• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

If you can't afford organic meat, you can't afford to raise your own?

 
Deborah Ori
Posts: 4
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Unfortunately currently we can only afford to buy the cheapest factory farmed chicken. We are obviously not satisfied with it, so we would like to  raise our own when we move to a place with a garden. However most people say if you do it in small scale you won't be able to compete with the factory farmed chicken prices, and the only point is to know where your meat is coming from, which is very nice, but we can't afford it. That's where I found out about permaculture and it seems there are ways to raise chicken for very little money. But if these methods work, why most people don't use them? Why do they spend a fortune on chicken feed if you could just feed them from a compost pile? Is it actually possible to raise affordable free-range chicken or other poultry on your backyard?
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 108
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
7
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi there, and welcome to Permies--looks like this is your first post.
Here's what I can tell you:  if you choose to grow meat birds, whether fast-growing Cornish cross like the kind you're already eating, or any other, slower-growing kind, you may be able to keep them mostly on what you have in the yard, over the summer months, if your yard is not barren.  You will raise slower birds for a MAXIMUM of six months before slaughter or they become tough, so if you live somewhere where you have six months of greens and bugs, you have possibilities.  Now, justin rhodes has some neat tips on how to make this work for cheap.  (I have layers overwintering, so my setup and issues are a bit different.)  Let me go find a link for you, and I'll add it on here.
Here's a link to a page full of his videos.  Check out the maggot-dispenser video (gross, yeah, but let's be practical--the nutrition for the birds is awesome).
http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=justin+rhodes&qpvt=justin+rhodes&FORM=VDRE
 
R Scott
Posts: 3317
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Time, money, quality. You can control two.

You can raise meat on almost no money, but it takes TIME.
Content minimized. Click to view
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9609
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
174
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had mixed results from the chickens on compost method.  I talk about it in this thread: https://permies.com/t/55362/critters/Chickens-compost

I found it difficult to maintain the compost at the right stage to provide sufficient nutrition.  I think it might work if you have a big enough compost area plus plenty of scraps and vegetable waste to add every single day.  I would recommend supplementing with some kind of protein such as earthworms or Black Soldier Fly larvae, also.

I think the compost method is more appropriate for laying hens, because you can tell if they aren't getting sufficient nutrition - they will stop laying.  Growing meat birds may become stunted if they aren't getting sufficient nutrition, but it might not be immediately obvious.

 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 860
77
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I do not have an answer for you Deborah, but I can empathize with you on the high cost of food, or not being able to afford organic meat. If it means anything at all, it has been a tough winter for my family too.

We do have chickens, but we live in Maine, and they cannot graze so to speak in the winter, which means grain feeding. That is an expense, and while I am in no way to say others are like this, it costs us more to raise chickens then what we can buy non-organic for. It is a lot easier in the summer of course, but then all expenses go down in the summer when you live in Maine!

Our church used to give away flocks of chickens...egg layers in that case, to the poor. It was called "Flocks for the Poor", BUT they complained that it cost more to raise them then buying eggs at the store. So that stopped, but they missed the point. It was to help them learn self-sufficiency and to have quality eggs. For me, we could never get rid of our egg layers. They might cost more than non-organic eggs from the store, but they sure do not taste better. In fact to me, store bought eggs have no taste at all.

Maine is a egg producing state and one market is actually China. To get that market the Maine Dept of Ag ruled that eggs can keep up to 6 months if properly refrigerated. 6 MONTHS! Wow, that is nuts (and yuck).
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9609
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
174
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis Johnson wrote:In fact to me, store bought eggs have no taste at all.


I feel the same way about store chicken, and in fact the one organic chicken I bought, was the most tasteless.  Home chicken is extremely flavorful and I believe it is more nutritious so less needs to be eaten. 
 
Deborah Ori
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for all the replies! We live in an area where the winter is mild, rarely goes under 5-10 °C, but after that comes a 4-5 months long summer when there is no rain at all.  Not sure if the rainless summer provides enough stuff to eat? I would like to collect scraps from the neighbors too, or try to find a local restaurant and collect theirs. I guess I would have to raise enough chicken during the winter for the whole year?
 
