The loss of our local chicken locker threw us for a loop this year. Instead of driving 20 minutes away and taking the chickens with us when we left, the closest other locker is an hour and 20 minutes away and we needed to take two trips, once to drop them off, then another to pick them up the next day.
The chicken raising business is perhaps the riskiest and least profitable enterprise we do. Feed went up 25%, butchering cost doubled, and we used $70 in gas just to drop off and pick up the chickens at the locker. I dropped them off on Wednesday and because of the longer trip to locker than usual and heat while we were waiting in line to start, we started losing chickens waiting in line. I think we lost seven of the largest ones as they are most prone to overheat. Another person waiting with us had the same problem, but we were able to move about 50 of her chickens from her horse trailer to the empty box of the pickup.
The next episode was when Linda picked them up the next day – a storm had moved through the town before Linda arrived and power was out at the locker. The locker owner understandably did not want to open the locker doors with the power off, because he wanted to keep as much cold in the locker while the power was off. So more waiting while waiting for power to be restored.
We dropped about half the frozen chickens off with customers and kept the rest as a 50-50 mix between frozen and fresh for ourselves. So this morning Linda and Emma worked on cutting up the chickens in meal-sized portions for quick winter meals.
We’ve been debating doing on-farm butchering, and the cost associated with the locker, the gas to drive there and the eight hours of time driving and waiting at the locker (not counting waiting for power to be restored) push us to think about that direction.