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Chicken Broiler Breeder Recommendations please!

 
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We are wanting to raise heritage meat chickens in our orchard and I need help finding a breeder!

We want to grow a premium, beyond organic, slow-grow chicken that will free range and have as few inputs as possible. I have not heard good reviews from a lot of the major hatcheries which are being accused of not doing proper breeding or culling, having weak birds, and poor genetics, even with heritage breeds. I am looking for a breeder who cares deeply about promoting the health and production of their birds. Ideally, they need to be raised on pasture with heavy foraging pressure so that I am getting birds that will grow on pasture, not grain. They should cull heavily and understand how to pick birds for health and production. I want to start with superior genetics to build my own broiler flock from. The size of the hatchery/breeder does not matter, I am just concerned with the quality of birds. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, ty!  
 
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Samar Morgan wrote:We are wanting to raise heritage meat chickens in our orchard and I need help finding a breeder!

We want to grow a premium, beyond organic, slow-grow chicken that will free range and have as few inputs as possible.  



Yes, we had the same issue. I only purchase from members of poultry associations since they carefully control genetics for show birds. The other benefits are the broad choice of varieties, and to save $$ I try to get day old chicks - they therefore grow up knowing me, hence being less flighty, relaxed, and tend to produce more eggs/better meat as a consequence of not being stressed.

Breed choice is personal preference, being from Oz, I like Australorps because they're great all-rounders.

If you're in the USA, you could try the American Poulty Association as a starting point.
 
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Hi Samar! Perhaps the american bresse at Green Fire Farms would be one to consider for a premium slow growing chicken. It's the first one I thought of. Hope this helps!
 
Samar Morgan
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Thank you for the recommendations!
 
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Have you raised chickens before? If not maybe do a couple batches for some Cornish Cross or Red Ranger to get your feet wet and then start down the breeding path?

 
gardener
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Samar Morgan wrote:We are wanting to raise heritage meat chickens in our orchard and I need help finding a breeder!

We want to grow a premium, beyond organic, slow-grow chicken that will free range and have as few inputs as possible. I have not heard good reviews from a lot of the major hatcheries which are being accused of not doing proper breeding or culling, having weak birds, and poor genetics, even with heritage breeds. I am looking for a breeder who cares deeply about promoting the health and production of their birds. Ideally, they need to be raised on pasture with heavy foraging pressure so that I am getting birds that will grow on pasture, not grain. They should cull heavily and understand how to pick birds for health and production. I want to start with superior genetics to build my own broiler flock from. The size of the hatchery/breeder does not matter, I am just concerned with the quality of birds. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, ty!  



The place to start this search is going to be American Poultry Association
Next up do a search for the specific breed(s) you are wanting.

Keep in mind that for the most part breeders are going to be raising show quality birds and the prices per chick will reflect that.
Most of the "Meat birds" will not be raised the way show breeders raise birds.
Meat birds have only one purpose and they just aren't seen at shows because these breeds are for one thing only, packing on weight in 6-7 weeks.
The rangers can be free ranged and the result is that they take longer to get to that slaughter weight of 4-6 lbs., this also gives their bones time to strengthen so their legs can hold up their weight.
The current "Tyson" birds reach 6-8 lbs. and they do this in 7 weeks, if you let them live longer, their legs break from the weight of the bird and weak bones in the legs.

Your best tasting bird for the table is going to probably be a "Dual Purpose" breed instead of a Meat bird breed.

The hatcheries are a type of hybrid operation, they employ breeders then they are delivered these eggs for incubation. If something like a parasite or disease hits the breeding side, it will be reflected in the hatching side of the operation.
If you can find a "Hobby" breeder, or one that raises their flocks for egg production, you stand a good chance of getting birds of the order that it sounds to me like you are wanting to raise.
On the other hand the "Big Four" hatcheries do make good efforts to supply the best quality birds they can. (not that they can hope to meet the quality of a show breeder that sells chicks for 20 dollars each and up)
 
Samar Morgan
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My fiancé and I were at odds over the chickens, he leaning towards the standard tractors and CC and I wanting a happier, healthier, less input heritage breed. He is focusing on cattle, goats, fencing etc so I get to attempt to come up with a profitable poultry system. Yes overall we have less birds to sell, but we are going for diversity on our farm, not a chicken operation.  

Definitely not interested in a "show bird", bred to look a certain a way by a set of arbitrary human rules. I want a heritage meat bird where the focus has not been just to create a larger carcass that matures quickly, but firstly for foraging ability and overall health. I've found a couple prospects on the APPPA so far. I'll have to check the APA as well, all I saw for them was a show bird directory, Ill have to dig deeper. I hope it's not part of a membership fee.

 
pollinator
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Check JM Hatchery for their New Hampshire Reds and Delawares.  The breeding stock isn't pastured as far as I'm aware, but they have been selected for meat characteristics, which you will not find from any other commercial hatchery.
 
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Hey, if anyone with an opinion on their favorite chicken breeder would be interested, we're trying to get a review grid going for "Critter Breeders".  This is like the Official Permies Seed and Plant Source Review Grid.  A place to rate different chicken/cow/LGD/heritage pig/etc breeders to help one another out.

One has already been created for Murray McMurray Hatchery

Once we get enough reviews we can make a review grid.  Links to how to make a Summary Post and the ensuing reviews are a little ways down in This Thread.

I've noticed that properly formatted review posts tend to get apples thrown at them.  If you're into that sort of thing.....
 
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Joel Salatin's approach is to avoid pure-bred birds and go with a big mutt mix of a little bit of everything.  Down through the years, he's brought in a variety of different roosters to bring genetic diversity to his flock.  He grows thousands of meat birds a year, and as they pasture them, he keeps an eye out for birds that look good, gain weight quickly, and are healthy.  If a bird passes the eye test, he pulls it out and keeps it as a member of his breeding stock flock.  

His birds are loved for their flavor, size and health.  No antibiotics, no hormones, just goodness.  

 
Wes Hunter
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Marco Banks wrote:Joel Salatin's approach is to avoid pure-bred birds and go with a big mutt mix of a little bit of everything.  Down through the years, he's brought in a variety of different roosters to bring genetic diversity to his flock.  He grows thousands of meat birds a year, and as they pasture them, he keeps an eye out for birds that look good, gain weight quickly, and are healthy.  If a bird passes the eye test, he pulls it out and keeps it as a member of his breeding stock flock.  

His birds are loved for their flavor, size and health.  No antibiotics, no hormones, just goodness.  



Do you have a source for this?  I'm not entirely up to date on Salatin's methods, but I'm fairly sure his broiler program is almost entirely based on purchased Cornish-Cross.
 
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