As we're quite horrible at keeping this site updaetd now, we have begun a blog at Dùn Sgàthan Notes
"You are not keeping them, of course, to make or even save money. You
are not keeping them as pets. You are keeping them for the simple pleasure
of their company and be beauty and taste of their eggs and meat. You are
raising them because you wish to strike a modest blow for the liberation
of the chicken --and indeed for all living things on Earth."
and Page Smith The Chicken Book 1975
For those who wonder why we are doing this and who might want to reconsider
eating factory farmed animals and want alternatives check out
The Meatrix. Some may find the cartoon
hokey, but stick with it and click the link at the end for how to find
alternatives to factory farmed meat.
When we moved to the country, it was with the intention to start
homesteading...raising some of our own food and looking into alternative
energy and such. As we are currently renting the small house we live
in, we are stuck with the current electricity and heating...not to mention
that this aspect will take some funds we don't have yet to do. But
we have made some start on the food aspect. A small step, but for us significant
as we tend to eat a lot of eggs. We currently (this was written in
August, keep reading for update) have 6 pullets, not yet started and a few
males a couple of which we will keep for breeding so we do not have to deal
with ordering chicks (we were supposed to get a lot more).
Raising animals for food was once a very everyday part of life, but in just
a few decades has become wrenchingly foreign to us. People often treat meat
as if it grows in the little foam and plastic packages it comes in, not as
if it were from a sentient being. We feel that if we are going to eat
meat we should be able to raise it ourselves or we are being dishonest to
the spirit of the animals that give it. If we can't, then that is meat
we should not eat ....hence there are taboos in our diet. We also feel that
the current ways animals are farmed commercially are not honorable or humane,
factory farming is not true to the spirit of the sacrifice and an animal
that is to be eaten should have a good life until then not living in crowded,
fearful, painful conditions. Not to even get into the things these
animals are fed or medicated with.
Of course, at this point we are not going to be eating much that we raise
ourselves and we might not ever be able to supply all our meat, so we are
also looking into buying meat locally from those we can tell are raising
their animals humanely. We are looking forward to developments in
Animal Rescue Mission) efforts in developing a Humane Farmer's
Directory. We hope that soon all our meat will be from animals whose
lives we know were good and where not contaminated by chemicals (remember
"organic" does not always mean "humane," however, and given a choice at this
point we would chose humane over organic).
We also planned on getting our first goat doe soon after moving, but because
of the situation getting our horse sooner than planned, due to the rescue
emergency he was in, we have put it off . Since then, well, we tried to go
off cow milk in favor of local goat milk and found out we don't care for
it all that much (we don't mind drinking it, it doesn't work for tea or oatmeal,
where we mostly use milk). So we are hoping to be able to move up the
acquisition of cattle a bit sooner than planned but this will in no way be
soon as cattle cost a lot more to buy, breed, and keep. We are
investigating getting Irish Dexter, a small dual purpose cow that we could
keep for milk, meat and also have some market value.
Our gardening efforts have been on hold, as other projects keep
getting in the way. Even my old herb garden, abandoned 8 years ago
or so, has barely been touched. Of course this is not prime farm country
and despite what many think the problem isn't rockS, it's A rock. We are
sitting on some very thin and not very good topsoil over a solid boulder.
There is an old flower garden which had been fixed up with nice loam
years ago which we may try to clean up, plow and put in vegetables starting
next year; but even this will be a major project.
And it might not take hold before we move to our own place. If we do.
We keep debating building a house about a 1/4 of a mile from where we are,
in our field/orchard near where we are building the temple. The issue
is that we feel that putting a house where there isn't one already is too
disruptive to the ecosystem (the temple/grove is going to be so open it shouldn't
be disruptive at all). Too much of the land around here is being developed,
the real crisis up here rather than logging (the land here recovers from
logging if it is allowed to, the problem is that logging is often followed
by development or the planting of crop trees for future logging, rather than
allowed to heal naturally). I have seen sections of the hill we live
on start to become suburb with houses sitting on top of one another...one
of these places is very close to where we felt called to build the temple
and therefore not so far from where we would put our house.
