Beginner in raising meat birds: please help

Evan__66

Hatching
Dec 26, 2019
2
5
4
Hello, this upcoming spring/summer I am planning on raising and slaughtering my own meat chickens. I would greatly appreciate advice on what supplies I will need, what type of chicken I should get, etc. thanks!
 

AllenK RGV

Chicken Addict
Premium member
Jul 23, 2017
3,687
9,187
647
Deep South Texas Laureles,TX 10A
Hello, this upcoming spring/summer I am planning on raising and slaughtering my own meat chickens. I would greatly appreciate advice on what supplies I will need, what type of chicken I should get, etc. thanks!
I highly recommend we contact @RUNuts for insight. He is new to meatbird raising and thrifty as all get out to boot. I hope some day he will write an article on his own experiences as someday I will go there.
 

wyoDreamer

Crowing
9 Years
Nov 10, 2010
4,755
5,888
411
NE Wisconsin
:welcome
Alot of what you are asking depends on how you plan to raise them and what your goal is. Are you going to build a chicken tractor for them or a stationary pen? Will they be penned 24/7 or get some free-range time? Do you want fast growing birds that are ready for butcher in 8 weeks or are you willing to wait 12 weeks for them to get to size?
At the barest minimum, you will need food (chick feed and then "meat bird" or "all flock" feed) a water source (they drink alot!), and housing.
You can raise Cornish-X meat birds, or one of the slower growing hybrids (depends on your area on what is available), or extra roosters. Cornish-X are the fastest growing, the other hybrids will take longer to grow to size. Extra rooster will never get as big or have as much meat as the Cornish-X, but usually the chicks are free and when they are full grown, the taste is great!
 

Morrigan

Free Ranging
5 Years
Apr 9, 2014
2,730
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N. California
If you want chickens that look roughly like the chickens you see in the supermarket in terms of size and proportion of breast to leg meat, and are easy and fast to raise, the Cornish Cross hybrid is a very good choice. Most hatcheries sell them as baby chicks, or you can order some through your local feed store.

You will need a space to brood them for the first couple of weeks, just as you would any type of chick -- something that is secure and has a heat source, with access to food and water.

They will grow very quickly, so you will need to have a chicken tractor or secure coop + run or yard to move them into by the 3rd or 4th week. The more space you give them, the happier and healthier they will be.

It's recommended that you start rationing their food by the 3rd week, in order to prevent them from overeating and putting on weight faster then is healthy. They are generally ready to butcher by 8 weeks, although I have let mine go until 12+ weeks on occasion, and have gotten some really big birds (10+ lbs dressed).

A couple of things to keep in mind:

--They are eating and pooping machines. You need to have a plan to deal with the chicken waste. After the 4th week, I needed to clean out their sleeping quarters every day to ensure they had clean bedding to sleep on. I have a big garden and was able to compost all the dirty straw, but depending on the number of birds you get, you are looking at a look of chicken droppings.

--It is virtually impossible to get them to live long enough to breed, and being hybrids, they don't breed true in any event. So, these chickens are something you order once or twice a year, raise up, and put in your freezer. It is not a self sustaining flock of birds.

--They do not do well in hot weather. I like to raise mine in the Fall, so they are coming into maturity in November or December.

There are other hybrid "broiler" types as well -- Red Rangers, Freedom Rangers, etc., that grow a little slower and are a bit hardier, but are very similar to raise as the CX.
 

Acre4Me

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2017
3,388
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Western Ohio
For your first time doing this, I’d recommend a “meat bird” aka Cornish cross. They grow fast, they have generally fewer feathers, the convert feed to muscle at a fast and efficient rate. That way, you find out the ins and outs of processing on a relatively easy bird. Get them 7-8 weeks before you plan to butcher.

1. Try to butcher during cooler weather if possible. In the shade if possible otherwise. They can live in your barn or garage mostly with some outdoor time after they are feathered if you start during cold weather (provide heat first 3-4 weeks).

2. Butcher within 1 day of your garbage pick up (or make space to freeze it until pick up)... it is a stink you’ll never forget otherwise...

3. Don’t do too many. We have found 12 is about all we want to do in 1 day with 3 people working on them (hand plucking sone and skinning some). So, you could spread it out over 2 weekends or two days. But, would recommend a number that is 12 or less for first time.

