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Best Reproducible Meat Bird

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by tinybarnfarm, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. tinybarnfarm

    tinybarnfarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello, I was wondering what you guys and gals thought was the best reproducible meat bird? I have 25 Cornish X Rocks right now but would like to find a breed I could hatch out myself to be a little more self sufficient. I don't mind to wait longer than the 8 weeks Cornish X Rocks take. Any info is greatly appreciated! Thanks
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    There is a thread on the forum about people trying to do that with Freedom Rangers. That's another type of broiler bred to grow slower and be better at foraging. That thread went on for a long time as people reported their results. The message I got from it was that they were real hard to keep alive and to a weight they could breed. Like the Cornish X you would have to restrict their feeding to be very successful.

    Basically any of the Dual Purpose breeds will do what you want. That's why the Dual Purpose breeds were developed. Before the Cornish X was developed, certain Dual Purpose breeds were used for the broiler market, mainly the Delaware, New Hampshire, and White Rock. These were strains of these breeds that were specially bred to produce meat more than eggs, but still lay OK.

    They are not the same as the Delaware, New Hampshire, or White Rock you get today from the hatcheries and not from a lot of breeders. With chicken genetics, if you don't reinforce specific traits every generation by carefully selecting your breeders, these specific traits get lost in just a generation or two. The traits I am talking about are body size and feed to meat conversion, basically how fast they grow on a certain amount of feed.

    The reason these breeds were chosen to develop as meat chickens was their light color. When you pluck a chicken, you leave some pin feathers behind. You really have to be diligent to get all of them and it extends processing time quite a bit. With dark feathered birds these pin feathers are easy to see. With the lighter colored birds, they are still there but you cannot see them. You get a prettier carcass with the lighter colored birds if you pluck and you cut down on your processing time trying to get them off. If you skin it does not matter.

    Each hatchery and each breeder is different, but in general the hatcheries goals are not to produce birds of these breeds that are great meat birds. That's what the Cornish X is for. Their goals and breeding methods are more geared toward mass producing a chicken that in general meets the goals of a backyard flock. They mainly look about like what the breed is supposed to look like but they are not worried about size and feed to meat conversion. With them, it is more about eggs and general colors and patterns. They are not into breeding grand champion prize winning show chickens and the prices they charge reflect that.

    The breeders are where you are possibly going to find something closer to what you want, but you have to use caution. Not all breeders have the same goals and not all breeders have equal ability. To get what you want, you need to find a breeder that is breeding for the traits you want. Some breeders are breeding to produce a grand champion prize chicken. They use special breeding techniques to try to breed that perfect chicken. These chickens will be larger than the hatchery chickens if the breeder knows what they are doing, and you will get chickens that have good body conformation, which means more meat on the body. But many of these are more worried about leg color or how many points on the comb and how the comb looks than feed to meat conversion. Egg production is not a goal either. In some cases, good egg production actually hurts a show chicken.

    There are some breeders trying to recreate the original heritage chickens with the rate of growth as well as the other original traits of the heritage breed. With the Delaware and New Hampshire especially, feed to meat conversion was a heritage trait, but it is not judged in shows. Any breeder that incorporates heritage traits like this in their breeding program has to work harder to win that grand prize. But some do.

    I went through all that to point out that you can't just look at breed. You have to look at the strain of the breed, what specific traits are the breeding flock being selected for. To get strains that are bred specifically to do what you want may be expensive. The breeders that develop these chickens put in a tremendous amount of work and go to pretty high expense to develop them. And even the best breeders reject a very high percent of their chicks as not up to standard. But their rejects are almost always better than hatchery chicks as far as meeting specific goals. You don't go to a plow horse farm and expect to find a Kentucky Derby winner. You go to a thoroughbred breeder to get a fast horse, and even then not all will win the Derby.

    I do think if you start with good stock, which will come from a breeder that is breeding to meet your goals, you have a huge head start on developing your own specific strain to meet your goals. Even if they are not breeding for all your goals but only some, you will have a better head start on getting where you want to go. But whether you maintain that advantage is up to you. Remember, I said if specific traits are not reinforced each generation, they quickly go away. Even with good stock to start, you have to select your breeders with care to maintain or improve the traits you want. In a self-sustaining meat flock like you seem to want, that means eating your small ones and breeding your large ones, as well as selecting for body conformation, personality, egg laying, or any other traits that might mean something to you. You also have to watch for lost fertility or inherited defects. To develop your strain like you want, you will have to do a lot of inbreeding. Inbreeding is how good breeders develop what they want, but you do have to be on the lookout for traits showing up that you do not want.

    You can do what you want from hatchery stock. That's how I am going about meeting what I think are your general goals. But it will take a few extra generations to get where I ultimately want to get. My better roosters are pretty good size after just a few generations, but I still get a lot more of the smaller ones than my ultimate goal.
    I've probably made it sound more complicated than it has to be. We are all different and have different goals, set-ups, and management techniques. If you mainly free range so you are not buying a lot of the feed, food to meat conversion ratio may not be that important to you. If you want to butcher tham all at one time as opposed to just doing a few as you go along, you'll have different desires than me. We are all different. I usually wait until they are 15 weeks old or older to butcher. I don't fry or grill mine but use slower, longer, moister cooking techniques.