If we do build we would build with the ecology of the area in mind. And,
of course, if we lived up there we could better keep "hunters" out of the
orchard (I have nothing against true hunting, done with respect to the animals,
but sadly many who claim to hunt are not true to the animals' spirits or
very careful about what they are shooting at...there are a few true hunters
around here and we would give them permission to hunt; for one they would
be more likely to actually ask us).
We hope to expand this section as we build our homestead. At this point
we are taking care of our chickens, waiting for
the girls to get to laying age. They are not free-range,
as much as we would like this. Again we are renting and live near Kym's parents
who do not wish to have chickens on their doorstep. There is also the
matter of their Husky cross Keesha, who although aged and blind, has a very
strong hunter drive and has found chickens to be easy prey...we lost one
male to her when we started putting them in the herb garden for a bit, with
its fence they could jump on and then over. Of course she is not the only
predator around here, we are well surrounded by fox, coyotes, fishers, and
more. We have them in a good size pen with a six foot high fence and a small
coop for the night...we move this pen every so often so they can get fresh
grass and a clean space.
Sept. 25, '01 our pullets have started laying!
Oct. 28, '01 In the tradition of our ancestors, we sacrificed (as in killed
in a sacred manner) our non-breeding cockerels at Samhain. This was
a tough day for us, Aaron had never killed an animal and Kym had only killed
fish before this. And these were 3 animals we had raised from cute
little chicks into handsome young roosters. Yet we know they had a
relatively happier life than most of the chickens we eat and we killed them
as humanely as possible. Cleaning them was an even longer task than
we anticipated and we had anticipated it would be long...emotionally and
physically we were very exhausted by the end of the day. These were
the only three we had for eating this year (there was a fourth, but Keesha
ate him early on as you see above), next year we intend to hatch out several
chicks and will be doing this more than once in the year. I doubt it
will get easier emotionally and would be worried about us if it did, but
hopefully the cleaning task will start to go quicker. Hopefully within
a year or so we can get off the factory-farm grid with both chicken meat
and eggs. And knowing we can indeed do this with the chickens, hopefully
means we will be able to with cattle when we are able to raise them. We
are starting to feel like real homesteaders.
July 6 '02
We didn't update this, but we did loose one of the roosters we were keeping
during the winter. We still do not know exactly what happened, he just
sort of dropped dead. All the others made it through....6 hens and
Well, we thought we were going to be so smart, proving all the "experts"
wrong by breeding these hybrids to each other. After all, we didn't
care about pure lines. At least not a the time. What they don't
brood? Well, we were just sure that they would. So, they didn't. We
kept looking for signs and there weren't any. The experts were right,
of course, these are bred to NOT brood and they were sticking to that breeding.
So we gave up. Decided as this hybrid does tend to produce well
two years instead of just one we'd keep these girls then get a batch of chicks
of some old breed next year. Started to consider Dominiques, then
decided maybe Dorkings. The former are an old American breed, the latter
an old Roman breed that the Romans had introduced to Britain.
So what happens then? One of our hens goes broody!!! We then
tried to move her to the brooding next and broke the brood. :::::sigh:::::
She goes right back to brooding in the laying box. We are so
pessimistic at this point about getting any chicks that we just stick a few
eggs under her and watch. We doubted that anything would come of it,
so we hadn't bothered to "waste" to many eggs. A few of the other girls
stop laying for awhile too,
a few start showing signs of broodiness (throwing straw over
their backs) but never start to set. We figure that if she goes broody
next year we will try to get Dorking eggs and let her play foster momma.
On June 28th Aaron discovers a couple of little furballs under the setting
hen! By the end of the day she had 5 chicks...two black, two pale
yellow, and one bright orange. We moved them to a separate pen to protect
them from the rooster and other hens. Now a week and a day later,
all 5 are still with us and are doing fine. This clucker is a good
mother, protective and, well, "a mother hen."
Um, we are still planning on trying to get Dorking eggs, if we can, next
year and having her foster them. After all, now know we know she has
a clue as to what she is doing.
On July 16 we awoke to find that something had gotten into the
pen with the Cluckie and her chicks. Three of the chicks were gone,
two are left. The hen was fine but frantic and somewhat ruffled.
The two left are one yellow and the orange. They are now penned with
a more secure shelter for the night to protect them.
A few days later the food dish and water containers for the main flock were
knocked out of the doorway of their little house. We assume the same
predator stopped by, possibly got an egg or two but the chickens were fine.