Good luck.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,281
12,530
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Southeast Louisiana
Hello, this upcoming spring/summer I am planning on raising and slaughtering my own meat chickens. I would greatly appreciate advice on what supplies I will need, what type of chicken I should get, etc. thanks!
The problem with answering this is that you have way too many options. We could write books and still not cover them all. The more you can tell us about your goals, plans, and conditions the more likely we can give suggestions that suit you.

How do you plan to cook them? The age you butcher them has a lot to do with how you can cook them. The younger they are when butchered the more options you have. When they get older you are limited to certain methods.

How important is size? There are only two of us and I can get two meals out of a smaller chicken, the second meal usually being soup. For some people size is very important. I like big too but for me that is a nice to have more than an absolute necessity.

Is freezer space a limitation? If you get Cornish X and to a lesser extent the Rangers they pretty much need to be butchered when they are ready. Dual purpose can be stored "on the hoof" for longer.

If you raise Cornish X, you keep them for about 8 weeks, butcher them, and forget about raising them for a while. It doesn't tie you down taking care of them that long. Rangers tie you down longer, dual purpose feels more like a long term commitment.

Are you OK with buying chicks to butcher each time or do you want to hatch your own? With Cornish X and the Rangers you pretty much buy the chicks each time. With dual purpose you can buy or hatch, but hatching requires a long term commitment and generally an incubator if you are going to hatch efficiently. But you get the benefit of eggs to eat. What do you do with the pullets that hatch? There are a lot of different ways you could approach the dual purpose.

How do plan to feed them? If you are buying practically all they eat, the Cornish X and to a lesser extent Rangers are very cost efficient in turning chicken feed into meat. Dual purpose are not nearly as efficient. But if they forage for a lot of what they eat the dual purpose aren't that bad.

Your general climate and what time of year you are thinking about doing this could have an effect. You did say spring and summer but what is that climate? Are these for you to eat or are thinking of going commercial? Do you have laying hens?

As for equipment are you getting baby chicks? Probably. Will you brood in your house or outside until they get big enough to not need a heat source? If you are using Cornish X or Rangers you don't need a coop with roosts or a nesting box, just a shelter for protection from weather and predators, though some people like very low roosts for Cornish X or Rangers. If you purchase dual purpose cockerels you probably want a shelter with roosts but won't need nests. If you get and keep females you will want nests too. As I said, too many options.

Knowing nothing about any of how you want to approach any of this my general suggestion is to get a few Cornish X and try them. Then do Rangers, either at the same time or next time. If you are ever happy go with that method. If not, try dual purpose. Find out for yourself what suits you better. That way we can concentrate on helping you with one method, especially if you tell us your plans and what you have to work with.

It sounds like it can be confusing and intimidating, hat's the problem with too many options. But once you narrow it down it does get pretty simple.
 

ChocolateMouse

Crowing
6 Years
Jul 29, 2013
2,756
5,692
387
Cleveland OH
Agreed with the other who say not enough info. What's your goal? A sustainable meat flock of Bresse raised for the slow food value and flavor is going to look vastly different that the commercial 12-on-12-off and all-in-all-out cornish cross system that produces the standard grocery bird. And there's a million shades of grey in between.

Since you didn't give much info I'll tell you what I do and why.
I raise cornish crosses for meat. They're very efficient at converting food into body mass. No other chicken compares.
I feed them fermented feed (usually 20%) free choice for 3 weeks, then I start limiting their feed into meals until by week 4 they are only eating as much as they will consume in 20 minutes 2-3 times a day. I continue to up their feed so they're only just finishing in 20 minutes until they are done growing at about 10 weeks.
I raise them out to 10 weeks of age, not the 6-8 a commercial bird/system does because I find a slower growth pattern leads to better overall health. They range between 6lbs and 14lbs at processing. The smallest dressed out bird I've ever had is 3.5lbs, the biggest was 8.5lbs. Most dress out to 5.5-6lbs at that age.
I raise my meat chickens in regularly rotating tractors. These are just mobile pens they live in and I drag them across the lawn onto new ground every day. This keeps them on clean ground. Cornish crosses are very messy.
Cornish crosses are inherently lazy. I do everything I can to encourage movement from day 1. I keep food and water spread out. I scatter treats on the ground and make them forage for it. I let them forage on new ground while hungry for an hour before I feed them. I teach them how to eat worms and other bugs.
I find they catch on to being mobile, active, normal chickens much better when they have a couple egg chicks along side them for the first couple weeks. The egg chicks are more active and inquisitive and encourage that behavior in the CXs. You do have to separate them pretty early on in age though or the CX will bully the egg chicks out of the food when you switch to a more limited diet.
 
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