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Sustainable Living

About Asphyxia

Food and Nutrition

  • Traditional Foods
    My health has dramatically improved after changing my diet for a more traditional way of eating, as advised by Sally Fallon.
  • Food Flower Poster
    Forget the food pyramid! It was developed by the agricultural industry, not by nutritionists. Instead, print this Food Flower poster, which shows a visual guide to choosing nutritious and satisfying traditional foods.
  • Sourdough bread Recipes
    I make delicious sourdough bread in my bread machine - recipes and tips here.
  • Raw Food
    Should we be eating a diet of 100% raw food? Here's what I found by way of "scientific proof".
  • Raw garlic to cure colds & flu
    If you feel a cold or flu coming on, eat a whole clove of raw garlic, three times a day - it works miracles.

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02 August 2012

Comments

Thanks for this detailed description of the process from woe to go Asphysixa. I love the idea of sharing the chicken raising and - importantly - killing - with some neighbours. We don't know many near us who might join in, but we do have two other egg-chook raisers nearby who we should perhaps approach with the idea sometime. though one of them (the backdoor neighbour two doors down) we haven't actually met! Just know they have chooks.

On the other hand, I do have some other friends in Canberra who might be prepared to share a 'shipment', and though we could both raise our own chickens we could maybe work together on harvesting days.

I also used to be vegetarian, and also have always felt that if you are going to eat meat, it would be good to really understand the whole process. I know my kids know that their meat comes from animals, but it seems to me that being part of the process of raising them at least, will potentially give you a greater respect for the life that has been sacrificed for your consumption. i don't have a problem with eating meat per se (my reasons for being vegetarian were always more about the treatment of animals in our farming systems than anything else), but I think it's important to acknowledge that life that's been given.

Hi Asphyxia,

Just wondering if you've organised anything with Korumburra Hatchery regarding the next batch? I'm interested in pursuing this as part of my new garden/life design, but would definitely be interested in something more local. I've spoken to a couple of people, who have told me prices of $8-10 for a 'meat' chick, which seems ridiculous...

Hi John,
I have another two big tours this year, which will take me to mid November-ish, and I plan to line up a new batch of chicks for soon after I return home. $8-10 per chick really sounds like too much. I will be looking into it in detail in a few weeks' time, I think, when I have the return date for my Nov tour. I'll post on my blog what I've found out. But Peak Poultry Supplies in Towoomba have them for $2 each plus shipping, and that's where I've bought them so far. Are you in Vic? If you are happy to wait til Nov you can share shipping with me, if I buy them from there, or I can arrange to buy enough for you if I buy from Korumburra at a good price.
Cheers,
Asphyxia

Hi Asphyxia,

Yeah, I'm in Vic - I came to have a look around with Kat a couple of months ago, as part of the Permaculture Dimploma.

November seems a long time to wait! I'd rather get something more local; reduce the food miles, as it were, and perhaps be less stressful for the chicks. Let me know what you find out though, and if I find anything else that has potential I'll post it here, too!

Cheers,
John

Yes I know what you mean about the food miles. When I first looked into it, I searched for over a year for a local supplier and couldn't find one. In the end I felt it was better to raise chicks from Qld than to continue buying my meat, with umptyum food miles.. but who knows how the enviro-costs really work out. Do post if you find anything else useful here.
Talk more soon!
Asphyxia

Without wanting to be judgemental, have you thought about the ethics of raising this breed? I had considered getting them too, but after reading up on the modern meat breeds such as yours (Cobb) I knew I could not do this. This breed is not a natural one, but was specifically developed to enable them to grow so fast. One of the consequences is that they are unable to reach sexual maturity, as their leg/pelvic bones would break under the weight. I know your chicks don't have to suffer that as they are slaughtered before it gets that far, but there is still the matter of the source of the chicks, the mother hens. They have to be starved to enable them to grow old enough to lay the eggs. They go crazy with hunger and have to be housed individually. They must be inseminated artificially for the same reasons. Your chicks clearly have a good life but in Queensland the breeders have hundreds (probably thousands) of tortured mother hens providing the eggs for these chicks. Sunny said on the Grassroots Facebook page that this is the only option for city dwellers, but surely there are other options? New Zealand White (meat) rabbits, or Pekin ducks, for example, could work in a city backyard. Pekins go from egg to their maximum of 2-3kg in 12 weeks, then stay at that weight. We have a male and 2 females, and the females lay an egg a day during spring and summer. We incubate the eggs (they don't go broody - that's bred out of them) and then keep them for 12 weeks and then slaughter. Last summer we put 35 of them into the freezer. The breeding trio are now 2 years old and quite happy and healthy. As I said, it is up to each person to decide, but for me, ethics takes in the whole cycle, and this breed necessitates the worst possible sort of battery hen.

