As we discussed in another post, we raised meat chickens for the first time this year. We started out with 15 chicks and ended up with only 8 by the time we butchered. What happened? We lost two within the first week, they simply died and we have no clue why. Based on the research we did, I don’t think this is something out of the ordinary. Some level of loss in the first week or so is not unusual. The other five is a different story.
We put the remaining 13 birds out on grass at about 2.5 weeks old. They were contained within our premier 1 electric poultry netting to protect them from predators and had access to the semi-repaired chickshaw we had originally used for the egg layers. About two weeks later when I counted the chicks, there were only 11 birds. OH NO!! A quick look around revealed no indication of any struggle of any sort. There were no chicken parts, feathers, blood, etc. I was unsure what had happened but made the assumption that the chicks had simply slipped through the fence and disappeared. The next morning when we counted them there were only 8 birds left! They clearly were not just leaving on their own, we had a predator problem.
I left work a little early that evening and worked furiously to attach a new door to the chickshaw, so we could lock the birds up that night. I should have done this originally, and I knew it, but we have not been locking up our egg layers for so long and we have had no predator problems that I assumed we would be fine with these birds as well. I didn’t take into consideration how much smaller the chicks were when they were put outside. From that night on the birds were locked in every night and we never lost another.
Lesson learned #3 is making a mistake with livestock is costly. I don’t mean that in a monetary sense although it did cost us some money to lose those 5 birds. Part of my reason for wanting to raise some of my own meat is because I don’t care for the treatment of animals in the general commercial meat production model. I am willing to pay more for my meat because I see no reason we can’t treat animals with respect while still relying on them for our food. My goal is to provide any livestock we raise with as reasonable a life as I can and hopefully they only have that one bad day at the end. Part of that means that when I bring an animal onto our property I am taking on the responsibility of caring for that animal to the best of my ability and protecting that animal from natural threats it might otherwise have problems with, things like disease and predators. I failed miserably at this goal for the 5 birds we lost to a predator. While butchering day is not fun and brings with it some uncomfortable emotions; this is much worse. I am comfortable raising animals and butchering them for food because I feel I am honoring that animal when I raise and butcher them humanely and consume them with respect and the knowledge that it cost a life for me to eat that meal. The feeling of losing these birds is completely different. I could have prevented the loss of these animals and I did not. I do at least take some solace in the fact that they were lost to a predator so they did not just go to waste; it was a part of the circle of life. This is a mistake that I will not forget or make again.