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Meat chicken questions-cost to raise, dressed weight vs. live weight..

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hi! New here. This summer will *hopefully* be my first time owning chickens. Definitely going to get 6 or so layers, and considering meat chickens. I'd like to get freedom rangers from JM Murray as I have small children and no time to do intensive management schemes. Feed, water, get eggs, weed the garden, homeschool, and on, and on... And I don't want to deal with broken legs and heat exhaustion, ugh. My questions are as follows:

If the "live weight" of a freedom ranger at 9-11 weeks is between 5 and 6 pounds, what does the dressed (whole) chicken weigh? And how much breast meat will said chicken have? We eat a lot of breast meat but could switch to dark in a lot of our recipes with no one the wiser. If I buy a whole chicken at the store it is usually about 3.5 pounds. Are these freedom rangers going to be comparable to a "store-bought" whole chicken? I know that the "chicken breast on steroids" usually found in skinless boneless chicken isn't going to be attainable for me but would like an idea of how much meat is there.
We will have 5 acres for said chickens to roam, probably doing a move-able pasture system. I only plan on getting maybe two batches of 50 birds, so they'll have plenty of roaming room. How much feed does it take to get an itty bitty fuzzbutt to a 6 pound chicken?? If on pasture, will I notice a reduced feed bill? I live in eastern WA and feed here is $$. I think I can buy in bulk from the mill that sells to the feed stores for reduced cost, but I need to know how much feed 50 birds go through in 11 weeks first! smile

Are there other things I need to know? How prevalent is disease in chickens?
smile
Thanks so much!

post #2 of 27

Hi, I just did some freedom rangers.

We slaughtered at 10 weeks and got dressed weight of right between 3-4 with a couple under/over.  We're going for much longer this time hoping to get bigger sized.

They are meaty, and the meat is very rich and brown.  It is more satisfying to eat less, IMHO, than a grocery store chicken.  I can eat 8 drumsticks myself from a fried chicken place, but one leg/thigh is enough off of one of our birds.  It's richer in omegas and minerals etc.  They are nearly fatless.  It is chewier, in a good way.  I recommend aging the carcasses in the fridge for >3 days to diminish some of the chewiness.

Right now we have 25 on pasture.  It took me 100lbs of feed to get them to 6 weeks of age and about 2-3lb live.  My friend has given them an additional 300lbs + ample pasture and leftovers.  She plans on buying another 200lbs to get us to our target slaughter date of 04/10 at which point they will be about 13 weeks.

They absolutely eat grass and food on pasture (as evidenced by finding it in their crops at slaughter), but I don't think it reduces their food needs by much, i.e. not enough to realize a noticeable cost savings.

post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hubby and I just talked about this today, that fresh farm range chicken must be more filling than the crud at the grocery store for 3.50/lb! smile
So you are saying that 600 pounds of feed plus some treats and grass will get your 25 chickens to slaughter weight? That's 24 lbs of feed per chicken which is like $15/50lbs for layer feed (not in bulk!) at my local feed store? (I can get it substantially discounted in bulk.)  If I pay one-chicken prices of $7.00/chicken and add some lights, fencing, and a  coop I'll be getting free-range, healthy chicken at just over what I pay for "cheap" chicken at the grocer and substantially less than I would pay for a free range, organic chicken. smile I like it! What am I missing?? What other costs are hidden??
smile

post #4 of 27

Yeah, we figure it is about $8 to make a chicken smile

We rent processing equipment, cone stand, scalder, plucker.  It is $25/day from the NW Ag center.  I buy pine chips to get them started on.  We bought an auto-waterer. 

There are some hidden un-costs:

- The pest load on your pasture will be lower.  Expect dramatic reductions in fleas, ticks, and mosquitos if you have them.
- Chicken poop for the soul - great for garden and pasture
- Feathers, blood, etc. add a lot of protein to your compost.
- I have an unverified theory that all the omegas and stuff you will get from the meat will keep you healthier.  The stock you make from the bones will likely have crazy amounts of chondroitin and such that make bones and joints strong.  This is all heresay, but if you really think through the way a commercial producer makes your food vs. how you will do it, it just makes sense that there will be some big benefits.
- Harvest day is a really nice family day that we all enjoy.
- Dogs love the guts.

Out my way, a chicken raised in this manner is $25-$35.

edit:  I am in Snohomish, and when I said "out my way" - that chicken is from Thundering Hooves in Walla Walla.  I don't know of a producer here, so in theory, it's also $25 out your way as well smile


Edited by bucketgirl - 3/15/10 at 5:40pm
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bucketgirl 

- Dogs love the guts.


And people are worried about by-product in dog food :p Hehe!

