The chicken question

Last week R. made dinner from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Since then we’ve been through Chicken Provencal and Chicken with Mushrooms. And Port. And heavy cream. These dishes are superb, but would be much improved by a sturdier, less rarefied meat than the side-by-side pink skinless cutlets from the grocery. Then I caught him studying up for Roast Chicken and Chicken with Herbs and began think about raising our own birds in self defense.

Black Orpington

I read about the various breeds of chickens, their relative cold hardiness, size, adaptability. I got side-tracked by chicken coops – I’m an old hand at the Internets, but the amount of information on housing poultry is a little overwhelming. Then I found out that Egglu makes beehives. Very, very expensive beehives, but there went another half an hour. From there I went to butchering chickens, brining chicken and the general consensus that I’ll need a bigger freezer. Smoking, “jarring” and salting poultry look like activities for after one retires and has whole days to devote to a production line that can’t be interrupted without a considerable risk of food borne pathogens.

The more I think about it, the farther “raising our own meat birds” moves down on the list of available projects. Tide Mill Farm in Edmunds raises chickens according to “pastured poultry” methods; they’re close enough to MDI to be considered local agriculture and their prices compare favorably with the local grocery chain considering the value-added. I’d need a stout coop to fend off the local wildlife: fox, raccoon, bald eagle, the occasional black bear and our neighborhood pack of coyotes – but what I really need is a woodshed. And a garage. And a studio. A chicken from a well-run, local poultry operation is looking better and better.

It will be April before the Ellsworth Feed and Seed has its next live bird shipment – chickens! turkeys! quail!, ducks! – and we’ll see what happens then.

3 thoughts on “The chicken question

  1. If you want local I think there’s a closer choice. Old Ackley Farm, in Blue Hill sells pastured poultry. Their prices feel steep, but when you consider doing it yourself or how much more sound their practices are compared to grocery store chicken…for starters Old Ackley Farm raises their chicken over 8 months not the commercial 6 month routine. They change the range coop daily. etc etc. Have you seen Food Inc? Paying more for chicken simply makes one utilize all of the chicken completely, and treat a meal incorporating chicken as a special event. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Except maybe directions to old Ackley Farm. If you take the Bucksport Road (Route 15) to the curved intersection of Hinckley Road on the left, Old Ackley Rd is a side shoot off Hinckley at that intersection.Old Ackley Farm is the first farm down the road on the left. It’s a self serve and the “store” is the building beyond the house and barn. They have turkey, too.

  2. Hi, I run Old Ackley Farm. I just wanted to comment on a couple of things here. First, the breed of chicken we use is called “Kosher King”. It is double breasted like the standard commercial chicken most other growers raise but it’s grow out is longer. It takes 9 weeks for me to get the size the commercial chicken achieves in 6 weeks. The kosker Kings are more active and better suited for pasture where as many of the commercial type chickens just hang around the feed trough waiting for their grain. Also, because of their slower growth rate they are able to put on a little fat and their meat has a much better flavor.

    Second, our prices are not cheap but compared to non-organically raised premium chicken you can purchase from somewhere like WHole Foods, maybe not expensive either. Organic grain costs 33-45% more than conventional feed. Our chickens are moved to fresh pasture daily and never on the same field for consecutive years. We process our chickens right on the farm so the stress on the bird is minimized. By processing our own birds we also make sure the job is done right and that the finished product is the best we can do. Our farming is equal parts hard work/long hours to creativity/inspiration. Thats where the real difference lies between us and the big guys. They work hard but have lost the art of farming.

    Finally, in addition to chicken we sell Heritage breed Thanksgiving Turkey, duck, 100% grass-fed beef, and pasture raised pork. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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