Maureen Atsali
Posts: 240
Location: Western Kenya
19
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A lot depends on how much space you have, and what kind of environment, and how creative you are at scrounging up resources.  I keep poultry year round with no inputs.  But I am in the tropics on 2.5 acres with nothing to stop my birds from free ranging into my neighbors property.  My birds probably mature a little slow compared to the same breed fed commercially, but I don't have a hurry.  Their eggs are so tastey with yolks that are orange-ish.  (Store bought eggs here have pale, runny yolks that are totally tasteless.). The taste of the meat is also superb. Its tougher than store bought meat, but having gotten used to that I now find the bland butter soft texture of super market broilers kind of nasty.  I don't think raising chickens needs to be expensive, you just have to think outside of the box.  Spoiled vegetables from the supermarket?  Expired baked goods?  Scraps from your neighbors?  Unwanted scraps from friends who butcher their own animals? Hunters? Scraps from the homeless shelter?  Build a worm bin.  If you have space to plant chicken forage, do it.  Sit down and do some math.  Is it cheaper to keep them just for a season and then slaughter them all before the drought?  Would keeping them year round be feasable if it meant you didn't have to buy new chicks every year.  Could you offset some costs by selling eggs or chicks?  Could you cost share with a neighbor who may be interested in healthy meat but doesn't have the ability to raise his own?  Lots of stuff to consider!
 
Deborah Ori
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you, you gave me some good ideas. I don't know about space yet, since we are still looking for a place to buy, but here in most villages there are no real fences, so if we keep chicken they will probably get freely wherever they want during the day. I thought about selling some meet/eggs, but I'm a bit hesitant to get involved with all the government regulations, corruption etc. But maybe I try, since I was told that free range eggs sell very well here.
And what about geese? I heard they can survive on greens. Is it possible to feed them mostly scraps or they need a pasture to forage? Is it true that they are cheaper to raise per kilo than chicken?
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 845
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You can pick up old bread from bakeries, leftovers from the greengrocer or from restaurants, but I bet you will still have to buy some grains.
The next thing to consider is maybe ducks instead of chicken. They are tastier (muscovies) for chicken I like light sussex for the meat. And you will get the eggs and the fertilizer too.
Duck are better converters of food and they are nice and fat.
But in WW2 people had rabbits on balconies they are best for converting greens into meat. But of all meats I prefer duck.
If you have an orchard and run some ducks or chicken the trees grow better.
 
Deborah Ori
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's OK to buy some grains - I just want them to be affordable.
Right now we are less interested in eggs. I'm sensitive to them so I can't eat any, my husband only eats them a few times a week, so we need very few of them. Probably it will change when we will have kids though.
The big issue is meat, I'm sensitive to any kind of animal protein besides meat, no milk or eggs for me.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 845
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are you sensitive to both chicken and duck eggs? I find it weird, when I was young, I did not know one person which was sensitive to eggs, maybe it has something to do how they raise the chicken? I don't know. But your husband will eat more eggs when you have your own, they taste better and are very  healthy.
Good eggs fetch a good price, the eggs could buy the chicken food. I would give it a go! Either you get meat chicken which don't lay so much at all or dual purpose or a meat duck. Muscovies are a bit ugly but very funny and are not noisy.
 
Jonathan Rivera
Posts: 29
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know this is probably not an option you would consider, but organic produce is much cheaper than organic ethical meat. Organic beans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts are all vastly cheaper per calorie than organic ethical meat. besides all of the ethical and biological reasons, financial was the first reason my family switched to vegetarians. Organic and pasture raised cheeses are pretty expensive though, as well as all boxed foods. However, we regularly find amazing aged cheeses for sale and we stock up. I think as a vegetarian you have so many options and ways to save on your protein and calorie needs.

Raising chickens for meat may seem cheaper than buying organic, but when you count your hours, infrastructure, and feeding costs, you're much better off with laying hens. 6 will live off your scraps (as a vegetarian) and provide you with plenty of protein. During the summer months you really wouldn't have to feed them at all, and you don't have to raise baby chicks every year, which is the most time and resource intensive part of poultry IMO.