We are figuring it was a raccoon not only because there was one around
but because it is unlikely to have been anything very large. It seems it
wasn't able to get the full grown chickens, even the hen who was alone with
Trying to be philosophical about it, but we really would have liked to seen
what genders and differences the different colors might have proven to be.
Our garden had produced a good quantity of string beans and pea pods, with
some good (but small) carrots, lettuce, beet greens and Swiss Chard. Our
tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and cabbage didn't make it. We just planted
them too late. We have a better idea of what we are doing now however,
the garden, which we tilled late, will be easier to start up this coming
spring and we will try to get more things started inside this time. The
herb garden one the battle this year, hopefully we will get it under control
next and add some stuff to it.
The two remaining chicks turned out to both be female, so we have two new
layers and only the rooster was sacrificed at Samhain (an even more emotional
task this time than last, as we had known him longer...but we know he had
a much better life than any one would buy at a supermarket, this is why we
are doing this). We have kept all our older hens, having let them
molt this fall, and all are now laying almost daily. Unfortunately
we recently found the white pullet badly beaten up and bloody, having lost
her earlobe. She has since been moved into a smaller cage next to the
in-barn winter pen, in hopes that we can try moving her back in once she
is healed. We do not know if this will be possible or if they will attack
her even more viciously.
June 7, 2003
Oops...late update on the white hen, she healed fine and was accepted, as
much as before, back into the flock. Now that summer has come and we got
permission to free-range them, she is doing fine.
The Clucker brooded around June 1, again. Very late according to the books...and
the hatcheries. The place we planned to get eggs no longer had them available.
However, we found another hatchery that did! So as of last night, June 6,
she is setting on 24 tiny Silver Gray Dorking eggs. >fingers crossed<
Well, I've been bad...I hadn't even realized I hadn't updated! So...between
June 28 and 30, we had hatching. Of the 24 eggs, we had 13 hatch...one chick
died and we ended up with an even dozen. And were left with 10 unhatched
eggs?! So, one egg went missing. Most of the chicks have 5 toes, as Dorkings
are supposed to...not all do though. When we tried to sex them via the chick
method we found on the web, it looked like we had more pullets than cockerels,
but alas, when they got old enough to show real gender signs, it ended up
with 7 males, 5 females. With the smaller eggs and less frequent laying of
this breed compared to the commercial breed, we've decided we won't eat the
white and red hen so they will get another year. Of course, the Clucker is
going to die of old age; you don't eat a hen that is this contrary. Not much
else to say...but here are pictures. ~:)
Dec. 5, 2003
Much change in the flock. In October, we lost both the brown and the white
hen from last years hatch, the entire surviving hatch, to a weasel that got
in the hen house. Amazing how little space is required! We had intended to
keep these two, along with the Clucker, but obviously the Powers That Be
had other plans.
About this same time the cockerels started fighting, very fiercely
for a breed known to be "docile." We quickly figured out which were the most
aggressive and fortunately, the worst wasn't a good breeder choice...toes
were bad, not great conformation. We were afraid we were going to lose the
one with the best conformation and best toes or that he'd at least lose an
eye. He was the most timid and the worst beaten, but before that he had been
beautiful. As it turns out, he healed fine and the eye was just fine as
well...he's still beautiful, although he did lose a good part of his comb
(which means less likely to frostbite this winter, so that's not such a bad
thing). We kept him and one other of good quality.
The killing of animals for food is not a fun thing and I guess I can see
why it was easy for people to give up. But as hard as it is, we stand by
our decision to take this responsibility for part of our food. All our old
hens, except the Clucker, and five cockerels were sacrificed this Samhain.
One of the cockerels was our Samhain dinner and the hens are for
stewing. It's hard, but we know they had a good life...better
than any that we could buy at a store.
The pullets and Cluckie FINALLY started laying a day or two ago. We didn't
light the chicken house early enough, they came of age to start laying when
the daylight was too short. The eggs are so very tiny...they will get bigger
but not as big as the crossbred ones. These are beautiful birds...I should
have more pictures in the near future.
text and photos copyright ©2001-03 Kym Lambert
Background modified by Kym from Pictish spiral (as featured in George
Bain's Celtic Art)