocery stores. Last night when I was shedding tears for my wet meat chickens, it dawned on me no farmer cries for the chickens at Tyson.