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meat chickens

 
monty ali
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Has anyone raised chickens for meat? i've been keeping chickens for the last 6 months for eggs but i wanted to try raising chickens for meat.

Can anyone give me some tips? breeds to try?
I don't mind trying to raise them from eggs.
 
Alder Burns
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If you are on any kind of a homestead where the chickens will be outside and expected to do most of the things that chickens do, I would go for a large multi-purpose breed (Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Orpington...as examples) Stay away from the "crosses" or "hybrids" recommended for meat production. These are the birds raised as commercial broilers and are bred for super fast growth and efficient feed conversion and that's all. I've tried these birds more than once and they've always been a disappointment. They grow so fast that their feet spring out of joint. They sit by the feeder and wait to be fed, without foraging even given the opportunity. They won't even scratch up the mulch in their yard, trampling it instead and causing it to mat down and become a soggy foul mess at first good rain....
 
Alder Burns
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Oh and I didn't mention that, given a sudden rain, they will just as often pile up in a corner and smother the bottom ones to death as go into their convenient shelter right nearby......
 
John Polk
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For homestead use, I agree with the recommendation for dual purpose breeds.

The commercial meat birds (usually Cornish-X) are fast growth, but also come with health problems.
A chicken butchered at 6-8 weeks of age will have little flavor.
(They were bred for the Chicken Mc Nugget/Chicken Tenders markets. They cannot be bred back for the next generation.)

With a dual purpose breed (RI Red, Plymouth, New Hampshire, Delaware, Buckeye, etc.) you have many advantages:
You can raise your own from eggs. Buying from a hatchery is a once only expense. You can select your best hens & roosters to perpetuate your eggs and meat into perpetuity. With a spring hatch out, you will have table ready birds for autumn, and fresh pullets which should begin laying about the time the previous generation shuts down for the winter rest. Breed the best - eat the rest.

 
Travis Krause
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Location: D'Hanis, Texas
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We have been raising about 8000 meat chickens per year for the past four years. We sell at farmers market and have a CSA.

Our favorite bird by far has been the Naked Neck produced by S&G Poultry (they are a hybrid thus you can't expect the same results if you breed them). You can order from them online and their prices are very reasonable.

As for the dual purpose breeds, Delawares and Naked Necks are probably the best. We have experimented with both and the roosters have a decent growth rate plus the texture doesn't get too tough. They are not what we would normally consider roasting quality birds though. They of course make excellent stew.

The Freedom Rangers, Red Broilers, and Cornish Crosses all get leg problems because of their fast growth rate. The Cornish Cross and Freedom Rangers take about 8 to 9 weeks to finish, while the Naked Necks (from S&G) take about 12-14. The Naked Necks withstand our harsh summers in South Texas, often exceeding 100 degrees for more than 50 days of the year.

Hope this helps and good luck with your endeavor!

,Travis Krause
-Parker Creek Ranch
 
Burra Maluca
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Monty - you're in England, aren't you?

How about a traditional dual purpose UK breed such as the Light Sussex? You can still get 'utility' strains which lay a decent number of eggs, and they grow into nice meaty chickens. Some of them even go broody so you can raise your own chicks without having to use an incubator. And there's always the possibility of selling hatching-eggs or young-stock as they are a pure breed, not a hybrid.
 
monty ali
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Thanks guys some quite useful tips very much appreciate it.

I've god some hybrids for eggs, i had a couple of light sussex but one died and they other got taken by a fox. I was thinking about raising my own chicks and just eating the roosters.

I got 4 nice big orpington cross roosters today, surprised at how big they are they make my red hens like like chicks. I'll be keeping one maybe two the other two will be going. I might try getting an orpington female and raising some chicks.
 
monty ali
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do you think i could raise orpington crossed with red hens for meat?
 
Burra Maluca
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monty ali wrote:do you think i could raise orpington crossed with red hens for meat?


I'm sure you could! Orpingtons are nice big meaty birds. Your red hybrid layers are very unlikely to go broody though, so you'll have to invest in an incubator.
 
monty ali
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what is a good chicken to breed with my orpington roosters for meat?
 
mick mclaughlin
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monty ali wrote:what is a good chicken to breed with my orpington roosters for meat?


