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.