I was feeling quite the failure for deciding to dispatch the majority of my ancona x cockerels at 6 weeks of age instead of waiting for them to reach maturity. One of the main reasons to do all this has always been humanitarian, and there's no doubt that killing one animal to feed a whole family is better than killing one animal each.
But there were some important management considerations such as crowding and aggression, and overcrowding is almost certainly going to lead to higher cocci oocyst numbers in the pen. As well, I was facing a time of extra difficulty getting 'farm' work done while a few other things intervened. Since I'm the only chicken fancier in the household, I had to move.
So into the freezer they went, 13 well grown but very young birds. It took me an hour to do the whole job, clean up, get back inside, have a shower and greet some guests. I won't say it was an easy hour.
I was a little surprised (and less guilty) later to come across a reference to 'petit poussins' in an old chicken keeping handbook. Apparently they were dispatched at about the 6-8 week mark and sold for eating. What they lacked in size they obviously made up for in tenderness.
While I still feel guilty processing such young birds, I'm a little glad that I'm not the only person in the world to have dispatched birds at this age for economic as well as practical reasons. And while the 'better than being minced alive at day old' or 'it's still older than a commercial meat hybrid' argument might not be much to justify a practice on, the chicks are certainly not being wasted.
It seems these petit poussins have their place, if baby birds must be removed for practical reasons. And I for one can't bring myself to dispatch at day old.