When we first started raising chickens I really didn’t know anything about it. Mr. Mims remembers that his grandfather kept chickens, in Greenville. When he was young he once moved a chicken coop for his grandfather and then planted a garden in that spot. We read a few books on the subject, and after Mr. Mims constructed the coop, we took the leap. At the time, when I read about the whole incubator thing, I said to myself, why use an incubator, why not raise chickens the natural, old fashioned way?
We have kept a rooster with our hens for three years now. The idea was that we would raise our own chicks for meat. Now, I can tell you that our rooster has been doing his part of the job, and when I crack an egg, I can see that it is fertilized. But we have had just one broody hen that sat on one egg twice, giving us two chicks in three years.
The first chick I had to separate from the flock after a couple of months because the rest of the flock started attacking it, and its mother stopped protecting it. It turned out to be a rooster, and it wound up in my cooking pot. The second chick was swallowed by a young snake that got in through the chicken wire covering a window. It couldn’t get back out with the chick in its belly, so that’s how we know. In that case, the rooster really wasn’t doing his job. He should have killed that snake (according to Mr. Mims.) But the point is, the highly bred chickens of today are not a broody bunch. They are bred to be good meat, or to be good egg layers, not to be mommies.
My idea of what’s natural is pretty half baked when it comes to chickens. We’re in a compromised situation. In 2016 there is hardly such a thing as a “natural” chicken, that would just “naturally” sit on her eggs until they hatch. And the idea of free range chickens is nice, but the reality has been that there are too many predators around to leave them unsupervised, so they spend the majority of their time in their coop and run. The older hens do not take kindly to invasion by younger hens. Last spring, when we actually ordered chicks for meat by mail, we had to divide the coop to keep them separated so that the hens wouldn’t peck them to death.
I really didn’t like the idea of spending money to have chicks delivered when I’m keeping a rooster for that purpose, so I have finally broken down, given in, surrendered to the idea that if I want to raise meat chicks I better face reality and start looking around for an incubator for spring.