P.S. to my above comment: I'd be happy to supply you with Pekin duck eggs or day old chicks every spring/summer! We get more than we need for our duck supply. We use the surplus eggs as we do our chooks eggs. I'm sure there are plenty of other with them who are also not far from the city.

Hi Sandy,

Yes, I have to admit that I find the ethics behind Cobb chickens very unsavoury. I have looked into keeping both rabbits and ducks for meat, but at this stage neither of them is a viable option for me as I'd need to do a fair bit of infrastructure tweaking. However I'm all set up for chickens, which is why I decided to start my raising-my-own-meat career with chickens. From what I could tell, the options were dual purpose birds that take 4+ months to reach slaughter-size or a specific meat breed like Cobb. I chose the Cobb mainly because I tour a lot and I need to raise the meat between tours - being able to do it quickly is crucial for me. It really came down to raising Cobb-type birds, or not doing it at all. And my feeling was that for the environment, for the people around me who have learnt about this process, and for my own skill development, that it would be better for me to go ahead with the Cobb birds than not do it at all. I need to eat meat for health reasons - when I buy commercial chicken from the farmer's market (local) it is also raised from a meat bird. I agree that this is an awful practise, but for the moment it's the best I can do, and I think it's waaaay better than buying my meat at a supermarket, which most people do.

Thanks for the info about how the female birds are raised to produce eggs. I have to admit I have been wondering about that for a while and was unable to find information. That is truly awful that they are kept in such horrible conditions.

Thanks for the offer of Pekin duck eggs/chicks. I have been very interested in raising my own ducks, but for now am a bit stuck on their need for a pond. I'm hoping down the track I'll solve this and then I'll definitely give you a nudge.

Cheers,
Asphyxia

Hi Asphyxia,

Pekins don't necessarily need a pond. They love it if they do have one, but the important thing is for them to have deep water they can plunge their heads into to, so they can clear their eyes and nostrils. I have a night enclosure with electric wire (against foxes - we're in the country) and put buckets of water in there, and that works for them. I used to use clam shells but they all swim in it and it gets filthy really fast. Anything bigger than a bucket and they would swim in it. In the mornings I let them out and although last year they spent their days in or around the pond, for the past half year they have tended to wander about our garden and paddock, nuzzling in the mud for snails and stuff. There are buckets of water around the place that they use. They are rarely at the pond now, so don't let that put you off. Also, ducklings must not swim in water until they are about 6 weeks old as they have no oil to protect them. (Ducks raised by their mothers get oiled by lying under their mothers.)

And there is the side benefit that ducks have all that down - great for making things. I got that idea from you, by the way - until I read your blog I just chucked my chook feathers out - now I keep them for making a doona for the guests. I did have a disaster the first time though. I put the feathers into a pillow case, tied it shut with string and put it through the washing machine. String came undone... I can't even begin to describe how disastrous this was! Weeks of clearing away feathers. Even thought we had stuffed the machine for good. Now I put them into a pillow case, hang it till the top is completely dry, SEW it up by machine, then put it in the machine. Hand washing would work too, but 35 ducks have a LOT of feathers!

Anyway, good luck and all the best, Sandy

Sandy, that is very encouraging. I can definitely do a bucket of water. Could the pekins go in the same pen with my chooks? I let the chooks out each morning and then close them up late arvo, luring them back in with food. Would that work for the ducks too? I have space in the chook pen and they can roam the same part of the garden that the chooks access during the day. What sort of feed do they need?

If they're all babies when you put them together they should feel comfortable around each other. We used to have our ducks in the outside part of our chook run (we have it for when the foxes have cubs and make daytime raids). The chooks don't use it much as the door to the yard is at the oposite end of their house, but they mingled with the ducks without any problems. We decided to move them to the pond area when they got too big and messy.

I call my ducks at sunset and they come to their pen to get their feed. It only took a few days to train them to do that. I only give them food in their pen at night as they forage during the day.

Duck food: I read that you can't give ducks whole grains. (Can't remember why.) We just give them pellets for meat poultry, but I'm sure you could feed them the same stuff you give your chooks - it sounds pretty comprehensive and nourishing.

Water: here's where you might have an issue with them sharing with chooks. Ducks have to drink when eating and they foul up the water really fast by going from food to water and back and forth, and although I give them fresh buckets of water every day they're not that fussy about the quality of the water; they'll drink from murky muddy puddles in the yard. Chooks need clean water. When the ducklings are still little they won't be big enough for buckets, so they'll be drinking from low things as the chicks will. In our first batch we lost 2 ducklings that managed to get into their water dish and drowned (= no oil to protect them). We now have a swim-proof water dish for the ducklings which we made by wrapping chicken wire around a big flower pot base dish (about 5cm deep, about 40cm across). They can get their beaks in to drink but can't swim in it. They walk on it, but it't not comfortable for their feet so they don't stay on it. You could make one like that deeper and sunk into the ground, so the muck can settle deeper, then it ought to be okay for both the chicks and ducklings.