Well, I am not sure if the same birds are available over there, as here, but orpington's aint bad crossed on orpingtons. I love them as layers, and they are ok as meat birds. Delawares and as mentioned turkens are a popular bird here for dual purpose.

There are some really good threads on this forum about raising meat birds here;

http://www.permies.com/t/30250/chickens/meat-chicken-return-investment

and here

http://www.permies.com/t/25111/chickens/Jersey-giants-heritage-meat-chickens

Tons of knowledge and experiences there.


Just a little word of caution. Any heritage bird that you raise just flat ain't gonna look like a grocery store bird. In my experience, if you want a heritage bird to be tender, and to be able to just pop them in the frying pan, they need to be butchered young, with little weight. Conversely, if you let them get to decent size around 20 months, they will have excellent taste, but will never have the big breasts of a store bought bird.


Now on the cornish cross. They get big quick, in fact way too quick. You can get a butcher bird of close to 5lbs in 7 weeks, if you just pour food to them, and put up with the health problems. As many have said, it just aint natural. I do not like them, BUT if you put them in a tractor, AND make them move everyday, AND make sure they get forage with their feed, And take them out to 8 weeks before butcher; they are a beautiful, tender bird that you can pop straight in the frying pan. Yes they take more work and are just flat weird, but I do not necessarily see them as the evil that everyone else does.

Just something to think about!
 
Peter Smith
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I would disagree with the assessment of freedom ranger breed. I raised them for meat and had very good results. I had no health problems, very good weight at 9 weeks, and the best flavor. I know of someone using freedom ranger hens for eggs with no health problems. I will be getting 100 more when it warms up a little toward spring. I suppose people have different experiences, but mine and others I know have been very good.
 
Tony Hill
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We did some Cornish Rock last spring, and were VERY happy with the results.
We are just a family, with a 2-acre, semi-wooded lot, so this was for personal use.

Ours are free-range, after being indoors for the first couple of weeks. Our mixed flock of 30 flourished. NO problems of any kind except that they were eating our garden and pooping everywhere. NOT A SINGLE SICKNESS OR DEATH, and we didn't do any antibiotics or anything like that. Just fed them 2/3 layer pellets and 1/3 scratch grain, with a lot of grass and bugs thrown in from the start.

Once released to the outdoors, the Cornish Rock got huge. Not as fast as commercial birds, because they mostly had to forage in the woods for their meals. They are GREAT foragers, by the way.

At 10 weeks, we killed the biggest meanest rooster of the Cornish rocks, mainly for attacking my wife. Was tough to do, being the first one. I actually got a little misty-eyed, having to dispatch the first of our "little guys."

But then we ate him... WOW! That was some tender, juicy, DELICIOUS chicken!!! I think free-ranging must help them develop flavor, because that was some GOOD chicken! I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but it was so good, even my wife (a big softie) was bugging me to kill another one sooner than later!

So every once in a while, a rock would do something annoying, (like breaking down a blueberry bush) and I would dispatch him. YUM! We ended up letting some of them go for quite a long time, killing the last ones after maybe 5 months. At that age, I think they may have been even MORE delicious, just not as tender, of course. The last ones were excellent in the crock-pot with rotisserie seasoning!

The other day, my wife pulled one of the last ones out of the freezer and baked it. STILL YUMMY! We just had chicken sandwiches for lunch today, with tomato and sliced avocado on toast. She is going to put the rest in the crock-pot for hearty chicken stew tomorrow.

Next month, we are DEFINITELY getting another 18 Cornish Rocks!!! Not sure where you are, but I HIGHLY recommend the strain of Cornish X Rocks from Tractor supply in VA. Very smart, hardy birds, even in sub-freezing temps in the spring and 100* heat in the summer. I've heard they are dumb, slow, crippled and so on, but ours were exactly the opposite! Smart, fast, strong and delicious!

And my neighbor kept one until adulthood, and she laid a big brown egg every day, which was a surprise. Supposedly, they are not supposed to be good layers, NOR are they supposed to live very long. Go figure...

