Sunday, July 12, 2009


This afternoon we went to see neighbors who have chickens. They have six children, and the dad built a chicken coop that is sort of like a habitrail, with a little run between the open coop and the covered coop. I thought they might have two or three chickens, since they live in a little neighborhood that I'm sure is not supposed to have chickens living in it, but no, they have 23. That means they lost one of the two dozen chickens they bought. They have a dozen white chickens they're raising for slaughter, and another 11 that will be layers. The white chickens are depressing as all get out. They're fat, and already after six weeks having trouble supporting themselves on their stubby little legs. They are hybrids, called "Rocker X" chickens, a mix between a rock hen and some other chicken. I would not want to raise, nor eat, one of these chickens-- it's hard to see how they're better than those bought in the stores. I said, "So is this the chicken Gold 'n Plump is raising at their family farms?" Cause there's more to it than the farm raising, to be sure.

So yes, they are "free range," in that their beaks aren't cut off and they aren't stuck in little holes one hundred to a tight area. But they have two weeks to live and they're not getting around so easy already. They don't go beyond the coop-- airy and sunny to be sure, and they can barely squeeze themselves through the "chicken run" separating the inside from the outside. They eat what they're fed. The boys do stick collard greens through to them to eat, and they rush to the chicken wire to nibble it down. Mostly they get "feed," which I'm sure is mostly corn.

Accordng to my brother-in-law Tim, there is a Chinese couple who live in the development with a dozen chickens they're feeding rice. The chickens are about half the size of Tim's. But rice is surely the equivalent of corn in China, a grain after all, so who's to say what is best?

Tim and Annie have 15 chickens, all brown and all layers. They are truly free range-- walk around the farm eating grass and jumping up into the lower branches of the pine trees. A couple of them wander the grassy area we call the commons-- good to have a buddy system going in case there are predators around. Still, they mostly eat feed, prepared by Purina, so who knows. But I'll be happy for the eggs when they start coming... They're sure to be better than the grocery store, right?

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