Ducklings and duck are also astonishing poo producers, much more than chickens, and they mainly poo when eating. We built one duck house and then had to tear it down and start again as every morning they'd be covered in poo, which covered the floor. We googled and found plans for a better duck house, with a mesh floor on one half, where the food and water is, and hay on the other side (little wall and doorway between) where they sleep. We put old cardboard underneath the mesh, and once a week changed that and put it on the garden as a sort of mulch mat with fertiliser. (Later as we got more ducks we added a fence around the duck house and instead of locking them into the house just turned on the electric fence. They eat outside now, and I lay down a layer of hay/straw in the area they eat. I change it once a fortnight or so, and use the pooey hay as mulch.)

But it needn't be so complicated: ducks aren't as delicate about temperature as chooks, so it could be easier for you to leave them out in the enclosed part of the garden. We have a little enclosed pen that we use for chicks and ducklings, with an inside section with a heat lamp. Within about a fortnight the ducklings are usually lying outside in a pile rather than inside under the lamp. The lamp is only over half of the interior, so they could also go further away from the lamp, but they seemed to prefer lying on the grass even in the rain.

If you'd like to come up sometime and see our set up you're most welcome. We have a sleepout for 3 people (we often have WWOOFers) so you're all welcome to come stay for a couple of days if you like. We're in Fish Creek - 165km from Melbourne, and there's a V-Line bus. (We're close to Wilsons Prom and nice beaches too!). We only have Muscovy ducklings at the moment, but my first batch of this year's Pekin eggs are due to hatch on 23 October. We still have some duck in the freezer, so you could try some too. And I'm not just being generous - I know you'd be a fountain of knowledge of stuff I could learn! I've already used so many tips I learned from your blog. I'm guessing you can see my email address in the section I fill out on this page to post, so feel free to contact me if you would like to come over. I came back to your blog yesterday from the post on the Facebook page for Grassroots but otherwise my visits are sporadic, so email me directly anytime if you'd like to visit or have any questions about the ducks.

I'm from qld and have purchased 'Indian Game' chicks to breed. I bought two females and a rooster - as these chicks grow very big quite quickly and tend to squash their eggs I purchased a 'silky' as a brooder. My husband is making me a special chicken run - away from our 'layers' because these are specifically raised as 'meat chooks' This is an experiment for us as we would like to grow our own organic chickens.

Hi Sandy,

The ducks do sound very tempting. However I've had a big chat with Megg Miller (of Grass Roots) and she advises me not to put chooks and ducks together, as the ducks will foul up the chooks' water, and make them sick. She mentioned a handful of other reasons not to put the two together, so for the moment it's looking like ducks are off my agenda. However, David (of Grass Roots) would LOVE some of your ducks. In fact, maybe he will raise some for me and we'll share the slaughter/meat. He asked if you could call the grass roots office to make plans!

Cheers,
Asphyxia

Hi Asphyxia,

I knew you couldn't keep chooks and ducks together (well, you can, but it gets more complicated - we manage to do it) but I was sort of hoping I could tempt you to stop using the Cobb chooks altogether and just keep ducks, and save those Cobb mother hens.

I'm not generally looking for people to buy my ducklings or eggs. We incubate as many duck eggs as we can over the summer to raise and put in the freezer. We don't have a huge incubator and, unlike our chooks, our ducks only lay eggs in the warmer months, so we have to do it all in the one season.

Pekin duck eggs are available from lots of breeders, so - unless David is close to where I live in South Gippsland - he would be better off looking for someone closer to where he lives to buy fertile eggs to incubate, or ducklings. I have bought eggs from breeders further away and had them posted to me. If they're done correctly, you should still get a good hatch rate, but it's better if you can collect them, then you can also see their own setup to see if their layers are kept in decent conditions and not just a little cage.

For us it is not so much about our diet as about the environment and the animals we eat. Our aim is to ensure that whatever meat we eat, there has been no suffering involved at any stage of it, from the lives of the parents of our animals to the slaughter of them. For others, I know the priorities are different.

All the best, Sandy

Hey Asphyxia, just wondering if you're ordering another batch? I've gone another route, experimenting with a few different breeds (Hamburgs, Light Sussexes and Wyandotte x Marans) because I don't have such time limitations as you have, but I'd like to compare them still to half a dozen or so Cobbs - I feel that it would still be economically comparable when you take in to account other factors like manure, digging garden beds, etc. not to mention other factors such as ethics, enjoyment, and so on. So if it's something that you're still doing, I'd like to tag along on an order!

John

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