When you raise chickens for eggs and meat, someone always has to be the first to go. My views on this are as follows: “My birds have a really great life with sunshine, bugs, fresh water and room to run, flap, attempt to fly and roost … they just have one really bad day”. Not even an entire bad day, more like a bad three seconds.
So, how do you decide who goes? At Chimney Swift Farms we use the jerk method. Who is the biggest jerk in the flock? Are they big enough to process? If so, that’s how we choose. It’s not a science but it works for us and it also helps to keep the flock happy, and protected.
I have literally spent my life saving animals; squirrels, birds, turtles, mice, if it had a pulse it was savable. It was incredibly hard to switch gears to processing animals for food and take a life, even a jerk. I am a meat eater and I feel that if I am going to eat it I should be willing to raise, nurture it and in the end process that animal as humanely as possible. I would rather have one of my birds that I know was treated with respect, kindness and a gentle hand than a 30-lb, 30-day-old roided out bird from a factory farm that has lived thru hell. My girls have a great life, humane death and good health in-between.
My first harvest was a rooster who was killing hens and making the flock very nervous and on edge, he passed the jerk test with flying colors. It was still so hard, it felt foreign taking a life, almost wrong. It was over quickly and without struggle or fear, on his part, and the processing went better than anticipated. I was proud of myself and grateful to him and hoped that his life was happy right up until the end.
We will be expanding the chicken yard this spring and will be adding a lot more birds and begin to process on a more regular basis. I am confidant and have the tools needed to make the right decisions for my flock and treat them with dignity, respect and give them humane ends. So at Chimney Swift Farms it’s safe to say, don’t be a jerk.
It’s time more people cared about where the meat on their tables came from and how it was treated from birth to death. With the amount of family farms in operation, you have so many other options than factory meats. Call your local farmer’s market and I am sure they can direct you to more healthy and humane options when it comes to purchasing meats. Supporting your local farmer can help us move away from factory farming and all the negative aspects associated with it. One person may be a small change, but it’s still a change. Winter is a good time to gather information on all your local options for all varieties of foods and to join a CSA to become part of the movement!