Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Call me old fashioned, but shouldn't food be real?

I remain convinced that growing industrial meat hybrids on a healthy diet (including a lot of living foods) is better in many ways than raising traditional dual purpose chickens on commercial manufactured feed (with its DL-methionine synthesised from non-food sources including propane). And yet I feel very mixed about my recent order of 25 commercial meat hybrids from a hatchery.

It's sad, isn't it? Even if you want to raise home grown meat using traditional purebreds, the chances are you're feeding them a form of amino acid that results in increased blood methionine in the bird, is associated with high liver triglycerides, fatty liver syndrome, and in humans elevated blood methionine is associated with dementia. (See my earlier post about artificial methionine.)

I could continue with the dual purpose birds, but it seems that most purebreds have entirely lost their meat characteristics. Unfortunately I've been unable to source Indian game with any reliability, and the light sussex I bought as eggs are proving problematic to raise, with a majority having an extremely slow feather gene that makes them unsuitable for my general needs. So again I've been pushed toward the meat hybrids, which have a few benefits above dual purpose or meat purebreds: they feather quickly; they can lay well; and they have very good feed conversion.

But I would want these genes to be very diluted indeed. I simply don't want meat birds that can't walk or have a good life right up to slaughter at 16 weeks.

I plan to grow the meat hybrids as slowly as possible, and when they reach the latest age at which they can still be useful for meat, I'll process some and keep the healthiest and hardiest as breeders.

Plenty of other people have done this, though I'm sure like me they have mixed feelings about the bloodlines... But when breeding backyard birds you pretty much have to work with what's available, no matter what you'd prefer.

In an ideal world, there would be Indian game that can still lay sufficiently to make them popular and well represented around the place... Alas, many have breeding problems.

The drawing board is looking pretty messy right now!


elizabeth said...

Been through this dilemma myself and chose not to continue with the commercial meat birds :( I did manage to grow them slowly enough to breed from. I had one hen that lasted for a long time, until, even her, legs gave out, but not before I had managed to breed some good chicks from her. I was sad to lose her, she was a lovely bird. I then went through a time period where I only wanted pure and rare breeds. I found then that crossing my bantam Indian Game with my Silver Grey Dorkings was a nice meat bird. Then more recently, my friend's Dad has been giving me his Buff Cochin culls - wow meaty! I no longer do much with the chooks as the pigs have taken over my life. I have all sorts of mixtures in there now! The Cochin crosses with the Dorkings are throwing back to some nice big white meat birds. I believe it is the Brahma that's coming through. Dunno why there is Brahma in 'pure' Cochin's bloodlines, but then I never did understand how poultry breeders used other breeds to get the characteristics they wanted in their purebreds :-s

Erica Bandanna said...

Hi Elizabeth, that's interesting about the brahma/cochin -- I used to get cochins out of my pure brahmas!

The pigs sound great, as do the Indian/dorkings. Mouth watering! Ahem... and nice pets.