This morning the newest batch of chicks arrived at the Wendell post office, all the way from Hoover's Hatchery in Iowa. Sometimes they take two days to arrive, a lengthy duration that pushes their endurance to the limit. But this time they made the trip overnight, and thankfully they were all alive, healthy, and active.
Now they're tucked in for the night on the screen porch as our cats, Siena and Dino, look on ravenously (and futilely):
We ordered a few Rhode Island Reds and Americaunas to continue to build up our laying flock. But the main part of the order was the next batch of meat chickens. We ordered ten of our regular broilers, the Cornish Rocks, but they actually sent us eleven, probably because a few of our pullets died in transit last spring. We are also experimenting this time, having ordered ten Red Rangers as well. The Rangers will not grow as quickly as the Cornish Rocks, but the slower rate of growth could also yield meat that has a little more character to it. Raising the two meat breeds side-by-side, we'll be able to discern how much more slowly the Red Rangers grow and how food they consume in comparison to the Cornish Rocks, the standard fast-growing commercial broiler chicken.
The announcement is that we've decided to go with conventional feed this time. By way of explanation, we had some difficulty selling all the chickens that we had available, and we think that price has something to do with it. For some time, Rosemary and I have discussed the $4.25/lb. that we charge for whole chickens. Although we're aware that it's a steep price, we're certainly not gouging our customers. Rather, we've taken the price of broiler chicks and Reedy Fork organic broiler grower and carefully calculated how much it costs to bring them to market weight. Of course, if we scaled up production, the price could come down a little, but we don't have any plans to make our operation bigger at this point. We could also approach well heeled customers in the Raleigh and Chapel Hill farmers' markets, but again, we're not planning to become a big operation at present.
So, Rosemary and I have a feeling that more people we actually know--people in our parish and in our local community--would be interested in our chicken if we could bring the price down. Sure, we'd love to do organic if it were possible. But the fact of the matter is that we're not the die-hard, organic-or-bust type. There's plenty of literature, in fact, about the commercial standards that drive what qualifies as organic in terms of pesticides and herbicides. It would be more accurate to say that we're concerned with using few chemicals as possible, and with keeping our food free from contamination and disease. We want to know where our food comes from and the people who raised it, and we think there are a lot of people out there who want something similar.
In short, the only thing that will be different this time is that the feed will be locally sourced--produced nearby in Statesville--rather than certified organic. Our chickens will still be happy, free-range birds who get a great deal of additional nutrition from table scraps and their own foraging.
Oh, and of course the price will also be different--probably more than a dollar cheaper per pound!