…make chicken soup.
One downside of raising heritage breed chickens for meat is that, unlike modern hybrid birds, these guys like to roost. (For all I know the Cornish-Cross and other hybrids also like to roost, but being genetically obese maybe they’re simply unable.) And without roost bars inside the individual shelters–a problem I’m in the process of remedying–the birds go for the next best thing: roosting on top of the hoop structure.
Now roosting up high has its benefits, namely getting the chicken out of the reach of ground predators such as raccoons, opossums, coyotes, feral dogs, etc. But those benefits are largely nullified when roosting on top of such a structure, as they then become little more than an easy dinner for one of the resident Great Horned Owls.
…or part of a dinner for a Great Horned Owl. A few nights ago as I went to shut the chickens in for the night there were a couple of birds roosting on top of the shelters, and as I reached to grab them I kicked something lying between two of the shelters. Shining my flashlight down revealed the black-and-white plumage of a Dominique cockerel who, upon closer examination, was headless. Now, when owls swoop down for the kill they tend to grab at the highest point of their prey, which in the case of a roosting chicken is its head. And sometimes the head is all they’re able to get. So I checked the bird, and what he lacked in head he made up for in freshness; that is, he hadn’t been dead long.
Having recently crunched the numbers on this chicken enterprise I realized that this guy essentially represented a $12 bill lying on the ground, and I was loathe to just let him go to waste. Sure, I could feed him to the dog, or toss the body in with the pigs, but that makes for expensive feed. Then I realized that this was little different than hunting for game birds, only my weapon of choice was an owl whose sights needed a little adjusting. So I plucked the chicken as I walked back to the house, then hung him up in the shed to finish the job.
As for his ultimate application, this particular bird was roasted, not turned into chicken soup. But delicious all the same.