Best breed for meat & longevity

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by jason.wallace, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. jason.wallace

    jason.wallace New Egg

    Feb 7, 2009

    I am considering ordering a few chicks this spring to provide meat for my family. I've read about the "Meat chickens" (cornish x rocks, etc) and how you pretty much have to butcher them by 12 weeks or they'll die of heart attacks.

    Is there a breed of chicken that will yield a decent amount of meat, but that I can allow to live until it is needed?

  2. blackdotte

    blackdotte Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 18, 2008
    Straight pure bred Cornish (Indian) Game
  3. jossanne

    jossanne Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 11, 2008
    Gila, New Mexico
    White rocks, I think.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    White or barred rocks are the usual choices for that sort of thing, these days in North America, it seems. I have read that in Britain the usual choice is (or at least used to be) the product of a game cock on a Dorking or Sussex hen.

    There are a number of reasonable second-place choices as well. And of course you *can* eat *any* kind of chicken [​IMG]

    The meat will be different from a supermarket chicken, though, especially if you wait till six months or a year to butcher. And you will want to use slow moist cooking methods. Tastier for sure; just be aware it is a somewhat different kind of meat.

  5. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Jason, the breeder farms that produce these modern meat hybrids need to practice some interesting practices to keep their adult birds alive, healthy, and reproducing. They use both feed restriction and lighting to control their, shall we say, impulsive eating behavior [​IMG].

    . . . the feed only shows up now and then and chickens don't eat in the dark . . .

    The chicks don't usually make it past 8 weeks of age before butchering. They are also in danger of breaking their legs during their rapid weight gain. If these birds (or their parents) are going to make it to breeding age, fairly drastic things have to be done.

    My understanding is that the Delaware was the most common meat breed on the east coast before the advent of these "suicidal" hybrids.

    I've raised heritage breeds a few times for meat. The Light Brahma was probably the best choice I made. However . . . when you are feeding a chicken, you are supporting both its body maintenance needs and its weight gain. Slow maturing birds that have to maintain their bodies over a long period of time require more feed to do so.

    I found that my Cornish X's were eating only their commercial feed and costing me about what I'd spend for meat at the supermarket. Heritage breeds were costing me a good deal more. Not having much room anyway, I gave up on raising meat birds and have only layers these days.

    Something that will work in your favor, however, is that as the bird passes about 8 weeks, it will begin to eat a wider and wider variety of foods. With some careful attention, you should be able to keep your feed costs down by doing things like pasturing them.

    Joel Salatin claimed that his broilers' diets are 30% grass and legume pasture. I don't see the university researchers going above 20% in their claims. But, these are for 8 week old birds - so I find this quite remarkable.

    With 12 week-olds, I think 30% would be very reasonable. Free foraging may work even better but increasing their exercise will lower the feed to weight gain ratio.

    Just a few thoughts . . .

  6. Poohbear

    Poohbear On a Time Out

    Nov 12, 2008
    Are Cornish breeds white or dark meat? Is the cornish meat as tender as a Leghorn?

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