With all that said, you can save a ton of money if you have a freezer and buy meat birds in bulk direct from a farm. If not, you should be able to find pasture raised beef being sold by the 1/4, 1/2, and whole cow. Around my area it goes for $4 a lbs. and that includes the best cuts. Look around and don't be afraid to buy "non organic" if you know the farmer. There are "conventional" farmers that take better care of their animals than a lot of "industrial" organic you'll find in your grocery store. Good luck!
 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Deborah Ori wrote:It's OK to buy some grains - I just want them to be affordable.
Right now we are less interested in eggs. I'm sensitive to them so I can't eat any, my husband only eats them a few times a week, so we need very few of them. Probably it will change when we will have kids though.
The big issue is meat, I'm sensitive to any kind of animal protein besides meat, no milk or eggs for me.


How about Quail? They require much less space, are ridiculously easy to raise, can be raise QUICKLY, and taste divine. A previous poster suggested miscovy ducks. They're great as well, they taste like roast beef! And he was right, they require much less feed. If you have your heart set on meat chickens, I would suggest going over to backyard chickens and asking duluthralphie for some of his Toad eggs. He's successfully bred and crossed cornish crosses to be sustainable. That way you can keep the adults for breeding and you won't need to re-buy birds every year.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3317
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would be vegan before I relied on cage or CAFO meat, and I am pretty much a carnivore.  And chicken is probably the least healthy of the bunch.

If I didn't have my own livestock, I would be eating mainly vegan with an occasional splurge on grass fed beef. And lots of good animal fat any way I could.
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 783
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in the same boat with Travis, with long cold winters and lots of snow, so grazing in the winter isn't an option.  I'm also not sure the compost idea would work in this climate, and haven't had the chance to experiment as much as Tyler has with it. 

I can tell you that I can pay for my chicken food with the amount I can sell eggs for and leave enough for the two of us to have as many eggs as we need.  I even give eggs away to friends sometimes.  If you figure in the infrastructure costs, it would take me quite a few years to get my money back I imagine.  I haven't done the math because I don't care that much.  I like having the chickens for the better tasting eggs, they work in my gardens for me, I like having the bedding manure mix for my gardens, and I just plain like them.  I keep between 25 and 40 or so, and I will probably keep less in the future.  Depending on your climate, I think you can meet your goals on a smaller scale.  Last year I let one of my momma's raise 8 babies on her own.  I moved her and the little ones to a chicken tractor I made.  If you raised a couple dozen chickens a year, you would have eggs, have extra roosters for eating, and be able to pay for the chicken food that you need to supplement by selling part of your eggs.  If your climate isn't harsh, it isn't extremely hard to scrounge materials for a safe secure small coop, or to re-purpose a small building of some kind.  My chicken coop is an old pig house that I bought at an auction and re-purposed and it has served me well for a few years now.  Mine is fairly large because they spend quite a bit of time in it in the winter, although less now that I built a hoop house and attached to it.  The coop can be pretty small if they only sleep in it and spend the bulk of the day free or in a large run.  The one other thing to consider is, initially, it is all out-going cash and no return.  It takes a few months to get to eating or laying age and you still have to feed them.  Luckily, most people get chicks in the spring, so you can grow much of their feed. 
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 845
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Eggs are good for trading too. Eggs are very healthy especially when you raise your own.
That said I usually buy cheaper parts of meat, liver, bones or even offcuts. In Australia all beef is grass fed unfortunately grain finnished unless stated differnetly. But lamb is gras fed.
Offal is very good for you and often very cheap. If you turn liver in Albanian liver it is really nice!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9609
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
174
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cold climate chickens on compost:  https://permies.com/t/63418/critters/degree-chicken-compost-system-update
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 201
Location: Seymour, MO
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"Just feeding [chickens] from a compost pile" perhaps isn't as simple as it sounds.  Seems to me that most folks doing this are doing it with laying hens, whose demands are different than meat birds.  And most people raising meat birds aren't satisfied with slow-grown heritage breeds, preferring something that grows much more quickly and on less feed, even if it does produce a clearly inferior product.