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but don't you dare talk about my chickens that way!
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Sticks and stones may break my bones, but don't you dare talk about my chickens that way!
Reply
post #6 of 27

Cornish X has the best conversion rate of 2 to 1.  My 7.5 week birds way 4lbs in their freezer bag.  I think they were 5.5 when I took them to the processor.  So 11lbs of feed for 4 lbs of meat, bones, skin.  I want to say 50lbs of feed is $11, so that makes 25lbs of finished chicken or around 6 finished birds per 50 lbs.  This is non-pastured.  Pastured birds get around 30% of their food via forage.  If you are using a less efficient bird (efficient doesn't necessarily mean better) then YMMV.  These numbers are just from my grow out on custom ground bulk broiler ration.

Silkie, Bantams, Barred Rocks, Partridge Rock, Black Star, who knows what else, and then there are the meat birds....
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Silkie, Bantams, Barred Rocks, Partridge Rock, Black Star, who knows what else, and then there are the meat birds....
Reply
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

is conversion rate 2lbs of feed for every pound of live chicken? or the other way round? Will my freedom rangers lay eggs so I can breed more meaties rather than buy them?
bucketgirl-I am a little horrified at $25-$35-/chicken, but DH pointed out yesterday that the cost to feed each bird may be $6 each but what about LABOR? Also, fencing and coop, feeders, etc. are all up front costs, so maybe it's not that unreasonable of a price, it just seems like a lot compared to a free range organic grocery store chicken at around $18-.hmm I'll have to see if that company has a website!

post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Araylee 

is conversion rate 2lbs of feed for every pound of live chicken? or the other way round?


When someone develops a chicken that put on 2 pounds live weight for every pound of feed, that person will get very rich!

If you figure in your fencing, waterers, feeders, labor, etc. expenses into the cost calculations of your first batch of meat birds, you will find that you have VERY expensive meat.  If you also figure in the cost of a freezer to keep them, they'll be even more expensive.

From reading through this forum, I have found that there are people raising meat birds and selling them for $10-$12 each.  They believe they make a profit (small though it may be) at those prices.  These figures are generally for Cornish Crosses, your Freedom Rangers will eat a bit more and stay on the farm a bit longer.  Whether you process yourself or pay someone else to process also factors in.  And, if you process yourself, you might also consider whether you have to buy any special equipment for that.

Generally speaking, backyard farmers who raise their own meat birds are not doing it with the expectation of paying less than they would at the grocery store.  They're actually paying a premium to raise their own meat.

post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Araylee 

is conversion rate 2lbs of feed for every pound of live chicken? or the other way round? Will my freedom rangers lay eggs so I can breed more meaties rather than buy them?
bucketgirl-I am a little horrified at $25-$35-/chicken, but DH pointed out yesterday that the cost to feed each bird may be $6 each but what about LABOR? Also, fencing and coop, feeders, etc. are all up front costs, so maybe it's not that unreasonable of a price, it just seems like a lot compared to a free range organic grocery store chicken at around $18-.hmm I'll have to see if that company has a website!


Free Range = a confinement raised bird that is offered the option to walk out to a 2'x3' yard.  They are afraid of the outside so they never go out.

Organic = a government controlled word that mega-growers have lobbied/wrangled to allow certain synthetic chemicals and doesn't take into account the amount of fuel burned to get the feed to the bird and get the bird to you.

Most of us raise our meat birds at a cost of 6 to 9 dollars per bird taking all into account.  I do it as a way to educate my children, provide myself with food I am in control of, educate my customers about the wrongs of centralized food systems, and to provide income for my state (all my supplies come from my state). $6 worth of feed, for me, is about 30lbs or enough for 4 birds on pasture.  This is standard (non-certified organic) feed.

Silkie, Bantams, Barred Rocks, Partridge Rock, Black Star, who knows what else, and then there are the meat birds....
Reply
Silkie, Bantams, Barred Rocks, Partridge Rock, Black Star, who knows what else, and then there are the meat birds....
Reply
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by scubaforlife 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Araylee 

is conversion rate 2lbs of feed for every pound of live chicken? or the other way round? Will my freedom rangers lay eggs so I can breed more meaties rather than buy them?
bucketgirl-I am a little horrified at $25-$35-/chicken, but DH pointed out yesterday that the cost to feed each bird may be $6 each but what about LABOR? Also, fencing and coop, feeders, etc. are all up front costs, so maybe it's not that unreasonable of a price, it just seems like a lot compared to a free range organic grocery store chicken at around $18-.hmm I'll have to see if that company has a website!


Free Range = a confinement raised bird that is offered the option to walk out to a 2'x3' yard.  They are afraid of the outside so they never go out.

Organic = a government controlled word that mega-growers have lobbied/wrangled to allow certain synthetic chemicals and doesn't take into account the amount of fuel burned to get the feed to the bird and get the bird to you.

Most of us raise our meat birds at a cost of 6 to 9 dollars per bird taking all into account.  I do it as a way to educate my children, provide myself with food I am in control of, educate my customers about the wrongs of centralized food systems, and to provide income for my state (all my supplies come from my state). $6 worth of feed, for me, is about 30lbs or enough for 4 birds on pasture.  This is standard (non-certified organic) feed.


WELL SAID.

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