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Cornish X Journal

post #1 of 83
Thread Starter 

It's an early spring here in South Carolina and my order of Cornish X chicks just arrived today from Hoovers Hatchery. Last year I Posted a few times throughout my project and I thought I would do it again. I've more than doubled my flock this year and I wanted to start this thread to help anyone else who is raising meat birds. I'll do my best to take this thread from arrival of the chicks to the freezer. 


I'm located in Simpsonville, Sc. Last year we created a large enclosure with 2x4 welded wire fencing and attached a 4x8x4 brooder. We raised 50 straight run chicks. 35 made it to the freezer after a couple of redtailed hawks found our flock. The cokerells were so much bigger than the hens at butchering time that we decided to raise all males this year. 


This year we also covered the pen in a 1x1 netting 50'x50' which I found on amazon for $40.


We ordered 125 Cornish Cross Males from Hoovers Hatchery. Hoovers prices were outstanding last year but the have changed their price structure a bit which made the birds a little more expensive at 1.70 each. My order arrived last Friday and I knew instantly that I was in trouble. The postal service had neglected the birds and they were chilled. When I opened the box all but 15 we dead and another 5 died that evening. I was left with 10 birds. 


I called Hoovers and they agreed to replace all of the birds from the next hatching at no cost and apologized for the trouble. Today the box arrived crushed but still intact enough to contain the birds. Every birds was energetic and bouncing off the walls. No losses in shipping although a couple appeared a bit weak. They usually ship extras so I actually have no clue how many birds i have right now. Counting wasn't possible. 


I dipped each chick's beak in the water which to which I add a little rooster booster to help them get a good start out of the gate. I also feed 1 full bag of medicated feed before switching over to unmedicated feed


I withheld food for a couple hours but when I introduced it the chicks went right to feeding. I find that I loose a couple of birds in the first day or two on my last shipments so I'll post back later to update on any losses. 



post #2 of 83

I'll be following along!  I couldn't imagine opening the shipment to find 115 dead chicks :ep Glad they made it right for you.

post #3 of 83

The cheap always comes out expensive.

post #4 of 83
Thread Starter 
We had one loss over the weekend. One of the chicks that seemed a bit off finally gave up the ghost. Other than that the chicks are off to a great start. They are going through 2 gallons of water per day and a few lbs of feed. It's a little surprising just how much they are consuming already.

I'm actually pretty pleased with hovers and disappointed with the postal service for their care. all of the feed and seed stores here, even the mom and pop shops order from mt healthy or McMurry. I'm sure there are some small hatcheries around but it seems tough to find them.
post #5 of 83
Thread Starter 

Chicks are doing great and growing fast already. I decided to try a different feed this year. Last year I used OMC 18% starter grower which is low protein for starter grower but was priced really well at $11/bag for 50 lb bags. I could only find it at one store about 30 miles away but the savings was worth a shot. My birds ended up great and they were plenty big but I thought I would try something a little different this year. I found a local ag supply store which are truly hard to find here any more. Better Service Milling in Grey Court, SC. The guy and his business have been around forever so I thought I would try and support a local business rather than a bargain store chain. I purchased 12 bags of Bartlett Starter/grower at $15/bag. It's locally milled, unmedicated feed with a 20% crude protein level. The best I could around here is $14/bag for similar stuff but I liked the guy and wanted to give him the business.


Cost to date:


Chicks: 125 x 1.70

1 bag medicated starter: 1 x 18.00

12 bags non medicated starter/Grower: 12 x 15


Input at the end of week 1: $410.50



I'm starting to plan for butchering and have decided to tackle a DIY electric scalder. I can only run 120v where I butcher so I purchased the following:


I have some plastic barrels but will also be looking for a used washtub on Craigslist. I haven't decided if more water volume is better or worse. I think I'm going to try rig it to a 55 gallon drum under the assumption that more volume will take much longer to heat initially but will hold temp better throughout the day. The initial heating is of no concern to me but time between scalds is what slows me down the most.
My calculations indicate that it will take 6 hours to heat 40 gallons the first time. And about 20 minutes to recover 5 degrees back to proper temperature. So, if I set the thermostat to 148 I can scald down to 143 before I would need to let the system recover for 20 minutes. There is no simple math for how much dunking and draining a chicken lowers your water temp so that will have to be trial based. I am hoping 40 gallons of water could hold enough heat to get at least 8 birds done before I let it recover. Any input is much appreciated!
post #6 of 83

