Originally Posted by AnthNDacula
Sounds like you've got some really spectacular birds. Do you have any pictures of the carcasses showing their breasts?
I've got a pic showing a half carcass on a 5 yr old WR hen compared to the full carcass of a RIR/BO cross 3 yr old rooster, if that would serve.
This pic shows an old WR hen cut on the half shell, lying next to the whole carcass of the rooster. This hen had been living on mostly foraged feeds and had been sharing 1.5 c. of fermented feed daily with 13 other LF birds, so not much grain feed going into this bird at the time of butcher or for the few months prior.
If you'll note the more golden color to the breast meat on the hen, that's due to a difference in meat fibers and fat content within those fibers.
The fat these birds can pack on merely on forage always amazes me, especially when viewed next to other birds living on the same feed...
Same hen in all these pics, is typical of all the WRs I've grown here.
What I was shocked to find out was the 5 mo. old cockerels I butchered this fall had large fat stores on them as well, with fat encasing their gizzards much like an old hen's will. I know that I've never butchered a cockerel or rooster that had that much fat stores in my 40 yrs of killing chickens, so these WRs are a whole 'nother breed of cat. I'd never keep them if they ate me out of house and home, so these birds receive minimal grain supplement in good foraging months and less overall nutrition than most people are feeding in the winter months.
For example...these two birds are mother and daughter, daughter is 6 mo. old pullet in this pic. They have been eating 50/50 oats/16% layer mash and a little BOSS this winter, fermented. Each bird gets approx. 1/2 c. feed per day, fed in a daily ration. They also free range at all times and eat the occasional kitchen scraps, mostly salad scraps.
These birds grow and stay big on very little feed and forage like a dream for most of it, so it's a win/win for me.
The biggest problem with these WRs are in not getting them TOO fat, which is hard to control when they stay fat on forage, so the only thing I can do is cut back on the grain based feeds as far as possible when the forage is really rich. There are some months the feed given in the coop is just a token ration, more to make them feel like they had their daily bread than anything else so they'll stop following me around while I'm doing chores. Those are the times when I really have to cut back on how much feed I'm even fermenting, as I'm feeding out so little that it gets over fermented by the time I feed out the bucket.
Those are the times I'm remembering when I have to feed them in the winter time...which I don't begrudge at all because they are so cheaply kept for the rest of the year.