Tuesday, May 29, 2012
RIP Big Girl
Margaret Thatcher, my big meat chicken passed over to chicken heaven yesterday. She was 12 weeks old and as far as a chicken's life is concerned, I think hers was pretty good. When I placed all my little babies in their brooder, this particualr chicken headed straight for the feeder and the other chicks quickly followed suit. Hmm. good leadership qualities, I thought. The name Margaret Thatcher immediately came to mind. As the first few weeks went by I noticed Margaret getting bigger much quicker than the others and began to think "she" was a rooster. I figured if that were true I would just call him Marge. I began training him/her to perch on my shoulder. Oh I had plans for this big bird let me tell you. MT was obsessed with eating and took on a short, round, plump appearance. As she grew, so did her legs. Getting much bigger than any of the others. I mean this gal had some seriously big gams.
After about 6 weeks or so, I figured out MT's true nature. She was a Cornish Roaster. Apparently she was placed in the layers brooder by mistake at the farmstore. Cornish Roasters are bred for meat purposes and reach their peak at around 10 weeks. Being a greenhorn, I was not aware that she was any different from the rest of the little flock I chose back in March.
I did a little research and found out some things I didn't like. MT was destined for a short life no matter what I did. This breed of birds grow so quickly that they sometimes have heart attacks as their hearts can't support the size of the bird. Or their legs break under their weight. I talked to people who knew more about chickens than I do, and most told me the same thing: kill 'er and eat 'er. ARE YOU KIDDING? I didn't sign up for wringin' necks and pluckin' feathers! Eggs and only eggs were my goal. I hold these birds everyday, take them treats, have everyone named.
Still, I was realistic regarding MT. In the last few weeks, her movements had gotten slower, she was gasping for air, and had taken to laying under the feeder to keep the other birds from pecking her. Not so good days for MT. I knew what needed to be done, but no way could I do it. I talked to some fellow chicken keepers who didn't have a problem doing the dirty deed and was getting myself prepared for taking her to one of them. I was dragging my heals on it though.
Memorial Day brought the usual hotdogs and homemade icecream witht he kids and grands. Afterwards, we took the kids down to the farm to see the chickens and the bees. The minute I walked into the coop I said, "Uh oh." For there under the feeder lay MT and she was no longer of this world. Pop, the always resoursful son-in-law asked me for a shovel and then quickly scooped her up and headed outside. Between him and the MOTH, they soon had rigged up a way to transport the big girl on our antique tractor,/ now chicken hearse. Hilary riding side-saddle with Grandaddy, they headed out. With a few wild flowers thrown on for good measure by Hilary, MT was sent on her way. And so my accidental chapter at meat chickens has come to an end.