Last spring, we ordered a batch of chickens, ’cause we like chickens and wanted to refill the gap in our freezer. Known as Cornish Cross, also known as mutant alien Franken birds. These guys are ready to harvest in 6 weeks and can already dress out at 6 pounds. They have an expiration date of about 12 weeks, after which they tip over dead due to their lungs getting crowded out from all the growth. And who wants a chicken that is the size of your dog? They can’t even play catch because of the whole beak verses snout arrangement. We’ve done this several times, one year ordering 50 of the beasts. Didn’t have to worry about starving for 2 years that time, which was good, because it took about that long to pay for the feed bill.
Our local Co-op has a deal where you can order your birds early, mid season or late. Early is the beginning of April, and late is the end of May. Kansas weather is kind of iffy around that time, so you have to take some measures to ensure your meat crop stays hale and hearty. We started out with a brooder in my shop and let’s just say, by the second week, you had to wear a gas mask when working in there. We eventually upgraded to a chicken house designed just for little dinosaurs with beaks.
to make em BIG!
When you get them home, the first thing you do is get some water in ’em. They’ve been hatched and stuffed in a shipping container for 24 hours, and are a bit thirsty. Stick their beaks in the water a couple of times, and they are generally good to go. And this is also the time to check them out, look for odd balls and the ones that lean to the left a little too much. We got to our freebie ugly one and had to stop the presses. This dude was born with no eyes. This was a first for us, but he took to the water like he meant it, and so we shrugged our shoulders and ran with it.
The first few days are always a bit dicey, paste butt will have to be checked for, and any slackers that are huddling off to themselves. What is paste butt you ask? It is where their brand new digestion is putting out tacky poop and it sticks to the backside of the bird and will kill them if not cleared. Your first few days is unsticking chicken butts, but after that, they are pretty much good for the finish line. We had, at first, started calling the ugly free guy Stevie Wonder, but common sense took hold and we fell back on tried and true rules of farm living.
Back when the Mrs was a young tyke, they raised cattle for milking and slaughter. They had a habit of naming the calves alphabetically. One year, young Mrs tyke pointed to a bull calf and asked what they were going to call him. The letter P was up next and her father, an ever practical man said, “ah, just call him Pete, we’re going to butcher him anyway.” This was then carved in metaphoric stone, so to speak.
Once the Mrs told me that story I tended to name our butcher animals Pete, not all the time, mind you, just when the occasion warranted it. So, our little Stevie Wonder became Pete and it stuck. And just because, I called the rest of the meat birds RePete. It’s just how I roll. The Mrs has learned to ignore my idiosyncrasies. She mentioned a while back that it’s almost a full time job.
Ole Pete took to livin’ with a vengeance. He would hear one of his brethren eating or drinking, and would stomp up, latch on to that unlucky bird, basically climb over the guide chicken until he got something to eat or drink. I noticed the other chickens being a bit skittish around him. For being such a runt, he lived large.
All good meat birds come to their just reward. Butcher day came around and Pete went in the freezer like a good boy. A tad bit smaller than the rest, but he made it to the the bell, and that’s what counts.
The Mrs is a hell of a good cook. I mentioned that I would like to have something with chicken. I had seen a co-worker bring in a delicious looking chicken pot pie, and asked if she would do that. She looked in the freezer, just Pete and a buddy were left there in the bottom. All cold, dark and lonely. She took care of that, brought them out, warmed them up, dipped em in a nice brine, diced them up with vegetables and broth, and before you knew it, you had yourself a pot pie. A Pete pot pie.
It was a joyous reunion, seeing Pete again, in his full splendor. Dang tasty too. Sometimes, having dinner with a friend is just the thing to make a rainy day shine. A happy ending all around, well, for me at least.