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Advice on Meat Birds

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi all! I'm brand new around here and to the chicken scene and I'm in need of some advice. I'm sorry if this has already been discussed somewhere else, but I'm hoping that someone can point me in the right direction. 

 

Last year my husband and I bought a ranch with room for the horses, cattle, and chickens we've always wanted. I have experience with the first two, but don't even know where to start for chickens. I've been doing some research and I think that for us, a chicken tractor like the one below would be our best option:

 

We would like to find the best breed of chickens to raise for meat, as we don't eat much for eggs. We live in the Midwest, so our warm weather season is short.

 

Would it be best to get a bird like the Cornish that grows fast, then butcher and get in the freezer and start over again next year? Would a tractor like the one above be beneficial for us if we move it daily or even multiple times per day? Is there anything else we aren't thinking about here? 

 

Once again, I am very sorry for my naivety. I know nobody that could be a mentor to me on this subject. Thanks in advance for your help!

post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by rules View Post

Hi all! I'm brand new around here and to the chicken scene and I'm in need of some advice. I'm sorry if this has already been discussed somewhere else, but I'm hoping that someone can point me in the right direction. 



 



Last year my husband and I bought a ranch with room for the horses, cattle, and chickens we've always wanted. I have experience with the first two, but don't even know where to start for chickens. I've been doing some research and I think that for us, a chicken tractor like the one below would be our best option:





 



We would like to find the best breed of chickens to raise for meat, as we don't eat much for eggs. We live in the Midwest, so our warm weather season is short.



 



Would it be best to get a bird like the Cornish that grows fast, then butcher and get in the freezer and start over again next year? Would a tractor like the one above be beneficial for us if we move it daily or even multiple times per day? Is there anything else we aren't thinking about here? 



 



Once again, I am very sorry for my naivety. I know nobody that could be a mentor to me on this subject. Thanks in advance for your help!


 



I have Cochins they are a dual purpose breed. If you want strictly birds for the freezer Myers Hatchery offers white broilers which are fast growing 7/9 weeks
post #3 of 6

:welcome

 

If you're interested in meat, you really can't beat the Cornish cross. My advice is to start small, maybe ten or so birds. See how you like them, how they are to raise, how they do in the tractor, and how you do with butchering. Freezer space is also something to keep in mind, unless you're planning to can a decent amount. 

 

If for whatever reason the CX don't do it for you, there are other options for slower growing broilers, marketed under different names like red broilers, red rangers, freedom rangers, pioneers, rainbows, etc. I think they're all basically the same, but haven't raised any of those myself so don't have much input. Here I've butchered CX or my excess cockerels from my layer flock. 

 

Tractors are pretty popular with Cornish cross. you'll need to move it at least daily, cause the little buggers poop like you can't imagine. There are lots of different styles of tractors, I'd advise to just spend some time cruising this section and see what folks have done and what issues they may have had. 

 

I can tell you right off, the tractor pictured would probably be a predator buffet. Chicken wire holds chickens in, but it doesn't keep predators out. Unless you have a multi-layer system of fencing (electric preferred), dogs, etc, you're pretty much guaranteed to have predator issues. Everyone loves to eat chicken :/. Most folks advise hardware cloth as it has small enough holes even weasels can't fit through, or those darn raccoon hands can't reach through. 

 

Also, the lightweight pvc pipe would be appealing since it's easy to move, but I'm thinking an enterprising raccoon would figure out how to flip that over pretty quick. 

 

Again, welcome. There's lots of info on this section, settle in with a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke, whatever floats your boat) and spend some time cruising around. Feel free to ask any more questions that come up. 

Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

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Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

Reply
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for the advice. I really appreciate it! 

 

I seriously need a personal tutor or something that can sit me down and give me a game plan. I'm going in completely blind. 

post #5 of 6

Well the nice thing with meat birds is, you can eat your mistakes :D

 

Seriously, a lot is simply trial and error. And what works great for me won't work well for a lot of other folks, and vice versa. 

 

there are folks here who raise large batches of CX, maybe twice a year. 

 

there are folks who keep a rolling small batch of CX going, say 4 weeks apart.

 

there are folks who keep layers and use them to produce enough excess birds to feed themselves. Ridgerunner comes to mind here, and I'd advise to read pretty much anything he posts. He's got a lot of good information and is a great teacher.

 

there are folks (myself included) who mainly butcher cockerels from our hatching addiction. The meat is kind of incidental for us. 

 

I'd say just jump in with a small batch. Don't get so bogged down with doing things the "right" way that you get frozen and don't even get started. Meaties only live 2 months, it's kind of hard to mess them up to much in that time frame. 

 

If you put your location in your profile, someone on here who is close to you might turn out to be a good in-person resource. Or, you might check your state thread in the "Where am I Where are You" section. You never know who might be living a few miles away!


Edited by donrae - 3/21/16 at 4:18pm

Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

Reply

Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

Reply
post #6 of 6
I think Donrae is giving great advice. One of the really important parts is that we are all different so different things work. Also it is a lot of trial and error so be flexible.

I second the suggestion to modify your profile to show a general location. Midwest is probably a tad too general, some people consider Wisconsin to be Midwest while some people figure where I am in Northwest Arkansas to be Midwest. We don’t need your street address, social security number, or mother’s maiden name but maybe narrow it down just a bit.

I tried a tractor one summer, it did not last long. Don’t underestimate the time commitment to moving it regularly. If you need to leave for a few days do you have someone that can take care of things for you while you are gone? You need someone like that anyway but if moving a tractor is involved it gets harder to find someone.

Tractors are generally just used for the good weather months. I agree you just can’t beat the efficiency of raising Cornish Cross if all you want is meat. They convert feed to meat more efficiently than any other chickens. They are processed somewhere around 6 to 8 weeks so they definitely don’t lay eggs. That narrows down your time commitment. But when they are ready to be processed you need to process them. You can’t wait around or they will start dying from heart failure or their skeletons break down from growing so fast.

One problem with tractors is that they can get heavy really fast. Maybe use 2x4’s as a base for that one and use PVC for the other parts. That should keep it heavy enough so the wind doesn’t blow it around and predators can’t lift it. Another potential problems is that unless your ground is absolutely level you will have gaps under it that predators can squeeze through without even having to dig. It’s amazing how small a space they can get through.

Predators are a huge unknown. You might be able to totally free range during the day and have no problem at all or you might be wiped out the first day you try that. I can’t tell you how much predator protection you really need. I’ve seen coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons, possum, bobcat, hawks, and even a an eagle hunting during the day, yet I was able to free range for three years and only lost two to a fox. I do keep them securely locked up at night. But people drop dogs off out here in the country. I lost so many chickens from two different attacks that I wound up getting electric netting. Your chickens are always going to be at risk from predators but how big your actual risk is I don’t know.

I agree you should start off with a few Cornish Cross. Use that as a learning experience. And don’t get paralyzed by overanalysis. Look around this forum and try to get a handle on basics but realize practically everything on here is opinion. It might or might not apply to you.

Good luck and welcome to the experience.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
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