-TH
 
mick mclaughlin
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Tony, i sm betting they had your chicks mis marked. By 12 weeks a cornish cross wouldn't be able to walk, let alone be aggresive!

It's eould be kinda like a cat barking. Cornish crosses are not really chickens.

Just info do you wont be shocked by what ya get next time
 
Tony Hill
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mick mclaughlin wrote:Tony, i sm betting they had your chicks mis marked. By 12 weeks a cornish cross wouldn't be able to walk, let alone be aggresive!
It's eould be kinda like a cat barking. Cornish crosses are not really chickens. Just info do you wont be shocked by what ya get next time


It's funny, but that is EXACTLY what we were told at the time of purchase! They told us that we HAD to kill them by week 10 or they would die anyway.

YES, they grew amazingly fast, but we did NOT just let them eat all they wanted to. Just threw out a coffee can of food in the morning, then they had to go find their own food for the rest of the day. Then another can of food to bring them back to the coop in the evening. As true free-range birds, they got most of their food from the woods on their own.

Exactly as others have posted, because they are always hungry, they were the BEST FORAGERS EVER!!! And even more amazingly, they were the SMARTEST of all the birds. The meat birds were the first to figure out almost everything, including the fact that they could eat mice. Those big Cornich Rock would find a mouse nest and destroy!

What was strange was they looked full grown while our Brahmas and Reds were still little chicks. All the other chicks would follow them around like they were their parents, and the meat birds were very protective of them. THAT is the reason we took so long to kill them... They were nice birds.

But when the roosters started attacking the wife, it was time to say goodbye. We killed the last few mainly because they ate EVERYTHING, and were not growing any more. At that point, we were feeding them for zero returns, and they were bullying the other chickens, so we killed them and put them in the freezer.

We are about to get another batch of Cornish X Rocks, the only birds we are buying this year. Not sure how we will handle this. Might just feed them heavy and kill them fast, as others do. That is certainly much more economical than feeding them for so long. Or, let them free range like last year, and let them grow a little slower, but have more flavor... HMMM.....

-TH
DSC01645.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC01645.JPG]
BIG difference between the rock and the rest
 
Paul Ewing
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There is a lot of misinformation out there from people that have never raised Cornish Crosses but just know that they are the industrial birds so must be some self destructing mutant creature. It is very possible to raise Cornish Cross to 12 or 16 weeks. The will get big, but they don't fall over like some people claim. It is mostly in the feeding and raising of them. Restrict the feed a bit and let them forage and you will have giant chickens wondering around. They will even lay eggs, but they are not that great at production.
 
kent smith
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Location: Pennsylvania
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we raise Cornish cross meat birds on pasture in moveable pens in the Joel Salatin style and have no problems. From birth (day old at the post office) to butcher at 8 weeks we get 6-8 pound dressed broilers in the freezer. I keep them on the pasture and move them at least once a day, preferably twice a day and they graze about 30% of their diet. We typically loose one or two out of a batch of 50, in the past I moved the pens and crushed a few or from predators. We have raccoons and possums and they would have taken a few of any bred. We swear by moveable pens and keeping them on pasture, one of the best things for the pasture along with good cattle grazing. for our family we will do 50 this summer and plan to put between 250 -300 pounds of dressed chicken in the freezer or canned. We also do turkeys in pens on the pasture and love them. Canned turkey, parted up is fast food for us, we had turkey enchiladas for dinner tonight that came from a mason jar, it was great. check out Salatin's pens on YouTube or buy his book, it works great for us. All the horror stories of Cornish cross is hyped up by people who have not raised them in pens on pasture or try to raise them like laying hens in my opinion. A home made scalder and plucker makes butcher day about a 3 hour chore for us, with half that time in cutting up parts or wrapping whole broilers. Here is a photo of turkeys in pens out on grass

and wrestling with a turkey before Thanksgiving.

kent










s
 
mick mclaughlin
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Paul Ewing wrote:There is a lot of misinformation out there from people that have never raised Cornish Crosses but just know that they are the industrial birds so must be some self destructing mutant creature. It is very possible to raise Cornish Cross to 12 or 16 weeks. The will get big, but they don't fall over like some people claim. It is mostly in the feeding and raising of them. Restrict the feed a bit and let them forage and you will have giant chickens wondering around. They will even lay eggs, but they are not that great at production.