Just a thought...If you have two separate 120V circuits available you could double up the heating elements and essentially be running 3000W.  Either way, if you have to run an extension cord just keep in mind the wire size needs to be 12ga to handle the current draw.  With all that heating you could melt a smaller gauge extension cord.  Also, if you're running it a long distance (100ft is where it may get noticeable) you'll have voltage drop that will alter your heating calculations.

post #7 of 83
Thread Starter 

Not a bad idea but I'd have to buy another thermostat as well as the ranco won't handle that load on one unit. It would double the cost of the scalder which might be worth it if it worked. I'll be using 12 gauge extension cord for sure but will limit it to one 50' run. I'll have to wire the ranco myself along with the heating element. Depending on how much effort this all takes I'll try to document the process as best I can. 

post #8 of 83

Think of the bird as mass, for simple guestimation let's call the bird equal to 1 gallon of water BUT one gallon you are not heating much, after all you are just dunking enough to heat the skin enough to get the feathers to slip and the bird is starting around 100F, not like you are adding a gallon of cold water. 


IMO if you have something like 40 gallons you will be able to do a lot of dunking before you see a meaningful drop with the element circuit working.  And I understand that the run off the bird will cool as it dribbles, but again it will be a small volume cooled per dunk.  I would be shocked if 1-bird dropped 40 gallons half a degree.


Let's round up and say 1-bird equals 1-degree drop and a 4 minute recovery for 1 degree based on your 20minutes for 5degrees.  That would mean theoretically it would just barely keep up with 15 birds per hour.  Doubt many of us BYC folks process at that rate sustained.


Bit long winded but I think you are building a nice rig and are overly cautious about it's capability.  A big volume of water like that will help maintain temp and stay cleaner longer.


The family I have helped process birds with uses a turkey deep fryer with the propane flame set very low and with that 3-4 gallons temp isn't an issue.


Also figure recovery isn't a chill then start, it can be in real time while you are dunking birds.

post #9 of 83
I've thought about doing a scalder as well, haven't yet because I want to get a plucker first keep us updated how your recovery time works out, that is the only thing I question with an electric unit
post #10 of 83
Thread Starter 

I got deep into the math yesterday trying to see how long my whole processing would take. I double checked my heating time by converting watts to BTUs and it looks like just a little more than 6 hours to bring 40 gallons to temp matching my other estimate.  Assuming 8 birds (which is a total shot in the dark) per run scalding will take 5 minutes, then a 20 minute recovery before the next batch starts. Rounding up to  30 minutes per 8 birds the scalder should allow me to process 16 or more birds per hour. Which leaves 3.75 minutes per bird to pluck, clean and get them on ice before the next birds come off the scalder. We're using a plucker that takes about 30 seconds and does 4 birds at a time. I agree with you Birds4Kids, I don't think my team of poorly trained, bloody marry infused, saturday morning buddies will be able to keep up with the scalder even with conservative numbers. 


I was going to use a turkey fryer for all this but it seemed that folks were equally frustrated with that method creating a bottle neck as well. If I ran a hose from my hot water line I could cut the initial warm up to just a couple hours. I was bumming about the 6 hour warm up but since the whole shebang is on a thermostat I can just plug it in the night before and once it gets to temperature it should't 


The plastic barrel cost me $15 but was already laying around

The heating element was $11

adapter kit was $9

Thermostat was $48

14 gauge extension cord (for wiring thermostat) $10


Cost: $93


I'll need to fit a drain on it somehow. It would be best to elevate the whole unit so i could just fix the drain to the very bottom and drain off some dirt/sediment that collected to keep the water cleaner. Another DIY scalder builder cut the top of the barrel and inverted it to make a stand. I like his simplicity but I like the idea of keeping my barrel intact for stability for heat retention I can put the lit back on and crack the vent. Building a short stand out of scrap material wouldn't take much. I may even just sit it on blocks to see if it all works before I spend any time building a stand. 

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