Last week we made another step toward becoming real farmers. I should clarify. Houston, McClendon (Mac) and Yessika took that step. I wasn’t on the farm when they took care of some business that had been weeks in the planning. Let me explain.
Before getting our current flock of chickens in January, we had never had a rooster on our property. We had been reluctant for fear of disturbing our overnight glamping guests. However, our previous flocks didn’t live very long without a rooster to protect them. Nearby hawks and owls picked off more than one hen.
As many of you know, we are new to farming. We’ve learned a lot in the past few years, but we are definitely still learning. We bought this flock when a local farm was rehoming their chickens. We didn’t realize at the time how many roosters we had. Before last Friday the roosters actually outnumbered the hens.
We’ve learned you only need one rooster for several hens. Our ratio was way off. With Mac and Yessika living on the farm, feeding the animals morning and night, they were around to see and hear the roosters attacking the hens. The skin on two of the hens’ backs was exposed from feathers being plucked out.
When McClendon began talking with us about what was happening, we all knew something had to be done. Many people try to give away roosters, so we knew selling or giving them away - especially with how violent they’d been with our hens - wasn’t an option.
We’ve always known we’d be harvesting pigs, ducks and chickens on our farm - or at least through a professional processor - but we hadn’t done it yet. (Later this summer we’ll be processing our first pig.) That was until last Friday.
Mac and Yessika processed chickens at a farm in California shortly before moving to Texas. They learned a lot from the process as well as through some helpful YouTube videos. So, armed with that knowledge they caught seven roosters and kept them in the chicken coop for a few days before beginning the harvesting process. Houston helped them with the first one and they finished the rest.
Since I wasn’t around that day, I wanted to share Yessika’s thoughts about the experience:
“Killing the roosters was necessary to create an atmosphere with more harmony for our flock of chickens. It wasn’t necessarily hard to kill them, even though it was a daunting task that we kept putting off for a couple of weeks. With our limited experience, we had a pretty good idea of how to do it. It was just a matter of pulling the plug and getting our hands dirty.
We made sure to honor them and give thanks for their lives, which helped us feel like we were doing it ‘right.’ Doing this for the first time on our own felt very empowering - to know exactly where these birds came from and how they died. It was something that gave us, as new to the game farmers, a huge boost of confidence.”
Those roosters now reside in Mac and Yessika’s freezer, ready for the next chicken stock.
Sherry Asbury Clark is Co-Founder of Purdon Groves and a freelance writer. Her column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, appears each week in the Corsicana Daily Sun. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Purdon Groves, a farm, table, venue and retreat property, check out purdongroves.com or visit their Instagram or Facebook pages.