Well I have only raised around 10,000 of them, but I will admit I have never restricted feed to them. I raise all my chickens in tractors and move them daily at minimum, usually twice daily. I am planning on only doing 100 of the cornishx's this year. That will cover friends who bought them last year.

I made a post on this same thread, defending the cornish x's, but I don't really like them. Any other type of chicken will choose to forage, and restricting their feed is not needed. I am trying to switch to all heritage breeds. I am trying 50 white rock cockrels to start with, along with 100 straight run new hamps for meat and a laying flock.

They may only feed my family, but they will eat, Heritage birds will be a very tuff retail sale here. I have read, and talked and now I am gonna try getting my feet wet on the heritage birds. I have done a few, but this is a first for white rocks,

Chickens are only needed to pay for themselves, and they almost do that with manure, so no worries.

 
Bev Huth
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Location: AR, USA
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I like the larger breeds that are slower growing, specifically Orpingtons and Jersey Giants. Yes slower and a worse feed to meat ratio but, they forage well, love mice for snacks and, brood very well. Big chicks means fewer losses then and, they are wonderful layers as well. Not as good in winter but, even then I get 12 to 20 eggs a day out of my 30 hens. Far more than we need but, they make good food for other animals we have and, I can pickle and can or crack and freeze the extra eggs.

At least when we butcher one, there is plenty of meat for the effort, and they don't mind heat or cold, keep the mice to a minimum better than any cat ever did and, they mother the chicks well so, worth the slow growing and lower feed to meat ratio.
 
Paul Ewing
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It comes down to what you are doing with the meat chickens. If you are raising them for personal consumption, it doesn't matter what breed you use. If you are trying to raise them commercially for a profit then you need to make sure that the breed you choose will be able to be sold profitably and satisfy your customers.
 
Peter Ellis
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Paul Ewing wrote:It comes down to what you are doing with the meat chickens. If you are raising them for personal consumption, it doesn't matter what breed you use. If you are trying to raise them commercially for a profit then you need to make sure that the breed you choose will be able to be sold profitably and satisfy your customers.


Seems to me that it definitely matters what breed you go with for home use, but that the decision making parameters may not be quite the same as what you use when choosing for commercial purposes.

The birds don't all taste the same, they don't all behave the same, they don't all have the same environmental parameters (cold/heat tolerance), they don't all have the same foraging aptitude, I'm sure there are more differentiating factors. Everyone needs to consider what works best for their specific needs and their particular parameters of environment, etc.

 
Lonnie McManners
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I would have to agree everyone has different staples per animal on their property. You may have brushy briars wherass your neighbor has lush green grass, these elements feed different animals and even different breeds will sustain in seperate manners. Sometimes you just have to do indepth research to find out how you can make co-existance for what you want to have. I raise a strain of Barred Rock's I have been developing myself for my own reasons as I do my garden the same way. It seems like a matter of terrain and taste.
 
Beth Mouse
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I have enjoyed my 2 laying hens and their yummy eggs for the past 3 years as a new chicken owner. I have 1/2 an acre of pasture and would like to get serious about raising chickens for meat.


My current coop (which is actually a fenced-off corner inside a small barn) will comfortably hold 7 chickens. I could fence off more of this barn area, or give them the entire area, and keep probably 20 chickens. I am not sure if I want to keep that many at once though. Seems like a lot (since I only have 2 now, LOL).


I want to raise the least amount of heritage chickens, laying breeds not Cornish X, while being able to butcher one maybe every other week. My Grandma is telling me they would go out and wring a neck on Sunday for dinner that night. If I wanted to do this every other week, how many chickens should I be raising at once? How young can I butcher and am trying to figure out how many chicks I would need to raise and if I would continuously need to keep chicks.


Does anyone else raise and butcher chickens like this?

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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