Call me a flip-flopper. It's true. I'm having a hard time deciding what kind of chickens to get and when.
When I first embarked on this chicken adventURE, I thought I'd be part of a herd. Groton Local would make some key decisions and I'd comply: Pick up XX chickens of XX breed on XX date.
No such luck. Groton Local made their order without me. So I formed my own Hen Talk group and we've been researching, visiting chicken raising operations, reading, talking, and asking questions.
I FINALLY decided to buy 14-16 week pullets that would be ready to lay in a month or so. It would give me immediate gratification in the form of eggs -- my purpose in this adventure, and eliminate the nursery stage of caring for cute little chicks.
However, I called the Townsend chicken farm so I wouldn't have to get them mail-order from the Midwest, and found out they administer the chicks antibiotics.
Michael Pollan, a modern-day Cronus or Saturn [Greek and Roman Gods] of agriculture, reports that 70 percent of all antibiotics used in America are on CAFOS - Commercial Animal Feeding Operations. They don't qualify as farms -- they are factories. Without the antibiotics, the animals would not survive in such close quarters, and grow more slowly.
Put that piece of the puzzle together with MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria [Strep Throat] that infects 100,000 Americans a year and killed 19,000 in 2005. More people are dying of MRSA than AIDS.
Recent studies point to CAFOS as MRSA breeding grounds. MRSA also thrives in hospitals. For the full story, click on Michael Pollan link for his 2007 article in the NY Times Magazine.
Either way, I'm going organic, even if it means losing a few chicks to death and disease. One of the most common ways of sharing disease among chickens is if I visit other chicken keepers and track home their ailments on my shoes.
I'm going with a heritage or endangered breed, too, because of a Yahoo Group on Organic Chickens. After stern admonitions in the welcome-to-the-list-serve-rules, such as "Don't ask stupid questions," such as "What breed should I get?"
They say, "We will make one recommendation: choose a heritage breed" and help save a breed. OK, I've flip-flopped to a new plan. There are no rules!