Then there are the logistics of procuring food scraps for compost.  Taking regular, frequent trips to the grocery store or restaurant isn't an option for many--if they can even find a place willing to give up their scraps.  Many places already have disposal services in place and aren't interested in changing their methods, and for some stores (Wal-Mart comes to mind) there are self-imposed rules in place to protect them from potential liabilities and legal problems.  And for some, even if we can find a place giving away scraps, we might not feel comfortable with the quality (or lack thereof) of the offerings.

Farms raising chickens (or any animals, really) for sale add a whole 'nother level of concerns.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1274
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Depends on climate and a few other factors. Where I live things don't exactly flourish. So while I pretty much feed my animals nothing during the spring, summer, fall those three seasons for us are about 6 months. The other 6 months we have to feed, sometimes a lot depending on the weather. So, it ain't cheap. Plus this is just poultry I'm talking about. Anything larger will have to be fed year round as grass and such just don't grow that well around here. It doesn't grow as fast as the animals eat.

Anyway, so depends. Other than knowing where our meat came from and enjoying the whole process of growing it, it ain't cheap!
 
Jonathan Rivera
Posts: 29
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To sum up most of the feedback here, it seems raising your own chickens for meat isn't going to save you any money, especially if you factor in your time and startup costs. I think it comes down to economies of scale. If you are raising 100+ birds you can get better prices on feed and recoup your infrastructure costs relatively fast. It would also optimize your time investment. Raising 500 chickens isn't drastically more time intensive than raising 20-50, if you have the proper infrastructure. Another cost on your time I haven't seen mentioned is the butchering/processing of the birds. I think there are many reasons one would raise their own broiler chickens, but cost savings isn't generally one of them.
 
Erwin Decoene
Posts: 52
Location: Courtrai Area, Flanders Region, Belgium Europe
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't raise chickens but i know of people who do here locally. Our 2-person household just is not producing sufficient waste to feed them on. A neighbour of my mom collects food waste from neighbours. Her surplus eggs provide in the needs for 5 or 6 households.

If you have trouble with eggs, they might still be worth something to trade with.

You might also want to consider ducks as snailslayers - snails are a big nuissance here.

I'm not sure where you live Ori but here in Western Europe we have a bird influenza risk every winter. Migratory birds coming in from the East bring bird flu. Wild populations infecting local birds and open air poultry forces the goverments in these parts to order poultry to be kept indoors. That is a big problem for most permies here. Most have no 24/24 7/7 indoor capacity.

Another local problem is waste incinerator depositing toxic smoke particles (dioxinelike stuff) in gardens. For now we are told to eat but one homegrown egg each weak. The risk assement study is expected to give the all clear later this year.

Rabbits are interesting - you have even woolproducing rabbits. Rabbit stew with beer is a delicacy btw .-) You used to see older folks collecting wild greens for their rabbits. I'm told dissolved rabbit shit is a great fertilizer for the veggiegarden.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 845
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Either meat is ridiculously cheap over there or it is not true. I think yes it can be done that at least you break even. I get more bread for free than I can use. If it would be so expensive why then all the old timers didiit?
The setup costs is a roll of chicken wire four fence posts and some starposts and some wire. The house can be build with scavenged materials. Eggs are such a good currency! We don't pay for bread because we have eggs and we get the best bread in town. Shop bought chiken meat is slimy and has no taste.
 
Melissa Limes
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you considered something that can forage better than chickens like ducks and geese? They would both require less feed, less housing requirements, and their meat is a thousand times better in my opinion.
 
Tracy Wandling
garden master
Posts: 1322
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
216
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that one of the issues that arises when comparing cost of raising your own chickens to eat (not to sell), compared to buying cheap factory chicken, is this:

We have come to expect the nice plump chicken breasts that come from factory chickens - chickens that are bred to have large breasts, but which are otherwise very unhealthy, and are stuffed with all kinds of nasty stuff. And then the meat is pumped with other nasty stuff after the chickens are butchered. We all know this. In a farm setting, you can raise chickens that are bred for their foraging abilities so as to cut down on feed. You can also change your expectations of what a chicken should look like after being butchered. You might not get a nice plump chicken like you're used to buying in the store, but you will get a healthier, safer, more delicious chicken.

