Five weeks ago we got our cute, fuzzy little baby chicks. As jumbo sized eggs are 75 grams I would estimate that this is the maximum size of these just-hatched chicks that we brought home. We knew they were supposed to grow quickly, the hatchery had a little table that showed how much food they should eat each week and how big they would be, an essential tool for a farm that has thousands of chickens and needs to plan ahead. Of course we aren’t a commercial chicken farm force feeding chickens to gain maximum weight every week, so the 6-8 week timeframe for getting an edible bird is probably not going to happen for us.
After the cute stage comes the damn ugly stage. These chicks lose the bright yellow feathers and the half naked chicken skin with spikes of new feathers isn’t a pretty sight. Besides being ugly they are pushy and a lot more smelly than our nice laying hens (they are eating 4x more food per day, so making a lot more crap with it). They have gotten past the ugly stage now, their white feathers are mostly in except for the tail and spots on the belly. They are starting to develop their combs and waddles too, but we still call them the baby chicks.
It is a bit odd calling these things babies, but they’re barely over a month old, so what to do? Petra and I have been calling them the broilers, since that is the weight we will be raising them to, about 6-8 pounds ideally. Today when we got home from the circus the broilers were out in the yard, more adventurous than I have seen them, and they were even mingling a bit with the layers which happily peck about the yard looking for bugs. I managed to get this picture of 2 of them side by side, it was a bit amazing to see how much they’ve changed into chickens from chicks. They still look a bit babyish as their necks are shorter than an adult and they have barely any tail, but they are already pretty thick around the middle and they have bigger feet than the layers that are probably over a year old. Petra and I tried to weigh a couple of them to check the difference. A good question right now might be, “How do you weigh a crazed chicken that won’t stand still?” Our answer is to put it head down into a tall and narrow 1L pail that used to hold potato salad and balance that on the kitchen scale. They mostly fit in, and once they are head down with their wings pinned against their sides they don’t make much effort to get out. After weighing a couple chicks they are looking to be around 1600 g while the layers are only 1400 g. Yep, the baby chicks are already heavier than the big chickens who are giving us our daily eggs. They have gotten over 20 X bigger in 5 weeks, or to put it another way, if you chopped one in half that would be the combined weight of all 13 baby chicks the day we brought them home – just a little crazy.
I looked into it and the dressed (butchered) weight of a chicken is about 75% the live weight. This means our chickens would give us some 1200 g of meat and bones, or, if you are used to buying chicken by the pound, 2 lbs 10 oz. This is bigger than most grocery store rotisserie chickens if you want to make the comparison – in just 5 weeks!
Looks like I will have to start planning out and building my killing cone pretty soon for our home butchering extravaganza. I can’t wait until we can have our first full 0-mile supper.