We were given a Pekin cockerel and some Pekin chicks a year or so ago. The cockerel, named Yongzheng after the Qing era emperor (of course) hangs out with the chickens that have their houses in the fruit garden and wander around the campsite.
We didn’t plan on having chicks. We dutifully collect the eggs from the egg boxes everyday. We also ’employ’ children on the campsite to search for hordes of eggs from hens who have decided to make nests elsewhere. We test whatever they find with the water method and if the eggs are fine they get half and we get half – we consume our share as we only sell eggs that we collect from nest boxes as then we know how old they are.
However, last September I heard a cheeping from a bush near the back door and there was a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs in various stages of pipping with 4 little chicks out and about. As I didn’t know any better then, I moved the hen, chicks and eggs to an empty coop in the front garden – she then rejected all the other hatching eggs so they died, but we did have 4 little chicks. Two weeks later we came across another hen with 10 chicks strolling around near our toilet block. These we moved into the front garden as well.
After a week or so the first hen opted to leave and the very tolerant second hen adopted the by now quite large 4 chicks. The chicks were all crosses between the Pekin cockerel and hybrid hens. She looked after them for quite a long time until she too decided it was time to leave and return to the flock.
Out of 14 chicks we got 9 cockerels and 5 hens. They all lived together in the garden for 5 or so months, but then we had to do something as the cockerels started to fight. We don’t need any more cockerels, but we don’t want to waste anything so we killed and ate them.We killed them in two batches on different weekends early in the morning. I talk a little more about how we kill our poultry here. It is not easy, but realistically it is the cost of having eggs. If you want to eat eggs, at some point cockerels have to die and we feel we should take responsibility for this. The cockerels had a good life and a quiet, calm death and they were thoroughly enjoyed by James and myself and the dogs. We pluck them by hand and using this clever drill attachment. I then gut and butcher the birds. The dogs eat the guts and the feet (they eat a raw food diet) and I eat the liver and heart (lightly grilled with a dash of balsamic vinegar) straight away as I am greedy. We roasted one bird and made stock with the bones and poached the others. As we don’t really eat much meat we then froze the meat from these birds.
The 5 hens were integrated into the rest of the flock and are now happily laying slightly small-ish eggs and hanging out in the campsite.