So, I think that it may be our expectations and preconditioning that need to change. We don't need to force-feed our chickens to get healthy delicious meat from them. Raise chickens that are good at foraging, good at converting food to meat, and aren't bred to grow abnormally fast by consuming outrageous amounts of pre-mixed chicken feed.

Deborah has said that they are not interested in raising chickens for eggs, but for meat for their own consumption. And she is obviously already aware of the nastiness of factory-raised chickens, so I think that part of the conversation is irrelevant. How about instead we help Deborah (and anyone else in this situation) find a breed of chickens that will do well in her climate, and will grow well on minimal store-bought inputs? I think that would be much more helpful.

Okay, I'm off to research chicken breeds!

Cheers
Tracy
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9609
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
174
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good foraging breeds that I have raised are:  Dark Cornish, Black Australorp, and Barred Rock.  Right now I have mutts and a couple of Buff Orpingtons who are foraging just fine also.  In my experience, most kinds of chickens can learn to forage if they are raised up to do so.  As soon as the chicks are old enough to begin eating (a day or two old), I begin giving them buckets of garden soil with bugs and worms in it, and bits of shredded leafy greens, as well as small amounts of ground oats and sunflower seeds and small bird seed.  The chicks much prefer the bugs and greens to the grains.  I never use commercial feed.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
steward
Posts: 3921
Location: Missoula, MT
331
books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler listed off some breeds and linked to some threads on raising chickens on compost. Here are some other threads that are FULL of practical ideas for keeping food/feed costs down and amping up that foraging:

meat chicken return on investment - in which Adam Klaus shares SO much about how he does it and what it costs
raising broilers or meat birds in a food forest
developing a new homestead chicken breed - in which Adam Klaus follows up with how he is optimizing his flock by breeding


 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1854
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
156
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Successful chickens in the Vermont compost system were Black Australorps.  Several of the heavy heritage breeds are good foragers.  You don't want to try to raise them on purchased chicken feed, but possibly in a food scrap heavy composting system, you would have success.

Once you have the adult birds, they are not going to cook like a grocery store chicken, but they will be great for chicken-n-dumplings and other old fashioned dishes.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 201
Location: Seymour, MO
12
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One way to economize in raising chickens on purchased grub is to feed grains only--not a pre-mixed ration.  Those pre-mixed rations are intended to provide a complete diet, so there's a lot of redundancy if your birds are free-ranging with ample forage and creepy-crawlies.  And they're tailored for commercial CRX chickens, making them overkill for slow-growing breeds.

The most expensive components of a pre-mixed ration are the high-protein bits (mostly soybean oil meal, and mostly hexane-extracted) and the mineral mix.  Let your birds forage for those components, and you ought to save some cash.  You still won't produce meat for supermarket prices, because of the reasons previously mentioned, but it will be cheaper than it could be.

Julia, I agree with your assessment that such a bird "won't cook like a grocery store chicken"--it'll be demonstrably better!  By no means is such a bird relegated to braising or stewing; up to about 24 weeks (20 weeks is a little safer), they are great grilled, fried, or roasted.  Even old birds can be slow-roasted to good effect.
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 783
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:In my experience, most kinds of chickens can learn to forage if they are raised up to do so.


This has been my experience also.  I do use commercial foods, but I also let my chickens forage a lot, and all of them have done well.  I have gold and silver laced wyandottes, easter eggers, buff rocks, australorps, dominiques, naked necks, and quite a bunch of mutts created from those, and all would prefer forage to commercial food.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 860
77
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Please stay with me on this, as this is important, but has background story to it...

We used to raise broilers, from about 1950 until 1988 when my Grandfather retired. This was a commercial operation and while only 50,000 birds (the normal here at the time was 200,000 birds). The breed we raised were for a now defunct poultry factory that at the time was 2nd in the nation, just behind Tyson. It ended when the owner retired, the price of oil skyrocketed as us in the New England states had to have heated barns, and no family members that cared about poultry plants.

