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heritage meat chickens?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

I would like to raise some heritage breeds for meat.  I understand they grow slower than "modern" breeds.  Is there an advantage to this, and which heritage breeds are the best?  There seem to be many choices; my head is spinning!  Up until now, I've had egg layers, but would like to raise healthy meat for my family and friends.


"Life is hard, but love is not"

post #2 of 30

I'm completely new to this but we ordered Speckled Sussex chickens for our small backyard flock, a dual purpose breed: meat from the extra roos and old hens and for the eggs. The Henderson list shows them as decent layers year round. I haven't found anything to confirm this info so I'm crossing my fingers. There's not a lot of info on the Sussex breed. There are several other breeds that fit the bill, Plymouth Rocks also came highly recommended to me. I read in the Stoney's Guide to Raising Chickens that most duel purpose breeds are ready to butcher around 13 weeks. Our chicks will be here next week. We're so excited! jumpy

Here's the list link:
http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html


Edited by chandasue - 10/28/08 at 1:11pm
post #3 of 30

I raise Silver Grey Dorkings. They are considered threatened by the ALBC. I found that the growth rate wasn't really slow at all, compared to other standard breeds I have raised. Of course, they don't compare to the cornish crosses, but that's not what we're going for here. If you're looking for a flock of birds that can lay eggs and raise young themselves, thereby creating more meat for your table. I'd say any type of dual purpose heritage breed would be what you're after. Good Luck! smile

Raising vegetables, fruit, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, dogs, cats, & children ... oh my!

"Be the Change you wish to see in the World" --Gandhi

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Raising vegetables, fruit, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, dogs, cats, & children ... oh my!

"Be the Change you wish to see in the World" --Gandhi

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post #4 of 30

An advantage of slower growth is you eat them older and thus more flavorful. A disadvantage of dual-purpose chickens for meat is that they are less cost-effective in terms of amount spent on feed for pound of meat yeild, and it helps if you prefer dark meat to white cuz they don't have very much white meat compared to supermarket chickens. They will also, um, if you like it you'll say "they have more texture" and if you don't you'll say "they're tough" wink Especially if you wait til they have reached a decent body size.

I et one of my chanteclers last summer, and am raising speckled sussex with the idea of eating culls each year. Either would be a good choice, although certainly there are other good choices too. I gather that dorkings and sussexes were the usual sources of chicken meat in England in the past; barred or white rocks, or NHR, moreso in America.

I will say that 13 weeks sound kind of early to me, based on my admittedly very limited experience. Might be a little better toughnesswise, if you want a fryer, but my chanteclers and sussexes grew A LOT between 13 wks and 16-17 wks. The chantecler we processed was 15 weeks and in retrospect I wish I'd waited one or two more weeks as his siblings continued to grow significantly.

JM(limited)E,

Pat

post #5 of 30

Pat is right! (of course!) wink There is definitely a difference in the meat. I find that if you butcher at 15-17 weeks the meat is nice and tender. It also helps to brine. Particularly if you're used to the taste and texture of supermarket birds. The older the birds get, the tougher the meat will be and it helps to cook long and slow. For our older laying hens we usually skin the birds and I cook in the slow cooker, or grind the meat up for use in tacos, meatloaves and the like.


Edited by farm_mom - 10/28/08 at 7:21am

Raising vegetables, fruit, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, dogs, cats, & children ... oh my!

"Be the Change you wish to see in the World" --Gandhi

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Raising vegetables, fruit, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, dogs, cats, & children ... oh my!

"Be the Change you wish to see in the World" --Gandhi

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post #6 of 30

We raise Dark Cornish for our main "meat bird" They what what the cornish cross was bred from.  They are good foragers, great tasting. Downside is they lay a medium sized egg, we also sell "eating eggs" so the cornish eggs look small next to a Buff Orpington egg.

They are solid birds, they don't look that heavy until you pick them up and it's like picking up a brick.

