I have decided that I can't do Cornish X meaties anymore. I know they grow the fastest, have the best feed conversion, and the best breast meat of all the chickens, but I really can't keep burying birds that die due to heart attacks, broken bones and eating themselves to death. So here's my plan.
I am hatching 41 eggs in the incubator as we speak. Out of those 14 are Delaware eggs from Show Quality breeding. Delawares were used for meat birds before the Cornish X came along. They grow fairly quickly and are ready to process by 16 to 18 weeks. The cool thing is that if you want to go longer with them you have the option of letting them go as long as 20 to 24 weeks to get to a larger weight if you want a larger bird for roasting.
Right now I have Gold Comets, Cochin Crosses, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers in my main coop. There are 19 birds and the coop will hold up to 48 birds before getting too full for everyone (not that I will fill it that full lol). I will be slowly phasing out all of the egg layers in that coop with the exception of the Buff Opringtons so that I can have purbred BO's in that coop. It will be a slow process and for a while I will have mutts in that coop but all the girls are decent size and would dress out 3+ pounds if processed so I don't mind eating mutts for a bit while I wait and with some Buff's and Cochins in the mix that tend to go broody they can hatch out eggs in the coop that can become meaties for the following year. The only problem is that they will take a bit longer to grow out so I will have to be patient and wait as they grow. I thik I can do that. I will keep feed conversion charts on the birds I know for sure will be processed to chart my progress.
I will be adding a second coop and run next to the first in my larger barn for my Delaware chicks. I am in the process of cleaning out a portion of the barn for them and fencing it in so that they will have their own space. Out of each hatching of Delawares I will be keeping the largest and fastest growing chicks (basically the ones that conform the most to breed standard and are the healthiest and heartiest) for breeding stock and culling those that won't work for my goals.I will need to band each year and keep track in a spreadsheet of hatch dates and weights so I know when I need to replace hens and roos with new blood so that the quality of the birds does not suffer from inbreeding. I will post results from my spreadsheets here. I will start hatching in February each year depending on fertility and will hatch out through the spring months until it gets too hot and their fertility drops off. Out of each hatch I will keep the largest and fastest growing girls to add to the breeding stock and culling the others for freezer camp. The girls born next spring will be ready to breed year two and can breed back to the roo from that coop producing the next generation of meaties. At that point and time I will start looking for a source for outside eggs to hatch and keep one roo (possibly two) for new bloodlines from that hatch culling the rest. I will need to cull the year one hens as they stop producing eggs but as long as they produce and I add new blood through a new roo then there should be no reason that I have to process them unless they are no longer laying. The new roo will be able to breed for two years before we need to process him and add new blood again to the girls.
Eventually I will be doing the same thing in my main coop with Buff's but since that coop has established hens it will take longer to accomplish these goals in that coop.
Well now that the new year has gotten here and I check back with my plan from last year I realize I have made a few changes. The Delawares that I have are growing strong. I have a trio that has worked out to keep one boy and two girls. They are all very sweet and are about 5 months now. The Buffs that I originally planned to raise in my main coop didn't work out. Two roosters hatched out and I gave them a try. They were small and leggy as they grew and were terrorizing my hens. Around the same time I acquired some hatching eggs from a BYC member that were pure Light Brahmas. Out of 10 viable eggs 7 hatched and I kept one rooster and two pullets from that hatching. They have been very impressive since hatching. Personality, weight and size were all amazing. I processed the extra roosters today and they dressed out between 6 and 7 pounds which is very respectable for a 5 month old bird. Not very breasty but plenty of dark meat and enough breast for me to be happy.
I have gotten my new coop set up so now I have two coops that are fairly large size. One will be set up for my Dellies and the other for the Light Brahmas although I will still have quite a few mixes for a while as I transition. I will be collecting eggs starting in February if everything goes well. The girls are laying just have to wait for their eggs to get a bit larger before hatching. I will be doing one large hatching of Dellies and another of Brahmas. I will keep two girls from each that are showing what I am looking for for my project (fast growth, size, correct type and temperment) and the rest will be sold. The boys will be kept in a rooster pen (yes I will need one more coop but this one will be used only spring through fall) and I will be able to keep track of weights, feed, light and bedding so I can do a cost per bird versus bird size when I process. I haven't been very good about posting pictures (hard to do when you are wrestling birds hehe) but I will try and take pictures of the birds that are in the coops now and of the babies as they hatch and grow. I have a mailing scale for when they are very tiny which works really well and measures them in ounces so I should be able to do weights as they grow and since they will be in their own coop there should be no problem telling how much feed is consumed since only they will be eating it now that the fast squirrels have been relocated to greener pastures. Happy new year all!!
As my eggs hatch I will post results with weights and feed conversions so that hopefully it can become an easy to follow guide if anyone wants to try it later.