Tracy is absolutely right. We sent the chickens to slaughter at 7 weeks of age because they had been seleted so well that their heavy bodies would snap their legs off they were so over-heavy. How did we do that? Stay with me, it gets disgusting. I am not advocating any of this, but if you know the crap that happened, people will learn what NOT to do, and what commercial chicken really is. Again, stay with me on this...

A simple way was to keep the lights on. With the lights on the chickens did not have an internal clock, and not knowing what time it was, they ate all the time, thus getting fatter faster. That is not a huge deal, not natural, but not too bad.

BUT if getting them to eat was good at fattening them up, getting them to drink free water was better. This is the disgusting part. My father worked at the poultry plants feed mill, and his job was to apply the "additives". Straight up, no joke, no lie, no conspiracy theory here...it was ARSENIC. That made the chickens thirsty, they drank more water and they got fat quicker. REALLY QUICK!

Here is the thing, I did some research thinking this practice was abandoned long ago. NOPE, it probably depends on what commercial feed is fed, but some chicken feed still has arsenic in it. The theory is, the human body adjusts to mild doses of it. It acclimates to it in other words.

I don't eat organic meat as a whole, but I don't eat a lot of chicken either. I know how we raised it, I know what is in it, and while it blows my mind such a practice is still around, I want NOTHING to do with regular commercial chicken.

 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2031
62
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They also feed them arsenic because in a CAFO, almost all the chickens have lots of parasites. They feed them arsenic and some of the parasites die before the chicken does, and they get (most importantly) heavier, and therefore, more profitable.  That's why American rice, particularly Southern rice, is so full of arsenic.  It's apparently ok to get millions of people sick from arsenic as long as someone is making profits off of it.
John S
PDX OR
 
James Landreth
Posts: 25
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Deborah,

I have heard the same as you--that geese are very cheap to raise. It seems to me that the big cost is the startup breeding stock; once you have them, though, it's said that they breed for years.

I second the thoughts about rabbits. I raise rabbits, and while I'm still working on bringing down the cost, it does seem more doable to me (I live in western Washington State) to raise them cheaper than store meat, and with fewer chemicals. I prefer rabbits to meat birds anyhow because you don't have to raise masses of them at once, they mother their own young (some chickens do, of course, but no hybrids that I have ever heard of) and they're easier to process than birds. My winters are very mild and my summers are dry. I buy grain and hay in season and store them. They are the mainstay of my rabbit feed, and then I feed seasonally other than that (there's always some sort of weed, bramble, etc. that is growing here). It's something to consider.

I know people who raise earthworms to feed to their meat birds, but you have to raise a lot of them. An issue for me with meat birds is that, generally, you have to purchase chicks for them as no meat birds reproduce naturally. That is a high cost. But raising an old-fashioned meat bird that will hatch their young (cochins, buff orpingtons, other dual purpose) is hit and miss because a) you have to maintain the breeding stock and b) they eat more than commercial breeds to hit butchering weight. But, if you have cheap/free natural food, I hear they can be worth it.
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 55
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
4
chicken food preservation hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Heck, there is no good reason why you can't raise your own meat for significantly less than you could buy it at the store. You might be able to raise it for less than the factory-farmed stuff, per pound.

The trick is getting creative with sourcing your inputs (in this case, food for your chickens) without having to spend money. If you're buying bags of organic chicken feed, yes, it's going to get expensive. But there's no reason you should have to buy feed, unless you're raising more chickens than your land can support by itself.

