I am a huge failure. I fail almost every day. When I fail, I fail loud and I fail hard. What’s even better, I’ve been failing my entire life.
Wait, Snarky, did you just say “better”?
Why yes I did. I’m glad you noticed!
I have been failing all my life. The first time I tried to walk, I failed hard. Really hard. Like right on my gluteus maximus. Talking? It was total gibberish at first. A real fail. Reading? Oh my gosh! My mother started trying to teach me to read when I was three. I was eight years old before I could read well enough to develop a passion for it. That’s five entire years of failing. And as for potty training… Well, actually my mother says that I was totally potty trained at 14 months old on my first try.
I guess that just goes to show you that you can’t judge a person’s future success by how quickly they learn to excrete on command.
Recently I had a huge failure that I am super excited about. Let me tell you about it.
A few months ago it was time to start selling pigs. We raise pastured pigs that are happy, lean, and tasty. Showing people that you can raise their pork in a way that is better for the pig, the person eating the pig and better for the land is a good way to sell things. Showing them that they will be getting bacon that tastes ten times better than conventionally grown bacon makes it pretty much a no brainer.
We did have one friend who said “Hey Snarky, we don’t really eat a lot of bacon (poor, poor soul) but I was wondering if you can raise chickens for meat?”
“Psh! Of course I can! How many do you want?”
I mean, how hard could it really be, right? I can raise chickens for eggs, I can surely raise chickens for meat. Not only would I raise these chickens, but they would be nice big fat juicy chickens. They would be raised on pasture with plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and zero medication. This was going to be a cake walk.
It was not a cake walk.
The first thing I did was tell The Pastor I needed to go to the store.
“What do you need?” he asked.
“Chicks.” I said.
“You already have chicks.” he reminded me. “Lots and lots of chicks.”
“I need different chicks.” I answered. And off we went.
That night we came home with 20 “meat” breed chickens. Ten for us and ten for the friend. I’m an expert chick raiser so I figured my losses would be low.
I was wrong.
When the people who sell you these meat chicks advertise, here is what they tell you. “These birds are specially bred to have huge breasts and thighs. In eight weeks you will have a freezer full of huge, delicious chickens.
Here is what they should tell you. “These birds are specially bred to die in eight weeks or less. They will fall victim to any possible problem that a chicken could ever have, as well as a wide variety of problems that you would never have with other birds. If you have any birds left in eight weeks, you must be a very lucky person! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!”
Here is what went wrong.
- Fresh air. Any little draft will kill these guys. I was smart and avoided drafts, but I only provided one heat lamp. These chickens are lazy so they just plop down under the lamp without a care. Their baby chick living area was nice and airy, but when that fresh air got a little bit chilly, they just plopped down right on top of their friends. The chickens on the bottom of this pile would get smooshed or smothered to death because they were too lazy to move. I lost three chickens to fresh air.
- Sunshine. These chickens are about as physically fit as that guy who has spent the last thirty years on his parents couch playing video games, drinking mountain dew and eating chips. They are very susceptible to heat stroke. I lost one chicken to heat stroke.
- Exercise. These birds grow at such a fast rate that their hearts and bones can’t keep up. Also, remember that guy on his parents couch. Letting them just free range wherever they want is basically asking for a broken leg or a heart attack. I lost one chicken to a broken leg and two to heart attacks.
- Zero medication. These birds are bred to have no immune system. If they were a child, they would be living in a plastic bubble. That’s pretty much how factory farms raise them. Locked indoors away from all the dangers and germs of the outdoors. Healthy pasture has things like bugs and bacteria. Things that don’t usually bother animals. They do bother this type of chicken, however. I lost four chickens to a bacterial infection before I finally gave in and gave them some medication. It finally hit me that if my kids were sick and dying, I would give them medicine. I should do the same with my livestock. Similarly, when my kids are not sick, I don’t medicate them. I should do the same with my livestock.
Once I came down off my high horse and just gave the chickens some medication, they stopped dying. It was like a miracle. A science miracle.
In the end I had nine whole chickens left. They had had a pretty rough life so they were a little smaller than I would have liked. It was embarrassing. It was a failure. It was also an amazing learning experience.
You see, when I didn’t learn to walk right away, I learned all the ways not to walk. Then, one day, walking became easy. After I learned all of the ways not to communicate, I started talking. And now that I know how not to raise chickens, the next time should be a lot more “cake like”.
I am still going to raise chickens for meat. I am still going to raise them on pasture. They are still going to be the biggest, juiciest, best tasting chickens that you have ever eaten. I am just not going to make the same mistakes this time, because the secret to success… is to fail well.