    Good luck on your project.
     
  3. LilyD

    LilyD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I second what Ridgerunner said. My favorite DP birds so far are brahmas and Delawares. Mine are growing fast. They are a little less full breasted than the Cornish X but they taste great!
     
  4. eggdd

    eggdd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    so, then, i think the next question is:

    who are the breeders breeding these DP birds? where do you find them? i feel it would be awesome if people would post contact info - - as it's not the easiest to find.
     
  5. LilyD

    LilyD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I put a post in wanted to buy on this forum and the people here hooked me up with people who are breeding heritage birds for the breeds I wanted. It pretty much depends on which DP breed you want to go with. If you like Delawares for DP I know that highspringchix, rebelrooster and bargain on here have birds. You can also go the the Delaware poultry club and they have listings of all the breeders in the area that sell chicks and hatching eggs.

    I also do Brahmas but I am not nearly as established with them as with the Delawares. I got hatching eggs from bigdawg on this forum and I have not regretted it for a minute. The birds are very healthy and grow fast. They are twice the size of my LF cochins and heavy although they haven't developed breast as of yet. I am sure there are others with great brahmas as well on the forum too but I can only tell you who I dealt with.

    I would decide what breed you want to do for DP and look for someone on the forum or in your area to mentor you and help you get started so that you get the best quality birds possible to start out with and that will help you to be a step ahead from the beginning.

    I hope this helps.
     
  6. chickened

    chickened Overrun With Chickens

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    I have found through trial and error that it is easier to create your own true DP birds. I use my good quality DC and cross them with a good layer with a large frame and I have some awsome "mutts" that are purely for meat but lay 200 plus eggs a year and actually have decent breast meat.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:You can decide on a breed and google the breeder's clubs for that breed. You'll need to talk to the individual breeders to see if they think their birds will meet your goals. You can always run into unscrupulous people, but the true breeders are usually a pretty close knit group. They are usally honest and they have a passion for what they do. Some may not share their eggs, chicks, or even rejects for their own very legitimate personal reasons. But many will be glad to help a newby out. If their strain is not suitable for what you want, many will know someone who has a strain that will.

    You can go to the breeders section of this forum, but that is more of a gamble. You might hit someone that is doing what you want but you might find someone who got hatchery birds and are offering their unimproved offspring, or anything in between. Again, talk to them and ask questions.

    Go to a chicken show. Talk to the people there. Often you can find people that knows who has what and love to help someone getting started out.

    In any of these, talk to people and get comfortable that they are offering what you want. People are people, but those with a passion for any hobby are usually glad to help get other people involved.

    Something I did not mention earlier. There is no law anywhere that you cannot mix breeds if you are not planning on showing them. For example, if you like breast meat more than dark meat, you might consider mixing in the pure Cornish, not the Cornish X, with another breed. Or maybe the pure Cornish gives you what you want. With the true Cornish crossed with something else, you are not going to get the Cornish X that have the medical problems and fast growth rate. Those Cornish X come from many generations of breeding done by people very well educated in chicken genetics. The pure Cornish have a bigger breast than most other breeds. Or you may decide you want the configuration of the Wyandotte or Speckled Sussex but the color of a Delaware or Buff Rock. By selecting which of your chickens you want as your breeders, you can do more than just select larger sizes. You can enhance other traits.

    Now I think by trying to develop a good meat bird, you are continuing a specific breed if you develop a one breed flock and breed to the heritage traits, particularly the Delaware and New Hampshire. That means getting hold of a copy of the Standards and breeding to those standards. I think there is a benefit to that if you have a passion for doing that. But there is nothing to stop you from developing your own flock the way you want to. You are only limited by how much you personally want to put into it and what you ultimately want.
     
  8. tinybarnfarm

    tinybarnfarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:I thought it might be something like that. Seems like I can't be the first person with this idea (to raise a quality reproducible meat bird) I will do as you suggest and look around for breeders and go from there. I don't mind to try my hand a breeding but looks like I may need to invest in some basic processing supplies to eat the "progress in the works birds". I plan to take my Cornish X to a processor but it's not real cost effective to just drive a few birds there(it's kinda far away). I would like to be able to process my own and will be able to do so efficiently eventually, just not right now. Thanks for the info and I will be sure to post my progress, maybe I can help someone else with the same goal!
    Gene
     
  9. eggdd

    eggdd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i linked to this thread on another thread (https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=7426577#p7426577) - - asking the same question about breeders. hopefully, there will be folks with good references about stock they've acquired. so, you get breeders, and a vote of confidence from the very people who have used that stock. or a vote of not-so-confident. both are valuable.

    just an fyi.
     
  10. GoChick

    GoChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm basically on the same boat as eggdd, trying to start my own breeding stock for DP. I decided to start with Delawares and Brahmas, and go from there. After some research, I heard a lot of good things about Delawares from Whitmore Farms - Morrow's line, who supposedly breeds aiming for a good DP bird.

    I have a dark Brahma pullet (hatchery, but nice size ) and a cockerel. I fell in love the breed, I'm eyeing the Buff Brahmas from OneEarthFarm.com, Dan Powell's line. He had a very good article on the last issue of Backyard Poultry.

    LillyD, have you processed any of you Delawares or Brahmas yet? At what age?
     

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