Then hens on the current profile picture kind of deserve a special introduction because, you see, they are supposed to be in the freezer.
These two gals are actually Red Ranger “meat’ chickens–a breed developed to develop into tasty, heavier weight birds to fill your freezer and feed your family but still actively free range your farm while they grow. They are the industry’s answer to all the problems that come with the typical Cornish cross meat birds–the ones that grow super fast but are entirely incapable of living a normal life and have exactly zero interest in rustling any of their own food.
I ended up with a few of these birds when I happened to walk into my local feed story and they wanted to empty a tank–who can ever say no to almost free chickens? Certainly no me. 😬
And I had every intent of eating them.
But man, it turns our Red Rangers ROCK (or at least mine do!). They are the single best free ranging food rustlers on the farm. This little group of chickens (we have 7 total) are the ones digging into every manure pile, scavenging for the best weeds and they were the very first chickens to figure out the glories of newly plowed dirt in the neighboring farmer’s field. They work harder and longer at finding food than any other breed of chicken here…the full feed pan means nothing to them if they can instead reach some roly polys in the garden dirt.
On top of that, they are such nice birds to be around–Calm, friendly and even the young roosters (the ones who are normally fools around the ladies) were gentlemen from the get go. Of all our many chicks this year, they have been the biggest “pets”. The two hens in this photo sit on the hitching rail at the barn when I do evening chores because they have already figured out that sitting there they can get special attention and a special treat by being shameless beggars. And so as they grew and butcher age neared, I sort of “lost track of time” and they stayed on…and on…and on…way past the “eat by” date.
So imagine my surprise when the hens from this “meat breed” started laying eggs at only 21 weeks! They actually beat some of my official “egg laying” breeds for age of first egg. And they are just HUGE eggs…with super rich yolks from all that free ranging. And they have laid steadily all fall to boot. They seem to be weather proof as well–these hens are the ones totally unfazed by our cold snap this week. They floof up and still go to work looking for those last few weed leaves.
And so my freezer is empty but my coop is full and I’m 100% ok with that. I figure if we can introduce some of their stocky, hearty genes into our flock, all the better and in the meantime, I will enjoy their giant eggs and even bigger personalities.