Steve in NC

 Midget White, Standard Bronze turkeys, Muscovy ducks, India Blue, White & Spaulding peafowl, Buff Orpington, Copper Black Marans Chickens, Corturnix quail and Ringneck Pheasants

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 Midget White, Standard Bronze turkeys, Muscovy ducks, India Blue, White & Spaulding peafowl, Buff Orpington, Copper Black Marans Chickens, Corturnix quail and Ringneck Pheasants

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post #7 of 30

It's all very strange really how the broiler industry developed.  Up through the 1950's, most meat birds in the US were excess males from laying flocks (Leghorn and a handfull of other 'purebreeds').  They were fed differently and grow better, but obviously the results were nowhere near as agressive as we see today.

However, when we say 'breeds' in chicken, what are we talking about?  There are no chicken breeds.  You cannot do a DNA test on an animal and say "yes, it is a Rhode Island Red." like you could with certain cattle.  Even amongst Leghorns, there were regional differences in appearance and performance, always with an eye towards performance. 

Individual farms had their own crosses they would try.  Some would net them better layers, thus increasing their egg profits; but simultaneously would net them less money selling the cockrels as meat.  Others went 'dual purpose' and had a balanced income.  The chicken genome was far more diverse back then.  So even if you were to say that "Buckeyes were used in Iowa historically" all Buckeyes were not equal and none probably matched the Standard of Perfection, to which 'breeds' are allegedly to adhere.

Today, things are consolidated into very large breeders selling breeding stock and hatching eggs to commercial productions.  The system is streamlined and far more economic, but at the cost of diversity and the 'little guy' was squeezed out.  It does mean that throgh online hatcheries, many more people can get into chickens and are exposed to more breeds... but, realize Murray McMurray, et al are likely buying their hatching eggs or breeding stock from the same farms and enthusiasts, so you are getting the same product regardless of whre you get your birds.

So, hertiage meat chickens?  You can pick any breed you'd like and you could say with some certainty that at some point in time, those birds were eaten for meat.  As stated above, the feeding and management of them will probably be on equal footing as the breed you select.

In the same breath, you could probalby let your heritage breeds crossbreed themselves, and still say with certainty that somewher at some point in time, those birds were eaten commercially.

A lot of people raise Dark Cornish as heritage meat birds as there is still a small market for these which are seen as delicacies.  I raise them myself and yes they get big; but they're still no match for a broiler.  I guess there is a flavor difference.  As the birds get older, they grow closer to sexual maturity, and they gain a more robust texture and flavor (which I tend to like).  So, if I were told I could only have 1 breed of chicken to eat, and it had to be purebred, the Dark Cornish would be my personal choice. 

But, five years from now, your decision will be inconsequential.

post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandspoultry 

We raise Dark Cornish for our main "meat bird" They what what the cornish cross was bred from.  They are good foragers, great tasting. Downside is they lay a medium sized egg, we also sell "eating eggs" so the cornish eggs look small next to a Buff Orpington egg.

They are solid birds, they don't look that heavy until you pick them up and it's like picking up a brick.

Steve in NC


Thanks for sharing this.  I have been trying to get more information from others raising the Dark Cornish for meat.

Deborah

post #9 of 30

I think an issue for a lot of us raising Dark Cornish is that the breed has been outcrossed to improve laying performance.  I often see them growing these huge long tails, like Leghorns, and many lack the true tight feathering.  So, it would take a very keen eye to breed/cull properly to get back to what the Dark Cornish was 100 years ago.

post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by greyfields 

I think an issue for a lot of us raising Dark Cornish is that the breed has been outcrossed to improve laying performance.  I often see them growing these huge long tails, like Leghorns, and many lack the true tight feathering.


I didn't know that they were being outcrossed to improve laying!  Now why do folks have to mess with things?  I can see crossing your own birds for personal purposes, but ruin the entire "breed" for everyone else? 

Thanks for the information.

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