This last weekend I harvested my buckeye roosters -- I had 15 roos from hatchery (Ideal) stock. And...I have issues.
I'm aware that hatchery buckeyes are not up to the breed standard, so I had expected these chickens to be smaller and less "meaty" than the better bred meat-class buckeyes that some of you are working with. I know I should have gone with better stock in the first place, but this was an inexpensive experiment, and it was convenient to just order up a straight run boxful this spring. I suspect that many of my issues are due to hatchery stock, but I'm not sure. My issues:
- They were really, really slow to mature. I raised rocks and marans for meat before, so I know about the slowness of heritage breeds. I'm used to a 4-5lb bird in 16-18 weeks, which gives me 3-3.5lb dressed. These guys barely passed 4lbs in 17 weeks, and nearly of them dressed out at less than 3lbs. Both the rocks and marans dressed at much better weights (do buckeyes have heavier guts or something?)
- Another slow-to-mature problem was slow feathering. Even at 17 weeks they were full of pin feathers. Plucking them was unbelievably slow because of this, with a lot of hand work after the mechanical plucker was done.
- Body structure. Buckeyes are supposed to have a good breast for a heritage chicken. These did not. They were skinny in the breast just like my rocks and marans. Do they fill out more at a later age? Was this just bad stock?
- Yellow skin. I mean really yellow skin. Dark dark lemony yellow. I knew some chickens had yellow skin but I was not expecting skin quite that yellow. Is this from what I was feeding them, or do all yellow-skinned chickens have REALLY yellow skin and I'm just surprised because I'm not used to it?
- Black marks on the skin from the pin feathers. A lot of the pin feathers left dark pockmarks on the skin. This was especially noticeable everywhere the bird had black feathers -- the tail, the wings, some spots on the left. The pockmarks are really ugly. Is this normal, that the dark brown feathers leave dark brown marks?
- Really thin skins. Maybe I'm just used to rocks which are super hardy, but the skin was really delicate on the buckeyes. I completely mangled the first one in my plucker, and had to be extra careful and slow for the remaining ones. Even so, there was a lot of accidental tearing just from handling the chicken through the processing process.
To sum up, after four months I ended up with a freezer full of skinny, small, ugly-looking chickens. My buckeye meatie experiment was not what I had hoped for.
Is all of this typical of buckeyes in general, or did I just get a really bad batch with the Ideal stock? Should I have waited longer (20-24 weeks?) for them to fill out? For those of you who are raising meat-quality buckeyes, could you post how many weeks you process them at and what sort of weights you get? Do you have pictures I could compare mine to?
(and yes, I know, if I want a real meat bird I should be raising cornish cross. We've had that discussion elsewhere; I like the heritage breeds. I'd like to try to keep this topic specifically about the buckeye.)
Growout Pen: empty (for now!)
Growout Pen: empty (for now!)