Yesterday we harvested our 21 remaining Cornish Giants. As we neared the day, I began using the word “harvesting” instead of “butchering” to offset some of the dread I was beginning to feel. I love the power of words…it helped a bit!
We enlisted the help of experienced poultry harvesters, Mike and Linda Casey. Mike and Linda are Burkholder family friends from way back. They managed to borrow a plucker and a butchering cone from neighbours and showed up with an array of other equipment to make the job easier.
Chris and I decided we would not post photos of our harvesting day; there are plenty of sites on the internet that describe and show the process in graphic detail if anybody wishes to know more.
It wasn’t as bad as either one of us thought. I surprised myself by remembering a fair bit from my childhood. Chris managed very well for his first time harvesting his own meat. (He’s chopped up a fair bit of his own food in the last year but vegetables don’t have the risk of inducing sqeamishness or trauma like having to butcher an animal has!)
The chicken coop has now be completely claimed by the laying hens and we will soon start to build roosts for them.
Our general feeling about our meat raising experiment? Probably not cost effective compared to store bought meat, but we certainly know what we fed them so there is some security there.
We were also unsettled by the way Cornish Giants have been bred and will probably not raise this breed again. They grew so big, so fast, that they experienced leg problems, leading us to isolate four of them for the last month. We had to feed and water them separately which was a real pain. These birds also do not have a sense of self preservation and would simply stand still while a layer hen pecked a hole right through the skin and fat to their bone. That, for me, was most unsettling.
This farming foray DID put us closer to our food and that in itself was a great education. It does make you think very much about all the issues regarding meat production.
For now we are going to enjoy the next year raising layers and harvesting eggs. We will defer the decision about getting meat birds again until next year.
Over the next few days we collect our lambs. I have taken the kids to the credit union and they have filled out their withdrawal slips and have tucked their purchase money away in a safe place!