The looming spectre of Asian Avian Flu really has me bummed, because I am a big fan of free range poultry. Free range poultry are able to forage for much of their own food from Spring through Fall. Another big advantage is that chickens come in single family serving size. Meaning my family can eat a whole chicken for dinner and there are not a lot of leftovers to worry about. Chickens are a great way of storing family serving sized protein “on the hoof” as it were. But, free range is out of the question for me now. See my post on Tuesday, October 25, 2005. Okay, so instead of free range poultry, say you raise lambs. If you butcher one of your lambs you get lots and lots and lots of meat for future meals. Which is all fine and dandy… until the power goes out. Then all those chops in your chest freezer are in jeopardy. And it doesn’t have to be the power grid that goes down. I’m reminded of a sad tale: A contractor working in our home while we were on vacation UNPLUGGED our chest freezer so that he could use the outlet for his power tools. He forgot to plug the chest freezer power cord back in! We didn’t discover this until after we returned and found that all our elk and venison–about 400 pounds–had spoiled. So you ask “How about rabbits?” They don’t get Asian Avian Flu. They come in family serving size. You can store the meat on the hoof and just them butcher as needed. The drawback is that because rabbits are fantastic diggers, free range does not work very well. Therefore they have to be penned, and you have to provide ALL of their food.
So here is my crazy thought: Replace my free range chicken flock with a flock miniature goats! During Spring, Summer, and Fall goats can forage for their own food (unlike rabbits) . Pygmy and dwarf goats weigh about 2 pounds at birth. Miniature does can breed throughout the year, so if I let the buck and does breed at will, I ought to have a ready supply of family serving sized “chevron” throughout the year. They will be protein food storage on the hoof. Like the chickens they’ll have to be penned up every night to keep them safe from predators. They will also need special field fencing to keep them from escaping our pastures.
The real drawback with this plan is the Cute Factor. Little bucklings are 100 times cuter than any chicken. Our #2 Son is especially susceptible to the Cute Factor. With that in mind, my DH and I are going be more circumspect with the butchering to make certain that our younger children don’t associate dinner with those cute little bucklings cavorting out in the pasture!