I've raised a decent bunch of birds this summer, putting most into the freezer and enjoying some along the way. Since I've been abstaining from any meat at all of late I've let the last one of my chickens free feed to it's hearts desire. I've named her "Honey Boo-Boo", from a show my wife told me about. This cross between a Cornish and a White Rock has grown to prodigal size, larger than any other chicken I've ever known. The breed are fast growing to begin with and by their tenth week of life well within harvest size.
I was going to let her feed till our Autumn feast day but today when I went out to clear the coop I noticed Honey Boo-Boo is now too plump to fit through the chicken door, singularly amazing! She's also too fat to run away from me. I picked her up and reckon she's over twelve pound, maybe closer to fourteen.
I considered for a moment if I'd done her a disservice, but so far she's had twice the life span and all the treats and goodies a chicken could ever want. Plenty of bugs, slugs, and weeds galore. I never forced fed her, always made sure she had plenty of fresh water, and I put interesting things in the run and coop that the chickens seem to enjoy. Short of chasing her around there's not much you can do to make a lazy chicken exercise, and chasing a chicken around really stresses them out, it's mean. I may eat them but I find the idea of being willfully cruel to anything repulsive.
Something else I've noticed. The other chickens, the leaner and quicker birds are bullying her. Honey Boo-Boo parks herself in front of the feed tray and will occasionally waddle over to get a drink from the waterer. The distance between is where she gets ambushed. Chickens are mean to each other. There's no mercy in a flock.
I can't even keep her as a pet now, as isolating her from the other birds would be detrimental. She's had a good life as far as meat birds go, I guess.
I think Honey Boo-Boo is going to the great coop in the sky today - and soon after the crock pot for a slow cooked Pollo Loco Picante. Either that or freezer camp.
Raising small game is rewarding but you really have to steel your heart. The compensation of course is the food, but there's a degree of satisfaction that the creature lived better than the one gracing a supermarket shelf did. I've wondered if that's important, but in the end I've decided that it's important to me, and that's what matters. I'm at the point where if I don't raise the meat I'm going to eat I'd rather not eat meat at all.
It may be a fancy on my part but I imagine I can taste the cruelty the bird endured. The bitter sorrow taints the meat somehow. I think that may be why barbeque sauce is so popular. Honey Boo-Boo won't have a clue what's happened to her, it's so quick.
Poor Honey Boo-Boo, why couldn't you have been a beagle instead?