Creative ways to find food:

-The obvious one: every food scrap from your kitchen goes back to the chickens. Don't forget: chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians, so they will happily pick meat and cartilage from bones, and will eat the marrow if you crack bones open for them. They'll drink broth from soups and spoiled milk if you put it in a pan for them, too. (Edited: no coffee grounds for the birds! Birds naturally eat grit and small stones, and coffee grounds look like grit, but the caffeine can be harmful.)
-When you butcher your first chickens, save the parts you aren't going to make use of (heads, feet if you don't use them). Freeze those parts and in the spring and summer, make a maggot bucket and put the frozen parts in there, a few at a time. Flies will lay their eggs inside the bucket, ripe juicy maggots will fall out, and your birds will love them.
-Set up a soldier fly larvae farm
-If your chickens are far enough away from your garden and house and you want to risk it, put a small brush pile in their pen. Garter snakes and/or mice will start living in the brush. Chickens love live snakes and mice!
-Go to grocery stores, food banks, and farmer's markets, and offer to haul off their damaged/unsellable produce and any stale bread or other unsellable stuff which chickens can eat. Ripped bags of dry beans or rice, etc. (Note: chickens should not be fed dry beans or rice without soaking and cooking first. They should also not eat a lot of bread. Some is fine, but it shouldn't be the majority of their food.) My sister raises pigs, and this is her favorite way to get free pig food. She typically can fill up the trunk of her car once or twice a week--the grocery stores she has developed relationships with are happy to set aside damaged goods for "the Pig Lady!" Of course, birds are susceptible to botulism so you don't want to feed them anything from damaged cans or home-canned food that has popped its seal or shows any signs of being inedible for humans.

It will take more work to source plenty of food for your chickens, especially if your garden isn't producing at full capacity yet, but it's absolutely do-able!
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 55
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
4
chicken food preservation hugelkultur
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
James Landreth wrote:Hi Deborah,

I have heard the same as you--that geese are very cheap to raise. It seems to me that the big cost is the startup breeding stock; once you have them, though, it's said that they breed for years.



Geese are EXCELLENT homesteading birds. They used to be critically important to homesteads and even urban/suburban households in North America, but when food really became industrialized in the mid-20th century we lost our tradition of goose-keeping. Somehow chickens remained on our radar, but we've forgotten about geese almost entirely. What a shame, because they are so useful...and taste about ten times better than the best chicken, IMO.

Geese don't scratch like chickens do, so they won't do any tilling or compost-spreading for you, but they do graze on grass, so they will reduce your mowing chores. (Turkeys are also excellent grass-eaters, by the way.) Geese also eat all the same pests that chickens will eat, and then some...they will eat slugs and snails, which chickens usually ignore, and their larger size means they can tackle young rats, too. Most homesteading breeds of geese prefer walking to flying, and they are very territorial so they tend to stay on your land without roaming elsewhere. Their homebody tendencies mean you may be able to get away with keeping them without fences. They can easily be herded around if you want to move them from one grazing patch to another. Geese are usually independent and assertive enough to defend themselves against most predators, and have been known to chase predators away from chickens, too, just because the chickens happened to be a part of the goose's territory. Many breeds are too large for most raptors to tackle (as adults, anyway) so you'll lose fewer birds to hawks and eagles. Unlike ducks, they don't need a body of water all the time (ducks' feeding habits make it necessary for them to keep their nasal passages wet, so they need to be able to dunk their heads several times a day.) Geese prefer to mate in the water, so a kiddie pool full of water at breeding time is the bare minimum. Some geese don't even bother with the pool anymore!

And did I mention how DELICIOUS they are?? Seriously, they're so good, I can't believe they ever fell out of favor with North Americans. Goose fat is a prized ingredient for serious chefs. They're ridiculously tasty, better than duck IMO (probably because of all the grazing they do...it gives their meat a sweeter, more turkey-like flavor.)

A lot of people are hesitant to get geese because they have a reputation for being mean. But I've dealt with chickens who were way meaner than any domestic goose. Geese are mostly "all talk" and if you ignore their bluster, they'll leave you alone. The worst you'll get is a bite, which feels like a pinch from a particularly angry sibling. Note that I used to be a zookeeper specializing in birds, and I have hands-on experience with everything from hummingbirds to Andean condors and ostriches, so my opinion that geese are easy to deal with may be somewhat skewed by that experience, but still...geese don't deserve their bad rep.

If you're concerned about noise, there are quite a few breeds that are as quiet as chickens (or quieter.) Cotton Patch geese are especially docile and quiet, and the most delicious, too, IMO. So in your quest to raise your own meat cheaply, don't rule out geese!
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!