This is round one of meat chicken harvesting. Yesterday we processed 19 cornish rock chickens for the freezer. Today’s agenda was to finish the remaining sixteen birds. The next round of 50 meat chicks just moved from the brooder into the outdoor pen last week.

cornish cross rock meat chicken ready for harvest

This morning, when Paul went to water and feed the birds he found total devastation. The “little meaties” as he calls the young meat birds had been viciously attacked. As Paul sorted through the carnage, he found only 15 of the 50 chicks alive.

We struggled with the horror and shock, finally finding the focus with heavy hearts, to finish today’s job of butchering the larger meat birds. We worked swiftly, knowing all the while that we’d have to deal with both the dead and surviving birds. Curiously, the large birds slated for harvest today hadn’t been touched at all.

At the end of the day I moved the surviving little meaties into a temporary secure pen. At least what I hope is secure. As Paul worked to clean out the meat bird pen, this little critter brazenly returned to the scene of the crime.

a mink after attacking our chickens

He showed very little fear as he scoped things out, searching for another meal. We believe he’s a mink. I’m astounded that something so small could cause such complete ruination. He even hung around long enough for me to return to the house and get my camera.

a maine mink

Shortly after this, I heard commotion from the little meaties temporary home. The mink had found them and was casing the joint, looking for a point of entry. He didn’t do anything more than terrorize the chickens this time.

I became frantic about the welfare of the other birds. I hastily ushered the hens into the safety of their coop and reinforced their window with hardware cloth.

Paul and I are heavyhearted. This is our fourth year raising birds on the farm and it’s the first year we’ve battled predators on such a scale. Fox, raccoons, hawks, eagles, skunk, and now this nasty mink.

We chose to raise meat chickens and turkeys to control the quality of our food – to really know what we are eating. The question is do we have strong enough conviction to weather this setback.

More on raising meat chickens:

30 August 2011: A Reluctant Chicken Farmer
23 July 2013: The Chicken Harvest